Newsletter English

Issue 573: Congo: “Fibre to the people” – how to make the best use of the new international capacity

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  • On September 12th, the ACE submarine fibre cable landed close to Banjul, the capital of the Gambia. Excitement and interest were high as you can see from the photos taken at the beach where the cable was pulled out of the sea (for the photos see Balancing Act’s website). The commercial launch of international fibre capacity will only start in July 2012 but the Gambia is already finalising the legal framework that will govern access to this new international capacity. Further down the west coast of Africa, Congo (Brazza) is still undecided as to how to deal with the international fibre capacity that will soon be on its doorstep.  Isabelle Gross looks at the some of the pitfalls that Congo has to avoid in order to make the best use of the forthcoming capacity.

    Congo is among the 12 countries on the west coast of Africa that for the first time will have a landing station providing access to international fibre capacity. It is not a small thing for the country to get connected to the WACS submarine cable but in order to harvest its benefits, such as cheaper and faster Internet access, the Congolese government has still to sort out issues regarding the management and access to the international fibre capacity.

    A look back over the history of the SAT3 submarine cable demonstrates that when the national incumbent manages the international capacity, the outcome is often less than optimal. With the exception of Sonatel in Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire Telecom, and more recently Benin Telecom, most of the national incumbents never seemed to understand how to maximize (in terms of revenue) the use of the international capacity available on SAT3. Among those who have failed to make full use of the opportunities are Camtel in Cameroon, Gabon Telecom, and Nitel in Nigeria. For many years, their management of the international capacity on SAT3 has led to very high prices (well above US$5,000 per MB) and a sub-standard service. Nitel in Nigeria managed its capacity so badly that Suburban Telecoms, an infrastructure provider in Nigeria, built a cross border fibre link to Benin, and thus opened up a second Nigerian access point to SAT3 capacity via Benin Telecom.

    The lessons from these failures are two-fold:
    - the national incumbent is not necessarily the best entity to manage the upcoming international capacity efficiently
    - monopoly management of the international fibre capacity helps to maintain artificially inflated high prices on international bandwidth

    So what should Congo do? If it gives the management of the international capacity to Congo Telecom, Congolese Internet users can say bye bye to the idea of cheaper and faster Internet at any time in the near future. Congo Telecom has neither the technical expertise nor the commercial skills (the level of the debts of the company is a good indicator of its incompetence) to manage the new international fibre capacity properly. If the Congolese Government wants to achieve its goal of seizing all the opportunities that international fibre capacity brings, it will need the political will to make some tough decisions. At present, the goal of bringing the Internet to the people seems far away. A basic 64KB connection still costs on average US$100 per month. By comparison, the average salary of a civil servant is between US$160 and US$200 per month.

    So how can Congo and other African countries avoid a situation in which consumers pay artificially inflated prices for the new international fibre capacity? In countries like Nigeria, which will soon have access to 5 international submarine cables (SAT3, Glo 1, Main One, WACS and ACE), competition between the various providers has already pushed down prices and this trend is likely to continue. Today international bandwidth comes for as little as US$300 per MB per month. In contrast, in Congo and in many of the 12 countries on the West coast of Africa that will get access to international fibre capacity for the first time, access will remain limited to one submarine cable, and relying on competition among providers to drive prices down won’t work. It is therefore up to the Congolese Government to take the decisions (e.g. putting in place an open access legal framework) that will best serve to the goal of putting the new international fibre capacity to work to support the development of the ICT sector in the country. The best way of achieving this would seem to be to introduce an open access model that will guarantee equal, transparent and non-discriminatory access to international capacity for all the players in the local market.

    With 5 submarine cables that will soon all be live, international capacity along the west coast of Africa will be plentiful. It is therefore unlikely that more cables will be built in the coming years. For Congo and some of the other 12 countries, it is important not to miss the boat when it comes to making the most efficient use of the new international fibre capacity.

telecoms

  • Six companies have lost their telecommunication business licenses in Uganda after failing to launch their services within the required time. The affected firms include; Talk Telecom, Mo Telecom, Mara Telecoms, a subsidiary of the Mara Group, Excellentcom Uganda Limited, Janu Communications Limited and Ace Networks Limited.

    “The commission hereby informs the general public that the licenses for the following operators have been revoked and they are therefore no longer recognised by the commission as licensed providers of communication services within Uganda,” Engineer Godfrey Mutabazi the executive director of Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), said in a public notice last week.

    The firms had acquired Public Service Provider (PSP) licences from UCC to offer voice and data communication services in the country. A PSP licence in Uganda costs $10,000 (about Shs28 million).

    Under the provisions of the Uganda Communications Act, licences given to operator may be suspended if the licensee fails to commence services within 12 months, ceases operations without obtaining the commission’s approval, fails to submit the required information, and fails to renew one’s license upon the expiry of licence term.

    The exit of the five players leaves Uganda with 42 licenced telecommunication operators, according to the UCC data. The largest players in the market remain; MTN Uganda, Airtel Uganda, Warid, Uganda Telecom Limited and Orange Uganda.

    Price competition in the telecommunications sector over the last three years has forced many firms to stay their operations in order to avoid running unsustainable or loss making businesses.

    Today, of the five large domestic operators, only MTN Uganda has paid the mandatory 1 per cent of its profits to UCC while the rest have either not broken even or continue to post losses because their expenses exceed their incomes.

    Mr Fred Otunnu, the UCC spokesman, told Daily Monitor that revocation of a licence is the final action, which the regulator takes to punish a firm that doesn’t comply with the requirements of an issued licence.

  • South Africa’s Vodacom is in talks to buy a stake in mobile operator Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM), the Daily Times newspaper said citing unidentified sources.
    Vodacom, which is majority owned by Britian’s Vodafone, had previously shown interest in TNM, the paper quoted the sources as saying. TMN has since streamlined some of its businesses to bring them closer in line with how Vodacom operates, the sources said.

    The TNM officials were not immediately available for comment.

    Vodacom’s CEO for international operations, Johan Dennelind, said in a statement the company would look at expansion opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa, but declined to comment on specific countries or companies.

    Vodacom is the dominant mobile carrier in South Africa, but is dwarfed on the continent by rival MTN Group. In addition to its home market, it has operations in Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Lesotho.

  • Mobile phone service provider Essar Telkom has agreed to pay Kenya Data Networks (KDN) Sh25 million upfront and Sh6.2 million in equal monthly instalments to settle a dispute involving Sh133 million.

    The parties recorded the consent in the Nairobi High Court where Essar owners of the Yu mobile brand, also agreed to pay KDN Sh6.2 million a month until an arbitrator concludes the dispute. However, failure by Essar to settle Sh24,948,900 within 14 days, the agreement would automatically lapse.

    According to the consent, the lump sum includes arrears for services KDN rendered to the mobile firm in the past four consecutive months from May to August this year. The parties agreed that KDN would not interfere with its services to Essar until the arbitrator makes its final findings.

    "KDN will not interfere with the 186 sites of inter-connections to other mobile telecommunications industry and will also not switch off the connectivity," read the consent, which was adopted as a court order.

    Mr Justice Muga Apondi said Essar was at liberty to reduce its sites depending on the services rendered by the private data supplier provided "they have notified KDN on the changes".

    KDN moved to court on May 25 seeking orders to compel Essar Telkom to clear a long-standing debt of Sh133 million or risk being switched off its connectivity.

  • The Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) has set down a provisional date for hearings on local-loop unbundling, the regulatory intervention that will force Telkom to open its “last mile” of copper cables to competitors in some or other form.

    The hearings, the most anticipated that Icasa has held since its investigations into call termination rates — the fees operators charge each other to carry calls between their networks — will provisionally take place from 10 to 14 October, according to Pieter Grootes, the GM of the authority’s markets and competition division.

    Grootes revealed the hearing date while speaking at the VoiceSA telecommunications conference in Midrand.

    Icasa has proposed four separate models for unbundling the fixed-line local loop, which is seen as an important way of promoting competition in broadband and potentially driving down prices.

    The first option mooted by Icasa is “bitstream” or wholesale access. This option doesn’t entail unbundling of the physical copper cable infrastructure, but rather Telkom providing other operators with access on a wholesale basis. Rivals won’t have access to Telkom’s network infrastructure, so it’s an option that the fixed-line incumbent may prefer.

    In its discussion document, Icasa says the advantage of bitstream access is that it won’t “hinder any progressive modernisation of the local access network by replacing copper cables with fibre cables”.

    The second option Icasa has proposed is line sharing, or shared access to the local loop. In this model, Telkom and companies seeking access to its local loop can share the same line where both provide different services such as voice and data on the same loop.

    “In this situation, consumers can acquire data services from facilities seekers [other operators] while retaining the voice services of the facilities provider [Telkom]. Some facilities seekers may choose to offer data services only, so with line sharing customers can retain their facilities provider for voice calls while getting higher bandwidth services from another operator without the need to install a second line,” Icasa says.

    Technically, the authority explains, a splitter is installed in the “main distribution frame” that separates the frequencies for voice telephony and those for higher bandwidth services. “Line sharing allows the facilities seeker to provide the service of their choice by covering either low-frequency bands or high-frequency bands,” it says. “When one frequency band is occupied by one operator, the other frequency band can be occupied by another operator.”

    Icasa says this option would broaden choices available to consumers as they could choose Telkom as their voice provider while at the same time choosing a new entrant, or any other operator, as the provider of broadband Internet services over the same loop.

    The third option that Icasa has tabled is full local-loop unbundling, or full access. This assigns the entire copper local loop to rival operators. In this model, other operators may place all required equipment inside or outside Telkom’s premises. Rival operators take over the full operation of the local loop allocated to them.

    The final option is sub-loop unbundling, where Telkom’s rivals get access to its “primary connection point” at street level. This form of unbundling is more suited to new forms of digital subscriber line technology, such as very high-speed DSL.

    In this model, Telkom’s rivals would provide their own networks all the way to the primary connection point. They locate their equipment adjacent to the connection point rather than in Telkom’s telephone exchanges. In all other respects, sub-loop unbundling is analogous to full local-loop unbundling.

    Icasa has said it should complete regulations for unbundling by no later than November, after it has consulted with industry stakeholders. Communications minister Roy Padayachie has said previously that he wants unbundling to be completed by that date.

internet

  • The Tanzania Telecommunication Company Limited (TTCL) has announced new tariff structures for the National ICT Broadband Backbone (NICTBB) and allowed its customers to sublet the service.

    In an advert posted in the print media, the company said the new plan named Indefeasible Rights of Use (IRU) prices, will allow customers connected to the backbone to lease out capacity for up to 10, 15 or 20 years.

    "While the IRU price will be paid once, operations and maintenance charges will be paid annually over the IRU period," the advert read in part.

    In a telephone interview yesterday, the TTCL Acting Chief Executive Officer, Mr Saidi Saidi, said the new arrangement will enable current and new users to sub-lease internet broadband to other users.

    "In simple words, it means we are the landlord who owns a big house. But our tenant is free to sub-let the space he or she rents to other tenants over a period of time," Mr Saidi explained.
    However, he said operation and maintenance charges would be calculated as five per cent of the IRU purchase price and paid annually.

    Since the first submarine fibre optic cable landed in the country, tariffs for internet broadband have decreased by 50 per cent, according to the Acting CEO.
    "Many people don't seem to appreciate this fact but they will in the end," he said during the interview.

    Customers wishing to subscribe to a 10-year plan will pay US $540,000 as the lowest package, while those subscribing to 20 years will have to dig deeper into their pockets to the tune of US $12.44 million for the uppermost package.

    Already some 14 regions have been linked, under phase one of the NICTBB. They include Dar es Salaam, Coast, Morogoro, Iringa, Mbeya, and Dodoma in addition to Singida, Manyara and Arusha. Also on the list are Kilimanjaro, Tanga, Shinyanga, Mwanza and Mara.

    Currently, the backbone also offers services at established points of presence (PoPs) which include cross-border points at Rusumo (Rwanda), Kabanga (Burundi) and Kasumulo (Malawi).
    It also offers services at Tunduma (Zambia), Namanga (Kenya) and will soon connect Uganda through the border point of Mutukula.

    Implementation of phase two of NICTBB that commenced on October 1, last year, is expected to be completed in March, next year.

  • ZTE Corporation, a publicly listed global provider of telecommunications equipment and network solutions signed an agreement on 20 September 2011 with Burundi Backbone Systems Company (Burundi BBS) to build Burundi’s first national backbone network.

    The ZTE network will cover 17 provinces and cities in Burundi, dramatically reducing broadband costs and laying the foundation for further improvements. It will also link Burundi with eastern and central African countries such as Tanzania, Rwanda, and Congo, connecting it to The Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy).

    Burundi BBS is a joint venture between five local telecommunication operators and is partially funded by the World Bank.

    “This year, ZTE established a strategic objective to change bearer network patterns,” said ZTE Bearer Network Product Line General Manager Fan Xiaobing.

    “The development of the backbone network in cooperation with Burundi BBS will help achieve that objective, while also improving the nation’s telecommunications infrastructure.”

    As part of the project, ZTE will provide ZXR10 M6000 super-high-performance multi-service routers and multi-service access products such as the S385 and S325 to Burundi BBS. The ZXR10 M6000 slot supports 40G switching capability and provides upgrade capability to 100G.

    The S385 supports multi-service access and provides an upgrade from 2.5G to 10G, greatly reducing initial network construction costs. ZTE has shipped several thousand T8000/M6000 units based on the T8000 platform across China, Asia-Pacific, Southeast Asia and MEA in the first half of 2011. The units are in use by operators in China, such as China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom; and by other operators across those regions.

  • Telecommunication firms have now taken up more than 60 per cent of the capacity that we initially had. Demand has grown and we expect further growth as more and people start using internet, which would deplete the capacity that we have," said Mark Simpson, the firm’s Seacom chief executive.

    "We are planning to increase capacity on the cable and this should be done in another 12 to 15 months."

    Simpson spoke on the sidelines of an ongoing Capacity Africa conference in Nairobi.

    He said Seacom is still thrashing out fine details of the upgrade including the money to be invested and mode of financing, which would determine the actual capacity to add on the cable.

    He added that Seacom would in future start selling premium services to its clients to tap into the growing provision of content in Africa. Premium services that the firm plans to start selling will include multiprotocol label switching— a data carrying mechanism that allows a simple relay of information over a network.

    The move diversify service offering from the basic capacity provision to selling of premium services at the wholesale level is in part to fend off competition in the undersea cable segment.

  • Public enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba has again raised the possibility of a merger between state-owned enterprises Sentech and Broadband Infraco, but says nothing is imminent. “It would be the culmination of a process,” Gigaba says.

    There has been talk for at least a year that the two companies could be merged. Sentech, in addition to providing broadcast signal distribution services, is keen to roll out a broadband network in rural areas; Infraco is keen to do the same, though providing more of the backhaul-type services that would support the wireless access network Sentech is proposing.

    Gigaba says government has begun “emphasising cooperation” between the two companies and says a merger can’t be ruled out down the line.

    “We have begun discussions at ministerial, director-general and board levels to try to find the synergies to improve cooperation between the two organisations through entering into a venture agreement,” he says. “At one stage or another, depending on the programme we establish and follow, we might arrive at a point where we say both organisations need to merge to form one organisation.”

    Sentech reports to the department of communications, while Infraco is answerable to public enterprises, which could complicate attempts at cooperation. Gigaba explains the reason they report to different ministries is that they are “not the same types of organisations” because Sentech “gets its budget from government and Broadband Infraco raises its own resources to support its programmes”.

    He adds that the presidential review committee is trying to resolve a number of issues related to state-owned enterprises, including reporting lines and the need for rationalisation. Gigaba hopes the committee will close “that lacuna” by rationalising reporting lines.

computing

  • The African Development Bank Board of Executive Directors has approved a USD 22.5m African Development Fund loan to the Republic of Mali to finance a major digital complex in the capital, Bamako. “This project is important for my country and the first of its kind in West Africa.  With the Bamako Digital Complex, before December 2011, Mali will be connected through fiber optic to six out of its seven neighbors. It is an innovative project in its design, positioning and vision. It has the ability to lay the necessary foundation today so that tomorrow our citizens have the competencies in an area as strategic as Information and Communication Technology (ICT). It will support and reinforce current national policies on job creation. It’s a project of tomorrow, it’s a project of the future”, said H.E. Mr. Modibo Ibrahim Toure, Minister of Posts and New Technologies of Mali at the signing ceremony held at the AfDB in Tunis.

    The main objectives of this project are to (i) increase the use of ICT and upgrade the skills of the population of Mali and other West African countries; and (ii) strengthen Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) to support research and innovation in ICT.

    The AfDB is the largest financier of this USD 37 million project with contributions from the Government of Mali (USD 3 million) and the French development agency (USD 11.5 million).

    “Mali is pioneering a new approach breaking the walls between education systems and businesses. We hope to be doing more of such operations that combine PPPs, linking universities and training facilities to business incubators and using new technologies to improve learning outcomes” said AfDB’s Human Development Director, Agnès Soucat.

    The Bamako Digital Complex is composed of three main Information and Communication Technology development poles:

    A Techno Center to build human capital, increase competitiveness and create jobs especially for youth. It will seek to train 30 ICT engineers, 120 technicians, 600 civil servants and 150 job seekers per year, and increase women’s participation development.
    A Techno Park housing a data center, business incubators and technology firms; and
    A Techno Village - a convention center to showcase latest innovations in various developments sectors, hosting events gathering experts, researchers, and academics from Africa and globally.

  • Three solar panels, a battery, ten folding chairs, five tables, fifteen Intel-powered Classmate PCs and two teachers in a small van: This is the basic “equipment” of the Mobile Solar Computer Classroom (MSCC).

    It has been a route through rural Uganda for two years now with the purpose of teaching pupils and teachers IT and computer skills.

    The initiator is Eric Morrow, founder of Maendeleo Foundation situated in Kampala and Seattle, who wants to bring Maendeleo (the Kiswahili term for progress) to Ugandan students in close cooperation with local experts.

    The robust Classmate PCs, powered and designed by Intel, which are run using a 200 Ah Solar Battery, proved to be perfect devices for the local circumstances, which were sometimes rather harsh.

    What could be a beneficial educational project for Uganda? How should such a project be designed really to foster children’s development? Personal affiliations with a Ugandan NGO and a strong desire to help were components that aided in blazing the trail for Eric Morrow’s Mobile Solar Computer Classroom (MSCC) Project. Consultations with other NGOs led Morrow, founder of Maendeleo Foundation, to consider how he might bring computers to Ugandan schools – most of which are boarding schools with few technology-savvy teachers and practically no money to spend on technology of any kind. Working with Ugandan development economist Asia Kamukama and experienced relief worker Richard Happy, Morrow sketched out a plan of action. Giving children – and their teachers – a first taste of what it means to work with a computer, was the goal set.

    However, the team soon realised that there were many obstacles to overcome. One of the first challenges identified was the near total lack of infrastructure: only five percent of Ugandans have access to electricity and just three percent can afford it. This meant that the solution to be put in place had to be self-powered and self-contained – a need that was met by mounting three 75-watt solar panels on top of an old four-wheel drive. The vehicle was also used to transport a custom-made tent and related equipment – the Mobile Solar Computer Classroom.

    As Internet access is unreliable in Uganda, Maendeleo Foundation could not depend on teaching skills with a live Web connection. Instead, the Foundation introduced purpose-built, proprietary training software that provides graduated skills training using cached Web content. This approach enabled continuity in lessons even though the MSCC might only visit a given school once a week.
    The local schools very much welcomed the idea of a mobile ICT training camp; however, the initial phase was tough. The low cost, low specification desktops proved to be unfit for the extremes of temperature, dust and durability they faced every day. Morrow had heard about the development of Intel-powered Classmate PCs and believed they might offer a better solution than the PCs used at first. After failing to find a local distributor, he bought several of the units from an online store in the US and had them delivered to Uganda. He found that they indeed offered a steady, reliable design that ran faster than the previous units – and delivered a standard Microsoft Windows XP desktop experience.
    The Intel-powered Classmate PCs were also more energy efficient: in one test, the units were run from the solar charged battery with the solar panels covered to prevent recharging. All ten Classmate PCs used in the project ran for over six hours without a problem – and this life could be extended further by using each unit’s individual battery. This meant that the project workers could teach an entire class of students at once, allowing them to reach significantly more students at no additional cost. So far, the staff taught more than 1,300 students, offering each one five hands-on sessions. Over 100 teachers were trained to carry out ICT classes, giving them skills to reinforce and extend their students’ computer knowledge throughout the rest of their education. In addition, Maendeleo Foundation visited several orphanages and community centres.

    Maendeleo started in early 2008 with five computers, then in August of 2008 switched to the Intel-powered Classmate PCs. There are currently five people running the operation in Uganda. In the longer term, Morrow hopes that steady and repeated exposure to computer technologies will encourage students to consider careers that might have previously seemed out of reach – including web design and roles in a potential services-outsourcing industry that could eventually expand across Eastern Africa.

    A new MSCC is already touring through Uganda. Using funds from the grant Maendeleo recently received from Intel’s Inspire-Empower challenge, the Foundation was able to put together a second MSCC that will serve rural areas in the same way as the original MSCC. With the grant, they have also been able to upgrade the original MSCC that they had (to run with fifteen computers). They are now also in the process of buying land and building an Advanced Training Centre, where they intend to give further individual training during school breaks to students who show potential and interest in working in the ICT industry.

  • Despite increasing deployment of broadband infrastructure and growth of mobile technology, Africa is the lowest-scoring region in the ICT Development Index (IDI) released by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) last week.

    The 2011 edition of Measuring the Information Society scores the level of advancement of ICT in 152 countries worldwide, comparing progress made between 2008 and 2010. 

    The IDI, which ranked countries according to their level of ICT access, use and skills, puts the Republic of Korea as the world's most advanced ICT economy followed by Sweden, Iceland, Denmark and Finland. Most countries that rank high on the index are from Europe and Asia Pacific; the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Uruguay rank first within their regions.

    However, Africa remains the region with the lowest IDI values. Of the forty African countries listed, only six of them made the first 100 on the 2010 IDI. They are Mauritius (69), Seychelles (71), Tunisia (84), Morocco (90), Egypt (91) and South Africa (97).

    This year's report includes a special focus on broadband, looking at speed, quality of service and international bandwidth available in different countries worldwide and how this is affecting broadband take-up in the developed and developing worlds.

    Among the developing regions, Africa had the highest mobile growth rate. Mobile penetration has risen from just one in 50 people at the beginning of 10 years ago to over one fourth of the population today, the report noted.

    "While the IDI leaders are all from the developed world, it is extremely encouraging to see that the most dynamic performers are developing countries," ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun Touré said in a release. "The 'mobile miracle' is putting ICT services within reach of even the most disadvantaged people and communities. Our challenge now is to replicate that success in broadband."

    However, the ITU report stated that Africa's fixed broadband service remains prohibitively expensive and in 2010 still represented almost three times the monthly average per capita income.

    Even though new submarine cables are providing African countries with access to more and cheaper international Internet bandwidth, the report stated, it still lags far behind other regions in terms of the bandwidth available to Internet users. For Africans to benefit from the continent's increased connectivity, operators must acquire greater amounts of international Internet bandwidth, expand and improve core networks, and make network access infrastructure available, as well as affordable, according to the report. 

    The report also analyzed the digital divide among Internet users, examining how factors like age, gender, educational level, and location affect people's ability to get online. The ITU indicated that targeting students may be the most effective way to increase the approximately 21 percent of the population that use the Internet in developing countries, through connecting educational institutions and improving enrollment rates.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • A few weeks ago Memeburn revealed that instant messaging platform MXit was rumoured to be in sale talks with startup investment firm World of Avatar. We can now confirm that those rumours are true.

    The acquisition will see current MXit head, Herman Heunis step down, with Alan Knott-Craig Jnr, the World of Avatar boss, taking over as CEO. The deal, which was finalised earlier yesterday, involves World of Avatar buying out both Heunis and Naspers, an US$18-billion emerging market media giant.

    Naspers, which also has stakes in Chinese IM TenCent and an indirect stake in Facebook, acquired a 30% interest in MXit in 2007. The new deal will see World of Avatar become 90 percent owners of the company while 10 percent will remain in a staff trust.

    The Stellenbosch-based World of Avatar, which appears to be targeting internet startups, is a relatively new investment firm. It was founded by Knott-Craig, the former head of iBurst and the son of former Vodacom CEO Alan Knott-Craig Snr.

    Knott-Craig was unable to give the exact figures of the deal, but confirms the funding was raised from private investors. Memeburn sources put the deal at around R500-million.

    The World of Avatar has been quietly investing in a range of local startups, including free SMS service FSMS, online organiser Toodu and politics-focused online publishing venture Daily Maverick.

    MXit was launched in 2005 by Heunis and has seen impressive growth both locally and globally since its inception. The service now claims to have around 40-million registered users “posting 700-million messages a day” — and is even used by the US-embassy to communicate with African audiences.

    “Creating and building MXit has been an enormously interesting journey for me, and I have had a lot of fun, but it is time to inject new and young energy into the company, and I believe that Alan and his team will do a superb job,” says Heunis.

    In an exclusive interview with Memeburn, Knott-Craig Jnr revealed that he has been in talks with MXit for the better part of this year: “About seven months ago I got wind that MXit might be selling, so I called up Herman Heunis, we had a coffee and I said to him, ‘if you guys ever wanted to sell let me know’ and that’s how it began.”

    The deal, which Knott-Craig says should have gone through in the space of a month, was halted by the global financial crisis, prompting renegotiation.

    Knott-Craig claims that he has some changes in mind for the IM platform but that they are “nothing drastic”. Knott-Craig says the core MXit community will remain the same but wants to focus on “what MXIT is good at and that is communication”.

    He hinted that MXit would focus on what it does best and that some of its functions, such as advertising, would be handled rather by another arm of his company.

    Knott-Craig explains that he would like to tell the story of MXit which he says is “a success story of likes of Facebook in its own context”.

    “Twitter does 8-billion messages a month, MXit does 22-billion a month. Your average Facebook user spends 15 hours a month on Facebook, your average MXit user spends 45 hours month on MXit, people don’t know this. It is a massively engaged, massively active audience.

    “We have to keep that community trusted, it can never be the case of Facebook where your information is available to advertisers, this is why I am heading there personally to run the show. Herman has done a good job of keeping the community guarded, the data is not sold and that is key and we need to keep that,” says Knott-Craig.

    MXit is available in 128 countries. It is represented in international markets that include Malaysia, Kenya, India, Indonesia, United Kingdom, United States, Nigeria, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain, where users have access to MXit’s chat function.

    This deal is possibly the biggest of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa, Knott-Craig says.

  • The Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems (GhIPSS) has opened five satellite offices across the country to ensure that e-zwich services are running effectively throughout the country.

    The offices located in Accra, Takoradi, Kumasi, Sunyani, and Tamale, will carry out regular monitoring and support e-zwich services in the various outlets.

    This was contained in a statement issued by the Management of GhIPSS copied to Ghana News Agency in Accra on Wednesday.

    The statement said the Accra office would have additional responsibility over the Central, Eastern and Southern parts of the Volta Region while that of Kumasi would be responsible for the entire Ashanti Region and the Takoradi office to have responsibility over the entire Western Region.

    It said the Sunyani office would however have responsibility over the Brong Ahafo and Upper West Regions while the satellite office in Tamale would be responsible for the Northern, Upper East and the Northern Sector of the Volta region.

    Mr Archie Hesse, General Manager in-charge of Project and Business Development at GhIPSS said “With this arrangement, we cover the entire country,” adding the satellite offices had been tasked to regularly visit all the financial institutions, as well as merchants under their areas of operation.

    He said the offices would ensure that the financial institutions and shops that operated e-zwich Point of Sales devices were providing the services at all times and would be readily available anytime there was any issue to be addressed.

    Mr Hesse said the satellite offices would also support the financial institutions to register customers who wanted the biometric card as well as scout for new shops to offer the e-zwich range of services.

    He said currently various e-zwich initiatives were being implemented including the Senior High School project, the various farmers’ e-zwich programmes as well as microfinance e-zwich initiatives at the urban and peri-urban areas in the various regions, adding the satellite teams would also be monitoring and supporting these initiatives.

    Mr Hesse said other activities that would be undertaken by the satellite offices include regular education for the various stakeholders, adding “These are administrative strategies that are adopted as we enter into various phases of the e-zwich project to further improve on the provision of the e-zwich range of services”.

    He noted that as more people particularly outside Accra patronised the biometric smart card, it had become necessary to deploy staff in the regions to provide regular support to financial institutions, agri-businesses, schools and shops offering the service.

    Mr Hesse encouraged the various institutions to work hand-in-hand with the satellite stations to ensure that their e-zwich customers were served well at all times.

  • Africa has been seen in recent years as an excellent opportunity to invest in telecommunications infrastructure, with many countries receiving trillions of dollars in funding in order to upgrade GSM networks, installing 3G and even to lay down just the basic fiber optic cables.

    South Africa has received the most backing when it comes to telecom infrastructure investments

    According to a report released by Africa Infrastructure Country Diagnostic, it’s to no surprise that South Africa has received more than $18-trillion in investments from 1998 to 2008. Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, is a close second, receiving over $12-trillion for the same period. What rather shocking, is the fact that Kenya only managed to attract just under $3-trillion in investments, and sits third on the list.

    “Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have been a remarkable success in Africa. Across the continent, the availability and quality of service have gone up and the cost has gone down. In just 10 years—dating from the end of the 1990s—mobile network coverage rose from 16 percent to 90 percent of the urban population,” the report stated. The report also noted that most of the investments come from Chinese companies, although a number of European companies are also involved.

    The top ten list of how investments in Africa’s telecommunications have been distributed from 1998 till 2008:

    1. South Africa ($18.1-trillion)
    2. Nigeria ($12.7-trillion)
    3. Kenya ($2.9-trillion)
    4. Sudan ($1.8-trillion)
    5. Uganda ($1.6-trillion)
    6. Senegal ($1.5-trillion)
    7. Tanzania ($1.4-trillion)
    8. Democratic Republic of the Congo ($1.2-trillion)
    9. Ghana ($1.1-trillion)
    10. Angola ($1-trillion)

  • Six suspects, not 10 as earlier reported by Sapa, were arrested on Thursday morning at MTN’s head office near Roodepoort. The operator explains the six — two of whom were MTN contractors — are suspected to have sold new Sim cards fraudulently loaded with airtime.

    The Sim cards were then sold to members of the public at “exorbitantly discounted amounts, thereby defrauding MTN”.

    “Our fraud and forensic department detected this scam and immediately followed up on leads and clues,” says Lily Zondo, GM for business risk management at MTN SA. “After irrefutable evidence was collected, MTN handed over the matter to the authorities, who made the arrests this morning.”

    MTN says consumers must be wary of “falling prey to offers that are ridiculously discounted. If it is too good to be true, it probably is”.

    “Customers should note that the law deems customers who purchase illegally sourced goods to be in commission of a crime,” says MTN SA customer service executive Eddie Moyce.

    MTN is still collating all the evidence to ascertain the revenue impact. The company says the R200m figure mentioned in the earlier Sapa story is “grossly misleading and inaccurate”.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - 8.ta, South Africa’s fourth mobile operator has entered into a partnership with Nedbank that allows for 8.ta’s prepaid airtime to be purchased from the bank’s online banking channel.

    - With the launch of Samsung’s dedicated app store, many users in South Africa have benefited from the wide range of apps available. To further the experience, Samsung has launched a handful of new local apps, which users will find informative and exciting. They include MXit, DStv Mobile Decoder and PriceCheck.co.za

Digital Content

  • For instance, the Broadband Commission meeting that took place on 8-9 September, 2011, focused on the role of youth in defining new ICT services and driving take-up.

    Rwanda has an exceptionally young population, with 42% of people under the age of 15.

    The conference attracted Broadband commissioners and representatives of several countries in Africa, the private sector and civil society. They examined how to get the continent wired to high-speed networks and also involve the role of the youth in getting Africa online.

    The discussion featured a competition Peoples choice Award showcasing 10 new applications created by Rwandan youth developers. They included; Gihamya, Turere Neza, Osca, Get it!, Cumbika, Umuhuza Hi-Tech Brokers, FINDiet, M-AHWIII, Igisekuru, Gahunda.

    M-AHWIII limited, was crowned the winner after getting 30 percent of votes from the public was followed by Gahunda which attained 21percent votes. Both applications will feature at the forthcoming ITU Telecom World 2011 Digital Innovators competition in October.

    Lillian Uwintwali, student at Kigali Institute of Science and Technology is the Director of M-AHWIII limited was overjoyed after announcing them as the winner of the category.

    "The win is worth it because many will benefit from the application. M-AHWIII is an SMS-based application that will allow patients to request for medical appointments at any hospital of their choice subscribed on our system relieving them the trouble of having to go directly to the hospital in person," Uwintwali discloses.

    She adds that with her four colleagues they would develop their idea further.

    "We will have to first set its visibility in two hospitals as we aim at making the M-AHWII application effective and user friendly," she emphasizes.

    M-AHWII, the M stands for Mobile while the AHWII literally represent is an expression of relaxing.

    "I have already talked to the Ministry of Health and they liked the idea, hopefully the patients will be booking appointments for medical attention using SMS. One will only have to send a message indicating their illness and the hospital they would like to go to," Uwintwali explains.

    She said: "This is going to be a useful tool in making Rwanda a healthy country a reality. We all know for a fact that without good health there is no development.

    I request everyone to make M-AHWII application a reality so as to maintain the good health of Rwandans while achieving the broadband of digital development."

    The applications they create are income generating thus boost the standards of living with its related advantages.

    Hamadoun Touré, Secretary General of the United Nations' International Telecommunications Union (ITU), during the recent conference held in Kigali in relations to Broadband, he said that broadband is the single most powerful tool available to accelerate progress towards achieving the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and a drive to social and economic development.

    "In the 21st century, with broadband, no young African should ever again need to be sent abroad in order to enjoy the benefits of an excellent education," says Touré.

    He said: "If you are connected, it no longer matters if you are geographically or socially isolated; you are still connected to the information society. But if you are not connected, you are literally cut off from a whole portion of the world's riches."

    In a phone interview with Serge Guillaume Nzabonimana, anAdvisor in the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, he said that the Ministry funds youth projects in relations to Information and Communication and Technology.

    "We analyze the request for the project before for we fund it. There are a few factors that are considered for instance sustainability, the impact it will have on the people and the number of members involved in the project," Nzabonimana explains.

    ICT being one of the pillars of development, the youth need to be supported in the field thus a bright future.

    For instance the Ministry funded Kimisagara youth employment and productive center to by enhancing the IT skills for youth.

    The center identified 300 youth to be trained in IT this year and groups of 30 each concluded successfully the training of 4 weeks each.

    The IT training aims at promoting ICT and creating confidence among youth in computer skills as well as to use ICT as a tool for youth-to-youth communication, sensitize them in lessons related to health/nutrition, reading, writing, and other benefits.

  • In 2008, then US presidential candidate Barack Obama broke new ground by using social media in ways never seen before. Yet it was Goodluck Jonathan, the recently elected president of Nigeria, who took the extraordinary step of announcing his bid for the highest office on Facebook. On Wednesday, 15 September 2010, he informed his 217,000-plus fans on the world's most popular networking platform of his intent. Twenty four hours later, 4,000 more fans joined his page. By the day of the election, on 16 April 2011, he had over half a million followers.

    Mr. Jonathan's online campaign was only one illustration of the social media fever that gripped Africa's most populous country (with around 150 million people) during its most recent presidential, parliamentary and local elections. A report by two researchers who helped track online traffic during the month-long polls argues that the country's use of social media reached unprecedented levels.* "Nigeria set a new record for recent African elections in the number of reports tracked using social media," it says. In addition to the approximately 3 million registered Nigerians on Facebook and 60,000 on Twitter, almost every institution involved in Nigeria's elections conducted an aggressive social networking outreach, including the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), political parties, candidates, media houses, civil society groups and even the police.

    The report notes that between 10 March and 16 April 2011, the electoral commission posted almost 4,000 tweets, many in response to voter queries. Using Twitter, commission officials at polling stations around the country also were able to communicate among themselves, and even confirmed the death of one of their members who had been attacked. "Twitter ultimately proved to be the most efficient way to interact with INEC," the document authors report. The commission's use of social media led to its website receiving a record 25 million hits in three days during the presidential election. "By using social media to inspire voters, the electoral commission has redefined elections in Nigeria," analyzed Punch, the country's most circulated newspaper.

    The boom in use of social media during elections also helped the media expand their readerships. Shortly before the polls, the Daily Trust newspaper had 32,000 fans on Facebook. A few weeks later, the number had more than doubled to 65,000, placing its online reach beyond its print distribution of 50,000. To build up its fan base, the newspaper also used social media in its reporting. Journalists solicited and used questions from Facebook fans for interviews with the chairman of INEC. Since the elections, the Daily Trust has further increased its Facebook presence, with 95,000 fans by July 2011.

    The online networking platforms reflected popular interest. Unsurprisingly, social media use reached its peak during the presidential election on 16 April. On that day, a total of 33,460 text messages and 130,426 posts on Twitter and Facebook were sent by some 65,000 voters.

    The content was mixed, the authors point out. "Social media, especially Twitter, was used to report occurrences [of fraud] — truthful as well as fabricated." Yet, they add, it played a mostly constructive role during the post-election violence by exposing unfounded rumours.

    "Social media tools," the report concludes, "revolutionized the efficiency of election observing by increasing coverage and reporting, while minimizing costs.... They changed how information was disseminated in Nigeria. Citizens accessed information directly and more accurately, resulting in unsurpassed participation in politics during the 2011 elections." 

    That upbeat assessment, however, needs to be put in context: An estimated 70,000 people posted contents online during Nigeria's polls, but they were just a tiny fraction of the registered 73 million voters. Still, a new trend appears to have begun.

More

  • - Herman Heunis will leave the head of instant messaging platform MXit following the takeover of the company  by Alan Knott-Craig Jnr from the World of Avatar.

  • Information Technology Manager – Abuja, Nigeria
    The IT Manager will provide leadership support and maintenance to Family Health International (FHI) Nigeria computer and network infrastructure to ensure stable operations. S/He will be responsible for all IT related equipment and software that is part of the FHI-Nigeria inventory. S/He will take appropriate steps in solving problems, or where necessary, in identifying suitable vendors capable of solving them. The IT Manager will support the design and implementation of new IT solutions to improve business efficiency and productivity.

    Bachelor's degree with 7 to 9 years experience, in IT,  or a  Master's degree with 5 to 7 years experience in IT, OR PhD with 3 to 5 years experience in IT.
    For further information or to apply click here

    Technical Account Manager – Accra, Ghana
    Google's Partner Solutions Organization (PSO) is a technology group dedicated to developing and managing the company's largest and most strategic partnerships. Our multi-faceted professionals work together with teams throughout Google to address our partners' most pressing technology challenges – ones that have no simple answers. We create solutions for and build enduring long-term relationships with organizations that represent outstanding revenue opportunities and/or are strategically important for us to take new, world-shaping technologies to market.

    The role: Technical Account Manager
    As a Technical Account Manager, you are the engagement manager taking responsibility for the success of our largest partnerships. You lead deployments, optimize implementations and integrations to increase revenue, drive new business opportunities, and manage the overall technical aspects to build strong, successful, long- term partnerships. If you are a creative thinker who thrives in a fast-paced, market-driven environment, we want to talk to you. You should be a self-motivated individual looking to solidify Google's strategic partnerships across a variety of product lines made especially for Africa. These include search, mobile, video, Google Apps, e-commerce, and many other new initiatives.
    Responsibilities:

    Troubleshoot and train in relation to the Google Apps deployment project management with partner universities.
    Perform implementation reviews, evangelize new product features, and ensure the prompt and proper resolution of technical challenges.
    Improve product feature offerings by providing partner feedback to internal cross-functional teams including Product Management and Engineering.
    Guarantee the technical aspects of a partner’s integration (both new and ongoing) by providing necessary documentation, training and technical guidance.
    Develop proof-of-concept products and software tools to assist in closing deals.

    Requirements:
    BA/BS preferred in a technical field with a strong academic record. (MS/MBA is a plus).
    Extensive hands-on experience in Internet or telecom products and technologies in Africa or similar market.
    Experience in deadline-driven, large-scale technical project management or software development in the Internet/Telecommunications space.
    Excellent project management skills and attention to detail as well as experience working with external clients in a sales environment.
    Proficient in one or more programming languages, including Java, C/C++, JavaScript, Python, or PHP.
    Proficient in French, English and at least one other African language.
    Willing to travel extensively within Africa.
    For further information or to apply click here

  • Essar Telecoms and Tata Communications - Kenya
    Tata Communications and Essar Telecom Kenya (yuMobile), a unit of Essar Group, have  announced the signing of a mutually beneficial strategic sourcing agreement. Under the deal, yuMobile would, exclusively, route all its international voice traffic through Tata Communications' network. yuMobile continues to be one of the company’s key suppliers of telecommunication services throughout Kenya.

Issue no 572 16th September 2011

node ref id: 23004

Top story

  • Africa’s long road to high-speed broadband is being made in leaps and bounds. Every week brings news of another piece of the jigsaw fitting into place. This week it’s the completion of the national fibre backbone in one of Africa’s larger markets. However, there’s still remains a yawning gap between the promise of ubiquitous, cheap bandwidth and the current realities of the continent. Russell Southwood runs his fingers over the blockages that still remain.

    It’s hard not to be excited by the news that Angola (and its usually rather ponderous incumbent Angola Telecom) have completed 10,000 kms of national fibre backbone that connects every province in the country. It is a huge place and suffers from an enormous range of practical difficulties. Nevertheless, it has completed the telecommunications equivalent of building a motorway network across the country.

    In this same week, one of my analysts bought to my attention an infographic from Google on download speeds in Africa. This claims to show the fastest download speeds in Africa, ranging from 10.1 Mbps in Ghana to 1.38 Mbps in Nigeria. It puts the world average download speed at 8.48 Mbps. The graphic is shown below:

    The idea that Ghana has the best download speeds in Africa will cause a long, dry chuckle amongst my Ghanaian colleagues followed by them beating their head against the wall slowly in frustration. If the average household download speed achieved is 10.1 Mbps, I will (as a non-hat wearer) duly eat my hat: naturally, lightly sautéed with olive oil, garlic and red onions.

    At this point, I can hear the siren voices saying: why does it matter? Things are getting better. It matters because if Africa is to do all the things that the Internet and data access promise, these have to happen at a speed that allow more or less instantaneous access rather than needing to make a cup of coffee while you wait for something to download. Demand for content and services is being throttled by the inability of operators to deliver reasonably priced, fast (10 Mbps, I wish) and reliable bandwidth. There is significant evidence that Africans (particularly young ones) want Facebook, You Tube and other more local Internet services as much as any other group of citizens in the world. The key to them being able to get them is delivery on that promise of fast, affordable bandwidth.

    The blockages are many and for those who follow these things, have a familiar ring to them:

    International bandwidth access: By the end of 2012, nearly every coastal African country will have a landing station. The only exception is likely to be Eritrea but its rulers take perhaps too greater pride in being exceptional so there’s not much can be done there. There’s some doubts about the southern reach of the ACE cable and others may join that list.

    In some coastal countries, like Ghana and Nigeria, there will be 5 landing stations and international bandwidth will sell in the lower hundreds of dollars per mbps. In many other countries, the World Bank has encouraged nationally-led operator consortia to run the single landing station and this should ensure open access and reasonable prices. But there are a number of countries (notably Cameroon and Gabon) where old-fashioned incumbents will sell a little of their huge fibre inventory at artificially high prices. In other places like DRC where the Government insisted that the (almost non-existent) incumbent be the licence-holder, the jury is out.

    Pity the landlocked: There are 12 landlocked countries in Africa and as a number of studies have shown, they suffer multiple disadvantages because they lack access to the sea. One of the most notable is that the transit price for getting their data to all these new international landing stations often costs the same or more than it costs for their data to complete the journey from the landing station to London or New York.

    One of the continent’s major, powerful mobile players was telling us recently that it was impossible to get to get reasonably priced transit bandwidth out of one of its West African landlocked country markets. This same operator is the cause of this problem in other territories rather than the victim of it.Right hand, meet the left hand.

    Considerable effort has gone into creating equitable open access to international landing stations but rather less into tackling the problem for some of Africa’s more disadvantaged economies. WIOCC’s East African Backbone reserves capacity at reasonable prices for landlocked members of its consortium. But there is nothing similar elsewhere in Africa and the cross-border expansion of Africa’s carriers’ carriers (like Phase3 Telecom, Suburban and KDN) has hit a plateau from a combination of capital and licensing issues. Indeed, KDN is currently being sued by one of its suppliers in the Kenyan courts. A World Bank scheme to use fibre deployed by the members of the West African Power Pool has disappeared without trace.

    National backbones – the problems come home to roost: If there is a problem with transit pricing, the same issue is reflected at a national level. Bandwidth from Lagos to London is now down into the low hundreds per Mbps and will undoubtedly go lower as more cables arrive. However, the considerably shorter journey from Lagos to Abuja costs US$1,000- 1,200 per Mbps. Nigeria is one of the most competitive countries and has historically, led on the regulatory front, so why is this occurring?

    There are many competitors but only two of them (MTN and Nitel) have genuinely national networks. The long-standing problems with the incumbent Nitel and its multiple failed privatisations mean that MTN comes close to being a de facto monopoly operator at this level.

    Other countries have chosen to make building a fibre backbone of this sort a national priority but these initiatives are not without issues. Uganda’s Chinese-built and financed backbone is widely acknowledged to have been over-costly and there are doubts about its operational effectiveness. In Tanzania, the Government has made much play of separating out TTCL’s national fibre backbone (again Chinese-built but operating more effectively) within the company. But it has insisted that it can only sell a relatively high minimum amount of bandwidth to a limited group of operators and its pricing structure still produces artificially high prices. Contrast this with Ghana’s National Communications Backbone company that offers a flat rate per Mbps across the whole country.

    There’s also a problem of investment displacement. Again take the example of Tanzania. The private sector would have built 70-80% of the network that the Government took a loan from China to build. So why didn’t it allow the private sector to build it (focusing on regulating price and access) and agree that its (lesser) financial contribution would build those parts the market wouldn’t?

    Mobile networks not fit for data purpose: The Irish are said to say:”If you want to go there, I wouldn’t start from here.” In a little over ten years, Africa’s mobile operators have put up voice networks that cover anywhere between 30-80% of the continent’s population with voice coverage. In the last several years, they have been steadily upgrading these networks to handle data with the seemingly endless acronyms that promise high-speed data and only occasionally deliver it.

    However, what started as a narrow pipe voice network with no IP elements is now creaking at the seams as it seeks to go off and become an all-singing, all dancing data network. It’s like the streets of Nairobi or Lagos or any other African city: the build up of traffic at different points during the day turns the road into a car park where nothing moves.

    One major mobile operator told us that in one of its larger country markets, rural data demand using GPRS and EDGE was doubling in volume every six months. Already at this 2-2.5G level, data traffic exceeded voice traffic by 60/40 and on 3G, the proportions are 90/10. The same pattern is apparent across all operators. The future is an IP-enabled data network that will carry the content and services that will replace some of the voice revenues as ARPUs go down. For better or for worse, mobile operators are central to the process of delivering affordable data to the widest number of people. However, they are currently struggling to transform what their networks can do in data terms with varying degrees of success.

    LTE for all – meet the future?:The mobile operators’ strongest card for continuing to be taken seriously in terms of data delivery is LTE. The Kenyan Government decided that the quickest way to achieve this (and it has a good track record on speed of movement, see TEAMS) was to put out a tender for an open access, national network. In the absence of this, it may turn out that LTE and high-speed data delivery on it, will be the thing that further entrenches the market position of the new mobile incumbents.

    In order to build an open access LTE network, you need access to the mobile operators tower network and so the arm-wrestling begins. New incumbent Safaricom and old incumbent Telkom Kenya have the power to negotiate a two week extension on the deadline. Since the winning bidder has to include an operator with an extensive tower network (Safaricom?), it will be necessary to negotiate with them placing the towers into the hands of a trusted third party operator, like Eaton, Helios, American Towers or another. The failure to get this kind of open access structure right will put most other operators at a disadvantage against those who can make the investment.

    The alternative is deep-pocket investment in fibre (to the home, office and cabinet) of the kind being carried out by insurgent challengers like 21st Century, Jamii Telecom and Wananchi. But the skew to mobile use makes this a useful supplement rather than the central play. In this context, not enough African Governments have allowed their utilities to sell “dark fibre” as has happened in Uganda.

    The strange case of technology as the game-changer: Another approach to breaking the back of this affordable access everywhere problem has been the argument that certain technologies would be “game-changers”. Over the last five years Wi-MAX has had much airplay for this tune. It made early promises of both mobile data and voice but the latter was never delivered. Unfortunately, its base station technology even when it was working at its best was too expensive and had no customer device ecology at the right price. On that score, Wi-Fi wipes the floor with Wi-MAX in terms of delivering bandwidth cheaply and reliably and has existing, cheap customer devices, not ones that will be ready “real-soon-now”.

    The holy-grail in technology terms is a low-cost, IP-enabled base station that operates on small amounts of satellite bandwidth to reach edge markets that need below an E1 of bandwidth. Thus far everyone has delivered things that produce incremental cost changes but not the step down in costs that is needed. It’s a complicated bundle to get right involving renewable power, footprint and satellite optimization. But this is the frontier that will begin to see changes in the core network over the next ten years if it can be delivered. Why have an extremely cheap, IP-enabled base station at the edge of the network and not start replacing existing, end-of-life equipment with it in the core network?

    Ubiquitous Wi-Fi access – giving local access:One of the remaining blockages is that access at the local level is fairly restricted. If you’re not a corporate customer paying premium prices, it’s difficult to get cheap and reliable household bandwidth or to find its equivalent through public, Wi-Fi hot-spots.

    At an early stage, some of Africa’s mobile operators (notably MTN) started experimenting with separating out their data traffic from their voice traffic at base station level. This practice is now widely described with the rather ugly phrase “Wi-Fi offload”.

    As the number of smart and feature-rich handsets in Africa increases, customers will increasingly be encouraged by mobile operators – before the LTE nirvana arrives – to switch over to a Wi-Fi hot-spot or Wi-Fi mesh network. Google has been experimenting with this approach in Nairobi’s The Junction shopping mall and other operators are trialing a similar approaches.

    As ever, the issue in competition terms is whoever entrenches themselves at this level could turn out to be the price “gate-keeper.” For mobile operators, the recurring question remains: is this core to our business? Thus far they have defensively played every hand that looks threatening to them but the tide may turn.

    Fighting for the unconnected:There’s a lot of rhetoric around reaching the rural populations of Africa but not a great deal of action. When one large operator tells us that 10% of its base stations are commercially marginal, the scale of the challenge is apparent. Yet there is a clear interest in the Internet in rural areas shown by that stat quoted earlier of rural data use doubling and by national surveys carried out in places like Kenya.

    Many regulators in Africa have collected large amounts of money from operators but this has largely stayed in their bank accounts because they have taken forever to set up universal service agency (USA) functions or separate organisations.

    Where they have spent the money, it has tended to go back to the "usual suspects" (incumbent and mobile operators). In the main they have tended to extend their voice networks, leaving Internet/data the poor relation. (the exceptions include places like Uganda). The argument against these structures is that if you are relying on “the usual suspects” to do the work, it is an expensive financial structure that strips out a significant percentage for overhead costs before returning the money to the same operators. Therefore why not simply write USA clauses into their licences that translate into the kinds of sums being extracted?

    But the issue is perhaps one that requires closer attention of a different kind. Government policy-makers need to say to the operators, either you go to these areas or we will give licences and spectrum to others who will do so on a local basis. This leads to three broad potential options:

    1. The mobile operators (going the low cost base station route) do their own coverage in these areas and the cost is deducted in whole or in part from their US obligations.

    2. A independent, infrastructure sharing company offers operators the ability to connect to these areas at an agreed price per minute. This was what Ericsson was promoting 2-3 years ago in Tanzania with optimised base stations that had larger coverage areas but very little has been heard of it recently.

    3. You set up independent, small-scale operators and they get an interconnection agreement that might be asymmetrical to give them sufficient financial means to survive and again you could deduct an initial “market-generating” subsidy from the US funding obligation.

    It’s not the digital divide, it’s the electricity divide:It doesn’t matter whether it’s a mobile phone, a PC or a TV, they all require electricity. So the real divide will increasingly be between those who have access to reliable electricity to power these devices and those who don’t. There are two broad categories: firstly, those who already supposedly have access to electricity who would like reliable power that didn’t go down regularly and spike in ways that damaged their devices; and secondly, those with no electricity or struggling with occasional power, largely but not exclusively in rural areas

    For all the energy that goes into promoting universal access, not enough goes into addressing these power problems. At a recent broadcast conference, one broadcaster was speaking optimistically about the impact rural electrification would have on increasing TV audiences in Uganda. But for every Uganda, there are two or three African countries where addressing electricity supply seems to be in stasis.

    What is harder to understand is why the kind of power roll-outscheme that operators came together to achieve in Uganda cannot be generalized across other countries? Also why are the infrastructure sharing companies not addressing power issues? Why can’t there be small-scale, local power providers? You cannot separate out the achievement of a digital dividend from the provision of reliable power supply. The two silos of communications and power are related.

    The arrival of the international fibre cables has provided a warm glow of achievement to many of Africa’s politicians but unless they focus on the remaining problems outlined above, the promise will always fall short of the potential.


    New video clips on Balancing Act’s You Tube Channel:

    Kamal Budhabbatti, Craft Silicon on its banking products and m-money payment product ELMA

    Santos Okottah, founder, eziki.tv on its livestreaming and downloads service

    Robert Aouad, CEO Isocel Benin on opening a carrier-neutral data centre in Benin

    Balancing Act's Twitter feed provides a combination of breaking news for telecoms, Internet and broadcast in Africa, direct tweets from countries visited and access to the occasional rumours circulating. You can follow us on:
    @BalancingActAfr

telecoms

  • Airtel's PayOnlineInKenya is touted to be the world's first virtual card that operates off a wallet and residing on a mobile phone. The new system is in partnership with MasterCard Worldwide and Standard Chartered Bank.

    Safaricom and I&M Bank also unveiled a service that allows M-pesa customers to transfer money from their accounts to a Visa pre-paid card - M-pesa prepay Safari Card - which can be used globally.

    Airtel Kenya on Wednesday unveiled a new online payment system that would see her mobile subscribers use handsets to purchase online.

    Dubbed PayOnlineInKenya, the new system is in partnership with MasterCard Worldwide and Standard Chartered Bank. This is touted as the world's first virtual cards that operates off a wallet and residing on a mobile phone.

    Safaricom and I&M Bank also unveiled a service that allows M-pesa customers to transfer money from their accounts to a Visa pre-paid card - M-pesa prepay Safari Card - which can be used globally.

    PayOnlineInKenya is a single use feature or a one time shopping card that provides the consumer with a convenient and secure online shopping experience. Users in Kenya can make purchases of up to Ksh 35,000.

    Each time an Airtel subscriber is shopping online he or she will be able to request a single use shopping card number. Airtel's PayOnlineInKenya service will generate a special 16 digit number that enables the completion of the transaction. On completion of the transaction, a confirmation message will be sent to the customer's mobile phone. The ultimate aim of this service is to allow Airtel subscribers to make payment across the MasterCard network.

    According to Airtel's estimate over 80 per cent of adult Africans do not have bank accounts.
    The mobile technology platform and Airtel's vast consumer penetration combined with the financial structure and regulatory framework provided by Standard Chartered Bank and the global acceptance of MasterCard will makes the new service attractive.

  • The Star Cell MTN Communication Company in collaboration with Ecobank- Liberia Friday, September 9, 2011 formally launched the Mobile Money Product in the country.
    The Mobile Money Product is the newest service the two entities have introduced on the Liberian market. The usage of this service will afford users of mobile phones in the country to access money sent to them by friends, family members among others via their personal phones.

    Speaking at the launch of the Mobile Money Product, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Lone Star Cell MTN, Mazen Marou, said the Lone Star Cell MTN is always committed to providing exciting and innovative products to the Liberian people.
    He said mobile money product is a new service being provided in the country by the two entities, saying the product is being operated in all places the MTN brand is in existence. "Statistics shows that mobile money product creates more jobs, stimulates investment and increases revenue for government," the Lone Star Cell MTN boss pointed out.
    He indicated that the mobile money will afford Liberian in the rural parts to have access to cash money, transfer and receive money, cash checks, paid bills among others.

  • Vodacom is facing the wrath of its subscribers, following an announcement that the mobile operator would throttle the connection speeds of BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) users who exceed 100MB per month.Social networks erupted last week after the news broke; with many subscribers threatening Vodacom with the Consumer Protection Act and some saying they are considering changing operators.
    Vodacom responded to criticism by emphasising that the new system is a result of its own research, which has shown that 95% of BlackBerry data usage is attributable to less than 5% of users. As a result, BIS users who exceed the 100MB threshold per month will have their connection speed reduced from 3G to 2G. Vodacom says BlackBerry Enterprise users will not be affected, and emphasises that the new measure is aimed at improving the user experience for the majority of BIS users.
    Responding to a barrage of questions via Twitter, Vodacom told worried subscribers that some in those 5% were using over 150Gigs a month, making the experience terrible for the rest. The operator also said that since the data is compressed, it actually equates to two for four times more, and clarified that throttling will not affect e-mail, BlackBerry Messenger, Facebook or Twitter, only browsing and streaming.
    Chief Technology Officer Andries Delport says: “We need to ensure that all BlackBerry users are able to enjoy the service that they pay for. When we realised that such a small minority was using the bulk of the capacity, we decided to implement measures that will ensure that BlackBerry users will enjoy a better browsing experience overall.”
    MTN also appears to be considering the same strategy. MTN SA CIO Kanagaratnam Lambotharan says: “MTN has seen a significant number of customers using the BIS platform for purposes it was not initially intended for. “MTN is currently exploring ways to minimise the negative impact this might have and will communicate to customers in due course.”

    Cell C says it has no such plans in the pipeline at this stage, and while 8ta could not respond by the time of publication, it has been reported that it also has no plans to throttle BIS.

    Virgin Mobile's chief marketing and strategy manager, Jonathan Newman, says in terms of the company's BlackBerry terms of use and conditions: “In the future, we may look at adding a fair use clause or other measures, should we deem it necessary. Research In Motion could not respond by the time of publication.

    On Twitter, Vodacom also responded to the concerns of contract subscribers, stating: “No effect on contracts, the 'fair usage' policy was always in the contract. As we said, 95% of users won't be affected at all.”

  • Mali’s government is inviting bids for a third telecommunications license and is expected to make a decision within two months, state-owned L’Essor newspaper reported, without saying where it got the information.

    Submissions will be allowed from Sept. 19 to Oct. 11, with the handing over of bid documents set for Nov. 14, according to the newspaper. The payment of license charges is expected to be completed by the end of November, L’Essor said.
    Orange and the former incumbent Sotelma-Malitel are the two incumbent operators in the African nation, the newspaper reported.

internet

  • Maintaining communication with friends and family is no doubt top priority for everyone, especially those living out of the country. It is therefore no surprise that many people opt for quicker and faster communication via phones and emails over the traditional way of posting letters through the Post Office. This may simply be interpreted as one way of how modern technology has affected postal business. However, postal operators believe they are benefiting more from the advance technologies.

