Newsletter English

Issue no 581 18th November 2011

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Top story

  • While oil prices have not yet reached the peak levels witnessed in the summer of 2008, their steady growth with the OPEC basket price of an oil barrel passing the US$100 mark in February 2011, should ring an alarm bell among African mobile operators. Their dependency on diesel to fuel their base stations remains very high but very few of them have make any serious efforts to tackle these critical issues. Isabelle Gross looks at what the short and long terms options are for African mobile operators when it comes to saving on the energy bill that they are currently running.

    No later than last September, the Kenyan newspaper Business Daily reported that Bob Collymore, the CEO of Safaricom “said that the cost of running diesel-driven base stations rose by 27% since January, especially in areas with no electricity and in western Kenya where frequent power outages mean the stations must run on diesel for up to four hours a day”. He also acknowledged that the raising operating costs will need to be addressed and a way to do so will be to increase calling rates.

    Charging more customers is one approach but it has numerous pitfalls. A price increase can result in lower call volumes and therefore the overall revenue will not go up. Most African mobile subscribers don’t have deep pockets and they remain much more price sensitive than their counterparts in developed countries. Increasing prices is a sure way to drive them to look more carefully at what the competitors have on offer.

    Faced with falling voice ARPU and hypothetical additional data revenue, African mobile operators have to pay more attention on the cost side of the business that they are running. Energy expenditures should be among the top items on their list as oil prices have gone up again. When it comes to saving on the energy bills, there is not an “out of the box” solution but it can be done.

    The best approach is to first look at how to run existing base stations more efficiently. In other words, the “quick fix” which consists of tweaking various elements of the base station to realise operational savings without incurring additional capital outlay.

    The cooling system is obviously a good starting point because it represents as much as 35% of the total electricity consumption of the base station. This proportion can increase to 50% if there are fewer transmitters in use. According to a case study carried out by Axiata, a large Asian telecommunication company, the energy saving in using an inverted air conditioning versus a traditional air conditioning system is between 14% and 22%
    depending on the temperature settings (13.8% at 25°C and 21.9% at 30°C).

    In a typical setting the pay-back time is about two years. In Africa for example, mobile operators like Vodacom, Orange or MTN have started to experiment with “free cooling system” technology in conjunction (or not) with introducing higher operating temperature in the base station.

    Beside free cooling, inverted air conditioners or higher operating temperatures, smarter ways of cooling have already been developed to reduce energy consumption. One
    option is to extract the heat directly from the source rather than attempting to cool
    the whole cabin.

    Equipment manufacturer Ericsson has for example conducted trials in Indonesia that show significantly lower energy consumption can be achieved through the use of heat exchangers for the shelters and separate cooling compartments for the battery back-up. The energy used for cooling the sites can be reduced by up to 60%.

    Energy efficient base stations offer interesting savings without requiring a big capital layout but then why are there still so few in Africa when a large number of BTS are running on diesel 24/7?

    Further reduction in OPEX will require some capital investments because it implies
    purchasing more energy efficient equipment or switching to renewable energy
    power solutions. Green options range from the use of solar energy, wind
    power to hydrogen fuel cell, biomass, biofuel, etc. Solar and wind remain the most
    prominent green technologies used to power base stations in off-grid locations.

    When looking at the business case to implement renewable energy solutions to power
    base stations, three main factors need to be looked at. There is the price of oil, the BTS load and the renewable energy technology to be implemented. Let’s look at the first factor in more details.

    When oil prices are depressed, the pay-back time will be longer – a couple of years more for most renewable energy projects. When oil prices are high, the return on investment will take less time. When diesel price was at its peak in July 2008, mobile operators’ fuel costs were nearly 3 times higher than at the beginning of 2007 with the result of spiralling operating costs (OPEX) for African mobile operators. Shouldn’t the latter comparison start ringing an alarm bell in African mobile operators’ head?

    For more details on the short and long term options available to mobile operators engaging in better managing their diesel bill, please see Balancing Act’s report entitled “Energy for Cellular Base Stations in Africa: the quick fix approach and the long term perspective to saving energy” published in February 2011.


    On the Balancing Act You Tube Channel this week an AfricaCom special:

    Nadeem, Juma, CEO, Mobipay
    on m-payments and social media in Tanzania

    Scott Bain, Director of Sales, Range Networks on Open BTS and low cost BTS for Africa

    Doron Ben Sira, CEO, SkyVision on changes in the satellite market in Africa

    Arvind Rao, CEO, OnMobile on comparisons between African and Indian mobile content

    Gour Lentell, CEO, biNu on this new feature phone platform taking off in Africa

    Jonathan Osler, Managing Director – Africa, Intelsat
    on satellite market trends on the continent

    Christoph Limmer, Senior Director – Africa, SES on its strategy for the continent

    Marc Rennard EVP Orange AMEA on the pressures faced by its operations in Africa

    Want up-to-the-minute breaking news? 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

  • MAMA - Mobiles Against Malaria - is a community building effort in one of the very poor outskirts of the Malian capital Bamako, Yirimadjo. Dutch agency IICD wants to help a local association Muso Ladamunen combat the main diseases malaria and diarrhea in the neighbourhood via the integration of mobiles phones in the work of voluntary Community Health Workers, writes Francois Laureys, IICD.

    Approximately 60 women, most mothers who live in Yirimadjo, have organized themselves to pay regular visits to families in the different neighbourhoods of Yirimadjo. This allows them to take stock of the living conditions of these households, and to identify potential women and children at risk (pregnant women, young-borns etc.). They sensitize women about their rights, distribute mosquito nets to families in need, take rapid tests on malaria if they detect people who suffer from the fever, and facilitate access to the local Health Centre when necessary. In the past three years, these Health Workers have saved hundreds of lives, and the number of consultations at the Health Centre has tripled.

    Last summer, when I visited them in Bamako, they were distributing 22.000 mosquito nets to identified target families in Yirimadjo. The ‘captain’ of the Health workers, Mah Cissé, also told me that they are still struggling with the correct and timely identification of target families, and she asked me if we could help them to integrate an element of mobile phones in their work. This would allow the Health workers to send household data directly to a database and to geo-localize more exactly which areas of Yirimadjo are more at risk. Additionally, the mobile phones would also be used to send alerts and reminders about consultation visits to the Health workers in the neighbourhoods.

    We are now finalizing the project design of ‘MAMA – Mobiles Against Malaria in Mali’ , and we hope to be able to start with the mobile phones in december. If successful, this pilot could be extended to many other communities in Mali (and beyond). Both Muso Ladamunen and IICD have invested money in the project, and ‘De Parade’  (a dutch theatre festival) has raised an additional 6,083 euros, for which we are very grateful. But we still can use a little more help to get it really going.

    So have a look at the pages, where you can find a description, photos and updates of the project. You can support in different ways – just by leaving a comment or tips on the pages, by sending this link to others, by putting a link on your blog or webpage, by tweeting, or by donating a little amount via the Donate button. You can also read more about the other activities of Muso Ladamunen by clicking on this link:  or on the blog Antimoustic.

  • 8ta has empowered their subscribers by enhancing their free self-service portal with the ability to purchase airtime and data bundles online via credit card.

    According to Telkom Mobile Managing Executive, Amith Maharaj, this enhancement will facilitate online purchase of airtime and data bundles as and when subscribers need it, even when their airtime is depleted.

    This functionality will improve the user experience for Prepaid and Hybrid (Saver) subscribers. 8ta subscribers need to register online and complete the SMS verification process on 8ta’s website here:

    Logged in subscribers will not be charged to do the following:

    * Review airtime balance

    * Redeem vouchers for airtime

    * Convert airtime to data bundles

    * Review data bundles balances and expiry dates

    * Credit Card top up using 3D secure technology

    The portal is safe as 8ta has chosen 3-D secure as a key comfort factor for subscribers when disclosing their credit card details online. The 3-D secure system simply enables credit card holders to add a password over and above the usual credit card expiry and CVV three digit numbers. The platform caters for locally issued VISA and Mastercard users.

    “If your credit card is not already 3-D verified, the 8ta portal will securely verify the 3-D secure password online. The normal credit card process can then be completed, even with no airtime on the account, as the credit card application is zero rated,” says Maharaj.

    Over time the portal will be enhanced, based on subscriber feedback, market benchmarks and other developments in self-service technology.

    To date 8ta has enabled automatic redirection of all data users when their data bundle is depleted. This key network ability enables subscribers to be in control of their communication spend with 8ta.

    8ta subscribers can now further manage their airtime and data costs both on contract and prepaid products through the self-service portal.

  • Three new phones with deep Facebook integration and dedicated ‘F’ key available in Africa and Europe from Q4 2011 – offering the widest portfolio of affordable phones with deep Facebook functionality launched by an operator to date  Orange is bringing simple, affordable, social phones for under €100 to a broader range of customers in more than 15 countries*

     The new range includes the Alcatel One Touch 908F Android smartphone, one of the most affordable Android smartphones available, exclusive to Orange

    Orange will exclusively launch three new affordable phones with deep Facebook integration across Africa and Europe from Q4 2011, creating a swift, simple, cost effective social experience for more of Orange’s customers than ever before. 

    With access to the widest range of phones with Facebook built-in under €100, including the new Alcatel One Touch 908F Android smartphone, Orange customers can choose the phone best suited to their needs. Facebook’s social capabilities run through every feature of these phones, from the camera to contacts with the dedicated ‘F’ key allowing instant uploading and interaction. Orange customers can also purchase these handsets with affordable bundles and tariffs that include unlimited Facebook access without extra data charges. 

     “The rise of the smartphone and the explosion of social networks have completely changed how people keep in touch and share content. Until now many consumers across Africa and Europe have not had access to a phone that offers deep Facebook integration at an affordable price,” said Yves Maitre, Senior Vice President of Mobile Multimedia and Devices, Orange. “We feel strongly that it is Orange’s role to enable customers to enjoy a digitally rich, connected life and this and future work with Facebook and Alcatel One Touch will allow us to open up mobile social media access to even more of our customers.”

    “Orange and Facebook have a common goal of providing mobile social access to people throughout Europe and Africa,” said Henri Moissinac, Head of Mobile Business at Facebook. “These phones and our ongoing collaboration with Orange will offer an opportunity for people to easily connect and share with their friends on Facebook anytime, anywhere and, for some, experience the mobile web for the first time.”

  • Telecom Egypt (TE) has announced its plans to expand broadband and mobile-phone services after third-quarter profit dropped due to a decrease in subscribers.

    TE runs the nation’s fixed-line telephone monopoly. The company plans to begin operating a new undersea cable by the end of the year to increase capacity for data services, and is also in the process of negotiating a virtual mobile network operator license which they hope to acquire during the first quarter of 2012.

    TE is also currently negotiating with Egypt’s telecommunications regulator t acquire a license that would allow it to use the networks of other mobile-phone companies to provide services, according to TE’s Chief Financial Officer Hassan Helmy.

    The company also owns almost half of Vodafone Egypt Telecommunications Co., which is the biggest mobile-network operator in terms of users in Egypt.“In the medium and long-term, the dynamics of the local market are very attractive,” Helmy said. “We’re counting on the young population of this country.”

    The company reported a 21 percent drop in net income from last year, read a statement on TE’s website. Fixed line subscription also dropped to 8.6 million users, from 9.4 million last year.

    “The wider economic malaise is placing pressure on household incomes in Egypt,” Chairman Akil Beshir said in the statement today. “As predicated last quarter, there has been an impact on Telecom Egypt’s overall total number of active subscribers.”

internet

  • The Internet Service Providers’ Association of SA (ISPA) has created infrastructure in the form of its Cape Town and Johannesburg Internet Exchanges (CINX and JINX) to help local consumers enjoy better performance from the Internet at a more affordable cost.

    ISPA has run JINX since 1996 and the Cape Town Internet Exchange (CINX) since 2009. The organisation is currently selecting the company that will host the Durban Internet Exchange, DINX. This infrastructure has an enormous positive impact on the consumer’s Internet experience, although most South African Internet users are unaware of its existence.

    Said Marc Furman, co-chair at ISPA: “The ISPA INXs have provided massive benefit to service providers, network operators and consumers over the years. They keep Internet traffic within the country, which results in faster response times between ISPs and reduces the congestion on international links.

    “By connecting to these exchanges, network operators are also able to keep their costs down, which in turn enables them to provide their services to end-users at a lower cost. The growth we have experienced over the years across these exchange points has been staggering.”

    One principle that ISPA has embraced since 2009 is that the exchanges should be open for non-members as well as members to streamline the exchange of traffic to the benefit of the entire industry. As such, even incumbent network operators are allowed to peer using the INX infrastructure.

    The exchanges also give members a great deal of freedom in choosing who they peer with and how they do so. Although ISPA operates high speed switches at each exchange, INX users are not obliged to connect using the public switch fabric. They may run private links between their equipment at the exchange instead of using the ISPA switch.

    “We take a hands-off approach to how ISPs and operators exchange traffic at each exchange. Most participants peer freely with everyone else connected to that INX but they are not obliged to do so. Some of the participants choose to only exchange traffic with a limited number of other parties,” said Furman.

    Furman noted that the INX infrastructures in Johannesburg and Cape Town have enjoyed runaway growth in the past few years.  More than 30 ISPs now connect to JINX and exchange more than 2.5 Gbps of traffic at JINX during peak times. CINX today handles more than 500 Mbps of traffic from 16 peering ISPs during peak times. With a sharp rise in mobile data usage and rapid growth in voice-over-IP traffic, traffic volumes at the exchanges will continue to grow sharply in the months to come.

  • Labaran Maku, the Nigerian Minister of Information, has expressed concern over the increase in the number of social media in the country. Maku made the observation on Tuesday in Benin City during the meeting of members of the Nigeria Union of Journalist (NUJ) Constitutional Review Committee.

    Represented by Kingsley Osadolor, a legal practitioner, Maku said the rise of social media in the country was a phenomenon that needed to be addressed as part of the constitutional amendment or in the nearest future.

    He said the revolution that was taking place in Egypt, Syria, Libya and other Arab states was as a result of the reports dished out by the social media. Maku warned that the increase in the number social media might result in some traditional journalists losing their jobs.
    ``What business should the social media have with the NUJ? That is an important phenomenon that needs to be considered,'' he said.

    The minister noted that the constitutional review was coming at time when the Freedom of Information Act was operational. He said the FOI Act was not a substitute for ``crucial investigative journalism'', adding that its aim was to aid the journalist to get access to information.

    Maku noted that there were procedures and rules guiding the use of the FOI Act, and urged media practitioners to be acquainted with them in order not to get negative responses. ``It is useful and pertinent to know the sources of information that are available to the journalists so that they can tap into those areas,'' he said.

    `` The FOI Act is not a substitute for investigative journalism; it must not reduce us into lazy journalists because there are several journalists waiting for information to do their stories,'' he said.

    In his address, Emeka Wogu, the Minister of Labour and Productivity, expressed appreciation to the Nigerian Press for its role in promoting peace and highlighting government policies.

    Wogu, who was represented by Tommy Okon, his Special Assistant on Media, said the constitution of any organisation, group and association, ``is an indication of how healthy the body is in terms of its operations''.

    He said that as the watchdog of the society, it was expected that the NUJ constitutional amendment would address the salient issues affecting journalists and the profession.

    ``I want to use this medium to thank the media for their positive role in promoting industrial peace and harmony in the country,'' Wogu said.

computing

  • A selected aggregation of Individual Information Technology Spend Plans for Ministry, Department and Agencies (MDAs) have revealed that N4.5billion will be spent on data centres in the coming year even though the Federal Government has an IT agency that is positioned to deploy and deliver these services at a lower costs and higher standards, the Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson has said.

    Mrs. Johnson, who spoke in Abuja at the 5TH public sector ICT infrastructure forum & the public presentation of ISO/IEC 27001:2005 certification by Galaxy Backbone plc, said there are still too many instances of individual MDAs deploying ICT infrastructure that is better deployed through a more effective pooling of financial and human resources.

    She said in the light of technological developments like cloud computing and the constraints the financial and economic crisis has placed on governments, countries all over the world are promoting the concept of shared IT services because of the immense cost savings, efficiency and capabilities it has been proven to deliver. She said Nigerian MDAs have refused to key in into this.

    The minister, who said one of the mandates of the Ministry of Communication Technology is to drive transparency in governance and improve the quality of public service delivery, lamented that needless IT spending being embarked upon by most government agencies and parastatals.

    She said: "There are still too many instances of individual MDAs deploying ICT infrastructure that is better deployed through a more effective pooling of financial and human resources. A selected aggregation of individual IT Spend plans for MDAs have revealed that N4.5bn will be spent on data centres in the coming year despite the fact that we have within Government an IT organization that is positioned to deploy and deliver these services at a lower costs and to higher standards evidenced in the achievement that Galaxy Backbone is celebrating today."

  • Listed SA IT company Gijima has formed a partnership with US company MobileIron as it ups its focus on the consumerisation of IT in business. Founded in 2007 and based in California, MobileIron provides mobile device management and security to large corporations.

    Gijima says the partnership will give it the capability to provide enterprise mobile device management and security solutions to its clients. It comes just a week after the company signed a systems integrator agreement with Apple, whose products such as the iPhone and iPad are being increasingly used in corporate environments.

    MobileIron designs solutions that allow companies to integrate smartphones and tablets with company networks. It offers solutions for devices running Apple’s iOS, Research in Motion’s BlackBerry OS, Microsoft’s Windows Phone and Windows Mobile, Symbian and Google’s Android mobile operating systems.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Algeria is in talks with Vimpelcom aimed at resolving a tug of war over the Russian telecoms group's mobile phone unit Djezzy and efforts to find a resolution could now speed up, according to Algeria's finance minister, Karim Djoudi.

    Vimpelcom hoped to acquire Djezzy as part of a planned $6 billion acquisition of Wind Telecom, parent of Djezzy's owner Orascom Telecom. But Djezzy's status was left unclear after Algeria said it wanted to take the business over itself.

    Djoudi's comments were the strongest hint yet that a resolution could be close after more than a year of deadlock over Djezzy, which had been the most lucrative part of Orascom Telecom's business.

    Asked about Djezzy, Djoudi said: "Things are taking place normally. I have had a meeting with a Vimpelcom representative at his request. Unfortunately, I cannot give you details because we are in talks."

    He said a valuation of Djezzy, a crucial step in determining the unit's future, was proceeding. "It is possible that things will go fast," Djoudi said. "There is a willingness on the other side to make things go fast."

    It remains unclear what shape a deal on Djezzy could take. There has been some speculation that the Algerian government could acquire a 51 percent stake and allow Vimpelcom to hold the remaining equity and be the operator.

    Before the Vimpelcom deal, Orascom Telecom was forced to agree to talks on Djezzy's nationalisation after it was hit with millions of dollars in back-tax demands from Algeria and prevented from moving the unit's cash abroad.

    Talks about the nationalisation had been stalled because of a dispute between the Algerian government and Djezzy's owners about how the unit is to be valued, and how much access the owners would provide to Djezzy's balance sheet.

    Djoudi suggested that issue had now been resolved. "We have opened the data room which gives us access to all ... (Djezzy's) details," he said.

  • The new Tunisian government has set up a national holding company to handle its stakes in the country's two mobile networks, Tunisiana and Orange.

    The CDC (Caisse des Dépôts et Consignation) will be headed by Tunisia's Minister of Finance, Jalloul Ayed. An independent subcommittee has also been assigned to monitor corruption, approve the general policies of the funds and evaluate the investments.

    The CDC manages 25% of Tunisiana, 51% of Orange and the Zitouna bank, which were seized from the former ruling family and are now subsidiaries of the national holding.

  • Zenith Bank (Ghana) Limited in collaboration with Google Ghana has introduced a new product unto the Ghanaian market dubbed Z.com in an effort to give its customers the opportunity to position their businesses to enable them access the global market. Z.com is a business solution opportunity tailored to suit the needs of the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Ghana.

    In a statement copied to GNA on Friday, the product would afford SMEs the opportunity to globally advertise their businesses thereby increasing top of mind awareness and ultimately their turnover.

    Z.com, which is another product innovation from Zenith Bank Ghana, rides along the Bank’s quest to make available flexible business strategies to SMEs in Ghana.

    According to Daniel Asiedu Chief Executive Officer of Zenith Bank Ghana, the bank would continue to introduce innovative products and services onto the Ghanaian banking industry.

    “This is in line with its vision of being the reference point in the provision of prompt, flawless and innovation products in the Ghanaian industry”, the statement read.

    The product would be formally launched at a business fair where key stakeholders, policy makers as well as entrepreneurs in the SMEs sector would be brought together to experience at first hand the benefits of e-commerce.

    The official launch of Z.com would take place on Thursday November 24, 2011 at the Accra International Conference Center.

    In a related development, Mr. Henry Oroh, a senior management staff from the parent company Zenith Bank Plc has been appointed to complement the bank’s marketing efforts in Ghana.

  • The fact that the new card will be linked to the user's phone will significantly enhance the security features, says Fundamo CEO Hannes van Rensburg.
    Global credit card company Visa and Africa's largest cellular operator, MTN, have partnered to introduce a new Visa prepaid account mobile service as an extension of MTN Mobile Money in developing countries.

    The product is a result of Visa's recent acquisition of local mobile money platform Fundamo, which has now been integrated with Visa's global payment network, VisaNet.

    Together with MTN Mobile Money, the new service will allow consumers to get a special Visa card which will be linked to their Mobile Money account, and which essentially has the same payment functionality as a bank card.

    Visa says the service will allow users to extend their mobile money payment functionality by allowing them to send money to each other, send and receive international remittances, withdraw funds from a Visa ATM and make purchases at merchants or online.

  • This week, an estimated 180 000 EasyPay customers will receive an e-mail that offers money-back rewards on all their transactions as part of the company’s strategy to restore its credibility and regain customers’ confidence after its site was hit by credit-card fraud two months ago.

    EasyPay will also carry the full liability of any fraudulent transactions, said Serge Belamant, the CEO of Net1, the holding company of EasyPay. He said he has confidence in the site’s newly built security features.

    EasyPay has one of SA’s largest third-party payment systems. It allows consumers to use their credit cards to pay their bills, including Telkom, the municipality and traffic fines, either through its website or at pay points in shops such as Pick n Pay.

    It also allows consumers to buy airtime and prepaid electricity online and it was these purchases that were targeted in September by a crime syndicate. The criminals obtained a list of credit card numbers, which it used to buy airtime, electricity and prepaid gift cards.

    The reaction from Absa, which found that one in three transactions were fraudulent, was to prevent its cardholders from transacting on the site temporarily until EasyPay removed the high-risk products. Some banks continue to limit the number of EasyPay transactions they allow.

    Walter Volker, CEO of the Payment Association of SA, said EasyPay had nothing to do with the release of the credit card details. An investigation is underway to determine how the syndicate obtained the credit card details, which resulted in losses of millions of rands. It must still be determined which banks will carry the liability.

    Belamant said the company had been unfairly targeted by the banks because it was not responsible for the breach. He said the high volume of traffic on the site — it does 4m to 5m transactions a month — made it attractive to fraudsters.

    EasyPay processes payments worth R120m/month, according to Belamant, and the new site is growing at a rate of 10%/month.

Digital Content

  • Many local firms have failed to get their strategies right in creating brand visibility and loyalty through social media, the latest industry survey has shown.

    However, many companies have invested heavily on Internet platforms with an aim of tapping the growing online audience.

    According to the TNS Digital Life Survey, 60 per cent of Kenyans on social media are resistant to brands and brand messages in their profiles, meaning that companies may not be getting returns on the investments they have made to reach the online community through the networks.

    "The race online has seen businesses across the world develop profiles on social networks such as Facebook and YouTube to speak to customers quickly and cheaply --but this study reveals that if these efforts are not carefully targeted, they are a wasted resource," says the report.

    The survey indicates that many firms have embraced the social media platform but without a clear strategy on who their target audiences are, leading to negative results.

    "Digital waste is the accumulation of thousands of brands rushing online without thinking who they want to talk to and why," said Matthew Froggatt, Chief Development Officer at TNS.

    "Many brands have recognised the vast potential of audiences available to them on social networks but they do not understand that these spaces belong to the consumer and their presence needs to be proportionate and justified."

    Mr Froggatt says although the online world presents massive opportunities for brands, only precisely tailored marketing strategies can realise this potential.

    The findings come at a time when the Kenyan social media space is full of content from local firms reaching out to users .But not all is lost as 54 per cent of online users interviewed in the survey admitted that social networks are a good place to learn about products.

    This implies that the use of social media to gain brand visibility and market penetration is not a misguided one. It only needs more direct strategies.

    These findings back concern expressed previously by social media analysts over the unplanned and disjointed online campaigns adopted by most firms in an effort to build their brand visibility.

    "Most businesses in Kenya enter social media but continue passing the same old messages as in traditional channels. Social media is more than just a platform to send your usual advertisement ; it has its own culture which means how people converse, the tone of the conversation, tone of channel (Facebook or Twitter),." says Mr Marvin Tumbo, social media specialist and CEO of Socialight Media, a company that provides social media solutions.

    Tumbo says failure by brands to understand how social media works is what causes conflicts between consumers and business online, with the major challenge coming in crafting the messages. Most firms have not come up with a specific messages for social media sites but are channelling messages created for the traditional media and which may not be appealing to this particular audience.

    The findings further state that users in fast growth markets like Brazil, Indonesia and Kenya are far more open to brands on social networks compared to developed markets like the US where brand tolerance in social media stood at nine per cent compared to 40 per cent in Kenya.

    This means that businesses targeting users in developing countries have a wider audience base, albeit one that must be used prudently. "Social media is not a bad tool for marketing. But it is the tact and targeting that many brands are getting wrong", says Mr Francis Waithaka, a social media analyst.

    "The first thing that brands must do is to listen and understand what customers want. Brands should do pull marketing and not push marketing. A great product and a good customer service will pull customers to your business."

    Waithaka further adds that it is essential for brands to work on their products and services well before going to social media to market them. "With a bad product or terrible customer service, no matter what marketing strategies you employ, it won't work", he says.

    In addition to this, disgruntled users have been known to tweet and post bad customer experiences to their friends and followers and this can go viral and end up being a crisis or an embarrassment to a brand.

    According to the survey, 62 per cent of Kenyan social media users trust comments people make online about brands while close to 30 per cent of users share their experience with brands in social media. In addition to this, 19 per cent of users write about brands to praise the service or goods while 10 per cent write to complain.

    "Most companies in Kenya have not thought through their social media engagement. There has been no strategy to their engagement and hence the high failure rate", says Mr Tumbo. "It's about time companies started having actual strategies and not me-too activities on social media."

    His sentiments are echoed by Withaka. "No matter how good your product or service is, regardless of how brilliant the advertisements are, and regardless of the price you're charging, if your targeting is off, then your whole marketing campaign will be missing the mark. You'll waste a lot of cash, energy and time marketing to people who will never buy from you".

  • Telkom is involved in a multibillion-rand project to increase the throughput of fixed-line broadband to speeds of up to 40Mbit/s. The plans also include dramatically upping the speed of entry-level broadband services and introducing video-on-demand (VOD) products, possibly from international providers such as Hulu, Netflix and Nangu.

    In addition, the company is planning a trial using superfast fibre-optic cables from selected telephone exchanges, with the pilot project expected to kick off as early as 15 January 2012. Details about the fibre project remain sketchy, however.

    VDSL2 is theoretically capable of offering download speeds of up to 250Mbit/s over short lengths of copper (up to 500m) and up 50Mbit/s for distances of up to 1km.

    Telkom has invested millions of rand in recent years bringing fibre closer to its customers — in many areas, it has built fibre to its street-level distribution cabinets — to offer faster access speeds to consumers over its copper network.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Airtel Kenya will offer a 50% airtime bonus to customers topping up their prepay account via its own Airtel Money platform.

    - Chinese vendor ZTE has announced that it has installed an integrated value added platform solution (iVAS) in Kinshasa for Vodacom DRC. The iVAS system encompasses SMS services, and ZTE claims that the installation has increased Vodacom’s SMS management tenfold, improving service on the South African-owned telco’s network by reducing congestion.

    - The Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) has imposed a fine of US$225,000.00 on the Lonestar Communications Company for noncompliance with LTA’s Order  (LTA 0005-10-04-11)  which calls for both Lonestar and Cellcom to expand their interconnection trunks and have the expansion remain in place until otherwise ordered.

    - The SA Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has given the green light to SA Airways (SAA) to allow passengers on the airline’s flights to use their smartphones and other supported devices in “flight mode”, where the devices’ radio antennae are switched off.

    - Pan-African mobile operator MTN has announced a partnership with Singapore-based TransferTo, which allows MTN's customers with access to prepaid services to receive airtime transfers from the vast TransferTo international airtime transfer network around the world. TransferTo is a global airtime remittance hub that interconnects mobile operators' prepaid systems to deliver end to end cross-border top-up services.

More

  • Ghana’s Expresso Telecom has replaced their Managing Director just months after the buyout of Kasapa Telecom Limited. Just before Kasapa was rebranded, the Managing Director Bob Palitz resigned and was replaced by Hisham Ayoub.

    Sources within Expresso have said that Ayoub has been replaced due to poor performance. The new Managing Director is Al-Ameer Ahmed Al-Ameer Yousef, who was quietly put in while his counterpart left. It is not yet confirmed in what capacity Ayoub will be serving within the company.

    Under Ayoub subscriptions fell from 400,000 to just over 200,000, despite many changes implemented by Ayoub.

    Ayoub had introduced the Clig moden, which is one of the most competitive modems on the market in terms of prices, speed and tariff. Sources say the new Managing Director is not doing much better, but they are optimistic.

    “It looks like Mr. Yousef is going to bring some positive change, but some of the old guys at Expresso have entrenched themselves into their positions through all kinds of means so I am not too sure if he will succeed,” the source said.

  • Customer Project Manager ParaCell

    Posted date: Fri, 18th Nov

    Location: Western Africa

    ParaCell is searching for a Customer Project Manager

    Requirements:

    · We are looking for recent Ericsson Experience

    • University degree within relevant area

    · Minimum 10 years working experience in Project Management

    · Strong Leadership skills at least 5/10 years in a leadership role

    • PMP certified (Or on the way to be certified within one year)

    • Adequate operations managerial experience

    • Have excellent documentation and presentation skills

    • Have excellent communication skills

    • Have good customer and sub-contractor relation skills

    Must have ability to work independently, International experience and closely with the end-Customer are other essential skills.

    Please apply with accompanying CV indicating your availability visit here:

Issue no 581 18th November 2011

node ref id: 23520

Top story

  • While oil prices have not yet reached the peak levels witnessed in the summer of 2008, their steady growth with the OPEC basket price of an oil barrel passing the US$100 mark in February 2011, should ring an alarm bell among African mobile operators. Their dependency on diesel to fuel their base stations remains very high but very few of them have make any serious efforts to tackle these critical issues. Isabelle Gross looks at what the short and long terms options are for African mobile operators when it comes to saving on the energy bill that they are currently running.

    No later than last September, the Kenyan newspaper Business Daily reported that Bob Collymore, the CEO of Safaricom “said that the cost of running diesel-driven base stations rose by 27% since January, especially in areas with no electricity and in western Kenya where frequent power outages mean the stations must run on diesel for up to four hours a day”. He also acknowledged that the raising operating costs will need to be addressed and a way to do so will be to increase calling rates.

    Charging more customers is one approach but it has numerous pitfalls. A price increase can result in lower call volumes and therefore the overall revenue will not go up. Most African mobile subscribers don’t have deep pockets and they remain much more price sensitive than their counterparts in developed countries. Increasing prices is a sure way to drive them to look more carefully at what the competitors have on offer.

    Faced with falling voice ARPU and hypothetical additional data revenue, African mobile operators have to pay more attention on the cost side of the business that they are running. Energy expenditures should be among the top items on their list as oil prices have gone up again. When it comes to saving on the energy bills, there is not an “out of the box” solution but it can be done.

    The best approach is to first look at how to run existing base stations more efficiently. In other words, the “quick fix” which consists of tweaking various elements of the base station to realise operational savings without incurring additional capital outlay.

    The cooling system is obviously a good starting point because it represents as much as 35% of the total electricity consumption of the base station. This proportion can increase to 50% if there are fewer transmitters in use. According to a case study carried out by Axiata, a large Asian telecommunication company, the energy saving in using an inverted air conditioning versus a traditional air conditioning system is between 14% and 22%
    depending on the temperature settings (13.8% at 25°C and 21.9% at 30°C).

    In a typical setting the pay-back time is about two years. In Africa for example, mobile operators like Vodacom, Orange or MTN have started to experiment with “free cooling system” technology in conjunction (or not) with introducing higher operating temperature in the base station.

    Beside free cooling, inverted air conditioners or higher operating temperatures, smarter ways of cooling have already been developed to reduce energy consumption. One
    option is to extract the heat directly from the source rather than attempting to cool
    the whole cabin.

    Equipment manufacturer Ericsson has for example conducted trials in Indonesia that show significantly lower energy consumption can be achieved through the use of heat exchangers for the shelters and separate cooling compartments for the battery back-up. The energy used for cooling the sites can be reduced by up to 60%.

    Energy efficient base stations offer interesting savings without requiring a big capital layout but then why are there still so few in Africa when a large number of BTS are running on diesel 24/7?

    Further reduction in OPEX will require some capital investments because it implies
    purchasing more energy efficient equipment or switching to renewable energy
    power solutions. Green options range from the use of solar energy, wind
    power to hydrogen fuel cell, biomass, biofuel, etc. Solar and wind remain the most
    prominent green technologies used to power base stations in off-grid locations.

    When looking at the business case to implement renewable energy solutions to power
    base stations, three main factors need to be looked at. There is the price of oil, the BTS load and the renewable energy technology to be implemented. Let’s look at the first factor in more details.