    According to the Commercial Director of the National Post Office of Rwanda, Dieudonne Maniragaba, ICT has actually complemented the postal business. "Internet is not a competitor to us; it's just a solution that has instead helped us improve our service delivery to our clientele and has made our work much faster," Maniragaba said.

    According to him, some members of the public harbour a false impression of the Post Office believing that its business is solely confined to courier services. "The Post Office still has a good number of clientele and that's because we do a wide range of activities, not just sending and receiving letters. Our target is commercial and administrative letters of which we have so many clients that still require our services," Maniragaba explained. He enumerated other services such as delivery of parcels, packages, express mail, money transfer, courier services among others.

    He noted that their potential market includes government institutions, NGOs, embassies and the general public. Maniragaba said that the postal services now reach a wider population compared to the past years.He added that the National Post Office is still going strong and now boasts of over 152 employees whose salary is paid through the profits the parastatal makes and not the Government budget.
    Maniragaba stated that they have branches in all districts and intend to roll out e-Commerce services to improve trade facilitation and simplify trade procedures. Based on the Kigali master plan, the Post Office aims to start home delivery of letters and parcels in the near future.

    "We used to deliver couriers up to the district level but we have now gone as far as sectors and various institutions. We also use the tracking system which is IT-based, to ensure efficient delivery of packages up to sector level," he explained.

  • It is indisputably the era of the consumer. Yet in two centuries there have only been two major innovations in the way life insurance products are sold to consumers. The first was when brokers were introduced some 160 years ago and the second when call centres came along in the 1970s.

    The crux of the matter lies in the word 'sold'. The biggest game-changer would surely be the one that can remove the cross the life industry has born for so long: the assumption that its products are sold and not bought.

    The magic bullet is proving to be the Internet. Internet-savvy and -empowered consumers have overcome the 'grudge' in this traditionally grudge purchase in two ways. First, with the incentive of a price that is up to 50% cheaper and, secondly, by doing it themselves on the internet.

    I am referring to a fully automated online life insurance model, not insurers who rely on an Internet presence and/or call centres. It is the fully online selling, underwriting and administrative model that has the potential to change the life industry as drastically as ATMs changed banks.

    The major advantage fully online life insurers have is the massive cost-saving of doing away with intermediaries, top heavy head-offices, customer-facing staff, call centres and inefficient administration.

    To understand how this is possible, take a look at the online life insurer's target market. These customers have already purchased numerous products on the Internet, some of which demand fairly complex interaction, such as travel and online auctions. Buying life products is the next notch in the e-commerce growth curve.

    Surprisingly, it not only attracts a young, elite market. Many of these empowered consumers are so-called 'grey surfers' over the age of 55 and even a sprinkling of users over 70.

    But the biggest potential for online life insurance lies with new entrants into the economy. They have grown up with online banking and will go to the Internet first for all their needs: a job, a place to stay, a partner, a car and yes, life products. Which explains why 50% of the total marketing spend in the UK has gone online, with half of that spent on Google ads.

    The number of Internet users in South Africa is boosted by the rapid increase in people accessing the Internet from their cellphones across a large spread of income brackets. Internet World Stats estimates the number of Internet users in SA at a conservative total of at least 6.8 million.

    A fast growing number of SA users access the Internet mainly from a cellphone, boosting the online life market to a potential six million people across a larger spread of income brackets. Online players will soon be ready to launch mobile applications designed to simplify the underwriting process on a mobile screen.

    In the online business model, the service provider and the consumer become partners, a relationship that demands a level of trust. The insurer even entrusts the client to self-underwrite, something that was inconceivable until very recently, and is still frowned upon from the heights of some ivory towers. But why not? Empowered consumers understand that non-disclosure will jeopardise their cover.

    Self-administration is another feature of this partnership, another significant cost-saving. Need to change contact details, changes in cover, beneficiaries or banking details? Thanks, I'll do it myself.

    In this world, the new intermediary's name is 'word of mouth' and clients are rewarded in the form of credited premiums for signing on new clients. "Oh, but wait until the time comes to claim," cry the sceptics. However, leading international reinsurers have needed no encouragement to throw their weight behind the online players.

    Neither have leading underwriters such as Guardrisk, which is part of Alexander Forbes, one of South Africa's leading financial services groups They are clearly satisfied by the level of underwriting which is done upfront, as with traditional insurers.

    Consumers now have the power of choice as never before and increasingly that choice will be to put their money where they perceive real value. And if that means a new generation of customers who will go online and buy life insurance instead of it being sold to them, it will be good for the entire industry. There's no going back.

computing

  • Intel demonstrated a CPU at their IDF conference that can run on the energy generated by a small solar cellDuring the opening keynote at this year’s (2011) Intel Developer Forum (IDF) conference held in San Francisco, showcased a low power processor developed by Intel Labs.

    Calling onto stage Sriram Vangal, principal research scientist at Intel, they demonstrated a processor running on a small solar cell. Vangal explained that the processor was running at near the threshold voltage of its transistors, but was still able to run Windows and display an animation. The animation seemed to be an animated gif and showed a kitten wearing headphones.

    To prove that that processor was indeed running off of the solar cell, Vangal put his hand between it and the light source, causing the computer to lock up.
    While the benefits of technology like this for South Africans and other developing nations is obvious, Otellini said that they have no plans to turn solar powered computing into a product yet.

    The purpose of the research and the demonstration was to show off Intel’s work in reducing processor power requirements to increase battery life, tying in with their push into the so-called “Ultrabook” and smartphone markets.

  • The National Research Foundation has submitted on 15 September 2011 the documents supporting the African bid to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Radio Telescope. The documents are South Africa's response to the Request for Information issued by the international SKA Siting Group in June 2011.

    This follows the initial submission of expressions of interest in 2003 and of reports in 2005, which led to South Africa and Australia being shortlisted as both being suitable for the SKA.

    The African SKA site bid is led by South Africa's Department of Science and Technology and includes Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Madagascar, Zambia, Mauritius, Kenya and Ghana.

    The reports submitted cover a wide range of information - measurements of radio frequency interference and the physical conditions on the core site in the Northern Cape Karoo and the remote sites spread through South Africa and the other partner countries, measurements of the ionosphere and troposphere, analysis of the scientific performance of the array, designs for the roads, buildings and other infrastructure required, proposals for how 105MW of power can be supplied to the core site in the Karoo and how the remote sites can be powered, how the huge amounts of data can be transported from the telescope dishes in the Karoo and other sites to the central computer and then to the control centre in Cape Town and to science centres in other countries around the world, customs and excise duties, work permits and visas, laws affecting how the SKA will operate in South Africa and the other countries, working conditions for a highly skilled workforce of scientists and engineers, the financial and economic system, how security will be provided for the telescope and much else besides.

    The South African SKA team has worked closely with telecommunication service providers including Broadband InfraCo, Meraka, Nokia Siemens Networks, Seacom, FibreCo, Muvoni Weltex, EASSY, SIA Solutions and Cisco and with Eskom, the City of Cape Town and Aurecon to come up with robust and cost-effective data transport, power and infrastructure proposals for the telescope.

    The team has also had tremendous support from Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), Sentech, the Department of Communications, the Department of Public Enterprise, Vodacom, MTN and the National Association of Broadcasters in designing solutions to reduce radio interference on the site, while still providing services to people in the area.

    A great deal of support was also received from South African Revenue Service (SARS), the Reserve Bank, Southern Mapping Geospatial, the HSRC, the Centre for High Performance Computing, the Council for Geosciences, the South Africa Weather Service and many other government departments and service providers in preparing the bid reports. The bid documents represent eight years of work.
    The Minister for Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, said "Africa will provide a home for the SKA to do revolutionary science. Our bid is a strong, cost-effective and robust proposal for building the Square Kilometre Array in Africa. Our site is orders of magnitude better than any existing observatory and is protected by the Astronomy Geographic Advantage Act.

    Our team, with business and industry, has developed excellent solutions for how to provide power, data transport and infrastructure for the telescope very cost effectively. The great progress we have made in building the MeerKAT telescope has won us many friends and has changed the way the international community sees us".
    Pandor further added, "Many leading international researchers are now taking up full or part-time positions in our universities and the MeerKAT team. Our Human Capital Programme has won respect around the world.

    The excellence of our site has been recognised by the construction and operation of the world-leading PAPER and CBASS telescopes on our site, in which we are collaborating with the leading US institutions.

    We are fully committed to the SKA and so are our partners in Africa. Building world-leading science instruments and research in Africa will help us to create the skills, innovation and technology which will underpin our long-term vision for Africa as a leading economic power-house". Pandor also thanked SKA partner governments for their cooperation and assistance.

    The bid reports will be evaluated by expert panels and considered by an independent SKA Science Advisory Committee of leading international scientists and science administrators. They may ask for further information or clarification from South Africa and Australia (which has partnered with New Zealand).

    SKA South Africa project office representatives will meet this committee in the USA in December. If there are sufficient differences between the two bids, the Committee will aim to make a recommendation on a site by January 2012.

    Its recommendation will go to the not-for-profit SKA company which will be established in November, with about fifteen governments as its members. They will consider the recommendation and any other factors they wish to take into account and aim to make a decision by February or March 2012.

    Nigeria: Nation Loses N18.9Billion to Foreign Software Licensing - Notap
    The National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion has said that Nigeria lost about $118m (N18.9bn) in the last five years as capital flight from locally developed software to the importation of foreign software.

    The Head of Media and Public Relations, NOTAP, Adokiye Dagogo-George said while marking the "African Day for Technology and Intellectual Property".
    He said in compliance with the resolution made by the African Union, September 13 of every year is set aside by all African countries to arouse the "latent inventive, creative and innovative spirit of Africans in order to facilitate the acceleration of technological development in the continent."

    He explained that though there are Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora who have demonstrated ICT capabilities especially in software development, lack of awareness of their breakthroughs has hampered their patronage as all software deployed by the various sectors of the economy, particularly the financial sector were foreign ones.
    "It is against this background that NOTAP institutionalized the annual national workshop and exhibition on software licensing and development," he said.

    NOTAP was established as an agency of the Federal Ministry of Science Technology to facilitate the acquisition of technology in Nigeria.

    The agency has since been implanting the mandate through the evaluation, registration and monitoring of all technology transfer agreements signed by Nigerian entrepreneurs with their foreign technical partners.

    NOTAP was to ensure that the terms and conditions of the agreements are equitable, fair and commensurate and aligned with the capacity and capability of the Nigerian Innovation system.

    Dagogo-George disclosed that while carrying out its functions and activities, NOTAP makes concerted efforts to promote the development of locally motivated technologies through the linkage of industry with the National Innovation System in the area of scientific Research and Development, promotion of Intellectual Property Rights and commercialization of R&D results.

    He said: "NOTAP has, in recent times, established 30 Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer Offices (IPTTOs) in research institutes and institutions of higher learning across the country.

    "IPTTOs were established in the knowledge centres to encourage market oriented and demand driven research, promote intellectual property protection and strengthen the linkage between industry, universities and research institutes."

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Ethiopian incumbent telco Ethio Telecom (formerly Ethiopian Telecom Corporation) has revealed that it missed its revenue target of ETB9.8 billion (USD565 million) for the year ended 7 July 2011 by a shortfall of 11%, allAfrica.com reports. With France Telecom (FT) having taken over management of the state-owned telco in December 2010, the failure to hit the target could mean that the European telecoms giant may see its management fee reduced under the terms of its contract with the Ethiopian government. It is understood that under the terms of the two-year, USD42.3 million agreement between FT and the state, the payment scheme is contingent upon a six-monthly performance review, with bonuses or deductions based on a percentage accomplishment of goals set as part of the deal.

    In a press release detailing the achievements of the most recent financial year, Ethio Telecom reported that gross turnover had increased from ETB7.05 billion in EFY2002 (the period from 8 July 2009 to 7 July 2010) to ETB8.815 billion in the same period a year later, while earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) in EFY2003 (year ended 7 July 2011) stood at ETB6.83 billion. The failure to reach its revenue target was reportedly blamed on damages to the company’s telecoms infrastructure, with allAfrica citing an unnamed telecom official close to the matter as saying: ‘The cost of repairing stolen fibre-optic cables and power shortages are some of the reasons why the company did not reach its target.’ Ethio Telecom reportedly confirmed a few weeks ago that it had lost around ETB91 million due to theft and intentional damage of its infrastructure.

    Ethio Telecom also revealed that the number of subscribers across all of its services had reached 11,509,366 at the end of June 2011, of which the lion’s share – 10,526,190 – were attributed to mobile services. The number of customers signed up to the telco’s fixed line voice and internet/data services stood at 854,412 and 128,764 respectively, although only 16,529 of the latter were connected to high speed internet services such as ADSL or 3G mobile broadband. Looking forward Ethio Telecom has set out an extremely ambitious target, announcing that it aims to add some ten million new mobile subscribers in the coming year.

  • Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM) says that the company has received an expression of interest from and entered into discussions, with a potential -- unnamed -- strategic equity partner.

    In a brief notice to the Malawi stock exchange, the company said that shareholders are advised to accordingly exercise caution in dealing in their shares in the Company until a further announcement is made.
    The company has a diverse shareholder base, with just 21% listed on the stock market. The government owns 44.5%, and three other corporate shareholders have between 10.5-13% each.

    According to the Mobile World analysts, the company had 1.185 million customers at the end of June, representing a market share of 42%.

  • Datatec, ("Datatec" or the "Group", JSE and LSE: DTC), the international Information and Communications Technology (ICT) group, is currently finalizing its results for the six months ended 31 August 2011 ("the Period"), which will be published on 12 October 2011.

    As a JSE listed company, Datatec is required to publish trading statements if the financial results for a given period are more than 20% higher than the results of the previous corresponding period. As described in more detail below, underlying* earnings per share, earnings per share and headline earnings per share for the Period are expected to be more than 20% higher than the previous corresponding period of six months ended 31 August 2010 (the "Comparative Period").

     Group revenues for the Period are expected to be approximately $2.4 billion, compared to approximately $2.1 billion in the Comparative Period, with overall margin expansion.

     Underlying* earnings per share for the Period are expected to be between 21 and 22 US cents per share, compared to 15.8 US cents per share for the Comparative Period, an increase of between 33% and 39%.

     Earnings per share and headline earnings per share are expected to be between 19 and 20 US cents per share, compared to 8.8 US cents in the Comparative Period, an increase of between 116% and 127%.

    Interim cash distribution by way of a capital reduction The Board has resolved to amend the group's dividend / capital distribution payment policy from making a single annual payment to making both interim and final distributions with immediate effect. The dividend cover policy of at least three times relative to underlying* earnings per share will apply to both interim and final distributions.

    The first interim distribution will accordingly be declared for the period ended 31 August 2011 with the interim results announcement on 12 October 2011.

  • Safaricom share price has got a boost from the planned increase in calling tariffs, rising by 6.9 per cent in one week as investors anticipate growth in the mobile provider’s profits. The stock has rebounded from a one-year low of Sh2.90 per share last week to Thursday’s Sh3.10 driven by higher demand from investors since last Thursday’s announcement of a possible tariff review. The telco closed its shareholders’ register for a Sh0.20 dividend last Friday.

    “Despite going ex-dividend, there has been sustained demand on the counter. This could be attributed to the expected increase in tariffs to cover the operator’s rising operating expenses,” said analysts at Kestrel Capital in a market report. In yesterday’s trading, the counter moved 6.9 million shares down from 15.2 million traded on Wednesday.

     “Large investment firms are selling off in Europe, especially bank stocks, following debt crisis that has seen banks’ credit rating being reviewed and are heading to other markets; that is why you see the resurgence especially in Safaricom which is attractive to them,” said Mr George Bodo, an analyst with ApexAfrica Capital.

    Safaricom stock is considered attractive due to its high liquidity and the foreigners’ bullish sentiment towards telecoms in emerging markets.

    Last week Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore said the company could no longer absorb rising inflationary pressures and was considering tariff reviews. Information PS Bitange Ndemo also spoke of the expected review, saying that it would be understandable owing to increased network maintenance and fuel cost.

    Passing on costs to the consumer is attractive to investors as it cushions the company’s earnings considering that its growth slowed down with start of price wars last year. Safaricom registered a 12.6 per cent drop in net profit to Sh13.2 billion for the financial year 2010/11.

    Analysts expect price wars in the industry to stop and focus on add-ons such as data and money transfer services. Safaricom is the only one of the four mobile phone firms that reported operational profit last year while the others are pressed to show returns, hence may follow in upward adjustment of prices. Rival Bharti Airtel has replaced its Managing Director Rene Meza who was seen as the face behind the low tariff charges.
     “We would expect price adjustments in calling rates to be most likely upwards following markets such as Tanzania and India where rates have increased in the recent past,” said
    Mr John Kamunya, an analyst with Dyer & Blair Investment Bank.

    Since Safaricom is strong in voice, data and money transfer gives it a strong position to continue recording growth in net profits.Telkom Kenya recently launched a high-speed data network.

  • Nigeria Com
    20 - 21 September, 2011, Lagos, Nigeria

    The 2nd annual Nigeria Com returns to Lagos. Gain unique market perspectives and insights from a 40 strong speaker-line up including 25+ Operator leaders. The 2 day agenda equips you to capitalise on new networks and services, while the 60 stand networking exhibition will showcase the worldÕs foremost technology and solutions available for your business. With 700+ attendees, if you do telecoms business in the region, this is an event you cannot afford to miss!
    For more information visit here:

    Mozambique National ICT Congress
    5-6 October 2011, Centro Internacional de Conferencia Joaquim Chissano, Maputo

    Held under the auspices of the Mozambique Ministry of Science & Technology and organised by AITEC Africa, this is the annual gathering of MozambiqueÕs rapidly growing ICT community, with a two-day conference and industry expo. Users and vendors of ICT systems and solutions will be sharing challenges, knowledge and ideas in the stimulating conference programme, with high-level local and international speakers. There is simultaneous translation between English and Portuguese to facilitate international participation. The event will also include the second annual National Communications Roundtable, providing operators, ISPs, users and service providers with an opportunity to discuss the countryÕs national communications strategy with the regulator. For the full programme log on to the organiserÕs website here:  To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    North Africa Com
    11 - 12 October, 2011, Tunis, Tunisia

    Now in its 6th year, the ONLY conference and exhibition dedicated to the North African telecoms market moves to Tunisia to address the dynamic French-speaking markets.
    The expanded conference agenda is now in development and will feature a host of new topics led by a speaker panel featuring some of North Africa's leading telcos.  Contact us today to apply to speak in the conference, or reserve your sponsorship or exhibition package. Be one of the first to see the 2011 agenda and sign up for your copy.
    For more information visit here:

    CDN World Summit 2011
    26 - 28 October 2011, Hilton Hotel Paddington, London.

    The 3rd annual CDN World Summit promises to be the largest and most
    comprehensive CDN event ever.The full value chain is represented including content providers,broadcast operators, traditional and telco CDNs, represented by industry leaders such as; FilmFlex Movies, BT Wholesale and AT&T.
    For more information visit here:

    Digital Migration and Spectrum Policy Summit
    29 October to 01 November 2011, Nairobi, Kenya.

    For more informtion visit here:

    Africa Com
    9 - 10 November, 2011, Cape Town, SA

    Join 5,000 of AfricaÕs leading telcos in Cape Town this November for what is set to be the biggest and best AfricaCom yet.  The conference agenda has doubled to incorporate a record 150+ speakers presenting across 4 strategic keynotes, 11 in-depth focus sessions and 2 co-located events Ð AfricaCast and Enterprise ICT Africa.  WhatÕs more 250+ international solutions providers will be showcasing their latest products in the networking exhibition. For more information visit here:

    World Telecom Summit 2011
    9Ð11 November, 2011, Singapore Marriott Hotel

    World Telecom Summit 2011 is the must-attend event of the year. Bringing together top level executives and key decision makers of preeminent telecommunications companies from around the world, this is the perfect opportunity to meet the whoÕs who of the telecommunications and mobile industry.  It is the summit that addresses the evolving needs of telecommunications and mobile community. Get up to date with the latest innovations and technological advancements in the industry and gain access to the minds of the movers and shakers of the industry.
    Take advantage of the Limited Early Bird Rates for Operator Pass!
    For more information please visit here:  or contact Vivian at vivian.ho@olygen.com

    AITEC East Africa East Africa Summit
    2-3 November, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    East Africa has become one of the fastest growing ICT investment markets and the regionÕs ICT Summit it designed as the regionÕs forum to bring together users and vendors of ICT technology in a stimulating educational and business networking environment. The 2011 Summit programme will focus on the following themes:
    ¥    Data Security
    ¥    Mobile Apps
    ¥    Cloud Computing
    For the conference programme, log on to the organiserÕs website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    ICT Infrastructure Summit: Banking Solutions in Growth Economies
    29-30 November, 2011,

    Kingsway Hall, Great Queen Street, London WC2
    Though technology innovation for banks in growth economies is ripe for growth, development is being stalled by some major infrastructural barriers including poor connectivity, a lack of political support, incorrect regulation and a lack of capital. The ICT Innovation for Banks in Growth Economies conference will arm you with the tools to upgrade your telecommunication infrastructure and scale up your branchless banking operations in order to reach millions of unbanked households. For further information please click here:

    AfriHealth
    30 November Ð 1 December 2011, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    The leading continental forum on e-health, m-health, health management systems and capacity development. AfriHealth 2011 will focus on current research, development and implementation of ICT technology and resources in the African Healthcare arena. A key objective of the conference, now in its fourth year, will be to share knowledge and experience from practical mobilization of ICT-based healthcare systems and projects, to showcase best practice through practical case studies and highlight potential for scaling up success stories at national and regional levels. For the conference programme log on to the organiserÕs website here:  To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    AITEC Banking & Mobile Money COMESA
    7-8 March 2012, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    Now in its sixth year, this has become the leading educational, networking and marketing event for Eastern and Southern AfricaÕs financial services sector. In addition to the conferenceÕs established intensive education programme covering core banking, mobile money and microfinance topics (over 100 speakers in 2011). For the conference programme log on to the organiserÕs website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    InsureAFRICA
    7-8 March 2012, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    Insurers seeking effective performance in service delivery, cost reduction and profit levels need to embrace technology, viewing it not as a support function but as a key enabler of competitive advantage at all levels of operation. InsureAFRICA is the first specialised conference for the African insurance and pensions industry to evaluate the systems and innovative channels needed to compete and thrive in a rapidly expanding industry. With the theme ÒEffective management strategies and systems for a new era of expansion and inclusionÓ, the conference will be the continentÕs first forum to gather knowledge and experience for a rapidly growing industry. For the Call for Papers, log on to the organiserÕs website here:  To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    Mobile VAS Africa 2012
    14 - 15 May 2012, Johannesburg, South Africa

    Mobile VAS Africa 2012 will bring together industry experts and representatives from leading financial institutions, mobile operators and solutions providers to provide a strategic insight into mobile VAS while exploring collaborative business models, innovative applications, technologies and straegies. For more information visit here:

    Roaming & Interconnect
    16 - 17 May 2012, Johannesburg, South Africa

    RIC Africa 2012 will uncover new strategies to boost roaming traffic and retain existing roamers. During the conference we will look at the innovative roaming solutions and pricing, supplementing roaming with alternative revenue streams, the latest EU regulations and their impact on operations in Africa, as well as the importance of hubbing and convergence.  For more information please visit here:

    AITEC Banking & Mobile Money West Africa
    6 June 2012, Accra International Conference Centre

    Now in its fifth year, the conference will cover a wide range of strategic and technology topics to empower West AfricaÕs banking, microfinance and insurance professionals with the knowledge they need to lead their organisation effectively through the turbulent market and regulatory conditions they face. For the conference programme log on to the organiserÕs website here:  To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Ghana’s telecoms watchdog the National Communication Authority (NCA) is looking to crack down on mobile network operators if they fail to tackle the chronic problem of poor quality services. NCA deputy director Mawuko Zomelo confirmed the NCA plan, adding that the sanctions could take the form of a fine. In a field visit to Ghana’s Northern Region, NCA officials held meetings in a number of towns and districts to obtain feedback on the public’s perception of the quality of telecoms services. The information gathered confirmed suspicions that many Ghanaians are dissatisfied with the incumbent cellcos’ performance to date. The NCA is now looking to develop an effective strategy to address the problem, Zomelo said.

    - Gambia’s Daily Observer reports that the Ministry of Information, Communication & Information Infrastructure has revealed to the National Assembly that state-backed Gamtel is currently working on plans to expand its fledgling 3G wireless data network in the Greater Banjul area and other major towns and cities including Soma, Farafenni, Bansang and Basse. The disclosure was made in response to ministers’ questions on when 3G infrastructure would be expanded to provide wireless internet access for outlying communities. However, it was added that the expansion of the network is not in Gamtel’s 2011 budget, and would instead be included in its 2012 budget.

Digital Content

  • Airtel Ghana last week announced a deal for managed Value Added Services (VAS) with mobile software company, Rancard Solutions. Under the terms of this agreement, Airtel Ghana will use Rancard’s service management tool, Value Added Services Provider Manager (VASP Manager), to deploy and manage multiple content provider accounts and services. This enables the mobile network to render a rich, diverse and concerted mobile content and service experience for their subscribers.

    Built by Rancard, VASP Manager runs in the rancardmobility.com cloud and enables Airtel Ghana to deploy, manage, deliver and monetize applications, content and services over various channels (mobile web, SMS, MMS, USSD, etc.), using Rancard’s content discovery technology Rendezvous, and to provide access to major brands including BBC, ESPN, MTVBase and Google.

    VASP Manager provides a seamless service management interface to Rancard’s mobile message switch, payments gateway and content hosting applications, which are all integrated with Airtel’s infrastructure for billing, messaging and subscriber management.

    The Rendezvous technology leverages network data to provide a personalized, relevant, content discovery experience for mobile subscribers using social recommendations, which are proven to yield four times the rate of promotions. This allows Airtel to connect their subscribers to relevant content, applications and services, a move the network believes will establish it as an innovation-adopting pioneer in the marketplace and multiply its rapidly growing subscriber base.

    Rancard’s Director for Product Management and Marketing, Ehizogie Binitie said in a statement, “Rancard’s focus is to provide mobile network operators with the tools that enable them to improve their ARPUs and keep
    subscribers engaged through innovation. We believe with Rendezvous we enable mobile subscribers to find the content/applications/services they really want with software-enabled recommendations from people they trust inside of the network.”

    Airtel’s Director of Marketing, Oare Ojekere, said of the partnership, “Airtel’s partnership with Rancard Solutions gives us the flexibility to address our customers’ needs in various ways, leading to greater customer satisfaction; providing another reason to join the network that is customer-centric.”

  • Deutsche Welle continues to expand its services in Tanzania by cooperating with Vodacom Tanzania Ltd. – the largest mobile provider in the country. Starting September 9, 2011, DW’s popular radionovela “Learning by Ear” will be available on-demand for mobile service subscribers.

    The programming is targeted to teenagers and young adults and provides information on important topics like HIV, human rights, democracy and the environment with an exciting mix of stories and features. Learning by Ear is produced in all of DW’s programming languages for Africa and is already broadcast in Tanzania as part of DW-RADIO/Kiswahili. 
    Deutsche Welle’s Kiswahili service is among the most popular radio programs in the country. Around 70 percent of Tanzanians are familiar with Deutsche Welle and every third is a frequent listener of the Kiswahili program. Besides broadcasting the Kiswahili Service offers sms-news messages via mobile phone every day, comprehensive website (www.dw-world.de/kiswahili), Twitter and Facebook.

    Customers who have signed up for the “Music Radio” service from Vodacom Tanzania Ltd. can access every episode of the Learning by Ear series for a special price based on minutes of usage. Customers dial 09011 22 201 from their mobile phone to subscribe to the Music Radio service and listen to the instruction on how to access the different Learning by Ear series.

    Learning by Ear was started as Deutsche Welle initiative for Africa in 2008 with the support of the German Federal Foreign Office. The series has been successful with younger listeners and is entirely produced in cooperation with partners throughout Africa and written by African authors. More than 270 African radio stations have broadcasted Learning by Ear since the series started in 2008. The series has received national and international awards, including “most creative radio format” from the Association for International Broadcasting (AIB) in 2009.

    Deutsche Welle is Germany’s international broadcaster. With DW-TV, DW-RADIO and DW-WORLD.DE, it produces news, background information and cultural highlights worldwide, while creating a platform for intercultural dialogue.
    Vodacom Tanzania Ltd is Tanzania’s leading cellular network offering state-of-the-art GSM communication services to more than 9 million customers across the country.

    Earlier this year Vodacom Tanzania launched the very first Mobile Radio and Mobile TV service. With an extensive network coverage Vodacom Tanzania continues researching for new services to the utmost benefit of the Tanzanian market and public at large.

  • Google has announced the winners of the Android Developer Challenge in Sub-Saharan Africa, a competition that was announced back in April, set up to encourage the development of exciting, high quality applications that can delight mobile users in Africa and around the world.

    Developers in Sub-Saharan Africa submitted hundreds of innovative and interesting applications across three broad categories: apps related to entertainment, media and games; apps related to social networking and communication; and apps related to productivity, tools, and local and geo services.

    In July, Google had announced the top 29 applications, provided them new phones, mentoring from Googlers and six weeks to improve their applications. From those 29, the three winners have been announced. 

    Each winner will be awarded $25,000 to help them build and grow their business, and will receive additional mentoring from Google employees to help them make their app even better. The judges also gave honorable mention to finalist apps Rainbow Racer and Wedding Plandroid; the developers of those apps will each receive $5,000.

    All three winning apps, both honorable mention apps, and many of our finalist apps are or will soon be available on Android Market.
    The Winners:
    Entertainment/Media/Games
     Afrinolly - Nigeria
    Team: FansConnectOnline Limited
    Afrinolly brings African movies to your pocket, allowing you to watch movie trailers, read entertainment news and gossip, track celebs, listen to music and share it all with your friends.
    ________________________________________
    Social/Communication
    Olalashe - Kenya
    Team: David Lemayian, Capefield Ltd.
    Olalashe (which means "brother" in Maasai) is a geo-alert application that can help you communicate when you’re in trouble, through a widget that can send your location and a pre-set message to your ‘In Case of Emergency’ contacts with the push of a button.
    ________________________________________
    Productivity
    Shoppers' Delight - Kenya
    Team: Elan Telemedia Ltd
    Shoppers' Delight is a shopping application that allows shoppers to compare product prices across different area supermarkets. The app also helps shoppers discover bargains and relevant sales, and access maps and health information.

More

  • Airtel has hired Willie Ellis who previously worked for Vodacom South Africa to become its Product and Innovation Director.

  • Reference Number: AJS0011342
    Job Category:  IT- Account Management
    Preferred Degree:  Bachelors Degree
    Job Type:  Permanent/Full Time
    Job Country:  Rwanda
    Job Location:  Kigali-Rwanda
    Experience (Years): 2-4
    Job Description
    MTN RWANDACELL is a GSM Telecommunications Company based in Rwanda with its Head office in the Capital city of Kigali. Formed in 1998, the Company has recorded exceptional growth and this trend is continuing into the future. MTN Rwanda Cell continually strives for excellence with high levels of Customer Care forming the foundation of the Company's Vision and Mission.

    MTN RWANDACELL would like to recruit competent staff for the following job.
    Business Risk Analyst

    Major responsibilities of the job:
    To assist management with the implementation of proper risk management processes in the Company.
    Provide assurance to management on adequacy and effectiveness of risk management and revenue assurance activities within MTN Rwandacell.

    Key performance areas of the job:
    Coordinate day to day risk management activities within MTN Rwandacell
    Maintenance of comprehensive and updated strategic and business risk registers.
    Provide quarterly risk management input to the quarterly operations review reports.
    Provide quarterly progress on revenue loss risk management activities
    Create a companywide proactive risk management culture.

    Minimum education necessary:
    Bachelors of Commerce Degree
    Possession of an auditing qualification (CIA, CISA...) and/or professional Accountancy qualification (CA, ACCA, CPA etc) would be advantageous.
    Minimum experience necessaryto perform this job:
    Minimum of 2 years of Auditing/Risk management/consulting experience in an internationally recognized professional accounting firm or an international organization.
    Proficient in use of the company standard software: Excel, Word, Power points; MS projects, Access, etc.
    A thorough understanding of telecommunication business processes, products, services and overall business.
    Proficiency in the use of auditing and risk management softwares.
    Auditing experience in telecommunications and information systems as comparative advantage

    Skills/Competencies/ Attributes Required:

    Demonstrate thorough knowledge and understanding of risk and control methodologies
    Completion of assignments in accordance with the department methodology and pre-set deadlines.
    Comprehensive, concise well researched reports.
    Increased awareness of control and risk within MTN Rwandacell.
    Good Interpersonal skills.
    Presentation and facilitation skills.
    Working under pressure to meet reporting deadlines.
    How to apply:

    Please forward letters of application together with detailed curriculum vitae, photocopies of academic and professional certificates and contact details of three referees, so as to reach the Human Resources & Administration Department as soon as possible.

    Note: If you are not contacted 10 days after the submission application, then you were not considered for this position.

    MTN Rwandacell is an equal opportunity employer.

    MTN RWANDACELL Ltd is a GSM Telecommunications Company formed in 1998, based in Rwanda with its Head office in the capital City of Kigali. The Company has recorded exceptional growth and this trend is continuing into the future.

    MTN Rwanda continually strives for excellence with high levels of Customer Care, forming the foundation of the Company's Vision and Mission. MTN RWANDACELL Ltd would like to recruit a competent person in the position below.

Issue no 572 16th September 2011

node ref id: 23004

Top story

  • Africa’s long road to high-speed broadband is being made in leaps and bounds. Every week brings news of another piece of the jigsaw fitting into place. This week it’s the completion of the national fibre backbone in one of Africa’s larger markets. However, there’s still remains a yawning gap between the promise of ubiquitous, cheap bandwidth and the current realities of the continent. Russell Southwood runs his fingers over the blockages that still remain.

    It’s hard not to be excited by the news that Angola (and its usually rather ponderous incumbent Angola Telecom) have completed 10,000 kms of national fibre backbone that connects every province in the country. It is a huge place and suffers from an enormous range of practical difficulties. Nevertheless, it has completed the telecommunications equivalent of building a motorway network across the country.

    In this same week, one of my analysts bought to my attention an infographic from Google on download speeds in Africa. This claims to show the fastest download speeds in Africa, ranging from 10.1 Mbps in Ghana to 1.38 Mbps in Nigeria. It puts the world average download speed at 8.48 Mbps. The graphic is shown below:

    The idea that Ghana has the best download speeds in Africa will cause a long, dry chuckle amongst my Ghanaian colleagues followed by them beating their head against the wall slowly in frustration. If the average household download speed achieved is 10.1 Mbps, I will (as a non-hat wearer) duly eat my hat: naturally, lightly sautéed with olive oil, garlic and red onions.

    At this point, I can hear the siren voices saying: why does it matter? Things are getting better. It matters because if Africa is to do all the things that the Internet and data access promise, these have to happen at a speed that allow more or less instantaneous access rather than needing to make a cup of coffee while you wait for something to download. Demand for content and services is being throttled by the inability of operators to deliver reasonably priced, fast (10 Mbps, I wish) and reliable bandwidth. There is significant evidence that Africans (particularly young ones) want Facebook, You Tube and other more local Internet services as much as any other group of citizens in the world. The key to them being able to get them is delivery on that promise of fast, affordable bandwidth.

    The blockages are many and for those who follow these things, have a familiar ring to them:

    International bandwidth access: By the end of 2012, nearly every coastal African country will have a landing station. The only exception is likely to be Eritrea but its rulers take perhaps too greater pride in being exceptional so there’s not much can be done there. There’s some doubts about the southern reach of the ACE cable and others may join that list.

    In some coastal countries, like Ghana and Nigeria, there will be 5 landing stations and international bandwidth will sell in the lower hundreds of dollars per mbps. In many other countries, the World Bank has encouraged nationally-led operator consortia to run the single landing station and this should ensure open access and reasonable prices. But there are a number of countries (notably Cameroon and Gabon) where old-fashioned incumbents will sell a little of their huge fibre inventory at artificially high prices. In other places like DRC where the Government insisted that the (almost non-existent) incumbent be the licence-holder, the jury is out.

    Pity the landlocked: There are 12 landlocked countries in Africa and as a number of studies have shown, they suffer multiple disadvantages because they lack access to the sea. One of the most notable is that the transit price for getting their data to all these new international landing stations often costs the same or more than it costs for their data to complete the journey from the landing station to London or New York.

    One of the continent’s major, powerful mobile players was telling us recently that it was impossible to get to get reasonably priced transit bandwidth out of one of its West African landlocked country markets. This same operator is the cause of this problem in other territories rather than the victim of it.Right hand, meet the left hand.

    Considerable effort has gone into creating equitable open access to international landing stations but rather less into tackling the problem for some of Africa’s more disadvantaged economies. WIOCC’s East African Backbone reserves capacity at reasonable prices for landlocked members of its consortium. But there is nothing similar elsewhere in Africa and the cross-border expansion of Africa’s carriers’ carriers (like Phase3 Telecom, Suburban and KDN) has hit a plateau from a combination of capital and licensing issues. Indeed, KDN is currently being sued by one of its suppliers in the Kenyan courts. A World Bank scheme to use fibre deployed by the members of the West African Power Pool has disappeared without trace.

    National backbones – the problems come home to roost: If there is a problem with transit pricing, the same issue is reflected at a national level. Bandwidth from Lagos to London is now down into the low hundreds per Mbps and will undoubtedly go lower as more cables arrive. However, the considerably shorter journey from Lagos to Abuja costs US$1,000- 1,200 per Mbps. Nigeria is one of the most competitive countries and has historically, led on the regulatory front, so why is this occurring?

    There are many competitors but only two of them (MTN and Nitel) have genuinely national networks. The long-standing problems with the incumbent Nitel and its multiple failed privatisations mean that MTN comes close to being a de facto monopoly operator at this level.

    Other countries have chosen to make building a fibre backbone of this sort a national priority but these initiatives are not without issues. Uganda’s Chinese-built and financed backbone is widely acknowledged to have been over-costly and there are doubts about its operational effectiveness. In Tanzania, the Government has made much play of separating out TTCL’s national fibre backbone (again Chinese-built but operating more effectively) within the company. But it has insisted that it can only sell a relatively high minimum amount of bandwidth to a limited group of operators and its pricing structure still produces artificially high prices. Contrast this with Ghana’s National Communications Backbone company that offers a flat rate per Mbps across the whole country.

    There’s also a problem of investment displacement. Again take the example of Tanzania. The private sector would have built 70-80% of the network that the Government took a loan from China to build. So why didn’t it allow the private sector to build it (focusing on regulating price and access) and agree that its (lesser) financial contribution would build those parts the market wouldn’t?

    Mobile networks not fit for data purpose: The Irish are said to say:”If you want to go there, I wouldn’t start from here.” In a little over ten years, Africa’s mobile operators have put up voice networks that cover anywhere between 30-80% of the continent’s population with voice coverage. In the last several years, they have been steadily upgrading these networks to handle data with the seemingly endless acronyms that promise high-speed data and only occasionally deliver it.

    However, what started as a narrow pipe voice network with no IP elements is now creaking at the seams as it seeks to go off and become an all-singing, all dancing data network. It’s like the streets of Nairobi or Lagos or any other African city: the build up of traffic at different points during the day turns the road into a car park where nothing moves.

    One major mobile operator told us that in one of its larger country markets, rural data demand using GPRS and EDGE was doubling in volume every six months. Already at this 2-2.5G level, data traffic exceeded voice traffic by 60/40 and on 3G, the proportions are 90/10. The same pattern is apparent across all operators. The future is an IP-enabled data network that will carry the content and services that will replace some of the voice revenues as ARPUs go down. For better or for worse, mobile operators are central to the process of delivering affordable data to the widest number of people. However, they are currently struggling to transform what their networks can do in data terms with varying degrees of success.

    LTE for all – meet the future?:The mobile operators’ strongest card for continuing to be taken seriously in terms of data delivery is LTE. The Kenyan Government decided that the quickest way to achieve this (and it has a good track record on speed of movement, see TEAMS) was to put out a tender for an open access, national network. In the absence of this, it may turn out that LTE and high-speed data delivery on it, will be the thing that further entrenches the market position of the new mobile incumbents.

    In order to build an open access LTE network, you need access to the mobile operators tower network and so the arm-wrestling begins. New incumbent Safaricom and old incumbent Telkom Kenya have the power to negotiate a two week extension on the deadline. Since the winning bidder has to include an operator with an extensive tower network (Safaricom?), it will be necessary to negotiate with them placing the towers into the hands of a trusted third party operator, like Eaton, Helios, American Towers or another. The failure to get this kind of open access structure right will put most other operators at a disadvantage against those who can make the investment.

    The alternative is deep-pocket investment in fibre (to the home, office and cabinet) of the kind being carried out by insurgent challengers like 21st Century, Jamii Telecom and Wananchi. But the skew to mobile use makes this a useful supplement rather than the central play. In this context, not enough African Governments have allowed their utilities to sell “dark fibre” as has happened in Uganda.

    The strange case of technology as the game-changer: Another approach to breaking the back of this affordable access everywhere problem has been the argument that certain technologies would be “game-changers”. Over the last five years Wi-MAX has had much airplay for this tune. It made early promises of both mobile data and voice but the latter was never delivered. Unfortunately, its base station technology even when it was working at its best was too expensive and had no customer device ecology at the right price. On that score, Wi-Fi wipes the floor with Wi-MAX in terms of delivering bandwidth cheaply and reliably and has existing, cheap customer devices, not ones that will be ready “real-soon-now”.

    The holy-grail in technology terms is a low-cost, IP-enabled base station that operates on small amounts of satellite bandwidth to reach edge markets that need below an E1 of bandwidth. Thus far everyone has delivered things that produce incremental cost changes but not the step down in costs that is needed. It’s a complicated bundle to get right involving renewable power, footprint and satellite optimization. But this is the frontier that will begin to see changes in the core network over the next ten years if it can be delivered. Why have an extremely cheap, IP-enabled base station at the edge of the network and not start replacing existing, end-of-life equipment with it in the core network?

    Ubiquitous Wi-Fi access – giving local access:One of the remaining blockages is that access at the local level is fairly restricted. If you’re not a corporate customer paying premium prices, it’s difficult to get cheap and reliable household bandwidth or to find its equivalent through public, Wi-Fi hot-spots.

    At an early stage, some of Africa’s mobile operators (notably MTN) started experimenting with separating out their data traffic from their voice traffic at base station level. This practice is now widely described with the rather ugly phrase “Wi-Fi offload”.

    As the number of smart and feature-rich handsets in Africa increases, customers will increasingly be encouraged by mobile operators – before the LTE nirvana arrives – to switch over to a Wi-Fi hot-spot or Wi-Fi mesh network. Google has been experimenting with this approach in Nairobi’s The Junction shopping mall and other operators are trialing a similar approaches.

    As ever, the issue in competition terms is whoever entrenches themselves at this level could turn out to be the price “gate-keeper.” For mobile operators, the recurring question remains: is this core to our business? Thus far they have defensively played every hand that looks threatening to them but the tide may turn.

    Fighting for the unconnected:There’s a lot of rhetoric around reaching the rural populations of Africa but not a great deal of action. When one large operator tells us that 10% of its base stations are commercially marginal, the scale of the challenge is apparent. Yet there is a clear interest in the Internet in rural areas shown by that stat quoted earlier of rural data use doubling and by national surveys carried out in places like Kenya.

    Many regulators in Africa have collected large amounts of money from operators but this has largely stayed in their bank accounts because they have taken forever to set up universal service agency (USA) functions or separate organisations.

    Where they have spent the money, it has tended to go back to the "usual suspects" (incumbent and mobile operators). In the main they have tended to extend their voice networks, leaving Internet/data the poor relation. (the exceptions include places like Uganda). The argument against these structures is that if you are relying on “the usual suspects” to do the work, it is an expensive financial structure that strips out a significant percentage for overhead costs before returning the money to the same operators. Therefore why not simply write USA clauses into their licences that translate into the kinds of sums being extracted?

    But the issue is perhaps one that requires closer attention of a different kind. Government policy-makers need to say to the operators, either you go to these areas or we will give licences and spectrum to others who will do so on a local basis. This leads to three broad potential options:

    1. The mobile operators (going the low cost base station route) do their own coverage in these areas and the cost is deducted in whole or in part from their US obligations.

    2. A independent, infrastructure sharing company offers operators the ability to connect to these areas at an agreed price per minute. This was what Ericsson was promoting 2-3 years ago in Tanzania with optimised base stations that had larger coverage areas but very little has been heard of it recently.

    3. You set up independent, small-scale operators and they get an interconnection agreement that might be asymmetrical to give them sufficient financial means to survive and again you could deduct an initial “market-generating” subsidy from the US funding obligation.

    It’s not the digital divide, it’s the electricity divide:It doesn’t matter whether it’s a mobile phone, a PC or a TV, they all require electricity. So the real divide will increasingly be between those who have access to reliable electricity to power these devices and those who don’t. There are two broad categories: firstly, those who already supposedly have access to electricity who would like reliable power that didn’t go down regularly and spike in ways that damaged their devices; and secondly, those with no electricity or struggling with occasional power, largely but not exclusively in rural areas

    For all the energy that goes into promoting universal access, not enough goes into addressing these power problems. At a recent broadcast conference, one broadcaster was speaking optimistically about the impact rural electrification would have on increasing TV audiences in Uganda. But for every Uganda, there are two or three African countries where addressing electricity supply seems to be in stasis.

    What is harder to understand is why the kind of power roll-outscheme that operators came together to achieve in Uganda cannot be generalized across other countries? Also why are the infrastructure sharing companies not addressing power issues? Why can’t there be small-scale, local power providers? You cannot separate out the achievement of a digital dividend from the provision of reliable power supply. The two silos of communications and power are related.

    The arrival of the international fibre cables has provided a warm glow of achievement to many of Africa’s politicians but unless they focus on the remaining problems outlined above, the promise will always fall short of the potential.


    New video clips on Balancing Act’s You Tube Channel:

    Kamal Budhabbatti, Craft Silicon on its banking products and m-money payment product ELMA

    Santos Okottah, founder, eziki.tv on its livestreaming and downloads service

    Robert Aouad, CEO Isocel Benin on opening a carrier-neutral data centre in Benin

    Balancing Act's Twitter feed provides a combination of breaking news for telecoms, Internet and broadcast in Africa, direct tweets from countries visited and access to the occasional rumours circulating. You can follow us on:
    @BalancingActAfr

telecoms

  • Airtel's PayOnlineInKenya is touted to be the world's first virtual card that operates off a wallet and residing on a mobile phone. The new system is in partnership with MasterCard Worldwide and Standard Chartered Bank.

    Safaricom and I&M Bank also unveiled a service that allows M-pesa customers to transfer money from their accounts to a Visa pre-paid card - M-pesa prepay Safari Card - which can be used globally.

    Airtel Kenya on Wednesday unveiled a new online payment system that would see her mobile subscribers use handsets to purchase online.

    Dubbed PayOnlineInKenya, the new system is in partnership with MasterCard Worldwide and Standard Chartered Bank. This is touted as the world's first virtual cards that operates off a wallet and residing on a mobile phone.

    Safaricom and I&M Bank also unveiled a service that allows M-pesa customers to transfer money from their accounts to a Visa pre-paid card - M-pesa prepay Safari Card - which can be used globally.

    PayOnlineInKenya is a single use feature or a one time shopping card that provides the consumer with a convenient and secure online shopping experience. Users in Kenya can make purchases of up to Ksh 35,000.

    Each time an Airtel subscriber is shopping online he or she will be able to request a single use shopping card number. Airtel's PayOnlineInKenya service will generate a special 16 digit number that enables the completion of the transaction. On completion of the transaction, a confirmation message will be sent to the customer's mobile phone. The ultimate aim of this service is to allow Airtel subscribers to make payment across the MasterCard network.

    According to Airtel's estimate over 80 per cent of adult Africans do not have bank accounts.
    The mobile technology platform and Airtel's vast consumer penetration combined with the financial structure and regulatory framework provided by Standard Chartered Bank and the global acceptance of MasterCard will makes the new service attractive.

  • The Star Cell MTN Communication Company in collaboration with Ecobank- Liberia Friday, September 9, 2011 formally launched the Mobile Money Product in the country.
    The Mobile Money Product is the newest service the two entities have introduced on the Liberian market. The usage of this service will afford users of mobile phones in the country to access money sent to them by friends, family members among others via their personal phones.

    Speaking at the launch of the Mobile Money Product, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Lone Star Cell MTN, Mazen Marou, said the Lone Star Cell MTN is always committed to providing exciting and innovative products to the Liberian people.
    He said mobile money product is a new service being provided in the country by the two entities, saying the product is being operated in all places the MTN brand is in existence. "Statistics shows that mobile money product creates more jobs, stimulates investment and increases revenue for government," the Lone Star Cell MTN boss pointed out.
    He indicated that the mobile money will afford Liberian in the rural parts to have access to cash money, transfer and receive money, cash checks, paid bills among others.

  • Vodacom is facing the wrath of its subscribers, following an announcement that the mobile operator would throttle the connection speeds of BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) users who exceed 100MB per month.Social networks erupted last week after the news broke; with many subscribers threatening Vodacom with the Consumer Protection Act and some saying they are considering changing operators.
    Vodacom responded to criticism by emphasising that the new system is a result of its own research, which has shown that 95% of BlackBerry data usage is attributable to less than 5% of users. As a result, BIS users who exceed the 100MB threshold per month will have their connection speed reduced from 3G to 2G. Vodacom says BlackBerry Enterprise users will not be affected, and emphasises that the new measure is aimed at improving the user experience for the majority of BIS users.
    Responding to a barrage of questions via Twitter, Vodacom told worried subscribers that some in those 5% were using over 150Gigs a month, making the experience terrible for the rest. The operator also said that since the data is compressed, it actually equates to two for four times more, and clarified that throttling will not affect e-mail, BlackBerry Messenger, Facebook or Twitter, only browsing and streaming.
    Chief Technology Officer Andries Delport says: “We need to ensure that all BlackBerry users are able to enjoy the service that they pay for. When we realised that such a small minority was using the bulk of the capacity, we decided to implement measures that will ensure that BlackBerry users will enjoy a better browsing experience overall.”
    MTN also appears to be considering the same strategy. MTN SA CIO Kanagaratnam Lambotharan says: “MTN has seen a significant number of customers using the BIS platform for purposes it was not initially intended for. “MTN is currently exploring ways to minimise the negative impact this might have and will communicate to customers in due course.”

    Cell C says it has no such plans in the pipeline at this stage, and while 8ta could not respond by the time of publication, it has been reported that it also has no plans to throttle BIS.

    Virgin Mobile's chief marketing and strategy manager, Jonathan Newman, says in terms of the company's BlackBerry terms of use and conditions: “In the future, we may look at adding a fair use clause or other measures, should we deem it necessary. Research In Motion could not respond by the time of publication.

    On Twitter, Vodacom also responded to the concerns of contract subscribers, stating: “No effect on contracts, the 'fair usage' policy was always in the contract. As we said, 95% of users won't be affected at all.”

  • Mali’s government is inviting bids for a third telecommunications license and is expected to make a decision within two months, state-owned L’Essor newspaper reported, without saying where it got the information.

    Submissions will be allowed from Sept. 19 to Oct. 11, with the handing over of bid documents set for Nov. 14, according to the newspaper. The payment of license charges is expected to be completed by the end of November, L’Essor said.
    Orange and the former incumbent Sotelma-Malitel are the two incumbent operators in the African nation, the newspaper reported.

internet

  • Maintaining communication with friends and family is no doubt top priority for everyone, especially those living out of the country. It is therefore no surprise that many people opt for quicker and faster communication via phones and emails over the traditional way of posting letters through the Post Office. This may simply be interpreted as one way of how modern technology has affected postal business. However, postal operators believe they are benefiting more from the advance technologies.

    According to the Commercial Director of the National Post Office of Rwanda, Dieudonne Maniragaba, ICT has actually complemented the postal business. "Internet is not a competitor to us; it's just a solution that has instead helped us improve our service delivery to our clientele and has made our work much faster," Maniragaba said.

    According to him, some members of the public harbour a false impression of the Post Office believing that its business is solely confined to courier services. "The Post Office still has a good number of clientele and that's because we do a wide range of activities, not just sending and receiving letters. Our target is commercial and administrative letters of which we have so many clients that still require our services," Maniragaba explained. He enumerated other services such as delivery of parcels, packages, express mail, money transfer, courier services among others.

    He noted that their potential market includes government institutions, NGOs, embassies and the general public. Maniragaba said that the postal services now reach a wider population compared to the past years.He added that the National Post Office is still going strong and now boasts of over 152 employees whose salary is paid through the profits the parastatal makes and not the Government budget.
    Maniragaba stated that they have branches in all districts and intend to roll out e-Commerce services to improve trade facilitation and simplify trade procedures. Based on the Kigali master plan, the Post Office aims to start home delivery of letters and parcels in the near future.

    "We used to deliver couriers up to the district level but we have now gone as far as sectors and various institutions. We also use the tracking system which is IT-based, to ensure efficient delivery of packages up to sector level," he explained.

  • It is indisputably the era of the consumer. Yet in two centuries there have only been two major innovations in the way life insurance products are sold to consumers. The first was when brokers were introduced some 160 years ago and the second when call centres came along in the 1970s.

    The crux of the matter lies in the word 'sold'. The biggest game-changer would surely be the one that can remove the cross the life industry has born for so long: the assumption that its products are sold and not bought.

    The magic bullet is proving to be the Internet. Internet-savvy and -empowered consumers have overcome the 'grudge' in this traditionally grudge purchase in two ways. First, with the incentive of a price that is up to 50% cheaper and, secondly, by doing it themselves on the internet.

    I am referring to a fully automated online life insurance model, not insurers who rely on an Internet presence and/or call centres. It is the fully online selling, underwriting and administrative model that has the potential to change the life industry as drastically as ATMs changed banks.

    The major advantage fully online life insurers have is the massive cost-saving of doing away with intermediaries, top heavy head-offices, customer-facing staff, call centres and inefficient administration.

    To understand how this is possible, take a look at the online life insurer's target market. These customers have already purchased numerous products on the Internet, some of which demand fairly complex interaction, such as travel and online auctions. Buying life products is the next notch in the e-commerce growth curve.

    Surprisingly, it not only attracts a young, elite market. Many of these empowered consumers are so-called 'grey surfers' over the age of 55 and even a sprinkling of users over 70.

    But the biggest potential for online life insurance lies with new entrants into the economy. They have grown up with online banking and will go to the Internet first for all their needs: a job, a place to stay, a partner, a car and yes, life products. Which explains why 50% of the total marketing spend in the UK has gone online, with half of that spent on Google ads.

    The number of Internet users in South Africa is boosted by the rapid increase in people accessing the Internet from their cellphones across a large spread of income brackets. Internet World Stats estimates the number of Internet users in SA at a conservative total of at least 6.8 million.

    A fast growing number of SA users access the Internet mainly from a cellphone, boosting the online life market to a potential six million people across a larger spread of income brackets. Online players will soon be ready to launch mobile applications designed to simplify the underwriting process on a mobile screen.

    In the online business model, the service provider and the consumer become partners, a relationship that demands a level of trust. The insurer even entrusts the client to self-underwrite, something that was inconceivable until very recently, and is still frowned upon from the heights of some ivory towers. But why not? Empowered consumers understand that non-disclosure will jeopardise their cover.

    Self-administration is another feature of this partnership, another significant cost-saving. Need to change contact details, changes in cover, beneficiaries or banking details? Thanks, I'll do it myself.

    In this world, the new intermediary's name is 'word of mouth' and clients are rewarded in the form of credited premiums for signing on new clients. "Oh, but wait until the time comes to claim," cry the sceptics. However, leading international reinsurers have needed no encouragement to throw their weight behind the online players.

    Neither have leading underwriters such as Guardrisk, which is part of Alexander Forbes, one of South Africa's leading financial services groups They are clearly satisfied by the level of underwriting which is done upfront, as with traditional insurers.

    Consumers now have the power of choice as never before and increasingly that choice will be to put their money where they perceive real value. And if that means a new generation of customers who will go online and buy life insurance instead of it being sold to them, it will be good for the entire industry. There's no going back.

computing

  • Intel demonstrated a CPU at their IDF conference that can run on the energy generated by a small solar cellDuring the opening keynote at this year’s (2011) Intel Developer Forum (IDF) conference held in San Francisco, showcased a low power processor developed by Intel Labs.

    Calling onto stage Sriram Vangal, principal research scientist at Intel, they demonstrated a processor running on a small solar cell. Vangal explained that the processor was running at near the threshold voltage of its transistors, but was still able to run Windows and display an animation. The animation seemed to be an animated gif and showed a kitten wearing headphones.

    To prove that that processor was indeed running off of the solar cell, Vangal put his hand between it and the light source, causing the computer to lock up.
    While the benefits of technology like this for South Africans and other developing nations is obvious, Otellini said that they have no plans to turn solar powered computing into a product yet.

    The purpose of the research and the demonstration was to show off Intel’s work in reducing processor power requirements to increase battery life, tying in with their push into the so-called “Ultrabook” and smartphone markets.

  • The National Research Foundation has submitted on 15 September 2011 the documents supporting the African bid to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Radio Telescope. The documents are South Africa's response to the Request for Information issued by the international SKA Siting Group in June 2011.

    This follows the initial submission of expressions of interest in 2003 and of reports in 2005, which led to South Africa and Australia being shortlisted as both being suitable for the SKA.

    The African SKA site bid is led by South Africa's Department of Science and Technology and includes Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Madagascar, Zambia, Mauritius, Kenya and Ghana.

    The reports submitted cover a wide range of information - measurements of radio frequency interference and the physical conditions on the core site in the Northern Cape Karoo and the remote sites spread through South Africa and the other partner countries, measurements of the ionosphere and troposphere, analysis of the scientific performance of the array, designs for the roads, buildings and other infrastructure required, proposals for how 105MW of power can be supplied to the core site in the Karoo and how the remote sites can be powered, how the huge amounts of data can be transported from the telescope dishes in the Karoo and other sites to the central computer and then to the control centre in Cape Town and to science centres in other countries around the world, customs and excise duties, work permits and visas, laws affecting how the SKA will operate in South Africa and the other countries, working conditions for a highly skilled workforce of scientists and engineers, the financial and economic system, how security will be provided for the telescope and much else besides.

    The South African SKA team has worked closely with telecommunication service providers including Broadband InfraCo, Meraka, Nokia Siemens Networks, Seacom, FibreCo, Muvoni Weltex, EASSY, SIA Solutions and Cisco and with Eskom, the City of Cape Town and Aurecon to come up with robust and cost-effective data transport, power and infrastructure proposals for the telescope.

    The team has also had tremendous support from Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), Sentech, the Department of Communications, the Department of Public Enterprise, Vodacom, MTN and the National Association of Broadcasters in designing solutions to reduce radio interference on the site, while still providing services to people in the area.