    When oil prices are depressed, the pay-back time will be longer – a couple of years more for most renewable energy projects. When oil prices are high, the return on investment will take less time. When diesel price was at its peak in July 2008, mobile operators’ fuel costs were nearly 3 times higher than at the beginning of 2007 with the result of spiralling operating costs (OPEX) for African mobile operators. Shouldn’t the latter comparison start ringing an alarm bell in African mobile operators’ head?

    For more details on the short and long term options available to mobile operators engaging in better managing their diesel bill, please see Balancing Act’s report entitled “Energy for Cellular Base Stations in Africa: the quick fix approach and the long term perspective to saving energy” published in February 2011.


    On the Balancing Act You Tube Channel this week an AfricaCom special:

    Nadeem, Juma, CEO, Mobipay
    on m-payments and social media in Tanzania

    Scott Bain, Director of Sales, Range Networks on Open BTS and low cost BTS for Africa

    Doron Ben Sira, CEO, SkyVision on changes in the satellite market in Africa

    Arvind Rao, CEO, OnMobile on comparisons between African and Indian mobile content

    Gour Lentell, CEO, biNu on this new feature phone platform taking off in Africa

    Jonathan Osler, Managing Director – Africa, Intelsat
    on satellite market trends on the continent

    Christoph Limmer, Senior Director – Africa, SES on its strategy for the continent

    Marc Rennard EVP Orange AMEA on the pressures faced by its operations in Africa

    Want up-to-the-minute breaking news? 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

  • MAMA - Mobiles Against Malaria - is a community building effort in one of the very poor outskirts of the Malian capital Bamako, Yirimadjo. Dutch agency IICD wants to help a local association Muso Ladamunen combat the main diseases malaria and diarrhea in the neighbourhood via the integration of mobiles phones in the work of voluntary Community Health Workers, writes Francois Laureys, IICD.

    Approximately 60 women, most mothers who live in Yirimadjo, have organized themselves to pay regular visits to families in the different neighbourhoods of Yirimadjo. This allows them to take stock of the living conditions of these households, and to identify potential women and children at risk (pregnant women, young-borns etc.). They sensitize women about their rights, distribute mosquito nets to families in need, take rapid tests on malaria if they detect people who suffer from the fever, and facilitate access to the local Health Centre when necessary. In the past three years, these Health Workers have saved hundreds of lives, and the number of consultations at the Health Centre has tripled.

    Last summer, when I visited them in Bamako, they were distributing 22.000 mosquito nets to identified target families in Yirimadjo. The ‘captain’ of the Health workers, Mah Cissé, also told me that they are still struggling with the correct and timely identification of target families, and she asked me if we could help them to integrate an element of mobile phones in their work. This would allow the Health workers to send household data directly to a database and to geo-localize more exactly which areas of Yirimadjo are more at risk. Additionally, the mobile phones would also be used to send alerts and reminders about consultation visits to the Health workers in the neighbourhoods.

    We are now finalizing the project design of ‘MAMA – Mobiles Against Malaria in Mali’ , and we hope to be able to start with the mobile phones in december. If successful, this pilot could be extended to many other communities in Mali (and beyond). Both Muso Ladamunen and IICD have invested money in the project, and ‘De Parade’  (a dutch theatre festival) has raised an additional 6,083 euros, for which we are very grateful. But we still can use a little more help to get it really going.

    So have a look at the pages, where you can find a description, photos and updates of the project. You can support in different ways – just by leaving a comment or tips on the pages, by sending this link to others, by putting a link on your blog or webpage, by tweeting, or by donating a little amount via the Donate button. You can also read more about the other activities of Muso Ladamunen by clicking on this link:  or on the blog Antimoustic.

  • 8ta has empowered their subscribers by enhancing their free self-service portal with the ability to purchase airtime and data bundles online via credit card.

    According to Telkom Mobile Managing Executive, Amith Maharaj, this enhancement will facilitate online purchase of airtime and data bundles as and when subscribers need it, even when their airtime is depleted.

    This functionality will improve the user experience for Prepaid and Hybrid (Saver) subscribers. 8ta subscribers need to register online and complete the SMS verification process on 8ta’s website here:

    Logged in subscribers will not be charged to do the following:

    * Review airtime balance

    * Redeem vouchers for airtime

    * Convert airtime to data bundles

    * Review data bundles balances and expiry dates

    * Credit Card top up using 3D secure technology

    The portal is safe as 8ta has chosen 3-D secure as a key comfort factor for subscribers when disclosing their credit card details online. The 3-D secure system simply enables credit card holders to add a password over and above the usual credit card expiry and CVV three digit numbers. The platform caters for locally issued VISA and Mastercard users.

    “If your credit card is not already 3-D verified, the 8ta portal will securely verify the 3-D secure password online. The normal credit card process can then be completed, even with no airtime on the account, as the credit card application is zero rated,” says Maharaj.

    Over time the portal will be enhanced, based on subscriber feedback, market benchmarks and other developments in self-service technology.

    To date 8ta has enabled automatic redirection of all data users when their data bundle is depleted. This key network ability enables subscribers to be in control of their communication spend with 8ta.

    8ta subscribers can now further manage their airtime and data costs both on contract and prepaid products through the self-service portal.

  • Three new phones with deep Facebook integration and dedicated ‘F’ key available in Africa and Europe from Q4 2011 – offering the widest portfolio of affordable phones with deep Facebook functionality launched by an operator to date  Orange is bringing simple, affordable, social phones for under €100 to a broader range of customers in more than 15 countries*

     The new range includes the Alcatel One Touch 908F Android smartphone, one of the most affordable Android smartphones available, exclusive to Orange

    Orange will exclusively launch three new affordable phones with deep Facebook integration across Africa and Europe from Q4 2011, creating a swift, simple, cost effective social experience for more of Orange’s customers than ever before. 

    With access to the widest range of phones with Facebook built-in under €100, including the new Alcatel One Touch 908F Android smartphone, Orange customers can choose the phone best suited to their needs. Facebook’s social capabilities run through every feature of these phones, from the camera to contacts with the dedicated ‘F’ key allowing instant uploading and interaction. Orange customers can also purchase these handsets with affordable bundles and tariffs that include unlimited Facebook access without extra data charges. 

     “The rise of the smartphone and the explosion of social networks have completely changed how people keep in touch and share content. Until now many consumers across Africa and Europe have not had access to a phone that offers deep Facebook integration at an affordable price,” said Yves Maitre, Senior Vice President of Mobile Multimedia and Devices, Orange. “We feel strongly that it is Orange’s role to enable customers to enjoy a digitally rich, connected life and this and future work with Facebook and Alcatel One Touch will allow us to open up mobile social media access to even more of our customers.”

    “Orange and Facebook have a common goal of providing mobile social access to people throughout Europe and Africa,” said Henri Moissinac, Head of Mobile Business at Facebook. “These phones and our ongoing collaboration with Orange will offer an opportunity for people to easily connect and share with their friends on Facebook anytime, anywhere and, for some, experience the mobile web for the first time.”

  • Telecom Egypt (TE) has announced its plans to expand broadband and mobile-phone services after third-quarter profit dropped due to a decrease in subscribers.

    TE runs the nation’s fixed-line telephone monopoly. The company plans to begin operating a new undersea cable by the end of the year to increase capacity for data services, and is also in the process of negotiating a virtual mobile network operator license which they hope to acquire during the first quarter of 2012.

    TE is also currently negotiating with Egypt’s telecommunications regulator t acquire a license that would allow it to use the networks of other mobile-phone companies to provide services, according to TE’s Chief Financial Officer Hassan Helmy.

    The company also owns almost half of Vodafone Egypt Telecommunications Co., which is the biggest mobile-network operator in terms of users in Egypt.“In the medium and long-term, the dynamics of the local market are very attractive,” Helmy said. “We’re counting on the young population of this country.”

    The company reported a 21 percent drop in net income from last year, read a statement on TE’s website. Fixed line subscription also dropped to 8.6 million users, from 9.4 million last year.

    “The wider economic malaise is placing pressure on household incomes in Egypt,” Chairman Akil Beshir said in the statement today. “As predicated last quarter, there has been an impact on Telecom Egypt’s overall total number of active subscribers.”

internet

  • The Internet Service Providers’ Association of SA (ISPA) has created infrastructure in the form of its Cape Town and Johannesburg Internet Exchanges (CINX and JINX) to help local consumers enjoy better performance from the Internet at a more affordable cost.

    ISPA has run JINX since 1996 and the Cape Town Internet Exchange (CINX) since 2009. The organisation is currently selecting the company that will host the Durban Internet Exchange, DINX. This infrastructure has an enormous positive impact on the consumer’s Internet experience, although most South African Internet users are unaware of its existence.

    Said Marc Furman, co-chair at ISPA: “The ISPA INXs have provided massive benefit to service providers, network operators and consumers over the years. They keep Internet traffic within the country, which results in faster response times between ISPs and reduces the congestion on international links.

    “By connecting to these exchanges, network operators are also able to keep their costs down, which in turn enables them to provide their services to end-users at a lower cost. The growth we have experienced over the years across these exchange points has been staggering.”

    One principle that ISPA has embraced since 2009 is that the exchanges should be open for non-members as well as members to streamline the exchange of traffic to the benefit of the entire industry. As such, even incumbent network operators are allowed to peer using the INX infrastructure.

    The exchanges also give members a great deal of freedom in choosing who they peer with and how they do so. Although ISPA operates high speed switches at each exchange, INX users are not obliged to connect using the public switch fabric. They may run private links between their equipment at the exchange instead of using the ISPA switch.

    “We take a hands-off approach to how ISPs and operators exchange traffic at each exchange. Most participants peer freely with everyone else connected to that INX but they are not obliged to do so. Some of the participants choose to only exchange traffic with a limited number of other parties,” said Furman.

    Furman noted that the INX infrastructures in Johannesburg and Cape Town have enjoyed runaway growth in the past few years.  More than 30 ISPs now connect to JINX and exchange more than 2.5 Gbps of traffic at JINX during peak times. CINX today handles more than 500 Mbps of traffic from 16 peering ISPs during peak times. With a sharp rise in mobile data usage and rapid growth in voice-over-IP traffic, traffic volumes at the exchanges will continue to grow sharply in the months to come.

  • Labaran Maku, the Nigerian Minister of Information, has expressed concern over the increase in the number of social media in the country. Maku made the observation on Tuesday in Benin City during the meeting of members of the Nigeria Union of Journalist (NUJ) Constitutional Review Committee.

    Represented by Kingsley Osadolor, a legal practitioner, Maku said the rise of social media in the country was a phenomenon that needed to be addressed as part of the constitutional amendment or in the nearest future.

    He said the revolution that was taking place in Egypt, Syria, Libya and other Arab states was as a result of the reports dished out by the social media. Maku warned that the increase in the number social media might result in some traditional journalists losing their jobs.
    ``What business should the social media have with the NUJ? That is an important phenomenon that needs to be considered,'' he said.

    The minister noted that the constitutional review was coming at time when the Freedom of Information Act was operational. He said the FOI Act was not a substitute for ``crucial investigative journalism'', adding that its aim was to aid the journalist to get access to information.

    Maku noted that there were procedures and rules guiding the use of the FOI Act, and urged media practitioners to be acquainted with them in order not to get negative responses. ``It is useful and pertinent to know the sources of information that are available to the journalists so that they can tap into those areas,'' he said.

    `` The FOI Act is not a substitute for investigative journalism; it must not reduce us into lazy journalists because there are several journalists waiting for information to do their stories,'' he said.

    In his address, Emeka Wogu, the Minister of Labour and Productivity, expressed appreciation to the Nigerian Press for its role in promoting peace and highlighting government policies.

    Wogu, who was represented by Tommy Okon, his Special Assistant on Media, said the constitution of any organisation, group and association, ``is an indication of how healthy the body is in terms of its operations''.

    He said that as the watchdog of the society, it was expected that the NUJ constitutional amendment would address the salient issues affecting journalists and the profession.

    ``I want to use this medium to thank the media for their positive role in promoting industrial peace and harmony in the country,'' Wogu said.

computing

  • A selected aggregation of Individual Information Technology Spend Plans for Ministry, Department and Agencies (MDAs) have revealed that N4.5billion will be spent on data centres in the coming year even though the Federal Government has an IT agency that is positioned to deploy and deliver these services at a lower costs and higher standards, the Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson has said.

    Mrs. Johnson, who spoke in Abuja at the 5TH public sector ICT infrastructure forum & the public presentation of ISO/IEC 27001:2005 certification by Galaxy Backbone plc, said there are still too many instances of individual MDAs deploying ICT infrastructure that is better deployed through a more effective pooling of financial and human resources.

    She said in the light of technological developments like cloud computing and the constraints the financial and economic crisis has placed on governments, countries all over the world are promoting the concept of shared IT services because of the immense cost savings, efficiency and capabilities it has been proven to deliver. She said Nigerian MDAs have refused to key in into this.

    The minister, who said one of the mandates of the Ministry of Communication Technology is to drive transparency in governance and improve the quality of public service delivery, lamented that needless IT spending being embarked upon by most government agencies and parastatals.

    She said: "There are still too many instances of individual MDAs deploying ICT infrastructure that is better deployed through a more effective pooling of financial and human resources. A selected aggregation of individual IT Spend plans for MDAs have revealed that N4.5bn will be spent on data centres in the coming year despite the fact that we have within Government an IT organization that is positioned to deploy and deliver these services at a lower costs and to higher standards evidenced in the achievement that Galaxy Backbone is celebrating today."

  • Listed SA IT company Gijima has formed a partnership with US company MobileIron as it ups its focus on the consumerisation of IT in business. Founded in 2007 and based in California, MobileIron provides mobile device management and security to large corporations.

    Gijima says the partnership will give it the capability to provide enterprise mobile device management and security solutions to its clients. It comes just a week after the company signed a systems integrator agreement with Apple, whose products such as the iPhone and iPad are being increasingly used in corporate environments.

    MobileIron designs solutions that allow companies to integrate smartphones and tablets with company networks. It offers solutions for devices running Apple’s iOS, Research in Motion’s BlackBerry OS, Microsoft’s Windows Phone and Windows Mobile, Symbian and Google’s Android mobile operating systems.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Algeria is in talks with Vimpelcom aimed at resolving a tug of war over the Russian telecoms group's mobile phone unit Djezzy and efforts to find a resolution could now speed up, according to Algeria's finance minister, Karim Djoudi.

    Vimpelcom hoped to acquire Djezzy as part of a planned $6 billion acquisition of Wind Telecom, parent of Djezzy's owner Orascom Telecom. But Djezzy's status was left unclear after Algeria said it wanted to take the business over itself.

    Djoudi's comments were the strongest hint yet that a resolution could be close after more than a year of deadlock over Djezzy, which had been the most lucrative part of Orascom Telecom's business.

    Asked about Djezzy, Djoudi said: "Things are taking place normally. I have had a meeting with a Vimpelcom representative at his request. Unfortunately, I cannot give you details because we are in talks."

    He said a valuation of Djezzy, a crucial step in determining the unit's future, was proceeding. "It is possible that things will go fast," Djoudi said. "There is a willingness on the other side to make things go fast."

    It remains unclear what shape a deal on Djezzy could take. There has been some speculation that the Algerian government could acquire a 51 percent stake and allow Vimpelcom to hold the remaining equity and be the operator.

    Before the Vimpelcom deal, Orascom Telecom was forced to agree to talks on Djezzy's nationalisation after it was hit with millions of dollars in back-tax demands from Algeria and prevented from moving the unit's cash abroad.

    Talks about the nationalisation had been stalled because of a dispute between the Algerian government and Djezzy's owners about how the unit is to be valued, and how much access the owners would provide to Djezzy's balance sheet.

    Djoudi suggested that issue had now been resolved. "We have opened the data room which gives us access to all ... (Djezzy's) details," he said.

  • The new Tunisian government has set up a national holding company to handle its stakes in the country's two mobile networks, Tunisiana and Orange.

    The CDC (Caisse des Dépôts et Consignation) will be headed by Tunisia's Minister of Finance, Jalloul Ayed. An independent subcommittee has also been assigned to monitor corruption, approve the general policies of the funds and evaluate the investments.

    The CDC manages 25% of Tunisiana, 51% of Orange and the Zitouna bank, which were seized from the former ruling family and are now subsidiaries of the national holding.

  • Zenith Bank (Ghana) Limited in collaboration with Google Ghana has introduced a new product unto the Ghanaian market dubbed Z.com in an effort to give its customers the opportunity to position their businesses to enable them access the global market. Z.com is a business solution opportunity tailored to suit the needs of the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Ghana.

    In a statement copied to GNA on Friday, the product would afford SMEs the opportunity to globally advertise their businesses thereby increasing top of mind awareness and ultimately their turnover.

    Z.com, which is another product innovation from Zenith Bank Ghana, rides along the Bank’s quest to make available flexible business strategies to SMEs in Ghana.

    According to Daniel Asiedu Chief Executive Officer of Zenith Bank Ghana, the bank would continue to introduce innovative products and services onto the Ghanaian banking industry.

    “This is in line with its vision of being the reference point in the provision of prompt, flawless and innovation products in the Ghanaian industry”, the statement read.

    The product would be formally launched at a business fair where key stakeholders, policy makers as well as entrepreneurs in the SMEs sector would be brought together to experience at first hand the benefits of e-commerce.

    The official launch of Z.com would take place on Thursday November 24, 2011 at the Accra International Conference Center.

    In a related development, Mr. Henry Oroh, a senior management staff from the parent company Zenith Bank Plc has been appointed to complement the bank’s marketing efforts in Ghana.

  • The fact that the new card will be linked to the user's phone will significantly enhance the security features, says Fundamo CEO Hannes van Rensburg.
    Global credit card company Visa and Africa's largest cellular operator, MTN, have partnered to introduce a new Visa prepaid account mobile service as an extension of MTN Mobile Money in developing countries.

    The product is a result of Visa's recent acquisition of local mobile money platform Fundamo, which has now been integrated with Visa's global payment network, VisaNet.

    Together with MTN Mobile Money, the new service will allow consumers to get a special Visa card which will be linked to their Mobile Money account, and which essentially has the same payment functionality as a bank card.

    Visa says the service will allow users to extend their mobile money payment functionality by allowing them to send money to each other, send and receive international remittances, withdraw funds from a Visa ATM and make purchases at merchants or online.

  • This week, an estimated 180 000 EasyPay customers will receive an e-mail that offers money-back rewards on all their transactions as part of the company’s strategy to restore its credibility and regain customers’ confidence after its site was hit by credit-card fraud two months ago.

    EasyPay will also carry the full liability of any fraudulent transactions, said Serge Belamant, the CEO of Net1, the holding company of EasyPay. He said he has confidence in the site’s newly built security features.

    EasyPay has one of SA’s largest third-party payment systems. It allows consumers to use their credit cards to pay their bills, including Telkom, the municipality and traffic fines, either through its website or at pay points in shops such as Pick n Pay.

    It also allows consumers to buy airtime and prepaid electricity online and it was these purchases that were targeted in September by a crime syndicate. The criminals obtained a list of credit card numbers, which it used to buy airtime, electricity and prepaid gift cards.

    The reaction from Absa, which found that one in three transactions were fraudulent, was to prevent its cardholders from transacting on the site temporarily until EasyPay removed the high-risk products. Some banks continue to limit the number of EasyPay transactions they allow.

    Walter Volker, CEO of the Payment Association of SA, said EasyPay had nothing to do with the release of the credit card details. An investigation is underway to determine how the syndicate obtained the credit card details, which resulted in losses of millions of rands. It must still be determined which banks will carry the liability.

    Belamant said the company had been unfairly targeted by the banks because it was not responsible for the breach. He said the high volume of traffic on the site — it does 4m to 5m transactions a month — made it attractive to fraudsters.

    EasyPay processes payments worth R120m/month, according to Belamant, and the new site is growing at a rate of 10%/month.

Digital Content

  • Many local firms have failed to get their strategies right in creating brand visibility and loyalty through social media, the latest industry survey has shown.

    However, many companies have invested heavily on Internet platforms with an aim of tapping the growing online audience.

    According to the TNS Digital Life Survey, 60 per cent of Kenyans on social media are resistant to brands and brand messages in their profiles, meaning that companies may not be getting returns on the investments they have made to reach the online community through the networks.

    "The race online has seen businesses across the world develop profiles on social networks such as Facebook and YouTube to speak to customers quickly and cheaply --but this study reveals that if these efforts are not carefully targeted, they are a wasted resource," says the report.

    The survey indicates that many firms have embraced the social media platform but without a clear strategy on who their target audiences are, leading to negative results.

    "Digital waste is the accumulation of thousands of brands rushing online without thinking who they want to talk to and why," said Matthew Froggatt, Chief Development Officer at TNS.

    "Many brands have recognised the vast potential of audiences available to them on social networks but they do not understand that these spaces belong to the consumer and their presence needs to be proportionate and justified."

    Mr Froggatt says although the online world presents massive opportunities for brands, only precisely tailored marketing strategies can realise this potential.

    The findings come at a time when the Kenyan social media space is full of content from local firms reaching out to users .But not all is lost as 54 per cent of online users interviewed in the survey admitted that social networks are a good place to learn about products.

    This implies that the use of social media to gain brand visibility and market penetration is not a misguided one. It only needs more direct strategies.

    These findings back concern expressed previously by social media analysts over the unplanned and disjointed online campaigns adopted by most firms in an effort to build their brand visibility.

    "Most businesses in Kenya enter social media but continue passing the same old messages as in traditional channels. Social media is more than just a platform to send your usual advertisement ; it has its own culture which means how people converse, the tone of the conversation, tone of channel (Facebook or Twitter),." says Mr Marvin Tumbo, social media specialist and CEO of Socialight Media, a company that provides social media solutions.

    Tumbo says failure by brands to understand how social media works is what causes conflicts between consumers and business online, with the major challenge coming in crafting the messages. Most firms have not come up with a specific messages for social media sites but are channelling messages created for the traditional media and which may not be appealing to this particular audience.

    The findings further state that users in fast growth markets like Brazil, Indonesia and Kenya are far more open to brands on social networks compared to developed markets like the US where brand tolerance in social media stood at nine per cent compared to 40 per cent in Kenya.

    This means that businesses targeting users in developing countries have a wider audience base, albeit one that must be used prudently. "Social media is not a bad tool for marketing. But it is the tact and targeting that many brands are getting wrong", says Mr Francis Waithaka, a social media analyst.

    "The first thing that brands must do is to listen and understand what customers want. Brands should do pull marketing and not push marketing. A great product and a good customer service will pull customers to your business."

    Waithaka further adds that it is essential for brands to work on their products and services well before going to social media to market them. "With a bad product or terrible customer service, no matter what marketing strategies you employ, it won't work", he says.

    In addition to this, disgruntled users have been known to tweet and post bad customer experiences to their friends and followers and this can go viral and end up being a crisis or an embarrassment to a brand.

    According to the survey, 62 per cent of Kenyan social media users trust comments people make online about brands while close to 30 per cent of users share their experience with brands in social media. In addition to this, 19 per cent of users write about brands to praise the service or goods while 10 per cent write to complain.

    "Most companies in Kenya have not thought through their social media engagement. There has been no strategy to their engagement and hence the high failure rate", says Mr Tumbo. "It's about time companies started having actual strategies and not me-too activities on social media."

    His sentiments are echoed by Withaka. "No matter how good your product or service is, regardless of how brilliant the advertisements are, and regardless of the price you're charging, if your targeting is off, then your whole marketing campaign will be missing the mark. You'll waste a lot of cash, energy and time marketing to people who will never buy from you".

  • Telkom is involved in a multibillion-rand project to increase the throughput of fixed-line broadband to speeds of up to 40Mbit/s. The plans also include dramatically upping the speed of entry-level broadband services and introducing video-on-demand (VOD) products, possibly from international providers such as Hulu, Netflix and Nangu.

    In addition, the company is planning a trial using superfast fibre-optic cables from selected telephone exchanges, with the pilot project expected to kick off as early as 15 January 2012. Details about the fibre project remain sketchy, however.

    VDSL2 is theoretically capable of offering download speeds of up to 250Mbit/s over short lengths of copper (up to 500m) and up 50Mbit/s for distances of up to 1km.

    Telkom has invested millions of rand in recent years bringing fibre closer to its customers — in many areas, it has built fibre to its street-level distribution cabinets — to offer faster access speeds to consumers over its copper network.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Airtel Kenya will offer a 50% airtime bonus to customers topping up their prepay account via its own Airtel Money platform.

    - Chinese vendor ZTE has announced that it has installed an integrated value added platform solution (iVAS) in Kinshasa for Vodacom DRC. The iVAS system encompasses SMS services, and ZTE claims that the installation has increased Vodacom’s SMS management tenfold, improving service on the South African-owned telco’s network by reducing congestion.

    - The Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) has imposed a fine of US$225,000.00 on the Lonestar Communications Company for noncompliance with LTA’s Order  (LTA 0005-10-04-11)  which calls for both Lonestar and Cellcom to expand their interconnection trunks and have the expansion remain in place until otherwise ordered.

    - The SA Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has given the green light to SA Airways (SAA) to allow passengers on the airline’s flights to use their smartphones and other supported devices in “flight mode”, where the devices’ radio antennae are switched off.

    - Pan-African mobile operator MTN has announced a partnership with Singapore-based TransferTo, which allows MTN's customers with access to prepaid services to receive airtime transfers from the vast TransferTo international airtime transfer network around the world. TransferTo is a global airtime remittance hub that interconnects mobile operators' prepaid systems to deliver end to end cross-border top-up services.

More

  • Ghana’s Expresso Telecom has replaced their Managing Director just months after the buyout of Kasapa Telecom Limited. Just before Kasapa was rebranded, the Managing Director Bob Palitz resigned and was replaced by Hisham Ayoub.

    Sources within Expresso have said that Ayoub has been replaced due to poor performance. The new Managing Director is Al-Ameer Ahmed Al-Ameer Yousef, who was quietly put in while his counterpart left. It is not yet confirmed in what capacity Ayoub will be serving within the company.

    Under Ayoub subscriptions fell from 400,000 to just over 200,000, despite many changes implemented by Ayoub.

    Ayoub had introduced the Clig moden, which is one of the most competitive modems on the market in terms of prices, speed and tariff. Sources say the new Managing Director is not doing much better, but they are optimistic.

    “It looks like Mr. Yousef is going to bring some positive change, but some of the old guys at Expresso have entrenched themselves into their positions through all kinds of means so I am not too sure if he will succeed,” the source said.

  • Customer Project Manager ParaCell

    Posted date: Fri, 18th Nov

    Location: Western Africa

    ParaCell is searching for a Customer Project Manager

    Requirements:

    · We are looking for recent Ericsson Experience

    • University degree within relevant area

    · Minimum 10 years working experience in Project Management

    · Strong Leadership skills at least 5/10 years in a leadership role

    • PMP certified (Or on the way to be certified within one year)

    • Adequate operations managerial experience

    • Have excellent documentation and presentation skills

    • Have excellent communication skills

    • Have good customer and sub-contractor relation skills

    Must have ability to work independently, International experience and closely with the end-Customer are other essential skills.

    Please apply with accompanying CV indicating your availability visit here:

Issue no 581 18th November 2011

node ref id: 23520

Top story

  • While oil prices have not yet reached the peak levels witnessed in the summer of 2008, their steady growth with the OPEC basket price of an oil barrel passing the US$100 mark in February 2011, should ring an alarm bell among African mobile operators. Their dependency on diesel to fuel their base stations remains very high but very few of them have make any serious efforts to tackle these critical issues. Isabelle Gross looks at what the short and long terms options are for African mobile operators when it comes to saving on the energy bill that they are currently running.

    No later than last September, the Kenyan newspaper Business Daily reported that Bob Collymore, the CEO of Safaricom “said that the cost of running diesel-driven base stations rose by 27% since January, especially in areas with no electricity and in western Kenya where frequent power outages mean the stations must run on diesel for up to four hours a day”. He also acknowledged that the raising operating costs will need to be addressed and a way to do so will be to increase calling rates.

    Charging more customers is one approach but it has numerous pitfalls. A price increase can result in lower call volumes and therefore the overall revenue will not go up. Most African mobile subscribers don’t have deep pockets and they remain much more price sensitive than their counterparts in developed countries. Increasing prices is a sure way to drive them to look more carefully at what the competitors have on offer.

    Faced with falling voice ARPU and hypothetical additional data revenue, African mobile operators have to pay more attention on the cost side of the business that they are running. Energy expenditures should be among the top items on their list as oil prices have gone up again. When it comes to saving on the energy bills, there is not an “out of the box” solution but it can be done.

    The best approach is to first look at how to run existing base stations more efficiently. In other words, the “quick fix” which consists of tweaking various elements of the base station to realise operational savings without incurring additional capital outlay.

    The cooling system is obviously a good starting point because it represents as much as 35% of the total electricity consumption of the base station. This proportion can increase to 50% if there are fewer transmitters in use. According to a case study carried out by Axiata, a large Asian telecommunication company, the energy saving in using an inverted air conditioning versus a traditional air conditioning system is between 14% and 22%
    depending on the temperature settings (13.8% at 25°C and 21.9% at 30°C).

    In a typical setting the pay-back time is about two years. In Africa for example, mobile operators like Vodacom, Orange or MTN have started to experiment with “free cooling system” technology in conjunction (or not) with introducing higher operating temperature in the base station.

    Beside free cooling, inverted air conditioners or higher operating temperatures, smarter ways of cooling have already been developed to reduce energy consumption. One
    option is to extract the heat directly from the source rather than attempting to cool
    the whole cabin.

    Equipment manufacturer Ericsson has for example conducted trials in Indonesia that show significantly lower energy consumption can be achieved through the use of heat exchangers for the shelters and separate cooling compartments for the battery back-up. The energy used for cooling the sites can be reduced by up to 60%.

    Energy efficient base stations offer interesting savings without requiring a big capital layout but then why are there still so few in Africa when a large number of BTS are running on diesel 24/7?

    Further reduction in OPEX will require some capital investments because it implies
    purchasing more energy efficient equipment or switching to renewable energy
    power solutions. Green options range from the use of solar energy, wind
    power to hydrogen fuel cell, biomass, biofuel, etc. Solar and wind remain the most
    prominent green technologies used to power base stations in off-grid locations.

    When looking at the business case to implement renewable energy solutions to power
    base stations, three main factors need to be looked at. There is the price of oil, the BTS load and the renewable energy technology to be implemented. Let’s look at the first factor in more details.

    When oil prices are depressed, the pay-back time will be longer – a couple of years more for most renewable energy projects. When oil prices are high, the return on investment will take less time. When diesel price was at its peak in July 2008, mobile operators’ fuel costs were nearly 3 times higher than at the beginning of 2007 with the result of spiralling operating costs (OPEX) for African mobile operators. Shouldn’t the latter comparison start ringing an alarm bell in African mobile operators’ head?

    For more details on the short and long term options available to mobile operators engaging in better managing their diesel bill, please see Balancing Act’s report entitled “Energy for Cellular Base Stations in Africa: the quick fix approach and the long term perspective to saving energy” published in February 2011.


    On the Balancing Act You Tube Channel this week an AfricaCom special:

    Nadeem, Juma, CEO, Mobipay
    on m-payments and social media in Tanzania

    Scott Bain, Director of Sales, Range Networks on Open BTS and low cost BTS for Africa

    Doron Ben Sira, CEO, SkyVision on changes in the satellite market in Africa

    Arvind Rao, CEO, OnMobile on comparisons between African and Indian mobile content

    Gour Lentell, CEO, biNu on this new feature phone platform taking off in Africa

    Jonathan Osler, Managing Director – Africa, Intelsat
    on satellite market trends on the continent

    Christoph Limmer, Senior Director – Africa, SES on its strategy for the continent

    Marc Rennard EVP Orange AMEA on the pressures faced by its operations in Africa

    Want up-to-the-minute breaking news? 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

  • MAMA - Mobiles Against Malaria - is a community building effort in one of the very poor outskirts of the Malian capital Bamako, Yirimadjo. Dutch agency IICD wants to help a local association Muso Ladamunen combat the main diseases malaria and diarrhea in the neighbourhood via the integration of mobiles phones in the work of voluntary Community Health Workers, writes Francois Laureys, IICD.

    Approximately 60 women, most mothers who live in Yirimadjo, have organized themselves to pay regular visits to families in the different neighbourhoods of Yirimadjo. This allows them to take stock of the living conditions of these households, and to identify potential women and children at risk (pregnant women, young-borns etc.). They sensitize women about their rights, distribute mosquito nets to families in need, take rapid tests on malaria if they detect people who suffer from the fever, and facilitate access to the local Health Centre when necessary. In the past three years, these Health Workers have saved hundreds of lives, and the number of consultations at the Health Centre has tripled.

    Last summer, when I visited them in Bamako, they were distributing 22.000 mosquito nets to identified target families in Yirimadjo. The ‘captain’ of the Health workers, Mah Cissé, also told me that they are still struggling with the correct and timely identification of target families, and she asked me if we could help them to integrate an element of mobile phones in their work. This would allow the Health workers to send household data directly to a database and to geo-localize more exactly which areas of Yirimadjo are more at risk. Additionally, the mobile phones would also be used to send alerts and reminders about consultation visits to the Health workers in the neighbourhoods.

    We are now finalizing the project design of ‘MAMA – Mobiles Against Malaria in Mali’ , and we hope to be able to start with the mobile phones in december. If successful, this pilot could be extended to many other communities in Mali (and beyond). Both Muso Ladamunen and IICD have invested money in the project, and ‘De Parade’  (a dutch theatre festival) has raised an additional 6,083 euros, for which we are very grateful. But we still can use a little more help to get it really going.

    So have a look at the pages, where you can find a description, photos and updates of the project. You can support in different ways – just by leaving a comment or tips on the pages, by sending this link to others, by putting a link on your blog or webpage, by tweeting, or by donating a little amount via the Donate button. You can also read more about the other activities of Muso Ladamunen by clicking on this link:  or on the blog Antimoustic.

  • 8ta has empowered their subscribers by enhancing their free self-service portal with the ability to purchase airtime and data bundles online via credit card.