    A great deal of support was also received from South African Revenue Service (SARS), the Reserve Bank, Southern Mapping Geospatial, the HSRC, the Centre for High Performance Computing, the Council for Geosciences, the South Africa Weather Service and many other government departments and service providers in preparing the bid reports. The bid documents represent eight years of work.
    The Minister for Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, said "Africa will provide a home for the SKA to do revolutionary science. Our bid is a strong, cost-effective and robust proposal for building the Square Kilometre Array in Africa. Our site is orders of magnitude better than any existing observatory and is protected by the Astronomy Geographic Advantage Act.

    Our team, with business and industry, has developed excellent solutions for how to provide power, data transport and infrastructure for the telescope very cost effectively. The great progress we have made in building the MeerKAT telescope has won us many friends and has changed the way the international community sees us".
    Pandor further added, "Many leading international researchers are now taking up full or part-time positions in our universities and the MeerKAT team. Our Human Capital Programme has won respect around the world.

    The excellence of our site has been recognised by the construction and operation of the world-leading PAPER and CBASS telescopes on our site, in which we are collaborating with the leading US institutions.

    We are fully committed to the SKA and so are our partners in Africa. Building world-leading science instruments and research in Africa will help us to create the skills, innovation and technology which will underpin our long-term vision for Africa as a leading economic power-house". Pandor also thanked SKA partner governments for their cooperation and assistance.

    The bid reports will be evaluated by expert panels and considered by an independent SKA Science Advisory Committee of leading international scientists and science administrators. They may ask for further information or clarification from South Africa and Australia (which has partnered with New Zealand).

    SKA South Africa project office representatives will meet this committee in the USA in December. If there are sufficient differences between the two bids, the Committee will aim to make a recommendation on a site by January 2012.

    Its recommendation will go to the not-for-profit SKA company which will be established in November, with about fifteen governments as its members. They will consider the recommendation and any other factors they wish to take into account and aim to make a decision by February or March 2012.

    Nigeria: Nation Loses N18.9Billion to Foreign Software Licensing - Notap
    The National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion has said that Nigeria lost about $118m (N18.9bn) in the last five years as capital flight from locally developed software to the importation of foreign software.

    The Head of Media and Public Relations, NOTAP, Adokiye Dagogo-George said while marking the "African Day for Technology and Intellectual Property".
    He said in compliance with the resolution made by the African Union, September 13 of every year is set aside by all African countries to arouse the "latent inventive, creative and innovative spirit of Africans in order to facilitate the acceleration of technological development in the continent."

    He explained that though there are Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora who have demonstrated ICT capabilities especially in software development, lack of awareness of their breakthroughs has hampered their patronage as all software deployed by the various sectors of the economy, particularly the financial sector were foreign ones.
    "It is against this background that NOTAP institutionalized the annual national workshop and exhibition on software licensing and development," he said.

    NOTAP was established as an agency of the Federal Ministry of Science Technology to facilitate the acquisition of technology in Nigeria.

    The agency has since been implanting the mandate through the evaluation, registration and monitoring of all technology transfer agreements signed by Nigerian entrepreneurs with their foreign technical partners.

    NOTAP was to ensure that the terms and conditions of the agreements are equitable, fair and commensurate and aligned with the capacity and capability of the Nigerian Innovation system.

    Dagogo-George disclosed that while carrying out its functions and activities, NOTAP makes concerted efforts to promote the development of locally motivated technologies through the linkage of industry with the National Innovation System in the area of scientific Research and Development, promotion of Intellectual Property Rights and commercialization of R&D results.

    He said: "NOTAP has, in recent times, established 30 Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer Offices (IPTTOs) in research institutes and institutions of higher learning across the country.

    "IPTTOs were established in the knowledge centres to encourage market oriented and demand driven research, promote intellectual property protection and strengthen the linkage between industry, universities and research institutes."

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Ethiopian incumbent telco Ethio Telecom (formerly Ethiopian Telecom Corporation) has revealed that it missed its revenue target of ETB9.8 billion (USD565 million) for the year ended 7 July 2011 by a shortfall of 11%, allAfrica.com reports. With France Telecom (FT) having taken over management of the state-owned telco in December 2010, the failure to hit the target could mean that the European telecoms giant may see its management fee reduced under the terms of its contract with the Ethiopian government. It is understood that under the terms of the two-year, USD42.3 million agreement between FT and the state, the payment scheme is contingent upon a six-monthly performance review, with bonuses or deductions based on a percentage accomplishment of goals set as part of the deal.

    In a press release detailing the achievements of the most recent financial year, Ethio Telecom reported that gross turnover had increased from ETB7.05 billion in EFY2002 (the period from 8 July 2009 to 7 July 2010) to ETB8.815 billion in the same period a year later, while earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) in EFY2003 (year ended 7 July 2011) stood at ETB6.83 billion. The failure to reach its revenue target was reportedly blamed on damages to the company’s telecoms infrastructure, with allAfrica citing an unnamed telecom official close to the matter as saying: ‘The cost of repairing stolen fibre-optic cables and power shortages are some of the reasons why the company did not reach its target.’ Ethio Telecom reportedly confirmed a few weeks ago that it had lost around ETB91 million due to theft and intentional damage of its infrastructure.

    Ethio Telecom also revealed that the number of subscribers across all of its services had reached 11,509,366 at the end of June 2011, of which the lion’s share – 10,526,190 – were attributed to mobile services. The number of customers signed up to the telco’s fixed line voice and internet/data services stood at 854,412 and 128,764 respectively, although only 16,529 of the latter were connected to high speed internet services such as ADSL or 3G mobile broadband. Looking forward Ethio Telecom has set out an extremely ambitious target, announcing that it aims to add some ten million new mobile subscribers in the coming year.

  • Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM) says that the company has received an expression of interest from and entered into discussions, with a potential -- unnamed -- strategic equity partner.

    In a brief notice to the Malawi stock exchange, the company said that shareholders are advised to accordingly exercise caution in dealing in their shares in the Company until a further announcement is made.
    The company has a diverse shareholder base, with just 21% listed on the stock market. The government owns 44.5%, and three other corporate shareholders have between 10.5-13% each.

    According to the Mobile World analysts, the company had 1.185 million customers at the end of June, representing a market share of 42%.

  • Datatec, ("Datatec" or the "Group", JSE and LSE: DTC), the international Information and Communications Technology (ICT) group, is currently finalizing its results for the six months ended 31 August 2011 ("the Period"), which will be published on 12 October 2011.

    As a JSE listed company, Datatec is required to publish trading statements if the financial results for a given period are more than 20% higher than the results of the previous corresponding period. As described in more detail below, underlying* earnings per share, earnings per share and headline earnings per share for the Period are expected to be more than 20% higher than the previous corresponding period of six months ended 31 August 2010 (the "Comparative Period").

     Group revenues for the Period are expected to be approximately $2.4 billion, compared to approximately $2.1 billion in the Comparative Period, with overall margin expansion.

     Underlying* earnings per share for the Period are expected to be between 21 and 22 US cents per share, compared to 15.8 US cents per share for the Comparative Period, an increase of between 33% and 39%.

     Earnings per share and headline earnings per share are expected to be between 19 and 20 US cents per share, compared to 8.8 US cents in the Comparative Period, an increase of between 116% and 127%.

    Interim cash distribution by way of a capital reduction The Board has resolved to amend the group's dividend / capital distribution payment policy from making a single annual payment to making both interim and final distributions with immediate effect. The dividend cover policy of at least three times relative to underlying* earnings per share will apply to both interim and final distributions.

    The first interim distribution will accordingly be declared for the period ended 31 August 2011 with the interim results announcement on 12 October 2011.

  • Safaricom share price has got a boost from the planned increase in calling tariffs, rising by 6.9 per cent in one week as investors anticipate growth in the mobile provider’s profits. The stock has rebounded from a one-year low of Sh2.90 per share last week to Thursday’s Sh3.10 driven by higher demand from investors since last Thursday’s announcement of a possible tariff review. The telco closed its shareholders’ register for a Sh0.20 dividend last Friday.

    “Despite going ex-dividend, there has been sustained demand on the counter. This could be attributed to the expected increase in tariffs to cover the operator’s rising operating expenses,” said analysts at Kestrel Capital in a market report. In yesterday’s trading, the counter moved 6.9 million shares down from 15.2 million traded on Wednesday.

     “Large investment firms are selling off in Europe, especially bank stocks, following debt crisis that has seen banks’ credit rating being reviewed and are heading to other markets; that is why you see the resurgence especially in Safaricom which is attractive to them,” said Mr George Bodo, an analyst with ApexAfrica Capital.

    Safaricom stock is considered attractive due to its high liquidity and the foreigners’ bullish sentiment towards telecoms in emerging markets.

    Last week Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore said the company could no longer absorb rising inflationary pressures and was considering tariff reviews. Information PS Bitange Ndemo also spoke of the expected review, saying that it would be understandable owing to increased network maintenance and fuel cost.

    Passing on costs to the consumer is attractive to investors as it cushions the company’s earnings considering that its growth slowed down with start of price wars last year. Safaricom registered a 12.6 per cent drop in net profit to Sh13.2 billion for the financial year 2010/11.

    Analysts expect price wars in the industry to stop and focus on add-ons such as data and money transfer services. Safaricom is the only one of the four mobile phone firms that reported operational profit last year while the others are pressed to show returns, hence may follow in upward adjustment of prices. Rival Bharti Airtel has replaced its Managing Director Rene Meza who was seen as the face behind the low tariff charges.
     “We would expect price adjustments in calling rates to be most likely upwards following markets such as Tanzania and India where rates have increased in the recent past,” said
    Mr John Kamunya, an analyst with Dyer & Blair Investment Bank.

    Since Safaricom is strong in voice, data and money transfer gives it a strong position to continue recording growth in net profits.Telkom Kenya recently launched a high-speed data network.

  • Nigeria Com
    20 - 21 September, 2011, Lagos, Nigeria

    The 2nd annual Nigeria Com returns to Lagos. Gain unique market perspectives and insights from a 40 strong speaker-line up including 25+ Operator leaders. The 2 day agenda equips you to capitalise on new networks and services, while the 60 stand networking exhibition will showcase the worldÕs foremost technology and solutions available for your business. With 700+ attendees, if you do telecoms business in the region, this is an event you cannot afford to miss!
    For more information visit here:

    Mozambique National ICT Congress
    5-6 October 2011, Centro Internacional de Conferencia Joaquim Chissano, Maputo

    Held under the auspices of the Mozambique Ministry of Science & Technology and organised by AITEC Africa, this is the annual gathering of MozambiqueÕs rapidly growing ICT community, with a two-day conference and industry expo. Users and vendors of ICT systems and solutions will be sharing challenges, knowledge and ideas in the stimulating conference programme, with high-level local and international speakers. There is simultaneous translation between English and Portuguese to facilitate international participation. The event will also include the second annual National Communications Roundtable, providing operators, ISPs, users and service providers with an opportunity to discuss the countryÕs national communications strategy with the regulator. For the full programme log on to the organiserÕs website here:  To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    North Africa Com
    11 - 12 October, 2011, Tunis, Tunisia

    Now in its 6th year, the ONLY conference and exhibition dedicated to the North African telecoms market moves to Tunisia to address the dynamic French-speaking markets.
    The expanded conference agenda is now in development and will feature a host of new topics led by a speaker panel featuring some of North Africa's leading telcos.  Contact us today to apply to speak in the conference, or reserve your sponsorship or exhibition package. Be one of the first to see the 2011 agenda and sign up for your copy.
    For more information visit here:

    CDN World Summit 2011
    26 - 28 October 2011, Hilton Hotel Paddington, London.

    The 3rd annual CDN World Summit promises to be the largest and most
    comprehensive CDN event ever.The full value chain is represented including content providers,broadcast operators, traditional and telco CDNs, represented by industry leaders such as; FilmFlex Movies, BT Wholesale and AT&T.
    For more information visit here:

    Digital Migration and Spectrum Policy Summit
    29 October to 01 November 2011, Nairobi, Kenya.

    For more informtion visit here:

    Africa Com
    9 - 10 November, 2011, Cape Town, SA

    Join 5,000 of AfricaÕs leading telcos in Cape Town this November for what is set to be the biggest and best AfricaCom yet.  The conference agenda has doubled to incorporate a record 150+ speakers presenting across 4 strategic keynotes, 11 in-depth focus sessions and 2 co-located events Ð AfricaCast and Enterprise ICT Africa.  WhatÕs more 250+ international solutions providers will be showcasing their latest products in the networking exhibition. For more information visit here:

    World Telecom Summit 2011
    9Ð11 November, 2011, Singapore Marriott Hotel

    World Telecom Summit 2011 is the must-attend event of the year. Bringing together top level executives and key decision makers of preeminent telecommunications companies from around the world, this is the perfect opportunity to meet the whoÕs who of the telecommunications and mobile industry.  It is the summit that addresses the evolving needs of telecommunications and mobile community. Get up to date with the latest innovations and technological advancements in the industry and gain access to the minds of the movers and shakers of the industry.
    Take advantage of the Limited Early Bird Rates for Operator Pass!
    For more information please visit here:  or contact Vivian at vivian.ho@olygen.com

    AITEC East Africa East Africa Summit
    2-3 November, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    East Africa has become one of the fastest growing ICT investment markets and the regionÕs ICT Summit it designed as the regionÕs forum to bring together users and vendors of ICT technology in a stimulating educational and business networking environment. The 2011 Summit programme will focus on the following themes:
    ¥    Data Security
    ¥    Mobile Apps
    ¥    Cloud Computing
    For the conference programme, log on to the organiserÕs website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    ICT Infrastructure Summit: Banking Solutions in Growth Economies
    29-30 November, 2011,

    Kingsway Hall, Great Queen Street, London WC2
    Though technology innovation for banks in growth economies is ripe for growth, development is being stalled by some major infrastructural barriers including poor connectivity, a lack of political support, incorrect regulation and a lack of capital. The ICT Innovation for Banks in Growth Economies conference will arm you with the tools to upgrade your telecommunication infrastructure and scale up your branchless banking operations in order to reach millions of unbanked households. For further information please click here:

    AfriHealth
    30 November Ð 1 December 2011, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    The leading continental forum on e-health, m-health, health management systems and capacity development. AfriHealth 2011 will focus on current research, development and implementation of ICT technology and resources in the African Healthcare arena. A key objective of the conference, now in its fourth year, will be to share knowledge and experience from practical mobilization of ICT-based healthcare systems and projects, to showcase best practice through practical case studies and highlight potential for scaling up success stories at national and regional levels. For the conference programme log on to the organiserÕs website here:  To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    AITEC Banking & Mobile Money COMESA
    7-8 March 2012, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    Now in its sixth year, this has become the leading educational, networking and marketing event for Eastern and Southern AfricaÕs financial services sector. In addition to the conferenceÕs established intensive education programme covering core banking, mobile money and microfinance topics (over 100 speakers in 2011). For the conference programme log on to the organiserÕs website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    InsureAFRICA
    7-8 March 2012, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    Insurers seeking effective performance in service delivery, cost reduction and profit levels need to embrace technology, viewing it not as a support function but as a key enabler of competitive advantage at all levels of operation. InsureAFRICA is the first specialised conference for the African insurance and pensions industry to evaluate the systems and innovative channels needed to compete and thrive in a rapidly expanding industry. With the theme ÒEffective management strategies and systems for a new era of expansion and inclusionÓ, the conference will be the continentÕs first forum to gather knowledge and experience for a rapidly growing industry. For the Call for Papers, log on to the organiserÕs website here:  To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    Mobile VAS Africa 2012
    14 - 15 May 2012, Johannesburg, South Africa

    Mobile VAS Africa 2012 will bring together industry experts and representatives from leading financial institutions, mobile operators and solutions providers to provide a strategic insight into mobile VAS while exploring collaborative business models, innovative applications, technologies and straegies. For more information visit here:

    Roaming & Interconnect
    16 - 17 May 2012, Johannesburg, South Africa

    RIC Africa 2012 will uncover new strategies to boost roaming traffic and retain existing roamers. During the conference we will look at the innovative roaming solutions and pricing, supplementing roaming with alternative revenue streams, the latest EU regulations and their impact on operations in Africa, as well as the importance of hubbing and convergence.  For more information please visit here:

    AITEC Banking & Mobile Money West Africa
    6 June 2012, Accra International Conference Centre

    Now in its fifth year, the conference will cover a wide range of strategic and technology topics to empower West AfricaÕs banking, microfinance and insurance professionals with the knowledge they need to lead their organisation effectively through the turbulent market and regulatory conditions they face. For the conference programme log on to the organiserÕs website here:  To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Ghana’s telecoms watchdog the National Communication Authority (NCA) is looking to crack down on mobile network operators if they fail to tackle the chronic problem of poor quality services. NCA deputy director Mawuko Zomelo confirmed the NCA plan, adding that the sanctions could take the form of a fine. In a field visit to Ghana’s Northern Region, NCA officials held meetings in a number of towns and districts to obtain feedback on the public’s perception of the quality of telecoms services. The information gathered confirmed suspicions that many Ghanaians are dissatisfied with the incumbent cellcos’ performance to date. The NCA is now looking to develop an effective strategy to address the problem, Zomelo said.

    - Gambia’s Daily Observer reports that the Ministry of Information, Communication & Information Infrastructure has revealed to the National Assembly that state-backed Gamtel is currently working on plans to expand its fledgling 3G wireless data network in the Greater Banjul area and other major towns and cities including Soma, Farafenni, Bansang and Basse. The disclosure was made in response to ministers’ questions on when 3G infrastructure would be expanded to provide wireless internet access for outlying communities. However, it was added that the expansion of the network is not in Gamtel’s 2011 budget, and would instead be included in its 2012 budget.

Digital Content

  • Airtel Ghana last week announced a deal for managed Value Added Services (VAS) with mobile software company, Rancard Solutions. Under the terms of this agreement, Airtel Ghana will use Rancard’s service management tool, Value Added Services Provider Manager (VASP Manager), to deploy and manage multiple content provider accounts and services. This enables the mobile network to render a rich, diverse and concerted mobile content and service experience for their subscribers.

    Built by Rancard, VASP Manager runs in the rancardmobility.com cloud and enables Airtel Ghana to deploy, manage, deliver and monetize applications, content and services over various channels (mobile web, SMS, MMS, USSD, etc.), using Rancard’s content discovery technology Rendezvous, and to provide access to major brands including BBC, ESPN, MTVBase and Google.

    VASP Manager provides a seamless service management interface to Rancard’s mobile message switch, payments gateway and content hosting applications, which are all integrated with Airtel’s infrastructure for billing, messaging and subscriber management.

    The Rendezvous technology leverages network data to provide a personalized, relevant, content discovery experience for mobile subscribers using social recommendations, which are proven to yield four times the rate of promotions. This allows Airtel to connect their subscribers to relevant content, applications and services, a move the network believes will establish it as an innovation-adopting pioneer in the marketplace and multiply its rapidly growing subscriber base.

    Rancard’s Director for Product Management and Marketing, Ehizogie Binitie said in a statement, “Rancard’s focus is to provide mobile network operators with the tools that enable them to improve their ARPUs and keep
    subscribers engaged through innovation. We believe with Rendezvous we enable mobile subscribers to find the content/applications/services they really want with software-enabled recommendations from people they trust inside of the network.”

    Airtel’s Director of Marketing, Oare Ojekere, said of the partnership, “Airtel’s partnership with Rancard Solutions gives us the flexibility to address our customers’ needs in various ways, leading to greater customer satisfaction; providing another reason to join the network that is customer-centric.”

  • Deutsche Welle continues to expand its services in Tanzania by cooperating with Vodacom Tanzania Ltd. – the largest mobile provider in the country. Starting September 9, 2011, DW’s popular radionovela “Learning by Ear” will be available on-demand for mobile service subscribers.

    The programming is targeted to teenagers and young adults and provides information on important topics like HIV, human rights, democracy and the environment with an exciting mix of stories and features. Learning by Ear is produced in all of DW’s programming languages for Africa and is already broadcast in Tanzania as part of DW-RADIO/Kiswahili. 
    Deutsche Welle’s Kiswahili service is among the most popular radio programs in the country. Around 70 percent of Tanzanians are familiar with Deutsche Welle and every third is a frequent listener of the Kiswahili program. Besides broadcasting the Kiswahili Service offers sms-news messages via mobile phone every day, comprehensive website (www.dw-world.de/kiswahili), Twitter and Facebook.

    Customers who have signed up for the “Music Radio” service from Vodacom Tanzania Ltd. can access every episode of the Learning by Ear series for a special price based on minutes of usage. Customers dial 09011 22 201 from their mobile phone to subscribe to the Music Radio service and listen to the instruction on how to access the different Learning by Ear series.

    Learning by Ear was started as Deutsche Welle initiative for Africa in 2008 with the support of the German Federal Foreign Office. The series has been successful with younger listeners and is entirely produced in cooperation with partners throughout Africa and written by African authors. More than 270 African radio stations have broadcasted Learning by Ear since the series started in 2008. The series has received national and international awards, including “most creative radio format” from the Association for International Broadcasting (AIB) in 2009.

    Deutsche Welle is Germany’s international broadcaster. With DW-TV, DW-RADIO and DW-WORLD.DE, it produces news, background information and cultural highlights worldwide, while creating a platform for intercultural dialogue.
    Vodacom Tanzania Ltd is Tanzania’s leading cellular network offering state-of-the-art GSM communication services to more than 9 million customers across the country.

    Earlier this year Vodacom Tanzania launched the very first Mobile Radio and Mobile TV service. With an extensive network coverage Vodacom Tanzania continues researching for new services to the utmost benefit of the Tanzanian market and public at large.

  • Google has announced the winners of the Android Developer Challenge in Sub-Saharan Africa, a competition that was announced back in April, set up to encourage the development of exciting, high quality applications that can delight mobile users in Africa and around the world.

    Developers in Sub-Saharan Africa submitted hundreds of innovative and interesting applications across three broad categories: apps related to entertainment, media and games; apps related to social networking and communication; and apps related to productivity, tools, and local and geo services.

    In July, Google had announced the top 29 applications, provided them new phones, mentoring from Googlers and six weeks to improve their applications. From those 29, the three winners have been announced. 

    Each winner will be awarded $25,000 to help them build and grow their business, and will receive additional mentoring from Google employees to help them make their app even better. The judges also gave honorable mention to finalist apps Rainbow Racer and Wedding Plandroid; the developers of those apps will each receive $5,000.

    All three winning apps, both honorable mention apps, and many of our finalist apps are or will soon be available on Android Market.
    The Winners:
    Entertainment/Media/Games
     Afrinolly - Nigeria
    Team: FansConnectOnline Limited
    Afrinolly brings African movies to your pocket, allowing you to watch movie trailers, read entertainment news and gossip, track celebs, listen to music and share it all with your friends.
    ________________________________________
    Social/Communication
    Olalashe - Kenya
    Team: David Lemayian, Capefield Ltd.
    Olalashe (which means "brother" in Maasai) is a geo-alert application that can help you communicate when you’re in trouble, through a widget that can send your location and a pre-set message to your ‘In Case of Emergency’ contacts with the push of a button.
    ________________________________________
    Productivity
    Shoppers' Delight - Kenya
    Team: Elan Telemedia Ltd
    Shoppers' Delight is a shopping application that allows shoppers to compare product prices across different area supermarkets. The app also helps shoppers discover bargains and relevant sales, and access maps and health information.

More

  • Airtel has hired Willie Ellis who previously worked for Vodacom South Africa to become its Product and Innovation Director.

  • Reference Number: AJS0011342
    Job Category:  IT- Account Management
    Preferred Degree:  Bachelors Degree
    Job Type:  Permanent/Full Time
    Job Country:  Rwanda
    Job Location:  Kigali-Rwanda
    Experience (Years): 2-4
    Job Description
    MTN RWANDACELL is a GSM Telecommunications Company based in Rwanda with its Head office in the Capital city of Kigali. Formed in 1998, the Company has recorded exceptional growth and this trend is continuing into the future. MTN Rwanda Cell continually strives for excellence with high levels of Customer Care forming the foundation of the Company's Vision and Mission.

    MTN RWANDACELL would like to recruit competent staff for the following job.
    Business Risk Analyst

    Major responsibilities of the job:
    To assist management with the implementation of proper risk management processes in the Company.
    Provide assurance to management on adequacy and effectiveness of risk management and revenue assurance activities within MTN Rwandacell.

    Key performance areas of the job:
    Coordinate day to day risk management activities within MTN Rwandacell
    Maintenance of comprehensive and updated strategic and business risk registers.
    Provide quarterly risk management input to the quarterly operations review reports.
    Provide quarterly progress on revenue loss risk management activities
    Create a companywide proactive risk management culture.

    Minimum education necessary:
    Bachelors of Commerce Degree
    Possession of an auditing qualification (CIA, CISA...) and/or professional Accountancy qualification (CA, ACCA, CPA etc) would be advantageous.
    Minimum experience necessaryto perform this job:
    Minimum of 2 years of Auditing/Risk management/consulting experience in an internationally recognized professional accounting firm or an international organization.
    Proficient in use of the company standard software: Excel, Word, Power points; MS projects, Access, etc.
    A thorough understanding of telecommunication business processes, products, services and overall business.
    Proficiency in the use of auditing and risk management softwares.
    Auditing experience in telecommunications and information systems as comparative advantage

    Skills/Competencies/ Attributes Required:

    Demonstrate thorough knowledge and understanding of risk and control methodologies
    Completion of assignments in accordance with the department methodology and pre-set deadlines.
    Comprehensive, concise well researched reports.
    Increased awareness of control and risk within MTN Rwandacell.
    Good Interpersonal skills.
    Presentation and facilitation skills.
    Working under pressure to meet reporting deadlines.
    How to apply:

    Please forward letters of application together with detailed curriculum vitae, photocopies of academic and professional certificates and contact details of three referees, so as to reach the Human Resources & Administration Department as soon as possible.

    Note: If you are not contacted 10 days after the submission application, then you were not considered for this position.

    MTN Rwandacell is an equal opportunity employer.

    MTN RWANDACELL Ltd is a GSM Telecommunications Company formed in 1998, based in Rwanda with its Head office in the capital City of Kigali. The Company has recorded exceptional growth and this trend is continuing into the future.

    MTN Rwanda continually strives for excellence with high levels of Customer Care, forming the foundation of the Company's Vision and Mission. MTN RWANDACELL Ltd would like to recruit a competent person in the position below.

Issue no 572 16th September 2011

node ref id: 23004

Top story

  • Africa’s long road to high-speed broadband is being made in leaps and bounds. Every week brings news of another piece of the jigsaw fitting into place. This week it’s the completion of the national fibre backbone in one of Africa’s larger markets. However, there’s still remains a yawning gap between the promise of ubiquitous, cheap bandwidth and the current realities of the continent. Russell Southwood runs his fingers over the blockages that still remain.

    It’s hard not to be excited by the news that Angola (and its usually rather ponderous incumbent Angola Telecom) have completed 10,000 kms of national fibre backbone that connects every province in the country. It is a huge place and suffers from an enormous range of practical difficulties. Nevertheless, it has completed the telecommunications equivalent of building a motorway network across the country.

    In this same week, one of my analysts bought to my attention an infographic from Google on download speeds in Africa. This claims to show the fastest download speeds in Africa, ranging from 10.1 Mbps in Ghana to 1.38 Mbps in Nigeria. It puts the world average download speed at 8.48 Mbps. The graphic is shown below:

    The idea that Ghana has the best download speeds in Africa will cause a long, dry chuckle amongst my Ghanaian colleagues followed by them beating their head against the wall slowly in frustration. If the average household download speed achieved is 10.1 Mbps, I will (as a non-hat wearer) duly eat my hat: naturally, lightly sautéed with olive oil, garlic and red onions.

    At this point, I can hear the siren voices saying: why does it matter? Things are getting better. It matters because if Africa is to do all the things that the Internet and data access promise, these have to happen at a speed that allow more or less instantaneous access rather than needing to make a cup of coffee while you wait for something to download. Demand for content and services is being throttled by the inability of operators to deliver reasonably priced, fast (10 Mbps, I wish) and reliable bandwidth. There is significant evidence that Africans (particularly young ones) want Facebook, You Tube and other more local Internet services as much as any other group of citizens in the world. The key to them being able to get them is delivery on that promise of fast, affordable bandwidth.

    The blockages are many and for those who follow these things, have a familiar ring to them:

    International bandwidth access: By the end of 2012, nearly every coastal African country will have a landing station. The only exception is likely to be Eritrea but its rulers take perhaps too greater pride in being exceptional so there’s not much can be done there. There’s some doubts about the southern reach of the ACE cable and others may join that list.

    In some coastal countries, like Ghana and Nigeria, there will be 5 landing stations and international bandwidth will sell in the lower hundreds of dollars per mbps. In many other countries, the World Bank has encouraged nationally-led operator consortia to run the single landing station and this should ensure open access and reasonable prices. But there are a number of countries (notably Cameroon and Gabon) where old-fashioned incumbents will sell a little of their huge fibre inventory at artificially high prices. In other places like DRC where the Government insisted that the (almost non-existent) incumbent be the licence-holder, the jury is out.

    Pity the landlocked: There are 12 landlocked countries in Africa and as a number of studies have shown, they suffer multiple disadvantages because they lack access to the sea. One of the most notable is that the transit price for getting their data to all these new international landing stations often costs the same or more than it costs for their data to complete the journey from the landing station to London or New York.

    One of the continent’s major, powerful mobile players was telling us recently that it was impossible to get to get reasonably priced transit bandwidth out of one of its West African landlocked country markets. This same operator is the cause of this problem in other territories rather than the victim of it.Right hand, meet the left hand.

    Considerable effort has gone into creating equitable open access to international landing stations but rather less into tackling the problem for some of Africa’s more disadvantaged economies. WIOCC’s East African Backbone reserves capacity at reasonable prices for landlocked members of its consortium. But there is nothing similar elsewhere in Africa and the cross-border expansion of Africa’s carriers’ carriers (like Phase3 Telecom, Suburban and KDN) has hit a plateau from a combination of capital and licensing issues. Indeed, KDN is currently being sued by one of its suppliers in the Kenyan courts. A World Bank scheme to use fibre deployed by the members of the West African Power Pool has disappeared without trace.

    National backbones – the problems come home to roost: If there is a problem with transit pricing, the same issue is reflected at a national level. Bandwidth from Lagos to London is now down into the low hundreds per Mbps and will undoubtedly go lower as more cables arrive. However, the considerably shorter journey from Lagos to Abuja costs US$1,000- 1,200 per Mbps. Nigeria is one of the most competitive countries and has historically, led on the regulatory front, so why is this occurring?

    There are many competitors but only two of them (MTN and Nitel) have genuinely national networks. The long-standing problems with the incumbent Nitel and its multiple failed privatisations mean that MTN comes close to being a de facto monopoly operator at this level.

    Other countries have chosen to make building a fibre backbone of this sort a national priority but these initiatives are not without issues. Uganda’s Chinese-built and financed backbone is widely acknowledged to have been over-costly and there are doubts about its operational effectiveness. In Tanzania, the Government has made much play of separating out TTCL’s national fibre backbone (again Chinese-built but operating more effectively) within the company. But it has insisted that it can only sell a relatively high minimum amount of bandwidth to a limited group of operators and its pricing structure still produces artificially high prices. Contrast this with Ghana’s National Communications Backbone company that offers a flat rate per Mbps across the whole country.

    There’s also a problem of investment displacement. Again take the example of Tanzania. The private sector would have built 70-80% of the network that the Government took a loan from China to build. So why didn’t it allow the private sector to build it (focusing on regulating price and access) and agree that its (lesser) financial contribution would build those parts the market wouldn’t?

    Mobile networks not fit for data purpose: The Irish are said to say:”If you want to go there, I wouldn’t start from here.” In a little over ten years, Africa’s mobile operators have put up voice networks that cover anywhere between 30-80% of the continent’s population with voice coverage. In the last several years, they have been steadily upgrading these networks to handle data with the seemingly endless acronyms that promise high-speed data and only occasionally deliver it.

    However, what started as a narrow pipe voice network with no IP elements is now creaking at the seams as it seeks to go off and become an all-singing, all dancing data network. It’s like the streets of Nairobi or Lagos or any other African city: the build up of traffic at different points during the day turns the road into a car park where nothing moves.

    One major mobile operator told us that in one of its larger country markets, rural data demand using GPRS and EDGE was doubling in volume every six months. Already at this 2-2.5G level, data traffic exceeded voice traffic by 60/40 and on 3G, the proportions are 90/10. The same pattern is apparent across all operators. The future is an IP-enabled data network that will carry the content and services that will replace some of the voice revenues as ARPUs go down. For better or for worse, mobile operators are central to the process of delivering affordable data to the widest number of people. However, they are currently struggling to transform what their networks can do in data terms with varying degrees of success.

    LTE for all – meet the future?:The mobile operators’ strongest card for continuing to be taken seriously in terms of data delivery is LTE. The Kenyan Government decided that the quickest way to achieve this (and it has a good track record on speed of movement, see TEAMS) was to put out a tender for an open access, national network. In the absence of this, it may turn out that LTE and high-speed data delivery on it, will be the thing that further entrenches the market position of the new mobile incumbents.

    In order to build an open access LTE network, you need access to the mobile operators tower network and so the arm-wrestling begins. New incumbent Safaricom and old incumbent Telkom Kenya have the power to negotiate a two week extension on the deadline. Since the winning bidder has to include an operator with an extensive tower network (Safaricom?), it will be necessary to negotiate with them placing the towers into the hands of a trusted third party operator, like Eaton, Helios, American Towers or another. The failure to get this kind of open access structure right will put most other operators at a disadvantage against those who can make the investment.

    The alternative is deep-pocket investment in fibre (to the home, office and cabinet) of the kind being carried out by insurgent challengers like 21st Century, Jamii Telecom and Wananchi. But the skew to mobile use makes this a useful supplement rather than the central play. In this context, not enough African Governments have allowed their utilities to sell “dark fibre” as has happened in Uganda.

    The strange case of technology as the game-changer: Another approach to breaking the back of this affordable access everywhere problem has been the argument that certain technologies would be “game-changers”. Over the last five years Wi-MAX has had much airplay for this tune. It made early promises of both mobile data and voice but the latter was never delivered. Unfortunately, its base station technology even when it was working at its best was too expensive and had no customer device ecology at the right price. On that score, Wi-Fi wipes the floor with Wi-MAX in terms of delivering bandwidth cheaply and reliably and has existing, cheap customer devices, not ones that will be ready “real-soon-now”.

    The holy-grail in technology terms is a low-cost, IP-enabled base station that operates on small amounts of satellite bandwidth to reach edge markets that need below an E1 of bandwidth. Thus far everyone has delivered things that produce incremental cost changes but not the step down in costs that is needed. It’s a complicated bundle to get right involving renewable power, footprint and satellite optimization. But this is the frontier that will begin to see changes in the core network over the next ten years if it can be delivered. Why have an extremely cheap, IP-enabled base station at the edge of the network and not start replacing existing, end-of-life equipment with it in the core network?

    Ubiquitous Wi-Fi access – giving local access:One of the remaining blockages is that access at the local level is fairly restricted. If you’re not a corporate customer paying premium prices, it’s difficult to get cheap and reliable household bandwidth or to find its equivalent through public, Wi-Fi hot-spots.

    At an early stage, some of Africa’s mobile operators (notably MTN) started experimenting with separating out their data traffic from their voice traffic at base station level. This practice is now widely described with the rather ugly phrase “Wi-Fi offload”.

    As the number of smart and feature-rich handsets in Africa increases, customers will increasingly be encouraged by mobile operators – before the LTE nirvana arrives – to switch over to a Wi-Fi hot-spot or Wi-Fi mesh network. Google has been experimenting with this approach in Nairobi’s The Junction shopping mall and other operators are trialing a similar approaches.

    As ever, the issue in competition terms is whoever entrenches themselves at this level could turn out to be the price “gate-keeper.” For mobile operators, the recurring question remains: is this core to our business? Thus far they have defensively played every hand that looks threatening to them but the tide may turn.

    Fighting for the unconnected:There’s a lot of rhetoric around reaching the rural populations of Africa but not a great deal of action. When one large operator tells us that 10% of its base stations are commercially marginal, the scale of the challenge is apparent. Yet there is a clear interest in the Internet in rural areas shown by that stat quoted earlier of rural data use doubling and by national surveys carried out in places like Kenya.

    Many regulators in Africa have collected large amounts of money from operators but this has largely stayed in their bank accounts because they have taken forever to set up universal service agency (USA) functions or separate organisations.

    Where they have spent the money, it has tended to go back to the "usual suspects" (incumbent and mobile operators). In the main they have tended to extend their voice networks, leaving Internet/data the poor relation. (the exceptions include places like Uganda). The argument against these structures is that if you are relying on “the usual suspects” to do the work, it is an expensive financial structure that strips out a significant percentage for overhead costs before returning the money to the same operators. Therefore why not simply write USA clauses into their licences that translate into the kinds of sums being extracted?

    But the issue is perhaps one that requires closer attention of a different kind. Government policy-makers need to say to the operators, either you go to these areas or we will give licences and spectrum to others who will do so on a local basis. This leads to three broad potential options:

    1. The mobile operators (going the low cost base station route) do their own coverage in these areas and the cost is deducted in whole or in part from their US obligations.

    2. A independent, infrastructure sharing company offers operators the ability to connect to these areas at an agreed price per minute. This was what Ericsson was promoting 2-3 years ago in Tanzania with optimised base stations that had larger coverage areas but very little has been heard of it recently.

    3. You set up independent, small-scale operators and they get an interconnection agreement that might be asymmetrical to give them sufficient financial means to survive and again you could deduct an initial “market-generating” subsidy from the US funding obligation.

    It’s not the digital divide, it’s the electricity divide:It doesn’t matter whether it’s a mobile phone, a PC or a TV, they all require electricity. So the real divide will increasingly be between those who have access to reliable electricity to power these devices and those who don’t. There are two broad categories: firstly, those who already supposedly have access to electricity who would like reliable power that didn’t go down regularly and spike in ways that damaged their devices; and secondly, those with no electricity or struggling with occasional power, largely but not exclusively in rural areas

    For all the energy that goes into promoting universal access, not enough goes into addressing these power problems. At a recent broadcast conference, one broadcaster was speaking optimistically about the impact rural electrification would have on increasing TV audiences in Uganda. But for every Uganda, there are two or three African countries where addressing electricity supply seems to be in stasis.

    What is harder to understand is why the kind of power roll-outscheme that operators came together to achieve in Uganda cannot be generalized across other countries? Also why are the infrastructure sharing companies not addressing power issues? Why can’t there be small-scale, local power providers? You cannot separate out the achievement of a digital dividend from the provision of reliable power supply. The two silos of communications and power are related.

    The arrival of the international fibre cables has provided a warm glow of achievement to many of Africa’s politicians but unless they focus on the remaining problems outlined above, the promise will always fall short of the potential.


    New video clips on Balancing Act’s You Tube Channel:

    Kamal Budhabbatti, Craft Silicon on its banking products and m-money payment product ELMA

    Santos Okottah, founder, eziki.tv on its livestreaming and downloads service

    Robert Aouad, CEO Isocel Benin on opening a carrier-neutral data centre in Benin

    Balancing Act's Twitter feed provides a combination of breaking news for telecoms, Internet and broadcast in Africa, direct tweets from countries visited and access to the occasional rumours circulating. You can follow us on:
    @BalancingActAfr

telecoms

  • Airtel's PayOnlineInKenya is touted to be the world's first virtual card that operates off a wallet and residing on a mobile phone. The new system is in partnership with MasterCard Worldwide and Standard Chartered Bank.

    Safaricom and I&M Bank also unveiled a service that allows M-pesa customers to transfer money from their accounts to a Visa pre-paid card - M-pesa prepay Safari Card - which can be used globally.

    Airtel Kenya on Wednesday unveiled a new online payment system that would see her mobile subscribers use handsets to purchase online.

    Dubbed PayOnlineInKenya, the new system is in partnership with MasterCard Worldwide and Standard Chartered Bank. This is touted as the world's first virtual cards that operates off a wallet and residing on a mobile phone.

    Safaricom and I&M Bank also unveiled a service that allows M-pesa customers to transfer money from their accounts to a Visa pre-paid card - M-pesa prepay Safari Card - which can be used globally.

    PayOnlineInKenya is a single use feature or a one time shopping card that provides the consumer with a convenient and secure online shopping experience. Users in Kenya can make purchases of up to Ksh 35,000.

    Each time an Airtel subscriber is shopping online he or she will be able to request a single use shopping card number. Airtel's PayOnlineInKenya service will generate a special 16 digit number that enables the completion of the transaction. On completion of the transaction, a confirmation message will be sent to the customer's mobile phone. The ultimate aim of this service is to allow Airtel subscribers to make payment across the MasterCard network.

    According to Airtel's estimate over 80 per cent of adult Africans do not have bank accounts.
    The mobile technology platform and Airtel's vast consumer penetration combined with the financial structure and regulatory framework provided by Standard Chartered Bank and the global acceptance of MasterCard will makes the new service attractive.

  • The Star Cell MTN Communication Company in collaboration with Ecobank- Liberia Friday, September 9, 2011 formally launched the Mobile Money Product in the country.
    The Mobile Money Product is the newest service the two entities have introduced on the Liberian market. The usage of this service will afford users of mobile phones in the country to access money sent to them by friends, family members among others via their personal phones.

    Speaking at the launch of the Mobile Money Product, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Lone Star Cell MTN, Mazen Marou, said the Lone Star Cell MTN is always committed to providing exciting and innovative products to the Liberian people.
    He said mobile money product is a new service being provided in the country by the two entities, saying the product is being operated in all places the MTN brand is in existence. "Statistics shows that mobile money product creates more jobs, stimulates investment and increases revenue for government," the Lone Star Cell MTN boss pointed out.
    He indicated that the mobile money will afford Liberian in the rural parts to have access to cash money, transfer and receive money, cash checks, paid bills among others.

  • Vodacom is facing the wrath of its subscribers, following an announcement that the mobile operator would throttle the connection speeds of BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) users who exceed 100MB per month.Social networks erupted last week after the news broke; with many subscribers threatening Vodacom with the Consumer Protection Act and some saying they are considering changing operators.
    Vodacom responded to criticism by emphasising that the new system is a result of its own research, which has shown that 95% of BlackBerry data usage is attributable to less than 5% of users. As a result, BIS users who exceed the 100MB threshold per month will have their connection speed reduced from 3G to 2G. Vodacom says BlackBerry Enterprise users will not be affected, and emphasises that the new measure is aimed at improving the user experience for the majority of BIS users.
    Responding to a barrage of questions via Twitter, Vodacom told worried subscribers that some in those 5% were using over 150Gigs a month, making the experience terrible for the rest. The operator also said that since the data is compressed, it actually equates to two for four times more, and clarified that throttling will not affect e-mail, BlackBerry Messenger, Facebook or Twitter, only browsing and streaming.
    Chief Technology Officer Andries Delport says: “We need to ensure that all BlackBerry users are able to enjoy the service that they pay for. When we realised that such a small minority was using the bulk of the capacity, we decided to implement measures that will ensure that BlackBerry users will enjoy a better browsing experience overall.”
    MTN also appears to be considering the same strategy. MTN SA CIO Kanagaratnam Lambotharan says: “MTN has seen a significant number of customers using the BIS platform for purposes it was not initially intended for. “MTN is currently exploring ways to minimise the negative impact this might have and will communicate to customers in due course.”

    Cell C says it has no such plans in the pipeline at this stage, and while 8ta could not respond by the time of publication, it has been reported that it also has no plans to throttle BIS.

    Virgin Mobile's chief marketing and strategy manager, Jonathan Newman, says in terms of the company's BlackBerry terms of use and conditions: “In the future, we may look at adding a fair use clause or other measures, should we deem it necessary. Research In Motion could not respond by the time of publication.

    On Twitter, Vodacom also responded to the concerns of contract subscribers, stating: “No effect on contracts, the 'fair usage' policy was always in the contract. As we said, 95% of users won't be affected at all.”

  • Mali’s government is inviting bids for a third telecommunications license and is expected to make a decision within two months, state-owned L’Essor newspaper reported, without saying where it got the information.

    Submissions will be allowed from Sept. 19 to Oct. 11, with the handing over of bid documents set for Nov. 14, according to the newspaper. The payment of license charges is expected to be completed by the end of November, L’Essor said.
    Orange and the former incumbent Sotelma-Malitel are the two incumbent operators in the African nation, the newspaper reported.

internet

  • Maintaining communication with friends and family is no doubt top priority for everyone, especially those living out of the country. It is therefore no surprise that many people opt for quicker and faster communication via phones and emails over the traditional way of posting letters through the Post Office. This may simply be interpreted as one way of how modern technology has affected postal business. However, postal operators believe they are benefiting more from the advance technologies.

    According to the Commercial Director of the National Post Office of Rwanda, Dieudonne Maniragaba, ICT has actually complemented the postal business. "Internet is not a competitor to us; it's just a solution that has instead helped us improve our service delivery to our clientele and has made our work much faster," Maniragaba said.

    According to him, some members of the public harbour a false impression of the Post Office believing that its business is solely confined to courier services. "The Post Office still has a good number of clientele and that's because we do a wide range of activities, not just sending and receiving letters. Our target is commercial and administrative letters of which we have so many clients that still require our services," Maniragaba explained. He enumerated other services such as delivery of parcels, packages, express mail, money transfer, courier services among others.

    He noted that their potential market includes government institutions, NGOs, embassies and the general public. Maniragaba said that the postal services now reach a wider population compared to the past years.He added that the National Post Office is still going strong and now boasts of over 152 employees whose salary is paid through the profits the parastatal makes and not the Government budget.
    Maniragaba stated that they have branches in all districts and intend to roll out e-Commerce services to improve trade facilitation and simplify trade procedures. Based on the Kigali master plan, the Post Office aims to start home delivery of letters and parcels in the near future.

    "We used to deliver couriers up to the district level but we have now gone as far as sectors and various institutions. We also use the tracking system which is IT-based, to ensure efficient delivery of packages up to sector level," he explained.

  • It is indisputably the era of the consumer. Yet in two centuries there have only been two major innovations in the way life insurance products are sold to consumers. The first was when brokers were introduced some 160 years ago and the second when call centres came along in the 1970s.

    The crux of the matter lies in the word 'sold'. The biggest game-changer would surely be the one that can remove the cross the life industry has born for so long: the assumption that its products are sold and not bought.

    The magic bullet is proving to be the Internet. Internet-savvy and -empowered consumers have overcome the 'grudge' in this traditionally grudge purchase in two ways. First, with the incentive of a price that is up to 50% cheaper and, secondly, by doing it themselves on the internet.

    I am referring to a fully automated online life insurance model, not insurers who rely on an Internet presence and/or call centres. It is the fully online selling, underwriting and administrative model that has the potential to change the life industry as drastically as ATMs changed banks.

    The major advantage fully online life insurers have is the massive cost-saving of doing away with intermediaries, top heavy head-offices, customer-facing staff, call centres and inefficient administration.

    To understand how this is possible, take a look at the online life insurer's target market. These customers have already purchased numerous products on the Internet, some of which demand fairly complex interaction, such as travel and online auctions. Buying life products is the next notch in the e-commerce growth curve.

    Surprisingly, it not only attracts a young, elite market. Many of these empowered consumers are so-called 'grey surfers' over the age of 55 and even a sprinkling of users over 70.

    But the biggest potential for online life insurance lies with new entrants into the economy. They have grown up with online banking and will go to the Internet first for all their needs: a job, a place to stay, a partner, a car and yes, life products. Which explains why 50% of the total marketing spend in the UK has gone online, with half of that spent on Google ads.

    The number of Internet users in South Africa is boosted by the rapid increase in people accessing the Internet from their cellphones across a large spread of income brackets. Internet World Stats estimates the number of Internet users in SA at a conservative total of at least 6.8 million.

    A fast growing number of SA users access the Internet mainly from a cellphone, boosting the online life market to a potential six million people across a larger spread of income brackets. Online players will soon be ready to launch mobile applications designed to simplify the underwriting process on a mobile screen.

    In the online business model, the service provider and the consumer become partners, a relationship that demands a level of trust. The insurer even entrusts the client to self-underwrite, something that was inconceivable until very recently, and is still frowned upon from the heights of some ivory towers. But why not? Empowered consumers understand that non-disclosure will jeopardise their cover.

    Self-administration is another feature of this partnership, another significant cost-saving. Need to change contact details, changes in cover, beneficiaries or banking details? Thanks, I'll do it myself.

    In this world, the new intermediary's name is 'word of mouth' and clients are rewarded in the form of credited premiums for signing on new clients. "Oh, but wait until the time comes to claim," cry the sceptics. However, leading international reinsurers have needed no encouragement to throw their weight behind the online players.

    Neither have leading underwriters such as Guardrisk, which is part of Alexander Forbes, one of South Africa's leading financial services groups They are clearly satisfied by the level of underwriting which is done upfront, as with traditional insurers.

    Consumers now have the power of choice as never before and increasingly that choice will be to put their money where they perceive real value. And if that means a new generation of customers who will go online and buy life insurance instead of it being sold to them, it will be good for the entire industry. There's no going back.

computing

  • Intel demonstrated a CPU at their IDF conference that can run on the energy generated by a small solar cellDuring the opening keynote at this year’s (2011) Intel Developer Forum (IDF) conference held in San Francisco, showcased a low power processor developed by Intel Labs.

    Calling onto stage Sriram Vangal, principal research scientist at Intel, they demonstrated a processor running on a small solar cell. Vangal explained that the processor was running at near the threshold voltage of its transistors, but was still able to run Windows and display an animation. The animation seemed to be an animated gif and showed a kitten wearing headphones.

    To prove that that processor was indeed running off of the solar cell, Vangal put his hand between it and the light source, causing the computer to lock up.
    While the benefits of technology like this for South Africans and other developing nations is obvious, Otellini said that they have no plans to turn solar powered computing into a product yet.

    The purpose of the research and the demonstration was to show off Intel’s work in reducing processor power requirements to increase battery life, tying in with their push into the so-called “Ultrabook” and smartphone markets.

  • The National Research Foundation has submitted on 15 September 2011 the documents supporting the African bid to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Radio Telescope. The documents are South Africa's response to the Request for Information issued by the international SKA Siting Group in June 2011.

    This follows the initial submission of expressions of interest in 2003 and of reports in 2005, which led to South Africa and Australia being shortlisted as both being suitable for the SKA.

    The African SKA site bid is led by South Africa's Department of Science and Technology and includes Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Madagascar, Zambia, Mauritius, Kenya and Ghana.

    The reports submitted cover a wide range of information - measurements of radio frequency interference and the physical conditions on the core site in the Northern Cape Karoo and the remote sites spread through South Africa and the other partner countries, measurements of the ionosphere and troposphere, analysis of the scientific performance of the array, designs for the roads, buildings and other infrastructure required, proposals for how 105MW of power can be supplied to the core site in the Karoo and how the remote sites can be powered, how the huge amounts of data can be transported from the telescope dishes in the Karoo and other sites to the central computer and then to the control centre in Cape Town and to science centres in other countries around the world, customs and excise duties, work permits and visas, laws affecting how the SKA will operate in South Africa and the other countries, working conditions for a highly skilled workforce of scientists and engineers, the financial and economic system, how security will be provided for the telescope and much else besides.

    The South African SKA team has worked closely with telecommunication service providers including Broadband InfraCo, Meraka, Nokia Siemens Networks, Seacom, FibreCo, Muvoni Weltex, EASSY, SIA Solutions and Cisco and with Eskom, the City of Cape Town and Aurecon to come up with robust and cost-effective data transport, power and infrastructure proposals for the telescope.

    The team has also had tremendous support from Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), Sentech, the Department of Communications, the Department of Public Enterprise, Vodacom, MTN and the National Association of Broadcasters in designing solutions to reduce radio interference on the site, while still providing services to people in the area.

    A great deal of support was also received from South African Revenue Service (SARS), the Reserve Bank, Southern Mapping Geospatial, the HSRC, the Centre for High Performance Computing, the Council for Geosciences, the South Africa Weather Service and many other government departments and service providers in preparing the bid reports. The bid documents represent eight years of work.
    The Minister for Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, said "Africa will provide a home for the SKA to do revolutionary science. Our bid is a strong, cost-effective and robust proposal for building the Square Kilometre Array in Africa. Our site is orders of magnitude better than any existing observatory and is protected by the Astronomy Geographic Advantage Act.

    Our team, with business and industry, has developed excellent solutions for how to provide power, data transport and infrastructure for the telescope very cost effectively. The great progress we have made in building the MeerKAT telescope has won us many friends and has changed the way the international community sees us".
    Pandor further added, "Many leading international researchers are now taking up full or part-time positions in our universities and the MeerKAT team. Our Human Capital Programme has won respect around the world.

    The excellence of our site has been recognised by the construction and operation of the world-leading PAPER and CBASS telescopes on our site, in which we are collaborating with the leading US institutions.

    We are fully committed to the SKA and so are our partners in Africa. Building world-leading science instruments and research in Africa will help us to create the skills, innovation and technology which will underpin our long-term vision for Africa as a leading economic power-house". Pandor also thanked SKA partner governments for their cooperation and assistance.

    The bid reports will be evaluated by expert panels and considered by an independent SKA Science Advisory Committee of leading international scientists and science administrators. They may ask for further information or clarification from South Africa and Australia (which has partnered with New Zealand).

    SKA South Africa project office representatives will meet this committee in the USA in December. If there are sufficient differences between the two bids, the Committee will aim to make a recommendation on a site by January 2012.

    Its recommendation will go to the not-for-profit SKA company which will be established in November, with about fifteen governments as its members. They will consider the recommendation and any other factors they wish to take into account and aim to make a decision by February or March 2012.

    Nigeria: Nation Loses N18.9Billion to Foreign Software Licensing - Notap
    The National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion has said that Nigeria lost about $118m (N18.9bn) in the last five years as capital flight from locally developed software to the importation of foreign software.

    The Head of Media and Public Relations, NOTAP, Adokiye Dagogo-George said while marking the "African Day for Technology and Intellectual Property".
    He said in compliance with the resolution made by the African Union, September 13 of every year is set aside by all African countries to arouse the "latent inventive, creative and innovative spirit of Africans in order to facilitate the acceleration of technological development in the continent."

    He explained that though there are Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora who have demonstrated ICT capabilities especially in software development, lack of awareness of their breakthroughs has hampered their patronage as all software deployed by the various sectors of the economy, particularly the financial sector were foreign ones.
    "It is against this background that NOTAP institutionalized the annual national workshop and exhibition on software licensing and development," he said.

    NOTAP was established as an agency of the Federal Ministry of Science Technology to facilitate the acquisition of technology in Nigeria.

    The agency has since been implanting the mandate through the evaluation, registration and monitoring of all technology transfer agreements signed by Nigerian entrepreneurs with their foreign technical partners.

    NOTAP was to ensure that the terms and conditions of the agreements are equitable, fair and commensurate and aligned with the capacity and capability of the Nigerian Innovation system.

    Dagogo-George disclosed that while carrying out its functions and activities, NOTAP makes concerted efforts to promote the development of locally motivated technologies through the linkage of industry with the National Innovation System in the area of scientific Research and Development, promotion of Intellectual Property Rights and commercialization of R&D results.

    He said: "NOTAP has, in recent times, established 30 Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer Offices (IPTTOs) in research institutes and institutions of higher learning across the country.

    "IPTTOs were established in the knowledge centres to encourage market oriented and demand driven research, promote intellectual property protection and strengthen the linkage between industry, universities and research institutes."

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Ethiopian incumbent telco Ethio Telecom (formerly Ethiopian Telecom Corporation) has revealed that it missed its revenue target of ETB9.8 billion (USD565 million) for the year ended 7 July 2011 by a shortfall of 11%, allAfrica.com reports. With France Telecom (FT) having taken over management of the state-owned telco in December 2010, the failure to hit the target could mean that the European telecoms giant may see its management fee reduced under the terms of its contract with the Ethiopian government. It is understood that under the terms of the two-year, USD42.3 million agreement between FT and the state, the payment scheme is contingent upon a six-monthly performance review, with bonuses or deductions based on a percentage accomplishment of goals set as part of the deal.

    In a press release detailing the achievements of the most recent financial year, Ethio Telecom reported that gross turnover had increased from ETB7.05 billion in EFY2002 (the period from 8 July 2009 to 7 July 2010) to ETB8.815 billion in the same period a year later, while earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) in EFY2003 (year ended 7 July 2011) stood at ETB6.83 billion. The failure to reach its revenue target was reportedly blamed on damages to the company’s telecoms infrastructure, with allAfrica citing an unnamed telecom official close to the matter as saying: ‘The cost of repairing stolen fibre-optic cables and power shortages are some of the reasons why the company did not reach its target.’ Ethio Telecom reportedly confirmed a few weeks ago that it had lost around ETB91 million due to theft and intentional damage of its infrastructure.

    Ethio Telecom also revealed that the number of subscribers across all of its services had reached 11,509,366 at the end of June 2011, of which the lion’s share – 10,526,190 – were attributed to mobile services. The number of customers signed up to the telco’s fixed line voice and internet/data services stood at 854,412 and 128,764 respectively, although only 16,529 of the latter were connected to high speed internet services such as ADSL or 3G mobile broadband. Looking forward Ethio Telecom has set out an extremely ambitious target, announcing that it aims to add some ten million new mobile subscribers in the coming year.

  • Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM) says that the company has received an expression of interest from and entered into discussions, with a potential -- unnamed -- strategic equity partner.

    In a brief notice to the Malawi stock exchange, the company said that shareholders are advised to accordingly exercise caution in dealing in their shares in the Company until a further announcement is made.
    The company has a diverse shareholder base, with just 21% listed on the stock market. The government owns 44.5%, and three other corporate shareholders have between 10.5-13% each.

    According to the Mobile World analysts, the company had 1.185 million customers at the end of June, representing a market share of 42%.

  • Datatec, ("Datatec" or the "Group", JSE and LSE: DTC), the international Information and Communications Technology (ICT) group, is currently finalizing its results for the six months ended 31 August 2011 ("the Period"), which will be published on 12 October 2011.

    As a JSE listed company, Datatec is required to publish trading statements if the financial results for a given period are more than 20% higher than the results of the previous corresponding period. As described in more detail below, underlying* earnings per share, earnings per share and headline earnings per share for the Period are expected to be more than 20% higher than the previous corresponding period of six months ended 31 August 2010 (the "Comparative Period").

     Group revenues for the Period are expected to be approximately $2.4 billion, compared to approximately $2.1 billion in the Comparative Period, with overall margin expansion.

     Underlying* earnings per share for the Period are expected to be between 21 and 22 US cents per share, compared to 15.8 US cents per share for the Comparative Period, an increase of between 33% and 39%.

     Earnings per share and headline earnings per share are expected to be between 19 and 20 US cents per share, compared to 8.8 US cents in the Comparative Period, an increase of between 116% and 127%.

    Interim cash distribution by way of a capital reduction The Board has resolved to amend the group's dividend / capital distribution payment policy from making a single annual payment to making both interim and final distributions with immediate effect. The dividend cover policy of at least three times relative to underlying* earnings per share will apply to both interim and final distributions.

    The first interim distribution will accordingly be declared for the period ended 31 August 2011 with the interim results announcement on 12 October 2011.

  • Safaricom share price has got a boost from the planned increase in calling tariffs, rising by 6.9 per cent in one week as investors anticipate growth in the mobile provider’s profits. The stock has rebounded from a one-year low of Sh2.90 per share last week to Thursday’s Sh3.10 driven by higher demand from investors since last Thursday’s announcement of a possible tariff review. The telco closed its shareholders’ register for a Sh0.20 dividend last Friday.

    “Despite going ex-dividend, there has been sustained demand on the counter. This could be attributed to the expected increase in tariffs to cover the operator’s rising operating expenses,” said analysts at Kestrel Capital in a market report. In yesterday’s trading, the counter moved 6.9 million shares down from 15.2 million traded on Wednesday.

     “Large investment firms are selling off in Europe, especially bank stocks, following debt crisis that has seen banks’ credit rating being reviewed and are heading to other markets; that is why you see the resurgence especially in Safaricom which is attractive to them,” said Mr George Bodo, an analyst with ApexAfrica Capital.

    Safaricom stock is considered attractive due to its high liquidity and the foreigners’ bullish sentiment towards telecoms in emerging markets.

    Last week Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore said the company could no longer absorb rising inflationary pressures and was considering tariff reviews. Information PS Bitange Ndemo also spoke of the expected review, saying that it would be understandable owing to increased network maintenance and fuel cost.

    Passing on costs to the consumer is attractive to investors as it cushions the company’s earnings considering that its growth slowed down with start of price wars last year. Safaricom registered a 12.6 per cent drop in net profit to Sh13.2 billion for the financial year 2010/11.

    Analysts expect price wars in the industry to stop and focus on add-ons such as data and money transfer services. Safaricom is the only one of the four mobile phone firms that reported operational profit last year while the others are pressed to show returns, hence may follow in upward adjustment of prices. Rival Bharti Airtel has replaced its Managing Director Rene Meza who was seen as the face behind the low tariff charges.
     “We would expect price adjustments in calling rates to be most likely upwards following markets such as Tanzania and India where rates have increased in the recent past,” said
    Mr John Kamunya, an analyst with Dyer & Blair Investment Bank.

    Since Safaricom is strong in voice, data and money transfer gives it a strong position to continue recording growth in net profits.Telkom Kenya recently launched a high-speed data network.

  • Nigeria Com
    20 - 21 September, 2011, Lagos, Nigeria

    The 2nd annual Nigeria Com returns to Lagos. Gain unique market perspectives and insights from a 40 strong speaker-line up including 25+ Operator leaders. The 2 day agenda equips you to capitalise on new networks and services, while the 60 stand networking exhibition will showcase the worldÕs foremost technology and solutions available for your business. With 700+ attendees, if you do telecoms business in the region, this is an event you cannot afford to miss!
    For more information visit here:

    Mozambique National ICT Congress
    5-6 October 2011, Centro Internacional de Conferencia Joaquim Chissano, Maputo

    Held under the auspices of the Mozambique Ministry of Science & Technology and organised by AITEC Africa, this is the annual gathering of MozambiqueÕs rapidly growing ICT community, with a two-day conference and industry expo. Users and vendors of ICT systems and solutions will be sharing challenges, knowledge and ideas in the stimulating conference programme, with high-level local and international speakers. There is simultaneous translation between English and Portuguese to facilitate international participation. The event will also include the second annual National Communications Roundtable, providing operators, ISPs, users and service providers with an opportunity to discuss the countryÕs national communications strategy with the regulator. For the full programme log on to the organiserÕs website here:  To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    North Africa Com
    11 - 12 October, 2011, Tunis, Tunisia

    Now in its 6th year, the ONLY conference and exhibition dedicated to the North African telecoms market moves to Tunisia to address the dynamic French-speaking markets.
    The expanded conference agenda is now in development and will feature a host of new topics led by a speaker panel featuring some of North Africa's leading telcos.  Contact us today to apply to speak in the conference, or reserve your sponsorship or exhibition package. Be one of the first to see the 2011 agenda and sign up for your copy.
    For more information visit here:

    CDN World Summit 2011
    26 - 28 October 2011, Hilton Hotel Paddington, London.

    The 3rd annual CDN World Summit promises to be the largest and most
    comprehensive CDN event ever.The full value chain is represented including content providers,broadcast operators, traditional and telco CDNs, represented by industry leaders such as; FilmFlex Movies, BT Wholesale and AT&T.
    For more information visit here:

    Digital Migration and Spectrum Policy Summit
    29 October to 01 November 2011, Nairobi, Kenya.

    For more informtion visit here:

    Africa Com
    9 - 10 November, 2011, Cape Town, SA

    Join 5,000 of AfricaÕs leading telcos in Cape Town this November for what is set to be the biggest and best AfricaCom yet.  The conference agenda has doubled to incorporate a record 150+ speakers presenting across 4 strategic keynotes, 11 in-depth focus sessions and 2 co-located events Ð AfricaCast and Enterprise ICT Africa.  WhatÕs more 250+ international solutions providers will be showcasing their latest products in the networking exhibition. For more information visit here:

    World Telecom Summit 2011
    9Ð11 November, 2011, Singapore Marriott Hotel

    World Telecom Summit 2011 is the must-attend event of the year. Bringing together top level executives and key decision makers of preeminent telecommunications companies from around the world, this is the perfect opportunity to meet the whoÕs who of the telecommunications and mobile industry.  It is the summit that addresses the evolving needs of telecommunications and mobile community. Get up to date with the latest innovations and technological advancements in the industry and gain access to the minds of the movers and shakers of the industry.
    Take advantage of the Limited Early Bird Rates for Operator Pass!
    For more information please visit here:  or contact Vivian at vivian.ho@olygen.com

    AITEC East Africa East Africa Summit
    2-3 November, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    East Africa has become one of the fastest growing ICT investment markets and the regionÕs ICT Summit it designed as the regionÕs forum to bring together users and vendors of ICT technology in a stimulating educational and business networking environment. The 2011 Summit programme will focus on the following themes:
    ¥    Data Security
    ¥    Mobile Apps
    ¥    Cloud Computing
    For the conference programme, log on to the organiserÕs website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    ICT Infrastructure Summit: Banking Solutions in Growth Economies
    29-30 November, 2011,

    Kingsway Hall, Great Queen Street, London WC2
    Though technology innovation for banks in growth economies is ripe for growth, development is being stalled by some major infrastructural barriers including poor connectivity, a lack of political support, incorrect regulation and a lack of capital. The ICT Innovation for Banks in Growth Economies conference will arm you with the tools to upgrade your telecommunication infrastructure and scale up your branchless banking operations in order to reach millions of unbanked households. For further information please click here:

    AfriHealth
    30 November Ð 1 December 2011, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    The leading continental forum on e-health, m-health, health management systems and capacity development. AfriHealth 2011 will focus on current research, development and implementation of ICT technology and resources in the African Healthcare arena. A key objective of the conference, now in its fourth year, will be to share knowledge and experience from practical mobilization of ICT-based healthcare systems and projects, to showcase best practice through practical case studies and highlight potential for scaling up success stories at national and regional levels. For the conference programme log on to the organiserÕs website here:  To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    AITEC Banking & Mobile Money COMESA
    7-8 March 2012, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    Now in its sixth year, this has become the leading educational, networking and marketing event for Eastern and Southern AfricaÕs financial services sector. In addition to the conferenceÕs established intensive education programme covering core banking, mobile money and microfinance topics (over 100 speakers in 2011). For the conference programme log on to the organiserÕs website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    InsureAFRICA
    7-8 March 2012, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    Insurers seeking effective performance in service delivery, cost reduction and profit levels need to embrace technology, viewing it not as a support function but as a key enabler of competitive advantage at all levels of operation. InsureAFRICA is the first specialised conference for the African insurance and pensions industry to evaluate the systems and innovative channels needed to compete and thrive in a rapidly expanding industry. With the theme ÒEffective management strategies and systems for a new era of expansion and inclusionÓ, the conference will be the continentÕs first forum to gather knowledge and experience for a rapidly growing industry. For the Call for Papers, log on to the organiserÕs website here:  To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    Mobile VAS Africa 2012
    14 - 15 May 2012, Johannesburg, South Africa

    Mobile VAS Africa 2012 will bring together industry experts and representatives from leading financial institutions, mobile operators and solutions providers to provide a strategic insight into mobile VAS while exploring collaborative business models, innovative applications, technologies and straegies. For more information visit here:

    Roaming & Interconnect
    16 - 17 May 2012, Johannesburg, South Africa

    RIC Africa 2012 will uncover new strategies to boost roaming traffic and retain existing roamers. During the conference we will look at the innovative roaming solutions and pricing, supplementing roaming with alternative revenue streams, the latest EU regulations and their impact on operations in Africa, as well as the importance of hubbing and convergence.  For more information please visit here:

    AITEC Banking & Mobile Money West Africa
    6 June 2012, Accra International Conference Centre

    Now in its fifth year, the conference will cover a wide range of strategic and technology topics to empower West AfricaÕs banking, microfinance and insurance professionals with the knowledge they need to lead their organisation effectively through the turbulent market and regulatory conditions they face. For the conference programme log on to the organiserÕs website here:  To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Ghana’s telecoms watchdog the National Communication Authority (NCA) is looking to crack down on mobile network operators if they fail to tackle the chronic problem of poor quality services. NCA deputy director Mawuko Zomelo confirmed the NCA plan, adding that the sanctions could take the form of a fine. In a field visit to Ghana’s Northern Region, NCA officials held meetings in a number of towns and districts to obtain feedback on the public’s perception of the quality of telecoms services. The information gathered confirmed suspicions that many Ghanaians are dissatisfied with the incumbent cellcos’ performance to date. The NCA is now looking to develop an effective strategy to address the problem, Zomelo said.

    - Gambia’s Daily Observer reports that the Ministry of Information, Communication & Information Infrastructure has revealed to the National Assembly that state-backed Gamtel is currently working on plans to expand its fledgling 3G wireless data network in the Greater Banjul area and other major towns and cities including Soma, Farafenni, Bansang and Basse. The disclosure was made in response to ministers’ questions on when 3G infrastructure would be expanded to provide wireless internet access for outlying communities. However, it was added that the expansion of the network is not in Gamtel’s 2011 budget, and would instead be included in its 2012 budget.

Digital Content

  • Airtel Ghana last week announced a deal for managed Value Added Services (VAS) with mobile software company, Rancard Solutions. Under the terms of this agreement, Airtel Ghana will use Rancard’s service management tool, Value Added Services Provider Manager (VASP Manager), to deploy and manage multiple content provider accounts and services. This enables the mobile network to render a rich, diverse and concerted mobile content and service experience for their subscribers.

    Built by Rancard, VASP Manager runs in the rancardmobility.com cloud and enables Airtel Ghana to deploy, manage, deliver and monetize applications, content and services over various channels (mobile web, SMS, MMS, USSD, etc.), using Rancard’s content discovery technology Rendezvous, and to provide access to major brands including BBC, ESPN, MTVBase and Google.

    VASP Manager provides a seamless service management interface to Rancard’s mobile message switch, payments gateway and content hosting applications, which are all integrated with Airtel’s infrastructure for billing, messaging and subscriber management.

    The Rendezvous technology leverages network data to provide a personalized, relevant, content discovery experience for mobile subscribers using social recommendations, which are proven to yield four times the rate of promotions. This allows Airtel to connect their subscribers to relevant content, applications and services, a move the network believes will establish it as an innovation-adopting pioneer in the marketplace and multiply its rapidly growing subscriber base.

    Rancard’s Director for Product Management and Marketing, Ehizogie Binitie said in a statement, “Rancard’s focus is to provide mobile network operators with the tools that enable them to improve their ARPUs and keep
    subscribers engaged through innovation. We believe with Rendezvous we enable mobile subscribers to find the content/applications/services they really want with software-enabled recommendations from people they trust inside of the network.”

    Airtel’s Director of Marketing, Oare Ojekere, said of the partnership, “Airtel’s partnership with Rancard Solutions gives us the flexibility to address our customers’ needs in various ways, leading to greater customer satisfaction; providing another reason to join the network that is customer-centric.”

  • Deutsche Welle continues to expand its services in Tanzania by cooperating with Vodacom Tanzania Ltd. – the largest mobile provider in the country. Starting September 9, 2011, DW’s popular radionovela “Learning by Ear” will be available on-demand for mobile service subscribers.

    The programming is targeted to teenagers and young adults and provides information on important topics like HIV, human rights, democracy and the environment with an exciting mix of stories and features. Learning by Ear is produced in all of DW’s programming languages for Africa and is already broadcast in Tanzania as part of DW-RADIO/Kiswahili. 
    Deutsche Welle’s Kiswahili service is among the most popular radio programs in the country. Around 70 percent of Tanzanians are familiar with Deutsche Welle and every third is a frequent listener of the Kiswahili program. Besides broadcasting the Kiswahili Service offers sms-news messages via mobile phone every day, comprehensive website (www.dw-world.de/kiswahili), Twitter and Facebook.

    Customers who have signed up for the “Music Radio” service from Vodacom Tanzania Ltd. can access every episode of the Learning by Ear series for a special price based on minutes of usage. Customers dial 09011 22 201 from their mobile phone to subscribe to the Music Radio service and listen to the instruction on how to access the different Learning by Ear series.

    Learning by Ear was started as Deutsche Welle initiative for Africa in 2008 with the support of the German Federal Foreign Office. The series has been successful with younger listeners and is entirely produced in cooperation with partners throughout Africa and written by African authors. More than 270 African radio stations have broadcasted Learning by Ear since the series started in 2008. The series has received national and international awards, including “most creative radio format” from the Association for International Broadcasting (AIB) in 2009.

    Deutsche Welle is Germany’s international broadcaster. With DW-TV, DW-RADIO and DW-WORLD.DE, it produces news, background information and cultural highlights worldwide, while creating a platform for intercultural dialogue.
    Vodacom Tanzania Ltd is Tanzania’s leading cellular network offering state-of-the-art GSM communication services to more than 9 million customers across the country.

    Earlier this year Vodacom Tanzania launched the very first Mobile Radio and Mobile TV service. With an extensive network coverage Vodacom Tanzania continues researching for new services to the utmost benefit of the Tanzanian market and public at large.

  • Google has announced the winners of the Android Developer Challenge in Sub-Saharan Africa, a competition that was announced back in April, set up to encourage the development of exciting, high quality applications that can delight mobile users in Africa and around the world.

    Developers in Sub-Saharan Africa submitted hundreds of innovative and interesting applications across three broad categories: apps related to entertainment, media and games; apps related to social networking and communication; and apps related to productivity, tools, and local and geo services.

    In July, Google had announced the top 29 applications, provided them new phones, mentoring from Googlers and six weeks to improve their applications. From those 29, the three winners have been announced. 

    Each winner will be awarded $25,000 to help them build and grow their business, and will receive additional mentoring from Google employees to help them make their app even better. The judges also gave honorable mention to finalist apps Rainbow Racer and Wedding Plandroid; the developers of those apps will each receive $5,000.

    All three winning apps, both honorable mention apps, and many of our finalist apps are or will soon be available on Android Market.
    The Winners:
    Entertainment/Media/Games
     Afrinolly - Nigeria
    Team: FansConnectOnline Limited
    Afrinolly brings African movies to your pocket, allowing you to watch movie trailers, read entertainment news and gossip, track celebs, listen to music and share it all with your friends.
    ________________________________________
    Social/Communication
    Olalashe - Kenya
    Team: David Lemayian, Capefield Ltd.
    Olalashe (which means "brother" in Maasai) is a geo-alert application that can help you communicate when you’re in trouble, through a widget that can send your location and a pre-set message to your ‘In Case of Emergency’ contacts with the push of a button.
    ________________________________________
    Productivity
    Shoppers' Delight - Kenya
    Team: Elan Telemedia Ltd
    Shoppers' Delight is a shopping application that allows shoppers to compare product prices across different area supermarkets. The app also helps shoppers discover bargains and relevant sales, and access maps and health information.

More

  • Airtel has hired Willie Ellis who previously worked for Vodacom South Africa to become its Product and Innovation Director.

  • Reference Number: AJS0011342
    Job Category:  IT- Account Management
    Preferred Degree:  Bachelors Degree
    Job Type:  Permanent/Full Time
    Job Country:  Rwanda
    Job Location:  Kigali-Rwanda
    Experience (Years): 2-4
    Job Description
    MTN RWANDACELL is a GSM Telecommunications Company based in Rwanda with its Head office in the Capital city of Kigali. Formed in 1998, the Company has recorded exceptional growth and this trend is continuing into the future. MTN Rwanda Cell continually strives for excellence with high levels of Customer Care forming the foundation of the Company's Vision and Mission.

    MTN RWANDACELL would like to recruit competent staff for the following job.
    Business Risk Analyst

    Major responsibilities of the job:
    To assist management with the implementation of proper risk management processes in the Company.
    Provide assurance to management on adequacy and effectiveness of risk management and revenue assurance activities within MTN Rwandacell.

    Key performance areas of the job:
    Coordinate day to day risk management activities within MTN Rwandacell
    Maintenance of comprehensive and updated strategic and business risk registers.
    Provide quarterly risk management input to the quarterly operations review reports.
    Provide quarterly progress on revenue loss risk management activities
    Create a companywide proactive risk management culture.

    Minimum education necessary:
    Bachelors of Commerce Degree
    Possession of an auditing qualification (CIA, CISA...) and/or professional Accountancy qualification (CA, ACCA, CPA etc) would be advantageous.
    Minimum experience necessaryto perform this job:
    Minimum of 2 years of Auditing/Risk management/consulting experience in an internationally recognized professional accounting firm or an international organization.
    Proficient in use of the company standard software: Excel, Word, Power points; MS projects, Access, etc.
    A thorough understanding of telecommunication business processes, products, services and overall business.
    Proficiency in the use of auditing and risk management softwares.
    Auditing experience in telecommunications and information systems as comparative advantage

    Skills/Competencies/ Attributes Required:

    Demonstrate thorough knowledge and understanding of risk and control methodologies
    Completion of assignments in accordance with the department methodology and pre-set deadlines.
    Comprehensive, concise well researched reports.
    Increased awareness of control and risk within MTN Rwandacell.
    Good Interpersonal skills.
    Presentation and facilitation skills.
    Working under pressure to meet reporting deadlines.
    How to apply:

    Please forward letters of application together with detailed curriculum vitae, photocopies of academic and professional certificates and contact details of three referees, so as to reach the Human Resources & Administration Department as soon as possible.

    Note: If you are not contacted 10 days after the submission application, then you were not considered for this position.

    MTN Rwandacell is an equal opportunity employer.

    MTN RWANDACELL Ltd is a GSM Telecommunications Company formed in 1998, based in Rwanda with its Head office in the capital City of Kigali. The Company has recorded exceptional growth and this trend is continuing into the future.

    MTN Rwanda continually strives for excellence with high levels of Customer Care, forming the foundation of the Company's Vision and Mission. MTN RWANDACELL Ltd would like to recruit a competent person in the position below.

Issue no 571 9th September 2011

node ref id: 22940

Top story

  • In most African countries, mobile users are spoiled with attractive mobile promotion on voice services. In Kenya and Uganda, a price war has however left the mobile operators dubious on this approach being the right on. While African mobile operators try to retain their mobile users attention, differentiating their mobile offering from the competitors’ ones remains vital tool for them. Isabelle Gross spoke to Kevin Coleman, Business Development Director EMEA at Digitata and Hilton Goodhead, CTO at Rorotika Technologies about their dynamic billing product/platform for mobile voice services and theirs plans to launch a similar product/platform for data services.

    The launch of the “Glo Flexi” tariff plan by Globacom at the beginning of September marks the entry of Digitata dynamic billing platform in the Nigerian telecoms market. According to Kevin Coleman, Globacom is the first mobile operator offering dynamic billing in Nigeria although MTN which is the largest mobile operator in Nigeria has a similar offer “MTN Zone” but the tariff plan is not operational in the country. Digitata dynamic billing platform gives the ability to a mobile operator to offer discounts on voice calls according the time of the day and/or the location of the mobile subscribers. In Nigeria for example, Glo Flexi tariff has been launched with an offering of up to 99% discounts on voice calls for its subscribers. It is still too early to forecast the uptake of the new tariff plan in Nigeria but Digitata has seen at the past some massive uptake to up 80% of the subscriber base in some African markets. The level and the pace of the uptake depend also on how the mobile operator decides to communicate the new offering to its subscribers and while some African mobile operators have relied on the traditional flyers, SMS and word of mouth to promote the new tariffs others have rolled more aggressive information campaigns like sending on the street “road warriors” in charge of explaining and educating subscribers on the benefits of the new tariff plan.

    The Digitata’s dynamic billing platform is currently active across 16 mobile networks in Africa and the company is looking further to increasing it footprint on the continent. In a couple of week, there will be further launches in the Southern African region. Kevin Coleman explains further that the product is well suited for prepaid markets where calling costs remain high and customers are very price sensitive. The billing platform often sells well with the number two mobile operator in a country or the ones that want to be more innovative. There are also no limitations on the size of the mobile subscriber base. Digitata’s dynamic billing platform works with a subscriber base as small as 100,000 up to several millions. Although Kevin Coleman didn’t want to give too many details on the price of the billing platform, he added that the technology is competitively priced and that mobile operators can acquire a licence for a one-off fee or chose to make recurring payments based on the number of mobile users registered to the service. According to him, investing in a dynamic billing platform offers to mobile operators good returns on investment in terms of customer churn reduction, network congestion management and additional voice revenue from customers signing up for the service. Hilton Goodhead points out that it can help further mobile operators to reduce capital costs through a more streamlined utilisation of the existing network facilities.

    I met Kevin Coleman last November at AfriCom in Cape Town and at that time he already told me that Digitata’s R&D team was working hard on expanding their dynamic billing platform to include mobile data services. Today, we have an official launch date: Q1-2012. According to him, the development of a dynamic billing platform for data services presented quite some technical challenges to overcome. He explains for example that once a data connection is established it is not obvious with what or who the dynamic billing interface interacts with. It could be the device only since most 3G phones keep looking for a connection or a human being holding the device. There were also issues to solve regarding the type of data and their prioritisation. Kevin Coleman is confident that this new product which is aimed at mobile operators in developed and emerging markets will quickly gain traction because across the world (and in Africa), mobile operators that have launched mobile Internet services on their 3G network face and will face more serious network congestions because of the growing number data hungry smartphones hooking up on their networks. Further today mobile data pricing models are pretty dull. They come either unlimited or capped and therefore a pricing model based on time and location will definitely provide a different way to sell mobile data services in Africa and in the rest of the world. 
     

     


     

    New video clips on Balancing Act’s You Tube Channel:

    Jason Njoku, CEO, Iroko Partners
    on distributing Nollywood and Nigerian Music using You Tube

    Emma Kaye, CEO, Bozza on South African townships creating their own online content

    Julian VanPlato, CEO, Trans Digital Media on a new live streaming mobile service for Africa

    Sami Leino, COO, Spinlet
    on the launch of an "iTunes" for Africa

    Ofer Ronen, Business Development Director
    - Broadcast, Gilat Satcom on its move into African broadcast services

    South Africa: Styli Charalambous, Managing Director, The Daily Maverick on its new iPad subscription service

    Steve Vosloo, mLabs on supporting mobile innovation in South Africa

    Arun Nagar, CEO, Spice VAS Africa on launching its African platforms and live streaming

    Robert Aouad, CEO Isocel Benin on opening a carrier-neutral data centre in Benin

    Balancing Act's Twitter feed provides a combination of breaking news for telecoms, Internet and broadcast in Africa, direct tweets from countries visited and access to the occasional rumours circulating. You can follow us on:
    @BalancingActAfr

More

  • Nigeria Com
    20 - 21 September, 2011, Lagos, Nigeria

    The 2nd annual Nigeria Com returns to Lagos. Gain unique market perspectives and insights from a 40 strong speaker-line up including 25+ Operator leaders. The 2 day agenda equips you to capitalise on new networks and services, while the 60 stand networking exhibition will showcase the world’s foremost technology and solutions available for your business. With 700+ attendees, if you do telecoms business in the region, this is an event you cannot afford to miss!
    For more information visit here:

    Mozambique National ICT Congress
    5-6 October 2011, Centro Internacional de Conferencia Joaquim Chissano, Maputo

    Held under the auspices of the Mozambique Ministry of Science & Technology and organised by AITEC Africa, this is the annual gathering of Mozambique’s rapidly growing ICT community, with a two-day conference and industry expo. Users and vendors of ICT systems and solutions will be sharing challenges, knowledge and ideas in the stimulating conference programme, with high-level local and international speakers. There is simultaneous translation between English and Portuguese to facilitate international participation. The event will also include the second annual National Communications Roundtable, providing operators, ISPs, users and service providers with an opportunity to discuss the country’s national communications strategy with the regulator. For the full programme log on to the organiser’s website here:  To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    North Africa Com
    11 - 12 October, 2011, Tunis, Tunisia

    Now in its 6th year, the ONLY conference and exhibition dedicated to the North African telecoms market moves to Tunisia to address the dynamic French-speaking markets.
    The expanded conference agenda is now in development and will feature a host of new topics led by a speaker panel featuring some of North Africa's leading telcos.  Contact us today to apply to speak in the conference, or reserve your sponsorship or exhibition package. Be one of the first to see the 2011 agenda and sign up for your copy.
    For more information visit here:

    CDN World Summit 2011
    26 - 28 October 2011, Hilton Hotel Paddington, London.

    The 3rd annual CDN World Summit promises to be the largest and most
    comprehensive CDN event ever.The full value chain is represented including content providers,broadcast operators, traditional and telco CDNs, represented by industry leaders such as; FilmFlex Movies, BT Wholesale and AT&T.
    For more information visit here:

    Digital Migration and Spectrum Policy Summit
    29 October to 01 November 2011, Nairobi, Kenya.

    For more informtion visit here:

    Africa Com
    9 - 10 November, 2011, Cape Town, SA

    Join 5,000 of Africa’s leading telcos in Cape Town this November for what is set to be the biggest and best AfricaCom yet.  The conference agenda has doubled to incorporate a record 150+ speakers presenting across 4 strategic keynotes, 11 in-depth focus sessions and 2 co-located events – AfricaCast and Enterprise ICT Africa.  What’s more 250+ international solutions providers will be showcasing their latest products in the networking exhibition. For more information visit here:


    World Telecom Summit 2011
    9–11 November, 2011, Singapore Marriott Hotel

    World Telecom Summit 2011 is the must-attend event of the year. Bringing together top level executives and key decision makers of preeminent telecommunications companies from around the world, this is the perfect opportunity to meet the who’s who of the telecommunications and mobile industry.  It is the summit that addresses the evolving needs of telecommunications and mobile community. Get up to date with the latest innovations and technological advancements in the industry and gain access to the minds of the movers and shakers of the industry.
    Take advantage of the Limited Early Bird Rates for Operator Pass!
    For more information please visit here:  or contact Vivian at vivian.ho@olygen.com

    AITEC East Africa East Africa Summit
    2-3 November, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    East Africa has become one of the fastest growing ICT investment markets and the region’s ICT Summit it designed as the region’s forum to bring together users and vendors of ICT technology in a stimulating educational and business networking environment. The 2011 Summit programme will focus on the following themes:
    •    Data Security
    •    Mobile Apps
    •    Cloud Computing
    For the conference programme, log on to the organiser’s website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    ICT Infrastructure Summit: Banking Solutions in Growth Economies
    29-30 November, 2011,
    Kingsway Hall, Great Queen Street, London WC2

    Though technology innovation for banks in growth economies is ripe for growth, development is being stalled by some major infrastructural barriers including poor connectivity, a lack of political support, incorrect regulation and a lack of capital. The ICT Innovation for Banks in Growth Economies conference will arm you with the tools to upgrade your telecommunication infrastructure and scale up your branchless banking operations in order to reach millions of unbanked households. For further information please click here:

    AfriHealth
    30 November – 1 December 2011, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    The leading continental forum on e-health, m-health, health management systems and capacity development. AfriHealth 2011 will focus on current research, development and implementation of ICT technology and resources in the African Healthcare arena. A key objective of the conference, now in its fourth year, will be to share knowledge and experience from practical mobilization of ICT-based healthcare systems and projects, to showcase best practice through practical case studies and highlight potential for scaling up success stories at national and regional levels. For the conference programme log on to the organiser’s website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    AITEC Banking & Mobile Money COMESA
    7-8 March 2012, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    Now in its sixth year, this has become the leading educational, networking and marketing event for Eastern and Southern Africa’s financial services sector. In addition to the conference’s established intensive education programme covering core banking, mobile money and microfinance topics (over 100 speakers in 2011). For the conference programme log on to the organiser’s website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    InsureAFRICA
    7-8 March 2012, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    Insurers seeking effective performance in service delivery, cost reduction and profit levels need to embrace technology, viewing it not as a support function but as a key enabler of competitive advantage at all levels of operation. InsureAFRICA is the first specialised conference for the African insurance and pensions industry to evaluate the systems and innovative channels needed to compete and thrive in a rapidly expanding industry. With the theme “Effective management strategies and systems for a new era of expansion and inclusion”, the conference will be the continent’s first forum to gather knowledge and experience for a rapidly growing industry. For the Call for Papers, log on to the organiser’s website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    Mobile VAS Africa 2012
    14 - 15 May 2012, Johannesburg, South Africa

    Mobile VAS Africa 2012 will bring together industry experts and representatives from leading financial institutions, mobile operators and solutions providers to provide a strategic insight into mobile VAS while exploring collaborative business models, innovative applications, technologies and straegies. For more information visit here:

    Roaming & Interconnect
    16 - 17 May 2012, Johannesburg, South Africa

    RIC Africa 2012 will uncover new strategies to boost roaming traffic and retain existing roamers. During the conference we will look at the innovative roaming solutions and pricing, supplementing roaming with alternative revenue streams, the latest EU regulations and their impact on operations in Africa, as well as the importance of hubbing and convergence.  For more information please visit here:

    AITEC Banking & Mobile Money West Africa
    6 June 2012, Accra International Conference Centre

    Now in its fifth year, the conference will cover a wide range of strategic and technology topics to empower West Africa’s banking, microfinance and insurance professionals with the knowledge they need to lead their organisation effectively through the turbulent market and regulatory conditions they face. For the conference programme log on to the organiser’s website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

  • - Rene Meza has quit as CEO of Airtel Kenya after a three year stint at the second largest mobile phone service provider locally. Meza who joined Airtel Kenya on July 7th 2008 has now joined Tanzania's Vodacom in the same capacity. Airtel had in July denied unofficial reports that the MD had left the company. Airtel has been undergoing a restructuring program and in recent months has seen the exit of some senior managers.

    - Shivan Bhargava has been appointed Airtel Kenya Managing Director to replace Rene Meza who has quit to join Vodacom Tanzania in the same capacity. Bhargava was the firm’s Chief Operating Officer, a position he occupied until his appointment.

  • IT- Account Management Reference Number:
    AJS0011422

    Preferred Degree: Relevant Qualifications
    Job Type: Permanent/Full Time
    Job Country: South Africa
    Job Location: Pretoria-South Africa
    Experience (Years): 2-4
    Job Description

    Title: IT Advisory Analyst

    Business Unit: IT Advisory

    Reporting to: ITA Directors

    Purpose of the Job:

    Working as part of a national team of professionals to advise clients in managing risks associated with IT infrastructure, information management, information technology governance, business systems, projects, information security and strategic IT consulting.

    Key job duties or responsibilities:

    Forming part of a team responsible for client service delivery to scope on various IT
    Advisory and Assurance engagements;
    Extensive client liaison, working mainly off-site at client premises (travel is involved)
    Building a solid of understanding of the clients we service – the issues they face, key developments in their industry sector, etc.
    Conducting reviews of clients general and application controls, documenting findings and compiling reports
    Working to deadlines
    Act as a peer advisor to new / junior team members
    Developing areas of specialisation in line with the division's objectives;
    Building sustainable business relationships with both internal and external clients.

    Critical Technical Skills or Competencies

    IT audit experience – reviewing diverse application and general control environments
    IT Risk Management interest and understanding.
    Experience in business process analysis
    Understanding of tools and audit process methodologies
    Effective written and verbal communication
    Ability to spot problems and recommend solutions
    Interest in IT Consulting, and a desire to build a long term career in one or more of the following areas:
    IT Audit
    IT Performance and ROI
    IT Risk and Compliance
    IT Governance
    IT Security and Privacy
    ERP Implementation a

    Critical Interpersonal or Interactive skills

    Potential candidates must demonstrate strong business acumen, analytical skills, good client relationship development aptitude, high energy, an enquiring mind and professional integrity.
    Good time management skills
    Conscientious approach to delivering results on engagements
    Ability to follow instructions accurately
    Ability to work well in a team environment
    Able to remain calm and focused, even when under pressure
    Proactively evaluate own skills and knowledge, able to identify own strengths and areas for development

    Qualifications and experience

    Minimum of 2 to 3 years relevant experience in an IT Audit or IT risk consulting environment
    Completed B degree (B com / B Sc) is required
    Further relevant qualifications/certifications desirable (PMP, CISA, CISSP, CGEIT, etc)

    For further information please visit here


    The deadline for submitting projects for the Orange African Social Venture Prize has now been extended to 30 September.
    The Orange African Social Venture Prize, which was launched in June 2011, will be part of the prestigious AfricaCom Awards. In this context, the prize-giving will take place in Cape Town, South Africa, on November, 9th.
    Through the establishment of this Award, Orange is actively supporting dynamic, youngentrepreneurs and start-ups across its footprint in Africa. The prize aims to offer support to entrepreneurs who have innovative ideas for promoting social development by using IT and telecommunications technology, but do not necessarily have the financial or technical resources to put their ideas into action.
    Following numerous requests by interested candidates and to allow entrepreneurs to complete their file, the deadline for submitting projects has now been extended by two weeks. Candidates are invited to submit their dossiers via www.starafrica.com by 30 September to be eligible for the award.
    The Orange African Social Venture Prize will be awarded to three entrepreneurs or start-ups that offer solutions based on mobile networks or IT systems that are designed to address various social and welfare issues faced by Africans across the continent. Projects may range from banking or payment services to applications in essential areas such as healthcare, education and agriculture.
    In addition to the prestige of winning the award, Orange is committed to financially supporting and offering expert assistance to the winning entrepreneurs or start-ups. The three prize winners will receive an endowment of between EUR 10,000 and 25,000, and will benefit from six months of support from management and ICT experts at Orange.
    Any entrepreneur or company that has been in existence since June 2008 may participate at no cost and with no restriction on nationality. Submitted projects must be designed to be deployed in at least one of the 17 African countries in which Orange operates.
    The Orange African Social Venture Prize is coherent both with the Group’s strategy for development and with its Corporate Social Responsibility policy. By encouraging social entrepreneurship, Orange hopes to underscore the role that telecommunications technologies can play in the economic and social development of emerging countries.

telecoms

  • India's Bharti Airtel has announced that it has been awarded a GSM and 3G license in Rwanda, expanding its African continental footprint to 17 countries.

    The company added that it plans to invest over US$100 million in the country over the next three years. According to the statement, this also marks the largest investment out of India into Rwanda.

    Sunil Bharti Mittal, CMD, Bharti Airtel said, "Rwanda is a key telecom market with immense growth potential and will strengthen Bharti Airtel's footprint in East Africa."

    According to the National Statistics Institute of Rwanda, the mobile penetration in the country was 38.4%, as of July 2011.

    Last year, the regulator, the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) said that it would award a fourth mobile license when conditions were correct. However, last month, the regulator cancelled the mobile network operating license held by another network operator, Rwandatel for allegedly failing to meet its license conditions.

    The market now has just two networks, until Airtel launches its network.

    The company may have the option of buying the defunct Rwandatel network to speed its launch into the country.

  • Communications minister Roy Padayachie has downplayed recent statements by his deputy, Obed Bapela, that government may seek to allow law enforcement agencies, through the courts, to get access to the records of people using the popular BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service.

    In a strongly worded statement on Thursday, Padayachie says he aligns himself with a statement issued by justice minister Jeff Radebe, who is the coordinator of the justice cluster in government that the state has “no intention to regulate or legislate against BlackBerry encryption messenger services”.

    “Government is still working on a policy statement on cyber matters, which policy will review current regulatory and legislative instruments with respect to cyberspace matters,” he says.

    Bapela made the comments about BBM at Telkom’s annual Satnac conference in East London earlier this week, saying “a lot of criminality” was happening using the BlackBerry service. “We might have to follow Britain and Saudi Arabia to say we need to have [access to] a decryption system if crimes are committed [using the BlackBerry service],” Bapela said.

    He later clarified that government wasn’t specifically targeting BlackBerry, but any communications platform that could be used to commit crime.

    In his statement, Padayachie says he “welcomes the willingness of [BlackBerry maker] Research in Motion to work closely with government to prevent the abuse of the encrypted messenger services by criminals for unlawful purposes”. But, he says, “government has no intention to intercede or interfere with the privacy of communications between private citizens for lawful purposes.”

  • After criticising the direction of the telecoms industry in Uganda, South Africa-backed MTN Uganda has increased its on-net and off-net tariff to UGX4 (USD0.0014) per second. MTN Uganda’s chief executive Themba Khumalo said that in light of the country’s economic condition, the tariff structure needed to be adjusted to prevent the industry from ‘self-destruction’.

    For most of 2011, operators in Uganda’s cramped telecom sector have been offering calls at below cost rates; a practice which the regulator is in the process of taking steps to restrict. During a visit to Kampala last week, Sifiso Dabengwa, MTN’s CEO described the direction of the market as unsustainable, and said that it would likely be to the detriment of the industry as it would hamper investment in the sector. He went on to say that MTN is spending to upgrade its mobile money offerings, which have been suffering from ‘technical issues’.

  • The recent cellphones blackout has given birth to a fresh war of words between giant companies, the Swaziland Posts and Telecommunication Corporation (SPTC) and Swazi MTN.

    The two companies are currently embroiled in a legal battle over the One Fixed mobile phones launched by SPTC. MTN is contesting that SPTC cannot run a similar project as theirs before clearing certain things that involve sale of its (SPTC) shares with MTN. Last weekend, the country experienced a blackout that somehow was placed squarely on SPTC’s laps. MTN further apologised to its customers over the blackout.

    “SPTC wishes to unequivocally disassociate itself from Swazi MTN’s network outage experienced on Saturday. The statement issued by Swazi MTN imputing that the outage was as a result of a break in the SPTC backbone link between Mbabane and Matsapha is wholly inaccurate and lacks any basis whatsoever,” reads the statement in part.

    SPTC management stated that they were not privy to reasons behind Swazi MTN’s unfounded assertion.
    “However, we are cognisant of the detrimental effects the statement has on the image of SPTC as a telecommunications service provider both domestically and globally”. There was no immediate comment from MTN.

    In April High Court Judge Bheki Maphalala declared that there is not a conflict of interest in the SPTC entering the retail market as it was no longer a shareholder in MTN Swaziland, having recently transferred its 41% shareholding to the Ministry of Finance. Further, Maphalala indicated that the SPTC has shed its regulatory responsibilities, handing them over to the government’s Ministry of Communications. In January the SPTC provoked MTN’s ire when it denied the cellco a 3G licence despite the fact that the network had successfully been trialled during the Common Market for Eastern & Southern Africa (COMESA) summit in August 2010. No reason was provided for the licence refusal.

internet

  • Kenya will soon be hooked to yet another undersea fibre optic cable following the near completion of the laying of a France Telecom funded Lower Indian Ocean Network 2 (LION2).

    The ship laying the LION 2 — which is set to be Kenya’s fourth undersea fibre optic cable — arrived in Mombasa last Tuesday, marking the completion of actual cable laying.

    The cable will now be connected to a main submarine cable in international waters for testing, and is expected to go live in the course of the first half of next year.

    The 56.5 million euros (Sh7.5 billion) LION2 will connect Kenya to Mayotte, Madagascar, Mauritius and La Reunion Islands.

    LION2 is an extension of LION, which connects the Indian Ocean Islands to the world. The initial LION was laid in March last year.

    France Telecom, through its subsidiaries in the region — Mauritius Telecom, Orange Madagascar and Telkom Kenya — is a major investor in the second phase of the cable and has put in Sh4.18 billion of the Sh7.5 billion.

    The new cable will be a boost to Telkom Kenya, which is actively pursuing deployment of Internet infrastructure in Kenya after it launched a high speed 3G network last week.

  • FNB Connect has announced that it will be offering its ADSL customers free access to YouTube. This means that customers who are registered for FNB Connect Surf can now browse the world’s most popular video viewing site between 7pm and 11pm until August 2012 at no cost. Registration is free and newly registered users also get 1 (one) free GB of ADSL data to browse other sites.

    FNB Connect previously launched a free YouTube promotion for a period of 2 (two) months and has now decided to re-launch this promotion based on customer uptake and demand.

    Farren Roper, Head of Products and Markets at FNB Connect says “This has been very popular amongst our clients and we achieved a 70% growth rate base on our last promotion. We would like to offer this to our ADSL customers to thank them for their continued patronage as well as attract a new base of customers who want to enjoy this data indulgence.”

    FNB has in the past month made strides into the digital world with the launch of South Africa’s first banking App. Roper goes on to say “The increased emphasis on digital is deliberate and in line with our overall approach.  We have taken a customer centric view, championing the cause for low cost internet access and an increased digital presence.”

    With the free YouTube promotion, FNB Connect now offers their ADSL clients free data in order to access popular social networking sites, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube respectively. FNB Connect offers unshaped data for ADSL, which means that users can expect a faster experience. “Our customers can expect quality free surfing at great speeds,” concludes Roper.

  • President Paul Kagame will, this week, host members of the Global Broadband Commission for Digital Development, to a two-day event that starts September 8, in Kigali.

    The broadband commission brings together some of the world's top leaders in governments, industry and international community to devise strategies for accelerated deployment and access to broadband technology globally.

    President Kagame co-chairs the commission alongside Mexican Billionaire, Carlos Slim.

    "The Commission brings together some of the world's leading figures in government,industry,academia and development community to draw strategies for using technology to address some of the world's most intricate and complex developmental challenges facing mankind," David Kanamugire, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of ICT, said in an interview.

    He added that despite the proven benefits of broadband technology, there is always a risk of these technologies taking decades before benefits trickle down to the billions of people in the world that need them.

    "Failure to timely seize the technological opportunities renders nations and their societies trapped in poverty and unable to effectively compete on the global arena."

    The two day meeting will also bring together African Ministers of ICT, regulators as well as youth from around the continent.

    The first day of the meeting will see the commissioners and African policy makers interact with the African youth on broadband opportunities and challenges faced by the youth. On the second day, President Kagame will co-host the commission meeting together with Slim.

computing

  • Kenya Data Network  (KDN) has unveiled a multimillion-dollar state-of-the art data center to be used for hosting data and software applications.

    Speaking at the launch this week, KDN Chief Executive Officer Rikus Matthyser said the Data Center, now ready for occupation, is a unique facility offering reliability and convenience for corporate clients and financial institutions looking for international standard facilities.

    “This Data Center is testament to our commitment to provide world class services in the field of ICT in this part of the World.  The unique facility will enable our clients achieve their business objectives while cutting down on their overheads in telecommunications and data storage infrastructure,” said Matthyser.

    “As KDN, we are committed to providing convenient service through innovative products in telecoms in the region and are looking to develop our clients’ efficiency.  The center is a facility set up to provide physical environment that will ensure the day-to-day running of various communication equipment and application systems with a main objective of ensuring availability levels meet clients expectations at an affordable costs,” he added.

    He said the center was designed with a typical KDN customer in mind and offers world-class services while guaranteeing safety of the data stored in it.

    It is proposed that the data centre, located at Sameer Park off Mombasa road, will host applications to serve international and local businesses.
It is expected that the centre will relieve the region from the task of seeking back-up services in Europe and America.

    Breaking ground for the Sh600 million (about $US 6.4 million) centre in December 2009 Kenya Prime Minister Raila Odinga said government was keen to make Kenya a green economy by 2020.

    The solar powered energy data centre will serve Kenya and other African countries willing to safeguard essential data under a secure environment.
 Technology employed in building the centre will ensure the structure can withstand even a bomb attack.

    The centre is classified at security level seven, which is the highest in the world and similar to that of the United Nations and top intelligence agencies across the world where secure data is vital.
ICT experts say many companies spend between two to four per cent of their budget on disaster recovery planning.

    Completion of the data storage facility is therefore expected to save the companies from losses and damage resulting from interruptions of their infrastructure and data. 
KDN partnered with Teldor Cables and Systems to supply and deploy a fibre optic network to be used in the new data centre.

    Matthyser said that the center is targeted at a global market focusing mainly on offering of hosting services to clients in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

  • Admire Bio has the reassured presence of a successful businesswoman, with an edge that reveals she is still hungry for more. Bio, 28, a single mother living with her parents, set up her first internet cafe in the Sierra Leone capital, Freetown, only a year ago. She has expanded with two more branches, and plans to go national if she can secure a bank loan.

    "My biggest motivation is challenging men," she says, "to [get women to] say: 'Yes! I can be successful without you'."

    But things aren't easy. "Men make you dependent," says Bio. "Women only get loans with collateral from male relatives. My fiance offered his land. Worse, it's common to be pressured into sex by bank staff, if there isn't a man's backing, when women apply for loans. I'm angry women can't succeed alone."

    The swell of internet users in her cafe tells Bio she is on a winning road. Access to the internet and computer literacy is an area of much needed growth and investment. Only around 0.3% of the population are described as internet users, while fibre-optic broadband will not arrive until next year. Bio offers women evening computer courses "to make them stronger".

    Meanwhile, mobile phones are ubiquitous, in urban areas at least, with around 26% of people owning one. In the absence of widespread internet access, mobiles have been seen as something of a panacea for development in Africa.

    Kenya's M-Pesa money-transfer is hailed by technology gurus and development experts alike as an example of how poverty can be bypassed and development hastened. However, "banking the unbanked" has been questioned by some, as mobile money often caters for already affluent groups.

    M-Pesa's success inspired Sheka Forna back to his homeland, Sierra Leone, to start Splash. Since it launched in 2009, Splash has convinced around 100,000 people to forsake real money for the virtual kind, effectively using their sim cards as bank accounts.

    Airtel's Zap cash transfer service has changed the way Sierra Leone's city dwellers buy a coffee or receive their salaries. But Splash's growth has been slower than the company's projections, says Forna. "We're a new brand, and phone coverage is low and expensive. Getting nationwide agents to deal in Splash cash has been hard, with poor literacy and a limited mobile-savvy market."

    Facilitating microcredit repayments through mobiles was the initial spur for M-Pesa. In Sierra Leone though, the technological leap with microcredit has so far been more of a stumble.

    Hope Micro was among the largest microfinance institutions in the country. But it suffered a 20% portfolio loss (around $300,000) when half its customers defaulted in 2009. "With no credit-rating agency, customers held the equivalent of multiple credit cards. It's a blow for women – they're 85% of our clients," says SD Kanu, the institution's director.

    Hope Micro embarked on a six-month pilot with Splash to reduce interest rates (currently 36%) and add a competitive edge. "It wasn't successful," says Kanu. "Few of our customers are mobile-literate. Splash agents are small shopkeepers and their revenue wasn't enough to be committed."

    To build mobile literacy, Splash and Hope Micro have started a new pilot: dispersing loans "to get customers used to the idea that their money is actually there", explains Kanu. In just one month, the pilot has already dispersed $30,000.

    The Sierra Leone technology market is still in its infancy, says Trina DasGupta, director of the mWomen programme, which aims to boost female phone ownership with a view to improving access to services and increasing economic empowerment.

    Part of the problem is a gender gap in phone ownership; in Sierra Leone, women are 43% less likely than men to own a mobile. "This means poor women are kept in the financial and information dark ages – relying on men who are the primary phone owners," she says.

    This year, the US state department sent a fact-finding mission of women technology experts and entrepreneurs to see how technology can reduce poverty and close the gender gap.

    "There wasn't a businesswomen's group to introduce the delegation to," says Naasu Fofanah of Unipsil, the UN's peacebuilding office. "This was a startling gap. We know effective development comes when women are targeted. The same has to be true when improving women's ability to do business, for example, with women's unfettered access to finance and improving their technological knowhow."

    "There's a need to nurture a culture of real entrepreneurship to allow women to grow. As a first step, we need to put businesswomen on the map," she says.

    Unipsil and local NGO Afford-SL are working with women across the country to establish a national business network. "Once we have this kind of structure we can begin to bridge the gap between urban and rural businesses, for example, through technology, networking and training," says Manja Kargbo of Afford-SL.

    "Yes, I'll join a women's network," says Admire Bio. "I always tell women they can be like me - stronger by saving, investing and doing business with technology."

  • With this new approach to learning, the children will become more creative and innovative as the laptops help enhance what they are taught in schools in a more practical way.

    The country has invested a lot in technology, as evidenced by the completion of the laying of the fiber optic.

    According to the OLPC programme coordinator, Rwanda targets to have half a million laptops in primary schools across the country.

    The benefits of such an investment may not be in the short term, however, by starting to impart technology skills to the children at a young age, they will grow to become the future IT experts.

    Various sectors including health, banking, transport, infrastructure, telecommunication and local government are adopting modern technology into their daily operations. The country has, in the past, relied on foreign expertise to develop, run and maintain these systems.

    But, with programmes like the OLPC, the will be a vast human resource base that is technologically advanced to foster the much needed expertise to propel the country to greater heights.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has confirmed that France Telecom (FT) is the only bidder for its 49% stake in Congo Chine Telecom (CCT). Already in talks with Chinese vendor ZTE for its 51% share of the company, FT is expected to pay around EUR300 million (USD) in total for the operator, a reflection of its level of debt, rather than its value. Reuter reports that, Elie Girard, FT’s executive director said that this is an ‘important step, but not the final step of the process of the withdrawal of the state from CCT and the acquisition’. The move is part of a broader strategy from FT to increase its presence in emerging markets to offset increasing competition and declining revenues in Europe. France Telecom CEO Stéphane Richard said that the company also looks to bolster its leadership in Egypt.

  • The government expects consumers and smaller operators to benefit from the formation of a new private/public organisation that will build and manage Long Term Evolution (LTE) infrastructure, commonly known as 4G.

    The move by the Ministry of Information and Communication is seen as an admission of flaws in the licensing and allocation of 3G spectrum, where operators have been unable to fully roll out infrastructure because of expensive licence fees ($15 million or Sh1.4 billion) and high capital expenditure.

    Currently, Safaricom has the most extensive 3G infrastructure with 1,500 base stations on 3G compared to about 2,500 base stations country wide. Telkom Kenya has 220 sites on 3G while Airtel is currently testing its 3G network.

    Globally, technology has moved to LTE, which is seen as an answer to connecting rural and under-served areas though the cost of rolling out the infrastructure is prohibitive for operators who are yet to take 3G out of major towns to rural areas.

    The expense and slow roll out even by bigger operators prompted the government to invite bids for public private partnership to build, operate and maintain a national open access network, which will bring together operators and equipment vendors.

    In the public-private partnership, the government hopes to set a global precedent, where operators can share both active and passive components in the network.

    "This will be a first in the world where operators will share both passive and active infrastructure, the benefits will be passed on to the consumer in form of cheaper broadband," said Dr Bitange Ndemo permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication.

    Ideally, an open access platform will benefit small and big companies that will have an opportunity to provide services without worrying much about expensive licence fees or the capital expenditure of rolling out the network.

    "In principle, having a single (large) network should not be a problem, normally the concern arises around who is going to manage or maintain it and how will it be managed," said Mr Dobek Pater, senior telecoms analyst at Africa Analysis, an ICT consultancy firm.

    There has been discontent in the industry over the advert requirement that the private partner must be tier 1 network operator, 20 per cent Kenyan owned and ability to roll out to 47 counties within a year.

    Some players feel that the requirements were skewed in favour of the largest mobile network but Mr Ndemo sees the move as a savior to smaller ISPs which have been unable to compete with mobile networks.

    "This is the only way to salvage Internet Service Providers owned by small businesses to be able to compete; people need to understand open access and shared infrastructure," said Mr Ndemo.

    Globally, there is no uniformity on the spectrum band for use in LTE. For instance, Safaricom is testing LTE on its GSM band, which may interfere with other services already on offer like voice, 3G and 2G.

    Globally, LTE is optimised for 2.6GHz but Kenya faces a bigger trick because that spectrum is currently being used by the military.

    The Communications Commission of Kenya has been in discussions with the military to migrate its services to fibre and release the spectrum, even though CCK has also maintained that there are other available mechanisms like utilising the analogue spectrum, which will be released by the television stations, once Kenya migrates to the digital platform. The spectrum, commonly known as digital dividend is on 700 MHz band, is expected to be reallocated on a competitive basis.

  • Is French telecommunications giant Orange, the mobile subsidiary of France Telecom, buying JSE-listed IT services company Business Connexion (BCX)? Three separate industry sources, none of whom is employed by either company, have told TechCentral they understand the two parties are in discussions about a deal.

    Orange has long been rumoured to be sniffing around the SA market for an acquisition. A couple of years ago, it was rumoured to be interested in Cell C, though that speculation was never firmed up.

    A purchase of BCX, one of the largest listed IT companies on the JSE, would cost the French operator — which owns networks in a range of francophone countries in Africa — billions of rand, assuming it swallows the whole company.

    BCX CEO Benjamin Mophatlane says he can’t confirm or deny the two companies are in talks. “We do not comment on a cautionary [notice],” he says. An Orange spokesman in France says the company has “no official comment”.

    BCX — which is trading under a cautionary notice because it is in discussions that could affect its share price — has a market capitalisation of R2,2bn. An acquisition would be the biggest foreign direct investment in SA’s technology sector since last year’s blockbuster R24,4bn acquisition by Japan’s Nippon Telegraph and Telephone of Dimension Data.

    Orange is the world’s fifth largest mobile phone operator, with more than 210m customers. In Africa, it has businesses in Kenya, Cameroon, Senegal, Madagascar, Reunion, Tunisia, Uganda, Botswana, Mauritius, the Central African Republic, Mali, Niger, Equatorial Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire.

    BCX, meanwhile, has stated it is keen to expand more aggressively in Africa and analysts polled by TechCentral say a tie-up with Orange would allow it to grow into new markets on the continent where the French company already has operations.

    If market speculation is correct — and one source believes a deal between Orange and BCX could be concluded within weeks, pending regulatory approvals — it could send tremors through the local IT services industry.

    As telecoms operators and IT services firms increasingly converge on each other’s markets, mergers are becoming more commonplace. Telecoms firms see IT services as a new growth area and IT companies are increasingly considering it necessary to align themselves with operators.

    If a deal between Orange and BCX is on the cards, it will be the second time in recent years that the SA company has been courted by an operator. In 2006, Telkom offered R2,4bn to buy the company, but was thwarted by the competition authorities over concerns the deal could have a deleterious effect on competition in the IT market.

  • Airtel Uganda has suspended plans to stop accepting inbound calls from Uganda Telecom following intervention from the government.

    Airtel has been in dispute with Uganda Telecom for some time over a US$2.3 million debt that Telecom is struggling to pay.

    "They have agreed a new payments plan and so will not to switch off Uganda Telecom calls," Godfrey Mutabazi, the executive director of the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) told the East African Business Week. "Both UCC and the ministry of information and communication technology have agreed with Airtel not to go ahead and lock out Uganda Telecom subscribers from accessing their network." he added. The details of the settlement and the debt repayment plan are being kept confidential.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • -  In South Africa, First National Bank has launched a new service called Pay2Cell that allows its accountholders to make payments to other FNB accountholders using only the recipient’s cellphone number. To make a payment, customers must be registered for cellphone banking. To receive payments, they only need to be registered for inContact, FNB’s SMS notification service. There is a limit of R1 500/transaction.

    - Mozambique's publicly owned mobile phone operator, M-Cel, has announced that it is launching onto the market a cell phone that will cost only 449 meticais (about 16.5 US dollars). This phone, which M-Cel claims will be the cheapest on the market, is an Alcatel OT208 multi-functional handset. In June, Vodacom launched what was then the cheapest cell phone on the Mozambican market - the Chinese-made model ZTE S512, which sells for 499 meticais.

    - South Africa’s mobile service provider Vodacom has unveiled a new step to protect its customers from cellphone fraud by automatically locking a SIM card if any irregular call activity is detected. Vodacom stated that they saw an increase in the number of cases relating to International Revenue Share Fraud (IRSF), and with this fraud a syndicate steals handsets or SIM cards from victims and uses them to dial international premium numbers which could result in cellphone bills as high as R120 000.

    - Samsung has unveiled the Galaxy S II smartphone in Kenya. Speaking in Nairobi during the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S II, Samsung Electronics East Africa Business Leader, Robert Ngeru confirmed that the Android powered smartphone would be hitting the market to further enhance Samsung’s local offering.

    - Zimbabwe’s largest mobile operator, Econet Wireless, will at end of the month launch a mobile payment system that makes it possible for Zimbabweans to pay bills using their cellphones. The company said it had spent millions of dollars on developing the system, which will be launched to its over 5 million customers, completely eliminating the need for any notes for purchases below USD20.

    - In Liberia, mobile operators Cellcom and Lonestar/MTN have launched mobile banking services. Cellcom has joined ranks with UBA Bank while Lonestar/MTN has partnered with Ecobank. Statistics also show that just about only 10% of Liberians have bank accounts while over 40% of the population has mobile phones. So, with difficult roads and limited formal banking facilities around Liberia mobile banking services will provide the opportunity for more Liberians, particularly in the rural areas to have access to cash, transfer money, pay bills, do business and improve their lives economically.

    - News24 and Samsung South Africa have combined to produce the first local Smart TV application. The News24 app can be accessed from any Samsung Smart TV and offers the hooked-in user news reports, the latest sports results, financial indicators, celebrity gossip and much more. The move mirrors the recent UK launch of the BBC News app on Samsung TVs.

    - Mobile operator, Cell C has deployed its HSPA+ network in Welkom, Kroonstad and Koppies, extending its coverage in the Free State. The latest expansion of the network now puts Cell C's national coverage at 63% of the South African population.

Digital Content

  • Technology company, Google, plans to reduce the cost of smart phones in Africa to an affordable range in order to boost the use of the internet.

    The company intends to sell genuine smart phones at prices below Shs225,000 ($80) to encourage more Africans to abandon basic phones with a few functions, according to Mr Nelson Mattos, the vice president for Google Europe, Middle East and Africa.

    Smart phones are those designed with the internet and thousands of applications to enable their users to rely on them as mini-computers.

    Genuine smart phones from companies like; Nokia, Samsung, Apple, LG and Huawei cost between $90 and $800 a range that is out of reach for ordinary Africans and other developing markets.

    “When you look at the disposable income in Africa compared to that in Europe, the price (of smart phones) in Africa today is 100 times more. So, it’s not surprising that the uptake of smart phones in Europe is taking off and not in Africa,” Mr Mattos told Daily Monitor in interview yesterday during the Google conference in Kampala.

    He added that Google’s planned partnership with US firm Motorola, maker of Motorola phones, is aimed at creating affordable smart phones for its emerging markets including Africa and Asia.
    “We know that majority of people in Africa access the internet via the mobile phone, Motorola being a player in that industry will allow us to speed up access to the internet through the uptake of smart phones,” he said.

    Uganda has about 4 million internet users who access the internet at least once a month, according to the Uganda Communications Commission.

    Google, which has operations in Uganda is playing a key role to promote the use of the internet through creating local content for internet users.