    According to Telkom Mobile Managing Executive, Amith Maharaj, this enhancement will facilitate online purchase of airtime and data bundles as and when subscribers need it, even when their airtime is depleted.

    This functionality will improve the user experience for Prepaid and Hybrid (Saver) subscribers. 8ta subscribers need to register online and complete the SMS verification process on 8ta’s website here:

    Logged in subscribers will not be charged to do the following:

    * Review airtime balance

    * Redeem vouchers for airtime

    * Convert airtime to data bundles

    * Review data bundles balances and expiry dates

    * Credit Card top up using 3D secure technology

    The portal is safe as 8ta has chosen 3-D secure as a key comfort factor for subscribers when disclosing their credit card details online. The 3-D secure system simply enables credit card holders to add a password over and above the usual credit card expiry and CVV three digit numbers. The platform caters for locally issued VISA and Mastercard users.

    “If your credit card is not already 3-D verified, the 8ta portal will securely verify the 3-D secure password online. The normal credit card process can then be completed, even with no airtime on the account, as the credit card application is zero rated,” says Maharaj.

    Over time the portal will be enhanced, based on subscriber feedback, market benchmarks and other developments in self-service technology.

    To date 8ta has enabled automatic redirection of all data users when their data bundle is depleted. This key network ability enables subscribers to be in control of their communication spend with 8ta.

    8ta subscribers can now further manage their airtime and data costs both on contract and prepaid products through the self-service portal.

  • Three new phones with deep Facebook integration and dedicated ‘F’ key available in Africa and Europe from Q4 2011 – offering the widest portfolio of affordable phones with deep Facebook functionality launched by an operator to date  Orange is bringing simple, affordable, social phones for under €100 to a broader range of customers in more than 15 countries*

     The new range includes the Alcatel One Touch 908F Android smartphone, one of the most affordable Android smartphones available, exclusive to Orange

    Orange will exclusively launch three new affordable phones with deep Facebook integration across Africa and Europe from Q4 2011, creating a swift, simple, cost effective social experience for more of Orange’s customers than ever before. 

    With access to the widest range of phones with Facebook built-in under €100, including the new Alcatel One Touch 908F Android smartphone, Orange customers can choose the phone best suited to their needs. Facebook’s social capabilities run through every feature of these phones, from the camera to contacts with the dedicated ‘F’ key allowing instant uploading and interaction. Orange customers can also purchase these handsets with affordable bundles and tariffs that include unlimited Facebook access without extra data charges. 

     “The rise of the smartphone and the explosion of social networks have completely changed how people keep in touch and share content. Until now many consumers across Africa and Europe have not had access to a phone that offers deep Facebook integration at an affordable price,” said Yves Maitre, Senior Vice President of Mobile Multimedia and Devices, Orange. “We feel strongly that it is Orange’s role to enable customers to enjoy a digitally rich, connected life and this and future work with Facebook and Alcatel One Touch will allow us to open up mobile social media access to even more of our customers.”

    “Orange and Facebook have a common goal of providing mobile social access to people throughout Europe and Africa,” said Henri Moissinac, Head of Mobile Business at Facebook. “These phones and our ongoing collaboration with Orange will offer an opportunity for people to easily connect and share with their friends on Facebook anytime, anywhere and, for some, experience the mobile web for the first time.”

  • Telecom Egypt (TE) has announced its plans to expand broadband and mobile-phone services after third-quarter profit dropped due to a decrease in subscribers.

    TE runs the nation’s fixed-line telephone monopoly. The company plans to begin operating a new undersea cable by the end of the year to increase capacity for data services, and is also in the process of negotiating a virtual mobile network operator license which they hope to acquire during the first quarter of 2012.

    TE is also currently negotiating with Egypt’s telecommunications regulator t acquire a license that would allow it to use the networks of other mobile-phone companies to provide services, according to TE’s Chief Financial Officer Hassan Helmy.

    The company also owns almost half of Vodafone Egypt Telecommunications Co., which is the biggest mobile-network operator in terms of users in Egypt.“In the medium and long-term, the dynamics of the local market are very attractive,” Helmy said. “We’re counting on the young population of this country.”

    The company reported a 21 percent drop in net income from last year, read a statement on TE’s website. Fixed line subscription also dropped to 8.6 million users, from 9.4 million last year.

    “The wider economic malaise is placing pressure on household incomes in Egypt,” Chairman Akil Beshir said in the statement today. “As predicated last quarter, there has been an impact on Telecom Egypt’s overall total number of active subscribers.”

internet

  • The Internet Service Providers’ Association of SA (ISPA) has created infrastructure in the form of its Cape Town and Johannesburg Internet Exchanges (CINX and JINX) to help local consumers enjoy better performance from the Internet at a more affordable cost.

    ISPA has run JINX since 1996 and the Cape Town Internet Exchange (CINX) since 2009. The organisation is currently selecting the company that will host the Durban Internet Exchange, DINX. This infrastructure has an enormous positive impact on the consumer’s Internet experience, although most South African Internet users are unaware of its existence.

    Said Marc Furman, co-chair at ISPA: “The ISPA INXs have provided massive benefit to service providers, network operators and consumers over the years. They keep Internet traffic within the country, which results in faster response times between ISPs and reduces the congestion on international links.

    “By connecting to these exchanges, network operators are also able to keep their costs down, which in turn enables them to provide their services to end-users at a lower cost. The growth we have experienced over the years across these exchange points has been staggering.”

    One principle that ISPA has embraced since 2009 is that the exchanges should be open for non-members as well as members to streamline the exchange of traffic to the benefit of the entire industry. As such, even incumbent network operators are allowed to peer using the INX infrastructure.

    The exchanges also give members a great deal of freedom in choosing who they peer with and how they do so. Although ISPA operates high speed switches at each exchange, INX users are not obliged to connect using the public switch fabric. They may run private links between their equipment at the exchange instead of using the ISPA switch.

    “We take a hands-off approach to how ISPs and operators exchange traffic at each exchange. Most participants peer freely with everyone else connected to that INX but they are not obliged to do so. Some of the participants choose to only exchange traffic with a limited number of other parties,” said Furman.

    Furman noted that the INX infrastructures in Johannesburg and Cape Town have enjoyed runaway growth in the past few years.  More than 30 ISPs now connect to JINX and exchange more than 2.5 Gbps of traffic at JINX during peak times. CINX today handles more than 500 Mbps of traffic from 16 peering ISPs during peak times. With a sharp rise in mobile data usage and rapid growth in voice-over-IP traffic, traffic volumes at the exchanges will continue to grow sharply in the months to come.

  • Labaran Maku, the Nigerian Minister of Information, has expressed concern over the increase in the number of social media in the country. Maku made the observation on Tuesday in Benin City during the meeting of members of the Nigeria Union of Journalist (NUJ) Constitutional Review Committee.

    Represented by Kingsley Osadolor, a legal practitioner, Maku said the rise of social media in the country was a phenomenon that needed to be addressed as part of the constitutional amendment or in the nearest future.

    He said the revolution that was taking place in Egypt, Syria, Libya and other Arab states was as a result of the reports dished out by the social media. Maku warned that the increase in the number social media might result in some traditional journalists losing their jobs.
    ``What business should the social media have with the NUJ? That is an important phenomenon that needs to be considered,'' he said.

    The minister noted that the constitutional review was coming at time when the Freedom of Information Act was operational. He said the FOI Act was not a substitute for ``crucial investigative journalism'', adding that its aim was to aid the journalist to get access to information.

    Maku noted that there were procedures and rules guiding the use of the FOI Act, and urged media practitioners to be acquainted with them in order not to get negative responses. ``It is useful and pertinent to know the sources of information that are available to the journalists so that they can tap into those areas,'' he said.

    `` The FOI Act is not a substitute for investigative journalism; it must not reduce us into lazy journalists because there are several journalists waiting for information to do their stories,'' he said.

    In his address, Emeka Wogu, the Minister of Labour and Productivity, expressed appreciation to the Nigerian Press for its role in promoting peace and highlighting government policies.

    Wogu, who was represented by Tommy Okon, his Special Assistant on Media, said the constitution of any organisation, group and association, ``is an indication of how healthy the body is in terms of its operations''.

    He said that as the watchdog of the society, it was expected that the NUJ constitutional amendment would address the salient issues affecting journalists and the profession.

    ``I want to use this medium to thank the media for their positive role in promoting industrial peace and harmony in the country,'' Wogu said.

computing

  • A selected aggregation of Individual Information Technology Spend Plans for Ministry, Department and Agencies (MDAs) have revealed that N4.5billion will be spent on data centres in the coming year even though the Federal Government has an IT agency that is positioned to deploy and deliver these services at a lower costs and higher standards, the Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson has said.

    Mrs. Johnson, who spoke in Abuja at the 5TH public sector ICT infrastructure forum & the public presentation of ISO/IEC 27001:2005 certification by Galaxy Backbone plc, said there are still too many instances of individual MDAs deploying ICT infrastructure that is better deployed through a more effective pooling of financial and human resources.

    She said in the light of technological developments like cloud computing and the constraints the financial and economic crisis has placed on governments, countries all over the world are promoting the concept of shared IT services because of the immense cost savings, efficiency and capabilities it has been proven to deliver. She said Nigerian MDAs have refused to key in into this.

    The minister, who said one of the mandates of the Ministry of Communication Technology is to drive transparency in governance and improve the quality of public service delivery, lamented that needless IT spending being embarked upon by most government agencies and parastatals.

    She said: "There are still too many instances of individual MDAs deploying ICT infrastructure that is better deployed through a more effective pooling of financial and human resources. A selected aggregation of individual IT Spend plans for MDAs have revealed that N4.5bn will be spent on data centres in the coming year despite the fact that we have within Government an IT organization that is positioned to deploy and deliver these services at a lower costs and to higher standards evidenced in the achievement that Galaxy Backbone is celebrating today."

  • Listed SA IT company Gijima has formed a partnership with US company MobileIron as it ups its focus on the consumerisation of IT in business. Founded in 2007 and based in California, MobileIron provides mobile device management and security to large corporations.

    Gijima says the partnership will give it the capability to provide enterprise mobile device management and security solutions to its clients. It comes just a week after the company signed a systems integrator agreement with Apple, whose products such as the iPhone and iPad are being increasingly used in corporate environments.

    MobileIron designs solutions that allow companies to integrate smartphones and tablets with company networks. It offers solutions for devices running Apple’s iOS, Research in Motion’s BlackBerry OS, Microsoft’s Windows Phone and Windows Mobile, Symbian and Google’s Android mobile operating systems.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Algeria is in talks with Vimpelcom aimed at resolving a tug of war over the Russian telecoms group's mobile phone unit Djezzy and efforts to find a resolution could now speed up, according to Algeria's finance minister, Karim Djoudi.

    Vimpelcom hoped to acquire Djezzy as part of a planned $6 billion acquisition of Wind Telecom, parent of Djezzy's owner Orascom Telecom. But Djezzy's status was left unclear after Algeria said it wanted to take the business over itself.

    Djoudi's comments were the strongest hint yet that a resolution could be close after more than a year of deadlock over Djezzy, which had been the most lucrative part of Orascom Telecom's business.

    Asked about Djezzy, Djoudi said: "Things are taking place normally. I have had a meeting with a Vimpelcom representative at his request. Unfortunately, I cannot give you details because we are in talks."

    He said a valuation of Djezzy, a crucial step in determining the unit's future, was proceeding. "It is possible that things will go fast," Djoudi said. "There is a willingness on the other side to make things go fast."

    It remains unclear what shape a deal on Djezzy could take. There has been some speculation that the Algerian government could acquire a 51 percent stake and allow Vimpelcom to hold the remaining equity and be the operator.

    Before the Vimpelcom deal, Orascom Telecom was forced to agree to talks on Djezzy's nationalisation after it was hit with millions of dollars in back-tax demands from Algeria and prevented from moving the unit's cash abroad.

    Talks about the nationalisation had been stalled because of a dispute between the Algerian government and Djezzy's owners about how the unit is to be valued, and how much access the owners would provide to Djezzy's balance sheet.

    Djoudi suggested that issue had now been resolved. "We have opened the data room which gives us access to all ... (Djezzy's) details," he said.

  • The new Tunisian government has set up a national holding company to handle its stakes in the country's two mobile networks, Tunisiana and Orange.

    The CDC (Caisse des Dépôts et Consignation) will be headed by Tunisia's Minister of Finance, Jalloul Ayed. An independent subcommittee has also been assigned to monitor corruption, approve the general policies of the funds and evaluate the investments.

    The CDC manages 25% of Tunisiana, 51% of Orange and the Zitouna bank, which were seized from the former ruling family and are now subsidiaries of the national holding.

  • Zenith Bank (Ghana) Limited in collaboration with Google Ghana has introduced a new product unto the Ghanaian market dubbed Z.com in an effort to give its customers the opportunity to position their businesses to enable them access the global market. Z.com is a business solution opportunity tailored to suit the needs of the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Ghana.

    In a statement copied to GNA on Friday, the product would afford SMEs the opportunity to globally advertise their businesses thereby increasing top of mind awareness and ultimately their turnover.

    Z.com, which is another product innovation from Zenith Bank Ghana, rides along the Bank’s quest to make available flexible business strategies to SMEs in Ghana.

    According to Daniel Asiedu Chief Executive Officer of Zenith Bank Ghana, the bank would continue to introduce innovative products and services onto the Ghanaian banking industry.

    “This is in line with its vision of being the reference point in the provision of prompt, flawless and innovation products in the Ghanaian industry”, the statement read.

    The product would be formally launched at a business fair where key stakeholders, policy makers as well as entrepreneurs in the SMEs sector would be brought together to experience at first hand the benefits of e-commerce.

    The official launch of Z.com would take place on Thursday November 24, 2011 at the Accra International Conference Center.

    In a related development, Mr. Henry Oroh, a senior management staff from the parent company Zenith Bank Plc has been appointed to complement the bank’s marketing efforts in Ghana.

  • The fact that the new card will be linked to the user's phone will significantly enhance the security features, says Fundamo CEO Hannes van Rensburg.
    Global credit card company Visa and Africa's largest cellular operator, MTN, have partnered to introduce a new Visa prepaid account mobile service as an extension of MTN Mobile Money in developing countries.

    The product is a result of Visa's recent acquisition of local mobile money platform Fundamo, which has now been integrated with Visa's global payment network, VisaNet.

    Together with MTN Mobile Money, the new service will allow consumers to get a special Visa card which will be linked to their Mobile Money account, and which essentially has the same payment functionality as a bank card.

    Visa says the service will allow users to extend their mobile money payment functionality by allowing them to send money to each other, send and receive international remittances, withdraw funds from a Visa ATM and make purchases at merchants or online.

  • This week, an estimated 180 000 EasyPay customers will receive an e-mail that offers money-back rewards on all their transactions as part of the company’s strategy to restore its credibility and regain customers’ confidence after its site was hit by credit-card fraud two months ago.

    EasyPay will also carry the full liability of any fraudulent transactions, said Serge Belamant, the CEO of Net1, the holding company of EasyPay. He said he has confidence in the site’s newly built security features.

    EasyPay has one of SA’s largest third-party payment systems. It allows consumers to use their credit cards to pay their bills, including Telkom, the municipality and traffic fines, either through its website or at pay points in shops such as Pick n Pay.

    It also allows consumers to buy airtime and prepaid electricity online and it was these purchases that were targeted in September by a crime syndicate. The criminals obtained a list of credit card numbers, which it used to buy airtime, electricity and prepaid gift cards.

    The reaction from Absa, which found that one in three transactions were fraudulent, was to prevent its cardholders from transacting on the site temporarily until EasyPay removed the high-risk products. Some banks continue to limit the number of EasyPay transactions they allow.

    Walter Volker, CEO of the Payment Association of SA, said EasyPay had nothing to do with the release of the credit card details. An investigation is underway to determine how the syndicate obtained the credit card details, which resulted in losses of millions of rands. It must still be determined which banks will carry the liability.

    Belamant said the company had been unfairly targeted by the banks because it was not responsible for the breach. He said the high volume of traffic on the site — it does 4m to 5m transactions a month — made it attractive to fraudsters.

    EasyPay processes payments worth R120m/month, according to Belamant, and the new site is growing at a rate of 10%/month.

Digital Content

  • Many local firms have failed to get their strategies right in creating brand visibility and loyalty through social media, the latest industry survey has shown.

    However, many companies have invested heavily on Internet platforms with an aim of tapping the growing online audience.

    According to the TNS Digital Life Survey, 60 per cent of Kenyans on social media are resistant to brands and brand messages in their profiles, meaning that companies may not be getting returns on the investments they have made to reach the online community through the networks.

    "The race online has seen businesses across the world develop profiles on social networks such as Facebook and YouTube to speak to customers quickly and cheaply --but this study reveals that if these efforts are not carefully targeted, they are a wasted resource," says the report.

    The survey indicates that many firms have embraced the social media platform but without a clear strategy on who their target audiences are, leading to negative results.

    "Digital waste is the accumulation of thousands of brands rushing online without thinking who they want to talk to and why," said Matthew Froggatt, Chief Development Officer at TNS.

    "Many brands have recognised the vast potential of audiences available to them on social networks but they do not understand that these spaces belong to the consumer and their presence needs to be proportionate and justified."

    Mr Froggatt says although the online world presents massive opportunities for brands, only precisely tailored marketing strategies can realise this potential.

    The findings come at a time when the Kenyan social media space is full of content from local firms reaching out to users .But not all is lost as 54 per cent of online users interviewed in the survey admitted that social networks are a good place to learn about products.

    This implies that the use of social media to gain brand visibility and market penetration is not a misguided one. It only needs more direct strategies.

    These findings back concern expressed previously by social media analysts over the unplanned and disjointed online campaigns adopted by most firms in an effort to build their brand visibility.

    "Most businesses in Kenya enter social media but continue passing the same old messages as in traditional channels. Social media is more than just a platform to send your usual advertisement ; it has its own culture which means how people converse, the tone of the conversation, tone of channel (Facebook or Twitter),." says Mr Marvin Tumbo, social media specialist and CEO of Socialight Media, a company that provides social media solutions.

    Tumbo says failure by brands to understand how social media works is what causes conflicts between consumers and business online, with the major challenge coming in crafting the messages. Most firms have not come up with a specific messages for social media sites but are channelling messages created for the traditional media and which may not be appealing to this particular audience.

    The findings further state that users in fast growth markets like Brazil, Indonesia and Kenya are far more open to brands on social networks compared to developed markets like the US where brand tolerance in social media stood at nine per cent compared to 40 per cent in Kenya.

    This means that businesses targeting users in developing countries have a wider audience base, albeit one that must be used prudently. "Social media is not a bad tool for marketing. But it is the tact and targeting that many brands are getting wrong", says Mr Francis Waithaka, a social media analyst.

    "The first thing that brands must do is to listen and understand what customers want. Brands should do pull marketing and not push marketing. A great product and a good customer service will pull customers to your business."

    Waithaka further adds that it is essential for brands to work on their products and services well before going to social media to market them. "With a bad product or terrible customer service, no matter what marketing strategies you employ, it won't work", he says.

    In addition to this, disgruntled users have been known to tweet and post bad customer experiences to their friends and followers and this can go viral and end up being a crisis or an embarrassment to a brand.

    According to the survey, 62 per cent of Kenyan social media users trust comments people make online about brands while close to 30 per cent of users share their experience with brands in social media. In addition to this, 19 per cent of users write about brands to praise the service or goods while 10 per cent write to complain.

    "Most companies in Kenya have not thought through their social media engagement. There has been no strategy to their engagement and hence the high failure rate", says Mr Tumbo. "It's about time companies started having actual strategies and not me-too activities on social media."

    His sentiments are echoed by Withaka. "No matter how good your product or service is, regardless of how brilliant the advertisements are, and regardless of the price you're charging, if your targeting is off, then your whole marketing campaign will be missing the mark. You'll waste a lot of cash, energy and time marketing to people who will never buy from you".

  • Telkom is involved in a multibillion-rand project to increase the throughput of fixed-line broadband to speeds of up to 40Mbit/s. The plans also include dramatically upping the speed of entry-level broadband services and introducing video-on-demand (VOD) products, possibly from international providers such as Hulu, Netflix and Nangu.

    In addition, the company is planning a trial using superfast fibre-optic cables from selected telephone exchanges, with the pilot project expected to kick off as early as 15 January 2012. Details about the fibre project remain sketchy, however.

    VDSL2 is theoretically capable of offering download speeds of up to 250Mbit/s over short lengths of copper (up to 500m) and up 50Mbit/s for distances of up to 1km.

    Telkom has invested millions of rand in recent years bringing fibre closer to its customers — in many areas, it has built fibre to its street-level distribution cabinets — to offer faster access speeds to consumers over its copper network.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Airtel Kenya will offer a 50% airtime bonus to customers topping up their prepay account via its own Airtel Money platform.

    - Chinese vendor ZTE has announced that it has installed an integrated value added platform solution (iVAS) in Kinshasa for Vodacom DRC. The iVAS system encompasses SMS services, and ZTE claims that the installation has increased Vodacom’s SMS management tenfold, improving service on the South African-owned telco’s network by reducing congestion.

    - The Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) has imposed a fine of US$225,000.00 on the Lonestar Communications Company for noncompliance with LTA’s Order  (LTA 0005-10-04-11)  which calls for both Lonestar and Cellcom to expand their interconnection trunks and have the expansion remain in place until otherwise ordered.

    - The SA Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has given the green light to SA Airways (SAA) to allow passengers on the airline’s flights to use their smartphones and other supported devices in “flight mode”, where the devices’ radio antennae are switched off.

    - Pan-African mobile operator MTN has announced a partnership with Singapore-based TransferTo, which allows MTN's customers with access to prepaid services to receive airtime transfers from the vast TransferTo international airtime transfer network around the world. TransferTo is a global airtime remittance hub that interconnects mobile operators' prepaid systems to deliver end to end cross-border top-up services.

More

  • Ghana’s Expresso Telecom has replaced their Managing Director just months after the buyout of Kasapa Telecom Limited. Just before Kasapa was rebranded, the Managing Director Bob Palitz resigned and was replaced by Hisham Ayoub.

    Sources within Expresso have said that Ayoub has been replaced due to poor performance. The new Managing Director is Al-Ameer Ahmed Al-Ameer Yousef, who was quietly put in while his counterpart left. It is not yet confirmed in what capacity Ayoub will be serving within the company.

    Under Ayoub subscriptions fell from 400,000 to just over 200,000, despite many changes implemented by Ayoub.

    Ayoub had introduced the Clig moden, which is one of the most competitive modems on the market in terms of prices, speed and tariff. Sources say the new Managing Director is not doing much better, but they are optimistic.

    “It looks like Mr. Yousef is going to bring some positive change, but some of the old guys at Expresso have entrenched themselves into their positions through all kinds of means so I am not too sure if he will succeed,” the source said.

  • Customer Project Manager ParaCell

    Posted date: Fri, 18th Nov

    Location: Western Africa

    ParaCell is searching for a Customer Project Manager

    Requirements:

    · We are looking for recent Ericsson Experience

    • University degree within relevant area

    · Minimum 10 years working experience in Project Management

    · Strong Leadership skills at least 5/10 years in a leadership role

    • PMP certified (Or on the way to be certified within one year)

    • Adequate operations managerial experience

    • Have excellent documentation and presentation skills

    • Have excellent communication skills

    • Have good customer and sub-contractor relation skills

    Must have ability to work independently, International experience and closely with the end-Customer are other essential skills.

    Please apply with accompanying CV indicating your availability visit here:

Issue no 581 18th November 2011

node ref id: 23520

Top story

  • While oil prices have not yet reached the peak levels witnessed in the summer of 2008, their steady growth with the OPEC basket price of an oil barrel passing the US$100 mark in February 2011, should ring an alarm bell among African mobile operators. Their dependency on diesel to fuel their base stations remains very high but very few of them have make any serious efforts to tackle these critical issues. Isabelle Gross looks at what the short and long terms options are for African mobile operators when it comes to saving on the energy bill that they are currently running.

    No later than last September, the Kenyan newspaper Business Daily reported that Bob Collymore, the CEO of Safaricom “said that the cost of running diesel-driven base stations rose by 27% since January, especially in areas with no electricity and in western Kenya where frequent power outages mean the stations must run on diesel for up to four hours a day”. He also acknowledged that the raising operating costs will need to be addressed and a way to do so will be to increase calling rates.

    Charging more customers is one approach but it has numerous pitfalls. A price increase can result in lower call volumes and therefore the overall revenue will not go up. Most African mobile subscribers don’t have deep pockets and they remain much more price sensitive than their counterparts in developed countries. Increasing prices is a sure way to drive them to look more carefully at what the competitors have on offer.

    Faced with falling voice ARPU and hypothetical additional data revenue, African mobile operators have to pay more attention on the cost side of the business that they are running. Energy expenditures should be among the top items on their list as oil prices have gone up again. When it comes to saving on the energy bills, there is not an “out of the box” solution but it can be done.

    The best approach is to first look at how to run existing base stations more efficiently. In other words, the “quick fix” which consists of tweaking various elements of the base station to realise operational savings without incurring additional capital outlay.

    The cooling system is obviously a good starting point because it represents as much as 35% of the total electricity consumption of the base station. This proportion can increase to 50% if there are fewer transmitters in use. According to a case study carried out by Axiata, a large Asian telecommunication company, the energy saving in using an inverted air conditioning versus a traditional air conditioning system is between 14% and 22%
    depending on the temperature settings (13.8% at 25°C and 21.9% at 30°C).

    In a typical setting the pay-back time is about two years. In Africa for example, mobile operators like Vodacom, Orange or MTN have started to experiment with “free cooling system” technology in conjunction (or not) with introducing higher operating temperature in the base station.

    Beside free cooling, inverted air conditioners or higher operating temperatures, smarter ways of cooling have already been developed to reduce energy consumption. One
    option is to extract the heat directly from the source rather than attempting to cool
    the whole cabin.

    Equipment manufacturer Ericsson has for example conducted trials in Indonesia that show significantly lower energy consumption can be achieved through the use of heat exchangers for the shelters and separate cooling compartments for the battery back-up. The energy used for cooling the sites can be reduced by up to 60%.

    Energy efficient base stations offer interesting savings without requiring a big capital layout but then why are there still so few in Africa when a large number of BTS are running on diesel 24/7?

    Further reduction in OPEX will require some capital investments because it implies
    purchasing more energy efficient equipment or switching to renewable energy
    power solutions. Green options range from the use of solar energy, wind
    power to hydrogen fuel cell, biomass, biofuel, etc. Solar and wind remain the most
    prominent green technologies used to power base stations in off-grid locations.

    When looking at the business case to implement renewable energy solutions to power
    base stations, three main factors need to be looked at. There is the price of oil, the BTS load and the renewable energy technology to be implemented. Let’s look at the first factor in more details.

    When oil prices are depressed, the pay-back time will be longer – a couple of years more for most renewable energy projects. When oil prices are high, the return on investment will take less time. When diesel price was at its peak in July 2008, mobile operators’ fuel costs were nearly 3 times higher than at the beginning of 2007 with the result of spiralling operating costs (OPEX) for African mobile operators. Shouldn’t the latter comparison start ringing an alarm bell in African mobile operators’ head?

    For more details on the short and long term options available to mobile operators engaging in better managing their diesel bill, please see Balancing Act’s report entitled “Energy for Cellular Base Stations in Africa: the quick fix approach and the long term perspective to saving energy” published in February 2011.


    On the Balancing Act You Tube Channel this week an AfricaCom special:

    Nadeem, Juma, CEO, Mobipay
    on m-payments and social media in Tanzania

    Scott Bain, Director of Sales, Range Networks on Open BTS and low cost BTS for Africa

    Doron Ben Sira, CEO, SkyVision on changes in the satellite market in Africa

    Arvind Rao, CEO, OnMobile on comparisons between African and Indian mobile content

    Gour Lentell, CEO, biNu on this new feature phone platform taking off in Africa

    Jonathan Osler, Managing Director – Africa, Intelsat
    on satellite market trends on the continent

    Christoph Limmer, Senior Director – Africa, SES on its strategy for the continent

    Marc Rennard EVP Orange AMEA on the pressures faced by its operations in Africa

    Want up-to-the-minute breaking news? 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

  • MAMA - Mobiles Against Malaria - is a community building effort in one of the very poor outskirts of the Malian capital Bamako, Yirimadjo. Dutch agency IICD wants to help a local association Muso Ladamunen combat the main diseases malaria and diarrhea in the neighbourhood via the integration of mobiles phones in the work of voluntary Community Health Workers, writes Francois Laureys, IICD.

    Approximately 60 women, most mothers who live in Yirimadjo, have organized themselves to pay regular visits to families in the different neighbourhoods of Yirimadjo. This allows them to take stock of the living conditions of these households, and to identify potential women and children at risk (pregnant women, young-borns etc.). They sensitize women about their rights, distribute mosquito nets to families in need, take rapid tests on malaria if they detect people who suffer from the fever, and facilitate access to the local Health Centre when necessary. In the past three years, these Health Workers have saved hundreds of lives, and the number of consultations at the Health Centre has tripled.

    Last summer, when I visited them in Bamako, they were distributing 22.000 mosquito nets to identified target families in Yirimadjo. The ‘captain’ of the Health workers, Mah Cissé, also told me that they are still struggling with the correct and timely identification of target families, and she asked me if we could help them to integrate an element of mobile phones in their work. This would allow the Health workers to send household data directly to a database and to geo-localize more exactly which areas of Yirimadjo are more at risk. Additionally, the mobile phones would also be used to send alerts and reminders about consultation visits to the Health workers in the neighbourhoods.

    We are now finalizing the project design of ‘MAMA – Mobiles Against Malaria in Mali’ , and we hope to be able to start with the mobile phones in december. If successful, this pilot could be extended to many other communities in Mali (and beyond). Both Muso Ladamunen and IICD have invested money in the project, and ‘De Parade’  (a dutch theatre festival) has raised an additional 6,083 euros, for which we are very grateful. But we still can use a little more help to get it really going.

    So have a look at the pages, where you can find a description, photos and updates of the project. You can support in different ways – just by leaving a comment or tips on the pages, by sending this link to others, by putting a link on your blog or webpage, by tweeting, or by donating a little amount via the Donate button. You can also read more about the other activities of Muso Ladamunen by clicking on this link:  or on the blog Antimoustic.

  • 8ta has empowered their subscribers by enhancing their free self-service portal with the ability to purchase airtime and data bundles online via credit card.

    According to Telkom Mobile Managing Executive, Amith Maharaj, this enhancement will facilitate online purchase of airtime and data bundles as and when subscribers need it, even when their airtime is depleted.

    This functionality will improve the user experience for Prepaid and Hybrid (Saver) subscribers. 8ta subscribers need to register online and complete the SMS verification process on 8ta’s website here:

    Logged in subscribers will not be charged to do the following:

    * Review airtime balance

    * Redeem vouchers for airtime

    * Convert airtime to data bundles

    * Review data bundles balances and expiry dates

    * Credit Card top up using 3D secure technology

    The portal is safe as 8ta has chosen 3-D secure as a key comfort factor for subscribers when disclosing their credit card details online. The 3-D secure system simply enables credit card holders to add a password over and above the usual credit card expiry and CVV three digit numbers. The platform caters for locally issued VISA and Mastercard users.

    “If your credit card is not already 3-D verified, the 8ta portal will securely verify the 3-D secure password online. The normal credit card process can then be completed, even with no airtime on the account, as the credit card application is zero rated,” says Maharaj.

    Over time the portal will be enhanced, based on subscriber feedback, market benchmarks and other developments in self-service technology.

    To date 8ta has enabled automatic redirection of all data users when their data bundle is depleted. This key network ability enables subscribers to be in control of their communication spend with 8ta.

    8ta subscribers can now further manage their airtime and data costs both on contract and prepaid products through the self-service portal.

  • Three new phones with deep Facebook integration and dedicated ‘F’ key available in Africa and Europe from Q4 2011 – offering the widest portfolio of affordable phones with deep Facebook functionality launched by an operator to date  Orange is bringing simple, affordable, social phones for under €100 to a broader range of customers in more than 15 countries*

     The new range includes the Alcatel One Touch 908F Android smartphone, one of the most affordable Android smartphones available, exclusive to Orange

    Orange will exclusively launch three new affordable phones with deep Facebook integration across Africa and Europe from Q4 2011, creating a swift, simple, cost effective social experience for more of Orange’s customers than ever before. 

    With access to the widest range of phones with Facebook built-in under €100, including the new Alcatel One Touch 908F Android smartphone, Orange customers can choose the phone best suited to their needs. Facebook’s social capabilities run through every feature of these phones, from the camera to contacts with the dedicated ‘F’ key allowing instant uploading and interaction. Orange customers can also purchase these handsets with affordable bundles and tariffs that include unlimited Facebook access without extra data charges. 

     “The rise of the smartphone and the explosion of social networks have completely changed how people keep in touch and share content. Until now many consumers across Africa and Europe have not had access to a phone that offers deep Facebook integration at an affordable price,” said Yves Maitre, Senior Vice President of Mobile Multimedia and Devices, Orange. “We feel strongly that it is Orange’s role to enable customers to enjoy a digitally rich, connected life and this and future work with Facebook and Alcatel One Touch will allow us to open up mobile social media access to even more of our customers.”

    “Orange and Facebook have a common goal of providing mobile social access to people throughout Europe and Africa,” said Henri Moissinac, Head of Mobile Business at Facebook. “These phones and our ongoing collaboration with Orange will offer an opportunity for people to easily connect and share with their friends on Facebook anytime, anywhere and, for some, experience the mobile web for the first time.”

  • Telecom Egypt (TE) has announced its plans to expand broadband and mobile-phone services after third-quarter profit dropped due to a decrease in subscribers.

    TE runs the nation’s fixed-line telephone monopoly. The company plans to begin operating a new undersea cable by the end of the year to increase capacity for data services, and is also in the process of negotiating a virtual mobile network operator license which they hope to acquire during the first quarter of 2012.