    For instance, the company has mapped most key and relevant places in Uganda and has also translated its search engine to Luganda, Kiswahili, Luo and Runyakitara.

  • Social media has moved incredibly quickly from a specialist tool to a must-have channel of engagement with customers.

    Building on the unique one on one conversation that social media makes possible, Vodacom has increased the number of people working in its specialist dedicated customer care team and increased their hours of operation.

    The customer care team are now live on Twitter (@vodacom111) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/Vodacom) from 7am to 10pm every day, including weekends.

    “I don’t think any of us had an inkling what we were letting ourselves in for back in early 2010 when we kicked off our social media activity on Twitter. We made two key decisions which are really paying dividends.

    First, we set up the dedicated Twitter channel for customer care, @vodacom111, and made sure that the people resolving the queries were frontline on Twitter with nowhere to hide. We then added to that same team and put them on to the Facebook page as well, scouring customer posts for issues to resolve,” said Portia Maurice, Chief Officer Corporate Affairs.

    With more than 27 million customers in South Africa, Vodacom’s social media team were always going to have their work cut out for them. From starting up a year and a half ago, the reality has been beyond any expectations.

    The company now has more than 20,000 followers on its two main Twitter channels and is rapidly approaching 100,000 Facebook fans, giving the team a huge volume of customer care queries to handle.

    “There’s always a challenge separating customer care activities from all the other engagements that happen via our social media channels but with the structure we’ve put in place, I think we’ve found a good balance,” Maurice added.

Issue no 571 9th September 2011

node ref id: 22940

Top story

  • In most African countries, mobile users are spoiled with attractive mobile promotion on voice services. In Kenya and Uganda, a price war has however left the mobile operators dubious on this approach being the right on. While African mobile operators try to retain their mobile users attention, differentiating their mobile offering from the competitors’ ones remains vital tool for them. Isabelle Gross spoke to Kevin Coleman, Business Development Director EMEA at Digitata and Hilton Goodhead, CTO at Rorotika Technologies about their dynamic billing product/platform for mobile voice services and theirs plans to launch a similar product/platform for data services.

    The launch of the “Glo Flexi” tariff plan by Globacom at the beginning of September marks the entry of Digitata dynamic billing platform in the Nigerian telecoms market. According to Kevin Coleman, Globacom is the first mobile operator offering dynamic billing in Nigeria although MTN which is the largest mobile operator in Nigeria has a similar offer “MTN Zone” but the tariff plan is not operational in the country. Digitata dynamic billing platform gives the ability to a mobile operator to offer discounts on voice calls according the time of the day and/or the location of the mobile subscribers. In Nigeria for example, Glo Flexi tariff has been launched with an offering of up to 99% discounts on voice calls for its subscribers. It is still too early to forecast the uptake of the new tariff plan in Nigeria but Digitata has seen at the past some massive uptake to up 80% of the subscriber base in some African markets. The level and the pace of the uptake depend also on how the mobile operator decides to communicate the new offering to its subscribers and while some African mobile operators have relied on the traditional flyers, SMS and word of mouth to promote the new tariffs others have rolled more aggressive information campaigns like sending on the street “road warriors” in charge of explaining and educating subscribers on the benefits of the new tariff plan.

    The Digitata’s dynamic billing platform is currently active across 16 mobile networks in Africa and the company is looking further to increasing it footprint on the continent. In a couple of week, there will be further launches in the Southern African region. Kevin Coleman explains further that the product is well suited for prepaid markets where calling costs remain high and customers are very price sensitive. The billing platform often sells well with the number two mobile operator in a country or the ones that want to be more innovative. There are also no limitations on the size of the mobile subscriber base. Digitata’s dynamic billing platform works with a subscriber base as small as 100,000 up to several millions. Although Kevin Coleman didn’t want to give too many details on the price of the billing platform, he added that the technology is competitively priced and that mobile operators can acquire a licence for a one-off fee or chose to make recurring payments based on the number of mobile users registered to the service. According to him, investing in a dynamic billing platform offers to mobile operators good returns on investment in terms of customer churn reduction, network congestion management and additional voice revenue from customers signing up for the service. Hilton Goodhead points out that it can help further mobile operators to reduce capital costs through a more streamlined utilisation of the existing network facilities.

    I met Kevin Coleman last November at AfriCom in Cape Town and at that time he already told me that Digitata’s R&D team was working hard on expanding their dynamic billing platform to include mobile data services. Today, we have an official launch date: Q1-2012. According to him, the development of a dynamic billing platform for data services presented quite some technical challenges to overcome. He explains for example that once a data connection is established it is not obvious with what or who the dynamic billing interface interacts with. It could be the device only since most 3G phones keep looking for a connection or a human being holding the device. There were also issues to solve regarding the type of data and their prioritisation. Kevin Coleman is confident that this new product which is aimed at mobile operators in developed and emerging markets will quickly gain traction because across the world (and in Africa), mobile operators that have launched mobile Internet services on their 3G network face and will face more serious network congestions because of the growing number data hungry smartphones hooking up on their networks. Further today mobile data pricing models are pretty dull. They come either unlimited or capped and therefore a pricing model based on time and location will definitely provide a different way to sell mobile data services in Africa and in the rest of the world. 
     

     


     

    New video clips on Balancing Act’s You Tube Channel:

    Jason Njoku, CEO, Iroko Partners
    on distributing Nollywood and Nigerian Music using You Tube

    Emma Kaye, CEO, Bozza on South African townships creating their own online content

    Julian VanPlato, CEO, Trans Digital Media on a new live streaming mobile service for Africa

    Sami Leino, COO, Spinlet
    on the launch of an "iTunes" for Africa

    Ofer Ronen, Business Development Director
    - Broadcast, Gilat Satcom on its move into African broadcast services

    South Africa: Styli Charalambous, Managing Director, The Daily Maverick on its new iPad subscription service

    Steve Vosloo, mLabs on supporting mobile innovation in South Africa

    Arun Nagar, CEO, Spice VAS Africa on launching its African platforms and live streaming

    Robert Aouad, CEO Isocel Benin on opening a carrier-neutral data centre in Benin

    Balancing Act's Twitter feed provides a combination of breaking news for telecoms, Internet and broadcast in Africa, direct tweets from countries visited and access to the occasional rumours circulating. You can follow us on:
    @BalancingActAfr

More

  • Nigeria Com
    20 - 21 September, 2011, Lagos, Nigeria

    The 2nd annual Nigeria Com returns to Lagos. Gain unique market perspectives and insights from a 40 strong speaker-line up including 25+ Operator leaders. The 2 day agenda equips you to capitalise on new networks and services, while the 60 stand networking exhibition will showcase the world’s foremost technology and solutions available for your business. With 700+ attendees, if you do telecoms business in the region, this is an event you cannot afford to miss!
    For more information visit here:

    Mozambique National ICT Congress
    5-6 October 2011, Centro Internacional de Conferencia Joaquim Chissano, Maputo

    Held under the auspices of the Mozambique Ministry of Science & Technology and organised by AITEC Africa, this is the annual gathering of Mozambique’s rapidly growing ICT community, with a two-day conference and industry expo. Users and vendors of ICT systems and solutions will be sharing challenges, knowledge and ideas in the stimulating conference programme, with high-level local and international speakers. There is simultaneous translation between English and Portuguese to facilitate international participation. The event will also include the second annual National Communications Roundtable, providing operators, ISPs, users and service providers with an opportunity to discuss the country’s national communications strategy with the regulator. For the full programme log on to the organiser’s website here:  To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    North Africa Com
    11 - 12 October, 2011, Tunis, Tunisia

    Now in its 6th year, the ONLY conference and exhibition dedicated to the North African telecoms market moves to Tunisia to address the dynamic French-speaking markets.
    The expanded conference agenda is now in development and will feature a host of new topics led by a speaker panel featuring some of North Africa's leading telcos.  Contact us today to apply to speak in the conference, or reserve your sponsorship or exhibition package. Be one of the first to see the 2011 agenda and sign up for your copy.
    For more information visit here:

    CDN World Summit 2011
    26 - 28 October 2011, Hilton Hotel Paddington, London.

    The 3rd annual CDN World Summit promises to be the largest and most
    comprehensive CDN event ever.The full value chain is represented including content providers,broadcast operators, traditional and telco CDNs, represented by industry leaders such as; FilmFlex Movies, BT Wholesale and AT&T.
    For more information visit here:

    Digital Migration and Spectrum Policy Summit
    29 October to 01 November 2011, Nairobi, Kenya.

    For more informtion visit here:

    Africa Com
    9 - 10 November, 2011, Cape Town, SA

    Join 5,000 of Africa’s leading telcos in Cape Town this November for what is set to be the biggest and best AfricaCom yet.  The conference agenda has doubled to incorporate a record 150+ speakers presenting across 4 strategic keynotes, 11 in-depth focus sessions and 2 co-located events – AfricaCast and Enterprise ICT Africa.  What’s more 250+ international solutions providers will be showcasing their latest products in the networking exhibition. For more information visit here:


    World Telecom Summit 2011
    9–11 November, 2011, Singapore Marriott Hotel

    World Telecom Summit 2011 is the must-attend event of the year. Bringing together top level executives and key decision makers of preeminent telecommunications companies from around the world, this is the perfect opportunity to meet the who’s who of the telecommunications and mobile industry.  It is the summit that addresses the evolving needs of telecommunications and mobile community. Get up to date with the latest innovations and technological advancements in the industry and gain access to the minds of the movers and shakers of the industry.
    Take advantage of the Limited Early Bird Rates for Operator Pass!
    For more information please visit here:  or contact Vivian at vivian.ho@olygen.com

    AITEC East Africa East Africa Summit
    2-3 November, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    East Africa has become one of the fastest growing ICT investment markets and the region’s ICT Summit it designed as the region’s forum to bring together users and vendors of ICT technology in a stimulating educational and business networking environment. The 2011 Summit programme will focus on the following themes:
    •    Data Security
    •    Mobile Apps
    •    Cloud Computing
    For the conference programme, log on to the organiser’s website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    ICT Infrastructure Summit: Banking Solutions in Growth Economies
    29-30 November, 2011,
    Kingsway Hall, Great Queen Street, London WC2

    Though technology innovation for banks in growth economies is ripe for growth, development is being stalled by some major infrastructural barriers including poor connectivity, a lack of political support, incorrect regulation and a lack of capital. The ICT Innovation for Banks in Growth Economies conference will arm you with the tools to upgrade your telecommunication infrastructure and scale up your branchless banking operations in order to reach millions of unbanked households. For further information please click here:

    AfriHealth
    30 November – 1 December 2011, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    The leading continental forum on e-health, m-health, health management systems and capacity development. AfriHealth 2011 will focus on current research, development and implementation of ICT technology and resources in the African Healthcare arena. A key objective of the conference, now in its fourth year, will be to share knowledge and experience from practical mobilization of ICT-based healthcare systems and projects, to showcase best practice through practical case studies and highlight potential for scaling up success stories at national and regional levels. For the conference programme log on to the organiser’s website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    AITEC Banking & Mobile Money COMESA
    7-8 March 2012, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    Now in its sixth year, this has become the leading educational, networking and marketing event for Eastern and Southern Africa’s financial services sector. In addition to the conference’s established intensive education programme covering core banking, mobile money and microfinance topics (over 100 speakers in 2011). For the conference programme log on to the organiser’s website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    InsureAFRICA
    7-8 March 2012, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    Insurers seeking effective performance in service delivery, cost reduction and profit levels need to embrace technology, viewing it not as a support function but as a key enabler of competitive advantage at all levels of operation. InsureAFRICA is the first specialised conference for the African insurance and pensions industry to evaluate the systems and innovative channels needed to compete and thrive in a rapidly expanding industry. With the theme “Effective management strategies and systems for a new era of expansion and inclusion”, the conference will be the continent’s first forum to gather knowledge and experience for a rapidly growing industry. For the Call for Papers, log on to the organiser’s website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    Mobile VAS Africa 2012
    14 - 15 May 2012, Johannesburg, South Africa

    Mobile VAS Africa 2012 will bring together industry experts and representatives from leading financial institutions, mobile operators and solutions providers to provide a strategic insight into mobile VAS while exploring collaborative business models, innovative applications, technologies and straegies. For more information visit here:

    Roaming & Interconnect
    16 - 17 May 2012, Johannesburg, South Africa

    RIC Africa 2012 will uncover new strategies to boost roaming traffic and retain existing roamers. During the conference we will look at the innovative roaming solutions and pricing, supplementing roaming with alternative revenue streams, the latest EU regulations and their impact on operations in Africa, as well as the importance of hubbing and convergence.  For more information please visit here:

    AITEC Banking & Mobile Money West Africa
    6 June 2012, Accra International Conference Centre

    Now in its fifth year, the conference will cover a wide range of strategic and technology topics to empower West Africa’s banking, microfinance and insurance professionals with the knowledge they need to lead their organisation effectively through the turbulent market and regulatory conditions they face. For the conference programme log on to the organiser’s website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

  • - Rene Meza has quit as CEO of Airtel Kenya after a three year stint at the second largest mobile phone service provider locally. Meza who joined Airtel Kenya on July 7th 2008 has now joined Tanzania's Vodacom in the same capacity. Airtel had in July denied unofficial reports that the MD had left the company. Airtel has been undergoing a restructuring program and in recent months has seen the exit of some senior managers.

    - Shivan Bhargava has been appointed Airtel Kenya Managing Director to replace Rene Meza who has quit to join Vodacom Tanzania in the same capacity. Bhargava was the firm’s Chief Operating Officer, a position he occupied until his appointment.

  • IT- Account Management Reference Number:
    AJS0011422

    Preferred Degree: Relevant Qualifications
    Job Type: Permanent/Full Time
    Job Country: South Africa
    Job Location: Pretoria-South Africa
    Experience (Years): 2-4
    Job Description

    Title: IT Advisory Analyst

    Business Unit: IT Advisory

    Reporting to: ITA Directors

    Purpose of the Job:

    Working as part of a national team of professionals to advise clients in managing risks associated with IT infrastructure, information management, information technology governance, business systems, projects, information security and strategic IT consulting.

    Key job duties or responsibilities:

    Forming part of a team responsible for client service delivery to scope on various IT
    Advisory and Assurance engagements;
    Extensive client liaison, working mainly off-site at client premises (travel is involved)
    Building a solid of understanding of the clients we service – the issues they face, key developments in their industry sector, etc.
    Conducting reviews of clients general and application controls, documenting findings and compiling reports
    Working to deadlines
    Act as a peer advisor to new / junior team members
    Developing areas of specialisation in line with the division's objectives;
    Building sustainable business relationships with both internal and external clients.

    Critical Technical Skills or Competencies

    IT audit experience – reviewing diverse application and general control environments
    IT Risk Management interest and understanding.
    Experience in business process analysis
    Understanding of tools and audit process methodologies
    Effective written and verbal communication
    Ability to spot problems and recommend solutions
    Interest in IT Consulting, and a desire to build a long term career in one or more of the following areas:
    IT Audit
    IT Performance and ROI
    IT Risk and Compliance
    IT Governance
    IT Security and Privacy
    ERP Implementation a

    Critical Interpersonal or Interactive skills

    Potential candidates must demonstrate strong business acumen, analytical skills, good client relationship development aptitude, high energy, an enquiring mind and professional integrity.
    Good time management skills
    Conscientious approach to delivering results on engagements
    Ability to follow instructions accurately
    Ability to work well in a team environment
    Able to remain calm and focused, even when under pressure
    Proactively evaluate own skills and knowledge, able to identify own strengths and areas for development

    Qualifications and experience

    Minimum of 2 to 3 years relevant experience in an IT Audit or IT risk consulting environment
    Completed B degree (B com / B Sc) is required
    Further relevant qualifications/certifications desirable (PMP, CISA, CISSP, CGEIT, etc)

    For further information please visit here


    The deadline for submitting projects for the Orange African Social Venture Prize has now been extended to 30 September.
    The Orange African Social Venture Prize, which was launched in June 2011, will be part of the prestigious AfricaCom Awards. In this context, the prize-giving will take place in Cape Town, South Africa, on November, 9th.
    Through the establishment of this Award, Orange is actively supporting dynamic, youngentrepreneurs and start-ups across its footprint in Africa. The prize aims to offer support to entrepreneurs who have innovative ideas for promoting social development by using IT and telecommunications technology, but do not necessarily have the financial or technical resources to put their ideas into action.
    Following numerous requests by interested candidates and to allow entrepreneurs to complete their file, the deadline for submitting projects has now been extended by two weeks. Candidates are invited to submit their dossiers via www.starafrica.com by 30 September to be eligible for the award.
    The Orange African Social Venture Prize will be awarded to three entrepreneurs or start-ups that offer solutions based on mobile networks or IT systems that are designed to address various social and welfare issues faced by Africans across the continent. Projects may range from banking or payment services to applications in essential areas such as healthcare, education and agriculture.
    In addition to the prestige of winning the award, Orange is committed to financially supporting and offering expert assistance to the winning entrepreneurs or start-ups. The three prize winners will receive an endowment of between EUR 10,000 and 25,000, and will benefit from six months of support from management and ICT experts at Orange.
    Any entrepreneur or company that has been in existence since June 2008 may participate at no cost and with no restriction on nationality. Submitted projects must be designed to be deployed in at least one of the 17 African countries in which Orange operates.
    The Orange African Social Venture Prize is coherent both with the Group’s strategy for development and with its Corporate Social Responsibility policy. By encouraging social entrepreneurship, Orange hopes to underscore the role that telecommunications technologies can play in the economic and social development of emerging countries.

telecoms

  • India's Bharti Airtel has announced that it has been awarded a GSM and 3G license in Rwanda, expanding its African continental footprint to 17 countries.

    The company added that it plans to invest over US$100 million in the country over the next three years. According to the statement, this also marks the largest investment out of India into Rwanda.

    Sunil Bharti Mittal, CMD, Bharti Airtel said, "Rwanda is a key telecom market with immense growth potential and will strengthen Bharti Airtel's footprint in East Africa."

    According to the National Statistics Institute of Rwanda, the mobile penetration in the country was 38.4%, as of July 2011.

    Last year, the regulator, the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) said that it would award a fourth mobile license when conditions were correct. However, last month, the regulator cancelled the mobile network operating license held by another network operator, Rwandatel for allegedly failing to meet its license conditions.

    The market now has just two networks, until Airtel launches its network.

    The company may have the option of buying the defunct Rwandatel network to speed its launch into the country.

  • Communications minister Roy Padayachie has downplayed recent statements by his deputy, Obed Bapela, that government may seek to allow law enforcement agencies, through the courts, to get access to the records of people using the popular BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service.

    In a strongly worded statement on Thursday, Padayachie says he aligns himself with a statement issued by justice minister Jeff Radebe, who is the coordinator of the justice cluster in government that the state has “no intention to regulate or legislate against BlackBerry encryption messenger services”.

    “Government is still working on a policy statement on cyber matters, which policy will review current regulatory and legislative instruments with respect to cyberspace matters,” he says.

    Bapela made the comments about BBM at Telkom’s annual Satnac conference in East London earlier this week, saying “a lot of criminality” was happening using the BlackBerry service. “We might have to follow Britain and Saudi Arabia to say we need to have [access to] a decryption system if crimes are committed [using the BlackBerry service],” Bapela said.

    He later clarified that government wasn’t specifically targeting BlackBerry, but any communications platform that could be used to commit crime.

    In his statement, Padayachie says he “welcomes the willingness of [BlackBerry maker] Research in Motion to work closely with government to prevent the abuse of the encrypted messenger services by criminals for unlawful purposes”. But, he says, “government has no intention to intercede or interfere with the privacy of communications between private citizens for lawful purposes.”

  • After criticising the direction of the telecoms industry in Uganda, South Africa-backed MTN Uganda has increased its on-net and off-net tariff to UGX4 (USD0.0014) per second. MTN Uganda’s chief executive Themba Khumalo said that in light of the country’s economic condition, the tariff structure needed to be adjusted to prevent the industry from ‘self-destruction’.

    For most of 2011, operators in Uganda’s cramped telecom sector have been offering calls at below cost rates; a practice which the regulator is in the process of taking steps to restrict. During a visit to Kampala last week, Sifiso Dabengwa, MTN’s CEO described the direction of the market as unsustainable, and said that it would likely be to the detriment of the industry as it would hamper investment in the sector. He went on to say that MTN is spending to upgrade its mobile money offerings, which have been suffering from ‘technical issues’.

  • The recent cellphones blackout has given birth to a fresh war of words between giant companies, the Swaziland Posts and Telecommunication Corporation (SPTC) and Swazi MTN.

    The two companies are currently embroiled in a legal battle over the One Fixed mobile phones launched by SPTC. MTN is contesting that SPTC cannot run a similar project as theirs before clearing certain things that involve sale of its (SPTC) shares with MTN. Last weekend, the country experienced a blackout that somehow was placed squarely on SPTC’s laps. MTN further apologised to its customers over the blackout.

    “SPTC wishes to unequivocally disassociate itself from Swazi MTN’s network outage experienced on Saturday. The statement issued by Swazi MTN imputing that the outage was as a result of a break in the SPTC backbone link between Mbabane and Matsapha is wholly inaccurate and lacks any basis whatsoever,” reads the statement in part.

    SPTC management stated that they were not privy to reasons behind Swazi MTN’s unfounded assertion.
    “However, we are cognisant of the detrimental effects the statement has on the image of SPTC as a telecommunications service provider both domestically and globally”. There was no immediate comment from MTN.

    In April High Court Judge Bheki Maphalala declared that there is not a conflict of interest in the SPTC entering the retail market as it was no longer a shareholder in MTN Swaziland, having recently transferred its 41% shareholding to the Ministry of Finance. Further, Maphalala indicated that the SPTC has shed its regulatory responsibilities, handing them over to the government’s Ministry of Communications. In January the SPTC provoked MTN’s ire when it denied the cellco a 3G licence despite the fact that the network had successfully been trialled during the Common Market for Eastern & Southern Africa (COMESA) summit in August 2010. No reason was provided for the licence refusal.

internet

  • Kenya will soon be hooked to yet another undersea fibre optic cable following the near completion of the laying of a France Telecom funded Lower Indian Ocean Network 2 (LION2).

    The ship laying the LION 2 — which is set to be Kenya’s fourth undersea fibre optic cable — arrived in Mombasa last Tuesday, marking the completion of actual cable laying.

    The cable will now be connected to a main submarine cable in international waters for testing, and is expected to go live in the course of the first half of next year.

    The 56.5 million euros (Sh7.5 billion) LION2 will connect Kenya to Mayotte, Madagascar, Mauritius and La Reunion Islands.

    LION2 is an extension of LION, which connects the Indian Ocean Islands to the world. The initial LION was laid in March last year.

    France Telecom, through its subsidiaries in the region — Mauritius Telecom, Orange Madagascar and Telkom Kenya — is a major investor in the second phase of the cable and has put in Sh4.18 billion of the Sh7.5 billion.

    The new cable will be a boost to Telkom Kenya, which is actively pursuing deployment of Internet infrastructure in Kenya after it launched a high speed 3G network last week.

  • FNB Connect has announced that it will be offering its ADSL customers free access to YouTube. This means that customers who are registered for FNB Connect Surf can now browse the world’s most popular video viewing site between 7pm and 11pm until August 2012 at no cost. Registration is free and newly registered users also get 1 (one) free GB of ADSL data to browse other sites.

    FNB Connect previously launched a free YouTube promotion for a period of 2 (two) months and has now decided to re-launch this promotion based on customer uptake and demand.

    Farren Roper, Head of Products and Markets at FNB Connect says “This has been very popular amongst our clients and we achieved a 70% growth rate base on our last promotion. We would like to offer this to our ADSL customers to thank them for their continued patronage as well as attract a new base of customers who want to enjoy this data indulgence.”

    FNB has in the past month made strides into the digital world with the launch of South Africa’s first banking App. Roper goes on to say “The increased emphasis on digital is deliberate and in line with our overall approach.  We have taken a customer centric view, championing the cause for low cost internet access and an increased digital presence.”

    With the free YouTube promotion, FNB Connect now offers their ADSL clients free data in order to access popular social networking sites, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube respectively. FNB Connect offers unshaped data for ADSL, which means that users can expect a faster experience. “Our customers can expect quality free surfing at great speeds,” concludes Roper.

  • President Paul Kagame will, this week, host members of the Global Broadband Commission for Digital Development, to a two-day event that starts September 8, in Kigali.

    The broadband commission brings together some of the world's top leaders in governments, industry and international community to devise strategies for accelerated deployment and access to broadband technology globally.

    President Kagame co-chairs the commission alongside Mexican Billionaire, Carlos Slim.

    "The Commission brings together some of the world's leading figures in government,industry,academia and development community to draw strategies for using technology to address some of the world's most intricate and complex developmental challenges facing mankind," David Kanamugire, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of ICT, said in an interview.

    He added that despite the proven benefits of broadband technology, there is always a risk of these technologies taking decades before benefits trickle down to the billions of people in the world that need them.

    "Failure to timely seize the technological opportunities renders nations and their societies trapped in poverty and unable to effectively compete on the global arena."

    The two day meeting will also bring together African Ministers of ICT, regulators as well as youth from around the continent.

    The first day of the meeting will see the commissioners and African policy makers interact with the African youth on broadband opportunities and challenges faced by the youth. On the second day, President Kagame will co-host the commission meeting together with Slim.

computing

  • Kenya Data Network  (KDN) has unveiled a multimillion-dollar state-of-the art data center to be used for hosting data and software applications.

    Speaking at the launch this week, KDN Chief Executive Officer Rikus Matthyser said the Data Center, now ready for occupation, is a unique facility offering reliability and convenience for corporate clients and financial institutions looking for international standard facilities.

    “This Data Center is testament to our commitment to provide world class services in the field of ICT in this part of the World.  The unique facility will enable our clients achieve their business objectives while cutting down on their overheads in telecommunications and data storage infrastructure,” said Matthyser.

    “As KDN, we are committed to providing convenient service through innovative products in telecoms in the region and are looking to develop our clients’ efficiency.  The center is a facility set up to provide physical environment that will ensure the day-to-day running of various communication equipment and application systems with a main objective of ensuring availability levels meet clients expectations at an affordable costs,” he added.

    He said the center was designed with a typical KDN customer in mind and offers world-class services while guaranteeing safety of the data stored in it.

    It is proposed that the data centre, located at Sameer Park off Mombasa road, will host applications to serve international and local businesses.
It is expected that the centre will relieve the region from the task of seeking back-up services in Europe and America.

    Breaking ground for the Sh600 million (about $US 6.4 million) centre in December 2009 Kenya Prime Minister Raila Odinga said government was keen to make Kenya a green economy by 2020.

    The solar powered energy data centre will serve Kenya and other African countries willing to safeguard essential data under a secure environment.
 Technology employed in building the centre will ensure the structure can withstand even a bomb attack.

    The centre is classified at security level seven, which is the highest in the world and similar to that of the United Nations and top intelligence agencies across the world where secure data is vital.
ICT experts say many companies spend between two to four per cent of their budget on disaster recovery planning.

    Completion of the data storage facility is therefore expected to save the companies from losses and damage resulting from interruptions of their infrastructure and data. 
KDN partnered with Teldor Cables and Systems to supply and deploy a fibre optic network to be used in the new data centre.

    Matthyser said that the center is targeted at a global market focusing mainly on offering of hosting services to clients in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

  • Admire Bio has the reassured presence of a successful businesswoman, with an edge that reveals she is still hungry for more. Bio, 28, a single mother living with her parents, set up her first internet cafe in the Sierra Leone capital, Freetown, only a year ago. She has expanded with two more branches, and plans to go national if she can secure a bank loan.

    "My biggest motivation is challenging men," she says, "to [get women to] say: 'Yes! I can be successful without you'."

    But things aren't easy. "Men make you dependent," says Bio. "Women only get loans with collateral from male relatives. My fiance offered his land. Worse, it's common to be pressured into sex by bank staff, if there isn't a man's backing, when women apply for loans. I'm angry women can't succeed alone."

    The swell of internet users in her cafe tells Bio she is on a winning road. Access to the internet and computer literacy is an area of much needed growth and investment. Only around 0.3% of the population are described as internet users, while fibre-optic broadband will not arrive until next year. Bio offers women evening computer courses "to make them stronger".

    Meanwhile, mobile phones are ubiquitous, in urban areas at least, with around 26% of people owning one. In the absence of widespread internet access, mobiles have been seen as something of a panacea for development in Africa.

    Kenya's M-Pesa money-transfer is hailed by technology gurus and development experts alike as an example of how poverty can be bypassed and development hastened. However, "banking the unbanked" has been questioned by some, as mobile money often caters for already affluent groups.

    M-Pesa's success inspired Sheka Forna back to his homeland, Sierra Leone, to start Splash. Since it launched in 2009, Splash has convinced around 100,000 people to forsake real money for the virtual kind, effectively using their sim cards as bank accounts.

    Airtel's Zap cash transfer service has changed the way Sierra Leone's city dwellers buy a coffee or receive their salaries. But Splash's growth has been slower than the company's projections, says Forna. "We're a new brand, and phone coverage is low and expensive. Getting nationwide agents to deal in Splash cash has been hard, with poor literacy and a limited mobile-savvy market."

    Facilitating microcredit repayments through mobiles was the initial spur for M-Pesa. In Sierra Leone though, the technological leap with microcredit has so far been more of a stumble.

    Hope Micro was among the largest microfinance institutions in the country. But it suffered a 20% portfolio loss (around $300,000) when half its customers defaulted in 2009. "With no credit-rating agency, customers held the equivalent of multiple credit cards. It's a blow for women – they're 85% of our clients," says SD Kanu, the institution's director.

    Hope Micro embarked on a six-month pilot with Splash to reduce interest rates (currently 36%) and add a competitive edge. "It wasn't successful," says Kanu. "Few of our customers are mobile-literate. Splash agents are small shopkeepers and their revenue wasn't enough to be committed."

    To build mobile literacy, Splash and Hope Micro have started a new pilot: dispersing loans "to get customers used to the idea that their money is actually there", explains Kanu. In just one month, the pilot has already dispersed $30,000.

    The Sierra Leone technology market is still in its infancy, says Trina DasGupta, director of the mWomen programme, which aims to boost female phone ownership with a view to improving access to services and increasing economic empowerment.

    Part of the problem is a gender gap in phone ownership; in Sierra Leone, women are 43% less likely than men to own a mobile. "This means poor women are kept in the financial and information dark ages – relying on men who are the primary phone owners," she says.

    This year, the US state department sent a fact-finding mission of women technology experts and entrepreneurs to see how technology can reduce poverty and close the gender gap.

    "There wasn't a businesswomen's group to introduce the delegation to," says Naasu Fofanah of Unipsil, the UN's peacebuilding office. "This was a startling gap. We know effective development comes when women are targeted. The same has to be true when improving women's ability to do business, for example, with women's unfettered access to finance and improving their technological knowhow."

    "There's a need to nurture a culture of real entrepreneurship to allow women to grow. As a first step, we need to put businesswomen on the map," she says.

    Unipsil and local NGO Afford-SL are working with women across the country to establish a national business network. "Once we have this kind of structure we can begin to bridge the gap between urban and rural businesses, for example, through technology, networking and training," says Manja Kargbo of Afford-SL.

    "Yes, I'll join a women's network," says Admire Bio. "I always tell women they can be like me - stronger by saving, investing and doing business with technology."

  • With this new approach to learning, the children will become more creative and innovative as the laptops help enhance what they are taught in schools in a more practical way.

    The country has invested a lot in technology, as evidenced by the completion of the laying of the fiber optic.

    According to the OLPC programme coordinator, Rwanda targets to have half a million laptops in primary schools across the country.

    The benefits of such an investment may not be in the short term, however, by starting to impart technology skills to the children at a young age, they will grow to become the future IT experts.

    Various sectors including health, banking, transport, infrastructure, telecommunication and local government are adopting modern technology into their daily operations. The country has, in the past, relied on foreign expertise to develop, run and maintain these systems.

    But, with programmes like the OLPC, the will be a vast human resource base that is technologically advanced to foster the much needed expertise to propel the country to greater heights.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has confirmed that France Telecom (FT) is the only bidder for its 49% stake in Congo Chine Telecom (CCT). Already in talks with Chinese vendor ZTE for its 51% share of the company, FT is expected to pay around EUR300 million (USD) in total for the operator, a reflection of its level of debt, rather than its value. Reuter reports that, Elie Girard, FT’s executive director said that this is an ‘important step, but not the final step of the process of the withdrawal of the state from CCT and the acquisition’. The move is part of a broader strategy from FT to increase its presence in emerging markets to offset increasing competition and declining revenues in Europe. France Telecom CEO Stéphane Richard said that the company also looks to bolster its leadership in Egypt.

  • The government expects consumers and smaller operators to benefit from the formation of a new private/public organisation that will build and manage Long Term Evolution (LTE) infrastructure, commonly known as 4G.

    The move by the Ministry of Information and Communication is seen as an admission of flaws in the licensing and allocation of 3G spectrum, where operators have been unable to fully roll out infrastructure because of expensive licence fees ($15 million or Sh1.4 billion) and high capital expenditure.

    Currently, Safaricom has the most extensive 3G infrastructure with 1,500 base stations on 3G compared to about 2,500 base stations country wide. Telkom Kenya has 220 sites on 3G while Airtel is currently testing its 3G network.

    Globally, technology has moved to LTE, which is seen as an answer to connecting rural and under-served areas though the cost of rolling out the infrastructure is prohibitive for operators who are yet to take 3G out of major towns to rural areas.

    The expense and slow roll out even by bigger operators prompted the government to invite bids for public private partnership to build, operate and maintain a national open access network, which will bring together operators and equipment vendors.

    In the public-private partnership, the government hopes to set a global precedent, where operators can share both active and passive components in the network.

    "This will be a first in the world where operators will share both passive and active infrastructure, the benefits will be passed on to the consumer in form of cheaper broadband," said Dr Bitange Ndemo permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication.

    Ideally, an open access platform will benefit small and big companies that will have an opportunity to provide services without worrying much about expensive licence fees or the capital expenditure of rolling out the network.

    "In principle, having a single (large) network should not be a problem, normally the concern arises around who is going to manage or maintain it and how will it be managed," said Mr Dobek Pater, senior telecoms analyst at Africa Analysis, an ICT consultancy firm.

    There has been discontent in the industry over the advert requirement that the private partner must be tier 1 network operator, 20 per cent Kenyan owned and ability to roll out to 47 counties within a year.

    Some players feel that the requirements were skewed in favour of the largest mobile network but Mr Ndemo sees the move as a savior to smaller ISPs which have been unable to compete with mobile networks.

    "This is the only way to salvage Internet Service Providers owned by small businesses to be able to compete; people need to understand open access and shared infrastructure," said Mr Ndemo.

    Globally, there is no uniformity on the spectrum band for use in LTE. For instance, Safaricom is testing LTE on its GSM band, which may interfere with other services already on offer like voice, 3G and 2G.

    Globally, LTE is optimised for 2.6GHz but Kenya faces a bigger trick because that spectrum is currently being used by the military.

    The Communications Commission of Kenya has been in discussions with the military to migrate its services to fibre and release the spectrum, even though CCK has also maintained that there are other available mechanisms like utilising the analogue spectrum, which will be released by the television stations, once Kenya migrates to the digital platform. The spectrum, commonly known as digital dividend is on 700 MHz band, is expected to be reallocated on a competitive basis.

  • Is French telecommunications giant Orange, the mobile subsidiary of France Telecom, buying JSE-listed IT services company Business Connexion (BCX)? Three separate industry sources, none of whom is employed by either company, have told TechCentral they understand the two parties are in discussions about a deal.

    Orange has long been rumoured to be sniffing around the SA market for an acquisition. A couple of years ago, it was rumoured to be interested in Cell C, though that speculation was never firmed up.

    A purchase of BCX, one of the largest listed IT companies on the JSE, would cost the French operator — which owns networks in a range of francophone countries in Africa — billions of rand, assuming it swallows the whole company.

    BCX CEO Benjamin Mophatlane says he can’t confirm or deny the two companies are in talks. “We do not comment on a cautionary [notice],” he says. An Orange spokesman in France says the company has “no official comment”.

    BCX — which is trading under a cautionary notice because it is in discussions that could affect its share price — has a market capitalisation of R2,2bn. An acquisition would be the biggest foreign direct investment in SA’s technology sector since last year’s blockbuster R24,4bn acquisition by Japan’s Nippon Telegraph and Telephone of Dimension Data.

    Orange is the world’s fifth largest mobile phone operator, with more than 210m customers. In Africa, it has businesses in Kenya, Cameroon, Senegal, Madagascar, Reunion, Tunisia, Uganda, Botswana, Mauritius, the Central African Republic, Mali, Niger, Equatorial Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire.

    BCX, meanwhile, has stated it is keen to expand more aggressively in Africa and analysts polled by TechCentral say a tie-up with Orange would allow it to grow into new markets on the continent where the French company already has operations.

    If market speculation is correct — and one source believes a deal between Orange and BCX could be concluded within weeks, pending regulatory approvals — it could send tremors through the local IT services industry.

    As telecoms operators and IT services firms increasingly converge on each other’s markets, mergers are becoming more commonplace. Telecoms firms see IT services as a new growth area and IT companies are increasingly considering it necessary to align themselves with operators.

    If a deal between Orange and BCX is on the cards, it will be the second time in recent years that the SA company has been courted by an operator. In 2006, Telkom offered R2,4bn to buy the company, but was thwarted by the competition authorities over concerns the deal could have a deleterious effect on competition in the IT market.

  • Airtel Uganda has suspended plans to stop accepting inbound calls from Uganda Telecom following intervention from the government.

    Airtel has been in dispute with Uganda Telecom for some time over a US$2.3 million debt that Telecom is struggling to pay.

    "They have agreed a new payments plan and so will not to switch off Uganda Telecom calls," Godfrey Mutabazi, the executive director of the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) told the East African Business Week. "Both UCC and the ministry of information and communication technology have agreed with Airtel not to go ahead and lock out Uganda Telecom subscribers from accessing their network." he added. The details of the settlement and the debt repayment plan are being kept confidential.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • -  In South Africa, First National Bank has launched a new service called Pay2Cell that allows its accountholders to make payments to other FNB accountholders using only the recipient’s cellphone number. To make a payment, customers must be registered for cellphone banking. To receive payments, they only need to be registered for inContact, FNB’s SMS notification service. There is a limit of R1 500/transaction.

    - Mozambique's publicly owned mobile phone operator, M-Cel, has announced that it is launching onto the market a cell phone that will cost only 449 meticais (about 16.5 US dollars). This phone, which M-Cel claims will be the cheapest on the market, is an Alcatel OT208 multi-functional handset. In June, Vodacom launched what was then the cheapest cell phone on the Mozambican market - the Chinese-made model ZTE S512, which sells for 499 meticais.

    - South Africa’s mobile service provider Vodacom has unveiled a new step to protect its customers from cellphone fraud by automatically locking a SIM card if any irregular call activity is detected. Vodacom stated that they saw an increase in the number of cases relating to International Revenue Share Fraud (IRSF), and with this fraud a syndicate steals handsets or SIM cards from victims and uses them to dial international premium numbers which could result in cellphone bills as high as R120 000.

    - Samsung has unveiled the Galaxy S II smartphone in Kenya. Speaking in Nairobi during the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S II, Samsung Electronics East Africa Business Leader, Robert Ngeru confirmed that the Android powered smartphone would be hitting the market to further enhance Samsung’s local offering.

    - Zimbabwe’s largest mobile operator, Econet Wireless, will at end of the month launch a mobile payment system that makes it possible for Zimbabweans to pay bills using their cellphones. The company said it had spent millions of dollars on developing the system, which will be launched to its over 5 million customers, completely eliminating the need for any notes for purchases below USD20.

    - In Liberia, mobile operators Cellcom and Lonestar/MTN have launched mobile banking services. Cellcom has joined ranks with UBA Bank while Lonestar/MTN has partnered with Ecobank. Statistics also show that just about only 10% of Liberians have bank accounts while over 40% of the population has mobile phones. So, with difficult roads and limited formal banking facilities around Liberia mobile banking services will provide the opportunity for more Liberians, particularly in the rural areas to have access to cash, transfer money, pay bills, do business and improve their lives economically.

    - News24 and Samsung South Africa have combined to produce the first local Smart TV application. The News24 app can be accessed from any Samsung Smart TV and offers the hooked-in user news reports, the latest sports results, financial indicators, celebrity gossip and much more. The move mirrors the recent UK launch of the BBC News app on Samsung TVs.

    - Mobile operator, Cell C has deployed its HSPA+ network in Welkom, Kroonstad and Koppies, extending its coverage in the Free State. The latest expansion of the network now puts Cell C's national coverage at 63% of the South African population.

Digital Content

  • Technology company, Google, plans to reduce the cost of smart phones in Africa to an affordable range in order to boost the use of the internet.

    The company intends to sell genuine smart phones at prices below Shs225,000 ($80) to encourage more Africans to abandon basic phones with a few functions, according to Mr Nelson Mattos, the vice president for Google Europe, Middle East and Africa.

    Smart phones are those designed with the internet and thousands of applications to enable their users to rely on them as mini-computers.

    Genuine smart phones from companies like; Nokia, Samsung, Apple, LG and Huawei cost between $90 and $800 a range that is out of reach for ordinary Africans and other developing markets.

    “When you look at the disposable income in Africa compared to that in Europe, the price (of smart phones) in Africa today is 100 times more. So, it’s not surprising that the uptake of smart phones in Europe is taking off and not in Africa,” Mr Mattos told Daily Monitor in interview yesterday during the Google conference in Kampala.

    He added that Google’s planned partnership with US firm Motorola, maker of Motorola phones, is aimed at creating affordable smart phones for its emerging markets including Africa and Asia.
    “We know that majority of people in Africa access the internet via the mobile phone, Motorola being a player in that industry will allow us to speed up access to the internet through the uptake of smart phones,” he said.

    Uganda has about 4 million internet users who access the internet at least once a month, according to the Uganda Communications Commission.

    Google, which has operations in Uganda is playing a key role to promote the use of the internet through creating local content for internet users.

    For instance, the company has mapped most key and relevant places in Uganda and has also translated its search engine to Luganda, Kiswahili, Luo and Runyakitara.

  • Social media has moved incredibly quickly from a specialist tool to a must-have channel of engagement with customers.

    Building on the unique one on one conversation that social media makes possible, Vodacom has increased the number of people working in its specialist dedicated customer care team and increased their hours of operation.

    The customer care team are now live on Twitter (@vodacom111) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/Vodacom) from 7am to 10pm every day, including weekends.

    “I don’t think any of us had an inkling what we were letting ourselves in for back in early 2010 when we kicked off our social media activity on Twitter. We made two key decisions which are really paying dividends.

    First, we set up the dedicated Twitter channel for customer care, @vodacom111, and made sure that the people resolving the queries were frontline on Twitter with nowhere to hide. We then added to that same team and put them on to the Facebook page as well, scouring customer posts for issues to resolve,” said Portia Maurice, Chief Officer Corporate Affairs.

    With more than 27 million customers in South Africa, Vodacom’s social media team were always going to have their work cut out for them. From starting up a year and a half ago, the reality has been beyond any expectations.

    The company now has more than 20,000 followers on its two main Twitter channels and is rapidly approaching 100,000 Facebook fans, giving the team a huge volume of customer care queries to handle.

    “There’s always a challenge separating customer care activities from all the other engagements that happen via our social media channels but with the structure we’ve put in place, I think we’ve found a good balance,” Maurice added.

Issue no 571 9th September 2011

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Top story

  • In most African countries, mobile users are spoiled with attractive mobile promotion on voice services. In Kenya and Uganda, a price war has however left the mobile operators dubious on this approach being the right on. While African mobile operators try to retain their mobile users attention, differentiating their mobile offering from the competitors’ ones remains vital tool for them. Isabelle Gross spoke to Kevin Coleman, Business Development Director EMEA at Digitata and Hilton Goodhead, CTO at Rorotika Technologies about their dynamic billing product/platform for mobile voice services and theirs plans to launch a similar product/platform for data services.

    The launch of the “Glo Flexi” tariff plan by Globacom at the beginning of September marks the entry of Digitata dynamic billing platform in the Nigerian telecoms market. According to Kevin Coleman, Globacom is the first mobile operator offering dynamic billing in Nigeria although MTN which is the largest mobile operator in Nigeria has a similar offer “MTN Zone” but the tariff plan is not operational in the country. Digitata dynamic billing platform gives the ability to a mobile operator to offer discounts on voice calls according the time of the day and/or the location of the mobile subscribers. In Nigeria for example, Glo Flexi tariff has been launched with an offering of up to 99% discounts on voice calls for its subscribers. It is still too early to forecast the uptake of the new tariff plan in Nigeria but Digitata has seen at the past some massive uptake to up 80% of the subscriber base in some African markets. The level and the pace of the uptake depend also on how the mobile operator decides to communicate the new offering to its subscribers and while some African mobile operators have relied on the traditional flyers, SMS and word of mouth to promote the new tariffs others have rolled more aggressive information campaigns like sending on the street “road warriors” in charge of explaining and educating subscribers on the benefits of the new tariff plan.

    The Digitata’s dynamic billing platform is currently active across 16 mobile networks in Africa and the company is looking further to increasing it footprint on the continent. In a couple of week, there will be further launches in the Southern African region. Kevin Coleman explains further that the product is well suited for prepaid markets where calling costs remain high and customers are very price sensitive. The billing platform often sells well with the number two mobile operator in a country or the ones that want to be more innovative. There are also no limitations on the size of the mobile subscriber base. Digitata’s dynamic billing platform works with a subscriber base as small as 100,000 up to several millions. Although Kevin Coleman didn’t want to give too many details on the price of the billing platform, he added that the technology is competitively priced and that mobile operators can acquire a licence for a one-off fee or chose to make recurring payments based on the number of mobile users registered to the service. According to him, investing in a dynamic billing platform offers to mobile operators good returns on investment in terms of customer churn reduction, network congestion management and additional voice revenue from customers signing up for the service. Hilton Goodhead points out that it can help further mobile operators to reduce capital costs through a more streamlined utilisation of the existing network facilities.

    I met Kevin Coleman last November at AfriCom in Cape Town and at that time he already told me that Digitata’s R&D team was working hard on expanding their dynamic billing platform to include mobile data services. Today, we have an official launch date: Q1-2012. According to him, the development of a dynamic billing platform for data services presented quite some technical challenges to overcome. He explains for example that once a data connection is established it is not obvious with what or who the dynamic billing interface interacts with. It could be the device only since most 3G phones keep looking for a connection or a human being holding the device. There were also issues to solve regarding the type of data and their prioritisation. Kevin Coleman is confident that this new product which is aimed at mobile operators in developed and emerging markets will quickly gain traction because across the world (and in Africa), mobile operators that have launched mobile Internet services on their 3G network face and will face more serious network congestions because of the growing number data hungry smartphones hooking up on their networks. Further today mobile data pricing models are pretty dull. They come either unlimited or capped and therefore a pricing model based on time and location will definitely provide a different way to sell mobile data services in Africa and in the rest of the world. 
     

     


     

    New video clips on Balancing Act’s You Tube Channel:

    Jason Njoku, CEO, Iroko Partners
    on distributing Nollywood and Nigerian Music using You Tube

    Emma Kaye, CEO, Bozza on South African townships creating their own online content

    Julian VanPlato, CEO, Trans Digital Media on a new live streaming mobile service for Africa

    Sami Leino, COO, Spinlet
    on the launch of an "iTunes" for Africa

    Ofer Ronen, Business Development Director
    - Broadcast, Gilat Satcom on its move into African broadcast services

    South Africa: Styli Charalambous, Managing Director, The Daily Maverick on its new iPad subscription service

    Steve Vosloo, mLabs on supporting mobile innovation in South Africa

    Arun Nagar, CEO, Spice VAS Africa on launching its African platforms and live streaming

    Robert Aouad, CEO Isocel Benin on opening a carrier-neutral data centre in Benin

    Balancing Act's Twitter feed provides a combination of breaking news for telecoms, Internet and broadcast in Africa, direct tweets from countries visited and access to the occasional rumours circulating. You can follow us on:
    @BalancingActAfr

More

  • Nigeria Com
    20 - 21 September, 2011, Lagos, Nigeria

    The 2nd annual Nigeria Com returns to Lagos. Gain unique market perspectives and insights from a 40 strong speaker-line up including 25+ Operator leaders. The 2 day agenda equips you to capitalise on new networks and services, while the 60 stand networking exhibition will showcase the world’s foremost technology and solutions available for your business. With 700+ attendees, if you do telecoms business in the region, this is an event you cannot afford to miss!
    For more information visit here:

    Mozambique National ICT Congress
    5-6 October 2011, Centro Internacional de Conferencia Joaquim Chissano, Maputo

    Held under the auspices of the Mozambique Ministry of Science & Technology and organised by AITEC Africa, this is the annual gathering of Mozambique’s rapidly growing ICT community, with a two-day conference and industry expo. Users and vendors of ICT systems and solutions will be sharing challenges, knowledge and ideas in the stimulating conference programme, with high-level local and international speakers. There is simultaneous translation between English and Portuguese to facilitate international participation. The event will also include the second annual National Communications Roundtable, providing operators, ISPs, users and service providers with an opportunity to discuss the country’s national communications strategy with the regulator. For the full programme log on to the organiser’s website here:  To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    North Africa Com
    11 - 12 October, 2011, Tunis, Tunisia

    Now in its 6th year, the ONLY conference and exhibition dedicated to the North African telecoms market moves to Tunisia to address the dynamic French-speaking markets.
    The expanded conference agenda is now in development and will feature a host of new topics led by a speaker panel featuring some of North Africa's leading telcos.  Contact us today to apply to speak in the conference, or reserve your sponsorship or exhibition package. Be one of the first to see the 2011 agenda and sign up for your copy.
    For more information visit here:

    CDN World Summit 2011
    26 - 28 October 2011, Hilton Hotel Paddington, London.

    The 3rd annual CDN World Summit promises to be the largest and most
    comprehensive CDN event ever.The full value chain is represented including content providers,broadcast operators, traditional and telco CDNs, represented by industry leaders such as; FilmFlex Movies, BT Wholesale and AT&T.
    For more information visit here:

    Digital Migration and Spectrum Policy Summit
    29 October to 01 November 2011, Nairobi, Kenya.

    For more informtion visit here:

    Africa Com
    9 - 10 November, 2011, Cape Town, SA

    Join 5,000 of Africa’s leading telcos in Cape Town this November for what is set to be the biggest and best AfricaCom yet.  The conference agenda has doubled to incorporate a record 150+ speakers presenting across 4 strategic keynotes, 11 in-depth focus sessions and 2 co-located events – AfricaCast and Enterprise ICT Africa.  What’s more 250+ international solutions providers will be showcasing their latest products in the networking exhibition. For more information visit here:


    World Telecom Summit 2011
    9–11 November, 2011, Singapore Marriott Hotel

    World Telecom Summit 2011 is the must-attend event of the year. Bringing together top level executives and key decision makers of preeminent telecommunications companies from around the world, this is the perfect opportunity to meet the who’s who of the telecommunications and mobile industry.  It is the summit that addresses the evolving needs of telecommunications and mobile community. Get up to date with the latest innovations and technological advancements in the industry and gain access to the minds of the movers and shakers of the industry.
    Take advantage of the Limited Early Bird Rates for Operator Pass!
    For more information please visit here:  or contact Vivian at vivian.ho@olygen.com

    AITEC East Africa East Africa Summit
    2-3 November, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    East Africa has become one of the fastest growing ICT investment markets and the region’s ICT Summit it designed as the region’s forum to bring together users and vendors of ICT technology in a stimulating educational and business networking environment. The 2011 Summit programme will focus on the following themes:
    •    Data Security
    •    Mobile Apps
    •    Cloud Computing
    For the conference programme, log on to the organiser’s website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    ICT Infrastructure Summit: Banking Solutions in Growth Economies
    29-30 November, 2011,
    Kingsway Hall, Great Queen Street, London WC2

    Though technology innovation for banks in growth economies is ripe for growth, development is being stalled by some major infrastructural barriers including poor connectivity, a lack of political support, incorrect regulation and a lack of capital. The ICT Innovation for Banks in Growth Economies conference will arm you with the tools to upgrade your telecommunication infrastructure and scale up your branchless banking operations in order to reach millions of unbanked households. For further information please click here:

    AfriHealth
    30 November – 1 December 2011, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    The leading continental forum on e-health, m-health, health management systems and capacity development. AfriHealth 2011 will focus on current research, development and implementation of ICT technology and resources in the African Healthcare arena. A key objective of the conference, now in its fourth year, will be to share knowledge and experience from practical mobilization of ICT-based healthcare systems and projects, to showcase best practice through practical case studies and highlight potential for scaling up success stories at national and regional levels. For the conference programme log on to the organiser’s website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    AITEC Banking & Mobile Money COMESA
    7-8 March 2012, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    Now in its sixth year, this has become the leading educational, networking and marketing event for Eastern and Southern Africa’s financial services sector. In addition to the conference’s established intensive education programme covering core banking, mobile money and microfinance topics (over 100 speakers in 2011). For the conference programme log on to the organiser’s website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    InsureAFRICA
    7-8 March 2012, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    Insurers seeking effective performance in service delivery, cost reduction and profit levels need to embrace technology, viewing it not as a support function but as a key enabler of competitive advantage at all levels of operation. InsureAFRICA is the first specialised conference for the African insurance and pensions industry to evaluate the systems and innovative channels needed to compete and thrive in a rapidly expanding industry. With the theme “Effective management strategies and systems for a new era of expansion and inclusion”, the conference will be the continent’s first forum to gather knowledge and experience for a rapidly growing industry. For the Call for Papers, log on to the organiser’s website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    Mobile VAS Africa 2012
    14 - 15 May 2012, Johannesburg, South Africa

    Mobile VAS Africa 2012 will bring together industry experts and representatives from leading financial institutions, mobile operators and solutions providers to provide a strategic insight into mobile VAS while exploring collaborative business models, innovative applications, technologies and straegies. For more information visit here:

    Roaming & Interconnect
    16 - 17 May 2012, Johannesburg, South Africa

    RIC Africa 2012 will uncover new strategies to boost roaming traffic and retain existing roamers. During the conference we will look at the innovative roaming solutions and pricing, supplementing roaming with alternative revenue streams, the latest EU regulations and their impact on operations in Africa, as well as the importance of hubbing and convergence.  For more information please visit here:

    AITEC Banking & Mobile Money West Africa
    6 June 2012, Accra International Conference Centre

    Now in its fifth year, the conference will cover a wide range of strategic and technology topics to empower West Africa’s banking, microfinance and insurance professionals with the knowledge they need to lead their organisation effectively through the turbulent market and regulatory conditions they face. For the conference programme log on to the organiser’s website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

  • - Rene Meza has quit as CEO of Airtel Kenya after a three year stint at the second largest mobile phone service provider locally. Meza who joined Airtel Kenya on July 7th 2008 has now joined Tanzania's Vodacom in the same capacity. Airtel had in July denied unofficial reports that the MD had left the company. Airtel has been undergoing a restructuring program and in recent months has seen the exit of some senior managers.

    - Shivan Bhargava has been appointed Airtel Kenya Managing Director to replace Rene Meza who has quit to join Vodacom Tanzania in the same capacity. Bhargava was the firm’s Chief Operating Officer, a position he occupied until his appointment.

  • IT- Account Management Reference Number:
    AJS0011422

    Preferred Degree: Relevant Qualifications
    Job Type: Permanent/Full Time
    Job Country: South Africa
    Job Location: Pretoria-South Africa
    Experience (Years): 2-4
    Job Description

    Title: IT Advisory Analyst

    Business Unit: IT Advisory

    Reporting to: ITA Directors

    Purpose of the Job:

    Working as part of a national team of professionals to advise clients in managing risks associated with IT infrastructure, information management, information technology governance, business systems, projects, information security and strategic IT consulting.

    Key job duties or responsibilities:

    Forming part of a team responsible for client service delivery to scope on various IT
    Advisory and Assurance engagements;
    Extensive client liaison, working mainly off-site at client premises (travel is involved)
    Building a solid of understanding of the clients we service – the issues they face, key developments in their industry sector, etc.
    Conducting reviews of clients general and application controls, documenting findings and compiling reports
    Working to deadlines
    Act as a peer advisor to new / junior team members
    Developing areas of specialisation in line with the division's objectives;
    Building sustainable business relationships with both internal and external clients.

    Critical Technical Skills or Competencies

    IT audit experience – reviewing diverse application and general control environments
    IT Risk Management interest and understanding.
    Experience in business process analysis
    Understanding of tools and audit process methodologies
    Effective written and verbal communication
    Ability to spot problems and recommend solutions
    Interest in IT Consulting, and a desire to build a long term career in one or more of the following areas:
    IT Audit
    IT Performance and ROI
    IT Risk and Compliance
    IT Governance
    IT Security and Privacy
    ERP Implementation a

    Critical Interpersonal or Interactive skills

    Potential candidates must demonstrate strong business acumen, analytical skills, good client relationship development aptitude, high energy, an enquiring mind and professional integrity.
    Good time management skills
    Conscientious approach to delivering results on engagements
    Ability to follow instructions accurately
    Ability to work well in a team environment
    Able to remain calm and focused, even when under pressure
    Proactively evaluate own skills and knowledge, able to identify own strengths and areas for development

    Qualifications and experience

    Minimum of 2 to 3 years relevant experience in an IT Audit or IT risk consulting environment
    Completed B degree (B com / B Sc) is required
    Further relevant qualifications/certifications desirable (PMP, CISA, CISSP, CGEIT, etc)

    For further information please visit here


    The deadline for submitting projects for the Orange African Social Venture Prize has now been extended to 30 September.
    The Orange African Social Venture Prize, which was launched in June 2011, will be part of the prestigious AfricaCom Awards. In this context, the prize-giving will take place in Cape Town, South Africa, on November, 9th.
    Through the establishment of this Award, Orange is actively supporting dynamic, youngentrepreneurs and start-ups across its footprint in Africa. The prize aims to offer support to entrepreneurs who have innovative ideas for promoting social development by using IT and telecommunications technology, but do not necessarily have the financial or technical resources to put their ideas into action.
    Following numerous requests by interested candidates and to allow entrepreneurs to complete their file, the deadline for submitting projects has now been extended by two weeks. Candidates are invited to submit their dossiers via www.starafrica.com by 30 September to be eligible for the award.
    The Orange African Social Venture Prize will be awarded to three entrepreneurs or start-ups that offer solutions based on mobile networks or IT systems that are designed to address various social and welfare issues faced by Africans across the continent. Projects may range from banking or payment services to applications in essential areas such as healthcare, education and agriculture.
    In addition to the prestige of winning the award, Orange is committed to financially supporting and offering expert assistance to the winning entrepreneurs or start-ups. The three prize winners will receive an endowment of between EUR 10,000 and 25,000, and will benefit from six months of support from management and ICT experts at Orange.
    Any entrepreneur or company that has been in existence since June 2008 may participate at no cost and with no restriction on nationality. Submitted projects must be designed to be deployed in at least one of the 17 African countries in which Orange operates.
    The Orange African Social Venture Prize is coherent both with the Group’s strategy for development and with its Corporate Social Responsibility policy. By encouraging social entrepreneurship, Orange hopes to underscore the role that telecommunications technologies can play in the economic and social development of emerging countries.

telecoms

  • India's Bharti Airtel has announced that it has been awarded a GSM and 3G license in Rwanda, expanding its African continental footprint to 17 countries.

    The company added that it plans to invest over US$100 million in the country over the next three years. According to the statement, this also marks the largest investment out of India into Rwanda.

    Sunil Bharti Mittal, CMD, Bharti Airtel said, "Rwanda is a key telecom market with immense growth potential and will strengthen Bharti Airtel's footprint in East Africa."

    According to the National Statistics Institute of Rwanda, the mobile penetration in the country was 38.4%, as of July 2011.

    Last year, the regulator, the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) said that it would award a fourth mobile license when conditions were correct. However, last month, the regulator cancelled the mobile network operating license held by another network operator, Rwandatel for allegedly failing to meet its license conditions.

    The market now has just two networks, until Airtel launches its network.

    The company may have the option of buying the defunct Rwandatel network to speed its launch into the country.

  • Communications minister Roy Padayachie has downplayed recent statements by his deputy, Obed Bapela, that government may seek to allow law enforcement agencies, through the courts, to get access to the records of people using the popular BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service.

    In a strongly worded statement on Thursday, Padayachie says he aligns himself with a statement issued by justice minister Jeff Radebe, who is the coordinator of the justice cluster in government that the state has “no intention to regulate or legislate against BlackBerry encryption messenger services”.

    “Government is still working on a policy statement on cyber matters, which policy will review current regulatory and legislative instruments with respect to cyberspace matters,” he says.

    Bapela made the comments about BBM at Telkom’s annual Satnac conference in East London earlier this week, saying “a lot of criminality” was happening using the BlackBerry service. “We might have to follow Britain and Saudi Arabia to say we need to have [access to] a decryption system if crimes are committed [using the BlackBerry service],” Bapela said.

    He later clarified that government wasn’t specifically targeting BlackBerry, but any communications platform that could be used to commit crime.

    In his statement, Padayachie says he “welcomes the willingness of [BlackBerry maker] Research in Motion to work closely with government to prevent the abuse of the encrypted messenger services by criminals for unlawful purposes”. But, he says, “government has no intention to intercede or interfere with the privacy of communications between private citizens for lawful purposes.”

  • After criticising the direction of the telecoms industry in Uganda, South Africa-backed MTN Uganda has increased its on-net and off-net tariff to UGX4 (USD0.0014) per second. MTN Uganda’s chief executive Themba Khumalo said that in light of the country’s economic condition, the tariff structure needed to be adjusted to prevent the industry from ‘self-destruction’.

    For most of 2011, operators in Uganda’s cramped telecom sector have been offering calls at below cost rates; a practice which the regulator is in the process of taking steps to restrict. During a visit to Kampala last week, Sifiso Dabengwa, MTN’s CEO described the direction of the market as unsustainable, and said that it would likely be to the detriment of the industry as it would hamper investment in the sector. He went on to say that MTN is spending to upgrade its mobile money offerings, which have been suffering from ‘technical issues’.

  • The recent cellphones blackout has given birth to a fresh war of words between giant companies, the Swaziland Posts and Telecommunication Corporation (SPTC) and Swazi MTN.

    The two companies are currently embroiled in a legal battle over the One Fixed mobile phones launched by SPTC. MTN is contesting that SPTC cannot run a similar project as theirs before clearing certain things that involve sale of its (SPTC) shares with MTN. Last weekend, the country experienced a blackout that somehow was placed squarely on SPTC’s laps. MTN further apologised to its customers over the blackout.

    “SPTC wishes to unequivocally disassociate itself from Swazi MTN’s network outage experienced on Saturday. The statement issued by Swazi MTN imputing that the outage was as a result of a break in the SPTC backbone link between Mbabane and Matsapha is wholly inaccurate and lacks any basis whatsoever,” reads the statement in part.

    SPTC management stated that they were not privy to reasons behind Swazi MTN’s unfounded assertion.
    “However, we are cognisant of the detrimental effects the statement has on the image of SPTC as a telecommunications service provider both domestically and globally”. There was no immediate comment from MTN.

    In April High Court Judge Bheki Maphalala declared that there is not a conflict of interest in the SPTC entering the retail market as it was no longer a shareholder in MTN Swaziland, having recently transferred its 41% shareholding to the Ministry of Finance. Further, Maphalala indicated that the SPTC has shed its regulatory responsibilities, handing them over to the government’s Ministry of Communications. In January the SPTC provoked MTN’s ire when it denied the cellco a 3G licence despite the fact that the network had successfully been trialled during the Common Market for Eastern & Southern Africa (COMESA) summit in August 2010. No reason was provided for the licence refusal.

internet

  • Kenya will soon be hooked to yet another undersea fibre optic cable following the near completion of the laying of a France Telecom funded Lower Indian Ocean Network 2 (LION2).

    The ship laying the LION 2 — which is set to be Kenya’s fourth undersea fibre optic cable — arrived in Mombasa last Tuesday, marking the completion of actual cable laying.

    The cable will now be connected to a main submarine cable in international waters for testing, and is expected to go live in the course of the first half of next year.

    The 56.5 million euros (Sh7.5 billion) LION2 will connect Kenya to Mayotte, Madagascar, Mauritius and La Reunion Islands.

    LION2 is an extension of LION, which connects the Indian Ocean Islands to the world. The initial LION was laid in March last year.

    France Telecom, through its subsidiaries in the region — Mauritius Telecom, Orange Madagascar and Telkom Kenya — is a major investor in the second phase of the cable and has put in Sh4.18 billion of the Sh7.5 billion.

    The new cable will be a boost to Telkom Kenya, which is actively pursuing deployment of Internet infrastructure in Kenya after it launched a high speed 3G network last week.

  • FNB Connect has announced that it will be offering its ADSL customers free access to YouTube. This means that customers who are registered for FNB Connect Surf can now browse the world’s most popular video viewing site between 7pm and 11pm until August 2012 at no cost. Registration is free and newly registered users also get 1 (one) free GB of ADSL data to browse other sites.

    FNB Connect previously launched a free YouTube promotion for a period of 2 (two) months and has now decided to re-launch this promotion based on customer uptake and demand.

    Farren Roper, Head of Products and Markets at FNB Connect says “This has been very popular amongst our clients and we achieved a 70% growth rate base on our last promotion. We would like to offer this to our ADSL customers to thank them for their continued patronage as well as attract a new base of customers who want to enjoy this data indulgence.”

    FNB has in the past month made strides into the digital world with the launch of South Africa’s first banking App. Roper goes on to say “The increased emphasis on digital is deliberate and in line with our overall approach.  We have taken a customer centric view, championing the cause for low cost internet access and an increased digital presence.”

    With the free YouTube promotion, FNB Connect now offers their ADSL clients free data in order to access popular social networking sites, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube respectively. FNB Connect offers unshaped data for ADSL, which means that users can expect a faster experience. “Our customers can expect quality free surfing at great speeds,” concludes Roper.

  • President Paul Kagame will, this week, host members of the Global Broadband Commission for Digital Development, to a two-day event that starts September 8, in Kigali.

    The broadband commission brings together some of the world's top leaders in governments, industry and international community to devise strategies for accelerated deployment and access to broadband technology globally.

    President Kagame co-chairs the commission alongside Mexican Billionaire, Carlos Slim.

    "The Commission brings together some of the world's leading figures in government,industry,academia and development community to draw strategies for using technology to address some of the world's most intricate and complex developmental challenges facing mankind," David Kanamugire, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of ICT, said in an interview.

    He added that despite the proven benefits of broadband technology, there is always a risk of these technologies taking decades before benefits trickle down to the billions of people in the world that need them.

    "Failure to timely seize the technological opportunities renders nations and their societies trapped in poverty and unable to effectively compete on the global arena."

    The two day meeting will also bring together African Ministers of ICT, regulators as well as youth from around the continent.

    The first day of the meeting will see the commissioners and African policy makers interact with the African youth on broadband opportunities and challenges faced by the youth. On the second day, President Kagame will co-host the commission meeting together with Slim.

computing

  • Kenya Data Network  (KDN) has unveiled a multimillion-dollar state-of-the art data center to be used for hosting data and software applications.

    Speaking at the launch this week, KDN Chief Executive Officer Rikus Matthyser said the Data Center, now ready for occupation, is a unique facility offering reliability and convenience for corporate clients and financial institutions looking for international standard facilities.

    “This Data Center is testament to our commitment to provide world class services in the field of ICT in this part of the World.  The unique facility will enable our clients achieve their business objectives while cutting down on their overheads in telecommunications and data storage infrastructure,” said Matthyser.

    “As KDN, we are committed to providing convenient service through innovative products in telecoms in the region and are looking to develop our clients’ efficiency.  The center is a facility set up to provide physical environment that will ensure the day-to-day running of various communication equipment and application systems with a main objective of ensuring availability levels meet clients expectations at an affordable costs,” he added.

    He said the center was designed with a typical KDN customer in mind and offers world-class services while guaranteeing safety of the data stored in it.

    It is proposed that the data centre, located at Sameer Park off Mombasa road, will host applications to serve international and local businesses.
It is expected that the centre will relieve the region from the task of seeking back-up services in Europe and America.

    Breaking ground for the Sh600 million (about $US 6.4 million) centre in December 2009 Kenya Prime Minister Raila Odinga said government was keen to make Kenya a green economy by 2020.

    The solar powered energy data centre will serve Kenya and other African countries willing to safeguard essential data under a secure environment.
 Technology employed in building the centre will ensure the structure can withstand even a bomb attack.

    The centre is classified at security level seven, which is the highest in the world and similar to that of the United Nations and top intelligence agencies across the world where secure data is vital.
ICT experts say many companies spend between two to four per cent of their budget on disaster recovery planning.

    Completion of the data storage facility is therefore expected to save the companies from losses and damage resulting from interruptions of their infrastructure and data. 
KDN partnered with Teldor Cables and Systems to supply and deploy a fibre optic network to be used in the new data centre.

    Matthyser said that the center is targeted at a global market focusing mainly on offering of hosting services to clients in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

  • Admire Bio has the reassured presence of a successful businesswoman, with an edge that reveals she is still hungry for more. Bio, 28, a single mother living with her parents, set up her first internet cafe in the Sierra Leone capital, Freetown, only a year ago. She has expanded with two more branches, and plans to go national if she can secure a bank loan.

    "My biggest motivation is challenging men," she says, "to [get women to] say: 'Yes! I can be successful without you'."

    But things aren't easy. "Men make you dependent," says Bio. "Women only get loans with collateral from male relatives. My fiance offered his land. Worse, it's common to be pressured into sex by bank staff, if there isn't a man's backing, when women apply for loans. I'm angry women can't succeed alone."

    The swell of internet users in her cafe tells Bio she is on a winning road. Access to the internet and computer literacy is an area of much needed growth and investment. Only around 0.3% of the population are described as internet users, while fibre-optic broadband will not arrive until next year. Bio offers women evening computer courses "to make them stronger".

    Meanwhile, mobile phones are ubiquitous, in urban areas at least, with around 26% of people owning one. In the absence of widespread internet access, mobiles have been seen as something of a panacea for development in Africa.

    Kenya's M-Pesa money-transfer is hailed by technology gurus and development experts alike as an example of how poverty can be bypassed and development hastened. However, "banking the unbanked" has been questioned by some, as mobile money often caters for already affluent groups.

    M-Pesa's success inspired Sheka Forna back to his homeland, Sierra Leone, to start Splash. Since it launched in 2009, Splash has convinced around 100,000 people to forsake real money for the virtual kind, effectively using their sim cards as bank accounts.

    Airtel's Zap cash transfer service has changed the way Sierra Leone's city dwellers buy a coffee or receive their salaries. But Splash's growth has been slower than the company's projections, says Forna. "We're a new brand, and phone coverage is low and expensive. Getting nationwide agents to deal in Splash cash has been hard, with poor literacy and a limited mobile-savvy market."

    Facilitating microcredit repayments through mobiles was the initial spur for M-Pesa. In Sierra Leone though, the technological leap with microcredit has so far been more of a stumble.

    Hope Micro was among the largest microfinance institutions in the country. But it suffered a 20% portfolio loss (around $300,000) when half its customers defaulted in 2009. "With no credit-rating agency, customers held the equivalent of multiple credit cards. It's a blow for women – they're 85% of our clients," says SD Kanu, the institution's director.

    Hope Micro embarked on a six-month pilot with Splash to reduce interest rates (currently 36%) and add a competitive edge. "It wasn't successful," says Kanu. "Few of our customers are mobile-literate. Splash agents are small shopkeepers and their revenue wasn't enough to be committed."

    To build mobile literacy, Splash and Hope Micro have started a new pilot: dispersing loans "to get customers used to the idea that their money is actually there", explains Kanu. In just one month, the pilot has already dispersed $30,000.

    The Sierra Leone technology market is still in its infancy, says Trina DasGupta, director of the mWomen programme, which aims to boost female phone ownership with a view to improving access to services and increasing economic empowerment.

    Part of the problem is a gender gap in phone ownership; in Sierra Leone, women are 43% less likely than men to own a mobile. "This means poor women are kept in the financial and information dark ages – relying on men who are the primary phone owners," she says.

    This year, the US state department sent a fact-finding mission of women technology experts and entrepreneurs to see how technology can reduce poverty and close the gender gap.

    "There wasn't a businesswomen's group to introduce the delegation to," says Naasu Fofanah of Unipsil, the UN's peacebuilding office. "This was a startling gap. We know effective development comes when women are targeted. The same has to be true when improving women's ability to do business, for example, with women's unfettered access to finance and improving their technological knowhow."

    "There's a need to nurture a culture of real entrepreneurship to allow women to grow. As a first step, we need to put businesswomen on the map," she says.

    Unipsil and local NGO Afford-SL are working with women across the country to establish a national business network. "Once we have this kind of structure we can begin to bridge the gap between urban and rural businesses, for example, through technology, networking and training," says Manja Kargbo of Afford-SL.

    "Yes, I'll join a women's network," says Admire Bio. "I always tell women they can be like me - stronger by saving, investing and doing business with technology."

  • With this new approach to learning, the children will become more creative and innovative as the laptops help enhance what they are taught in schools in a more practical way.

    The country has invested a lot in technology, as evidenced by the completion of the laying of the fiber optic.

    According to the OLPC programme coordinator, Rwanda targets to have half a million laptops in primary schools across the country.

    The benefits of such an investment may not be in the short term, however, by starting to impart technology skills to the children at a young age, they will grow to become the future IT experts.

    Various sectors including health, banking, transport, infrastructure, telecommunication and local government are adopting modern technology into their daily operations. The country has, in the past, relied on foreign expertise to develop, run and maintain these systems.

    But, with programmes like the OLPC, the will be a vast human resource base that is technologically advanced to foster the much needed expertise to propel the country to greater heights.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has confirmed that France Telecom (FT) is the only bidder for its 49% stake in Congo Chine Telecom (CCT). Already in talks with Chinese vendor ZTE for its 51% share of the company, FT is expected to pay around EUR300 million (USD) in total for the operator, a reflection of its level of debt, rather than its value. Reuter reports that, Elie Girard, FT’s executive director said that this is an ‘important step, but not the final step of the process of the withdrawal of the state from CCT and the acquisition’. The move is part of a broader strategy from FT to increase its presence in emerging markets to offset increasing competition and declining revenues in Europe. France Telecom CEO Stéphane Richard said that the company also looks to bolster its leadership in Egypt.

  • The government expects consumers and smaller operators to benefit from the formation of a new private/public organisation that will build and manage Long Term Evolution (LTE) infrastructure, commonly known as 4G.

    The move by the Ministry of Information and Communication is seen as an admission of flaws in the licensing and allocation of 3G spectrum, where operators have been unable to fully roll out infrastructure because of expensive licence fees ($15 million or Sh1.4 billion) and high capital expenditure.

    Currently, Safaricom has the most extensive 3G infrastructure with 1,500 base stations on 3G compared to about 2,500 base stations country wide. Telkom Kenya has 220 sites on 3G while Airtel is currently testing its 3G network.

    Globally, technology has moved to LTE, which is seen as an answer to connecting rural and under-served areas though the cost of rolling out the infrastructure is prohibitive for operators who are yet to take 3G out of major towns to rural areas.

    The expense and slow roll out even by bigger operators prompted the government to invite bids for public private partnership to build, operate and maintain a national open access network, which will bring together operators and equipment vendors.

    In the public-private partnership, the government hopes to set a global precedent, where operators can share both active and passive components in the network.

    "This will be a first in the world where operators will share both passive and active infrastructure, the benefits will be passed on to the consumer in form of cheaper broadband," said Dr Bitange Ndemo permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication.

    Ideally, an open access platform will benefit small and big companies that will have an opportunity to provide services without worrying much about expensive licence fees or the capital expenditure of rolling out the network.

    "In principle, having a single (large) network should not be a problem, normally the concern arises around who is going to manage or maintain it and how will it be managed," said Mr Dobek Pater, senior telecoms analyst at Africa Analysis, an ICT consultancy firm.

    There has been discontent in the industry over the advert requirement that the private partner must be tier 1 network operator, 20 per cent Kenyan owned and ability to roll out to 47 counties within a year.

    Some players feel that the requirements were skewed in favour of the largest mobile network but Mr Ndemo sees the move as a savior to smaller ISPs which have been unable to compete with mobile networks.

    "This is the only way to salvage Internet Service Providers owned by small businesses to be able to compete; people need to understand open access and shared infrastructure," said Mr Ndemo.

    Globally, there is no uniformity on the spectrum band for use in LTE. For instance, Safaricom is testing LTE on its GSM band, which may interfere with other services already on offer like voice, 3G and 2G.

    Globally, LTE is optimised for 2.6GHz but Kenya faces a bigger trick because that spectrum is currently being used by the military.

    The Communications Commission of Kenya has been in discussions with the military to migrate its services to fibre and release the spectrum, even though CCK has also maintained that there are other available mechanisms like utilising the analogue spectrum, which will be released by the television stations, once Kenya migrates to the digital platform. The spectrum, commonly known as digital dividend is on 700 MHz band, is expected to be reallocated on a competitive basis.

  • Is French telecommunications giant Orange, the mobile subsidiary of France Telecom, buying JSE-listed IT services company Business Connexion (BCX)? Three separate industry sources, none of whom is employed by either company, have told TechCentral they understand the two parties are in discussions about a deal.

    Orange has long been rumoured to be sniffing around the SA market for an acquisition. A couple of years ago, it was rumoured to be interested in Cell C, though that speculation was never firmed up.

    A purchase of BCX, one of the largest listed IT companies on the JSE, would cost the French operator — which owns networks in a range of francophone countries in Africa — billions of rand, assuming it swallows the whole company.

    BCX CEO Benjamin Mophatlane says he can’t confirm or deny the two companies are in talks. “We do not comment on a cautionary [notice],” he says. An Orange spokesman in France says the company has “no official comment”.

    BCX — which is trading under a cautionary notice because it is in discussions that could affect its share price — has a market capitalisation of R2,2bn. An acquisition would be the biggest foreign direct investment in SA’s technology sector since last year’s blockbuster R24,4bn acquisition by Japan’s Nippon Telegraph and Telephone of Dimension Data.

    Orange is the world’s fifth largest mobile phone operator, with more than 210m customers. In Africa, it has businesses in Kenya, Cameroon, Senegal, Madagascar, Reunion, Tunisia, Uganda, Botswana, Mauritius, the Central African Republic, Mali, Niger, Equatorial Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire.

    BCX, meanwhile, has stated it is keen to expand more aggressively in Africa and analysts polled by TechCentral say a tie-up with Orange would allow it to grow into new markets on the continent where the French company already has operations.

    If market speculation is correct — and one source believes a deal between Orange and BCX could be concluded within weeks, pending regulatory approvals — it could send tremors through the local IT services industry.

    As telecoms operators and IT services firms increasingly converge on each other’s markets, mergers are becoming more commonplace. Telecoms firms see IT services as a new growth area and IT companies are increasingly considering it necessary to align themselves with operators.

    If a deal between Orange and BCX is on the cards, it will be the second time in recent years that the SA company has been courted by an operator. In 2006, Telkom offered R2,4bn to buy the company, but was thwarted by the competition authorities over concerns the deal could have a deleterious effect on competition in the IT market.

  • Airtel Uganda has suspended plans to stop accepting inbound calls from Uganda Telecom following intervention from the government.

    Airtel has been in dispute with Uganda Telecom for some time over a US$2.3 million debt that Telecom is struggling to pay.

    "They have agreed a new payments plan and so will not to switch off Uganda Telecom calls," Godfrey Mutabazi, the executive director of the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) told the East African Business Week. "Both UCC and the ministry of information and communication technology have agreed with Airtel not to go ahead and lock out Uganda Telecom subscribers from accessing their network." he added. The details of the settlement and the debt repayment plan are being kept confidential.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • -  In South Africa, First National Bank has launched a new service called Pay2Cell that allows its accountholders to make payments to other FNB accountholders using only the recipient’s cellphone number. To make a payment, customers must be registered for cellphone banking. To receive payments, they only need to be registered for inContact, FNB’s SMS notification service. There is a limit of R1 500/transaction.

    - Mozambique's publicly owned mobile phone operator, M-Cel, has announced that it is launching onto the market a cell phone that will cost only 449 meticais (about 16.5 US dollars). This phone, which M-Cel claims will be the cheapest on the market, is an Alcatel OT208 multi-functional handset. In June, Vodacom launched what was then the cheapest cell phone on the Mozambican market - the Chinese-made model ZTE S512, which sells for 499 meticais.

    - South Africa’s mobile service provider Vodacom has unveiled a new step to protect its customers from cellphone fraud by automatically locking a SIM card if any irregular call activity is detected. Vodacom stated that they saw an increase in the number of cases relating to International Revenue Share Fraud (IRSF), and with this fraud a syndicate steals handsets or SIM cards from victims and uses them to dial international premium numbers which could result in cellphone bills as high as R120 000.

    - Samsung has unveiled the Galaxy S II smartphone in Kenya. Speaking in Nairobi during the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S II, Samsung Electronics East Africa Business Leader, Robert Ngeru confirmed that the Android powered smartphone would be hitting the market to further enhance Samsung’s local offering.

    - Zimbabwe’s largest mobile operator, Econet Wireless, will at end of the month launch a mobile payment system that makes it possible for Zimbabweans to pay bills using their cellphones. The company said it had spent millions of dollars on developing the system, which will be launched to its over 5 million customers, completely eliminating the need for any notes for purchases below USD20.

    - In Liberia, mobile operators Cellcom and Lonestar/MTN have launched mobile banking services. Cellcom has joined ranks with UBA Bank while Lonestar/MTN has partnered with Ecobank. Statistics also show that just about only 10% of Liberians have bank accounts while over 40% of the population has mobile phones. So, with difficult roads and limited formal banking facilities around Liberia mobile banking services will provide the opportunity for more Liberians, particularly in the rural areas to have access to cash, transfer money, pay bills, do business and improve their lives economically.

    - News24 and Samsung South Africa have combined to produce the first local Smart TV application. The News24 app can be accessed from any Samsung Smart TV and offers the hooked-in user news reports, the latest sports results, financial indicators, celebrity gossip and much more. The move mirrors the recent UK launch of the BBC News app on Samsung TVs.

    - Mobile operator, Cell C has deployed its HSPA+ network in Welkom, Kroonstad and Koppies, extending its coverage in the Free State. The latest expansion of the network now puts Cell C's national coverage at 63% of the South African population.

Digital Content

  • Technology company, Google, plans to reduce the cost of smart phones in Africa to an affordable range in order to boost the use of the internet.

    The company intends to sell genuine smart phones at prices below Shs225,000 ($80) to encourage more Africans to abandon basic phones with a few functions, according to Mr Nelson Mattos, the vice president for Google Europe, Middle East and Africa.

    Smart phones are those designed with the internet and thousands of applications to enable their users to rely on them as mini-computers.

    Genuine smart phones from companies like; Nokia, Samsung, Apple, LG and Huawei cost between $90 and $800 a range that is out of reach for ordinary Africans and other developing markets.

    “When you look at the disposable income in Africa compared to that in Europe, the price (of smart phones) in Africa today is 100 times more. So, it’s not surprising that the uptake of smart phones in Europe is taking off and not in Africa,” Mr Mattos told Daily Monitor in interview yesterday during the Google conference in Kampala.

    He added that Google’s planned partnership with US firm Motorola, maker of Motorola phones, is aimed at creating affordable smart phones for its emerging markets including Africa and Asia.
    “We know that majority of people in Africa access the internet via the mobile phone, Motorola being a player in that industry will allow us to speed up access to the internet through the uptake of smart phones,” he said.

    Uganda has about 4 million internet users who access the internet at least once a month, according to the Uganda Communications Commission.

    Google, which has operations in Uganda is playing a key role to promote the use of the internet through creating local content for internet users.

    For instance, the company has mapped most key and relevant places in Uganda and has also translated its search engine to Luganda, Kiswahili, Luo and Runyakitara.

  • Social media has moved incredibly quickly from a specialist tool to a must-have channel of engagement with customers.

    Building on the unique one on one conversation that social media makes possible, Vodacom has increased the number of people working in its specialist dedicated customer care team and increased their hours of operation.

    The customer care team are now live on Twitter (@vodacom111) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/Vodacom) from 7am to 10pm every day, including weekends.

    “I don’t think any of us had an inkling what we were letting ourselves in for back in early 2010 when we kicked off our social media activity on Twitter. We made two key decisions which are really paying dividends.

    First, we set up the dedicated Twitter channel for customer care, @vodacom111, and made sure that the people resolving the queries were frontline on Twitter with nowhere to hide. We then added to that same team and put them on to the Facebook page as well, scouring customer posts for issues to resolve,” said Portia Maurice, Chief Officer Corporate Affairs.

    With more than 27 million customers in South Africa, Vodacom’s social media team were always going to have their work cut out for them. From starting up a year and a half ago, the reality has been beyond any expectations.

    The company now has more than 20,000 followers on its two main Twitter channels and is rapidly approaching 100,000 Facebook fans, giving the team a huge volume of customer care queries to handle.

    “There’s always a challenge separating customer care activities from all the other engagements that happen via our social media channels but with the structure we’ve put in place, I think we’ve found a good balance,” Maurice added.

Issue no 570 2nd September 2011

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Top story

  • Last week’s Mobile Entertainment World in Cape Town began to crystallize the beginning of successful, business-worthy African online content. It bought together a handful of mobile operators, mobile platform operators and content companies offering things as diverse as music, gaming and Nollywood. Russell Southwood picks over the lessons from this emerging content market.

    It’s a hazard of doing what we do that we attend (and sometimes even programme) conferences. The standard pattern is that everyone senior turns up for the first half day to network and by the end of the conference you’re left with a handful of people listening to ever-less compelling presentations. Speakers make seemingly endless speeches promoting whatever it is they’re selling to audiences in low-lit rooms at too greater length. Interaction comes down to a couple of questions at each session.

    Hats off to Matthew Dawes of All Amber who manages to combine really interesting programmes with entertaining panelists who actually say things that might make you think about what you do with your business. At last week’s event, many of them were very funny about the failures they endured along the way and some were even honest enough to say that they hadn’t entirely worked out how to make money out of something (for example, mobile TV). And the real test was that on day 2 there were as many participants as there were on day one. Furthermore, it was a conference in South Africa that managed to talk about Africa rather than just about South Africa.

    The first Mobile Entertainment World conference in Cape Town last week bought together all of the people who need to be doing business together if there is to be an online content and services sector in Africa: media owners; mobile platform operators; services and social networking sites; gaming companies; and….well, there were two mobile companies, more of which, later. There was even the less attractive side of the industry represented by an adult chat service.

    Out of this interesting mixture of people came the first sight of a content industry that might both command an audience and get paid for doing it. The stand-out amongst all of these was Nigeria’s Iroko Partners (see video interview link below). It has hit upon a way of distributing Nollywood content legally (over 800 movies), making money and giving some of that money back to the artists who made it. In under a year it has generated around US$1 million in advertising revenues from 2.2 million views and is now expanding into offering music video clips on the same basis.

    It has attracted 2.2 million unique viewers and 16 million views from 231 countries and all without any marketing. 20% of traffic is from mobiles and 60% of search enquiries come from mobiles in Nigeria. The really telling statistic is that the 6th biggest market is Malaysia and 11th biggest is Nigeria (around 30,000 unique views). With better bandwidth, viewer numbers will inevitably increase in the home of Nollywood.

    94% of the advertising income comes from 5 countries with the big markets including USA, UK and Canada. Almost all of these views (even in Malaysia) are from the widely distributed Nigerian diaspora. The biggest movie is Blackberry Babes which is a 60 minute movie that has had 900,000 views: “Blackberry didn’t even know it had been made.”

    Njoku noticed that there were a lot of e-mails asking for Genevieve Nnaji movies. She is now so famous that she is only makes a couple of films a year. So he put out a call to producers and directors for Nnaji movies. Within a week, he was running a season of movies with two new movies a day, which was very successful:”Only the Internet could have that kind of immediacy.”

    His next project is expanding into Nigerian music video clips:”The music entertainment space in Nigeria is an absolute mess. One song can be uploaded as many as 20 times. Music sales cannot be verified. We can do that on You Tube (with views). We can tap into a global audience and give money back to the artists. He has signed 40 artists (so far including  El Dee, Kefee, P Square and Bez) and has plans to sign 100 more.

    According to Ayite Gaba, Business Development, Google who is responsible for developing You Tube partners in Sub-Saharan Africa, the advertising income paid to African partners varies between US$10,000-US$1 million:”Views and revenues are largely coming from outside Africa at the moment and we have no sales offices (for You Tube) in Africa at the moment.”

    However, those that want to prepare themselves for the future (let’s call that the next three years) need to start positioning themselves now. If we use Facebook as proxy for Internet users in Nigeria, only 30,000 of 2.9 million people currently view movies on Iroko but within the next 1-3 years bandwidth will improve to the point where the numbers will go up to at least a million. With better 3G and LTE not far off, many of those will view music clips on their mobile phones (feature and smart).

    But there were other interesting green shoots offering new ways of connecting with audiences:

    *    Julian Van Plato, CEO, Trans Digital Media
    was live streaming the conference content both to PCs and mobiles. An event with around 150 people – a small number of whom were tweeting- soon attracted 700 streams for what was a fairly specialist subject. For a relatively small sum it can live stream to 95% of mobile phones (and VOD if required) but better still, it can deliver this stream into a large number of Sub-Saharan African countries. It is currently working on sports events, music and comedy club nights and has signed a deal with Congolese music star Fally Ipupa who currently gets 300,000-1.5 million hits for his music videos. Interestingly, he sees himself as potentially competing with television. The business model? Sponsorship or charging for large, well-promoted events.

    *    Emma Kaye, CEO, Bozza hit on the idea of training people in Khayelitsha township to make movies using a Nokia N8 with an HD camera. She showed a variety of clips including one about the consequences of a rape, the daily train commute, mobile TV news and a cooking programme. The latter was not for the faint-hearted as a sheep’s head was cleaned up with a blowtorch and cooked split in half, braai-style. In the pilot phase of what Kaye describes as a “mobihood”, it attracted 40,000 subscribers in three months and 170,000 by the end of the pilot period with just word of mouth. So what? Well it goes to show that there are large numbers of Africans (formerly known as viewers) out there who do not see their lives reflected in the more mainstream media.

    *    A number of people spoke about IVR radio including Starfish Mobile. The phone owner dials in to a short code and is offered a menu of musical genres. S/he chooses a genre and then chooses a track and gets to hear 90 seconds before being asked to pay. The service is already being offered by Vodacom Tanzania and in the “you do it, I do it:dog eat dog world”, MTN is about to follow suit with others trailing behind. Many handsets already have built in radios (and some Free-To-Air analogue TV receivers) that local radio stations need to include as part of their strategy to get listeners.

    *    Vincent Maher, Co-Founder, Motribe and Gavin Marshall, Head of Innovation, MXit,
    spoke about trying to understand what audiences wanted in terms of specialist social communities and gaming. The former produces social networking sites globally with names like Moonbase (320,000 users) and Cabango (280,000 users) and has 3,500 tribes with 1.6 million users. Interestingly, South Africa is only its 8th biggest market with 75,000 users but it’s big in Nigeria where it does work for Guinness.

    African mobile operators at local opco level are inclined to say that local content is not out there and when it is, the owners are difficult to deal with. Translation: We don’t really understand the content market on our doorstep and the income splits we’re offering do not encourage things that attract major audiences on other media. The key players in this new African content ecology are the continent’s film-makers, broadcasters, gamers, music stars, local niche social communities and local niche content producers (think hundreds of thousands rather than millions).

    The most successful existing local African online content is newspapers. The sites of print newspapers are up in the top 20 of all the African countries covered by Alexa.com. However, one East African newspaper gets 30,000 print readers but 2 million local online users. Even if you assume optimistically that 10 people read each paid copy, the online version still outstrips the print version. A relatively small number of people pay for the print version and it attracts 97% of the advertising revenues. This cannot last as advertisers wake up to the shift that is underway. Meanwhile few media owners have yet begun to craft a strategy to help them survive this transition.

    But as Mark Rayner, CEO, DStv Mobile observed that the upward suck of bandwidth required to use this content will continue to grow:”LTE will come and make the lives of content owners vastly different. But the new bandwidth will bring more demands like HD. So we will still need to be fighting for bandwidth and fighting for it at the right price.” Mobile operators have networks that started as narrow pipes but the future is content and services that require an ever increasing capacity for data. Rayner explained that its 3G live feed of the British Royal wedding crashed because too many people accessed it at once. Mobile operators have to provision a network where this does not occur if they are serious about a content-rich future.

    And they will also have to do something about the revenue splits. At present one operator is offering 80/20 in its favour: this is no way breed a local content ecosystem. Furthermore, the complicated chain of people who take percentages mean that the current minimum price possible is probably higher than is affordable by a mass audience. And in this the mobile operators are not the only guilty party. Music and film rights holders (particularly international ones) do not understand that what they are demanding will cut off the development of the market before it starts. (Puts me in mind of a Spike Lee aphorism:”A US$50 million Hollywood movie is a US$10 million movie once everybody got through stealing.”)

    But what do you do about the mobile operators who don’t seem to care about the very content on which their future revenues hang? I’ve attended three of Matthew Dawes conferences and the number of mobile operators attending can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Sadly the VAS Managers are not at senior management level in the country opco’s. There are some exceptional VAS managers but they are in the minority. There are endless millions in investment for network but more or less nothing for content development.

    In content terms, mobile operators have to decide whether to stick or twist: they can do either but they should choose decisively rather than saying our indecision is final. The ghost haunting this discussion is that the vastly over-charged SMS service revenues will be eaten at the edges by cheaper services used in the data bundle.(Note the Skype acquisition of GroupMe.)

    The “get into content” route is the setting up of an opco that lives on its own revenues in which you invest real money that removes the SMS aggregator from an already over-crowded value chain. The “stay-out of content” route is to give better revenue splits and encourage the take-up of local content. There’s nothing wring with being “dumb-pipe” operators if you make a decent return and perhaps someone should make the T-shirt that says so. Build decent networks and get paid for doing so.

    The problem is the testosterone-driven, “masters of the universe” view that Africa’s mobile operators should go round eating everyone else’s lunch on the precautionary principle that someone might eat theirs in the near future. But who else in Africa is going to build properly functioning networks and charge for them?



    New video clips on Balancing Act’s You Tube Channel:


    Jason Njoku, CEO, Iroko Partners
    on distributing Nollywood and Nigerian Music using You Tube

    Emma Kaye, CEO, Bozza
    on South African townships creating their own online content

    Julian VanPlato, CEO, Trans Digital Media on a new live streaming mobile service for Africa

    Sami Leino, COO, Spinlet on the launch of an "iTunes" for Africa

    Ofer Ronen, Business Development Director - Broadcast, Gilat Satcom on its move into African broadcast services

    South Africa: Styli Charalambous, Managing Director, The Daily Maverick on its new iPad subscription service

    Steve Vosloo, mLabs
    on supporting mobile innovation in South Africa

    Arun Nagar, CEO, Spice VAS Africa on launching its African platforms and live streaming

    Robert Aouad, CEO Isocel Benin on opening a carrier-neutral data centre in Benin

    Balancing Act's Twitter feed provides a combination of breaking news for telecoms, Internet and broadcast in Africa, direct tweets from countries visited and access to the occasional rumours circulating. You can follow us on:
    @BalancingActAfr

telecoms

  • After Globacom was handed the license to operate as the fifth telecoms company in the Ghanaian market for a fee of $50 million, there was an unavailability of spectrum for the Nigerian company to start operations in Ghana, says Ghana’s Minister of Communications. Yes, you read that correctly: Glo was give a licence for which the spectrum to deliver it was not available.

    In addition to this, the review of regime guidelines for the citing of telecoms cell sites by Ghanaian authorities for the purpose of assurance on structural integrity of masts also affected the early deployment of Glo.

    Haruna Iddrisu attributed these reasons to why the telecoms company, owned by Mike Adenuga, Nigeria’s second richest person according to Forbes Magazine could not start operations in Ghana as expected.

    According to the Minister, at the time Glo was issued a license August 2008 to operate in Ghana for a fee in the region of $50 million, the spectrum available for use by Glo was unavailable. “Glo was licensed August 2008 and again at the time that Glo was issued a license for a fee in the region of $50 million. The spectrum for Glo was unavailable on the 1900 megahertz,” he revealed in an interview on TV Africa’s Bare Facts last Tuesday August 23, 2011 which was monitored by ghanabusinessnews.com.

    According to Iddrisu, the Bureau of National Communications (BNC) and the National Security who were using the spectrum were moved unto another megahertz. “…Now what we have to do upon assuming office in 2009 is to facilitate a migration of the Bureau of National Communications (BNC) who were sitting on that spectrum and we have to move National Security and BNC into the 450 megahertz in order to free the spectrum for the use of Glo,” Iddrisu told the host of the show.

    The Minister indicated that Sherry Ayittey, Minister for Environment, Science and Technology wanted some assurance on the structural integrity of the telecom masts to have some sanity in the environment hence the need to review the regime of guidelines of these citing which eventually affected the immediate deployment of Glo.

    Happily by the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011, Glo had at least up to a thousand cell sites approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Iddrisu said adding “I know another operator in the industry who does have less cell sites.” Their challenges have to do with the cell sites, he added.

    He also disclosed on the show that the National Communications Authority (NCA) at one time wrote to Glo as to when they will start operations in Ghana but a definite answer was not given.

    “The regulator wrote to them in March 2011 and they responded in April but were not definite in terms of when they will launch. I’m sure it’s just their marketing strategy. They want to penetrate the Ghanaian market well.” But Ghanaian authorities have given some policy directives that between September 15 and October 15, 2011, Glo must show physical presence or face appropriate sanctions.

  • Pieter Uys, Vodacom CEO, has announced that Vodacom will be providing a mobile app store to consumers in September 2011. The announcement came after an extensive inquiry into the local mobile app ecosystem through a multi-phased market research project conducted by Columinate. Vodacom shared the results of the Columinate research with industry stakeholders at a special event held at the Melrose Arch Hotel in Johannesburg on Friday, 26 August.

    On Friday, 26 August, Columinate and Vodacom hosted a special breakfast event to share the findings from a multi-phased research inquiry into the local mobile app ecosystem.

    Pieter Uys, Vodacom CEO, announced that he was so excited about Columinate's research that he wanted to share it with the world. Before sharing the results, Uys spoke briefly about Vodacom's intentions for the mobile app ecosystem in South Africa, and went on to announce the launch of Vodacom's app store in September 2011.

    Thereafter, Henk Pretorius, Columinate director, presented the findings from the market research. This represented a collation of the multi-phased project conducted by Columinate which looked at how industry experts and stakeholders, as well as developers and consumers of apps, felt about the local ecosystem and its possibilities.

    Overall, 11 industry professionals, 407 smartphone owners who have downloaded apps in the past 6 months, and 35 developers took part in the research. The research was also preceded and continuously checked against an in-depth desk research phase that looked at international nuances compared to those evident in the local ecosystem.

    One finding in the report suggests that networks are considered to be in a favourable position to act as enablers, as they have the ability to drive app demand, interact with consumers and provide a gateway for developers to get their apps to the market. This finding can be linked to Uys's statement that, "The launch of this app store is just the beginning. We're building an entire community that will supply home-grown apps relevant to the South African environment. With all the talent available in this country, there's no reason why we can't create our own application industry."

    According to Elna Smit, Columinate director, "The research presented a challenge for Columinate as it was the first of its kind in South Africa. There are no formal or public sources that have looked at the apps ecosystem locally, and we had to take an innovative and fresh perspective to provide Vodacom with the insight needed”.

    “The approach was a 360 degree view of the ecosystem and, from a researcher's point of view, the opportunity to do this depth of research was very rewarding." She also added, "Vodacom's willingness to openly share the market research findings, something that is rarely done, represents a move that challenges all players in the industry to work together in order to nurture, enable and develop the local app ecosystem. "


    Vodacom’s announcement about launching an apps store follows a similar announcement in July by Zantel about the rollout of  Blackberry powered apps store. Mobile operators Orange and Tunisiana have already launched apps stores in Tunisia. The pace of launching apps store in Africa is picking up and if you need to know more to what extent mobile applications will play a role in the development of mobile content on the continent, you need to read the recently published report by Balancing Act: “Mobile apps for Africa: Strategies to make sense of free and paid apps”. The report analyses the nascent apps ecosystem in Africa while providing an analytical framework that will allow African mobile operators, content providers, apps developers and handset manufacturers to decide on what strategy to adopt regarding mobile apps. To find out more about the report please click here:

  • Ethiopian Electric Power Cooperation (EEPCo) and ethio-telecom, which reported losses of US$4.2 million and US$3.6 million, respectively, due to theft and intentional damages on their infrastructure this year, appealed to Ministry of Justice (MoJ) for stringent legal measures on those accused of committing these acts.

    The two institutions presented the reported loss they had incurred during the second Joint National Justice Forum held at Haile Resort in Hawassa, 273km from the capital in Southern Regional State, last weekend. They appealed to judges of the Supreme Court as well as Tegene Getaneh, president of the Supreme Court, for a speedy and severe sentencing on those proclaimed guilty of the act of committing these offences.

    Out of this loss, 28 million Br was due to cutting and theft of fibre optic cables. Another 53 million Br was spent on maintaining and repairing these damages.

    "Since the damage that occurs doesn't affect just one institution, the punishment should also be severe," Abdurahim said. "So far, none of the punishments levied on offenders has been enough of a deterrent."

    The state owned ethio-telecom alone lost 10.6 million Br which it would have gained had data traffic not been interrupted due to cuttings of fibre optic cables. In the past two months, 23 telecom lines were damaged and service disruption had occurred 46 times of which 15 were due to intentional cutting of the optic cables.

    It used to be that this frequency of theft would happen in a year, which shows the increase in these intentional acts, according to Abdurahim. Both institutions appealed to the prosecutors and relevant officials in the MoJ to charge offenders using the more stringent proclamation.

  • The final appeal committee of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) of South Africa has dismissed a last attempt by Cell C to have a ruling that the "4Gs" term it used in its advertising was in breach of the authority's advertising codes overturned. The committee has awarded costs to complainants Vodacom and MTN.

    In a decision handed down by the committee's Mervyn King on Monday, 29 August 2011, it says the appeal is "dismissed with costs, which shall include the costs of counsel on behalf of Vodacom, taxed on the party-and-party basis as if this matter had been heard in the high court".

    The decision is a blow to Cell C, which had initially claimed it had a fourth-generation (4G) mobile network. It later changed its advertising from "4G" to "4Gs", claiming the abbreviation stood for "for great speed" and "for great service".

    Other African countries (particularly Nigeria) have operators who claim to be providing 4G services but are not challenged by any advertising standards body.

internet

  • Facebook Check-in Deals launched in South Africa with Cell C offering two deals to potential customers through the platform Earlier this week Facebook’s official sales partner in South Africa, Habari Media, revealed that it would be launching Facebook Check-in Deals in South Africa today (1 September 2011) with Avis, Chevrolet, and Cell C.

    In a press statement issued today (1 September 2011), Cell C revealed that it would be offering two deals through the platform. Deal 1: R129/month for 24 months with Nokia C3 handset, 100 off-peak minutes per month on Casual Chat 100, 24GB of data (2GB of data per month over 12 months) and a 7.2Mbps USB “speedstick.”

    Deal 2: R99/month for 24 months with Nokia E5 handset, 100 off-peak minutes per month on Casual Chat 100, 7.2Mbps capable Cell C “speedstick” with 3GB of once-off data (valid for 365 days).

    Simon Camerer, Cell C’s Executive Head of Marketing, said that the two deals would be available through Check-in Deals from 1 September 2011 to 30 November 2011 at Cell C stores countrywide.

  • The government has developed an automated system to verify the authenticity of transport vehicle licences, putting the brakes on cartels that have thrived from the sale of counterfeits.

    Supported by mobile phone technology, the system is already on trial among vehicles registered by the Transport Licensing Board (TLB). The registrar of motor vehicles, Francis Meja, said Tuesday that those seeking to confirm the authenticity of their documents can send their licence serial numbers to a short text message (SMS) number 5456.

    The automated system would then provide a feedback on the status of the licence, based on the official records at the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA). "Response from TLB registered vehicles is fabulous and we hope to launch the system soon and extend it to all categories of vehicles and driving licences," Meja told a meeting in Nairobi between the Transport ministry and members of the Parliamentary Committee on Transport, Public Works and Housing.

    Transport Minister Amos Kimunya said the new system has triggered a rush among transport vehicle owners seeking authentic documents."In the past one month alone we have received applications for about 200,000 vehicles, which points to the effectiveness of the system," he told the forum.

    Cartels have been reaping from the sale of counterfeit documents such as road and drivers' licences, with motorists acquiring fake driving licences for as little as Sh1,000 without formal training.

    Corruption has been blamed for the high number of accidents on major roads and highways across the country. Meja said all applications would be uploaded into a centralised database to assist in the transition towards the smart-card technology based second generation driving licences. The database already has 2.9 million registered drivers and 1.4 million vehicles. "It will be easier to transfer the information we already have into the digital cards," he said.

  • Eutelsat Communications has announced a 6-year distribution agreement valued at EUR20 million between its Skylogic subsidiary and Egyptsat. The agreement enables Egyptsat to use the new-generation Tooway satellite service to provide broadband services to users beyond reach of terrestrial or wireless networks across Egypt.

    With download speeds of up to 10 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 4 Mbps, Tooway satellite broadband will bring fast, reliable and affordable Internet access for Egyptsat customers in areas with limited alternative solutions for broadband. The Tooway solution consists of a satellite dish and a modem connected to the PC via Ethernet, giving customers Internet access with no need for a telephone line.

    Set up in 2000, Egyptsat is a leading VSAT service provider in the Middle East and Africa. The company is a licensed VSAT operator in Egypt, providing Internet services to oil companies in Egypt and outside of Egypt for offshore locations. Tooway™ will complement the company's product portfolio by offering satellite Internet solutions at competitive prices for small offices and home users in industrial and economic centres in the north of the country who can be served through the KA-SAT spotbeam allocated specifically for Egypt.

    "Tooway is the best fit for Egypt's new era, with Internet users increasing from 21 million to 25.4 million just after the 25th January revolution. With a price comparable to ADSL, Tooway is the passcode for this new era," said Dr. Mohamed Elghamry, CEO of Egyptsat."The service is expected to meet the significant demand in the Egyptian territory and the region, where too many places are in deep need for high speed Internet at reasonable cost".

    Arduino Patacchini, CEO of Skylogic, added: "Tooway is the ideal broadband service to meet the needs of Egyptsat's customers in rural and difficult to reach areas of the region. We are delighted to work with Egyptsat to extend broadband availability, and look forward to building a close and longstanding partnership which contributes to achieving a high-quality broadband environment in Egypt."

    The new-generation Tooway service is provided via Eutelsat's KA-SAT High Throughput Satellite, which went into commercial service in May. With its total capacity of more than 70 Gbps, KA-SAT brings a new era of competitively-priced, satellite-delivered services for homes and small businesses across Europe and the Mediterranean Basin. The satellite forms the cornerstone of an infrastructure, which includes eight main satellite gateways connected to the Internet by a fibre backbone ring.

computing

  • Government is expected to spend between $10 to $25 million within the next five years, under the e-school project to procure laptops and desktop computers for schools, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, Minister of Communications said on Tuesday.

    He expressed the hope that the project, which was a co-operation between the sector and Ministry of Education, would help demystify the use of computers by Ghanaian children in schools.

    Iddrisu made the disclosure when a five-member delegation from Samsung Ghana Limited paid a courtesy call on him in Accra. He made a “special request” to the delegation to establish a Samsung assembling plant to enable the corporate entity to take advantage of government’s e-project earmarked for 2016.

    Iddrisu said: “Those establishments that would be able to set up plants to assemble phones, laptops and desk top computers would enjoy incentives and other support budget line for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for the purpose of procuring laptops and desk top computers.”

    He called on the delegation to take advantage of some business opportunities that existed in the ICT sector stressing that government was seeking partners to help the country migrate from the analogue radio and television to digital.

    Iddrisu said: “This will give the country some spectrum dividend and also some advantage of improvement in sound and picture quality”. He said other areas of investment included building a secondary data centre in Sunyani in the Brong Ahafo Region to serve the business enclave in the region.

    Iddrisu said as part of government’s effort to address growing unemployment challenges in the country and to provide Information Technology related jobs; it was seeking to partner a business entity to establish two ICT parks slated for Tema and Cape Coast. He called on the delegation to explore business opportunities that existed in rural communities so they could provide solutions to help bridge the digital divide.

    Iddrisu said Ghana had an enabling environment for both legal and regulatory provisions to facilitate the safety and security of businesses. He expressed the hope that Samsung Ghana Limited would provide appreciable corporate social responsibility to address the needs of Ghanaians.

    Brovo Kim, Managing Director of Samsung Ghana, expressed commitment to support government to establish the ICT parks and help develop the communication sector in general. He said management had rolled out a programme to identify and harness the talents of young Ghanaian consumers and entrepreneurs for development.

  • By 2017, Rwanda intends to distribute half a million laptops to primary school students across the country through the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program. However, as Nkubito Bakuramutsa, Rwanda's OLPC coordinator explains to The Independent's Matthew Stein, the program is expected to revolutionise a lot more than the country's education system.

    Q: What progress has the OLPC program made to date?

    A: In 2008-09 our pilot project started with the distribution of 10,000 laptops. We followed that up with a contact of 100,000 laptops. In 2010 we distributed 65,000 of these to P4, P5 and P6 students in 128 schools. And since this past June, we have been in the midst of distributing the remaining 35,000 laptops in an additional 70 schools.

    Q: What is your ultimate goal?

    We want to reach all one million students between P4 and P6. We have now placed an order for another 60,000 laptops and with the distribution of these we will have reached about 17 percent of the P4-P6 population by June 2012. However, we are currently doing a lot of research on how we can increase these numbers drastically to reach our goal by 2017.

    Q: What's the process of importing OLPC into the schools?

    The first step is to wire all these schools to ensure that they have power plugs in the classroom, and we also add light in the classroom at the same time. So this program is also about improving the infrastructure of the schools. If they're too far from the electricity grid we are using solar panels. The second phase is connecting them to our servers and local area networks, which they can connect to through a wireless local area network that we install as well. Once students access the server, they can download the Rwandan curriculum in its digital form as well as books and other learning material to improve their skills

    Q: How do the students learn to use the computers and its programs?

    A: The teachers have to be at the centre of this transformation. First we selected 150 schools and asked that the headmaster and a teacher of their choice come to Kigali for one week of training. The first two days is spent on how to use the laptops and the other three days on the methodology of teaching the material with a computer. Then they go back and teach other teachers in the school. We then visit each school individually. We spend five days working with the teachers and students and we spare one day of training for the community so that it can understand why we're putting these laptops in the school, the impact it should have on the students and why it's important for Rwanda. We're trying to deploy ICT in such a way that it participate not only in the enhancement of learning but it also contributes to the development of the country.

    Q: Have you encountered any challenges?

    A: There have been some natural consequences: for the student it's a new approach to learn, to access knowledge; for a teacher, teaching with the laptops and digital software becomes more challenging because they are no longer providing the students with content to memorise. Instead, they are trying to enhance the understanding of concepts, so more than memorizing the children focus on innovation and creativity. Inserting technology in school is a fundamental change to classic education. It's not just enabling books to be in a digital format--it's a really new way of learning. We don't want them to repeat just what's on the board. We want them to demonstrate that they've really understood the concept. It's called constructionism--learning by doing.

    Q: Do the laptops belong to the students?

    A: No, it's school property. The students can take the laptops home with them but before we distribute them we add a security feature that allows our server to do a roll call every three weeks to check if the computers are inside the school. If they are not there, the laptops are disabled. Once the students graduate from P6, they leave the laptops behind for the next batch of students.

    Q: The government is now spending more than $200 on each computer. Is this expense really justified given the amount of challenges Rwanda, as a developing country, face?

    A: In Rwanda we are using more and more ICT in our hospitals, airports, for all kinds of infrastructure projects to develop every part of our country. Who are the people that are going to man this infrastructure? Who are the people that are going to integrate or customise this infrastructure to our environment?

    These are the people we are training today. We need them to help us reduce the level of ICT consultancy we require with the outside world. Rwanda can invest in other sectors too, but through OLPC we are increasing our independence from all these external dependencies, which are extremely expensive. We are investing in the future, not in the present. We need all these skills to be brought into Rwanda and primary school is really the foundation. If you are well-trained in primary school then it will be easier to succeed. We want all children in Rwanda to have the same level of understanding and knowledge as a kid from Singapore, Finland or California.

  • Electronics firm Samsung plans to establish a research and development centre focused on planning, design and development of electronics suited to the Kenyan market.

    Samsung Deputy Managing Director Robert Ngeru said the centre will be operational by 2013 and is aimed at practical skills transfer to enable the local talent contribute to product innovation.

    "Our aim is to promote co-operation, innovation and the exchange of new ideas in technology so that our products and technologies continue to respond to the felt needs and conditions of the continent," said Ngeru.

    Ngeru said the firm is using materials, components and solutions to meet the quality, protection and performance needs of the electronics operating in the continent.

    "We have a visionary pillar of developing technology that is built in Africa, for Africa, by Africa to create sustainable opportunities that empower people to live their dreams," added Ngeru.

    Samsung aims to post US$10 billion (Sh93 million) in revenue by 2015 in Sub-Saharan Africa with its consumer electronics and mobile products built for the market.

    The firm is focusing on Africa's top 10 economies, which together generate 79 per cent of the continent's wealth and house almost 47 pert cent of the population.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • MTN is opposed to President Museveni's idea of telecoms selling some of their shares to Ugandans through the domestic stock market, according to Sifiso Dabengwa, the group's president and CEO.

    "You go to capital markets for capital reasons not for regulatory reasons. You can have a political view about listing but listing is fundamentally a corporate finance decision,"  Dabengwa said at a news conference in Kampala on Wednesday.

    The MTN group boss was reacting to President Museveni's demand for all telecommunication firms to float shares through the capital markets so as to give Ugandans an opportunity to get a share of their profits.

    The President made the demand in July while meeting members of the ruling National Resistance Movement caucus. Citing South African-owned MTN as an example, President Museveni argued that it is unfair that telecommunication firms are repatriating much of the "abnormal profits" they make.

    Going forward, he said, the mobile companies must declare the amount of money they make in each year so that the government makes regulations like setting threshold amounts they must invest within the country.

    The MTN group earned up to Shs783 billion in profits last year, going by the 1 per cent (Shs7.8 billion) contribution that the firm contributed to the Uganda Communications Commission, the industry regulator.

    All telecoms are required by law to contribute 1 per cent of their profits to the Rural Communication Development Fund, to finance the development of communication in rural areas.

    MTN is the most profitable telecom of all the major five telecoms including; Airtel, Uganda Telecom Limited, Orange and Smile Telecom. MTN supports the principle of spreading out shareholding of the firm but is opposed to the way the government wants it to be done.

    "That principle we support. But how you do it, I don't believe it should be regulated by the industry regulator. The regulator should concentrate on regulating the industry and not how we fund the business."

    However, MTN is open to options like the acquisition of its shares by institutions such as the National Social Security Fund. According to Mr, the MTN Group discusses the issue of listing its subsidiaries on annual basis looking at various markets.

    According to Mr The key issues the firm looks at are the financial benefit of listing its shares in the market, whether the locals have the ability to take up the shares and if the domestic stock market is vibrant and effective.

    "It's an ongoing discussion and an on-going debate that we will always be having," he told journalists on his business review meeting.

  • Telkom is still keen to expand its operations elsewhere on the African continent despite the sensational failure of Multi-Links, its Nigerian business, says chairman Lazarus Zim.
    He was speaking at the group’s 2011 annual general meeting of shareholders on Tuesday in Midrand.

    “We need to remain the wholesaler of choice and build a sustainable African business,” Zim says. Just because the group has had “challenges” in Nigeria, doesn’t mean it’s lost interest in seeking opportunities elsewhere on the continent outside its home market of SA. Zim doesn’t say if the group is already considering specific investments.

    “There were expensive and important lessons that we learnt [from Multi-Links],” Zim says. “We are fully committed to building a sustainable, good and profitable African business.”

    Telkom lost more than R7bn through its decision to buy and invest in Multi-Links, which operates a CDMA (code division multiple access) wireless network in Nigeria. Multi-Links was brought to its knees through a combination of bad management decisions and investment in the wrong technology — the West African nation is dominated by operators that use the competing GSM technology.

    Telkom reached an agreement recently to sell Multi-Links to an affiliate company of Helios Towers Nigeria for US$10m, “which may increase depending on the achievement of certain conditions”. 

  • In this interview with Vanguard Hi-Tech, the Managing Director, Terminal, West Africa of Huawei Technologies Co. Nigeria Limited unfolded the company’s plans for the market.

    Q: How long have you been in the Nigerian market?

    A: My name is Jacky Lee, the Managing Director, Terminal, West Africa of Huawei Technologies Co. Nigeria Limited. This is my third year in Nigeria. We have been here for ten years doing business with the operators.

    We started manufacturing mobile phones in 2003 and we came to Nigeria in 2005. We are the biggest vendor to MTN, Etisalat, Airtel, Globacom, Visafone and Starcomms.

    We have established end-to-end advantages in telecom networks, devices and cloud computing. We are committed to creating maximum value for telecom operators, enterprises and consumers by providing competitive solutions and services. Our products and solutions have been deployed in over 140 countries, serving more than one third of the world’s population

    Q: Do you have after sales support?

    Yes, we have after sales supports here. We have trained engineers working in-house to take care of after sales support. We are committed to introducing our customer-satisfaction-centered service to the telecom market of Nigeria. Huawei has been recognized for its quality products, professional after-sales service, and comprehensive business support. We are offering warranty on our products in such a way no brand has done before to give authencity to the devices that we manufacture.

    Q: There are other competing brands in the market. What edge do Huawei devices have against other brands to stay in the market?

    A: Huawei devices are crafted with precision, and offered at very affordable prices. What the rich enjoy in smart devices at high cost/ prices, same features and services are what we are taking to all and sundry at affordable prices too. All our products are innovative, and designed to meet their various needs.