    TE is also currently negotiating with Egypt’s telecommunications regulator t acquire a license that would allow it to use the networks of other mobile-phone companies to provide services, according to TE’s Chief Financial Officer Hassan Helmy.

    The company also owns almost half of Vodafone Egypt Telecommunications Co., which is the biggest mobile-network operator in terms of users in Egypt.“In the medium and long-term, the dynamics of the local market are very attractive,” Helmy said. “We’re counting on the young population of this country.”

    The company reported a 21 percent drop in net income from last year, read a statement on TE’s website. Fixed line subscription also dropped to 8.6 million users, from 9.4 million last year.

    “The wider economic malaise is placing pressure on household incomes in Egypt,” Chairman Akil Beshir said in the statement today. “As predicated last quarter, there has been an impact on Telecom Egypt’s overall total number of active subscribers.”

internet

  • The Internet Service Providers’ Association of SA (ISPA) has created infrastructure in the form of its Cape Town and Johannesburg Internet Exchanges (CINX and JINX) to help local consumers enjoy better performance from the Internet at a more affordable cost.

    ISPA has run JINX since 1996 and the Cape Town Internet Exchange (CINX) since 2009. The organisation is currently selecting the company that will host the Durban Internet Exchange, DINX. This infrastructure has an enormous positive impact on the consumer’s Internet experience, although most South African Internet users are unaware of its existence.

    Said Marc Furman, co-chair at ISPA: “The ISPA INXs have provided massive benefit to service providers, network operators and consumers over the years. They keep Internet traffic within the country, which results in faster response times between ISPs and reduces the congestion on international links.

    “By connecting to these exchanges, network operators are also able to keep their costs down, which in turn enables them to provide their services to end-users at a lower cost. The growth we have experienced over the years across these exchange points has been staggering.”

    One principle that ISPA has embraced since 2009 is that the exchanges should be open for non-members as well as members to streamline the exchange of traffic to the benefit of the entire industry. As such, even incumbent network operators are allowed to peer using the INX infrastructure.

    The exchanges also give members a great deal of freedom in choosing who they peer with and how they do so. Although ISPA operates high speed switches at each exchange, INX users are not obliged to connect using the public switch fabric. They may run private links between their equipment at the exchange instead of using the ISPA switch.

    “We take a hands-off approach to how ISPs and operators exchange traffic at each exchange. Most participants peer freely with everyone else connected to that INX but they are not obliged to do so. Some of the participants choose to only exchange traffic with a limited number of other parties,” said Furman.

    Furman noted that the INX infrastructures in Johannesburg and Cape Town have enjoyed runaway growth in the past few years.  More than 30 ISPs now connect to JINX and exchange more than 2.5 Gbps of traffic at JINX during peak times. CINX today handles more than 500 Mbps of traffic from 16 peering ISPs during peak times. With a sharp rise in mobile data usage and rapid growth in voice-over-IP traffic, traffic volumes at the exchanges will continue to grow sharply in the months to come.

  • Labaran Maku, the Nigerian Minister of Information, has expressed concern over the increase in the number of social media in the country. Maku made the observation on Tuesday in Benin City during the meeting of members of the Nigeria Union of Journalist (NUJ) Constitutional Review Committee.

    Represented by Kingsley Osadolor, a legal practitioner, Maku said the rise of social media in the country was a phenomenon that needed to be addressed as part of the constitutional amendment or in the nearest future.

    He said the revolution that was taking place in Egypt, Syria, Libya and other Arab states was as a result of the reports dished out by the social media. Maku warned that the increase in the number social media might result in some traditional journalists losing their jobs.
    ``What business should the social media have with the NUJ? That is an important phenomenon that needs to be considered,'' he said.

    The minister noted that the constitutional review was coming at time when the Freedom of Information Act was operational. He said the FOI Act was not a substitute for ``crucial investigative journalism'', adding that its aim was to aid the journalist to get access to information.

    Maku noted that there were procedures and rules guiding the use of the FOI Act, and urged media practitioners to be acquainted with them in order not to get negative responses. ``It is useful and pertinent to know the sources of information that are available to the journalists so that they can tap into those areas,'' he said.

    `` The FOI Act is not a substitute for investigative journalism; it must not reduce us into lazy journalists because there are several journalists waiting for information to do their stories,'' he said.

    In his address, Emeka Wogu, the Minister of Labour and Productivity, expressed appreciation to the Nigerian Press for its role in promoting peace and highlighting government policies.

    Wogu, who was represented by Tommy Okon, his Special Assistant on Media, said the constitution of any organisation, group and association, ``is an indication of how healthy the body is in terms of its operations''.

    He said that as the watchdog of the society, it was expected that the NUJ constitutional amendment would address the salient issues affecting journalists and the profession.

    ``I want to use this medium to thank the media for their positive role in promoting industrial peace and harmony in the country,'' Wogu said.

computing

  • A selected aggregation of Individual Information Technology Spend Plans for Ministry, Department and Agencies (MDAs) have revealed that N4.5billion will be spent on data centres in the coming year even though the Federal Government has an IT agency that is positioned to deploy and deliver these services at a lower costs and higher standards, the Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson has said.

    Mrs. Johnson, who spoke in Abuja at the 5TH public sector ICT infrastructure forum & the public presentation of ISO/IEC 27001:2005 certification by Galaxy Backbone plc, said there are still too many instances of individual MDAs deploying ICT infrastructure that is better deployed through a more effective pooling of financial and human resources.

    She said in the light of technological developments like cloud computing and the constraints the financial and economic crisis has placed on governments, countries all over the world are promoting the concept of shared IT services because of the immense cost savings, efficiency and capabilities it has been proven to deliver. She said Nigerian MDAs have refused to key in into this.

    The minister, who said one of the mandates of the Ministry of Communication Technology is to drive transparency in governance and improve the quality of public service delivery, lamented that needless IT spending being embarked upon by most government agencies and parastatals.

    She said: "There are still too many instances of individual MDAs deploying ICT infrastructure that is better deployed through a more effective pooling of financial and human resources. A selected aggregation of individual IT Spend plans for MDAs have revealed that N4.5bn will be spent on data centres in the coming year despite the fact that we have within Government an IT organization that is positioned to deploy and deliver these services at a lower costs and to higher standards evidenced in the achievement that Galaxy Backbone is celebrating today."

  • Listed SA IT company Gijima has formed a partnership with US company MobileIron as it ups its focus on the consumerisation of IT in business. Founded in 2007 and based in California, MobileIron provides mobile device management and security to large corporations.

    Gijima says the partnership will give it the capability to provide enterprise mobile device management and security solutions to its clients. It comes just a week after the company signed a systems integrator agreement with Apple, whose products such as the iPhone and iPad are being increasingly used in corporate environments.

    MobileIron designs solutions that allow companies to integrate smartphones and tablets with company networks. It offers solutions for devices running Apple’s iOS, Research in Motion’s BlackBerry OS, Microsoft’s Windows Phone and Windows Mobile, Symbian and Google’s Android mobile operating systems.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Algeria is in talks with Vimpelcom aimed at resolving a tug of war over the Russian telecoms group's mobile phone unit Djezzy and efforts to find a resolution could now speed up, according to Algeria's finance minister, Karim Djoudi.

    Vimpelcom hoped to acquire Djezzy as part of a planned $6 billion acquisition of Wind Telecom, parent of Djezzy's owner Orascom Telecom. But Djezzy's status was left unclear after Algeria said it wanted to take the business over itself.

    Djoudi's comments were the strongest hint yet that a resolution could be close after more than a year of deadlock over Djezzy, which had been the most lucrative part of Orascom Telecom's business.

    Asked about Djezzy, Djoudi said: "Things are taking place normally. I have had a meeting with a Vimpelcom representative at his request. Unfortunately, I cannot give you details because we are in talks."

    He said a valuation of Djezzy, a crucial step in determining the unit's future, was proceeding. "It is possible that things will go fast," Djoudi said. "There is a willingness on the other side to make things go fast."

    It remains unclear what shape a deal on Djezzy could take. There has been some speculation that the Algerian government could acquire a 51 percent stake and allow Vimpelcom to hold the remaining equity and be the operator.

    Before the Vimpelcom deal, Orascom Telecom was forced to agree to talks on Djezzy's nationalisation after it was hit with millions of dollars in back-tax demands from Algeria and prevented from moving the unit's cash abroad.

    Talks about the nationalisation had been stalled because of a dispute between the Algerian government and Djezzy's owners about how the unit is to be valued, and how much access the owners would provide to Djezzy's balance sheet.

    Djoudi suggested that issue had now been resolved. "We have opened the data room which gives us access to all ... (Djezzy's) details," he said.

  • The new Tunisian government has set up a national holding company to handle its stakes in the country's two mobile networks, Tunisiana and Orange.

    The CDC (Caisse des Dépôts et Consignation) will be headed by Tunisia's Minister of Finance, Jalloul Ayed. An independent subcommittee has also been assigned to monitor corruption, approve the general policies of the funds and evaluate the investments.

    The CDC manages 25% of Tunisiana, 51% of Orange and the Zitouna bank, which were seized from the former ruling family and are now subsidiaries of the national holding.

  • Zenith Bank (Ghana) Limited in collaboration with Google Ghana has introduced a new product unto the Ghanaian market dubbed Z.com in an effort to give its customers the opportunity to position their businesses to enable them access the global market. Z.com is a business solution opportunity tailored to suit the needs of the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Ghana.

    In a statement copied to GNA on Friday, the product would afford SMEs the opportunity to globally advertise their businesses thereby increasing top of mind awareness and ultimately their turnover.

    Z.com, which is another product innovation from Zenith Bank Ghana, rides along the Bank’s quest to make available flexible business strategies to SMEs in Ghana.

    According to Daniel Asiedu Chief Executive Officer of Zenith Bank Ghana, the bank would continue to introduce innovative products and services onto the Ghanaian banking industry.

    “This is in line with its vision of being the reference point in the provision of prompt, flawless and innovation products in the Ghanaian industry”, the statement read.

    The product would be formally launched at a business fair where key stakeholders, policy makers as well as entrepreneurs in the SMEs sector would be brought together to experience at first hand the benefits of e-commerce.

    The official launch of Z.com would take place on Thursday November 24, 2011 at the Accra International Conference Center.

    In a related development, Mr. Henry Oroh, a senior management staff from the parent company Zenith Bank Plc has been appointed to complement the bank’s marketing efforts in Ghana.

  • The fact that the new card will be linked to the user's phone will significantly enhance the security features, says Fundamo CEO Hannes van Rensburg.
    Global credit card company Visa and Africa's largest cellular operator, MTN, have partnered to introduce a new Visa prepaid account mobile service as an extension of MTN Mobile Money in developing countries.

    The product is a result of Visa's recent acquisition of local mobile money platform Fundamo, which has now been integrated with Visa's global payment network, VisaNet.

    Together with MTN Mobile Money, the new service will allow consumers to get a special Visa card which will be linked to their Mobile Money account, and which essentially has the same payment functionality as a bank card.

    Visa says the service will allow users to extend their mobile money payment functionality by allowing them to send money to each other, send and receive international remittances, withdraw funds from a Visa ATM and make purchases at merchants or online.

  • This week, an estimated 180 000 EasyPay customers will receive an e-mail that offers money-back rewards on all their transactions as part of the company’s strategy to restore its credibility and regain customers’ confidence after its site was hit by credit-card fraud two months ago.

    EasyPay will also carry the full liability of any fraudulent transactions, said Serge Belamant, the CEO of Net1, the holding company of EasyPay. He said he has confidence in the site’s newly built security features.

    EasyPay has one of SA’s largest third-party payment systems. It allows consumers to use their credit cards to pay their bills, including Telkom, the municipality and traffic fines, either through its website or at pay points in shops such as Pick n Pay.

    It also allows consumers to buy airtime and prepaid electricity online and it was these purchases that were targeted in September by a crime syndicate. The criminals obtained a list of credit card numbers, which it used to buy airtime, electricity and prepaid gift cards.

    The reaction from Absa, which found that one in three transactions were fraudulent, was to prevent its cardholders from transacting on the site temporarily until EasyPay removed the high-risk products. Some banks continue to limit the number of EasyPay transactions they allow.

    Walter Volker, CEO of the Payment Association of SA, said EasyPay had nothing to do with the release of the credit card details. An investigation is underway to determine how the syndicate obtained the credit card details, which resulted in losses of millions of rands. It must still be determined which banks will carry the liability.

    Belamant said the company had been unfairly targeted by the banks because it was not responsible for the breach. He said the high volume of traffic on the site — it does 4m to 5m transactions a month — made it attractive to fraudsters.

    EasyPay processes payments worth R120m/month, according to Belamant, and the new site is growing at a rate of 10%/month.

Digital Content

  • Many local firms have failed to get their strategies right in creating brand visibility and loyalty through social media, the latest industry survey has shown.

    However, many companies have invested heavily on Internet platforms with an aim of tapping the growing online audience.

    According to the TNS Digital Life Survey, 60 per cent of Kenyans on social media are resistant to brands and brand messages in their profiles, meaning that companies may not be getting returns on the investments they have made to reach the online community through the networks.

    "The race online has seen businesses across the world develop profiles on social networks such as Facebook and YouTube to speak to customers quickly and cheaply --but this study reveals that if these efforts are not carefully targeted, they are a wasted resource," says the report.

    The survey indicates that many firms have embraced the social media platform but without a clear strategy on who their target audiences are, leading to negative results.

    "Digital waste is the accumulation of thousands of brands rushing online without thinking who they want to talk to and why," said Matthew Froggatt, Chief Development Officer at TNS.

    "Many brands have recognised the vast potential of audiences available to them on social networks but they do not understand that these spaces belong to the consumer and their presence needs to be proportionate and justified."

    Mr Froggatt says although the online world presents massive opportunities for brands, only precisely tailored marketing strategies can realise this potential.

    The findings come at a time when the Kenyan social media space is full of content from local firms reaching out to users .But not all is lost as 54 per cent of online users interviewed in the survey admitted that social networks are a good place to learn about products.

    This implies that the use of social media to gain brand visibility and market penetration is not a misguided one. It only needs more direct strategies.

    These findings back concern expressed previously by social media analysts over the unplanned and disjointed online campaigns adopted by most firms in an effort to build their brand visibility.

    "Most businesses in Kenya enter social media but continue passing the same old messages as in traditional channels. Social media is more than just a platform to send your usual advertisement ; it has its own culture which means how people converse, the tone of the conversation, tone of channel (Facebook or Twitter),." says Mr Marvin Tumbo, social media specialist and CEO of Socialight Media, a company that provides social media solutions.

    Tumbo says failure by brands to understand how social media works is what causes conflicts between consumers and business online, with the major challenge coming in crafting the messages. Most firms have not come up with a specific messages for social media sites but are channelling messages created for the traditional media and which may not be appealing to this particular audience.

    The findings further state that users in fast growth markets like Brazil, Indonesia and Kenya are far more open to brands on social networks compared to developed markets like the US where brand tolerance in social media stood at nine per cent compared to 40 per cent in Kenya.

    This means that businesses targeting users in developing countries have a wider audience base, albeit one that must be used prudently. "Social media is not a bad tool for marketing. But it is the tact and targeting that many brands are getting wrong", says Mr Francis Waithaka, a social media analyst.

    "The first thing that brands must do is to listen and understand what customers want. Brands should do pull marketing and not push marketing. A great product and a good customer service will pull customers to your business."

    Waithaka further adds that it is essential for brands to work on their products and services well before going to social media to market them. "With a bad product or terrible customer service, no matter what marketing strategies you employ, it won't work", he says.

    In addition to this, disgruntled users have been known to tweet and post bad customer experiences to their friends and followers and this can go viral and end up being a crisis or an embarrassment to a brand.

    According to the survey, 62 per cent of Kenyan social media users trust comments people make online about brands while close to 30 per cent of users share their experience with brands in social media. In addition to this, 19 per cent of users write about brands to praise the service or goods while 10 per cent write to complain.

    "Most companies in Kenya have not thought through their social media engagement. There has been no strategy to their engagement and hence the high failure rate", says Mr Tumbo. "It's about time companies started having actual strategies and not me-too activities on social media."

    His sentiments are echoed by Withaka. "No matter how good your product or service is, regardless of how brilliant the advertisements are, and regardless of the price you're charging, if your targeting is off, then your whole marketing campaign will be missing the mark. You'll waste a lot of cash, energy and time marketing to people who will never buy from you".

  • Telkom is involved in a multibillion-rand project to increase the throughput of fixed-line broadband to speeds of up to 40Mbit/s. The plans also include dramatically upping the speed of entry-level broadband services and introducing video-on-demand (VOD) products, possibly from international providers such as Hulu, Netflix and Nangu.

    In addition, the company is planning a trial using superfast fibre-optic cables from selected telephone exchanges, with the pilot project expected to kick off as early as 15 January 2012. Details about the fibre project remain sketchy, however.

    VDSL2 is theoretically capable of offering download speeds of up to 250Mbit/s over short lengths of copper (up to 500m) and up 50Mbit/s for distances of up to 1km.

    Telkom has invested millions of rand in recent years bringing fibre closer to its customers — in many areas, it has built fibre to its street-level distribution cabinets — to offer faster access speeds to consumers over its copper network.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Airtel Kenya will offer a 50% airtime bonus to customers topping up their prepay account via its own Airtel Money platform.

    - Chinese vendor ZTE has announced that it has installed an integrated value added platform solution (iVAS) in Kinshasa for Vodacom DRC. The iVAS system encompasses SMS services, and ZTE claims that the installation has increased Vodacom’s SMS management tenfold, improving service on the South African-owned telco’s network by reducing congestion.

    - The Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) has imposed a fine of US$225,000.00 on the Lonestar Communications Company for noncompliance with LTA’s Order  (LTA 0005-10-04-11)  which calls for both Lonestar and Cellcom to expand their interconnection trunks and have the expansion remain in place until otherwise ordered.

    - The SA Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has given the green light to SA Airways (SAA) to allow passengers on the airline’s flights to use their smartphones and other supported devices in “flight mode”, where the devices’ radio antennae are switched off.

    - Pan-African mobile operator MTN has announced a partnership with Singapore-based TransferTo, which allows MTN's customers with access to prepaid services to receive airtime transfers from the vast TransferTo international airtime transfer network around the world. TransferTo is a global airtime remittance hub that interconnects mobile operators' prepaid systems to deliver end to end cross-border top-up services.

More

  • Ghana’s Expresso Telecom has replaced their Managing Director just months after the buyout of Kasapa Telecom Limited. Just before Kasapa was rebranded, the Managing Director Bob Palitz resigned and was replaced by Hisham Ayoub.

    Sources within Expresso have said that Ayoub has been replaced due to poor performance. The new Managing Director is Al-Ameer Ahmed Al-Ameer Yousef, who was quietly put in while his counterpart left. It is not yet confirmed in what capacity Ayoub will be serving within the company.

    Under Ayoub subscriptions fell from 400,000 to just over 200,000, despite many changes implemented by Ayoub.

    Ayoub had introduced the Clig moden, which is one of the most competitive modems on the market in terms of prices, speed and tariff. Sources say the new Managing Director is not doing much better, but they are optimistic.

    “It looks like Mr. Yousef is going to bring some positive change, but some of the old guys at Expresso have entrenched themselves into their positions through all kinds of means so I am not too sure if he will succeed,” the source said.

  • Customer Project Manager ParaCell

    Posted date: Fri, 18th Nov

    Location: Western Africa

    ParaCell is searching for a Customer Project Manager

    Requirements:

    · We are looking for recent Ericsson Experience

    • University degree within relevant area

    · Minimum 10 years working experience in Project Management

    · Strong Leadership skills at least 5/10 years in a leadership role

    • PMP certified (Or on the way to be certified within one year)

    • Adequate operations managerial experience

    • Have excellent documentation and presentation skills

    • Have excellent communication skills

    • Have good customer and sub-contractor relation skills

    Must have ability to work independently, International experience and closely with the end-Customer are other essential skills.

    Please apply with accompanying CV indicating your availability visit here:

Issue no 581 18th November 2011

node ref id: 23520

Top story

  • While oil prices have not yet reached the peak levels witnessed in the summer of 2008, their steady growth with the OPEC basket price of an oil barrel passing the US$100 mark in February 2011, should ring an alarm bell among African mobile operators. Their dependency on diesel to fuel their base stations remains very high but very few of them have make any serious efforts to tackle these critical issues. Isabelle Gross looks at what the short and long terms options are for African mobile operators when it comes to saving on the energy bill that they are currently running.

    No later than last September, the Kenyan newspaper Business Daily reported that Bob Collymore, the CEO of Safaricom “said that the cost of running diesel-driven base stations rose by 27% since January, especially in areas with no electricity and in western Kenya where frequent power outages mean the stations must run on diesel for up to four hours a day”. He also acknowledged that the raising operating costs will need to be addressed and a way to do so will be to increase calling rates.

    Charging more customers is one approach but it has numerous pitfalls. A price increase can result in lower call volumes and therefore the overall revenue will not go up. Most African mobile subscribers don’t have deep pockets and they remain much more price sensitive than their counterparts in developed countries. Increasing prices is a sure way to drive them to look more carefully at what the competitors have on offer.

    Faced with falling voice ARPU and hypothetical additional data revenue, African mobile operators have to pay more attention on the cost side of the business that they are running. Energy expenditures should be among the top items on their list as oil prices have gone up again. When it comes to saving on the energy bills, there is not an “out of the box” solution but it can be done.

    The best approach is to first look at how to run existing base stations more efficiently. In other words, the “quick fix” which consists of tweaking various elements of the base station to realise operational savings without incurring additional capital outlay.

    The cooling system is obviously a good starting point because it represents as much as 35% of the total electricity consumption of the base station. This proportion can increase to 50% if there are fewer transmitters in use. According to a case study carried out by Axiata, a large Asian telecommunication company, the energy saving in using an inverted air conditioning versus a traditional air conditioning system is between 14% and 22%
    depending on the temperature settings (13.8% at 25°C and 21.9% at 30°C).

    In a typical setting the pay-back time is about two years. In Africa for example, mobile operators like Vodacom, Orange or MTN have started to experiment with “free cooling system” technology in conjunction (or not) with introducing higher operating temperature in the base station.

    Beside free cooling, inverted air conditioners or higher operating temperatures, smarter ways of cooling have already been developed to reduce energy consumption. One
    option is to extract the heat directly from the source rather than attempting to cool
    the whole cabin.

    Equipment manufacturer Ericsson has for example conducted trials in Indonesia that show significantly lower energy consumption can be achieved through the use of heat exchangers for the shelters and separate cooling compartments for the battery back-up. The energy used for cooling the sites can be reduced by up to 60%.

    Energy efficient base stations offer interesting savings without requiring a big capital layout but then why are there still so few in Africa when a large number of BTS are running on diesel 24/7?

    Further reduction in OPEX will require some capital investments because it implies
    purchasing more energy efficient equipment or switching to renewable energy
    power solutions. Green options range from the use of solar energy, wind
    power to hydrogen fuel cell, biomass, biofuel, etc. Solar and wind remain the most
    prominent green technologies used to power base stations in off-grid locations.

    When looking at the business case to implement renewable energy solutions to power
    base stations, three main factors need to be looked at. There is the price of oil, the BTS load and the renewable energy technology to be implemented. Let’s look at the first factor in more details.

    When oil prices are depressed, the pay-back time will be longer – a couple of years more for most renewable energy projects. When oil prices are high, the return on investment will take less time. When diesel price was at its peak in July 2008, mobile operators’ fuel costs were nearly 3 times higher than at the beginning of 2007 with the result of spiralling operating costs (OPEX) for African mobile operators. Shouldn’t the latter comparison start ringing an alarm bell in African mobile operators’ head?

    For more details on the short and long term options available to mobile operators engaging in better managing their diesel bill, please see Balancing Act’s report entitled “Energy for Cellular Base Stations in Africa: the quick fix approach and the long term perspective to saving energy” published in February 2011.


    On the Balancing Act You Tube Channel this week an AfricaCom special:

    Nadeem, Juma, CEO, Mobipay
    on m-payments and social media in Tanzania

    Scott Bain, Director of Sales, Range Networks on Open BTS and low cost BTS for Africa

    Doron Ben Sira, CEO, SkyVision on changes in the satellite market in Africa

    Arvind Rao, CEO, OnMobile on comparisons between African and Indian mobile content

    Gour Lentell, CEO, biNu on this new feature phone platform taking off in Africa

    Jonathan Osler, Managing Director – Africa, Intelsat
    on satellite market trends on the continent

    Christoph Limmer, Senior Director – Africa, SES on its strategy for the continent

    Marc Rennard EVP Orange AMEA on the pressures faced by its operations in Africa

    Want up-to-the-minute breaking news? 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

  • MAMA - Mobiles Against Malaria - is a community building effort in one of the very poor outskirts of the Malian capital Bamako, Yirimadjo. Dutch agency IICD wants to help a local association Muso Ladamunen combat the main diseases malaria and diarrhea in the neighbourhood via the integration of mobiles phones in the work of voluntary Community Health Workers, writes Francois Laureys, IICD.

    Approximately 60 women, most mothers who live in Yirimadjo, have organized themselves to pay regular visits to families in the different neighbourhoods of Yirimadjo. This allows them to take stock of the living conditions of these households, and to identify potential women and children at risk (pregnant women, young-borns etc.). They sensitize women about their rights, distribute mosquito nets to families in need, take rapid tests on malaria if they detect people who suffer from the fever, and facilitate access to the local Health Centre when necessary. In the past three years, these Health Workers have saved hundreds of lives, and the number of consultations at the Health Centre has tripled.

    Last summer, when I visited them in Bamako, they were distributing 22.000 mosquito nets to identified target families in Yirimadjo. The ‘captain’ of the Health workers, Mah Cissé, also told me that they are still struggling with the correct and timely identification of target families, and she asked me if we could help them to integrate an element of mobile phones in their work. This would allow the Health workers to send household data directly to a database and to geo-localize more exactly which areas of Yirimadjo are more at risk. Additionally, the mobile phones would also be used to send alerts and reminders about consultation visits to the Health workers in the neighbourhoods.

    We are now finalizing the project design of ‘MAMA – Mobiles Against Malaria in Mali’ , and we hope to be able to start with the mobile phones in december. If successful, this pilot could be extended to many other communities in Mali (and beyond). Both Muso Ladamunen and IICD have invested money in the project, and ‘De Parade’  (a dutch theatre festival) has raised an additional 6,083 euros, for which we are very grateful. But we still can use a little more help to get it really going.

    So have a look at the pages, where you can find a description, photos and updates of the project. You can support in different ways – just by leaving a comment or tips on the pages, by sending this link to others, by putting a link on your blog or webpage, by tweeting, or by donating a little amount via the Donate button. You can also read more about the other activities of Muso Ladamunen by clicking on this link:  or on the blog Antimoustic.

  • 8ta has empowered their subscribers by enhancing their free self-service portal with the ability to purchase airtime and data bundles online via credit card.

    According to Telkom Mobile Managing Executive, Amith Maharaj, this enhancement will facilitate online purchase of airtime and data bundles as and when subscribers need it, even when their airtime is depleted.

    This functionality will improve the user experience for Prepaid and Hybrid (Saver) subscribers. 8ta subscribers need to register online and complete the SMS verification process on 8ta’s website here:

    Logged in subscribers will not be charged to do the following:

    * Review airtime balance

    * Redeem vouchers for airtime

    * Convert airtime to data bundles

    * Review data bundles balances and expiry dates

    * Credit Card top up using 3D secure technology

    The portal is safe as 8ta has chosen 3-D secure as a key comfort factor for subscribers when disclosing their credit card details online. The 3-D secure system simply enables credit card holders to add a password over and above the usual credit card expiry and CVV three digit numbers. The platform caters for locally issued VISA and Mastercard users.

    “If your credit card is not already 3-D verified, the 8ta portal will securely verify the 3-D secure password online. The normal credit card process can then be completed, even with no airtime on the account, as the credit card application is zero rated,” says Maharaj.

    Over time the portal will be enhanced, based on subscriber feedback, market benchmarks and other developments in self-service technology.

    To date 8ta has enabled automatic redirection of all data users when their data bundle is depleted. This key network ability enables subscribers to be in control of their communication spend with 8ta.

    8ta subscribers can now further manage their airtime and data costs both on contract and prepaid products through the self-service portal.

  • Three new phones with deep Facebook integration and dedicated ‘F’ key available in Africa and Europe from Q4 2011 – offering the widest portfolio of affordable phones with deep Facebook functionality launched by an operator to date  Orange is bringing simple, affordable, social phones for under €100 to a broader range of customers in more than 15 countries*

     The new range includes the Alcatel One Touch 908F Android smartphone, one of the most affordable Android smartphones available, exclusive to Orange

    Orange will exclusively launch three new affordable phones with deep Facebook integration across Africa and Europe from Q4 2011, creating a swift, simple, cost effective social experience for more of Orange’s customers than ever before. 

    With access to the widest range of phones with Facebook built-in under €100, including the new Alcatel One Touch 908F Android smartphone, Orange customers can choose the phone best suited to their needs. Facebook’s social capabilities run through every feature of these phones, from the camera to contacts with the dedicated ‘F’ key allowing instant uploading and interaction. Orange customers can also purchase these handsets with affordable bundles and tariffs that include unlimited Facebook access without extra data charges. 

     “The rise of the smartphone and the explosion of social networks have completely changed how people keep in touch and share content. Until now many consumers across Africa and Europe have not had access to a phone that offers deep Facebook integration at an affordable price,” said Yves Maitre, Senior Vice President of Mobile Multimedia and Devices, Orange. “We feel strongly that it is Orange’s role to enable customers to enjoy a digitally rich, connected life and this and future work with Facebook and Alcatel One Touch will allow us to open up mobile social media access to even more of our customers.”

    “Orange and Facebook have a common goal of providing mobile social access to people throughout Europe and Africa,” said Henri Moissinac, Head of Mobile Business at Facebook. “These phones and our ongoing collaboration with Orange will offer an opportunity for people to easily connect and share with their friends on Facebook anytime, anywhere and, for some, experience the mobile web for the first time.”

  • Telecom Egypt (TE) has announced its plans to expand broadband and mobile-phone services after third-quarter profit dropped due to a decrease in subscribers.

    TE runs the nation’s fixed-line telephone monopoly. The company plans to begin operating a new undersea cable by the end of the year to increase capacity for data services, and is also in the process of negotiating a virtual mobile network operator license which they hope to acquire during the first quarter of 2012.

    TE is also currently negotiating with Egypt’s telecommunications regulator t acquire a license that would allow it to use the networks of other mobile-phone companies to provide services, according to TE’s Chief Financial Officer Hassan Helmy.

    The company also owns almost half of Vodafone Egypt Telecommunications Co., which is the biggest mobile-network operator in terms of users in Egypt.“In the medium and long-term, the dynamics of the local market are very attractive,” Helmy said. “We’re counting on the young population of this country.”

    The company reported a 21 percent drop in net income from last year, read a statement on TE’s website. Fixed line subscription also dropped to 8.6 million users, from 9.4 million last year.

    “The wider economic malaise is placing pressure on household incomes in Egypt,” Chairman Akil Beshir said in the statement today. “As predicated last quarter, there has been an impact on Telecom Egypt’s overall total number of active subscribers.”

internet

  • The Internet Service Providers’ Association of SA (ISPA) has created infrastructure in the form of its Cape Town and Johannesburg Internet Exchanges (CINX and JINX) to help local consumers enjoy better performance from the Internet at a more affordable cost.

    ISPA has run JINX since 1996 and the Cape Town Internet Exchange (CINX) since 2009. The organisation is currently selecting the company that will host the Durban Internet Exchange, DINX. This infrastructure has an enormous positive impact on the consumer’s Internet experience, although most South African Internet users are unaware of its existence.

    Said Marc Furman, co-chair at ISPA: “The ISPA INXs have provided massive benefit to service providers, network operators and consumers over the years. They keep Internet traffic within the country, which results in faster response times between ISPs and reduces the congestion on international links.

    “By connecting to these exchanges, network operators are also able to keep their costs down, which in turn enables them to provide their services to end-users at a lower cost. The growth we have experienced over the years across these exchange points has been staggering.”

    One principle that ISPA has embraced since 2009 is that the exchanges should be open for non-members as well as members to streamline the exchange of traffic to the benefit of the entire industry. As such, even incumbent network operators are allowed to peer using the INX infrastructure.

    The exchanges also give members a great deal of freedom in choosing who they peer with and how they do so. Although ISPA operates high speed switches at each exchange, INX users are not obliged to connect using the public switch fabric. They may run private links between their equipment at the exchange instead of using the ISPA switch.

    “We take a hands-off approach to how ISPs and operators exchange traffic at each exchange. Most participants peer freely with everyone else connected to that INX but they are not obliged to do so. Some of the participants choose to only exchange traffic with a limited number of other parties,” said Furman.

    Furman noted that the INX infrastructures in Johannesburg and Cape Town have enjoyed runaway growth in the past few years.  More than 30 ISPs now connect to JINX and exchange more than 2.5 Gbps of traffic at JINX during peak times. CINX today handles more than 500 Mbps of traffic from 16 peering ISPs during peak times. With a sharp rise in mobile data usage and rapid growth in voice-over-IP traffic, traffic volumes at the exchanges will continue to grow sharply in the months to come.

  • Labaran Maku, the Nigerian Minister of Information, has expressed concern over the increase in the number of social media in the country. Maku made the observation on Tuesday in Benin City during the meeting of members of the Nigeria Union of Journalist (NUJ) Constitutional Review Committee.

    Represented by Kingsley Osadolor, a legal practitioner, Maku said the rise of social media in the country was a phenomenon that needed to be addressed as part of the constitutional amendment or in the nearest future.