    Q: What are the products to be unveiled in the open market this September?

    A: The products to be unveiled in this market will demonstrate Huawei’s commitment to providing Nigerian consumers with innovative yet affordable devices. We will be introducing our entry level phones, feature phones, QWERTY phones, and Android smart phones, broadband modems, fixed wireless terminal, Internet Tablets, among others.

    Q: Five years down the line, what are your expansion and marketing plans?

    A: Huawei announced the company’s intention to be one of the top three handset vendors worldwide by 2015. We will embark on a marketing campaign to create the Brand awareness that is needed to create the buzz around the brand.

    Benefiting from the rising popularity of Android, we will compete with other OEMs who use the operating system. Huawei’s push into the Nigerian open market marks the company’s biggest step into the world of mobile devices in West African sub-region.

    Q: What are the plans put in place to achieve this?

    A: That is why our products are designed to offer a solution that meets the needs of mobile phone users. We are currently in discussion with our customers and partners. We have innovative products that appeal to every market

    Q: Computer Village is the largest ICT market in the West African sub-region. Any plans to be there?

    A: Yes. No OEM Brand can exist in Nigeria without playing the game at Computer village. Through our distributor, we will reach all mobile phone dealers not only in computer village, but Pan Nigeria. The market which has been the toast of international vendors is very important to us.

    Q: What about prices of your devices? Are you targeting specific consumers or wide range of consumers?

    A: We are targeting all mobile phone users from entry level to mid range level and the premium level. Huawei’s vision is to enrich life through communication. The products we will be unveiling will show our commitment to providing Nigerian consumers with innovative yet affordable devices.

    By leveraging our experience and expertise in the ICT sector, we help bridge the digital divide by providing opportunities to enjoy broadband services, regardless of geographic location.

    Contributing to the sustainable development of the society, economy, and the environment, Huawei creates green solutions that enable customers to reduce power consumption, carbon emissions and resource costs.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - At a media demonstration of its soon to-be-launched 3G network, Zamtel Managing Director Hans Paulsen said that it would lay and switch on 185 3G mobile sites along the line of rail and another 485 sites of 2.5G network across the country to eat into the market that it was not servicing with advanced network.

    - Nigeria’s CDMA operator, Visafone said that plans are underway for it to deploy additional 200 new retail outlets across the six geopolitical zones of the country to bring its services nearer to the people.

    - Kenneth Oyolla, the Nokia general manager for East and Southern Africa, said that 30 per cent of all mobile phones sold in Uganda are counterfeits, compared to 10 per cent in Kenya. Nokia, he said losses about $15 million monthly in the Kenyan market while the figure is higher in Uganda and Tanzania. "Counterfeits are putting a lot of pressure on our sales," Mr Oyolla said. For instance, a genuine Nokia E71 costs $230 while the counterfeited one goes for about $50.

    - Nigeria’s mobile operator, Globacom has launched a new dynamic tariff plan that offers discounts to subscribers anytime, anywhere across the country. Glo Flexi, the new tariff plan offers up to 99 per cent discount on calls made, depending on the time of day and geographical location of the subscriber. Glo’s dynamic pricing scheme will compete with market leader MTN Zone product.

    - LG Electronics (LG) has unveiled its new Android Smartphone, LG Optimus Black into the Kenyan market. According to George Mudhune, LG Regional Marketing Manager, East and Central Africa the P970 LG Optimus Black is now trading at Ksh.40,000 (US$439) and available in all major shop outlets across Kenya.

    - South Africa’s third cellular network operator Virgin Mobile says low data tariffs and voice calls charges were not sustainable and warned charges would rise. Responding to questions, Virgin Mobile Chief Strategist and Marketing Officer, Jonathan Newman, said that the current low voice call and data tariffs were a result of promotional competition among mobile companies, arguing that prices would go up soon.

Digital Content

  • Mi-Fone, one of Africa's fastest growing mobile device brands, has done it again. Listening to their target audience and keeping up with demand, Mi-Fone has released a range of low-cost, high quality Android phones, retailing from as little as sub $80

    Mi-Fone's range of stylish and affordable Android phones includes the Mi-A100, the Mi-A150, the Mi-A160, the Mi-A350 and the Mi-A300 . The company has gone further to offer various form and specification factors in terms of Touchscreen and Qwerty Touchscreen versions for both EDGE networks and full 3G HSDPA networks.

    In addition all Mi-Fone Android handsets will come pre- embedded with Opera Mini browsers as well as the innovative Mi-Apps portal offering users the best of local and international applications and content.

    The introduction of the Android phone is in line with Mi-Fone's strategy of developing affordable, world class mobile devices for the aspirational market who want the latest technology without the exorbitant price tags.

    Says Alpesh Patel, CEO of Mi-Fone: "Our new low cost range of Android phones will enable our African consumers to achieve higher levels of productivity simply by having a more efficient user experience in terms of Hardware technology coupled with the Android operating system." Patel adds: "Right now in Africa, Mi-Fone caters for the ultra low cost 2G featurephone market and with the Android Edge/3G additions we believe we add an extra dimension to ensuring we deliver the ultimate mass market user experience."

    Mi-Fone's full Android Range will be available from September onwards at select retail stores in countries such as Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Rwanda, Nigeria and Tanzania to name a few.

  • South Africa's mobile phone consumers are overwhelmingly loyal to their network providers, with 95 percent having been with their current provider for an average of 4.2 years.

    What's more, 81 percent said they recommend their network providers to friends and family, reinforcing the importance of word-of-mouth and reputation in the mobile industry. These and other findings were released today as part of Nielsen's inaugural Mobile Insights syndicated study in South Africa, which examined consumers' usage of and attitudes towards mobile phones, networks and services.

    While they may be inclined to remain loyal, a quarter of subscribers indicated that they could switch from pre-paid to contract packages within the next year. More than one quarter (27%) said they left their previous provider due to poor network quality. Subscribers across all four of the major networks were generally content with staying with them, although those using Virgin Mobile were happiest.

    "The mobile market continues to morph into an increasingly complex ecosystem of voice, text, video, Internet, games, applications and audio, and it is critical for industry players to have access to independent metrics to analyse and respond to the new, 'always connected' consumer," said Jan Hutton, Director Telecoms, Nielsen Southern Africa.

    Nokia is the handset brand of choice for more than half (52%) of respondents, followed by Samsung and Blackberry. Even those subscribers (56%) who currently use other brands said that a Nokia handset is likely to be their next purchase.

    Today's smartphones and feature phones offer users a range of functions. When asked about the mobile media services accessed from the devices, the majority (21%) said they download ringtones and almost an equal number (20%) download music tracks. The balance of subscribers said they download wallpapers, screensavers and pictures. A very small percentage stream online radio or watch video mobile TV.

    Accessing the Internet from mobiles is also picking up steam, with 11 percent of respondents having done so. The highest mobile internet usage recorded among consumers aged 25-34 years old with 35-44 year olds coming in a close second. The youth group of 19-24 years of age, who are growing up with the internet, spend a number of hours online per week. One-quarter of those surveyed in LSM 8-10 said they browse the Internet while just 6 percent of those in LSM 1-5 have done so.

    It is interesting to note 69 percent of men and women prefer sending SMS/texts as it is cheaper than calling and 10 percent firmly believe it is faster to text than call.

    Spaza store is the most popular channel for consumers to buy mobile "air time", followed by Supermarkets/Grocers. Facebook is the most popular social media platform used by mobile phone subscribers (85%), followed by MXIT (61%). 21% of people aware of mobile banking make use of these services.

    With Cell C, MTN and Vodacom, the majority of subscribers consider price to be the most important driver, whereas with Virgin Mobile, customer service is the driver
    "These and the other findings present a comprehensive benchmark against which we can measure the changes occurring in the rapidly evolving telecom sector going forward. It's the only survey of its kind in the country that provides a 360 degree view of the sector in terms of what services consumers are using, how they feel about their network providers and handset manufacturers. Furthermore, in partnership with the Mobile Marketing Association, we are [among] the first to gauge the effectiveness of mobile advertising and providing marketers with accurate data and insight with respect to ROI in this medium," said Hutton.

    To ensure alignment of the study, Nielsen weighted up the findings against universe proportions using AMPS. The sample size was 2,000 respondents, with quotas based on age, gender and all LSM levels across each metropolitan area in South Africa. The survey was conducted in urban South Africa through a Computer Aided Personal Interview (CAPI) and was scientifically weighted to be representative of the South African population, having a maximum margin of error of 2.19%, resulting in it being a very close reflection of actual events.

More

  • ­The government of Swaziland has sacked the entire Board of Directors at the state-owned telco/regulator, the Swaziland Post and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC). Although no reason was given by the Minister of Information Communications and Technology, Nelisiwe Shongwe, the decision comes a week after the Prime Minister accused the company of being run by a criminal cartel.

    - Industry veteran Mark Simpson has been named the new CEO of undersea cable firm Seacom. The appointment will come into effect on 5 September, with Brian Herlihy taking on the new role of strategic director.

    - Acer named Lilia Wang as the chief financial officer for the company's operation in Europe, Middle East and Africa.

  • TDR Deputy PM / Database Manager – Rwanda
    Pact is a non-profit international development organization with a purpose to enable poor and marginalized people in the developing world to earn a dignified living, be healthy, and take part in the benefits that nature provides. We do this by developing people’s capacity to make informed choices about their life and future, improving governance systems, and transforming markets into a force for development.

    Roles and Responsibilities:
    Description: Under the supervision of the Pact Project Manager, the Deputy Project Manager / Database Manager is responsible for leading the management of project data for iTSCi Rwanda, and in the absence of Project Manager, he will manage the administrative, financial and programmatic aspects of the project. As such, the Database Manager will assist the Project Manager by providing technical assistance to any project team and ensure their ability to fulfill their role. She/he will help in checking the accuracy of reporting sites, including the monitoring of all the dynamics relating to mining in the country, as well as issues working with various stakeholders.
    He will be based in Kigali and will work throughout the country
    Role and Responsibilities:
    Database Manager:
    • Ensure quick and accurate recording of data in the database.
    • Keeping pace with data collection through the "log books" of mines, traders and trading posts, and immediately address all questions to the Project Manager
    • The manager of the database will work closely with other team members (including staff ITRI) to ensure that appropriate and effective system of data collection is being and maintained.
    • Identify and report all data missing or fraudulent
    • Produce regular reports by using the tools of data analysis in the existing database.
    • Recommend changes or improvements to the design or operation of the database if necessary.
    • Attend and participate in the training of staffs of OGMR if necessary, to ensure that the data are clearly and properly recorded in the log books. The manager of the database must comment on and recommend improvements to the system if necessary.
    Deputy Project Manager:
    In the absence or at the request of Project Manager
    • To be the focal point for contact with the authorities, counters, offices and other stakeholders involved in the project
    • Ensure compliance with work plans and timing for submission of internal and external reports
    • Work with all stakeholders in the supply chain (artisanal miners, merchants, counters, OGMR, government) to ensure proper understanding of their roles in the success of the project.
    • Identify opportunities for ITRI to improve contacts and engagement with stakeholders
    • Participate in key meetings related to the project,
    Of Administrative and Financial Management
    • Manage the daily administration office in Kigali
    • Strengthen the programmatic needs, administrative and financial project
    • Enforce policies and procedures of decision making related to management;
    • Supervise direct field geologists, the accounting and ensure that other staffs perform their role properly,
    • Be responsible for all office supplies, maintenance and equipment inventory
    • Standardize the management and use of vehicles and motorbikes of the project, checking planning needs fuel and maintenance, while giving priority to field teams
    • Allow office expenses on the basis of approved Work Plan
    • Coordinated withdrawals of funds and payments of taxes
    • To manage the safety, health and emergencies on land urgently informing the Program Manager for major cases.

    Reports
    Monthly reports on or before the 25th of each month to send to the Program Manager, report included:
    • Narrative Report of project progress based on the work plan,
    • Financial Reports
    • Problems, needs, success stories, and next steps,
    • Report of circumstances (in any event not ordinary)

    Qualifications:
    qualification in computer science

    Education and Experience Requirements:
    previous experience required
    For further information or to apply click here

  • Mi-Fone and Opera - Africa
    Mi-Fone and Opera Software have partnered. The agreement will see all data capable Mi-Fones pre installed with the Opera Mini browser. Mi- Fone is one of Africa’s fastest growing mobile device brands. In only three years, more than one million of the company’s handsets have been sold. Mi-Fone has developed strategic partnerships with respected distributors and GSM carriers to ensure continent-wide availability of its devices. Already, selected handsets with Opera Mini preloaded have been distributed into key markets including Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana and Kenya.  Mi-Fone is planning to increase the availability of its devices during the December and January holidays in all key markets.

  • Nigeria Com
    20 - 21 September, 2011, Lagos, Nigeria

    The 2nd annual Nigeria Com returns to Lagos. Gain unique market perspectives and insights from a 40 strong speaker-line up including 25+ Operator leaders. The 2 day agenda equips you to capitalise on new networks and services, while the 60 stand networking exhibition will showcase the world’s foremost technology and solutions available for your business. With 700+ attendees, if you do telecoms business in the region, this is an event you cannot afford to miss!
    For more information visit here:

    Mozambique National ICT Congress
    5-6 October 2011, Centro Internacional de Conferencia Joaquim Chissano, Maputo

    Held under the auspices of the Mozambique Ministry of Science & Technology and organised by AITEC Africa, this is the annual gathering of Mozambique’s rapidly growing ICT community, with a two-day conference and industry expo. Users and vendors of ICT systems and solutions will be sharing challenges, knowledge and ideas in the stimulating conference programme, with high-level local and international speakers. There is simultaneous translation between English and Portuguese to facilitate international participation. The event will also include the second annual National Communications Roundtable, providing operators, ISPs, users and service providers with an opportunity to discuss the country’s national communications strategy with the regulator. For the full programme log on to the organiser’s website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    North Africa Com
    11 - 12 October, 2011, Tunis, Tunisia

    Now in its 6th year, the ONLY conference and exhibition dedicated to the North African telecoms market moves to Tunisia to address the dynamic French-speaking markets.
    The expanded conference agenda is now in development and will feature a host of new topics led by a speaker panel featuring some of North Africa's leading telcos.  Contact us today to apply to speak in the conference, or reserve your sponsorship or exhibition package.
    Be one of the first to see the 2011 agenda and sign up for your copy.
    For more information visit here:

    CDN World Summit 2011
    26 - 28 October 2011, Hilton Hotel Paddington, London.

    The 3rd annual CDN World Summit promises to be the largest and most
    comprehensive CDN event ever.The full value chain is represented including content providers,broadcast operators, traditional and telco CDNs, represented by industry leaders such as; FilmFlex Movies, BT Wholesale and AT&T.
    For more information visit here:

    Digital Migration and Spectrum Policy Summit
    29 October to 01 November 2011, Nairobi, Kenya.

    For more informtion visit here:

    Africa Com
    9 - 10 November, 2011, Cape Town, SA

    Join 5,000 of Africa’s leading telcos in Cape Town this November for what is set to be the biggest and best AfricaCom yet.  The conference agenda has doubled to incorporate a record 150+ speakers presenting across 4 strategic keynotes, 11 in-depth focus sessions and 2 co-located events – AfricaCast and Enterprise ICT Africa.  What’s more 250+ international solutions providers will be showcasing their latest products in the networking exhibition.
    For more information visit here:

    World Telecom Summit 2011
    9–11 November, 2011, Singapore Marriott Hotel

    World Telecom Summit 2011 is the must-attend event of the year. Bringing together top level executives and key decision makers of preeminent telecommunications companies from around the world, this is the perfect opportunity to meet the who’s who of the telecommunications and mobile industry.  It is the summit that addresses the evolving needs of telecommunications and mobile community. Get up to date with the latest innovations and technological advancements in the industry and gain access to the minds of the movers and shakers of the industry.
    Take advantage of the Limited Early Bird Rates for Operator Pass!
    For more information please visit here: or contact Vivian at vivian.ho@olygen.com

    AITEC East Africa East Africa Summit
    2-3 November, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    East Africa has become one of the fastest growing ICT investment markets and the region’s ICT Summit it designed as the region’s forum to bring together users and vendors of ICT technology in a stimulating educational and business networking environment. The 2011 Summit programme will focus on the following themes:
    •    Data Security
    •    Mobile Apps
    •    Cloud Computing
    For the conference programme, log on to the organiser’s website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    ICT Infrastructure Summit: Banking Solutions in Growth Economies
    29-30 November, 2011, Kingsway Hall, Great Queen Street, London WC2

    Though technology innovation for banks in growth economies is ripe for growth, development is being stalled by some major infrastructural barriers including poor connectivity, a lack of political support, incorrect regulation and a lack of capital. The ICT Innovation for Banks in Growth Economies conference will arm you with the tools to upgrade your telecommunication infrastructure and scale up your branchless banking operations in order to reach millions of unbanked households. For further information please click here:

    AfriHealth
    30 November – 1 December 2011, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    The leading continental forum on e-health, m-health, health management systems and capacity development. AfriHealth 2011 will focus on current research, development and implementation of ICT technology and resources in the African Healthcare arena. A key objective of the conference, now in its fourth year, will be to share knowledge and experience from practical mobilization of ICT-based healthcare systems and projects, to showcase best practice through practical case studies and highlight potential for scaling up success stories at national and regional levels. For the conference programme log on to the organiser’s website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    AITEC Banking & Mobile Money COMESA
    7-8 March 2012, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    Now in its sixth year, this has become the leading educational, networking and marketing event for Eastern and Southern Africa’s financial services sector. In addition to the conference’s established intensive education programme covering core banking, mobile money and microfinance topics (over 100 speakers in 2011). For the conference programme log on to the organiser’s website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    InsureAFRICA
    7-8 March 2012, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    Insurers seeking effective performance in service delivery, cost reduction and profit levels need to embrace technology, viewing it not as a support function but as a key enabler of competitive advantage at all levels of operation. InsureAFRICA is the first specialised conference for the African insurance and pensions industry to evaluate the systems and innovative channels needed to compete and thrive in a rapidly expanding industry. With the theme “Effective management strategies and systems for a new era of expansion and inclusion”, the conference will be the continent’s first forum to gather knowledge and experience for a rapidly growing industry. For the Call for Papers, log on to the organiser’s website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    Mobile VAS Africa 2012
    14 - 15 May 2012, Johannesburg, South Africa

    Mobile VAS Africa 2012 will bring together industry experts and representatives from leading financial institutions, mobile operators and solutions providers to provide a strategic insight into mobile VAS while exploring collaborative business models, innovative applications, technologies and straegies. For more information visit here:

    Roaming & Interconnect
    16 - 17 May 2012, Johannesburg, South Africa

    RIC Africa 2012 will uncover new strategies to boost roaming traffic and retain existing roamers. During the conference we will look at the innovative roaming solutions and pricing, supplementing roaming with alternative revenue streams, the latest EU regulations and their impact on operations in Africa, as well as the importance of hubbing and convergence.  For more information please visit here:

    AITEC Banking & Mobile Money West Africa
    6 June 2012, Accra International Conference Centre

    Now in its fifth year, the conference will cover a wide range of strategic and technology topics to empower West Africa’s banking, microfinance and insurance professionals with the knowledge they need to lead their organisation effectively through the turbulent market and regulatory conditions they face. For the conference programme log on to the organiser’s website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

Issue no 570 2nd September 2011

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Top story

  • Last week’s Mobile Entertainment World in Cape Town began to crystallize the beginning of successful, business-worthy African online content. It bought together a handful of mobile operators, mobile platform operators and content companies offering things as diverse as music, gaming and Nollywood. Russell Southwood picks over the lessons from this emerging content market.

    It’s a hazard of doing what we do that we attend (and sometimes even programme) conferences. The standard pattern is that everyone senior turns up for the first half day to network and by the end of the conference you’re left with a handful of people listening to ever-less compelling presentations. Speakers make seemingly endless speeches promoting whatever it is they’re selling to audiences in low-lit rooms at too greater length. Interaction comes down to a couple of questions at each session.

    Hats off to Matthew Dawes of All Amber who manages to combine really interesting programmes with entertaining panelists who actually say things that might make you think about what you do with your business. At last week’s event, many of them were very funny about the failures they endured along the way and some were even honest enough to say that they hadn’t entirely worked out how to make money out of something (for example, mobile TV). And the real test was that on day 2 there were as many participants as there were on day one. Furthermore, it was a conference in South Africa that managed to talk about Africa rather than just about South Africa.

    The first Mobile Entertainment World conference in Cape Town last week bought together all of the people who need to be doing business together if there is to be an online content and services sector in Africa: media owners; mobile platform operators; services and social networking sites; gaming companies; and….well, there were two mobile companies, more of which, later. There was even the less attractive side of the industry represented by an adult chat service.

    Out of this interesting mixture of people came the first sight of a content industry that might both command an audience and get paid for doing it. The stand-out amongst all of these was Nigeria’s Iroko Partners (see video interview link below). It has hit upon a way of distributing Nollywood content legally (over 800 movies), making money and giving some of that money back to the artists who made it. In under a year it has generated around US$1 million in advertising revenues from 2.2 million views and is now expanding into offering music video clips on the same basis.

    It has attracted 2.2 million unique viewers and 16 million views from 231 countries and all without any marketing. 20% of traffic is from mobiles and 60% of search enquiries come from mobiles in Nigeria. The really telling statistic is that the 6th biggest market is Malaysia and 11th biggest is Nigeria (around 30,000 unique views). With better bandwidth, viewer numbers will inevitably increase in the home of Nollywood.

    94% of the advertising income comes from 5 countries with the big markets including USA, UK and Canada. Almost all of these views (even in Malaysia) are from the widely distributed Nigerian diaspora. The biggest movie is Blackberry Babes which is a 60 minute movie that has had 900,000 views: “Blackberry didn’t even know it had been made.”

    Njoku noticed that there were a lot of e-mails asking for Genevieve Nnaji movies. She is now so famous that she is only makes a couple of films a year. So he put out a call to producers and directors for Nnaji movies. Within a week, he was running a season of movies with two new movies a day, which was very successful:”Only the Internet could have that kind of immediacy.”

    His next project is expanding into Nigerian music video clips:”The music entertainment space in Nigeria is an absolute mess. One song can be uploaded as many as 20 times. Music sales cannot be verified. We can do that on You Tube (with views). We can tap into a global audience and give money back to the artists. He has signed 40 artists (so far including  El Dee, Kefee, P Square and Bez) and has plans to sign 100 more.

    According to Ayite Gaba, Business Development, Google who is responsible for developing You Tube partners in Sub-Saharan Africa, the advertising income paid to African partners varies between US$10,000-US$1 million:”Views and revenues are largely coming from outside Africa at the moment and we have no sales offices (for You Tube) in Africa at the moment.”

    However, those that want to prepare themselves for the future (let’s call that the next three years) need to start positioning themselves now. If we use Facebook as proxy for Internet users in Nigeria, only 30,000 of 2.9 million people currently view movies on Iroko but within the next 1-3 years bandwidth will improve to the point where the numbers will go up to at least a million. With better 3G and LTE not far off, many of those will view music clips on their mobile phones (feature and smart).

    But there were other interesting green shoots offering new ways of connecting with audiences:

    *    Julian Van Plato, CEO, Trans Digital Media
    was live streaming the conference content both to PCs and mobiles. An event with around 150 people – a small number of whom were tweeting- soon attracted 700 streams for what was a fairly specialist subject. For a relatively small sum it can live stream to 95% of mobile phones (and VOD if required) but better still, it can deliver this stream into a large number of Sub-Saharan African countries. It is currently working on sports events, music and comedy club nights and has signed a deal with Congolese music star Fally Ipupa who currently gets 300,000-1.5 million hits for his music videos. Interestingly, he sees himself as potentially competing with television. The business model? Sponsorship or charging for large, well-promoted events.

    *    Emma Kaye, CEO, Bozza hit on the idea of training people in Khayelitsha township to make movies using a Nokia N8 with an HD camera. She showed a variety of clips including one about the consequences of a rape, the daily train commute, mobile TV news and a cooking programme. The latter was not for the faint-hearted as a sheep’s head was cleaned up with a blowtorch and cooked split in half, braai-style. In the pilot phase of what Kaye describes as a “mobihood”, it attracted 40,000 subscribers in three months and 170,000 by the end of the pilot period with just word of mouth. So what? Well it goes to show that there are large numbers of Africans (formerly known as viewers) out there who do not see their lives reflected in the more mainstream media.

    *    A number of people spoke about IVR radio including Starfish Mobile. The phone owner dials in to a short code and is offered a menu of musical genres. S/he chooses a genre and then chooses a track and gets to hear 90 seconds before being asked to pay. The service is already being offered by Vodacom Tanzania and in the “you do it, I do it:dog eat dog world”, MTN is about to follow suit with others trailing behind. Many handsets already have built in radios (and some Free-To-Air analogue TV receivers) that local radio stations need to include as part of their strategy to get listeners.

    *    Vincent Maher, Co-Founder, Motribe and Gavin Marshall, Head of Innovation, MXit,
    spoke about trying to understand what audiences wanted in terms of specialist social communities and gaming. The former produces social networking sites globally with names like Moonbase (320,000 users) and Cabango (280,000 users) and has 3,500 tribes with 1.6 million users. Interestingly, South Africa is only its 8th biggest market with 75,000 users but it’s big in Nigeria where it does work for Guinness.

    African mobile operators at local opco level are inclined to say that local content is not out there and when it is, the owners are difficult to deal with. Translation: We don’t really understand the content market on our doorstep and the income splits we’re offering do not encourage things that attract major audiences on other media. The key players in this new African content ecology are the continent’s film-makers, broadcasters, gamers, music stars, local niche social communities and local niche content producers (think hundreds of thousands rather than millions).

    The most successful existing local African online content is newspapers. The sites of print newspapers are up in the top 20 of all the African countries covered by Alexa.com. However, one East African newspaper gets 30,000 print readers but 2 million local online users. Even if you assume optimistically that 10 people read each paid copy, the online version still outstrips the print version. A relatively small number of people pay for the print version and it attracts 97% of the advertising revenues. This cannot last as advertisers wake up to the shift that is underway. Meanwhile few media owners have yet begun to craft a strategy to help them survive this transition.

    But as Mark Rayner, CEO, DStv Mobile observed that the upward suck of bandwidth required to use this content will continue to grow:”LTE will come and make the lives of content owners vastly different. But the new bandwidth will bring more demands like HD. So we will still need to be fighting for bandwidth and fighting for it at the right price.” Mobile operators have networks that started as narrow pipes but the future is content and services that require an ever increasing capacity for data. Rayner explained that its 3G live feed of the British Royal wedding crashed because too many people accessed it at once. Mobile operators have to provision a network where this does not occur if they are serious about a content-rich future.

    And they will also have to do something about the revenue splits. At present one operator is offering 80/20 in its favour: this is no way breed a local content ecosystem. Furthermore, the complicated chain of people who take percentages mean that the current minimum price possible is probably higher than is affordable by a mass audience. And in this the mobile operators are not the only guilty party. Music and film rights holders (particularly international ones) do not understand that what they are demanding will cut off the development of the market before it starts. (Puts me in mind of a Spike Lee aphorism:”A US$50 million Hollywood movie is a US$10 million movie once everybody got through stealing.”)

    But what do you do about the mobile operators who don’t seem to care about the very content on which their future revenues hang? I’ve attended three of Matthew Dawes conferences and the number of mobile operators attending can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Sadly the VAS Managers are not at senior management level in the country opco’s. There are some exceptional VAS managers but they are in the minority. There are endless millions in investment for network but more or less nothing for content development.

    In content terms, mobile operators have to decide whether to stick or twist: they can do either but they should choose decisively rather than saying our indecision is final. The ghost haunting this discussion is that the vastly over-charged SMS service revenues will be eaten at the edges by cheaper services used in the data bundle.(Note the Skype acquisition of GroupMe.)

    The “get into content” route is the setting up of an opco that lives on its own revenues in which you invest real money that removes the SMS aggregator from an already over-crowded value chain. The “stay-out of content” route is to give better revenue splits and encourage the take-up of local content. There’s nothing wring with being “dumb-pipe” operators if you make a decent return and perhaps someone should make the T-shirt that says so. Build decent networks and get paid for doing so.

    The problem is the testosterone-driven, “masters of the universe” view that Africa’s mobile operators should go round eating everyone else’s lunch on the precautionary principle that someone might eat theirs in the near future. But who else in Africa is going to build properly functioning networks and charge for them?



    New video clips on Balancing Act’s You Tube Channel:


    Jason Njoku, CEO, Iroko Partners
    on distributing Nollywood and Nigerian Music using You Tube

    Emma Kaye, CEO, Bozza
    on South African townships creating their own online content

    Julian VanPlato, CEO, Trans Digital Media on a new live streaming mobile service for Africa

    Sami Leino, COO, Spinlet on the launch of an "iTunes" for Africa

    Ofer Ronen, Business Development Director - Broadcast, Gilat Satcom on its move into African broadcast services

    South Africa: Styli Charalambous, Managing Director, The Daily Maverick on its new iPad subscription service

    Steve Vosloo, mLabs
    on supporting mobile innovation in South Africa

    Arun Nagar, CEO, Spice VAS Africa on launching its African platforms and live streaming

    Robert Aouad, CEO Isocel Benin on opening a carrier-neutral data centre in Benin

    Balancing Act's Twitter feed provides a combination of breaking news for telecoms, Internet and broadcast in Africa, direct tweets from countries visited and access to the occasional rumours circulating. You can follow us on:
    @BalancingActAfr

telecoms

  • After Globacom was handed the license to operate as the fifth telecoms company in the Ghanaian market for a fee of $50 million, there was an unavailability of spectrum for the Nigerian company to start operations in Ghana, says Ghana’s Minister of Communications. Yes, you read that correctly: Glo was give a licence for which the spectrum to deliver it was not available.

    In addition to this, the review of regime guidelines for the citing of telecoms cell sites by Ghanaian authorities for the purpose of assurance on structural integrity of masts also affected the early deployment of Glo.

    Haruna Iddrisu attributed these reasons to why the telecoms company, owned by Mike Adenuga, Nigeria’s second richest person according to Forbes Magazine could not start operations in Ghana as expected.

    According to the Minister, at the time Glo was issued a license August 2008 to operate in Ghana for a fee in the region of $50 million, the spectrum available for use by Glo was unavailable. “Glo was licensed August 2008 and again at the time that Glo was issued a license for a fee in the region of $50 million. The spectrum for Glo was unavailable on the 1900 megahertz,” he revealed in an interview on TV Africa’s Bare Facts last Tuesday August 23, 2011 which was monitored by ghanabusinessnews.com.

    According to Iddrisu, the Bureau of National Communications (BNC) and the National Security who were using the spectrum were moved unto another megahertz. “…Now what we have to do upon assuming office in 2009 is to facilitate a migration of the Bureau of National Communications (BNC) who were sitting on that spectrum and we have to move National Security and BNC into the 450 megahertz in order to free the spectrum for the use of Glo,” Iddrisu told the host of the show.

    The Minister indicated that Sherry Ayittey, Minister for Environment, Science and Technology wanted some assurance on the structural integrity of the telecom masts to have some sanity in the environment hence the need to review the regime of guidelines of these citing which eventually affected the immediate deployment of Glo.

    Happily by the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011, Glo had at least up to a thousand cell sites approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Iddrisu said adding “I know another operator in the industry who does have less cell sites.” Their challenges have to do with the cell sites, he added.

    He also disclosed on the show that the National Communications Authority (NCA) at one time wrote to Glo as to when they will start operations in Ghana but a definite answer was not given.

    “The regulator wrote to them in March 2011 and they responded in April but were not definite in terms of when they will launch. I’m sure it’s just their marketing strategy. They want to penetrate the Ghanaian market well.” But Ghanaian authorities have given some policy directives that between September 15 and October 15, 2011, Glo must show physical presence or face appropriate sanctions.

  • Pieter Uys, Vodacom CEO, has announced that Vodacom will be providing a mobile app store to consumers in September 2011. The announcement came after an extensive inquiry into the local mobile app ecosystem through a multi-phased market research project conducted by Columinate. Vodacom shared the results of the Columinate research with industry stakeholders at a special event held at the Melrose Arch Hotel in Johannesburg on Friday, 26 August.

    On Friday, 26 August, Columinate and Vodacom hosted a special breakfast event to share the findings from a multi-phased research inquiry into the local mobile app ecosystem.

    Pieter Uys, Vodacom CEO, announced that he was so excited about Columinate's research that he wanted to share it with the world. Before sharing the results, Uys spoke briefly about Vodacom's intentions for the mobile app ecosystem in South Africa, and went on to announce the launch of Vodacom's app store in September 2011.

    Thereafter, Henk Pretorius, Columinate director, presented the findings from the market research. This represented a collation of the multi-phased project conducted by Columinate which looked at how industry experts and stakeholders, as well as developers and consumers of apps, felt about the local ecosystem and its possibilities.

    Overall, 11 industry professionals, 407 smartphone owners who have downloaded apps in the past 6 months, and 35 developers took part in the research. The research was also preceded and continuously checked against an in-depth desk research phase that looked at international nuances compared to those evident in the local ecosystem.

    One finding in the report suggests that networks are considered to be in a favourable position to act as enablers, as they have the ability to drive app demand, interact with consumers and provide a gateway for developers to get their apps to the market. This finding can be linked to Uys's statement that, "The launch of this app store is just the beginning. We're building an entire community that will supply home-grown apps relevant to the South African environment. With all the talent available in this country, there's no reason why we can't create our own application industry."

    According to Elna Smit, Columinate director, "The research presented a challenge for Columinate as it was the first of its kind in South Africa. There are no formal or public sources that have looked at the apps ecosystem locally, and we had to take an innovative and fresh perspective to provide Vodacom with the insight needed”.

    “The approach was a 360 degree view of the ecosystem and, from a researcher's point of view, the opportunity to do this depth of research was very rewarding." She also added, "Vodacom's willingness to openly share the market research findings, something that is rarely done, represents a move that challenges all players in the industry to work together in order to nurture, enable and develop the local app ecosystem. "


    Vodacom’s announcement about launching an apps store follows a similar announcement in July by Zantel about the rollout of  Blackberry powered apps store. Mobile operators Orange and Tunisiana have already launched apps stores in Tunisia. The pace of launching apps store in Africa is picking up and if you need to know more to what extent mobile applications will play a role in the development of mobile content on the continent, you need to read the recently published report by Balancing Act: “Mobile apps for Africa: Strategies to make sense of free and paid apps”. The report analyses the nascent apps ecosystem in Africa while providing an analytical framework that will allow African mobile operators, content providers, apps developers and handset manufacturers to decide on what strategy to adopt regarding mobile apps. To find out more about the report please click here:

  • Ethiopian Electric Power Cooperation (EEPCo) and ethio-telecom, which reported losses of US$4.2 million and US$3.6 million, respectively, due to theft and intentional damages on their infrastructure this year, appealed to Ministry of Justice (MoJ) for stringent legal measures on those accused of committing these acts.

    The two institutions presented the reported loss they had incurred during the second Joint National Justice Forum held at Haile Resort in Hawassa, 273km from the capital in Southern Regional State, last weekend. They appealed to judges of the Supreme Court as well as Tegene Getaneh, president of the Supreme Court, for a speedy and severe sentencing on those proclaimed guilty of the act of committing these offences.

    Out of this loss, 28 million Br was due to cutting and theft of fibre optic cables. Another 53 million Br was spent on maintaining and repairing these damages.

    "Since the damage that occurs doesn't affect just one institution, the punishment should also be severe," Abdurahim said. "So far, none of the punishments levied on offenders has been enough of a deterrent."

    The state owned ethio-telecom alone lost 10.6 million Br which it would have gained had data traffic not been interrupted due to cuttings of fibre optic cables. In the past two months, 23 telecom lines were damaged and service disruption had occurred 46 times of which 15 were due to intentional cutting of the optic cables.

    It used to be that this frequency of theft would happen in a year, which shows the increase in these intentional acts, according to Abdurahim. Both institutions appealed to the prosecutors and relevant officials in the MoJ to charge offenders using the more stringent proclamation.

  • The final appeal committee of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) of South Africa has dismissed a last attempt by Cell C to have a ruling that the "4Gs" term it used in its advertising was in breach of the authority's advertising codes overturned. The committee has awarded costs to complainants Vodacom and MTN.

    In a decision handed down by the committee's Mervyn King on Monday, 29 August 2011, it says the appeal is "dismissed with costs, which shall include the costs of counsel on behalf of Vodacom, taxed on the party-and-party basis as if this matter had been heard in the high court".

    The decision is a blow to Cell C, which had initially claimed it had a fourth-generation (4G) mobile network. It later changed its advertising from "4G" to "4Gs", claiming the abbreviation stood for "for great speed" and "for great service".

    Other African countries (particularly Nigeria) have operators who claim to be providing 4G services but are not challenged by any advertising standards body.

internet

  • Facebook Check-in Deals launched in South Africa with Cell C offering two deals to potential customers through the platform Earlier this week Facebook’s official sales partner in South Africa, Habari Media, revealed that it would be launching Facebook Check-in Deals in South Africa today (1 September 2011) with Avis, Chevrolet, and Cell C.

    In a press statement issued today (1 September 2011), Cell C revealed that it would be offering two deals through the platform. Deal 1: R129/month for 24 months with Nokia C3 handset, 100 off-peak minutes per month on Casual Chat 100, 24GB of data (2GB of data per month over 12 months) and a 7.2Mbps USB “speedstick.”

    Deal 2: R99/month for 24 months with Nokia E5 handset, 100 off-peak minutes per month on Casual Chat 100, 7.2Mbps capable Cell C “speedstick” with 3GB of once-off data (valid for 365 days).

    Simon Camerer, Cell C’s Executive Head of Marketing, said that the two deals would be available through Check-in Deals from 1 September 2011 to 30 November 2011 at Cell C stores countrywide.

  • The government has developed an automated system to verify the authenticity of transport vehicle licences, putting the brakes on cartels that have thrived from the sale of counterfeits.

    Supported by mobile phone technology, the system is already on trial among vehicles registered by the Transport Licensing Board (TLB). The registrar of motor vehicles, Francis Meja, said Tuesday that those seeking to confirm the authenticity of their documents can send their licence serial numbers to a short text message (SMS) number 5456.

    The automated system would then provide a feedback on the status of the licence, based on the official records at the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA). "Response from TLB registered vehicles is fabulous and we hope to launch the system soon and extend it to all categories of vehicles and driving licences," Meja told a meeting in Nairobi between the Transport ministry and members of the Parliamentary Committee on Transport, Public Works and Housing.

    Transport Minister Amos Kimunya said the new system has triggered a rush among transport vehicle owners seeking authentic documents."In the past one month alone we have received applications for about 200,000 vehicles, which points to the effectiveness of the system," he told the forum.

    Cartels have been reaping from the sale of counterfeit documents such as road and drivers' licences, with motorists acquiring fake driving licences for as little as Sh1,000 without formal training.

    Corruption has been blamed for the high number of accidents on major roads and highways across the country. Meja said all applications would be uploaded into a centralised database to assist in the transition towards the smart-card technology based second generation driving licences. The database already has 2.9 million registered drivers and 1.4 million vehicles. "It will be easier to transfer the information we already have into the digital cards," he said.

  • Eutelsat Communications has announced a 6-year distribution agreement valued at EUR20 million between its Skylogic subsidiary and Egyptsat. The agreement enables Egyptsat to use the new-generation Tooway satellite service to provide broadband services to users beyond reach of terrestrial or wireless networks across Egypt.

    With download speeds of up to 10 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 4 Mbps, Tooway satellite broadband will bring fast, reliable and affordable Internet access for Egyptsat customers in areas with limited alternative solutions for broadband. The Tooway solution consists of a satellite dish and a modem connected to the PC via Ethernet, giving customers Internet access with no need for a telephone line.

    Set up in 2000, Egyptsat is a leading VSAT service provider in the Middle East and Africa. The company is a licensed VSAT operator in Egypt, providing Internet services to oil companies in Egypt and outside of Egypt for offshore locations. Tooway™ will complement the company's product portfolio by offering satellite Internet solutions at competitive prices for small offices and home users in industrial and economic centres in the north of the country who can be served through the KA-SAT spotbeam allocated specifically for Egypt.

    "Tooway is the best fit for Egypt's new era, with Internet users increasing from 21 million to 25.4 million just after the 25th January revolution. With a price comparable to ADSL, Tooway is the passcode for this new era," said Dr. Mohamed Elghamry, CEO of Egyptsat."The service is expected to meet the significant demand in the Egyptian territory and the region, where too many places are in deep need for high speed Internet at reasonable cost".

    Arduino Patacchini, CEO of Skylogic, added: "Tooway is the ideal broadband service to meet the needs of Egyptsat's customers in rural and difficult to reach areas of the region. We are delighted to work with Egyptsat to extend broadband availability, and look forward to building a close and longstanding partnership which contributes to achieving a high-quality broadband environment in Egypt."

    The new-generation Tooway service is provided via Eutelsat's KA-SAT High Throughput Satellite, which went into commercial service in May. With its total capacity of more than 70 Gbps, KA-SAT brings a new era of competitively-priced, satellite-delivered services for homes and small businesses across Europe and the Mediterranean Basin. The satellite forms the cornerstone of an infrastructure, which includes eight main satellite gateways connected to the Internet by a fibre backbone ring.

computing

  • Government is expected to spend between $10 to $25 million within the next five years, under the e-school project to procure laptops and desktop computers for schools, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, Minister of Communications said on Tuesday.

    He expressed the hope that the project, which was a co-operation between the sector and Ministry of Education, would help demystify the use of computers by Ghanaian children in schools.

    Iddrisu made the disclosure when a five-member delegation from Samsung Ghana Limited paid a courtesy call on him in Accra. He made a “special request” to the delegation to establish a Samsung assembling plant to enable the corporate entity to take advantage of government’s e-project earmarked for 2016.

    Iddrisu said: “Those establishments that would be able to set up plants to assemble phones, laptops and desk top computers would enjoy incentives and other support budget line for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for the purpose of procuring laptops and desk top computers.”

    He called on the delegation to take advantage of some business opportunities that existed in the ICT sector stressing that government was seeking partners to help the country migrate from the analogue radio and television to digital.

    Iddrisu said: “This will give the country some spectrum dividend and also some advantage of improvement in sound and picture quality”. He said other areas of investment included building a secondary data centre in Sunyani in the Brong Ahafo Region to serve the business enclave in the region.

    Iddrisu said as part of government’s effort to address growing unemployment challenges in the country and to provide Information Technology related jobs; it was seeking to partner a business entity to establish two ICT parks slated for Tema and Cape Coast. He called on the delegation to explore business opportunities that existed in rural communities so they could provide solutions to help bridge the digital divide.

    Iddrisu said Ghana had an enabling environment for both legal and regulatory provisions to facilitate the safety and security of businesses. He expressed the hope that Samsung Ghana Limited would provide appreciable corporate social responsibility to address the needs of Ghanaians.

    Brovo Kim, Managing Director of Samsung Ghana, expressed commitment to support government to establish the ICT parks and help develop the communication sector in general. He said management had rolled out a programme to identify and harness the talents of young Ghanaian consumers and entrepreneurs for development.

  • By 2017, Rwanda intends to distribute half a million laptops to primary school students across the country through the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program. However, as Nkubito Bakuramutsa, Rwanda's OLPC coordinator explains to The Independent's Matthew Stein, the program is expected to revolutionise a lot more than the country's education system.

    Q: What progress has the OLPC program made to date?

    A: In 2008-09 our pilot project started with the distribution of 10,000 laptops. We followed that up with a contact of 100,000 laptops. In 2010 we distributed 65,000 of these to P4, P5 and P6 students in 128 schools. And since this past June, we have been in the midst of distributing the remaining 35,000 laptops in an additional 70 schools.

    Q: What is your ultimate goal?

    We want to reach all one million students between P4 and P6. We have now placed an order for another 60,000 laptops and with the distribution of these we will have reached about 17 percent of the P4-P6 population by June 2012. However, we are currently doing a lot of research on how we can increase these numbers drastically to reach our goal by 2017.

    Q: What's the process of importing OLPC into the schools?

    The first step is to wire all these schools to ensure that they have power plugs in the classroom, and we also add light in the classroom at the same time. So this program is also about improving the infrastructure of the schools. If they're too far from the electricity grid we are using solar panels. The second phase is connecting them to our servers and local area networks, which they can connect to through a wireless local area network that we install as well. Once students access the server, they can download the Rwandan curriculum in its digital form as well as books and other learning material to improve their skills

    Q: How do the students learn to use the computers and its programs?

    A: The teachers have to be at the centre of this transformation. First we selected 150 schools and asked that the headmaster and a teacher of their choice come to Kigali for one week of training. The first two days is spent on how to use the laptops and the other three days on the methodology of teaching the material with a computer. Then they go back and teach other teachers in the school. We then visit each school individually. We spend five days working with the teachers and students and we spare one day of training for the community so that it can understand why we're putting these laptops in the school, the impact it should have on the students and why it's important for Rwanda. We're trying to deploy ICT in such a way that it participate not only in the enhancement of learning but it also contributes to the development of the country.

    Q: Have you encountered any challenges?

    A: There have been some natural consequences: for the student it's a new approach to learn, to access knowledge; for a teacher, teaching with the laptops and digital software becomes more challenging because they are no longer providing the students with content to memorise. Instead, they are trying to enhance the understanding of concepts, so more than memorizing the children focus on innovation and creativity. Inserting technology in school is a fundamental change to classic education. It's not just enabling books to be in a digital format--it's a really new way of learning. We don't want them to repeat just what's on the board. We want them to demonstrate that they've really understood the concept. It's called constructionism--learning by doing.

    Q: Do the laptops belong to the students?

    A: No, it's school property. The students can take the laptops home with them but before we distribute them we add a security feature that allows our server to do a roll call every three weeks to check if the computers are inside the school. If they are not there, the laptops are disabled. Once the students graduate from P6, they leave the laptops behind for the next batch of students.

    Q: The government is now spending more than $200 on each computer. Is this expense really justified given the amount of challenges Rwanda, as a developing country, face?

    A: In Rwanda we are using more and more ICT in our hospitals, airports, for all kinds of infrastructure projects to develop every part of our country. Who are the people that are going to man this infrastructure? Who are the people that are going to integrate or customise this infrastructure to our environment?

    These are the people we are training today. We need them to help us reduce the level of ICT consultancy we require with the outside world. Rwanda can invest in other sectors too, but through OLPC we are increasing our independence from all these external dependencies, which are extremely expensive. We are investing in the future, not in the present. We need all these skills to be brought into Rwanda and primary school is really the foundation. If you are well-trained in primary school then it will be easier to succeed. We want all children in Rwanda to have the same level of understanding and knowledge as a kid from Singapore, Finland or California.

  • Electronics firm Samsung plans to establish a research and development centre focused on planning, design and development of electronics suited to the Kenyan market.

    Samsung Deputy Managing Director Robert Ngeru said the centre will be operational by 2013 and is aimed at practical skills transfer to enable the local talent contribute to product innovation.

    "Our aim is to promote co-operation, innovation and the exchange of new ideas in technology so that our products and technologies continue to respond to the felt needs and conditions of the continent," said Ngeru.

    Ngeru said the firm is using materials, components and solutions to meet the quality, protection and performance needs of the electronics operating in the continent.

    "We have a visionary pillar of developing technology that is built in Africa, for Africa, by Africa to create sustainable opportunities that empower people to live their dreams," added Ngeru.

    Samsung aims to post US$10 billion (Sh93 million) in revenue by 2015 in Sub-Saharan Africa with its consumer electronics and mobile products built for the market.

    The firm is focusing on Africa's top 10 economies, which together generate 79 per cent of the continent's wealth and house almost 47 pert cent of the population.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • MTN is opposed to President Museveni's idea of telecoms selling some of their shares to Ugandans through the domestic stock market, according to Sifiso Dabengwa, the group's president and CEO.

    "You go to capital markets for capital reasons not for regulatory reasons. You can have a political view about listing but listing is fundamentally a corporate finance decision,"  Dabengwa said at a news conference in Kampala on Wednesday.

    The MTN group boss was reacting to President Museveni's demand for all telecommunication firms to float shares through the capital markets so as to give Ugandans an opportunity to get a share of their profits.

    The President made the demand in July while meeting members of the ruling National Resistance Movement caucus. Citing South African-owned MTN as an example, President Museveni argued that it is unfair that telecommunication firms are repatriating much of the "abnormal profits" they make.

    Going forward, he said, the mobile companies must declare the amount of money they make in each year so that the government makes regulations like setting threshold amounts they must invest within the country.

    The MTN group earned up to Shs783 billion in profits last year, going by the 1 per cent (Shs7.8 billion) contribution that the firm contributed to the Uganda Communications Commission, the industry regulator.

    All telecoms are required by law to contribute 1 per cent of their profits to the Rural Communication Development Fund, to finance the development of communication in rural areas.

    MTN is the most profitable telecom of all the major five telecoms including; Airtel, Uganda Telecom Limited, Orange and Smile Telecom. MTN supports the principle of spreading out shareholding of the firm but is opposed to the way the government wants it to be done.

    "That principle we support. But how you do it, I don't believe it should be regulated by the industry regulator. The regulator should concentrate on regulating the industry and not how we fund the business."

    However, MTN is open to options like the acquisition of its shares by institutions such as the National Social Security Fund. According to Mr, the MTN Group discusses the issue of listing its subsidiaries on annual basis looking at various markets.

    According to Mr The key issues the firm looks at are the financial benefit of listing its shares in the market, whether the locals have the ability to take up the shares and if the domestic stock market is vibrant and effective.

    "It's an ongoing discussion and an on-going debate that we will always be having," he told journalists on his business review meeting.

  • Telkom is still keen to expand its operations elsewhere on the African continent despite the sensational failure of Multi-Links, its Nigerian business, says chairman Lazarus Zim.
    He was speaking at the group’s 2011 annual general meeting of shareholders on Tuesday in Midrand.

    “We need to remain the wholesaler of choice and build a sustainable African business,” Zim says. Just because the group has had “challenges” in Nigeria, doesn’t mean it’s lost interest in seeking opportunities elsewhere on the continent outside its home market of SA. Zim doesn’t say if the group is already considering specific investments.

    “There were expensive and important lessons that we learnt [from Multi-Links],” Zim says. “We are fully committed to building a sustainable, good and profitable African business.”

    Telkom lost more than R7bn through its decision to buy and invest in Multi-Links, which operates a CDMA (code division multiple access) wireless network in Nigeria. Multi-Links was brought to its knees through a combination of bad management decisions and investment in the wrong technology — the West African nation is dominated by operators that use the competing GSM technology.

    Telkom reached an agreement recently to sell Multi-Links to an affiliate company of Helios Towers Nigeria for US$10m, “which may increase depending on the achievement of certain conditions”. 

  • In this interview with Vanguard Hi-Tech, the Managing Director, Terminal, West Africa of Huawei Technologies Co. Nigeria Limited unfolded the company’s plans for the market.

    Q: How long have you been in the Nigerian market?

    A: My name is Jacky Lee, the Managing Director, Terminal, West Africa of Huawei Technologies Co. Nigeria Limited. This is my third year in Nigeria. We have been here for ten years doing business with the operators.

    We started manufacturing mobile phones in 2003 and we came to Nigeria in 2005. We are the biggest vendor to MTN, Etisalat, Airtel, Globacom, Visafone and Starcomms.

    We have established end-to-end advantages in telecom networks, devices and cloud computing. We are committed to creating maximum value for telecom operators, enterprises and consumers by providing competitive solutions and services. Our products and solutions have been deployed in over 140 countries, serving more than one third of the world’s population

    Q: Do you have after sales support?

    Yes, we have after sales supports here. We have trained engineers working in-house to take care of after sales support. We are committed to introducing our customer-satisfaction-centered service to the telecom market of Nigeria. Huawei has been recognized for its quality products, professional after-sales service, and comprehensive business support. We are offering warranty on our products in such a way no brand has done before to give authencity to the devices that we manufacture.

    Q: There are other competing brands in the market. What edge do Huawei devices have against other brands to stay in the market?

    A: Huawei devices are crafted with precision, and offered at very affordable prices. What the rich enjoy in smart devices at high cost/ prices, same features and services are what we are taking to all and sundry at affordable prices too. All our products are innovative, and designed to meet their various needs.

    Q: What are the products to be unveiled in the open market this September?

    A: The products to be unveiled in this market will demonstrate Huawei’s commitment to providing Nigerian consumers with innovative yet affordable devices. We will be introducing our entry level phones, feature phones, QWERTY phones, and Android smart phones, broadband modems, fixed wireless terminal, Internet Tablets, among others.

    Q: Five years down the line, what are your expansion and marketing plans?

    A: Huawei announced the company’s intention to be one of the top three handset vendors worldwide by 2015. We will embark on a marketing campaign to create the Brand awareness that is needed to create the buzz around the brand.

    Benefiting from the rising popularity of Android, we will compete with other OEMs who use the operating system. Huawei’s push into the Nigerian open market marks the company’s biggest step into the world of mobile devices in West African sub-region.

    Q: What are the plans put in place to achieve this?

    A: That is why our products are designed to offer a solution that meets the needs of mobile phone users. We are currently in discussion with our customers and partners. We have innovative products that appeal to every market

    Q: Computer Village is the largest ICT market in the West African sub-region. Any plans to be there?

    A: Yes. No OEM Brand can exist in Nigeria without playing the game at Computer village. Through our distributor, we will reach all mobile phone dealers not only in computer village, but Pan Nigeria. The market which has been the toast of international vendors is very important to us.

    Q: What about prices of your devices? Are you targeting specific consumers or wide range of consumers?

    A: We are targeting all mobile phone users from entry level to mid range level and the premium level. Huawei’s vision is to enrich life through communication. The products we will be unveiling will show our commitment to providing Nigerian consumers with innovative yet affordable devices.

    By leveraging our experience and expertise in the ICT sector, we help bridge the digital divide by providing opportunities to enjoy broadband services, regardless of geographic location.

    Contributing to the sustainable development of the society, economy, and the environment, Huawei creates green solutions that enable customers to reduce power consumption, carbon emissions and resource costs.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - At a media demonstration of its soon to-be-launched 3G network, Zamtel Managing Director Hans Paulsen said that it would lay and switch on 185 3G mobile sites along the line of rail and another 485 sites of 2.5G network across the country to eat into the market that it was not servicing with advanced network.

    - Nigeria’s CDMA operator, Visafone said that plans are underway for it to deploy additional 200 new retail outlets across the six geopolitical zones of the country to bring its services nearer to the people.

    - Kenneth Oyolla, the Nokia general manager for East and Southern Africa, said that 30 per cent of all mobile phones sold in Uganda are counterfeits, compared to 10 per cent in Kenya. Nokia, he said losses about $15 million monthly in the Kenyan market while the figure is higher in Uganda and Tanzania. "Counterfeits are putting a lot of pressure on our sales," Mr Oyolla said. For instance, a genuine Nokia E71 costs $230 while the counterfeited one goes for about $50.

    - Nigeria’s mobile operator, Globacom has launched a new dynamic tariff plan that offers discounts to subscribers anytime, anywhere across the country. Glo Flexi, the new tariff plan offers up to 99 per cent discount on calls made, depending on the time of day and geographical location of the subscriber. Glo’s dynamic pricing scheme will compete with market leader MTN Zone product.

    - LG Electronics (LG) has unveiled its new Android Smartphone, LG Optimus Black into the Kenyan market. According to George Mudhune, LG Regional Marketing Manager, East and Central Africa the P970 LG Optimus Black is now trading at Ksh.40,000 (US$439) and available in all major shop outlets across Kenya.

    - South Africa’s third cellular network operator Virgin Mobile says low data tariffs and voice calls charges were not sustainable and warned charges would rise. Responding to questions, Virgin Mobile Chief Strategist and Marketing Officer, Jonathan Newman, said that the current low voice call and data tariffs were a result of promotional competition among mobile companies, arguing that prices would go up soon.

Digital Content

  • Mi-Fone, one of Africa's fastest growing mobile device brands, has done it again. Listening to their target audience and keeping up with demand, Mi-Fone has released a range of low-cost, high quality Android phones, retailing from as little as sub $80

    Mi-Fone's range of stylish and affordable Android phones includes the Mi-A100, the Mi-A150, the Mi-A160, the Mi-A350 and the Mi-A300 . The company has gone further to offer various form and specification factors in terms of Touchscreen and Qwerty Touchscreen versions for both EDGE networks and full 3G HSDPA networks.

    In addition all Mi-Fone Android handsets will come pre- embedded with Opera Mini browsers as well as the innovative Mi-Apps portal offering users the best of local and international applications and content.

    The introduction of the Android phone is in line with Mi-Fone's strategy of developing affordable, world class mobile devices for the aspirational market who want the latest technology without the exorbitant price tags.

    Says Alpesh Patel, CEO of Mi-Fone: "Our new low cost range of Android phones will enable our African consumers to achieve higher levels of productivity simply by having a more efficient user experience in terms of Hardware technology coupled with the Android operating system." Patel adds: "Right now in Africa, Mi-Fone caters for the ultra low cost 2G featurephone market and with the Android Edge/3G additions we believe we add an extra dimension to ensuring we deliver the ultimate mass market user experience."

    Mi-Fone's full Android Range will be available from September onwards at select retail stores in countries such as Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Rwanda, Nigeria and Tanzania to name a few.

  • South Africa's mobile phone consumers are overwhelmingly loyal to their network providers, with 95 percent having been with their current provider for an average of 4.2 years.

    What's more, 81 percent said they recommend their network providers to friends and family, reinforcing the importance of word-of-mouth and reputation in the mobile industry. These and other findings were released today as part of Nielsen's inaugural Mobile Insights syndicated study in South Africa, which examined consumers' usage of and attitudes towards mobile phones, networks and services.

    While they may be inclined to remain loyal, a quarter of subscribers indicated that they could switch from pre-paid to contract packages within the next year. More than one quarter (27%) said they left their previous provider due to poor network quality. Subscribers across all four of the major networks were generally content with staying with them, although those using Virgin Mobile were happiest.

    "The mobile market continues to morph into an increasingly complex ecosystem of voice, text, video, Internet, games, applications and audio, and it is critical for industry players to have access to independent metrics to analyse and respond to the new, 'always connected' consumer," said Jan Hutton, Director Telecoms, Nielsen Southern Africa.

    Nokia is the handset brand of choice for more than half (52%) of respondents, followed by Samsung and Blackberry. Even those subscribers (56%) who currently use other brands said that a Nokia handset is likely to be their next purchase.

    Today's smartphones and feature phones offer users a range of functions. When asked about the mobile media services accessed from the devices, the majority (21%) said they download ringtones and almost an equal number (20%) download music tracks. The balance of subscribers said they download wallpapers, screensavers and pictures. A very small percentage stream online radio or watch video mobile TV.

    Accessing the Internet from mobiles is also picking up steam, with 11 percent of respondents having done so. The highest mobile internet usage recorded among consumers aged 25-34 years old with 35-44 year olds coming in a close second. The youth group of 19-24 years of age, who are growing up with the internet, spend a number of hours online per week. One-quarter of those surveyed in LSM 8-10 said they browse the Internet while just 6 percent of those in LSM 1-5 have done so.