    He said the revolution that was taking place in Egypt, Syria, Libya and other Arab states was as a result of the reports dished out by the social media. Maku warned that the increase in the number social media might result in some traditional journalists losing their jobs.
    ``What business should the social media have with the NUJ? That is an important phenomenon that needs to be considered,'' he said.

    The minister noted that the constitutional review was coming at time when the Freedom of Information Act was operational. He said the FOI Act was not a substitute for ``crucial investigative journalism'', adding that its aim was to aid the journalist to get access to information.

    Maku noted that there were procedures and rules guiding the use of the FOI Act, and urged media practitioners to be acquainted with them in order not to get negative responses. ``It is useful and pertinent to know the sources of information that are available to the journalists so that they can tap into those areas,'' he said.

    `` The FOI Act is not a substitute for investigative journalism; it must not reduce us into lazy journalists because there are several journalists waiting for information to do their stories,'' he said.

    In his address, Emeka Wogu, the Minister of Labour and Productivity, expressed appreciation to the Nigerian Press for its role in promoting peace and highlighting government policies.

    Wogu, who was represented by Tommy Okon, his Special Assistant on Media, said the constitution of any organisation, group and association, ``is an indication of how healthy the body is in terms of its operations''.

    He said that as the watchdog of the society, it was expected that the NUJ constitutional amendment would address the salient issues affecting journalists and the profession.

    ``I want to use this medium to thank the media for their positive role in promoting industrial peace and harmony in the country,'' Wogu said.

computing

  • A selected aggregation of Individual Information Technology Spend Plans for Ministry, Department and Agencies (MDAs) have revealed that N4.5billion will be spent on data centres in the coming year even though the Federal Government has an IT agency that is positioned to deploy and deliver these services at a lower costs and higher standards, the Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson has said.

    Mrs. Johnson, who spoke in Abuja at the 5TH public sector ICT infrastructure forum & the public presentation of ISO/IEC 27001:2005 certification by Galaxy Backbone plc, said there are still too many instances of individual MDAs deploying ICT infrastructure that is better deployed through a more effective pooling of financial and human resources.

    She said in the light of technological developments like cloud computing and the constraints the financial and economic crisis has placed on governments, countries all over the world are promoting the concept of shared IT services because of the immense cost savings, efficiency and capabilities it has been proven to deliver. She said Nigerian MDAs have refused to key in into this.

    The minister, who said one of the mandates of the Ministry of Communication Technology is to drive transparency in governance and improve the quality of public service delivery, lamented that needless IT spending being embarked upon by most government agencies and parastatals.

    She said: "There are still too many instances of individual MDAs deploying ICT infrastructure that is better deployed through a more effective pooling of financial and human resources. A selected aggregation of individual IT Spend plans for MDAs have revealed that N4.5bn will be spent on data centres in the coming year despite the fact that we have within Government an IT organization that is positioned to deploy and deliver these services at a lower costs and to higher standards evidenced in the achievement that Galaxy Backbone is celebrating today."

  • Listed SA IT company Gijima has formed a partnership with US company MobileIron as it ups its focus on the consumerisation of IT in business. Founded in 2007 and based in California, MobileIron provides mobile device management and security to large corporations.

    Gijima says the partnership will give it the capability to provide enterprise mobile device management and security solutions to its clients. It comes just a week after the company signed a systems integrator agreement with Apple, whose products such as the iPhone and iPad are being increasingly used in corporate environments.

    MobileIron designs solutions that allow companies to integrate smartphones and tablets with company networks. It offers solutions for devices running Apple’s iOS, Research in Motion’s BlackBerry OS, Microsoft’s Windows Phone and Windows Mobile, Symbian and Google’s Android mobile operating systems.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Algeria is in talks with Vimpelcom aimed at resolving a tug of war over the Russian telecoms group's mobile phone unit Djezzy and efforts to find a resolution could now speed up, according to Algeria's finance minister, Karim Djoudi.

    Vimpelcom hoped to acquire Djezzy as part of a planned $6 billion acquisition of Wind Telecom, parent of Djezzy's owner Orascom Telecom. But Djezzy's status was left unclear after Algeria said it wanted to take the business over itself.

    Djoudi's comments were the strongest hint yet that a resolution could be close after more than a year of deadlock over Djezzy, which had been the most lucrative part of Orascom Telecom's business.

    Asked about Djezzy, Djoudi said: "Things are taking place normally. I have had a meeting with a Vimpelcom representative at his request. Unfortunately, I cannot give you details because we are in talks."

    He said a valuation of Djezzy, a crucial step in determining the unit's future, was proceeding. "It is possible that things will go fast," Djoudi said. "There is a willingness on the other side to make things go fast."

    It remains unclear what shape a deal on Djezzy could take. There has been some speculation that the Algerian government could acquire a 51 percent stake and allow Vimpelcom to hold the remaining equity and be the operator.

    Before the Vimpelcom deal, Orascom Telecom was forced to agree to talks on Djezzy's nationalisation after it was hit with millions of dollars in back-tax demands from Algeria and prevented from moving the unit's cash abroad.

    Talks about the nationalisation had been stalled because of a dispute between the Algerian government and Djezzy's owners about how the unit is to be valued, and how much access the owners would provide to Djezzy's balance sheet.

    Djoudi suggested that issue had now been resolved. "We have opened the data room which gives us access to all ... (Djezzy's) details," he said.

  • The new Tunisian government has set up a national holding company to handle its stakes in the country's two mobile networks, Tunisiana and Orange.

    The CDC (Caisse des Dépôts et Consignation) will be headed by Tunisia's Minister of Finance, Jalloul Ayed. An independent subcommittee has also been assigned to monitor corruption, approve the general policies of the funds and evaluate the investments.

    The CDC manages 25% of Tunisiana, 51% of Orange and the Zitouna bank, which were seized from the former ruling family and are now subsidiaries of the national holding.

  • Zenith Bank (Ghana) Limited in collaboration with Google Ghana has introduced a new product unto the Ghanaian market dubbed Z.com in an effort to give its customers the opportunity to position their businesses to enable them access the global market. Z.com is a business solution opportunity tailored to suit the needs of the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Ghana.

    In a statement copied to GNA on Friday, the product would afford SMEs the opportunity to globally advertise their businesses thereby increasing top of mind awareness and ultimately their turnover.

    Z.com, which is another product innovation from Zenith Bank Ghana, rides along the Bank’s quest to make available flexible business strategies to SMEs in Ghana.

    According to Daniel Asiedu Chief Executive Officer of Zenith Bank Ghana, the bank would continue to introduce innovative products and services onto the Ghanaian banking industry.

    “This is in line with its vision of being the reference point in the provision of prompt, flawless and innovation products in the Ghanaian industry”, the statement read.

    The product would be formally launched at a business fair where key stakeholders, policy makers as well as entrepreneurs in the SMEs sector would be brought together to experience at first hand the benefits of e-commerce.

    The official launch of Z.com would take place on Thursday November 24, 2011 at the Accra International Conference Center.

    In a related development, Mr. Henry Oroh, a senior management staff from the parent company Zenith Bank Plc has been appointed to complement the bank’s marketing efforts in Ghana.

  • The fact that the new card will be linked to the user's phone will significantly enhance the security features, says Fundamo CEO Hannes van Rensburg.
    Global credit card company Visa and Africa's largest cellular operator, MTN, have partnered to introduce a new Visa prepaid account mobile service as an extension of MTN Mobile Money in developing countries.

    The product is a result of Visa's recent acquisition of local mobile money platform Fundamo, which has now been integrated with Visa's global payment network, VisaNet.

    Together with MTN Mobile Money, the new service will allow consumers to get a special Visa card which will be linked to their Mobile Money account, and which essentially has the same payment functionality as a bank card.

    Visa says the service will allow users to extend their mobile money payment functionality by allowing them to send money to each other, send and receive international remittances, withdraw funds from a Visa ATM and make purchases at merchants or online.

  • This week, an estimated 180 000 EasyPay customers will receive an e-mail that offers money-back rewards on all their transactions as part of the company’s strategy to restore its credibility and regain customers’ confidence after its site was hit by credit-card fraud two months ago.

    EasyPay will also carry the full liability of any fraudulent transactions, said Serge Belamant, the CEO of Net1, the holding company of EasyPay. He said he has confidence in the site’s newly built security features.

    EasyPay has one of SA’s largest third-party payment systems. It allows consumers to use their credit cards to pay their bills, including Telkom, the municipality and traffic fines, either through its website or at pay points in shops such as Pick n Pay.

    It also allows consumers to buy airtime and prepaid electricity online and it was these purchases that were targeted in September by a crime syndicate. The criminals obtained a list of credit card numbers, which it used to buy airtime, electricity and prepaid gift cards.

    The reaction from Absa, which found that one in three transactions were fraudulent, was to prevent its cardholders from transacting on the site temporarily until EasyPay removed the high-risk products. Some banks continue to limit the number of EasyPay transactions they allow.

    Walter Volker, CEO of the Payment Association of SA, said EasyPay had nothing to do with the release of the credit card details. An investigation is underway to determine how the syndicate obtained the credit card details, which resulted in losses of millions of rands. It must still be determined which banks will carry the liability.

    Belamant said the company had been unfairly targeted by the banks because it was not responsible for the breach. He said the high volume of traffic on the site — it does 4m to 5m transactions a month — made it attractive to fraudsters.

    EasyPay processes payments worth R120m/month, according to Belamant, and the new site is growing at a rate of 10%/month.

Digital Content

  • Many local firms have failed to get their strategies right in creating brand visibility and loyalty through social media, the latest industry survey has shown.

    However, many companies have invested heavily on Internet platforms with an aim of tapping the growing online audience.

    According to the TNS Digital Life Survey, 60 per cent of Kenyans on social media are resistant to brands and brand messages in their profiles, meaning that companies may not be getting returns on the investments they have made to reach the online community through the networks.

    "The race online has seen businesses across the world develop profiles on social networks such as Facebook and YouTube to speak to customers quickly and cheaply --but this study reveals that if these efforts are not carefully targeted, they are a wasted resource," says the report.

    The survey indicates that many firms have embraced the social media platform but without a clear strategy on who their target audiences are, leading to negative results.

    "Digital waste is the accumulation of thousands of brands rushing online without thinking who they want to talk to and why," said Matthew Froggatt, Chief Development Officer at TNS.

    "Many brands have recognised the vast potential of audiences available to them on social networks but they do not understand that these spaces belong to the consumer and their presence needs to be proportionate and justified."

    Mr Froggatt says although the online world presents massive opportunities for brands, only precisely tailored marketing strategies can realise this potential.

    The findings come at a time when the Kenyan social media space is full of content from local firms reaching out to users .But not all is lost as 54 per cent of online users interviewed in the survey admitted that social networks are a good place to learn about products.

    This implies that the use of social media to gain brand visibility and market penetration is not a misguided one. It only needs more direct strategies.

    These findings back concern expressed previously by social media analysts over the unplanned and disjointed online campaigns adopted by most firms in an effort to build their brand visibility.

    "Most businesses in Kenya enter social media but continue passing the same old messages as in traditional channels. Social media is more than just a platform to send your usual advertisement ; it has its own culture which means how people converse, the tone of the conversation, tone of channel (Facebook or Twitter),." says Mr Marvin Tumbo, social media specialist and CEO of Socialight Media, a company that provides social media solutions.

    Tumbo says failure by brands to understand how social media works is what causes conflicts between consumers and business online, with the major challenge coming in crafting the messages. Most firms have not come up with a specific messages for social media sites but are channelling messages created for the traditional media and which may not be appealing to this particular audience.

    The findings further state that users in fast growth markets like Brazil, Indonesia and Kenya are far more open to brands on social networks compared to developed markets like the US where brand tolerance in social media stood at nine per cent compared to 40 per cent in Kenya.

    This means that businesses targeting users in developing countries have a wider audience base, albeit one that must be used prudently. "Social media is not a bad tool for marketing. But it is the tact and targeting that many brands are getting wrong", says Mr Francis Waithaka, a social media analyst.

    "The first thing that brands must do is to listen and understand what customers want. Brands should do pull marketing and not push marketing. A great product and a good customer service will pull customers to your business."

    Waithaka further adds that it is essential for brands to work on their products and services well before going to social media to market them. "With a bad product or terrible customer service, no matter what marketing strategies you employ, it won't work", he says.

    In addition to this, disgruntled users have been known to tweet and post bad customer experiences to their friends and followers and this can go viral and end up being a crisis or an embarrassment to a brand.

    According to the survey, 62 per cent of Kenyan social media users trust comments people make online about brands while close to 30 per cent of users share their experience with brands in social media. In addition to this, 19 per cent of users write about brands to praise the service or goods while 10 per cent write to complain.

    "Most companies in Kenya have not thought through their social media engagement. There has been no strategy to their engagement and hence the high failure rate", says Mr Tumbo. "It's about time companies started having actual strategies and not me-too activities on social media."

    His sentiments are echoed by Withaka. "No matter how good your product or service is, regardless of how brilliant the advertisements are, and regardless of the price you're charging, if your targeting is off, then your whole marketing campaign will be missing the mark. You'll waste a lot of cash, energy and time marketing to people who will never buy from you".

  • Telkom is involved in a multibillion-rand project to increase the throughput of fixed-line broadband to speeds of up to 40Mbit/s. The plans also include dramatically upping the speed of entry-level broadband services and introducing video-on-demand (VOD) products, possibly from international providers such as Hulu, Netflix and Nangu.

    In addition, the company is planning a trial using superfast fibre-optic cables from selected telephone exchanges, with the pilot project expected to kick off as early as 15 January 2012. Details about the fibre project remain sketchy, however.

    VDSL2 is theoretically capable of offering download speeds of up to 250Mbit/s over short lengths of copper (up to 500m) and up 50Mbit/s for distances of up to 1km.

    Telkom has invested millions of rand in recent years bringing fibre closer to its customers — in many areas, it has built fibre to its street-level distribution cabinets — to offer faster access speeds to consumers over its copper network.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Airtel Kenya will offer a 50% airtime bonus to customers topping up their prepay account via its own Airtel Money platform.

    - Chinese vendor ZTE has announced that it has installed an integrated value added platform solution (iVAS) in Kinshasa for Vodacom DRC. The iVAS system encompasses SMS services, and ZTE claims that the installation has increased Vodacom’s SMS management tenfold, improving service on the South African-owned telco’s network by reducing congestion.

    - The Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) has imposed a fine of US$225,000.00 on the Lonestar Communications Company for noncompliance with LTA’s Order  (LTA 0005-10-04-11)  which calls for both Lonestar and Cellcom to expand their interconnection trunks and have the expansion remain in place until otherwise ordered.

    - The SA Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has given the green light to SA Airways (SAA) to allow passengers on the airline’s flights to use their smartphones and other supported devices in “flight mode”, where the devices’ radio antennae are switched off.

    - Pan-African mobile operator MTN has announced a partnership with Singapore-based TransferTo, which allows MTN's customers with access to prepaid services to receive airtime transfers from the vast TransferTo international airtime transfer network around the world. TransferTo is a global airtime remittance hub that interconnects mobile operators' prepaid systems to deliver end to end cross-border top-up services.

More

  • Ghana’s Expresso Telecom has replaced their Managing Director just months after the buyout of Kasapa Telecom Limited. Just before Kasapa was rebranded, the Managing Director Bob Palitz resigned and was replaced by Hisham Ayoub.

    Sources within Expresso have said that Ayoub has been replaced due to poor performance. The new Managing Director is Al-Ameer Ahmed Al-Ameer Yousef, who was quietly put in while his counterpart left. It is not yet confirmed in what capacity Ayoub will be serving within the company.

    Under Ayoub subscriptions fell from 400,000 to just over 200,000, despite many changes implemented by Ayoub.

    Ayoub had introduced the Clig moden, which is one of the most competitive modems on the market in terms of prices, speed and tariff. Sources say the new Managing Director is not doing much better, but they are optimistic.

    “It looks like Mr. Yousef is going to bring some positive change, but some of the old guys at Expresso have entrenched themselves into their positions through all kinds of means so I am not too sure if he will succeed,” the source said.

  • Customer Project Manager ParaCell

    Posted date: Fri, 18th Nov

    Location: Western Africa

    ParaCell is searching for a Customer Project Manager

    Requirements:

    · We are looking for recent Ericsson Experience

    • University degree within relevant area

    · Minimum 10 years working experience in Project Management

    · Strong Leadership skills at least 5/10 years in a leadership role

    • PMP certified (Or on the way to be certified within one year)

    • Adequate operations managerial experience

    • Have excellent documentation and presentation skills

    • Have excellent communication skills

    • Have good customer and sub-contractor relation skills

    Must have ability to work independently, International experience and closely with the end-Customer are other essential skills.

    Please apply with accompanying CV indicating your availability visit here:

Issue no 581 18th November 2011

node ref id: 23520

Top story

  • While oil prices have not yet reached the peak levels witnessed in the summer of 2008, their steady growth with the OPEC basket price of an oil barrel passing the US$100 mark in February 2011, should ring an alarm bell among African mobile operators. Their dependency on diesel to fuel their base stations remains very high but very few of them have make any serious efforts to tackle these critical issues. Isabelle Gross looks at what the short and long terms options are for African mobile operators when it comes to saving on the energy bill that they are currently running.

    No later than last September, the Kenyan newspaper Business Daily reported that Bob Collymore, the CEO of Safaricom “said that the cost of running diesel-driven base stations rose by 27% since January, especially in areas with no electricity and in western Kenya where frequent power outages mean the stations must run on diesel for up to four hours a day”. He also acknowledged that the raising operating costs will need to be addressed and a way to do so will be to increase calling rates.

    Charging more customers is one approach but it has numerous pitfalls. A price increase can result in lower call volumes and therefore the overall revenue will not go up. Most African mobile subscribers don’t have deep pockets and they remain much more price sensitive than their counterparts in developed countries. Increasing prices is a sure way to drive them to look more carefully at what the competitors have on offer.

    Faced with falling voice ARPU and hypothetical additional data revenue, African mobile operators have to pay more attention on the cost side of the business that they are running. Energy expenditures should be among the top items on their list as oil prices have gone up again. When it comes to saving on the energy bills, there is not an “out of the box” solution but it can be done.

    The best approach is to first look at how to run existing base stations more efficiently. In other words, the “quick fix” which consists of tweaking various elements of the base station to realise operational savings without incurring additional capital outlay.

    The cooling system is obviously a good starting point because it represents as much as 35% of the total electricity consumption of the base station. This proportion can increase to 50% if there are fewer transmitters in use. According to a case study carried out by Axiata, a large Asian telecommunication company, the energy saving in using an inverted air conditioning versus a traditional air conditioning system is between 14% and 22%
    depending on the temperature settings (13.8% at 25°C and 21.9% at 30°C).

    In a typical setting the pay-back time is about two years. In Africa for example, mobile operators like Vodacom, Orange or MTN have started to experiment with “free cooling system” technology in conjunction (or not) with introducing higher operating temperature in the base station.

    Beside free cooling, inverted air conditioners or higher operating temperatures, smarter ways of cooling have already been developed to reduce energy consumption. One
    option is to extract the heat directly from the source rather than attempting to cool
    the whole cabin.

    Equipment manufacturer Ericsson has for example conducted trials in Indonesia that show significantly lower energy consumption can be achieved through the use of heat exchangers for the shelters and separate cooling compartments for the battery back-up. The energy used for cooling the sites can be reduced by up to 60%.

    Energy efficient base stations offer interesting savings without requiring a big capital layout but then why are there still so few in Africa when a large number of BTS are running on diesel 24/7?

    Further reduction in OPEX will require some capital investments because it implies
    purchasing more energy efficient equipment or switching to renewable energy
    power solutions. Green options range from the use of solar energy, wind
    power to hydrogen fuel cell, biomass, biofuel, etc. Solar and wind remain the most
    prominent green technologies used to power base stations in off-grid locations.

    When looking at the business case to implement renewable energy solutions to power
    base stations, three main factors need to be looked at. There is the price of oil, the BTS load and the renewable energy technology to be implemented. Let’s look at the first factor in more details.

    When oil prices are depressed, the pay-back time will be longer – a couple of years more for most renewable energy projects. When oil prices are high, the return on investment will take less time. When diesel price was at its peak in July 2008, mobile operators’ fuel costs were nearly 3 times higher than at the beginning of 2007 with the result of spiralling operating costs (OPEX) for African mobile operators. Shouldn’t the latter comparison start ringing an alarm bell in African mobile operators’ head?

    For more details on the short and long term options available to mobile operators engaging in better managing their diesel bill, please see Balancing Act’s report entitled “Energy for Cellular Base Stations in Africa: the quick fix approach and the long term perspective to saving energy” published in February 2011.


    On the Balancing Act You Tube Channel this week an AfricaCom special:

    Nadeem, Juma, CEO, Mobipay
    on m-payments and social media in Tanzania

    Scott Bain, Director of Sales, Range Networks on Open BTS and low cost BTS for Africa

    Doron Ben Sira, CEO, SkyVision on changes in the satellite market in Africa

    Arvind Rao, CEO, OnMobile on comparisons between African and Indian mobile content

    Gour Lentell, CEO, biNu on this new feature phone platform taking off in Africa

    Jonathan Osler, Managing Director – Africa, Intelsat
    on satellite market trends on the continent

    Christoph Limmer, Senior Director – Africa, SES on its strategy for the continent

    Marc Rennard EVP Orange AMEA on the pressures faced by its operations in Africa

    Want up-to-the-minute breaking news? 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

  • MAMA - Mobiles Against Malaria - is a community building effort in one of the very poor outskirts of the Malian capital Bamako, Yirimadjo. Dutch agency IICD wants to help a local association Muso Ladamunen combat the main diseases malaria and diarrhea in the neighbourhood via the integration of mobiles phones in the work of voluntary Community Health Workers, writes Francois Laureys, IICD.

    Approximately 60 women, most mothers who live in Yirimadjo, have organized themselves to pay regular visits to families in the different neighbourhoods of Yirimadjo. This allows them to take stock of the living conditions of these households, and to identify potential women and children at risk (pregnant women, young-borns etc.). They sensitize women about their rights, distribute mosquito nets to families in need, take rapid tests on malaria if they detect people who suffer from the fever, and facilitate access to the local Health Centre when necessary. In the past three years, these Health Workers have saved hundreds of lives, and the number of consultations at the Health Centre has tripled.

    Last summer, when I visited them in Bamako, they were distributing 22.000 mosquito nets to identified target families in Yirimadjo. The ‘captain’ of the Health workers, Mah Cissé, also told me that they are still struggling with the correct and timely identification of target families, and she asked me if we could help them to integrate an element of mobile phones in their work. This would allow the Health workers to send household data directly to a database and to geo-localize more exactly which areas of Yirimadjo are more at risk. Additionally, the mobile phones would also be used to send alerts and reminders about consultation visits to the Health workers in the neighbourhoods.

    We are now finalizing the project design of ‘MAMA – Mobiles Against Malaria in Mali’ , and we hope to be able to start with the mobile phones in december. If successful, this pilot could be extended to many other communities in Mali (and beyond). Both Muso Ladamunen and IICD have invested money in the project, and ‘De Parade’  (a dutch theatre festival) has raised an additional 6,083 euros, for which we are very grateful. But we still can use a little more help to get it really going.

    So have a look at the pages, where you can find a description, photos and updates of the project. You can support in different ways – just by leaving a comment or tips on the pages, by sending this link to others, by putting a link on your blog or webpage, by tweeting, or by donating a little amount via the Donate button. You can also read more about the other activities of Muso Ladamunen by clicking on this link:  or on the blog Antimoustic.

  • 8ta has empowered their subscribers by enhancing their free self-service portal with the ability to purchase airtime and data bundles online via credit card.

    According to Telkom Mobile Managing Executive, Amith Maharaj, this enhancement will facilitate online purchase of airtime and data bundles as and when subscribers need it, even when their airtime is depleted.

    This functionality will improve the user experience for Prepaid and Hybrid (Saver) subscribers. 8ta subscribers need to register online and complete the SMS verification process on 8ta’s website here:

    Logged in subscribers will not be charged to do the following:

    * Review airtime balance

    * Redeem vouchers for airtime

    * Convert airtime to data bundles

    * Review data bundles balances and expiry dates

    * Credit Card top up using 3D secure technology

    The portal is safe as 8ta has chosen 3-D secure as a key comfort factor for subscribers when disclosing their credit card details online. The 3-D secure system simply enables credit card holders to add a password over and above the usual credit card expiry and CVV three digit numbers. The platform caters for locally issued VISA and Mastercard users.

    “If your credit card is not already 3-D verified, the 8ta portal will securely verify the 3-D secure password online. The normal credit card process can then be completed, even with no airtime on the account, as the credit card application is zero rated,” says Maharaj.

    Over time the portal will be enhanced, based on subscriber feedback, market benchmarks and other developments in self-service technology.

    To date 8ta has enabled automatic redirection of all data users when their data bundle is depleted. This key network ability enables subscribers to be in control of their communication spend with 8ta.

    8ta subscribers can now further manage their airtime and data costs both on contract and prepaid products through the self-service portal.

  • Three new phones with deep Facebook integration and dedicated ‘F’ key available in Africa and Europe from Q4 2011 – offering the widest portfolio of affordable phones with deep Facebook functionality launched by an operator to date  Orange is bringing simple, affordable, social phones for under €100 to a broader range of customers in more than 15 countries*

     The new range includes the Alcatel One Touch 908F Android smartphone, one of the most affordable Android smartphones available, exclusive to Orange

    Orange will exclusively launch three new affordable phones with deep Facebook integration across Africa and Europe from Q4 2011, creating a swift, simple, cost effective social experience for more of Orange’s customers than ever before. 

    With access to the widest range of phones with Facebook built-in under €100, including the new Alcatel One Touch 908F Android smartphone, Orange customers can choose the phone best suited to their needs. Facebook’s social capabilities run through every feature of these phones, from the camera to contacts with the dedicated ‘F’ key allowing instant uploading and interaction. Orange customers can also purchase these handsets with affordable bundles and tariffs that include unlimited Facebook access without extra data charges. 

     “The rise of the smartphone and the explosion of social networks have completely changed how people keep in touch and share content. Until now many consumers across Africa and Europe have not had access to a phone that offers deep Facebook integration at an affordable price,” said Yves Maitre, Senior Vice President of Mobile Multimedia and Devices, Orange. “We feel strongly that it is Orange’s role to enable customers to enjoy a digitally rich, connected life and this and future work with Facebook and Alcatel One Touch will allow us to open up mobile social media access to even more of our customers.”

    “Orange and Facebook have a common goal of providing mobile social access to people throughout Europe and Africa,” said Henri Moissinac, Head of Mobile Business at Facebook. “These phones and our ongoing collaboration with Orange will offer an opportunity for people to easily connect and share with their friends on Facebook anytime, anywhere and, for some, experience the mobile web for the first time.”

  • Telecom Egypt (TE) has announced its plans to expand broadband and mobile-phone services after third-quarter profit dropped due to a decrease in subscribers.

    TE runs the nation’s fixed-line telephone monopoly. The company plans to begin operating a new undersea cable by the end of the year to increase capacity for data services, and is also in the process of negotiating a virtual mobile network operator license which they hope to acquire during the first quarter of 2012.

    TE is also currently negotiating with Egypt’s telecommunications regulator t acquire a license that would allow it to use the networks of other mobile-phone companies to provide services, according to TE’s Chief Financial Officer Hassan Helmy.

    The company also owns almost half of Vodafone Egypt Telecommunications Co., which is the biggest mobile-network operator in terms of users in Egypt.“In the medium and long-term, the dynamics of the local market are very attractive,” Helmy said. “We’re counting on the young population of this country.”

    The company reported a 21 percent drop in net income from last year, read a statement on TE’s website. Fixed line subscription also dropped to 8.6 million users, from 9.4 million last year.

    “The wider economic malaise is placing pressure on household incomes in Egypt,” Chairman Akil Beshir said in the statement today. “As predicated last quarter, there has been an impact on Telecom Egypt’s overall total number of active subscribers.”

internet

  • The Internet Service Providers’ Association of SA (ISPA) has created infrastructure in the form of its Cape Town and Johannesburg Internet Exchanges (CINX and JINX) to help local consumers enjoy better performance from the Internet at a more affordable cost.

    ISPA has run JINX since 1996 and the Cape Town Internet Exchange (CINX) since 2009. The organisation is currently selecting the company that will host the Durban Internet Exchange, DINX. This infrastructure has an enormous positive impact on the consumer’s Internet experience, although most South African Internet users are unaware of its existence.

    Said Marc Furman, co-chair at ISPA: “The ISPA INXs have provided massive benefit to service providers, network operators and consumers over the years. They keep Internet traffic within the country, which results in faster response times between ISPs and reduces the congestion on international links.

    “By connecting to these exchanges, network operators are also able to keep their costs down, which in turn enables them to provide their services to end-users at a lower cost. The growth we have experienced over the years across these exchange points has been staggering.”

    One principle that ISPA has embraced since 2009 is that the exchanges should be open for non-members as well as members to streamline the exchange of traffic to the benefit of the entire industry. As such, even incumbent network operators are allowed to peer using the INX infrastructure.

    The exchanges also give members a great deal of freedom in choosing who they peer with and how they do so. Although ISPA operates high speed switches at each exchange, INX users are not obliged to connect using the public switch fabric. They may run private links between their equipment at the exchange instead of using the ISPA switch.

    “We take a hands-off approach to how ISPs and operators exchange traffic at each exchange. Most participants peer freely with everyone else connected to that INX but they are not obliged to do so. Some of the participants choose to only exchange traffic with a limited number of other parties,” said Furman.

    Furman noted that the INX infrastructures in Johannesburg and Cape Town have enjoyed runaway growth in the past few years.  More than 30 ISPs now connect to JINX and exchange more than 2.5 Gbps of traffic at JINX during peak times. CINX today handles more than 500 Mbps of traffic from 16 peering ISPs during peak times. With a sharp rise in mobile data usage and rapid growth in voice-over-IP traffic, traffic volumes at the exchanges will continue to grow sharply in the months to come.

  • Labaran Maku, the Nigerian Minister of Information, has expressed concern over the increase in the number of social media in the country. Maku made the observation on Tuesday in Benin City during the meeting of members of the Nigeria Union of Journalist (NUJ) Constitutional Review Committee.

    Represented by Kingsley Osadolor, a legal practitioner, Maku said the rise of social media in the country was a phenomenon that needed to be addressed as part of the constitutional amendment or in the nearest future.

    He said the revolution that was taking place in Egypt, Syria, Libya and other Arab states was as a result of the reports dished out by the social media. Maku warned that the increase in the number social media might result in some traditional journalists losing their jobs.
    ``What business should the social media have with the NUJ? That is an important phenomenon that needs to be considered,'' he said.

    The minister noted that the constitutional review was coming at time when the Freedom of Information Act was operational. He said the FOI Act was not a substitute for ``crucial investigative journalism'', adding that its aim was to aid the journalist to get access to information.

    Maku noted that there were procedures and rules guiding the use of the FOI Act, and urged media practitioners to be acquainted with them in order not to get negative responses. ``It is useful and pertinent to know the sources of information that are available to the journalists so that they can tap into those areas,'' he said.

    `` The FOI Act is not a substitute for investigative journalism; it must not reduce us into lazy journalists because there are several journalists waiting for information to do their stories,'' he said.

    In his address, Emeka Wogu, the Minister of Labour and Productivity, expressed appreciation to the Nigerian Press for its role in promoting peace and highlighting government policies.

    Wogu, who was represented by Tommy Okon, his Special Assistant on Media, said the constitution of any organisation, group and association, ``is an indication of how healthy the body is in terms of its operations''.

    He said that as the watchdog of the society, it was expected that the NUJ constitutional amendment would address the salient issues affecting journalists and the profession.

    ``I want to use this medium to thank the media for their positive role in promoting industrial peace and harmony in the country,'' Wogu said.

computing

  • A selected aggregation of Individual Information Technology Spend Plans for Ministry, Department and Agencies (MDAs) have revealed that N4.5billion will be spent on data centres in the coming year even though the Federal Government has an IT agency that is positioned to deploy and deliver these services at a lower costs and higher standards, the Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson has said.

    Mrs. Johnson, who spoke in Abuja at the 5TH public sector ICT infrastructure forum & the public presentation of ISO/IEC 27001:2005 certification by Galaxy Backbone plc, said there are still too many instances of individual MDAs deploying ICT infrastructure that is better deployed through a more effective pooling of financial and human resources.

    She said in the light of technological developments like cloud computing and the constraints the financial and economic crisis has placed on governments, countries all over the world are promoting the concept of shared IT services because of the immense cost savings, efficiency and capabilities it has been proven to deliver. She said Nigerian MDAs have refused to key in into this.

    The minister, who said one of the mandates of the Ministry of Communication Technology is to drive transparency in governance and improve the quality of public service delivery, lamented that needless IT spending being embarked upon by most government agencies and parastatals.

    She said: "There are still too many instances of individual MDAs deploying ICT infrastructure that is better deployed through a more effective pooling of financial and human resources. A selected aggregation of individual IT Spend plans for MDAs have revealed that N4.5bn will be spent on data centres in the coming year despite the fact that we have within Government an IT organization that is positioned to deploy and deliver these services at a lower costs and to higher standards evidenced in the achievement that Galaxy Backbone is celebrating today."

  • Listed SA IT company Gijima has formed a partnership with US company MobileIron as it ups its focus on the consumerisation of IT in business. Founded in 2007 and based in California, MobileIron provides mobile device management and security to large corporations.

    Gijima says the partnership will give it the capability to provide enterprise mobile device management and security solutions to its clients. It comes just a week after the company signed a systems integrator agreement with Apple, whose products such as the iPhone and iPad are being increasingly used in corporate environments.

    MobileIron designs solutions that allow companies to integrate smartphones and tablets with company networks. It offers solutions for devices running Apple’s iOS, Research in Motion’s BlackBerry OS, Microsoft’s Windows Phone and Windows Mobile, Symbian and Google’s Android mobile operating systems.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Algeria is in talks with Vimpelcom aimed at resolving a tug of war over the Russian telecoms group's mobile phone unit Djezzy and efforts to find a resolution could now speed up, according to Algeria's finance minister, Karim Djoudi.