    It is interesting to note 69 percent of men and women prefer sending SMS/texts as it is cheaper than calling and 10 percent firmly believe it is faster to text than call.

    Spaza store is the most popular channel for consumers to buy mobile "air time", followed by Supermarkets/Grocers. Facebook is the most popular social media platform used by mobile phone subscribers (85%), followed by MXIT (61%). 21% of people aware of mobile banking make use of these services.

    With Cell C, MTN and Vodacom, the majority of subscribers consider price to be the most important driver, whereas with Virgin Mobile, customer service is the driver
    "These and the other findings present a comprehensive benchmark against which we can measure the changes occurring in the rapidly evolving telecom sector going forward. It's the only survey of its kind in the country that provides a 360 degree view of the sector in terms of what services consumers are using, how they feel about their network providers and handset manufacturers. Furthermore, in partnership with the Mobile Marketing Association, we are [among] the first to gauge the effectiveness of mobile advertising and providing marketers with accurate data and insight with respect to ROI in this medium," said Hutton.

    To ensure alignment of the study, Nielsen weighted up the findings against universe proportions using AMPS. The sample size was 2,000 respondents, with quotas based on age, gender and all LSM levels across each metropolitan area in South Africa. The survey was conducted in urban South Africa through a Computer Aided Personal Interview (CAPI) and was scientifically weighted to be representative of the South African population, having a maximum margin of error of 2.19%, resulting in it being a very close reflection of actual events.

More

  • ­The government of Swaziland has sacked the entire Board of Directors at the state-owned telco/regulator, the Swaziland Post and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC). Although no reason was given by the Minister of Information Communications and Technology, Nelisiwe Shongwe, the decision comes a week after the Prime Minister accused the company of being run by a criminal cartel.

    - Industry veteran Mark Simpson has been named the new CEO of undersea cable firm Seacom. The appointment will come into effect on 5 September, with Brian Herlihy taking on the new role of strategic director.

    - Acer named Lilia Wang as the chief financial officer for the company's operation in Europe, Middle East and Africa.

  • TDR Deputy PM / Database Manager – Rwanda
    Pact is a non-profit international development organization with a purpose to enable poor and marginalized people in the developing world to earn a dignified living, be healthy, and take part in the benefits that nature provides. We do this by developing people’s capacity to make informed choices about their life and future, improving governance systems, and transforming markets into a force for development.

    Roles and Responsibilities:
    Description: Under the supervision of the Pact Project Manager, the Deputy Project Manager / Database Manager is responsible for leading the management of project data for iTSCi Rwanda, and in the absence of Project Manager, he will manage the administrative, financial and programmatic aspects of the project. As such, the Database Manager will assist the Project Manager by providing technical assistance to any project team and ensure their ability to fulfill their role. She/he will help in checking the accuracy of reporting sites, including the monitoring of all the dynamics relating to mining in the country, as well as issues working with various stakeholders.
    He will be based in Kigali and will work throughout the country
    Role and Responsibilities:
    Database Manager:
    • Ensure quick and accurate recording of data in the database.
    • Keeping pace with data collection through the "log books" of mines, traders and trading posts, and immediately address all questions to the Project Manager
    • The manager of the database will work closely with other team members (including staff ITRI) to ensure that appropriate and effective system of data collection is being and maintained.
    • Identify and report all data missing or fraudulent
    • Produce regular reports by using the tools of data analysis in the existing database.
    • Recommend changes or improvements to the design or operation of the database if necessary.
    • Attend and participate in the training of staffs of OGMR if necessary, to ensure that the data are clearly and properly recorded in the log books. The manager of the database must comment on and recommend improvements to the system if necessary.
    Deputy Project Manager:
    In the absence or at the request of Project Manager
    • To be the focal point for contact with the authorities, counters, offices and other stakeholders involved in the project
    • Ensure compliance with work plans and timing for submission of internal and external reports
    • Work with all stakeholders in the supply chain (artisanal miners, merchants, counters, OGMR, government) to ensure proper understanding of their roles in the success of the project.
    • Identify opportunities for ITRI to improve contacts and engagement with stakeholders
    • Participate in key meetings related to the project,
    Of Administrative and Financial Management
    • Manage the daily administration office in Kigali
    • Strengthen the programmatic needs, administrative and financial project
    • Enforce policies and procedures of decision making related to management;
    • Supervise direct field geologists, the accounting and ensure that other staffs perform their role properly,
    • Be responsible for all office supplies, maintenance and equipment inventory
    • Standardize the management and use of vehicles and motorbikes of the project, checking planning needs fuel and maintenance, while giving priority to field teams
    • Allow office expenses on the basis of approved Work Plan
    • Coordinated withdrawals of funds and payments of taxes
    • To manage the safety, health and emergencies on land urgently informing the Program Manager for major cases.

    Reports
    Monthly reports on or before the 25th of each month to send to the Program Manager, report included:
    • Narrative Report of project progress based on the work plan,
    • Financial Reports
    • Problems, needs, success stories, and next steps,
    • Report of circumstances (in any event not ordinary)

    Qualifications:
    qualification in computer science

    Education and Experience Requirements:
    previous experience required
    For further information or to apply click here

  • Mi-Fone and Opera - Africa
    Mi-Fone and Opera Software have partnered. The agreement will see all data capable Mi-Fones pre installed with the Opera Mini browser. Mi- Fone is one of Africa’s fastest growing mobile device brands. In only three years, more than one million of the company’s handsets have been sold. Mi-Fone has developed strategic partnerships with respected distributors and GSM carriers to ensure continent-wide availability of its devices. Already, selected handsets with Opera Mini preloaded have been distributed into key markets including Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana and Kenya.  Mi-Fone is planning to increase the availability of its devices during the December and January holidays in all key markets.

  • Nigeria Com
    20 - 21 September, 2011, Lagos, Nigeria

    The 2nd annual Nigeria Com returns to Lagos. Gain unique market perspectives and insights from a 40 strong speaker-line up including 25+ Operator leaders. The 2 day agenda equips you to capitalise on new networks and services, while the 60 stand networking exhibition will showcase the world’s foremost technology and solutions available for your business. With 700+ attendees, if you do telecoms business in the region, this is an event you cannot afford to miss!
    For more information visit here:

    Mozambique National ICT Congress
    5-6 October 2011, Centro Internacional de Conferencia Joaquim Chissano, Maputo

    Held under the auspices of the Mozambique Ministry of Science & Technology and organised by AITEC Africa, this is the annual gathering of Mozambique’s rapidly growing ICT community, with a two-day conference and industry expo. Users and vendors of ICT systems and solutions will be sharing challenges, knowledge and ideas in the stimulating conference programme, with high-level local and international speakers. There is simultaneous translation between English and Portuguese to facilitate international participation. The event will also include the second annual National Communications Roundtable, providing operators, ISPs, users and service providers with an opportunity to discuss the country’s national communications strategy with the regulator. For the full programme log on to the organiser’s website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    North Africa Com
    11 - 12 October, 2011, Tunis, Tunisia

    Now in its 6th year, the ONLY conference and exhibition dedicated to the North African telecoms market moves to Tunisia to address the dynamic French-speaking markets.
    The expanded conference agenda is now in development and will feature a host of new topics led by a speaker panel featuring some of North Africa's leading telcos.  Contact us today to apply to speak in the conference, or reserve your sponsorship or exhibition package.
    Be one of the first to see the 2011 agenda and sign up for your copy.
    For more information visit here:

    CDN World Summit 2011
    26 - 28 October 2011, Hilton Hotel Paddington, London.

    The 3rd annual CDN World Summit promises to be the largest and most
    comprehensive CDN event ever.The full value chain is represented including content providers,broadcast operators, traditional and telco CDNs, represented by industry leaders such as; FilmFlex Movies, BT Wholesale and AT&T.
    For more information visit here:

    Digital Migration and Spectrum Policy Summit
    29 October to 01 November 2011, Nairobi, Kenya.

    For more informtion visit here:

    Africa Com
    9 - 10 November, 2011, Cape Town, SA

    Join 5,000 of Africa’s leading telcos in Cape Town this November for what is set to be the biggest and best AfricaCom yet.  The conference agenda has doubled to incorporate a record 150+ speakers presenting across 4 strategic keynotes, 11 in-depth focus sessions and 2 co-located events – AfricaCast and Enterprise ICT Africa.  What’s more 250+ international solutions providers will be showcasing their latest products in the networking exhibition.
    For more information visit here:

    World Telecom Summit 2011
    9–11 November, 2011, Singapore Marriott Hotel

    World Telecom Summit 2011 is the must-attend event of the year. Bringing together top level executives and key decision makers of preeminent telecommunications companies from around the world, this is the perfect opportunity to meet the who’s who of the telecommunications and mobile industry.  It is the summit that addresses the evolving needs of telecommunications and mobile community. Get up to date with the latest innovations and technological advancements in the industry and gain access to the minds of the movers and shakers of the industry.
    Take advantage of the Limited Early Bird Rates for Operator Pass!
    For more information please visit here: or contact Vivian at vivian.ho@olygen.com

    AITEC East Africa East Africa Summit
    2-3 November, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    East Africa has become one of the fastest growing ICT investment markets and the region’s ICT Summit it designed as the region’s forum to bring together users and vendors of ICT technology in a stimulating educational and business networking environment. The 2011 Summit programme will focus on the following themes:
    •    Data Security
    •    Mobile Apps
    •    Cloud Computing
    For the conference programme, log on to the organiser’s website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    ICT Infrastructure Summit: Banking Solutions in Growth Economies
    29-30 November, 2011, Kingsway Hall, Great Queen Street, London WC2

    Though technology innovation for banks in growth economies is ripe for growth, development is being stalled by some major infrastructural barriers including poor connectivity, a lack of political support, incorrect regulation and a lack of capital. The ICT Innovation for Banks in Growth Economies conference will arm you with the tools to upgrade your telecommunication infrastructure and scale up your branchless banking operations in order to reach millions of unbanked households. For further information please click here:

    AfriHealth
    30 November – 1 December 2011, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    The leading continental forum on e-health, m-health, health management systems and capacity development. AfriHealth 2011 will focus on current research, development and implementation of ICT technology and resources in the African Healthcare arena. A key objective of the conference, now in its fourth year, will be to share knowledge and experience from practical mobilization of ICT-based healthcare systems and projects, to showcase best practice through practical case studies and highlight potential for scaling up success stories at national and regional levels. For the conference programme log on to the organiser’s website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    AITEC Banking & Mobile Money COMESA
    7-8 March 2012, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    Now in its sixth year, this has become the leading educational, networking and marketing event for Eastern and Southern Africa’s financial services sector. In addition to the conference’s established intensive education programme covering core banking, mobile money and microfinance topics (over 100 speakers in 2011). For the conference programme log on to the organiser’s website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    InsureAFRICA
    7-8 March 2012, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    Insurers seeking effective performance in service delivery, cost reduction and profit levels need to embrace technology, viewing it not as a support function but as a key enabler of competitive advantage at all levels of operation. InsureAFRICA is the first specialised conference for the African insurance and pensions industry to evaluate the systems and innovative channels needed to compete and thrive in a rapidly expanding industry. With the theme “Effective management strategies and systems for a new era of expansion and inclusion”, the conference will be the continent’s first forum to gather knowledge and experience for a rapidly growing industry. For the Call for Papers, log on to the organiser’s website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    Mobile VAS Africa 2012
    14 - 15 May 2012, Johannesburg, South Africa

    Mobile VAS Africa 2012 will bring together industry experts and representatives from leading financial institutions, mobile operators and solutions providers to provide a strategic insight into mobile VAS while exploring collaborative business models, innovative applications, technologies and straegies. For more information visit here:

    Roaming & Interconnect
    16 - 17 May 2012, Johannesburg, South Africa

    RIC Africa 2012 will uncover new strategies to boost roaming traffic and retain existing roamers. During the conference we will look at the innovative roaming solutions and pricing, supplementing roaming with alternative revenue streams, the latest EU regulations and their impact on operations in Africa, as well as the importance of hubbing and convergence.  For more information please visit here:

    AITEC Banking & Mobile Money West Africa
    6 June 2012, Accra International Conference Centre

    Now in its fifth year, the conference will cover a wide range of strategic and technology topics to empower West Africa’s banking, microfinance and insurance professionals with the knowledge they need to lead their organisation effectively through the turbulent market and regulatory conditions they face. For the conference programme log on to the organiser’s website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

Issue 569: Tax on international inbound calls: Too good to miss… as more African countries are tempted to go this way

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Top story

  • The list of African countries that have implemented, are planning to implement or have failed to implement a tax on international inbound calls is getting longer by the day. The non-exhaustive list of “shame” includes countries like Congo-Brazzaville, Guinea, Niger, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Mauritania, Madagascar, Ghana, Senegal and Liberia. Balancing Act has been following the story since the failed attempt of the Government of Côte d’Ivoire back in August 2009. Isabelle Gross looks at the latest twists in the Senegalese case and the attempt of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority to introduce a similar tax in one of the poorest countries in Africa.

    Following a presidential decree dated 19th November 2010, Senegal suspended an earlier decree dated May 2010 that introduced a tax on international inbound calls with the result that the minimum tariff for an inbound call increased to US$0.37 per minute compared to the previous rate of US$0.20. At the time, the overall annual revenue generated by the tax was estimated at US$135 million per year (60 billion CFA francs). Less than six months after the suspension decree, Senegal’s telecoms operators have again to face the reintroduction of the tax on international inbound calls. However this time, the Senegalese Government seems to have learnt some lessons from the failed first attempt as it has been trying to win the support of various interest groups including the Senegalese diaspora. The Government of Senegal has announced that it will use the proceeds of the tax in the following order: US$34 million (15 billion CFA francs) to help the Senegalese diaspora resettling in the country; US$56 million (25 billion CFA francs) for rural electrification; US$22 million (10 billion CFA francs) to support Senegalese buying power and to improve the health, sport and culture sectors. This amounts to a total of US$113 million (50 billion CFA francs). It remains to be seen what the remaining US$13 million (10 billion CFA francs) will be used for.

    Despite all the efforts that the Senegalese Government is putting in to get the tax on inbound international calls reinstated, it is still not going down very well. In order to convince the Senegalese diaspora, a delegation of Senegalese, including Mr Momar Ndao, the head of the Consumers Association of Senegal, went to Paris to meet them. On May 31st they held a meeting at the French Consulate to seek the acceptance of the diaspora in return for the creation of resettlement fund. The meeting didn’t go very well as shown in the following video clip published a couple of days later on Daily Motion.

    Since then, the case has escalated further in Senegal: a special presidential meeting on the topic of international inbound calls has turned sour and the Union of Telecommunications workers has called a strike. The Senegalese newspaper, the “As” reported that Cheikh Tidiane Mbaye, the head of Sonatel (the national incumbent) said during the meeting that he felt embarrassed because this was not a meeting about a tax on international inbound calls but rather a meeting against Sonatel. He further added that “Mr President, you said earlier that we like money. I would like to add that I don’t like money but I like development. This is different. You, you like money”.  Following this meeting, the head of the Union, Mamadou Aïdara Diop said that they will call for a national strike against the tax on international inbound calls. Interestingly, the latest news on how the tax on inbound calls will be allocated has changed too: there is no longer any reference to a fund for the diaspora and the US$135 million will be devoted to US$45 (20 billion CFA francs) for the electricity sector, US$18 million (8 billion CFA francs) for ICT projects (e-cases), US$11 million (5 billion CFA francs)  for digital projects (purchase of computers) and US$11 million (5 billions CFA francs) to improve water supply. The local Senegalese press has also reported that Global Voice Group might sue the Government of Senegal for breach of contract.

    As pressure is mounting in Senegal for the withdrawal on the tax on international inbound calls, it is not yet clear how it will end in but we dearly hope that common sense will prevail. As more and more African countries think about introducing a tax on international inbound calls, the leader in implementing such services, Global voice Group (GVG), is no longer the only game in town. Any telecoms tech will tell you that it is not rocket science to put in place a monitoring system to control inbound international calls. Companies that offer the same services as GVG have understood that the appeal of this game is the easy money that it generates.

    Following on from Senegal, Ghana or Guinea, Liberia has decided to go the same way. A couple of weeks ago, the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) issued a draft regulation on international traffic. The 4-page document must have been written in a hurry because it remains unclear from the document what type of traffic will be monitored and taxed. The LTA in its draft regulations refers sometimes to “international inbound and outbound call data and rates for call termination” or “to all calls routed to +231 country code irrespective of the routing method” or “the implementation of a traffic data monitoring and retention solution for both domestic traffic and international inbound traffic” or “the international gateway monitoring facilities … …. shall be used for the monitoring of all traffic”.  The least, this regulation is very confusing apart from the fact that LTA prescribes that “all international inbound calls terminating to subscriber number with country code +231 incur a minimum regulatory fee of US$0.15 per minute (on top of the US$0.12 per minute wholesale price) and shall be collected by the terminating service provider on behalf of LTA”.

    While telecoms operators in Liberia are turned into tax collectors, it might be worth reminding the LTA that such a “regulatory fee” contravenes:
    - the ITU’s International Telecommunications Regulations (also know as the “Melbourne Agreement”), Article 6.1.3 states that fiscal taxes shall normally be collected only on international services billed to customers in that country; while there are proposals to reform the ITRs, it is specially recognised that reform of 6.1.3 shall avoid permitting double taxation.
    - the World Trade Organisation’s Annex on Telecommunication Services (1988) which states that taxes should not be higher than local interconnection rates.
    - Recommendation D.140 of ITU (2002) requests that tariffs including termination rates should be cost-orientated.

    Further, telecoms operators in West African made it clear in the “Declaration of Dakar” issued in November 2010 that they remain against such taxation systems. Besides the legal infringements, Liberia will also need to think about the economic consequences: it will impact negatively on the international competitiveness of the country and drive up the cost of doing business at a time of global economic downturn; the increases in the cost of termination of incoming international traffic will have a negative impact on Liberian businesses wishing to develop exports; for Liberian families with members living outside Liberia, the increased cost of calls to their home country will translate into fewer, shorter calls and less money available for remittance to Liberia.

    Recently I had an email exchange with a Liberian person living in the US and his answer on the question of taxing international inbound calls was “ the LTA's regulatory fee issue is in my opinion, not progressive”. Progressive is the key point. It is all about developing a regulatory framework that is an enabler rather than issuing regulations that take telecoms operators and consumers for a “cash cow”.

telecoms

  • The Nigerian Communications Commission last week issued a disconnection notice to Zoom Mobile, a CDMA network operator, over interconnect indebtedness to five other rival telecoms operators in the country.

    At the expiration of the 21-day notice, five operators including Airtel Network Limited, Glo Mobile Limited, MTN Nigeria Communications Limited, Multi-Links Communications Limited and Visafone Communications Limited, have been granted regulatory approval to partially disconnect Zoom Mobile off their networks.

    If the order is carried out, it will be a big blow for Zoom Mobile as the five rival operators control over 95 per cent of the nation’s 90,969,794 active subscriber lines as at March, this year according to official NCC telecoms market information. According to the market information, the five companies controlled an active connection of 80,406,563 lines compared to Zoom Mobile’s 1,043,592 lines within the same period.

    The effecting of partial disconnection would mean that Zoom Mobile subscribers can only receive calls but will not be able to dial into the networks of the affected operators.

    Director, Public Affairs, NCC, Dave Imoko announced last week that the regulator issued the notice in accordance with Section 100 of the NCC Act 2003 and guidelines for procedure for granting approval to disconnect telecommunication operators.
    According to him, Zoom Mobile subscribers will no longer be able to make calls to the five operators but will be able to receive calls when the disconnection is effected at the expiration of the 21-day notice that starts counting from today. He did not disclose figures involved in the interconnect debt. The partial disconnection order will allow in-bound calls to the Zoom Mobile network but not outbound ones to five operators.

    According to Imoko, NCC had examined the applications and circumstances surrounding the indebtedness and determined that Zoom Mobile does not have sufficient reason for non-payment of the interconnect charges to the affected operators.

    “Zoommobile was notified of the applications and was given the opportunity to comment and state its case,” he adds before the 21-day notice was issued today.

    Interconnect rates are fees a network operator pays to the one on whose network the calls are terminated. These charges to carries for using the networks of other have been a major source of dispute among telecoms operators.

  • About 4.4 million mobile phone subscribers may lose their lines following a directive by the Communications Commission of Kenya to the operators to block handsets that are "unknown" on their networks in a bid to fight the sale of counterfeits. Such handsets do not have an International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI), the unique number used to identify original GSM devices.

    Following the directive, the mobile phone operators have asked for more time to weigh their options and propose other solutions to the counterfeiting problem. A meeting between them and the CCK is scheduled for September 9.

    Counterfeiting of mobile phones and their accessories has risen over the last seven years. It is estimated that one in every five mobile phones sold in the global market is a counterfeit.

    According to the CCK statistics there are about 22 million mobile subscribers. This translates theoretically to 4.4 million counterfeit phones in circulation in the country. "Consumers, who believe they are buying a genuine phone, when in fact it is a counterfeit, will likely blame the manufacturer of the genuine product if they do not get value for money resulting in loss of good will," said John Akoten, Deputy Director Research & Awareness at the Anti-Counterfeiting Agency. Consumers go for the fake phones as they are much cheaper than the genuine brands.

    The ACA estimates that the economy loses up to Sh3.2 billion in tax revenues as a result of counterfeit mobile phones. In March this year, the ACA seized counterfeit mobile phone batteries in Nairobi worth Sh2.4 million and has so far filed 38 intellectual property right cases.

    If the CCK directive is implemented after next month's meeting, Safaricom will be the most affected as it says there are already nearly one million devices with non-recognized IMEI on its network.

    On the handset IMEI is identified by dialing *#06#) . Without it the phone is counterfeit, but having one does not mean it is genuine as it could be duplicated. "What is required is a regulator that would not affect the customers who are already victims of the counterfeiters, " said Nzioka Waita, the Director of Legal and Corporate Affairs.

    On the one hand, the operators could lose billions in revenue while on the other the use of these handsets is ruining the reputation of their networks as the counterfeits offer substandard services.

    The company is proposing to the regulator to first carry out consumer awareness programmes before any radical action. It is also seeking to protect itself from what would be a massive outrage. "Operators need to be protected from any liability in law that may arise as a result of blocking some line," said Waita.

    It is also asking for adequate time to implement the directive if the regulator decides the numbers must be blocked. But the market leading handset maker, Nokia, says the CCK strategy might not work.

    Dorothy Ooko, Nokia's Communication Manager in East, Central and Southern Africa, says there should be a more cautious approach to the problem. "India tried to do the same thing, but did not succeed as it ended up blocking even the genuine phones on the grey market." She says without a clear mechanism, the action would penalise phone users who buy genuine phones outside the country.

    Globally, Nokia is the most counterfeited mobile phone due to its immense public demand. The blame game on who is responsible for the counterfeits has been going on for two years. Manufacturers, the Kenya Revenue Authority, the police, Kenya Bureau of Standards have been blaming each other. Some manufacturers are opting to protect themselves by conducting raids on dealers.

    Robert Ngeru, the deputy managing director of Samsung Electronics EA, said the company was making plans to carry out raids on counterfeit dealers. But other stakeholders feel there should be stringent laws to protect their intellectual property rights.

    The current penalties and fines are too lax to discourage the crime. Infringement of intellectual property rights attracts a fine of not more than Sh2 million or imprisonment not exceeding three years, regardless of the value of goods.

    Counterfeit phones also have a negative effect on the environment. Consumers Federation of Kenya Secretary General Stephen Mutoro dismissed the directive as "a measure which will have nil or negative impact.

    " Cofek said government agencies and individual importers of counterfeit phones should bear full responsibility following the dumping of sub-standard and contraband phones in Kenya.

    The IT Consumers Rights chairman, Alex Gakuru, commended the CCK directive. "But CCK should first create a facility database for the genuine phones in the market, that way suppliers would know counterfeits will be traced back to them. There will be pain initially for those who have already invested, but it is for the benefit of all," he said.

  • National Consumer Comissioner Mohlala served the companies with compliance notices on Wednesday after they refused to sign consent orders acknowledging their contracts did not comply with the Consumer Protection Act and undertaking to amend them.

    The commission had been at loggerheads with the sector since it came into operation in April and received a flood of complaints from irate consumers. To date, no penalties had been imposed on the operators for non-compliance with the act.

    Mohlala had given the operators until mid-September to agree to change their contracts’ terms and conditions or oppose her demands.

    The new contracts should give consumers the right to terminate contracts by giving 20 days’ notice; adequately explain pricing such as call rates; and remove the automatic renewal of contracts without consumers’ consent.

    Mohlala said if the companies failed to consent to the amendments, she would take the matter to the National Consumer Tribunal and argue for sanctions of 10% of annual revenue.

    Only Neotel had agreed to amend its contracts and it had not been served with a compliance notice, she said.

  • The Government has passed a Statutory Instrument (SI) which suspends duty on taxes related to all active and passive Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) telecommunications equipment.

    The ministries of  Finance and National Planning and  Communication and Transport jointly issued SI Number 23 of 2011 under the Customs and Excise Act which waives all taxes for telecommunication site equipment.

    Ministry of Communications and Transport permanent secretary Dominic Sichinga said the SI was issued in March this year.

    Sichinga said the measure is a response to bridge the digital divide between the rural and urban areas although Government needs the private sector to meet the telecommunication demands in the country. “On our part as Government, we shall continue to make deliberate efforts as the custodians of the Information Communication Technology (ICT) national policy to engage partners for ICT development to reach greater heights and permeate to all parts of the country,” he said.

    The waiver has facilitated telecommunication service operators Airtel, MTN and Zamtel as well as any other ICT sector players constructing and installing communication equipment to reduce their capital expenditure and in turn accelerate their network spread.
    The SI No. 23, the Customs and Excise focus on re-mission electronic communications regulations, duty waiver on the roll-out towers and associated mobile communication equipment to rural areas and unserved areas.

internet

  • The long running legal battle between MWeb and Telecom Namibia came to an end this week when the Supreme Court dismissed MWeb’s appeal with costs.

    MWeb had argued that while Article 10 of the Namibian Constitution guarantees that all persons shall be equal before the law, section 2 (2) of the Telecom Act was unconstitutional in as far as it puts Telecom at an advantage by treating it differently.

    Section 2(2) of the Telecom Act states: “No person other than the telecommunications company shall conduct a telecommunications service, except under the authority of a licence granted by the Commission.”

    Mweb also wanted the court to prohibit Telecom from continuing to render ADSL services to it at the same rates as it provides ADSL services to the public at large without offering wholesale prices to MWeb.

    “While Telecom is free to roam around beating its monopolistic drum, MWeb does not only have to apply (and pay) under a pain of criminal penalty, for a licence; but once such a licence is granted, MWeb becomes subject to the jurisdiction of government’s specially created watchdog (The Namibia Communication Commission, now the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia). The unequal treatment is stark, the reasons for such inequality wholly obscure,” MWeb argued.

    However in a judgement handed down on Monday, acting judge of Appeal, Fred Chomba dismissed MWeb’s application citing lack of merit.

    He said: “I see the cumulative effect of the statutes at the centre of the current dispute as being part of the scheme of redressing imbalances and although those statutes may appear to have a monopolistic effect in economic terms and therefore to apparently be contrary to the public good when viewed simplistically, they were in fact designed to promote the public good. “Furthermore, the representatives of the people, sitting in Parliament, saw the wisdom of not exposing Telecom to the full blast of competition with the economically more powerful private enterprises. “So, Telecom was exempted from paying government taxes and was then empowered to raise revenue from those private entities engaged in the same field as it was so that it could be financially enabled to fulfil the task of extending its services to all areas, including the economically depressed zones, of the country. At the end of the day, therefore, telecommunication services, in particular internet services, are brought closer to the people in the economically depressed areas.
    “That was a political judgement on the part of the people’s representatives. It would be imprudent for this court to reverse that judgement on the basis that the matter should have been done better in a different way,” Judge Chomba reasoned.

  • London based emerging markets broadband provider, Augere, is set to expands its African operations with the launch of broadband services in Kigali. The UK firm announced its expansion plans to Rwanda and Tanzania this week, beginning with in Kigali in November this year.

    Augere, which will be operating under the brand name Qubee will commercially launch its purpose built WiMAX wireless broadband network and it is expected to offer fast and reliable broadband Internet access. Once in place, the company said its services will further support economic development and create significant new opportunities.

    "This is an exciting time for Augere. We are at the forefront of the broadband revolution in emerging markets, and the launch in Rwanda will greatly increase the opportunities for people in the region and for the Augere business," said David Venn, Global CEO of Augere.

    Manzurul Alam, CEO of Augere East Africa, said that the firm will provide some of the best broadband services in the region."We are delighted to be bringing this new broadband service to Rwanda," Alam said. "I would like to thank the regulators for the opportunity to bring fast and reliable broadband to the region."

    Efforts to get comment from the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) were futile as they insisted they only speak to the media after receiving an official letter requesting for information.

    Augere's principal shareholders include Harbinger Capital, France Telecom, New Silk Route and Vedanta Opportunity Fund as well as its founder, Sanjiv Ahuja.

  • The government is planning to have all counties covered with fixed broadband in the next eight months. Bitange Ndemo, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry of Information and Communication said works to re-route the National Optic Fiber Infrastructure(NOFBI) in order to cover all the 47 counties will start soon.

    The first phase of laying the NOFBI has already been completed. However the project was based on the old administrative boundaries leaving out some key points marked in the new constitution. "At the moment, 16 counties headquarters do not have access to optic fibre infrastructure, " said the PS, "It is important to re-evaluate the routing of NOFBI to ensure that all regions are properly irrigated by this telecommunication life line" .

    Ndemo said this is will also boost plans to have electronic voting in next year's general elections. He was speaking during the release of a study on ICT Access Gaps Study commissioned by the Communication Commission of Kenya. The research shows only 5 per cent of the population have access to the internet. Majority of the connected are on mobile internet, the survey found.

    In most counties, ICT data usage is below 5 per cent with the lowest parts being in in the North and Eastern . On the other hand ,the study conducted by Apoyo Consultoria showed 47 per cent of the population have access to mobile telephony. Ndemo says the last mile broadband connection to the whole population is yet to be covered, two years after the fibre optic cable landed in the country. "The mobile penetration is commendable, but even so, up to 5 million Kenyans cannot access communication even if they are able to pay for it, access to broadband must become a human rights issue."

    To close the voice and data gaps, the consultants have recommended waiving of the spectrum fees and Universal Access Funds in order to encourage more private investors to go to rural areas that otherwise appear economically unviable.The PS said government was exploring the option of sharing infrastructure with the private sector players in reaching the counties.

computing

  • The pastoralist regions of East Africa have been variously described as vast, pristine swathes of land, teeming with wildlife and livestock amid nature's unspoiled beauty; or drought-prone hardship areas, marginalised by successive governments, a conflict-ridden zone. But James Nguo wants to add another adjective to this standard narrative: Tech-savvy.

    Nguo is the regional director of the Arid Lands Information Network (Alin), winner of this year's international Access to Learning Award, which is working to connect people living in remote and arid regions of East Africa and promote information exchange -- in particular, traditional knowledge that otherwise goes unrecorded, such as how to collect rainwater into earth dams for irrigation, how deep the dam should be, and how to channel water into the dam by digging furrows.

    "Our core business is to promote the sharing of information," says Nguo. "We create a platform where people in Marsabit, Kenya, can communicate with those in Karamoja, Uganda and, for example, share ideas like how to make salt lick for your animals from your own ingredients if you find the salt lick in the shops is too expensive."

    Alin has set up 14 Maarifa Centres -- a community Internet access point and digital library that uses solar panels to generate electricity and a satellite dish to connect to the Internet -- across Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

    When Nguo first started his network in 2000, Internet connectivity across much of the region was practically unheard of. "There was no mobile signal, let alone internet connections in the arid areas when we started, so we teamed up with Worldspace, which is known for broadcasting satellite radio but also has a data channel to connect even the remotest areas," he says.

    A typical Maarifa Centre costs anywhere between Ksh 405,000 ($4,500) and Ksh 1.5 million ($17,000) to set up, including the cost of building the room, a minimum of five computers and a satellite Internet connection. In some areas, a refurbished 20-foot shipping container houses the library, significantly bringing down the cost.

    The Access to Learning award, which is administered by the Global Libraries initiative, is part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The award comprises $1 million and software donated by Microsoft, and was presented on Tuesday at the annual International Federation of Library Associations Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

    Nguo says Alin will use the grant to develop better technologies, and "research into what works best, so that we're not just importing and dumping technologies."

    Deborah Jacobs of Global Libraries says the award was created to celebrate and support efforts to bridge the digital divide. "Libraries all over the world suffer from a lack of funding; governments often don't pay attention to them. Our goal is to narrow the gap between those who have access to information and those who don't."

    Any organisation that uses technology to connect communities with information can enter the competition, and a committee of experts selects the winner. Particular emphasis is put on innovations that can be replicated on a wide scale.

    Ms Jacobs says that Alin stood out this year because the organisation has been able to make major inroads in remote communities, with an emphasis on developing human capital.

  • Wilson Kutegeka's health information management system software that stores and networks patients' medical records is another master piece from a young Ugandan breaking into the world of science innovation.

    Kutegaka's software called ClinicMaster captures clinical notes, prescription, diagnosis, lab tests and results and appointment schedules and reproduces them on each visit by the patient. It also provides an electronic billing solution after capturing the full medical history.

    "All this is stored electronically. The intention is to eliminate paper by fully automating the hospital. It tracks the history from when one visits the hospital to the point when they leave," Kutegeka says.

    Kutegeka, 37, began developing the software in 2006 and has continued modifying it to fit the needs of his growing clientele."The software will be a huge boost if adapted by public health facilities like Mulago Hospital that handle thousands of patients and have to store thousands of files," he says. The software also has a component that manages patients on antiretroviral therapy and automatically generates quarterly reports.

    Although a few health insurance medical facilities have a similar software, Kutegeka says his ClinicMaster also alerts the pharmacy about drugs that are about to expire and helps in stock taking. A graduate of physics with post-graduate training in computer science from Makerere University, Kutegeka says he found a passion in writing computer programmes.

    He was employed at the Joint Clinical Research Centre (JCRC), where he first tested his software. Kutegeka says having been a patient before; he had noticed the complexity of retrieving clinical data. "In some cases you are sent back home to pick your medical forms," he says.

    "It is not uncommon for people in critical condition to be asked to wait until a nurse finds their medical forms."

    The software costs between sh5m to sh40m, depending on the size, nature and number of people served at a health facility. Currently, ClinicMaster is used at Case Clinic in Kampala, Makerere University Walter Reed facilities in Kayunga and Mukono, Rushere Community Hospital and Luiz Memorial Medical Centre. "My wish is to see that every health centre in the region is using ClinicMaster," Kutegeka says.

    He says he is now working on a component that can link health care information in all health institutions using ClinicMaster. "This will enable patients who have changed health facilities access their medical history," he says.

    Kutegeka adds that he is also working on an SMS component, which can notify patients when their test results are ready. Kutegeka, who is still operating from his home in Kyengera, says although he has not patented the software, he is gazetting it to ensure intellectual property ownership.

    Kutegeka says his main challenge is that people do not appreciate the software until they start using it. "It will take time for people to do away with the culture of writing on paper," he says.

  • The Minister of Communications and Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, has declared support for the calls to make Information Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure in the country, a critical infrastructure protected by law.

    The serial vandalism of telecommunications equipment in the industry, characterised by insecurity of infrastructure, incessant fibre cuts, vandalism of base transceiver stations and attack on personnel of telecom companies had led to calls for ICT infrastructure to be protected by the federal government through a law.

    Johnson in a chat with ThisDay said, "I am in support of it and as we begin to build infrastructures that are critical to doing business over ICT infrastructures, we have to declare these things critical assets. I do understand the need for internal revenue by the state and local governments. But we need to point out that switching off a base or stealing a generator from a base station is not in the best interest of the entire nation"

    She added that the vandalism of telecoms infrastructure not only affected service delivery but affected the government and ultimately the economy.

    Johnson also pledged that the newly created ministry would develop appropriate policies necessary to facilitate the roll-out of a ubiquitous and cost effective infrastructure across the country.

    On the issue of quality of service, Johnson said the current poor service quality was a case of demand and supply.

    She disclosed that the ministry was currently talking with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and service providers on the need for more base stations to be rolled because that is what will impact on quality of service..

    She stressed that the Ministry was already looking into the challenges posed by the inability of operators to get permission to roll out base stations. "As you know right now, the process by which the operators get permission to erect a base station is actually much longer than it needs to be. They have given us comparison on what it takes in other parts of the world and clearly, Nigeria is way behind. And that is one of the reason we have quality of service issues. So, we are working with all the government agencies involved in regulating ICT to look at how we can streamline that process and make it a much faster process for them. We are approximately between 10,000 and 15,000 base stations away from what the ideal should be. So we are currently working on how we can de-bottleneck that process and make much smoother".

    Nonetheless, Johnson stressed that there should be a minimum level of quality of service demanded from the operators that should not be breached. She added that both the government and the operators were working in tandem to ensure that Nigerians get the best quality of service.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • NewsDay, reports that state owned mobile network operator NetOne has secured US$ 60 million for mobile broadband services. According to the paper, the funds have been sourced from China Export-Import Bank, Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe (IDBZ), CBZ Bank and BancABC.

    NetOne remains the only mobile operator that is not offering commercial mobile broadband services locally. Its competitors, Econet, Telecel and (since 2 months ago) Africom all offer data services in addition to regular voice telephony.

    In the report, NetOne Managing Director, Reward Kangai, also disclosed that NetOne will be sourcing its bandwidth from fixed line operator TelOne. Through WIOCC, TelOne is a shareholder in and has connected to the EASSy optic fibre at the Zimbabwe’s border with Mozambique in Mutare. The fibre cable has a total lit capacity of 2.48 Gigabits per second.

    NetOne has also promised to launch mobile broadband services by the end of this year.

  • The Tanzania Telecommunications Company Limited (TTCL) needs over USD 50 million to improve its services; company’s chief executive officer Said Amir Said has said.

    He revealed this in Dar es Salaam at a function where TTCL signed a business contract with Maxcom Africa for the latter to sell TTCL vouchers through its agents scattered through out the country.

    Explaining, Said said the company was currently operating independently and had started making profit. He said a strategic plan prepared by the company showed that it would start operating effectively in 2013.

    “We are now doing well using available resources. We have invested a lot. We are in a process of getting the required capital to improve our services and ensure profit realization,” he noted.

    Explaining, he said Tanzanians will be able to but TTCL vouchers whenever they are in the country in fast and efficient electronic mode. He said that credit vouchers will also be available at other selling points.

    For his part, Maxcom Africa deputy director-general Ahmed Salim Lossari said that under the deal it signed with TTCL, the latter’s customers would be able to buy vouchers from its 1,300 agents located in all regions.

  • Safaricom, the leading mobile operator in Kenya, is seeking Sh1.4 billion refund from the government as part of a fee it paid in 2007 to acquire a high speed mobile phone service licence.

    Intent on acquiring a 3G licence, Safaricom paid to the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), $25 million, (about Sh2.3 billion), being the fee set as the going industry price for the frequencies. (Read: All must pay for 3G, Safaricom insists)

    It then rolled out the 3G services in October 2007, having paid for the licence in February 2007. The other operators did not pay, leaving Safaricom as the only operator to act on the offer.

    In July and November last year, CCK, the industry regulator, issued Zain Kenya (now Airtel Kenya) and Telkom Kenya the same licence, but at a 60 per cent reduced fee of $10 million (about Sh930 million).

    It is this difference of $15 million (1.4 billion) that Safaricom now wants the High Court to compel CCK to refund to level the playing field.

    In the documents filed in court, Safaricom says the huge disparity between the licence fee it paid and that paid by its competitors creates unfair competition.

    It adds that its competitors are able to price their services at a lower rate because the rates are dependent on capital investments.

    The effects of this disparity, it says, is that it creates an unfair and unjustifiable tilt in the playing field in favour of other service operators, making Safaricom to operate at significantly higher costs.

    The company has faulted the decision, saying it was a clear demonstration that there was a major flaw by CCK in determination of fees payable for the licence.

    "The price had been set at an inordinately high level and, contrary to the clear stipulations of the CCK regulations," Safaricom says.

    CCK has 14 days to respond to the case, after which a hearing date will be set.

  • Since its launch in July 2010, First National Bank's corporate clients have used Pay Wallet to send over R42-million directly to the mobile phones of more than 19000 South Africans, with the service now growing at an average monthly rate of 35%.

    Pay Wallet is an extension of FNB's eWallet, which allows FNB customers to send money in real time to anyone with a cellphone. It enables FNB Corporate, Commercial and Public Sector clients to electronically pay their employees directly to their mobiles or into a debit card.

    The recipients are then able to access their money immediately at any full-service FNB ATM, with or without a bank card.

    Research done by Finscope in 2010 states that 12.4-million adults in South Africa still remain unbanked, and that of these, 11.1-million adults have never been exposed to any type of formalised banking practices.

    "Products such as FNB Pay Wallet are allowing us to bridge the gap between the banked and the unbanked and address the real need for access to financial services," FNB eWallet Solutions CEO Yolande van Wyk said in a statement last week. "This also allows for the transfer of cash to be done safely and easily."

    FNB has also recently enabled companies to integrate their line-of-business systems with Pay Wallet, to pay employees via cards. This allows any company, regardless of who they bank with, to use Pay Wallet.

    "Mobile money transfer is currently the flavour of the moment and mobile wallets meet a desperate need to keep one's money safe," says Arthur Goldstuck, MD of internet research firm World Wide Worx. "It is likely that mobile wallet-type applications will serve as a way of ensuring your cash is secure as it is a natural partner service to cellphone banking."

    Pay Wallet reduces the time and costs associated with handling cash, or issuing cheques to pay employee wages. It can also be used as a replacement for petty cash, by simply paying funds into a card linked to the company, instead of an individual.

    Payments can be done on FNB Online Banking, individually or via an easy-to-use file upload system.

    The objective was to make it easier for employers from all industries to make payments to their staff, said Van Wyk. "This solution is ideal for seasonal or contract employees, once-off employees, temporary labour to small businesses and other informal establishments such as spaza shops," she said.

    "Pay Wallet has simplified the way payments are made to those without access to financial services and has been critical in introducing the unbanked to formalised ways of handling their funds."

    In its research, Finscope shows that of South African adults that have never been formally banked, 89% are black, 7% coloured, 3% white, and 1% Indian.

    Twenty-two percent of adults in KwaZulu-Natal have never been banked, giving the province the highest number of unbanked adults in the country. Gauteng and Eastern Cape both sit at 15%, followed by Limpopo at 14%, Mpumalanga with 11%, the Free State, Northwest and Western Cape with 7%, and the Northern Cape with 3%.

    "FNB will continue to work towards developing and introducing further access to banking which are both innovative and simple," said Van Wyk. "We hope that this will see the needs of the unbanked being met together with a heightened awareness of what is available to them."

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - In Nigeria, CDMA operator Starcomms Plc has announced a partnership agreement with China Telecoms to provide affordable and quality GSM handsets for its customers. The chief executive also said the company was also considering the possibility of giving free phones to its customers who stay with them for about 12 months as a way of encouraging them, adding that there will be emphasis on customer care and service.

    - Kenyan pay television service provider Multichoice Kenya has launched a new mobile decoder into the Kenyan market that will enable its subscribers have access to mobile television services. The new mobile decoder dubbed Drifta, targeted at mobile television enthusiasts will see subscribers within the firm's mobile network coverage areas in Nairobi, Mombasa and their environs have access to various DStv channels.

    - Nokia has announced the launch of two low-cost mobile phones, which it says are its most affordable phones to date. The Nokia 101 will be available in the third quarter of 2011 for about US$35. The Nokia 100 will be available in the fourth quarter of 2011 for about US$30.

    - Canadian mobile device manufacturer Research in Motion (RIM) is introducing BBM Music, a new BlackBerry Messenger service that allows for social and viral music discovery online. But there’s no word on when or even if the product will be launched in South Africa and other African countries. The company has signed licensing deals with the four biggest music labels — Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and EMI — to provide users of BBM Music with access to millions of tracks.

    - South Africa’s newest television challenger, SouthTel Group’s VOD:TV, has revealed more details about its plans to launch a satellite-based video-on-demand service later this year. The company will go to market in partnership with mobile operators and has already concluded its first agreement with one of SA’s big mobile providers. The company’s founder and CEO, Oscar Dube, says he can’t name the operator yet because of confidentiality clauses. He says he’s keen to do deals with other SA cellphone companies and with operators elsewhere in Southern Africa.

    - Samsung Electronics has launched a smartphone, two tablets and a netbook in Africa.
    The NC215S netbook has a built-in solar panel for Africans still unconnected to the national grid and those facing unstable power supplies. The Samsung S11 smartphone uses Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), while Samsung said that the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Galaxy Tab 8.9 are the thinnest tablets, measuring 8.6 millimeters. The smartphone includes access to Samsung’s new content and management hubs for access to games, e-reading and social networking services.

Digital Content

  • The Digital Media and Marketing Association (DMMA) is launching South Africa's first online audience measurement panel.

    Implemented by Effective Measure, the DMMA's measurement supplier, the panel will be a recruited sample of South Africans whose web browsing activities will be monitored and measured using software downloaded and installed on their computers. This data, when combined with the current DMMA member information, will give advertisers a much clearer picture of the Total South African Internet Universe.

    The DMMA Online Audience Measurement Panel will be a representative sample of the local online population, benchmarked against detailed data collected from Effective Measure.

    Whilst it is too early to determine the exact size of the panel, it will definitely be in line with online audience measurement panels in similar markets around the world and is likely to number in the many thousands.

    Panelist recruitment will be ongoing, ensuring South Africa has a continually evolving, healthy panel, which is consistent with the demographics and websites visited in South Africa over time.

    "The panel is a definite step in the right direction for the South African digital marketplace", says Josh Adler, Head of the DMMA's Measurement Tender and CEO of Prefix. "For the first time we will have a view of South African browser activity on non DMMA member sites like facebook, Google and YouTube, allowing us to better understand the true size and appeal of the local digital market. Armed with this data we can give South African brands and advertisers a clearer idea of how many people and which audience segments they could be reaching by allocating more of their budgets to online advertising."

    But while research gleaned from the panel will provide valuable insights, it is tagged based statistics that will remain the most reliable form of data. The DMMA will therefore be putting various checks in place to ensure that advertisers can easily tell the difference. Within Effective Measure, sites with panel only data will be classified as "not verified" and they will not be represented in Effective Measure's Advanced Demographic Media Planning Tool. Panel only data will also not be migrated across to Telmar and Media Manager.

    The DMMA has just started the panel recruitment process and anticipates that Effective Measure will deliver the first set of data in Q3, 2011.

  • Violet Njeri's shopping experience has become unbearable as trips to the local supermarket become more costly. The price of sugar, for instance, has hit the all-time high of Sh200 per kilogramme.

    "Every time I go to the supermarket I spend more money than the last time," she said. Runaway inflation has dealt many a Kenyan household a blow, with most struggling to balance their pay cheques against high commodity prices.

    Many consumers have put a cap on expenditure, especially on non-priority goods, in a bid to save or merely survive.

    For some tech savvy consumers respite is found in online shopping. Njeri is among the many Kenyans who are seeking solutions to their shopping woes in online stores and group buying websites that provide two great incentives; convenience and discount deals.

    Over the last six months online shopping portals such as Dealfish.ke and group buying sites like Zetu.ke and Rupu.ke have registered phenomenal growth with more Kenyans turning to them for affordable deals.

    Zetu.ke marketing director Martin Muli said group buying was rapidly gaining a following. "We started Zetu about 10 months ago and at the time the reception was not all that good, but lately growth has been impressive," he said.

    Group buying offers shoppers products and services at significantly reduced prices on condition that a purchase is made by a certain number of buyers.

    Clients register with a group buying service provider like Zetu.ke, then they receive updates on available deals through email or social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

    The users then share information on the deal with friends and colleagues until the required number of customers is reached.

    Once an optimum number of clients is registered, the customers receive a deal voucher on their emails, print it out and present it at recommended shopping outlets to buy the product or service. This model has been successful in the marketing of mostly middle to high end discretionary commodities like concert tickets, dinners at high-end restaurants, family getaways, and spa treatments.

    Group buying has worked well in developed markets like the US where Groupon website has grown to become one of the largest Internet based companies.

    The concept, which is relatively new in the country, is fast chalking up followers owing to the tough economic times and increased Internet penetration. "More people are looking for discounts and we have witnessed a lot of interest especially in food and clothing," said Muli. In addition, Kenyans are becoming more trusting of the online third parties that they send money to for transactions.

    As a result, the value of online transactions is growing. "When we began the volume of sales was low since most clients were uncomfortable with carrying out large online transactions. However, they have tested the system and their trust has grown," he said.

    Dealfish East Africa regional manager Moses Kemibaro attributed the rise in volumes of goods and services moved through online marketing portals to increased consumer awareness.

    "Like any other market, Kenyans like a good deal and saving money will always be an incentive for buyers of products and services," he said.

    Group buying websites act as a way of marketing businesses cost-effectively. "It is one of the cheapest and most effective ways of marketing products and services." Over the last six months, the website has recorded a surge in the number of transactions. "This is a result of customer education as well as changing attitudes towards online commerce.

    For instance, we now have a good number of car dealers and real estate agents who move a good deal of their businesses via Dealfish.ke which was not the case six months ago," Kemibaro said.

    The Website, which features cars, property, jobs, and general items, is currently ranked the second most visited local site after dailynation.ke. The rise in Dealfish.ke's popularity is testament to increased appeal of online marketing among Kenyans.

    Better times lie ahead for local online marketing as Internet penetration, especially through mobile phones, continues to grow, said Kemibaro.

    "There are over 10 million Internet users in Kenya, which represents over a quarter of the population. The greater percentage of these users get online via their mobile phones," he said.

    "In addition, Safaricom's M-Pesa and Airtel Money which have over 16 million users collectively make it easy for users to pay for their deals."

More

  • - The immediate past president of the Nigeria Internet Group (NIG) and Chief Executive Officer of PiNet Informatics, Lanre Ajayi, has been nominated into the Generic Names Supporting Organisation (GNSO) council of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

    - UAE based Etisalat has named Ahmad Abdulkarim Julfar as group Chief Executive Officer, looking after the company's existing overseas operations. The appointment comes as part of a new expansion phase that will see Etisalat expand more overseas.

    - The National Communication Authority (NCA), has welcomed the appointment of Mr Enninful and Mrs Rehmata Issahaq-Pelpuo as Deputy Director-General and the Board Secretary respectively.

  • Nigeria Com
    September 20 - 21 September, 2011, Lagos, Nigeria

    The 2nd annual Nigeria Com returns to Lagos. Gain unique market perspectives and insights from a 40 strong speaker-line up including 25+ Operator leaders. The 2 day agenda equips you to capitalise on new networks and services, while the 60 stand networking exhibition will showcase the world’s foremost technology and solutions available for your business. With 700+ attendees, if you do telecoms business in the region, this is an event you cannot afford to miss!
    For more information visit here:

    Mozambique National ICT Congress
    5-6 October 2011, Centro Internacional de Conferencia Joaquim Chissano, Maputo

    Held under the auspices of the Mozambique Ministry of Science & Technology and organised by AITEC Africa, this is the annual gathering of Mozambique’s rapidly growing ICT community, with a two-day conference and industry expo. Users and vendors of ICT systems and solutions will be sharing challenges, knowledge and ideas in the stimulating conference programme, with high-level local and international speakers. There is simultaneous translation between English and Portuguese to facilitate international participation. The event will also include the second annual National Communications Roundtable, providing operators, ISPs, users and service providers with an opportunity to discuss the country’s national communications strategy with the regulator. For the full programme log on to the organiser’s website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    North Africa Com
    11 - 12 October, 2011, Tunis, Tunisia

    Now in its 6th year, the ONLY conference and exhibition dedicated to the North African telecoms market moves to Tunisia to address the dynamic French-speaking markets.
    The expanded conference agenda is now in development and will feature a host of new topics led by a speaker panel featuring some of North Africa's leading telcos.  Contact us today to apply to speak in the conference, or reserve your sponsorship or exhibition package.
    Be one of the first to see the 2011 agenda and sign up for your copy.
    For more information visit here:

    CDN World Summit 2011
    26 - 28 October 2011, Hilton Hotel Paddington, London.

    The 3rd annual CDN World Summit promises to be the largest and most
    comprehensive CDN event ever.The full value chain is represented including content providers,broadcast operators, traditional and telco CDNs, represented by industry leaders such as; FilmFlex Movies, BT Wholesale and AT&T.
    For more information visit here:

    Digital Migration and Spectrum Policy Summit
    29 October to 01 November 2011, Nairobi, Kenya.

    For more informtion visit here:

    Africa Com
    November 9 - November 10, 2011, Cape Town, SA

    Join 5,000 of Africa’s leading telcos in Cape Town this November for what is set to be the biggest and best AfricaCom yet.  The conference agenda has doubled to incorporate a record 150+ speakers presenting across 4 strategic keynotes, 11 in-depth focus sessions and 2 co-located events – AfricaCast and Enterprise ICT Africa.  What’s more 250+ international solutions providers will be showcasing their latest products in the networking exhibition.
    For more information visit here:

    World Telecom Summit 2011
    9–11 November, 2011, Singapore Marriott Hotel

    World Telecom Summit 2011 is the must-attend event of the year. Bringing together top level executives and key decision makers of preeminent telecommunications companies from around the world, this is the perfect opportunity to meet the who’s who of the telecommunications and mobile industry.  It is the summit that addresses the evolving needs of telecommunications and mobile community. Get up to date with the latest innovations and technological advancements in the industry and gain access to the minds of the movers and shakers of the industry.
    Take advantage of the Limited Early Bird Rates for Operator Pass!
    For more information please visit here: or contact Vivian at vivian.ho@olygen.com

    AITEC East Africa East Africa Summit
    2-3 November, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    East Africa has become one of the fastest growing ICT investment markets and the region’s ICT Summit it designed as the region’s forum to bring together users and vendors of ICT technology in a stimulating educational and business networking environment. The 2011 Summit programme will focus on the following themes:
    •    Data Security
    •    Mobile Apps
    •    Cloud Computing
    For the conference programme, log on to the organiser’s website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    AfriHealth
    30 November – 1 December 2011, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    The leading continental forum on e-health, m-health, health management systems and capacity development. AfriHealth 2011 will focus on current research, development and implementation of ICT technology and resources in the African Healthcare arena. A key objective of the conference, now in its fourth year, will be to share knowledge and experience from practical mobilization of ICT-based healthcare systems and projects, to showcase best practice through practical case studies and highlight potential for scaling up success stories at national and regional levels. For the conference programme log on to the organiser’s website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    AITEC Banking & Mobile Money COMESA
    7-8 March 2012, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    Now in its sixth year, this has become the leading educational, networking and marketing event for Eastern and Southern Africa’s financial services sector. In addition to the conference’s established intensive education programme covering core banking, mobile money and microfinance topics (over 100 speakers in 2011). For the conference programme log on to the organiser’s website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    InsureAFRICA
    7-8 March 2012, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

    Insurers seeking effective performance in service delivery, cost reduction and profit levels need to embrace technology, viewing it not as a support function but as a key enabler of competitive advantage at all levels of operation. InsureAFRICA is the first specialised conference for the African insurance and pensions industry to evaluate the systems and innovative channels needed to compete and thrive in a rapidly expanding industry. With the theme “Effective management strategies and systems for a new era of expansion and inclusion”, the conference will be the continent’s first forum to gather knowledge and experience for a rapidly growing industry. For the Call for Papers, log on to the organiser’s website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

    Mobile VAS Africa 2012
    14 - 15 May 2012, Johannesburg, South Africa

    Mobile VAS Africa 2012 will bring together industry experts and representatives from leading financial institutions, mobile operators and solutions providers to provide a strategic insight into mobile VAS while exploring collaborative business models, innovative applications, technologies and straegies. For more information visit here:

    Roaming & Interconnect
    16 - 17 May 2012, Johannesburg, South Africa

    RIC Africa 2012 will uncover new strategies to boost roaming traffic and retain existing roamers. During the conference we will look at the innovative roaming solutions and pricing, supplementing roaming with alternative revenue streams, the latest EU regulations and their impact on operations in Africa, as well as the importance of hubbing and convergence.  For more information please visit here:

    AITEC Banking & Mobile Money West Africa
    6-6 June 2012, Accra International Conference Centre

    Now in its fifth year, the conference will cover a wide range of strategic and technology topics to empower West Africa’s banking, microfinance and insurance professionals with the knowledge they need to lead their organisation effectively through the turbulent market and regulatory conditions they face. For the conference programme log on to the organiser’s website here: To book exhibition space, email info@aitecafrica.com

  • Management Information Reporting (MIR) Analyst – MTN Nigeria

    Job Description:
    •Assist in preparation of the Management Information Report (MIR) in line with local and international standards.
    •Assist in analysis of MTNN’s financial position
    •Recommend various analytical techniques and implication/correlation of financial and non-financial information in the management reports.
    •Assist in the implementation of  a robust reporting framework for new lines of business  -  fixed products and other acquisition
    •Perform a variety of data analysis and reconciliation activities for management reporting purposes
    •Assist in reporting operational efficiencies generated across the entire  business
    •Analyze and report on new business streams such as 3G, fixed products, 4G, Wimax etc
    •Prepare industry benchmark and competitive intelligence reports to enhance decision making
    •Generate accurate and timely management information reports on a monthly basis  through efficient utilization of  available  systems such as Industrial Financial Systems (IFS), Oracle Financial Analyzer (OFA), Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) etc
    •Facilitate prompt resolution of all EDW analytics issues as they relate to the MIR responsibilities.
    •Perform analytics on raw data from EDW and other sources to facilitate decision making
    •Recommend improvements to the existing management information reporting framework in MTN Finance
    •Assist in the development, implementation and monitoring of Group and local management driven initiatives such as ABC, CAPEX etc.
    •Design and define information requirements for new lines of business.
    •Provide input and recommendations into business valuation of new acquisitions, and the financial analysis of existing business, projects etc.
    •Perform other duties as may be assigned from time to time
    Job Conditions:     Normal MTNN working conditions. Extended working hours (due to tight reporting deadlines)
    Reporting To:     MIR Manager
    Required Skills:
    •At least 4 years working experience in Finance environment with at least 1-year financial reporting experience.
    •Experience in Data mining and analysis
    •Experience in Enterprise Financial Systems
    •Experience in telecommunications industry will be an added advantage.
    Employment Status :
    Permanent
    Qualification:
    B.Sc. or HND Accounting or related area of study. Professional qualification ACCA, ACA, CIMA
    For further information or to apply click on the following link

  • ARC Telecoms and Teraco - South Africa
    ARC Telecoms has partnered with Teraco to offer SMEs colocation in Teraco’s vendor neutral data centre in Isando. “Customers can now place their servers in ARC’s cabinets and benefit from the vendor neutrality, guaranteed uptime and world-class facilities at Teraco,” ARC Telecoms said in a press statement.Businesses colocating in Teraco will also benefit from having quick and easy access to all significant networks and carriers in South Africa. This allows for reduced interconnect fees, having the freedom to select the best access provider and an easy connection with any of the other clients housed in the data centre.

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