    Vimpelcom hoped to acquire Djezzy as part of a planned $6 billion acquisition of Wind Telecom, parent of Djezzy's owner Orascom Telecom. But Djezzy's status was left unclear after Algeria said it wanted to take the business over itself.

    Djoudi's comments were the strongest hint yet that a resolution could be close after more than a year of deadlock over Djezzy, which had been the most lucrative part of Orascom Telecom's business.

    Asked about Djezzy, Djoudi said: "Things are taking place normally. I have had a meeting with a Vimpelcom representative at his request. Unfortunately, I cannot give you details because we are in talks."

    He said a valuation of Djezzy, a crucial step in determining the unit's future, was proceeding. "It is possible that things will go fast," Djoudi said. "There is a willingness on the other side to make things go fast."

    It remains unclear what shape a deal on Djezzy could take. There has been some speculation that the Algerian government could acquire a 51 percent stake and allow Vimpelcom to hold the remaining equity and be the operator.

    Before the Vimpelcom deal, Orascom Telecom was forced to agree to talks on Djezzy's nationalisation after it was hit with millions of dollars in back-tax demands from Algeria and prevented from moving the unit's cash abroad.

    Talks about the nationalisation had been stalled because of a dispute between the Algerian government and Djezzy's owners about how the unit is to be valued, and how much access the owners would provide to Djezzy's balance sheet.

    Djoudi suggested that issue had now been resolved. "We have opened the data room which gives us access to all ... (Djezzy's) details," he said.

  • The new Tunisian government has set up a national holding company to handle its stakes in the country's two mobile networks, Tunisiana and Orange.

    The CDC (Caisse des Dépôts et Consignation) will be headed by Tunisia's Minister of Finance, Jalloul Ayed. An independent subcommittee has also been assigned to monitor corruption, approve the general policies of the funds and evaluate the investments.

    The CDC manages 25% of Tunisiana, 51% of Orange and the Zitouna bank, which were seized from the former ruling family and are now subsidiaries of the national holding.

  • Zenith Bank (Ghana) Limited in collaboration with Google Ghana has introduced a new product unto the Ghanaian market dubbed Z.com in an effort to give its customers the opportunity to position their businesses to enable them access the global market. Z.com is a business solution opportunity tailored to suit the needs of the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Ghana.

    In a statement copied to GNA on Friday, the product would afford SMEs the opportunity to globally advertise their businesses thereby increasing top of mind awareness and ultimately their turnover.

    Z.com, which is another product innovation from Zenith Bank Ghana, rides along the Bank’s quest to make available flexible business strategies to SMEs in Ghana.

    According to Daniel Asiedu Chief Executive Officer of Zenith Bank Ghana, the bank would continue to introduce innovative products and services onto the Ghanaian banking industry.

    “This is in line with its vision of being the reference point in the provision of prompt, flawless and innovation products in the Ghanaian industry”, the statement read.

    The product would be formally launched at a business fair where key stakeholders, policy makers as well as entrepreneurs in the SMEs sector would be brought together to experience at first hand the benefits of e-commerce.

    The official launch of Z.com would take place on Thursday November 24, 2011 at the Accra International Conference Center.

    In a related development, Mr. Henry Oroh, a senior management staff from the parent company Zenith Bank Plc has been appointed to complement the bank’s marketing efforts in Ghana.

  • The fact that the new card will be linked to the user's phone will significantly enhance the security features, says Fundamo CEO Hannes van Rensburg.
    Global credit card company Visa and Africa's largest cellular operator, MTN, have partnered to introduce a new Visa prepaid account mobile service as an extension of MTN Mobile Money in developing countries.

    The product is a result of Visa's recent acquisition of local mobile money platform Fundamo, which has now been integrated with Visa's global payment network, VisaNet.

    Together with MTN Mobile Money, the new service will allow consumers to get a special Visa card which will be linked to their Mobile Money account, and which essentially has the same payment functionality as a bank card.

    Visa says the service will allow users to extend their mobile money payment functionality by allowing them to send money to each other, send and receive international remittances, withdraw funds from a Visa ATM and make purchases at merchants or online.

  • This week, an estimated 180 000 EasyPay customers will receive an e-mail that offers money-back rewards on all their transactions as part of the company’s strategy to restore its credibility and regain customers’ confidence after its site was hit by credit-card fraud two months ago.

    EasyPay will also carry the full liability of any fraudulent transactions, said Serge Belamant, the CEO of Net1, the holding company of EasyPay. He said he has confidence in the site’s newly built security features.

    EasyPay has one of SA’s largest third-party payment systems. It allows consumers to use their credit cards to pay their bills, including Telkom, the municipality and traffic fines, either through its website or at pay points in shops such as Pick n Pay.

    It also allows consumers to buy airtime and prepaid electricity online and it was these purchases that were targeted in September by a crime syndicate. The criminals obtained a list of credit card numbers, which it used to buy airtime, electricity and prepaid gift cards.

    The reaction from Absa, which found that one in three transactions were fraudulent, was to prevent its cardholders from transacting on the site temporarily until EasyPay removed the high-risk products. Some banks continue to limit the number of EasyPay transactions they allow.

    Walter Volker, CEO of the Payment Association of SA, said EasyPay had nothing to do with the release of the credit card details. An investigation is underway to determine how the syndicate obtained the credit card details, which resulted in losses of millions of rands. It must still be determined which banks will carry the liability.

    Belamant said the company had been unfairly targeted by the banks because it was not responsible for the breach. He said the high volume of traffic on the site — it does 4m to 5m transactions a month — made it attractive to fraudsters.

    EasyPay processes payments worth R120m/month, according to Belamant, and the new site is growing at a rate of 10%/month.

Digital Content

  • Many local firms have failed to get their strategies right in creating brand visibility and loyalty through social media, the latest industry survey has shown.

    However, many companies have invested heavily on Internet platforms with an aim of tapping the growing online audience.

    According to the TNS Digital Life Survey, 60 per cent of Kenyans on social media are resistant to brands and brand messages in their profiles, meaning that companies may not be getting returns on the investments they have made to reach the online community through the networks.

    "The race online has seen businesses across the world develop profiles on social networks such as Facebook and YouTube to speak to customers quickly and cheaply --but this study reveals that if these efforts are not carefully targeted, they are a wasted resource," says the report.

    The survey indicates that many firms have embraced the social media platform but without a clear strategy on who their target audiences are, leading to negative results.

    "Digital waste is the accumulation of thousands of brands rushing online without thinking who they want to talk to and why," said Matthew Froggatt, Chief Development Officer at TNS.

    "Many brands have recognised the vast potential of audiences available to them on social networks but they do not understand that these spaces belong to the consumer and their presence needs to be proportionate and justified."

    Mr Froggatt says although the online world presents massive opportunities for brands, only precisely tailored marketing strategies can realise this potential.

    The findings come at a time when the Kenyan social media space is full of content from local firms reaching out to users .But not all is lost as 54 per cent of online users interviewed in the survey admitted that social networks are a good place to learn about products.

    This implies that the use of social media to gain brand visibility and market penetration is not a misguided one. It only needs more direct strategies.

    These findings back concern expressed previously by social media analysts over the unplanned and disjointed online campaigns adopted by most firms in an effort to build their brand visibility.

    "Most businesses in Kenya enter social media but continue passing the same old messages as in traditional channels. Social media is more than just a platform to send your usual advertisement ; it has its own culture which means how people converse, the tone of the conversation, tone of channel (Facebook or Twitter),." says Mr Marvin Tumbo, social media specialist and CEO of Socialight Media, a company that provides social media solutions.

    Tumbo says failure by brands to understand how social media works is what causes conflicts between consumers and business online, with the major challenge coming in crafting the messages. Most firms have not come up with a specific messages for social media sites but are channelling messages created for the traditional media and which may not be appealing to this particular audience.

    The findings further state that users in fast growth markets like Brazil, Indonesia and Kenya are far more open to brands on social networks compared to developed markets like the US where brand tolerance in social media stood at nine per cent compared to 40 per cent in Kenya.

    This means that businesses targeting users in developing countries have a wider audience base, albeit one that must be used prudently. "Social media is not a bad tool for marketing. But it is the tact and targeting that many brands are getting wrong", says Mr Francis Waithaka, a social media analyst.

    "The first thing that brands must do is to listen and understand what customers want. Brands should do pull marketing and not push marketing. A great product and a good customer service will pull customers to your business."

    Waithaka further adds that it is essential for brands to work on their products and services well before going to social media to market them. "With a bad product or terrible customer service, no matter what marketing strategies you employ, it won't work", he says.

    In addition to this, disgruntled users have been known to tweet and post bad customer experiences to their friends and followers and this can go viral and end up being a crisis or an embarrassment to a brand.

    According to the survey, 62 per cent of Kenyan social media users trust comments people make online about brands while close to 30 per cent of users share their experience with brands in social media. In addition to this, 19 per cent of users write about brands to praise the service or goods while 10 per cent write to complain.

    "Most companies in Kenya have not thought through their social media engagement. There has been no strategy to their engagement and hence the high failure rate", says Mr Tumbo. "It's about time companies started having actual strategies and not me-too activities on social media."

    His sentiments are echoed by Withaka. "No matter how good your product or service is, regardless of how brilliant the advertisements are, and regardless of the price you're charging, if your targeting is off, then your whole marketing campaign will be missing the mark. You'll waste a lot of cash, energy and time marketing to people who will never buy from you".

  • Telkom is involved in a multibillion-rand project to increase the throughput of fixed-line broadband to speeds of up to 40Mbit/s. The plans also include dramatically upping the speed of entry-level broadband services and introducing video-on-demand (VOD) products, possibly from international providers such as Hulu, Netflix and Nangu.

    In addition, the company is planning a trial using superfast fibre-optic cables from selected telephone exchanges, with the pilot project expected to kick off as early as 15 January 2012. Details about the fibre project remain sketchy, however.

    VDSL2 is theoretically capable of offering download speeds of up to 250Mbit/s over short lengths of copper (up to 500m) and up 50Mbit/s for distances of up to 1km.

    Telkom has invested millions of rand in recent years bringing fibre closer to its customers — in many areas, it has built fibre to its street-level distribution cabinets — to offer faster access speeds to consumers over its copper network.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Airtel Kenya will offer a 50% airtime bonus to customers topping up their prepay account via its own Airtel Money platform.

    - Chinese vendor ZTE has announced that it has installed an integrated value added platform solution (iVAS) in Kinshasa for Vodacom DRC. The iVAS system encompasses SMS services, and ZTE claims that the installation has increased Vodacom’s SMS management tenfold, improving service on the South African-owned telco’s network by reducing congestion.

    - The Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) has imposed a fine of US$225,000.00 on the Lonestar Communications Company for noncompliance with LTA’s Order  (LTA 0005-10-04-11)  which calls for both Lonestar and Cellcom to expand their interconnection trunks and have the expansion remain in place until otherwise ordered.

    - The SA Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has given the green light to SA Airways (SAA) to allow passengers on the airline’s flights to use their smartphones and other supported devices in “flight mode”, where the devices’ radio antennae are switched off.

    - Pan-African mobile operator MTN has announced a partnership with Singapore-based TransferTo, which allows MTN's customers with access to prepaid services to receive airtime transfers from the vast TransferTo international airtime transfer network around the world. TransferTo is a global airtime remittance hub that interconnects mobile operators' prepaid systems to deliver end to end cross-border top-up services.

More

  • Ghana’s Expresso Telecom has replaced their Managing Director just months after the buyout of Kasapa Telecom Limited. Just before Kasapa was rebranded, the Managing Director Bob Palitz resigned and was replaced by Hisham Ayoub.

    Sources within Expresso have said that Ayoub has been replaced due to poor performance. The new Managing Director is Al-Ameer Ahmed Al-Ameer Yousef, who was quietly put in while his counterpart left. It is not yet confirmed in what capacity Ayoub will be serving within the company.

    Under Ayoub subscriptions fell from 400,000 to just over 200,000, despite many changes implemented by Ayoub.

    Ayoub had introduced the Clig moden, which is one of the most competitive modems on the market in terms of prices, speed and tariff. Sources say the new Managing Director is not doing much better, but they are optimistic.

    “It looks like Mr. Yousef is going to bring some positive change, but some of the old guys at Expresso have entrenched themselves into their positions through all kinds of means so I am not too sure if he will succeed,” the source said.

  • Customer Project Manager ParaCell

    Posted date: Fri, 18th Nov

    Location: Western Africa

    ParaCell is searching for a Customer Project Manager

    Requirements:

    · We are looking for recent Ericsson Experience

    • University degree within relevant area

    · Minimum 10 years working experience in Project Management

    · Strong Leadership skills at least 5/10 years in a leadership role

    • PMP certified (Or on the way to be certified within one year)

    • Adequate operations managerial experience

    • Have excellent documentation and presentation skills

    • Have excellent communication skills

    • Have good customer and sub-contractor relation skills

    Must have ability to work independently, International experience and closely with the end-Customer are other essential skills.

    Please apply with accompanying CV indicating your availability visit here:

Issue no 580 11th November 2011

node ref id: 23486

Top story

  • Africa’s annual gabba-gabba fest AfricaCom took place this week with the organisers claiming that visitor numbers were up yet again. Vendors from almost every corner of the globe were there with heavy representation from both India and China. Russell Southwood tries to separate the signal from the noise.

    AfricaCom has become exhausting but necessary meeting place for many of the different parts of the telecoms industry, having expanded from its original GSM Africa footprint. This year it went off in search of even more territory with the addition of Enterprise ICT and Africast streams, the latter for broadcasters. The whole process has steady momentum which means that if you gather the equivalent of a small town together, your chances of meeting people will increase.

    No account of an event of this size will ever capture everything that happens and many of the stories below in the news sections are drawn from announcements at the events, including the winners of the awards event. (note to Orange: You have much to shout about so don’t enter every category multiple times.)

    Some of the key threads that we saw emerging at the event were as follows:

    * International bandwidth growing again: After a period when people were going, we’ve got all this bandwidth what are we going to do with, international fibre sales are on the move again. According to Chris Wood, CEO, WIOCC it has almost completely sold its initial 30 GB allocation and will upgrade to 160 GB which he thinks will sell through in 2 years. The drivers for all this growth? Mobile Internet and WiMAX coverage.

    ACE had a stand for the first time but whilst the project makes steady progress, it has not yet funded its South Africa leg. This is perhaps not surprising given the fact that WACS has all major telcos signed up. WIOCC has also signed an agreement with WACS to give it a west coast redundancy route.

    * The steady growth of national and cross-border terrestrial but price and access still issues: You still meet people who tell you that it might be true that Africa has all this international bandwidth but there’s still no routes from the landing station. Clearly there’s a perception lag operating. Chris Wood, WIOCC told us that its consortium members now have 50,000 kms of cross-border fibre with lower cost transit prices.

    Liquid Telecom’s network stretches north. There are gaps everywhere between these clusters of networks and some blank spaces (as Eric Osiakwan of Ghana Connect pointed out in his presentation) but the task of addressing this is far less daunting. Those endless maps with coloured lines that were “meat and drink” of conferences like this for several years are now a reality. Pricing remains an issue at both national, cross-border and local levels. Holding back the development of things like data centres and cloud computing, the latter being something of a buzz word at the event. Two telcos this week – Vodacom SA and Orange Kenya – have plans to get it beyond the “blah-blah” phase. One operator was saying that international bandwidth was now 20-40% of total delivery cost with national bandwidth making up 60-80%.

    * Satellite operators seem to have weathered the fibre storm: Satellite operators and resellers were remarkably chipper this year compared to last year. SkyVision’s new CEO Doron Ben Sira said revenues were holding steady and that it had moved from drawing most of its revenues from 4-5 countries and was equivalent amounts of revenues across 20 countries. Operators have seen their IP trunking business disappear and the number of remote base stations is falling rather than growing but they have got out and found new customers. “All the world and its aunt” are getting into the broadcast business where prices remain rock solid: how about some competitive offers?

    SkyVision is offering fibre in West Africa but sees it as “niche play” where it can use fibre to create a package of connectivity with good overall margins. C-band capacity availability is low, not helped by the antenna of the New Dawn satellite not opening. Jonathan Osler of Intelsat says he dreams that one morning he will wake up and it’s happened but he says it’s unlikely.

    On the near horizon, Kevin Viret of Yahsat says it will launch its new products early next year and says both pricing and sales channel approach “will shake the market up.” Further into the future 03B is still looking at a 2013 launch date with prices (depending on volume) between US$500-750 per meg. It has changed its business model slightly to offer slightly sub 100 MB offers asymmetrically. However, the idea that it will be good for redundancy purposes looks less and less compelling as the volume of fibre being shifted keeps ramping up.

    * Mobile content gets more and more interesting: Google’s Think Mobile event on Monday was pitching the growth of smartphones in the South African market, which is probably right. But the “ground-moving” moment seems to be happening with the much more numerous feature-phone part of the handset pyramid.

    We met Australia’s biNU mobile who have a feature phone content platform that has over 2 million users globally. It’s a low bandwidth optimized cloud-based service and it offers an extremely interesting content offer including books from the Guttenberg Project. It is getting user numbers in the hundreds of thousands and these are undoubtedly the early birds on the horizon.

    Comparing notes on mobile content in India and Africa with Arvind Rao, CEO of OnMobile was fascinating. He is part of what seems like a wave of Indian vendors who have followed Airtel into the market. He says that his sales in Africa are ahead of where he expected at this point. He told us that one big trend in India was independent musicians using mobile as a means of distribution. He also said that Indian music labels three years ago had something like 5% of their revenues from online but now they had 40-50% and of that proportion 80% was coming from mobile. Furthermore with the rise of independent music distribution and increased digital sales, the negotiating power of the labels had decreased, allowing sensible royalty deals to be done.

    At the higher end there’s a steady trickle of people offering VOD content. One of these companies Logiways offers a satellite-based, smart set top box service (costing US$200) that can serve movies. The box is controlled by the operator and can download a whole set of new movies on a monthly basis and stream them to consumers. Kenyan Fibre-To-The-Home operator Jamii Telecom told us that amongst its first small number of subscribers, 65% use their new bandwidth for downloads.

    On the content front, the Nation Media Group has had 84 million views on its You Tube channel over 3 years. Given that serious income from online advertising on platforms like these starts at around 1 million views, the content moment is finally coming into view. Or another example, Young Africa Live on the Vodacom platform in South Africa has 586,000 unique views. Mobile is well and truly media but current media owners have yet to wake up to this new dawning reality.

    * Mobile payment – when will the interconnect moment arrive? When mobile operators first started, operators didn’t connect to each other because they believed that people would prefer their service and in this fashion it would attract greater numbers. And then someone agreed to interconnect and the networking effect kicked in and the rest is history. M-money is going through a similar cycle but below the radar there are a number of operators that are not completely happy with their proprietary, on-net solution.

    The Nigerians have set the pace by saying platforms must operate with the banks which has meant a slightly more open process of platforms getting to market. Platforms like Paga in Nigeria and Mobipay in Tanzania (still just 100,000 subscribers) may currently be small in user numbers but may suddenly they may become flavor of the month. The issue for operators is that M-Money is not a highly profitable business but as with everything mobile, they do it because some else started doing it.

    Larger players are taking an interest. POS operator Verifone has bought into New Zealand’s Mobilis and is offering an m-wallet platform that has Near Field Communications on its “road map”. The current barrier to retail shopping in places like Nakumatt with say M-Pesa in Kenya is that the check-out staff and customers can’t be bothered to go through the slower process of paying this way. Cash is still faster but imagine a swipe and pay system. It’s a ways off but it’s coming…


    On the Balancing Act You Tube Channel this week a Nigeria special:

    Adebayo Oyewole
    , Hd Marketing & Strategy, Main One on its new IP products

    Uchechi Chuta on Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's use of social media

    Olalekan Olude, Head of Sales, Jobberman.com on the growth of this jobs website

    Azuka Ndulewe
    , Chief Marketing Officer, Helios Towers Nigeria on the business case for shared towers

    Ojaye Idoko, CEO, Layer3 on the barriers to broadband expansion in Nigeria

    Want up-to-the-minute breaking news? 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

  • The AfricaCom Awards winners were announced this week (9 November), with MTN, SEACOM, Main One, Orange, Helios Towers, Ericsson, Huawei, Gateway Communications, SkyVision and SafariCom winning awards. MTN South Africa scooped two awards – best network improvement for their LTE trial network and the best marketing campaign for its MTN Zone re-launch. It’s a shame that network improvement does not yet seem to have hit Ghana (see story on NCA fines below).

    SEACOM and Main One were awarded “Best Pan African Initiative”. Main One and SEACOM announced in May 2011 that they had interconnected their west and east African cable systems to launch capacity services from PoP to PoP, from a STM-1 level and above.

    This partnership extends the Main One and SEACOM networks to create a system that offers connection between any SEACOM and Main One PoPs all around Africa.

    The 2011 AfricaCom Awards winners are:

        * MTN South Africa – Best Network Improvement (for their LTE pilot test) and Best Marketing Campaign (MTN Zone)
        * Orange – Best New Service
        * Helios Towers Africa – Best Cost Efficiency Initiative
        * Ericsson – Rural Telecoms Award
        * Huawei Technologies – Best Backhaul Solution
        * Gateway Communications – Customer Service Excellence
        * SkyVision – Satellite Service Provider of the Year
        * SafariCom – Best ICT Solution Provider for Enterprise Markets, Changing Lives Award
        * Seacom/Main One – Best Pan-African Initiative

  • Following a quality of service report released by the Kenyan Communication Commission, Telkom Kenya has criticized the scope and methodology used within the report. The CCK 2010/2011 Quality of Service (QoS) report, released last week, revealed that Telkom Kenya failed to meet half of the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). The report ranked them as the poorest network in the country in regards to the terms of service. They may be right but it’s a hard position to take where you end up arguing with the referee.

    According to Telkom Kenya, a different audit benchmarked on international standards and carried out by France Telecom Group rated the company as having one of the best GSM networks among its African subsidiaries.

    Telkom Kenya’s CEO, Mickael Ghossein, released a statement saying “[Telkom Kenya] have queried the scope and methodology on which the report is based, with a view to correlating it to our own independent evaluation of our networks based on the same parameters.”

    The company has also said that an assessment they had carried out in June showed its Call Completion Rate was 96.8 percent, against the 90 percent minimum set by the CCK. Their Call Success Rate also scored at 98 percent against the 90 percent minimum. The QoS report however, rated Telkom Kenya’s Call Completion rate at 38.50 percent, and its Call Completion Rate at 41.36 percent. The company has also said that its investments on the network were not appreciated by the regulator.

    “The results come as a surprise to us considering 2011 marked the successful upgrade and improvement of the Orange mobile network in preparation of our 3G rollout,” Ghossein added.

    The CCK has previously been criticized by Safaricom, which strongly opposed last year’s report. Safaricom raised questions on the credibility of the audit process. Since then however, their score has improved and the company has accepted this year’s findings.

  • Ghana’s telecoms regulator the National Communications Authority (NCA) has imposed fines totaling GHC1.2 million (USD751,990) on five domestic mobile network operators – MTN, Vodafone, Airtel, Expresso and Tigo – for delivering poor services to end users.

    The penalties, which cover the third quarter of this year, are part of measures introduced by the NCA to improve overall quality of services and ensure end users have value for money. Airtel was fined the most – GHC350,000 – after it experienced high levels of network congestion (particularly in Tamale, Sekondi-Takoradi and the Upper East and West, and Greater Accra regions), while MTN and Expresso were each fined GHC300,000. Vodafone was fined GHC150,000 and Tigo received the lowest fine of GHC100,000, the NCA said.

  • The department of communications is moving to wrest control over management of SA’s scarce radio frequency spectrum from industry regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa), a reading of the Electronic Communications Amendment Bill, published last week, shows.

    The bill gives power to the minister of communications, rather than Icasa, to determine how spectrum — some of which is in high demand from telecommunications operators — will be divided up.

    Operators are unhappy at the slow pace at which Icasa is licensing access to new spectrum, especially in the 2,6GHz and 3,5GHz bands that can be used for next-generation mobile broadband networks, and this may have prompted government to attempt to usurp some of the authority’s powers in this regard.

    In terms of the new bill, which must still be approved by parliament, the minister of communications — currently Dina Pule — will be responsible for coordination and approval of any radio frequency spectrum plans applicable to SA.

    Furthermore, the bill proposes the creation of a national radio frequency management committee to advise the minister on spectrum issues. The bill says this committee should consist of representatives from “relevant government departments identified by the minister and one or more representatives of the authority”.

    Mike Silber, Head of Legal and Commercial Affairs at fibre operator Liquid Telecom and a former regulatory adviser at the Internet Service Providers’ Association, says Icasa has “inefficiencies around spectrum allocation and management” and this is a “major concern and one that’s worth raising”. However, he warns that assuming the ministry or government department will somehow do better is “laughable”.

    Approached for comment, the big telecoms operators say only that they are still studying the bill and will comment later. But one industry source, speaking on condition of anonymity because he has to work with government and Icasa, says the bill amounts to the “same old story” of a “power struggle” between the department of communications and Icasa.

    The source says the proposed amendments “don’t sound like a particularly good thing” because, when it comes to issues surrounding spectrum, “you need independence” and “introducing political considerations slows the process”.

    Tracy Cohen, Chief Corporate Services Officer at Neotel, says government is responsible for the development of national policy on electronic communications matters and the law requires that Icasa “is independent in the implementation of government policy”.

    The law does not require that the Icasa is “vested with policy making”, though when it comes to actual implementation the divide is often blurred, Cohen says. She says Neotel will consider the amendment bill and will make detailed comments through the public consultation process, adding that the company supports any initiative to ensure that “critical competition-enhancing processes are effectively implemented”.

    Already, some industry players have expressed concern that the bill will result in further delays in allocating new spectrum. However, Cohen says given that the change is only likely to come to pass in six or 12 months’ time, it does not follow that a change will necessarily slow the process in which Icasa is already engaged.

    “Neotel is of the view that if the department and Icasa were to enable a spectrum secondary trading market, which was previously considered but not implemented in regulation, this would greatly assist in addressing many of the bottlenecks in spectrum efficiency,” she says.

  • The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) will be laying charges against the Democratic Alliance (DA) for “trying to kill copper thieves”. The federation says it will report deputy Cape Town mayor Alderman Ian Neilson's plans to electrocute copper cable thieves to the Public Service Commission and the Human Rights Commission.

    “Cosatu will also lay charges at the police station about the DA's intention to do grievous bodily harm, through the policy of the City of Cape Town.”

    Nielsen, during a radio interview, confirmed that the city leaves on electricity for streetlights during the day, in some areas, to deter thieves from stealing the copper.

    “This clearly is with the intent to electrocute the thieves. There has, however, been no notice sent out telling people that the electricity will be live with current. During the day, people generally expect the electricity to be off, and so people, including kids, try to steel copper to get money,” says Cosatu.

    It explains that this is not an attempt to justify theft, but to caution against the intention to try and kill copper thieves by leaving the current on.

  • The GSMA today announced that Africa is now the world's second largest mobile market by connections after Asia, and the fastest growing mobile market in the world. According to the new GSMA Africa Mobile Observatory 2011 report, Africa achieved this milestone as mobile penetration reached 649 million connections in Q4 2011 (having first exceeded 50 per cent mobile penetration in 2010). Over the past five years, the number of subscribers across Africa has grown by almost 20 per cent each year and will reach more than 735 million by the end of 2012.

    Ninety-six per cent of subscriptions are pre-paid with voice services currently dominating, although uptake of data services is increasing steadily. There are currently six live HSPA+ networks across Africa, with a seventh deployment planned in the near future. By 2015, next-generation LTE networks are predicted to reach 500,000 connections in Kenya, 1.1 million connections in Nigeria and 2.5 million connections in South Africa.

    The mobile ecosystem in Africa currently generates approximately US$56 billion or 3.5 per cent of total GDP, with mobile operators alone contributing US$49 billion. In recent studies by the World Bank and others, it was shown that there is a direct relationship between mobile penetration and GDP. In developing countries, for every 10 per cent increase in mobile penetration there is a 0.81 per cent point increase in a country's GDP. The mobile industry contributes US$15 billion in government revenues and is a significant contributor to employment in Africa. In 2010 alone, approximately 5.4 million people were employed directly and indirectly in the mobile ecosystem.

    However, the Observatory reveals that huge untapped potential remains. 36 per cent of Africans within the 25 largest African mobile markets currently have no access to mobile services. Projections indicate that reaching 100 per cent mobile penetration could add over $35 billion in aggregate GDP - an increase of 2 per cent - but only if governments and operators work together to bring mobile communication to the entire African population.

    "The mobile industry in Africa is booming and a catalyst for immense growth, but there is scope for far greater development," said Peter Lyons, Director of Spectrum Policy, Africa and Middle East, GSMA. "To take full advantage of its potential, African countries need to both allocate more spectrum for the provision of Mobile Broadband services, as well as introduce tax cuts for the industry. By doing so, they will increase consumption of mobile services, thereby boosting their economic and social development."

    African countries have currently allocated considerably less spectrum to mobile services than Europe, the Americas and Asia, which is inhibiting connectivity to large swathes of rural Africa. Sufficient spectrum should be provided for Mobile Broadband services through 3G HSPA and LTE technologies, to enable the mobile industry to 'connect the unconnected' and continue to act as a catalyst for growth.

  • Ugandan Telecom companies have recently addressed several key issues they face in penetrating the rural mobile market and providing reliable and affordable services. Among the issues are two major problems; vandalism and high operating costs.

    Uganda’s population is 87 percent rural, and so spread out that the per-unit cost f delivering communication services relatively high. The high illiteracy rate and the people’s inability to create an economic benefit through mass communication means that there are few businesses willing to invest in Uganda. As a result of this and inadequate infrastructure, almost all booster stations and masts must be run on diesel generators, further bolstering the cost.

    Themba Khumab, the MTN Uganda CEO said that while a large portion of their customers were rural based, vandalism of equipment remained a big challenge to the company. Khumab called for the government to put in place stringent vandalism laws against telecom equipment and materials. “Kenya did this a long time ago and the problem was solved. Why not here?” Khumalo asked.

    The UCC Executive Director Godfrey Mutabazi agreed, saying that the poor network is caused by several reasons, including the breakdown of infrastructure due to deliberate vandalism. “Any disruption at a single point triggers a series of failures over a wider area becacause of interconnection,” Mutabazi explained.

    According to the Warid Chief Commercial Officer, Shailendra Naidu, the operating costs are another barrier thwarting progress.“Each site costs the company $300,000 (about Shs 840m) or more and the costs keep on increasing,” Naidu said, adding that it will take time for telecoms to link all areas in the country to the network.

    “Our aim is to maintain quality to our customers and we can’t do that when we are operating beyond the input costs. That is why we increased our tariffs recently,” Naidu said, adding, “We are a young company but already we have many sites across the country and will continue expanding them until every part of Uganda is covered.”

  • Mobile carriers worldwide are steadily upgrading to Long-Term Evolution (LTE) networks that support high-speed wireless services as an increasing number of consumers use tablet computers and Smartphones to access the internet. Due to Africa’s growing mobile phone market, an Ericsson executive believes the African market will have its first LTE (better known as 4G) network as early as 2012.

    Initially, the network would be unveiled in the larger urban centers where the demand for high speed internet access is constantly growing.

    “You will see the first networks going in 2012 already to a certain small degree,” said Lars Linden, head of Ericsson in sub-saharan Africa to Reuters. “It will surprise me if the big dragons such as MTN, Vodacom, (Bharti) Airtel and all these big brands, it will surprise me if they do not do anything,” Linden told Reuters.

    Africa’s poverty levels mean that many users remain lower end text and call users. There is however an increasingly tech-savvy market growing among the younger people in Africa, increasing the demand for data availability in the continent.

    African telecom giants MTN and Vodacom are already running trials in South Africa and Kenya’s Safaricom is also testing the technology.
    Furthermore, taxes imposed on the mobile industry in many African states should be reduced to drive an increase in mobile penetration, as well as, in many cases, ultimately increase the total tax intake for governments. The Kenyan government's abolition of the 16 per cent general sales tax on mobile handsets in 2009 has resulted in handset purchases increasing by more than 200 per cent. With mobile operators contributing a third more in taxes in 2011 than in 2009, mobile generated around 8 per cent of Kenya's GDP.

    Other regional success stories include Nigeria, which has the highest number of mobile subscriptions in Africa - over 93 million subscriptions, representing 16 per cent of the continent's total mobile subscriptions.

    South Africa, with its more developed infrastructure, leads the way in terms of broadband penetration: it has 6 per cent mobile broadband penetration, followed by Morocco as the next biggest market, with 2.8 per cent.

    Meanwhile Kenya is at the forefront of Mobile Money Transfers and m-banking, with 8.5 million users. For example, Safaricom in partnership with The Equity Bank in Kenya provides customers with an M-KESHO account allowing them to save money, buy insurance and arrange micro-finance loans.

    Lyons continued, "By working in partnership, mobile operators and African governments can continue the remarkable growth story of the African mobile industry. The benefits that mobile services have already brought to hundreds of millions of Africans can be extended to those who have yet to access communication technology. By so doing, the African continent can continue to bring not only communication services, but also banking, health and education to its people and drive an increase in the economic wealth and development of the region."

  • The telecommunication sector is by far the fastest growing and most lucrative market in the Africa region. In countries like Sudan, where 50 percent of the population uses mobile phones, the importance of the industry to the economy is undeniable. 59% of Zimbabweans have access to mobile phones compared with only about 5% in 2005

    Mobile phones today encompass many different useful tools, such as an alarm, watch, calculator, computer, camera, radio, and even the traditional landline phone. As Adrian Hon, founder and chief of the online gaming company ‘six to start,’ noted in his travels through Sudan; “You are never out of sight of a mobile tower.”

    The widespread use of mobile phones is indicative of their usefulness and the critical role communication plays in Sudan. With so much of the population living in remote areas and under the poverty line, the question arises as to whether so much time and money should be spent by Sudan in increasing their mobile telecom capabilities.

    With the poverty backdrop, it is hard to judge whether or not the government should focus on other issues such as education or healthcare. The reality is that the growing telecom market is growing at an astounding rate, providing many jobs and an increasing flow of wealth in to the country, creating more and more possibilities for Sudan to improve the quality of life for the people in the country.

    “Needless to say, mobile internet is cheaper in Sudan than in the UK at around 1 SDG (20p) per day, but it’s still a fair outlay for locals,” Hon wrote in the telegraph. “If you want proper mobile broadband for a laptop, then it rises to 5 SDG (£1) per day – comparable with the UK but presumably worth it if you really must be online, especially if you share the connection.”

    The ever increasing rate of technological advancement is clearly demonstrated in third world countries like Sudan, where a decade ago such a thing as mobile phones and wireless roaming were virtually non-existent.

    Today, a wireless connection can be bought for almost any mobile device such as a laptop or Smartphone and provides virtually global connections. Children today are seen interacting with a plethora of different mass communication methods, such as Facebook, Twitter, cell phones and the like, while their parents had most likely never seen a phone in their youth.

  • ANC Youth League (ANCYL) president Julius Malema is yet again at the centre of a social media explosion, as South Africans respond to the verdict of his disciplinary hearing.

    The ANC found Malema guilty of provoking divisions within the ruling party and of bringing the organisation into disrepute. The controversial leader has been suspended from the ANC for five years, and has been asked to step down as ANCYL president.

    The hashtags #Malema, #ANCYL and #ANC were all trending as soon as the announcement got under way.

    Here are some of the reactions from Twitter:

    @Jonathan_Witt: The Malema Verdict explained: Julius has a suspended sentence and now has been suspended but that suspension is suspended too.

    @GarethCliff: Now that Julius Malema has been suspended, who will frightened white people obsess about?

    @KoosKombuis: Rumour has it Malema might consider job as teaboy for the DA.

internet

  • Zimbabwean wireless broadband provider, uMAX has selected Alvarion's 4Motion solution to the roll-out a WiMAX network in its capital Harare, in the 2.5 GHz frequency.

    uMAX will be the first service provider to enable consumers and businesses access to such services in Zimbabwe.

    "uMAX is a fast-growing wireless broadband provider in an extremely dynamic market and our 4Motion solution will enable them to move forward and expand their customer base at an opportune time," said Eran Gorev, president and CEO of Alvarion.

  • Mobile telecom provider Nokia Siemens Network has launched a new Facebook application in Nigeria that enables users to manage their fixed and mobile services in the country, which is aimed at improving customer service in the country, company officials said on Monday.

    Nokia said the new app gives customers the ability to check their balance, browse and purchase special offers from mobile companies. It also will give users the ability to subscribe to new services.

    The company said in a press release that users will also be given the opportunity to share their experiences across social networks, in an effort to increase transparency. They will also “get rewards for recommending services to friends.”

    “The beauty of the Facebook app is that it engages with people on their preferred social-networking site,” said Rick Centeno, the head of Business Support Systems at Nokia Siemens.

    “People spend more time on social networks than individual websites. With this Facebook app, Nokia Siemens Networks helps operators to connect with people in a familiar setting where they already spend their online time. It takes self-care to a new level,” he added.

  • IS International's MD understands how tough Africa is, says IS MD Derek Wilcocks.
    Dimension Data subsidiary Internet Solutions (IS) aims to speed up its growth beyond SA's borders and has created IS International to facilitate the expansion.

    The new unit will provide additional support and investment to the group's existing operations in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Mozambique, it says in a statement.

    IS aims to establish further sales and operational presences in the “largely untapped markets” of Angola, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi as it aims to grow across the continent.

    The company will “augment its existing London office by opening new sales offices in North America and Australia, with offices to be opened in other selected countries over time,” it says.

    IS says these outlets will “work with wholesale and multinational clients that are eager to expand into Africa and need a globally experienced and reliable ICT partner on the ground”.

    The company says IS International will be created to take care of these initiatives. It will be led by Tony Walt, who will become MD of IS International from January 2012. He will report to IS MD Derek Wilcocks.

    Wilcocks says Walt has 15 years' of experience in helping the firm's clients in SA with communications needs. “Tony [Walt] understands that Africa is a tough market and needs sound, resilient IT solutions,” Wilcocks says.

    Walt's current responsibilities in SA will be divided between Costa Koutakis and Tony Koutakis, both of who have been with IS for more than 10 years. They will take up the positions of chief client officer and chief sales officer, respectively.

    The country managers of the group's existing operations in the UK, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and Mozambique will report directly to Walt in his new role as MD of IS International.

  • “The explosion of broadband data usage in South Africa and internationally is creating an ever-growing set of coverage and capacity challenges that cannot be addressed effectively by any single technology,” Winston Smith, head of Alvarion in South Africa, is quoted in a press statement issued this week.

    Smith added that the same is true for all types of wireless broadband networks from tier 1 mobile carriers to wireless internet service providers, enterprises, governments and municipalities, and private network operators.

    “The subscriber numbers and uptake of broadband for wireless users is much higher than in cabled options in South Africa, and this trend is set to continue into 2012,” said Smith.

    “The solution to under-capacity is to employ multiple complementary technologies which can be optimised for various types of networks and applications.”

    Alvarion highlighted that, in line with this “multi-technology approach,” it recently signed a definitive agreement to acquire Wavion, a carrier-grade Wi-Fi provider.

    According to Alvarion, interference is one of the biggest challenges in deploying Wi-Fi, which is where Wavion comes in.

    Alvarion said that Wavion provides better coverage, higher capacity and interference immunity using smart antenna, beamforming and SDMA technologies.

    “Alvarion is fast-shifting from a focus on WiMAX-based RAN solutions to a multi-technology wireless broadband provider, and with the inclusion of Wavion in our offering, we will have Wi-Fi as the final component of a complete solution for our customers,” Smith said.

computing

  • On Tuesday, Orange Kenya announced plans to increase its funding by mid next year in order to boost its data and cloud computing services in the country. The move comes as voice competition continues to rock the country and drop prices.

    The company said in a press release late on Tuesday that it would request additional funding from France Telecom, which owns a majority 51 percent share in the company, and the Kenyan government.

    Orange’s CEO Mickael Ghossein said that the company was also looking into local and international markets and financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for possible funding alternatives.

    He did not give an exact figure, but did confirm that it would include a $40 million investment for its 2012 budget, the same as this year. That is half of what it invested in the previous two years.

    Ghossein also said Orange Kenya will review its international calling rates by mid-November “to cushion against the weak shilling and increased calling rates in other countries,” which has raised termination rates. Ghossein said the rates in India and Uganda “had risen, meaning termination rates for international calls had also increased. The UK, India, Tanzania and Uganda are among other destinations for which Orange Kenya will revise its rates.”

  • The Minister of Telecommunications and Information Technologies, José Carvalho da Rocha, visited on Wednesday in Luanda the first Data Centre of the country, based in CTT ward.

    Funded by South Korea, the construction of the centre is estimated at USD 30 million and implanted in an area of 5000 square metres.

    The centre is aimed for processing and storage of data of the government.

    The minister said that its functioning will be assured in a first phase by 50 employees, among engineers and high school technicians.

    The official said that with this centre, the country will have greater benefits in terms of human and financial resources.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • South Africa-based Vodacom Group has reported consolidated revenues of ZAR31.75 billion (USD3.99 billion) for the six months ended 30 September 2011, up 7.6% on the corresponding year-earlier period. Vodacom’s domestic unit, Vodacom South Africa, accounted for ZAR23.50 billion in sales (up 4.7% year-on-year), with the firm’s international operations accounting for ZAR4.39 billion (up 13.3% year-on-year). Group EBITDA for the period grew 7.6% to ZAR10.54 billion, whilst net profit climbed 2.8% to ZAR4.39 billion. Meanwhile, CAPEX for the six-month period increased 67.7%, to ZAR3.46 billion.

    In operational terms, Vodacom South Africa remains the firm’s largest unit by subscribers, with 28.91 million customers reported at the end of September, of which figure 23.47 million are pre-paid users. Elsewhere, Vodacom units in Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Lesotho all increased their subscriber bases in the three months ended 30 September. Tanzania grew its base to 10.27 million users, whilst Mozambique weighed in with 2.99 million customers and Democratic Republic of Congo contributed 4.78 million subscribers. Finally, Lesotho grew its mobile base to 944,000.

    Vodacom CEO Pieter Uys commented: ‘I am really pleased with what we’ve achieved in the first six months of trading as the new ‘red’ Vodacom. [This year saw Vodacom re-branded in line with the red and white colour scheme used by parent company Vodafone, which secured a controlling stake in Vodacom in May 2009.] In South Africa, increased promotional activity and reduced data prices were well received, driving significant gains in both usage and customer numbers. Our average effective price per minute fell 24% and we also implemented a 22% reduction in average data prices. We’ve invested just under ZAR3.5 billion on our networks, making tangible improvements to both coverage and stability. In the second half of the year we aim to capitalise on all the steps taken to improve the customer experience, and prove to our customers that the change in colour really is just the beginning’.

  • JSE-listed IT services company Business Connexion (BCX) has turned in a poor set of financial results in its 2011 financial year to end-August. CEO Benjamin Mophatlane says the company has had a “tough year” and the results “haven’t met expectations”.

    Its technology and innovation divisions posted the most disappointing results. Mophatlane says the company’s recent acquisitions — of selected assets from IT company UCS and of the Canoa Group — have turned in “pleasing results”. UCS and Canoa Group contributed 11.4% of BCX’s revenue in the financial year.

    BCX’s “problem child”, according to Mophatlane, is its technology division. He says the main reason for the disappointing results are the global economic downturn and the fact that some vendors have begun “going straight to clients, particularly because of belt tightening” rather than through partners like BCX.

    He promises the company is taking “aggressive and corrective action to turn the [technology] division around”. BCX has replaced the division’s management and reassessed its business model. It is also exploring the option of reducing product brands to avoid “unnecessary and conflicting technologies”.

    For the year, BCX’s headline earnings per share collapsed from 47,6c in 2010 to 17,3c. The dividend also fell, from 23c/share to 14c, though the company did pay a special dividend of 40c during the period.

  • South Africa’s Allied Technologies said Wednesday it is no longer in talks to acquire unlisted Kenyan IT firm Symphony, a deal that Reuters previously reported could be worth up to $60 million (Sh6 billion).

    Altech, a $742 million telecoms and IT firm, had been in talks to acquire Symphony and was nearing the end of its due diligence, Reuters reported last week, citing a person familiar with the matter.

    “Altech was in discussions with the Da Gama Rose Group, the 100 per cent shareholders in Symphony, an unlisted Kenyan IT firm. Altech has informed the Da Gama Rose Group that it will not progress with further discussions,” Altech said in a statement.

    The Da Gama Rose Group is led by prominent Kenyan businessman and lawyer Horatius da Gama Rose who enjoyed close links with the administration of the former President Moi.
    The firm did not give a reason why the talks had been dropped, but Altech was hoping the deal would augment its existing business — Kenya Data Networks — in a region where it has struggled.

    Altech is a diverse business whose operations include telecoms, electronics, and IT services while Symphony provides IT consulting and services including hardware, software and networking.

Digital Content

  • The Wise Touch tablets are manufactured in China, but are locally branded and customised, with applications and content specifically for the local market. South African company, Wise Tablets, is soon to release a low-cost tablet developed and customised for the local market.

    The “Wise Touch 1” will be available in 7-inch and 9-inch formats, with capacitive multi-touch, running Android 2.3.

    The 9-inch tablet will retail for less than R3 500, while the 7-inch 3G tablet will cost less than R2 500, and the entry-level 7-inch WiFi tablet will go for less than R1 500.

    MD of Wise Tablets, Gian Shipton, says: “The problem with tablets available today is that all of them offer exactly the same thing; software markets”.

    “We found that most of the average South African consumers have a problem with the current high prices of the brand-named tablets, but apart from the pricing issue, it also relates to the fact that none of the tablets in the market, including the Apple iPad, present any form of local content.”

    Shipton says the content on the new tablets will be what sets them apart. “What makes the Wise Touch SA's first South African tablet is what's on the inside.”

    Apart from the regular Android apps, the tablets come preloaded with South African applications, developed specifically for the Wise Touch on behalf of local brands. The local content is categorised under the Wise Shopping Mall, Wise Business Park and Wise Education Centre.

    According to Wise, there are already over 115 “tenants” on board for the Mall and Business Park. While Wise doesn't yet want to release the names of the tenants, the company says they include major local retailers, banks, broadcasters, media houses, food outlets and airlines.

    “Within the Wise Shopping Mall you have a variety of shopping options available, just as you would have in a physical mall. Read a magazine or today's newspaper in the Magazine Store, order a take-away from your favourite restaurant in the Food Court, or do all of your shopping through the various Retail Stores,” says Shipton.

    Wise has its own team of full-time developers, as well as contract developers, who have been working on the project since the beginning of the year.

    “We have not only created apps, but a full back-end with billing and updates – similar to Apple and Android.”

    Speaking of the Wise Education Centre, the company says: “We have been inundated with many parties that have access to various pieces of education – from the public school syllabus to university departments and private schools.

    “We then get the education content provider to develop their content and provide it in a certain format, which our tablets use.” The company says it already has access to most of the public school syllabus and some university content.

    “This education content will be supplied almost free of charge to students, but is limited to being used on our tablets due to encryption and DRM (digital right management) issues with the content owners.

    “We are aiming to have most households of LSM7+ to have our tablets for education in their houses soon,” says Wise, adding that the main focus is a sponsorship programme with media partners that will sponsor devices with educational content for free for students.

    Wise Tablets says the size of the screen is of little influence to them. “We decided (although not finally) to have a 9-inch rather than 10-inch to avoid attracting negative patent wars from the larger players.

    “There is currently a fine line between design look and feel, and we want to steer clear of following them with design. Apart from that, we will actually also offer an 8-inch tablet next year,” says Wise.

    “Our Wise Touch 2 has already been placed on our roadmap and will actually include more hardware than even found in Apple and Samsung. At that stage, we might be seen as a serious competitor. We believe our content still is what makes us different, not the hardware.”

    The Wise Touch tablets are being manufactured in China. The company says that they are not a standard Chinese-boxed product, but made specifically to its specs and branding.

    “Our hardware partners own their own manufacturing chain, and thus we have development control over them,” says Wise.

    The company is expecting the first batch of tablets to arrive in December, but the official launch is planned for early next year.

  • ZTE says that it has deployed a value-added platform solution (iVAS) in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, with Vodacom DRC.

    The iVAS system provides SMS services and aims to launch USSD services before the end of 2012. It has improved the Congo's short message service center capacity (SMSC) tenfold, relieving congestion and significantly improving service to approximately 5 million mobile users.

    The first phase of the project was completed in less than 90 days and included Smsc integration.

    "As a leading iVAS solutions provider, Zte has a deep understanding of the telecoms market in the Democratic Republic of Congo," said ZTE Senior Vice President Zhang Renjun. "Because of this, we were able to launch timely, low-cost, value-added technologies here."

  • Mobile advertising agency, InMobi says that mobile impressions grew by 26% over the past quarter across the African continent.

    This means that Inmobi now serves 15.4 billion quarterly impressions, up from 12.2 billion in the previous quarter.

    Isis Nyong'o, Vice President and Managing Director InMobi Africa confirms that "This latest data shows a steady growth in the African mobile media space. As more people on the continent start to use web-enabled phones, these numbers are sure to increase".

    Key highlights of the Africa data include:

        * The Nigerian market remains the fastest growing market on the African continent, followed closely by South Africa.
        * Nokia still holds the majority of the share impressions despite 0.5% decrease in impression. The phone manufacturing giant now holds 61.1% impression share.
        * Nokia and Samsung combined make up 80% of the impressions in Africa.

  • Search giant Google revealed South African smartphone statistics from survey results that were recently published online. Google recently unveiled the results of a new global survey on smartphone usage and mobile marketing, available freely online at a website called Our Mobile Planet.

    The survey, entitled “Global Mobile Research: The Smartphone User & The Mobile Marketer,” was conducted earlier this year.

    Google highlighted the following findings of the South African portion of the survey.

    The Typical Smartphone User: 18-34 Years Old, Well Educated and Working Full-Time

    The majority of smartphone users are between 18-34 years old, are well educated with full-time employment and earn an annual net income of more than R40,000. Many users are new to smartphones, with 64% saying it was their first smartphone device. Almost half of these new users had bought their device within the past 12 months.

    BlackBerry (44%) had the highest market share, followed by Nokia (27%).

    Consumers use their smartphones primarily at home, followed by work and then on-the-go. As important as a purse or a set of keys, 83% don’t leave the house without their smartphones. Users are driven by having information from the Internet at hand and having their smartphones to ‘kill time’ while out and about.

    Internet usage – especially browsing (56% of users) and e-mailing (57%) – is very important for smartphone users. Only every tenth user did not have cross-media usage habits: the majority of users indicated that they did something else while using their smartphones, like listening to music (62%), using the internet on another device (49%) or watching TV (49%).

    Internet Usage: High Frequency and Number of Daily Sessions

    The typical smartphone user accesses the web almost every day (63% mobile, 62% fixed) with several sessions on a given day – shorter sessions on mobile and longer ones on PC. Almost half expect to spend more time on mobile web via smartphones in the future. Users expect their web usage on PC to remain the same.

    Search: High Frequency and Google the Most Utilised Search Engine
    Search engines are a significant part of browsing activity (61% mobile, 80% fixed). Only 12% never use local search and almost 92% mention further actions after looking up specific information, with 36% making a purchase. For the majority of users, Google is the number one search engine.

    Videos: Low Frequency, with YouTube Coming Out Tops

    Every second smartphone is used to watch videos, at least on a monthly base. YouTube (64% mobile, 83% fixed) is in first place, followed by Facebook (62% mobile, 57% fixed).

    Social Networking: High Frequency, with Facebook the Most Visited Site

    63% of smartphone users access social networks via their smartphones every day – 35% post personal updates daily. The most visited social network is Facebook (95% mobile & fixed).

    Mobile Advertising: Accepted on High Level with High Awareness

    15% of users have used a mobile coupon in a store. Almost 84% of users have noticed mobile advertising – mostly on search engines. Almost 70% have taken action after seeing a mobile ad.

    Mobile Commerce: Growing Shopping Channels Hindered by Security and Convenience

    28% of consumers use their smartphones for price comparisons or product information when shopping – the same amount have changed their minds about a purchase, as a result of retrieving information via a smartphone.

    A fourth of consumers use their smartphones when shopping physically and also shop directly via the device – 47% of them within the past month. Preference of a fixed PC and fears that a purchase might not be secure are the main barriers to mobile commerce. 30% anticipate a higher purchase rate via their smartphones within the next 12 months.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Bharti Airtel has awarded a contract to Ericsson to upgrade an initial batch of 250 diesel powered base stations in Nigeria with E-site, a new "green" energy solution from Flexenclosure.

    - Rwanda: The Kigali Wireless Broadband (Wibro) technology is currently in the trial phase before it is fully operational, according to an official.

More

  • * Orange announces winners of the African Social Venture Prize

    Last June, Orange launched the African Social Venture Prize to support entrepreneurs and start-ups who use information and communication technologies (ICT) to meet the needs of African people.

    More than 600 candidates responded to the call for projects, which ran from June to September 2011, a sign of true entrepreneurial vitality on the African continent. Proposed projects spanned a variety of fields, including health, agriculture, education, financial services and e-commerce illustrating the potential of telecommunications in African development.

    The panel of judges, consisting of Orange specialists, the media and institutions that promote development, chose three prizewinners from among ten projects nominated, presented on the Orange African portal, StarAfrica.com.

    The awards ceremony was held yesterday in Cape Town, South Africa, during the AfricaCom Awards, an annual event that recognizes the most memorable innovations and performance of the telecommunications industry on the African continent.

    The winning projects were the following:

       1. The first prize went to the Nigerien project Horticultural Remote Irrigation system, which puts mobile technology in the hands of horticulturists, farmers and cooperatives for remote crop irrigation, allowing them to improve productivity while preserving water resources.
       2. AgaSha Business Network, which won the second prize, is a Ugandan start-up that uses the Internet to help small and medium African companies grow. Through its online business community, it facilitates interaction among economic players to boost market opportunities for small and medium businesses in Africa and abroad.
       3. Third place went to Kachile, a start-up in Côte d’Ivoire. With its e-commerce platform, it offers a way to “professionalize” cottage industries, which are well developed in Africa but lack visibility and market access.

    In addition to funding of up to 25,000 euros, Orange will provide support to the three projects for six months from its local subsidiaries and the strategic expertise of its venture capital subsidiary, Innovacom.

    The African Social Venture Prize demonstrates the Group’s willingness to contribute to the social and economic development of the countries in which it operates. In addition to supplying infrastructure and basic services, Orange is investing in deploying added-value services in key fields such as health, education, agriculture or financial services, and acts to promote entrepreneurship and innovation on the African continent.

  • * EAA 2012 Competition: African Developers Given a Global Stage

    Ericsson and Sony Ericsson partner to run competition for application developers in sub-Saharan Africa

    Ericsson LogoEricsson  in partnership with Sony Ericsson has announced plans to run a regional competition for application developers on the Android platform. The competition titled ‘Apps for Africa’ is to run under the aegis of the 2012 Ericsson Application Awards (EAA 2012) - an ongoing annual competition for application developers worldwide organized by Ericsson Research.

    The EAA 2012 awards themed ‘Apps for the Networked Society’, will run till May 2012, the competition provides a unique opportunity for developers to gain exposure within the telecommunications world and a chance to reach out to customers via Ericsson's distribution channels in addition to the opportunity to win the latest top of the range Sony Ericsson phones and €15,000 in prize money.

    Members of the winning teams in each region will each receive a Sony Ericsson Xperia phone, while teams in second place will receive Business Experience Packs (incl. Sony Ericsson MW600, office pro, McAfee, and a micro USB cable).

    Colin Williamson, Marketing Manager for Sony Ericsson said, “Our objective for Sony Ericsson is to be the preferred choice for Android devices and we’re thrilled that to help reach this objective we’re able to get under the skin of the very platform our handsets perform on by way of an Android Application competition.”

    The competition is open to students and to small and medium sized enterprises based in the region; it has been split into four sub competitions based on location as follows:

    ›        Southern Africa  for countries - Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Saint Helena, Swaziland, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe

    ›        Eastern Africa for countries - Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Comoros, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte, Réunion, Rwanda, Seychelles, United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda

    ›        Central Africa; Central Africa - Burkina Faso, Benin, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Côte D’ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Togo

    ›        Western Africa - Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone

    Interested developers in Southern Africa are required to register teams of two to four people online before February 01, 2012 and submit either a video of idea or an Android based application that addresses the theme and makes use of at least one Ericsson Labs API (e.g. Mobile Location or Text To Speech) before February 28th, 2012.

    The competition will be rolled-out across Sub Saharan Africa in November.  All application submissions will be automatically entered into the global competition - EAA 2012 - ‘Apps for the Networked Society’, for the chance to win the cash prize.
    To apply please visit here:

Issue no 580 11th November 2011

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Top story

  • Africa’s annual gabba-gabba fest AfricaCom took place this week with the organisers claiming that visitor numbers were up yet again. Vendors from almost every corner of the globe were there with heavy representation from both India and China. Russell Southwood tries to separate the signal from the noise.

    AfricaCom has become exhausting but necessary meeting place for many of the different parts of the telecoms industry, having expanded from its original GSM Africa footprint. This year it went off in search of even more territory with the addition of Enterprise ICT and Africast streams, the latter for broadcasters. The whole process has steady momentum which means that if you gather the equivalent of a small town together, your chances of meeting people will increase.

    No account of an event of this size will ever capture everything that happens and many of the stories below in the news sections are drawn from announcements at the events, including the winners of the awards event. (note to Orange: You have much to shout about so don’t enter every category multiple times.)

    Some of the key threads that we saw emerging at the event were as follows:

    * International bandwidth growing again: After a period when people were going, we’ve got all this bandwidth what are we going to do with, international fibre sales are on the move again. According to Chris Wood, CEO, WIOCC it has almost completely sold its initial 30 GB allocation and will upgrade to 160 GB which he thinks will sell through in 2 years. The drivers for all this growth? Mobile Internet and WiMAX coverage.

    ACE had a stand for the first time but whilst the project makes steady progress, it has not yet funded its South Africa leg. This is perhaps not surprising given the fact that WACS has all major telcos signed up. WIOCC has also signed an agreement with WACS to give it a west coast redundancy route.

    * The steady growth of national and cross-border terrestrial but price and access still issues: You still meet people who tell you that it might be true that Africa has all this international bandwidth but there’s still no routes from the landing station. Clearly there’s a perception lag operating. Chris Wood, WIOCC told us that its consortium members now have 50,000 kms of cross-border fibre with lower cost transit prices.

    Liquid Telecom’s network stretches north. There are gaps everywhere between these clusters of networks and some blank spaces (as Eric Osiakwan of Ghana Connect pointed out in his presentation) but the task of addressing this is far less daunting. Those endless maps with coloured lines that were “meat and drink” of conferences like this for several years are now a reality. Pricing remains an issue at both national, cross-border and local levels. Holding back the development of things like data centres and cloud computing, the latter being something of a buzz word at the event. Two telcos this week – Vodacom SA and Orange Kenya – have plans to get it beyond the “blah-blah” phase. One operator was saying that international bandwidth was now 20-40% of total delivery cost with national bandwidth making up 60-80%.

    * Satellite operators seem to have weathered the fibre storm: Satellite operators and resellers were remarkably chipper this year compared to last year. SkyVision’s new CEO Doron Ben Sira said revenues were holding steady and that it had moved from drawing most of its revenues from 4-5 countries and was equivalent amounts of revenues across 20 countries. Operators have seen their IP trunking business disappear and the number of remote base stations is falling rather than growing but they have got out and found new customers. “All the world and its aunt” are getting into the broadcast business where prices remain rock solid: how about some competitive offers?

    SkyVision is offering fibre in West Africa but sees it as “niche play” where it can use fibre to create a package of connectivity with good overall margins. C-band capacity availability is low, not helped by the antenna of the New Dawn satellite not opening. Jonathan Osler of Intelsat says he dreams that one morning he will wake up and it’s happened but he says it’s unlikely.

    On the near horizon, Kevin Viret of Yahsat says it will launch its new products early next year and says both pricing and sales channel approach “will shake the market up.” Further into the future 03B is still looking at a 2013 launch date with prices (depending on volume) between US$500-750 per meg. It has changed its business model slightly to offer slightly sub 100 MB offers asymmetrically. However, the idea that it will be good for redundancy purposes looks less and less compelling as the volume of fibre being shifted keeps ramping up.

    * Mobile content gets more and more interesting: Google’s Think Mobile event on Monday was pitching the growth of smartphones in the South African market, which is probably right. But the “ground-moving” moment seems to be happening with the much more numerous feature-phone part of the handset pyramid.

    We met Australia’s biNU mobile who have a feature phone content platform that has over 2 million users globally. It’s a low bandwidth optimized cloud-based service and it offers an extremely interesting content offer including books from the Guttenberg Project. It is getting user numbers in the hundreds of thousands and these are undoubtedly the early birds on the horizon.

    Comparing notes on mobile content in India and Africa with Arvind Rao, CEO of OnMobile was fascinating. He is part of what seems like a wave of Indian vendors who have followed Airtel into the market. He says that his sales in Africa are ahead of where he expected at this point. He told us that one big trend in India was independent musicians using mobile as a means of distribution. He also said that Indian music labels three years ago had something like 5% of their revenues from online but now they had 40-50% and of that proportion 80% was coming from mobile. Furthermore with the rise of independent music distribution and increased digital sales, the negotiating power of the labels had decreased, allowing sensible royalty deals to be done.

    At the higher end there’s a steady trickle of people offering VOD content. One of these companies Logiways offers a satellite-based, smart set top box service (costing US$200) that can serve movies. The box is controlled by the operator and can download a whole set of new movies on a monthly basis and stream them to consumers. Kenyan Fibre-To-The-Home operator Jamii Telecom told us that amongst its first small number of subscribers, 65% use their new bandwidth for downloads.

    On the content front, the Nation Media Group has had 84 million views on its You Tube channel over 3 years. Given that serious income from online advertising on platforms like these starts at around 1 million views, the content moment is finally coming into view. Or another example, Young Africa Live on the Vodacom platform in South Africa has 586,000 unique views. Mobile is well and truly media but current media owners have yet to wake up to this new dawning reality.

    * Mobile payment – when will the interconnect moment arrive? When mobile operators first started, operators didn’t connect to each other because they believed that people would prefer their service and in this fashion it would attract greater numbers. And then someone agreed to interconnect and the networking effect kicked in and the rest is history. M-money is going through a similar cycle but below the radar there are a number of operators that are not completely happy with their proprietary, on-net solution.

    The Nigerians have set the pace by saying platforms must operate with the banks which has meant a slightly more open process of platforms getting to market. Platforms like Paga in Nigeria and Mobipay in Tanzania (still just 100,000 subscribers) may currently be small in user numbers but may suddenly they may become flavor of the month. The issue for operators is that M-Money is not a highly profitable business but as with everything mobile, they do it because some else started doing it.

    Larger players are taking an interest. POS operator Verifone has bought into New Zealand’s Mobilis and is offering an m-wallet platform that has Near Field Communications on its “road map”. The current barrier to retail shopping in places like Nakumatt with say M-Pesa in Kenya is that the check-out staff and customers can’t be bothered to go through the slower process of paying this way. Cash is still faster but imagine a swipe and pay system. It’s a ways off but it’s coming…


    On the Balancing Act You Tube Channel this week a Nigeria special:

    Adebayo Oyewole
    , Hd Marketing & Strategy, Main One on its new IP products

    Uchechi Chuta on Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's use of social media

    Olalekan Olude, Head of Sales, Jobberman.com on the growth of this jobs website

    Azuka Ndulewe
    , Chief Marketing Officer, Helios Towers Nigeria on the business case for shared towers

    Ojaye Idoko, CEO, Layer3 on the barriers to broadband expansion in Nigeria

    Want up-to-the-minute breaking news? 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

  • The AfricaCom Awards winners were announced this week (9 November), with MTN, SEACOM, Main One, Orange, Helios Towers, Ericsson, Huawei, Gateway Communications, SkyVision and SafariCom winning awards. MTN South Africa scooped two awards – best network improvement for their LTE trial network and the best marketing campaign for its MTN Zone re-launch. It’s a shame that network improvement does not yet seem to have hit Ghana (see story on NCA fines below).

    SEACOM and Main One were awarded “Best Pan African Initiative”. Main One and SEACOM announced in May 2011 that they had interconnected their west and east African cable systems to launch capacity services from PoP to PoP, from a STM-1 level and above.

    This partnership extends the Main One and SEACOM networks to create a system that offers connection between any SEACOM and Main One PoPs all around Africa.

    The 2011 AfricaCom Awards winners are:

        * MTN South Africa – Best Network Improvement (for their LTE pilot test) and Best Marketing Campaign (MTN Zone)
        * Orange – Best New Service
        * Helios Towers Africa – Best Cost Efficiency Initiative
        * Ericsson – Rural Telecoms Award
        * Huawei Technologies – Best Backhaul Solution
        * Gateway Communications – Customer Service Excellence
        * SkyVision – Satellite Service Provider of the Year
        * SafariCom – Best ICT Solution Provider for Enterprise Markets, Changing Lives Award
        * Seacom/Main One – Best Pan-African Initiative

  • Following a quality of service report released by the Kenyan Communication Commission, Telkom Kenya has criticized the scope and methodology used within the report. The CCK 2010/2011 Quality of Service (QoS) report, released last week, revealed that Telkom Kenya failed to meet half of the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). The report ranked them as the poorest network in the country in regards to the terms of service. They may be right but it’s a hard position to take where you end up arguing with the referee.

    According to Telkom Kenya, a different audit benchmarked on international standards and carried out by France Telecom Group rated the company as having one of the best GSM networks among its African subsidiaries.

    Telkom Kenya’s CEO, Mickael Ghossein, released a statement saying “[Telkom Kenya] have queried the scope and methodology on which the report is based, with a view to correlating it to our own independent evaluation of our networks based on the same parameters.”

    The company has also said that an assessment they had carried out in June showed its Call Completion Rate was 96.8 percent, against the 90 percent minimum set by the CCK. Their Call Success Rate also scored at 98 percent against the 90 percent minimum. The QoS report however, rated Telkom Kenya’s Call Completion rate at 38.50 percent, and its Call Completion Rate at 41.36 percent. The company has also said that its investments on the network were not appreciated by the regulator.

    “The results come as a surprise to us considering 2011 marked the successful upgrade and improvement of the Orange mobile network in preparation of our 3G rollout,” Ghossein added.

    The CCK has previously been criticized by Safaricom, which strongly opposed last year’s report. Safaricom raised questions on the credibility of the audit process. Since then however, their score has improved and the company has accepted this year’s findings.

  • Ghana’s telecoms regulator the National Communications Authority (NCA) has imposed fines totaling GHC1.2 million (USD751,990) on five domestic mobile network operators – MTN, Vodafone, Airtel, Expresso and Tigo – for delivering poor services to end users.

    The penalties, which cover the third quarter of this year, are part of measures introduced by the NCA to improve overall quality of services and ensure end users have value for money. Airtel was fined the most – GHC350,000 – after it experienced high levels of network congestion (particularly in Tamale, Sekondi-Takoradi and the Upper East and West, and Greater Accra regions), while MTN and Expresso were each fined GHC300,000. Vodafone was fined GHC150,000 and Tigo received the lowest fine of GHC100,000, the NCA said.

  • The department of communications is moving to wrest control over management of SA’s scarce radio frequency spectrum from industry regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa), a reading of the Electronic Communications Amendment Bill, published last week, shows.

    The bill gives power to the minister of communications, rather than Icasa, to determine how spectrum — some of which is in high demand from telecommunications operators — will be divided up.

    Operators are unhappy at the slow pace at which Icasa is licensing access to new spectrum, especially in the 2,6GHz and 3,5GHz bands that can be used for next-generation mobile broadband networks, and this may have prompted government to attempt to usurp some of the authority’s powers in this regard.

    In terms of the new bill, which must still be approved by parliament, the minister of communications — currently Dina Pule — will be responsible for coordination and approval of any radio frequency spectrum plans applicable to SA.

    Furthermore, the bill proposes the creation of a national radio frequency management committee to advise the minister on spectrum issues. The bill says this committee should consist of representatives from “relevant government departments identified by the minister and one or more representatives of the authority”.

    Mike Silber, Head of Legal and Commercial Affairs at fibre operator Liquid Telecom and a former regulatory adviser at the Internet Service Providers’ Association, says Icasa has “inefficiencies around spectrum allocation and management” and this is a “major concern and one that’s worth raising”. However, he warns that assuming the ministry or government department will somehow do better is “laughable”.

    Approached for comment, the big telecoms operators say only that they are still studying the bill and will comment later. But one industry source, speaking on condition of anonymity because he has to work with government and Icasa, says the bill amounts to the “same old story” of a “power struggle” between the department of communications and Icasa.

    The source says the proposed amendments “don’t sound like a particularly good thing” because, when it comes to issues surrounding spectrum, “you need independence” and “introducing political considerations slows the process”.

    Tracy Cohen, Chief Corporate Services Officer at Neotel, says government is responsible for the development of national policy on electronic communications matters and the law requires that Icasa “is independent in the implementation of government policy”.

    The law does not require that the Icasa is “vested with policy making”, though when it comes to actual implementation the divide is often blurred, Cohen says. She says Neotel will consider the amendment bill and will make detailed comments through the public consultation process, adding that the company supports any initiative to ensure that “critical competition-enhancing processes are effectively implemented”.

    Already, some industry players have expressed concern that the bill will result in further delays in allocating new spectrum. However, Cohen says given that the change is only likely to come to pass in six or 12 months’ time, it does not follow that a change will necessarily slow the process in which Icasa is already engaged.

    “Neotel is of the view that if the department and Icasa were to enable a spectrum secondary trading market, which was previously considered but not implemented in regulation, this would greatly assist in addressing many of the bottlenecks in spectrum efficiency,” she says.

  • The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) will be laying charges against the Democratic Alliance (DA) for “trying to kill copper thieves”. The federation says it will report deputy Cape Town mayor Alderman Ian Neilson's plans to electrocute copper cable thieves to the Public Service Commission and the Human Rights Commission.

    “Cosatu will also lay charges at the police station about the DA's intention to do grievous bodily harm, through the policy of the City of Cape Town.”

    Nielsen, during a radio interview, confirmed that the city leaves on electricity for streetlights during the day, in some areas, to deter thieves from stealing the copper.

    “This clearly is with the intent to electrocute the thieves. There has, however, been no notice sent out telling people that the electricity will be live with current. During the day, people generally expect the electricity to be off, and so people, including kids, try to steel copper to get money,” says Cosatu.

    It explains that this is not an attempt to justify theft, but to caution against the intention to try and kill copper thieves by leaving the current on.

  • The GSMA today announced that Africa is now the world's second largest mobile market by connections after Asia, and the fastest growing mobile market in the world. According to the new GSMA Africa Mobile Observatory 2011 report, Africa achieved this milestone as mobile penetration reached 649 million connections in Q4 2011 (having first exceeded 50 per cent mobile penetration in 2010). Over the past five years, the number of subscribers across Africa has grown by almost 20 per cent each year and will reach more than 735 million by the end of 2012.

    Ninety-six per cent of subscriptions are pre-paid with voice services currently dominating, although uptake of data services is increasing steadily. There are currently six live HSPA+ networks across Africa, with a seventh deployment planned in the near future. By 2015, next-generation LTE networks are predicted to reach 500,000 connections in Kenya, 1.1 million connections in Nigeria and 2.5 million connections in South Africa.

    The mobile ecosystem in Africa currently generates approximately US$56 billion or 3.5 per cent of total GDP, with mobile operators alone contributing US$49 billion. In recent studies by the World Bank and others, it was shown that there is a direct relationship between mobile penetration and GDP. In developing countries, for every 10 per cent increase in mobile penetration there is a 0.81 per cent point increase in a country's GDP. The mobile industry contributes US$15 billion in government revenues and is a significant contributor to employment in Africa. In 2010 alone, approximately 5.4 million people were employed directly and indirectly in the mobile ecosystem.

    However, the Observatory reveals that huge untapped potential remains. 36 per cent of Africans within the 25 largest African mobile markets currently have no access to mobile services. Projections indicate that reaching 100 per cent mobile penetration could add over $35 billion in aggregate GDP - an increase of 2 per cent - but only if governments and operators work together to bring mobile communication to the entire African population.

    "The mobile industry in Africa is booming and a catalyst for immense growth, but there is scope for far greater development," said Peter Lyons, Director of Spectrum Policy, Africa and Middle East, GSMA. "To take full advantage of its potential, African countries need to both allocate more spectrum for the provision of Mobile Broadband services, as well as introduce tax cuts for the industry. By doing so, they will increase consumption of mobile services, thereby boosting their economic and social development."

    African countries have currently allocated considerably less spectrum to mobile services than Europe, the Americas and Asia, which is inhibiting connectivity to large swathes of rural Africa. Sufficient spectrum should be provided for Mobile Broadband services through 3G HSPA and LTE technologies, to enable the mobile industry to 'connect the unconnected' and continue to act as a catalyst for growth.

  • Ugandan Telecom companies have recently addressed several key issues they face in penetrating the rural mobile market and providing reliable and affordable services. Among the issues are two major problems; vandalism and high operating costs.

    Uganda’s population is 87 percent rural, and so spread out that the per-unit cost f delivering communication services relatively high. The high illiteracy rate and the people’s inability to create an economic benefit through mass communication means that there are few businesses willing to invest in Uganda. As a result of this and inadequate infrastructure, almost all booster stations and masts must be run on diesel generators, further bolstering the cost.

    Themba Khumab, the MTN Uganda CEO said that while a large portion of their customers were rural based, vandalism of equipment remained a big challenge to the company. Khumab called for the government to put in place stringent vandalism laws against telecom equipment and materials. “Kenya did this a long time ago and the problem was solved. Why not here?” Khumalo asked.

    The UCC Executive Director Godfrey Mutabazi agreed, saying that the poor network is caused by several reasons, including the breakdown of infrastructure due to deliberate vandalism. “Any disruption at a single point triggers a series of failures over a wider area becacause of interconnection,” Mutabazi explained.

    According to the Warid Chief Commercial Officer, Shailendra Naidu, the operating costs are another barrier thwarting progress.“Each site costs the company $300,000 (about Shs 840m) or more and the costs keep on increasing,” Naidu said, adding that it will take time for telecoms to link all areas in the country to the network.

    “Our aim is to maintain quality to our customers and we can’t do that when we are operating beyond the input costs. That is why we increased our tariffs recently,” Naidu said, adding, “We are a young company but already we have many sites across the country and will continue expanding them until every part of Uganda is covered.”

  • Mobile carriers worldwide are steadily upgrading to Long-Term Evolution (LTE) networks that support high-speed wireless services as an increasing number of consumers use tablet computers and Smartphones to access the internet. Due to Africa’s growing mobile phone market, an Ericsson executive believes the African market will have its first LTE (better known as 4G) network as early as 2012.

    Initially, the network would be unveiled in the larger urban centers where the demand for high speed internet access is constantly growing.

    “You will see the first networks going in 2012 already to a certain small degree,” said Lars Linden, head of Ericsson in sub-saharan Africa to Reuters. “It will surprise me if the big dragons such as MTN, Vodacom, (Bharti) Airtel and all these big brands, it will surprise me if they do not do anything,” Linden told Reuters.

    Africa’s poverty levels mean that many users remain lower end text and call users. There is however an increasingly tech-savvy market growing among the younger people in Africa, increasing the demand for data availability in the continent.

    African telecom giants MTN and Vodacom are already running trials in South Africa and Kenya’s Safaricom is also testing the technology.
    Furthermore, taxes imposed on the mobile industry in many African states should be reduced to drive an increase in mobile penetration, as well as, in many cases, ultimately increase the total tax intake for governments. The Kenyan government's abolition of the 16 per cent general sales tax on mobile handsets in 2009 has resulted in handset purchases increasing by more than 200 per cent. With mobile operators contributing a third more in taxes in 2011 than in 2009, mobile generated around 8 per cent of Kenya's GDP.

    Other regional success stories include Nigeria, which has the highest number of mobile subscriptions in Africa - over 93 million subscriptions, representing 16 per cent of the continent's total mobile subscriptions.

    South Africa, with its more developed infrastructure, leads the way in terms of broadband penetration: it has 6 per cent mobile broadband penetration, followed by Morocco as the next biggest market, with 2.8 per cent.

    Meanwhile Kenya is at the forefront of Mobile Money Transfers and m-banking, with 8.5 million users. For example, Safaricom in partnership with The Equity Bank in Kenya provides customers with an M-KESHO account allowing them to save money, buy insurance and arrange micro-finance loans.

    Lyons continued, "By working in partnership, mobile operators and African governments can continue the remarkable growth story of the African mobile industry. The benefits that mobile services have already brought to hundreds of millions of Africans can be extended to those who have yet to access communication technology. By so doing, the African continent can continue to bring not only communication services, but also banking, health and education to its people and drive an increase in the economic wealth and development of the region."

  • The telecommunication sector is by far the fastest growing and most lucrative market in the Africa region. In countries like Sudan, where 50 percent of the population uses mobile phones, the importance of the industry to the economy is undeniable. 59% of Zimbabweans have access to mobile phones compared with only about 5% in 2005

    Mobile phones today encompass many different useful tools, such as an alarm, watch, calculator, computer, camera, radio, and even the traditional landline phone. As Adrian Hon, founder and chief of the online gaming company ‘six to start,’ noted in his travels through Sudan; “You are never out of sight of a mobile tower.”

    The widespread use of mobile phones is indicative of their usefulness and the critical role communication plays in Sudan. With so much of the population living in remote areas and under the poverty line, the question arises as to whether so much time and money should be spent by Sudan in increasing their mobile telecom capabilities.

    With the poverty backdrop, it is hard to judge whether or not the government should focus on other issues such as education or healthcare. The reality is that the growing telecom market is growing at an astounding rate, providing many jobs and an increasing flow of wealth in to the country, creating more and more possibilities for Sudan to improve the quality of life for the people in the country.

    “Needless to say, mobile internet is cheaper in Sudan than in the UK at around 1 SDG (20p) per day, but it’s still a fair outlay for locals,” Hon wrote in the telegraph. “If you want proper mobile broadband for a laptop, then it rises to 5 SDG (£1) per day – comparable with the UK but presumably worth it if you really must be online, especially if you share the connection.”

    The ever increasing rate of technological advancement is clearly demonstrated in third world countries like Sudan, where a decade ago such a thing as mobile phones and wireless roaming were virtually non-existent.

    Today, a wireless connection can be bought for almost any mobile device such as a laptop or Smartphone and provides virtually global connections. Children today are seen interacting with a plethora of different mass communication methods, such as Facebook, Twitter, cell phones and the like, while their parents had most likely never seen a phone in their youth.

  • ANC Youth League (ANCYL) president Julius Malema is yet again at the centre of a social media explosion, as South Africans respond to the verdict of his disciplinary hearing.

    The ANC found Malema guilty of provoking divisions within the ruling party and of bringing the organisation into disrepute. The controversial leader has been suspended from the ANC for five years, and has been asked to step down as ANCYL president.

    The hashtags #Malema, #ANCYL and #ANC were all trending as soon as the announcement got under way.

    Here are some of the reactions from Twitter:

    @Jonathan_Witt: The Malema Verdict explained: Julius has a suspended sentence and now has been suspended but that suspension is suspended too.

    @GarethCliff: Now that Julius Malema has been suspended, who will frightened white people obsess about?

    @KoosKombuis: Rumour has it Malema might consider job as teaboy for the DA.

internet

  • Zimbabwean wireless broadband provider, uMAX has selected Alvarion's 4Motion solution to the roll-out a WiMAX network in its capital Harare, in the 2.5 GHz frequency.

    uMAX will be the first service provider to enable consumers and businesses access to such services in Zimbabwe.

    "uMAX is a fast-growing wireless broadband provider in an extremely dynamic market and our 4Motion solution will enable them to move forward and expand their customer base at an opportune time," said Eran Gorev, president and CEO of Alvarion.

  • Mobile telecom provider Nokia Siemens Network has launched a new Facebook application in Nigeria that enables users to manage their fixed and mobile services in the country, which is aimed at improving customer service in the country, company officials said on Monday.

    Nokia said the new app gives customers the ability to check their balance, browse and purchase special offers from mobile companies. It also will give users the ability to subscribe to new services.

    The company said in a press release that users will also be given the opportunity to share their experiences across social networks, in an effort to increase transparency. They will also “get rewards for recommending services to friends.”

    “The beauty of the Facebook app is that it engages with people on their preferred social-networking site,” said Rick Centeno, the head of Business Support Systems at Nokia Siemens.

    “People spend more time on social networks than individual websites. With this Facebook app, Nokia Siemens Networks helps operators to connect with people in a familiar setting where they already spend their online time. It takes self-care to a new level,” he added.

  • IS International's MD understands how tough Africa is, says IS MD Derek Wilcocks.
    Dimension Data subsidiary Internet Solutions (IS) aims to speed up its growth beyond SA's borders and has created IS International to facilitate the expansion.

    The new unit will provide additional support and investment to the group's existing operations in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Mozambique, it says in a statement.

    IS aims to establish further sales and operational presences in the “largely untapped markets” of Angola, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi as it aims to grow across the continent.

    The company will “augment its existing London office by opening new sales offices in North America and Australia, with offices to be opened in other selected countries over time,” it says.

    IS says these outlets will “work with wholesale and multinational clients that are eager to expand into Africa and need a globally experienced and reliable ICT partner on the ground”.

    The company says IS International will be created to take care of these initiatives. It will be led by Tony Walt, who will become MD of IS International from January 2012. He will report to IS MD Derek Wilcocks.

    Wilcocks says Walt has 15 years' of experience in helping the firm's clients in SA with communications needs. “Tony [Walt] understands that Africa is a tough market and needs sound, resilient IT solutions,” Wilcocks says.

    Walt's current responsibilities in SA will be divided between Costa Koutakis and Tony Koutakis, both of who have been with IS for more than 10 years. They will take up the positions of chief client officer and chief sales officer, respectively.

    The country managers of the group's existing operations in the UK, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and Mozambique will report directly to Walt in his new role as MD of IS International.

  • “The explosion of broadband data usage in South Africa and internationally is creating an ever-growing set of coverage and capacity challenges that cannot be addressed effectively by any single technology,” Winston Smith, head of Alvarion in South Africa, is quoted in a press statement issued this week.

    Smith added that the same is true for all types of wireless broadband networks from tier 1 mobile carriers to wireless internet service providers, enterprises, governments and municipalities, and private network operators.

    “The subscriber numbers and uptake of broadband for wireless users is much higher than in cabled options in South Africa, and this trend is set to continue into 2012,” said Smith.

    “The solution to under-capacity is to employ multiple complementary technologies which can be optimised for various types of networks and applications.”

    Alvarion highlighted that, in line with this “multi-technology approach,” it recently signed a definitive agreement to acquire Wavion, a carrier-grade Wi-Fi provider.

    According to Alvarion, interference is one of the biggest challenges in deploying Wi-Fi, which is where Wavion comes in.

    Alvarion said that Wavion provides better coverage, higher capacity and interference immunity using smart antenna, beamforming and SDMA technologies.

    “Alvarion is fast-shifting from a focus on WiMAX-based RAN solutions to a multi-technology wireless broadband provider, and with the inclusion of Wavion in our offering, we will have Wi-Fi as the final component of a complete solution for our customers,” Smith said.

computing

  • On Tuesday, Orange Kenya announced plans to increase its funding by mid next year in order to boost its data and cloud computing services in the country. The move comes as voice competition continues to rock the country and drop prices.

    The company said in a press release late on Tuesday that it would request additional funding from France Telecom, which owns a majority 51 percent share in the company, and the Kenyan government.

    Orange’s CEO Mickael Ghossein said that the company was also looking into local and international markets and financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for possible funding alternatives.

    He did not give an exact figure, but did confirm that it would include a $40 million investment for its 2012 budget, the same as this year. That is half of what it invested in the previous two years.

    Ghossein also said Orange Kenya will review its international calling rates by mid-November “to cushion against the weak shilling and increased calling rates in other countries,” which has raised termination rates. Ghossein said the rates in India and Uganda “had risen, meaning termination rates for international calls had also increased. The UK, India, Tanzania and Uganda are among other destinations for which Orange Kenya will revise its rates.”

  • The Minister of Telecommunications and Information Technologies, José Carvalho da Rocha, visited on Wednesday in Luanda the first Data Centre of the country, based in CTT ward.

    Funded by South Korea, the construction of the centre is estimated at USD 30 million and implanted in an area of 5000 square metres.

    The centre is aimed for processing and storage of data of the government.

    The minister said that its functioning will be assured in a first phase by 50 employees, among engineers and high school technicians.

    The official said that with this centre, the country will have greater benefits in terms of human and financial resources.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • South Africa-based Vodacom Group has reported consolidated revenues of ZAR31.75 billion (USD3.99 billion) for the six months ended 30 September 2011, up 7.6% on the corresponding year-earlier period. Vodacom’s domestic unit, Vodacom South Africa, accounted for ZAR23.50 billion in sales (up 4.7% year-on-year), with the firm’s international operations accounting for ZAR4.39 billion (up 13.3% year-on-year). Group EBITDA for the period grew 7.6% to ZAR10.54 billion, whilst net profit climbed 2.8% to ZAR4.39 billion. Meanwhile, CAPEX for the six-month period increased 67.7%, to ZAR3.46 billion.

    In operational terms, Vodacom South Africa remains the firm’s largest unit by subscribers, with 28.91 million customers reported at the end of September, of which figure 23.47 million are pre-paid users. Elsewhere, Vodacom units in Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Lesotho all increased their subscriber bases in the three months ended 30 September. Tanzania grew its base to 10.27 million users, whilst Mozambique weighed in with 2.99 million customers and Democratic Republic of Congo contributed 4.78 million subscribers. Finally, Lesotho grew its mobile base to 944,000.

    Vodacom CEO Pieter Uys commented: ‘I am really pleased with what we’ve achieved in the first six months of trading as the new ‘red’ Vodacom. [This year saw Vodacom re-branded in line with the red and white colour scheme used by parent company Vodafone, which secured a controlling stake in Vodacom in May 2009.] In South Africa, increased promotional activity and reduced data prices were well received, driving significant gains in both usage and customer numbers. Our average effective price per minute fell 24% and we also implemented a 22% reduction in average data prices. We’ve invested just under ZAR3.5 billion on our networks, making tangible improvements to both coverage and stability. In the second half of the year we aim to capitalise on all the steps taken to improve the customer experience, and prove to our customers that the change in colour really is just the beginning’.

  • JSE-listed IT services company Business Connexion (BCX) has turned in a poor set of financial results in its 2011 financial year to end-August. CEO Benjamin Mophatlane says the company has had a “tough year” and the results “haven’t met expectations”.

    Its technology and innovation divisions posted the most disappointing results. Mophatlane says the company’s recent acquisitions — of selected assets from IT company UCS and of the Canoa Group — have turned in “pleasing results”. UCS and Canoa Group contributed 11.4% of BCX’s revenue in the financial year.

    BCX’s “problem child”, according to Mophatlane, is its technology division. He says the main reason for the disappointing results are the global economic downturn and the fact that some vendors have begun “going straight to clients, particularly because of belt tightening” rather than through partners like BCX.

    He promises the company is taking “aggressive and corrective action to turn the [technology] division around”. BCX has replaced the division’s management and reassessed its business model. It is also exploring the option of reducing product brands to avoid “unnecessary and conflicting technologies”.

    For the year, BCX’s headline earnings per share collapsed from 47,6c in 2010 to 17,3c. The dividend also fell, from 23c/share to 14c, though the company did pay a special dividend of 40c during the period.

  • South Africa’s Allied Technologies said Wednesday it is no longer in talks to acquire unlisted Kenyan IT firm Symphony, a deal that Reuters previously reported could be worth up to $60 million (Sh6 billion).

    Altech, a $742 million telecoms and IT firm, had been in talks to acquire Symphony and was nearing the end of its due diligence, Reuters reported last week, citing a person familiar with the matter.

    “Altech was in discussions with the Da Gama Rose Group, the 100 per cent shareholders in Symphony, an unlisted Kenyan IT firm. Altech has informed the Da Gama Rose Group that it will not progress with further discussions,” Altech said in a statement.

    The Da Gama Rose Group is led by prominent Kenyan businessman and lawyer Horatius da Gama Rose who enjoyed close links with the administration of the former President Moi.
    The firm did not give a reason why the talks had been dropped, but Altech was hoping the deal would augment its existing business — Kenya Data Networks — in a region where it has struggled.

    Altech is a diverse business whose operations include telecoms, electronics, and IT services while Symphony provides IT consulting and services including hardware, software and networking.

Digital Content

  • The Wise Touch tablets are manufactured in China, but are locally branded and customised, with applications and content specifically for the local market. South African company, Wise Tablets, is soon to release a low-cost tablet developed and customised for the local market.

    The “Wise Touch 1” will be available in 7-inch and 9-inch formats, with capacitive multi-touch, running Android 2.3.

    The 9-inch tablet will retail for less than R3 500, while the 7-inch 3G tablet will cost less than R2 500, and the entry-level 7-inch WiFi tablet will go for less than R1 500.

    MD of Wise Tablets, Gian Shipton, says: “The problem with tablets available today is that all of them offer exactly the same thing; software markets”.

    “We found that most of the average South African consumers have a problem with the current high prices of the brand-named tablets, but apart from the pricing issue, it also relates to the fact that none of the tablets in the market, including the Apple iPad, present any form of local content.”

    Shipton says the content on the new tablets will be what sets them apart. “What makes the Wise Touch SA's first South African tablet is what's on the inside.”

    Apart from the regular Android apps, the tablets come preloaded with South African applications, developed specifically for the Wise Touch on behalf of local brands. The local content is categorised under the Wise Shopping Mall, Wise Business Park and Wise Education Centre.

    According to Wise, there are already over 115 “tenants” on board for the Mall and Business Park. While Wise doesn't yet want to release the names of the tenants, the company says they include major local retailers, banks, broadcasters, media houses, food outlets and airlines.

    “Within the Wise Shopping Mall you have a variety of shopping options available, just as you would have in a physical mall. Read a magazine or today's newspaper in the Magazine Store, order a take-away from your favourite restaurant in the Food Court, or do all of your shopping through the various Retail Stores,” says Shipton.

    Wise has its own team of full-time developers, as well as contract developers, who have been working on the project since the beginning of the year.

    “We have not only created apps, but a full back-end with billing and updates – similar to Apple and Android.”

    Speaking of the Wise Education Centre, the company says: “We have been inundated with many parties that have access to various pieces of education – from the public school syllabus to university departments and private schools.

    “We then get the education content provider to develop their content and provide it in a certain format, which our tablets use.” The company says it already has access to most of the public school syllabus and some university content.

    “This education content will be supplied almost free of charge to students, but is limited to being used on our tablets due to encryption and DRM (digital right management) issues with the content owners.

    “We are aiming to have most households of LSM7+ to have our tablets for education in their houses soon,” says Wise, adding that the main focus is a sponsorship programme with media partners that will sponsor devices with educational content for free for students.

    Wise Tablets says the size of the screen is of little influence to them. “We decided (although not finally) to have a 9-inch rather than 10-inch to avoid attracting negative patent wars from the larger players.

    “There is currently a fine line between design look and feel, and we want to steer clear of following them with design. Apart from that, we will actually also offer an 8-inch tablet next year,” says Wise.

    “Our Wise Touch 2 has already been placed on our roadmap and will actually include more hardware than even found in Apple and Samsung. At that stage, we might be seen as a serious competitor. We believe our content still is what makes us different, not the hardware.”

    The Wise Touch tablets are being manufactured in China. The company says that they are not a standard Chinese-boxed product, but made specifically to its specs and branding.

    “Our hardware partners own their own manufacturing chain, and thus we have development control over them,” says Wise.

    The company is expecting the first batch of tablets to arrive in December, but the official launch is planned for early next year.

  • ZTE says that it has deployed a value-added platform solution (iVAS) in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, with Vodacom DRC.

    The iVAS system provides SMS services and aims to launch USSD services before the end of 2012. It has improved the Congo's short message service center capacity (SMSC) tenfold, relieving congestion and significantly improving service to approximately 5 million mobile users.

    The first phase of the project was completed in less than 90 days and included Smsc integration.

    "As a leading iVAS solutions provider, Zte has a deep understanding of the telecoms market in the Democratic Republic of Congo," said ZTE Senior Vice President Zhang Renjun. "Because of this, we were able to launch timely, low-cost, value-added technologies here."

  • Mobile advertising agency, InMobi says that mobile impressions grew by 26% over the past quarter across the African continent.

    This means that Inmobi now serves 15.4 billion quarterly impressions, up from 12.2 billion in the previous quarter.

    Isis Nyong'o, Vice President and Managing Director InMobi Africa confirms that "This latest data shows a steady growth in the African mobile media space. As more people on the continent start to use web-enabled phones, these numbers are sure to increase".

    Key highlights of the Africa data include:

        * The Nigerian market remains the fastest growing market on the African continent, followed closely by South Africa.
        * Nokia still holds the majority of the share impressions despite 0.5% decrease in impression. The phone manufacturing giant now holds 61.1% impression share.
        * Nokia and Samsung combined make up 80% of the impressions in Africa.

  • Search giant Google revealed South African smartphone statistics from survey results that were recently published online. Google recently unveiled the results of a new global survey on smartphone usage and mobile marketing, available freely online at a website called Our Mobile Planet.

    The survey, entitled “Global Mobile Research: The Smartphone User & The Mobile Marketer,” was conducted earlier this year.

    Google highlighted the following findings of the South African portion of the survey.

    The Typical Smartphone User: 18-34 Years Old, Well Educated and Working Full-Time

    The majority of smartphone users are between 18-34 years old, are well educated with full-time employment and earn an annual net income of more than R40,000. Many users are new to smartphones, with 64% saying it was their first smartphone device. Almost half of these new users had bought their device within the past 12 months.

    BlackBerry (44%) had the highest market share, followed by Nokia (27%).

    Consumers use their smartphones primarily at home, followed by work and then on-the-go. As important as a purse or a set of keys, 83% don’t leave the house without their smartphones. Users are driven by having information from the Internet at hand and having their smartphones to ‘kill time’ while out and about.

    Internet usage – especially browsing (56% of users) and e-mailing (57%) – is very important for smartphone users. Only every tenth user did not have cross-media usage habits: the majority of users indicated that they did something else while using their smartphones, like listening to music (62%), using the internet on another device (49%) or watching TV (49%).

    Internet Usage: High Frequency and Number of Daily Sessions

    The typical smartphone user accesses the web almost every day (63% mobile, 62% fixed) with several sessions on a given day – shorter sessions on mobile and longer ones on PC. Almost half expect to spend more time on mobile web via smartphones in the future. Users expect their web usage on PC to remain the same.

    Search: High Frequency and Google the Most Utilised Search Engine
    Search engines are a significant part of browsing activity (61% mobile, 80% fixed). Only 12% never use local search and almost 92% mention further actions after looking up specific information, with 36% making a purchase. For the majority of users, Google is the number one search engine.

    Videos: Low Frequency, with YouTube Coming Out Tops

    Every second smartphone is used to watch videos, at least on a monthly base. YouTube (64% mobile, 83% fixed) is in first place, followed by Facebook (62% mobile, 57% fixed).

    Social Networking: High Frequency, with Facebook the Most Visited Site

    63% of smartphone users access social networks via their smartphones every day – 35% post personal updates daily. The most visited social network is Facebook (95% mobile & fixed).

    Mobile Advertising: Accepted on High Level with High Awareness

    15% of users have used a mobile coupon in a store. Almost 84% of users have noticed mobile advertising – mostly on search engines. Almost 70% have taken action after seeing a mobile ad.

    Mobile Commerce: Growing Shopping Channels Hindered by Security and Convenience

    28% of consumers use their smartphones for price comparisons or product information when shopping – the same amount have changed their minds about a purchase, as a result of retrieving information via a smartphone.

    A fourth of consumers use their smartphones when shopping physically and also shop directly via the device – 47% of them within the past month. Preference of a fixed PC and fears that a purchase might not be secure are the main barriers to mobile commerce. 30% anticipate a higher purchase rate via their smartphones within the next 12 months.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Bharti Airtel has awarded a contract to Ericsson to upgrade an initial batch of 250 diesel powered base stations in Nigeria with E-site, a new "green" energy solution from Flexenclosure.

    - Rwanda: The Kigali Wireless Broadband (Wibro) technology is currently in the trial phase before it is fully operational, according to an official.

More

  • * Orange announces winners of the African Social Venture Prize

    Last June, Orange launched the African Social Venture Prize to support entrepreneurs and start-ups who use information and communication technologies (ICT) to meet the needs of African people.

    More than 600 candidates responded to the call for projects, which ran from June to September 2011, a sign of true entrepreneurial vitality on the African continent. Proposed projects spanned a variety of fields, including health, agriculture, education, financial services and e-commerce illustrating the potential of telecommunications in African development.

    The panel of judges, consisting of Orange specialists, the media and institutions that promote development, chose three prizewinners from among ten projects nominated, presented on the Orange African portal, StarAfrica.com.

    The awards ceremony was held yesterday in Cape Town, South Africa, during the AfricaCom Awards, an annual event that recognizes the most memorable innovations and performance of the telecommunications industry on the African continent.

    The winning projects were the following:

       1. The first prize went to the Nigerien project Horticultural Remote Irrigation system, which puts mobile technology in the hands of horticulturists, farmers and cooperatives for remote crop irrigation, allowing them to improve productivity while preserving water resources.
       2. AgaSha Business Network, which won the second prize, is a Ugandan start-up that uses the Internet to help small and medium African companies grow. Through its online business community, it facilitates interaction among economic players to boost market opportunities for small and medium businesses in Africa and abroad.
       3. Third place went to Kachile, a start-up in Côte d’Ivoire. With its e-commerce platform, it offers a way to “professionalize” cottage industries, which are well developed in Africa but lack visibility and market access.

    In addition to funding of up to 25,000 euros, Orange will provide support to the three projects for six months from its local subsidiaries and the strategic expertise of its venture capital subsidiary, Innovacom.

    The African Social Venture Prize demonstrates the Group’s willingness to contribute to the social and economic development of the countries in which it operates. In addition to supplying infrastructure and basic services, Orange is investing in deploying added-value services in key fields such as health, education, agriculture or financial services, and acts to promote entrepreneurship and innovation on the African continent.

  • * EAA 2012 Competition: African Developers Given a Global Stage

    Ericsson and Sony Ericsson partner to run competition for application developers in sub-Saharan Africa

    Ericsson LogoEricsson  in partnership with Sony Ericsson has announced plans to run a regional competition for application developers on the Android platform. The competition titled ‘Apps for Africa’ is to run under the aegis of the 2012 Ericsson Application Awards (EAA 2012) - an ongoing annual competition for application developers worldwide organized by Ericsson Research.

    The EAA 2012 awards themed ‘Apps for the Networked Society’, will run till May 2012, the competition provides a unique opportunity for developers to gain exposure within the telecommunications world and a chance to reach out to customers via Ericsson's distribution channels in addition to the opportunity to win the latest top of the range Sony Ericsson phones and €15,000 in prize money.

    Members of the winning teams in each region will each receive a Sony Ericsson Xperia phone, while teams in second place will receive Business Experience Packs (incl. Sony Ericsson MW600, office pro, McAfee, and a micro USB cable).

    Colin Williamson, Marketing Manager for Sony Ericsson said, “Our objective for Sony Ericsson is to be the preferred choice for Android devices and we’re thrilled that to help reach this objective we’re able to get under the skin of the very platform our handsets perform on by way of an Android Application competition.”

    The competition is open to students and to small and medium sized enterprises based in the region; it has been split into four sub competitions based on location as follows:

    ›        Southern Africa  for countries - Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Saint Helena, Swaziland, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe

    ›        Eastern Africa for countries - Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Comoros, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte, Réunion, Rwanda, Seychelles, United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda

    ›        Central Africa; Central Africa - Burkina Faso, Benin, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Côte D’ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Togo

    ›        Western Africa - Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone

    Interested developers in Southern Africa are required to register teams of two to four people online before February 01, 2012 and submit either a video of idea or an Android based application that addresses the theme and makes use of at least one Ericsson Labs API (e.g. Mobile Location or Text To Speech) before February 28th, 2012.

    The competition will be rolled-out across Sub Saharan Africa in November.  All application submissions will be automatically entered into the global competition - EAA 2012 - ‘Apps for the Networked Society’, for the chance to win the cash prize.
    To apply please visit here:

Issue no 579 4th November 2011

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Top story

  • The growth in Africa’s Facebook numbers show that it has touched a chord with users at a near mass level. Social media played a part in the Arab Spring and they’ve been arguing about what part ever since. Here at Balancing Act we decided to engage with social media about 12 months ago and this article looks at what we’ve discovered since then.

    Balancing Act’s universe of users is about 11,000 people, around 70% of whom are interested in telecoms and Internet in English and French and 30% in broadcast and film: that’s those topics from Africa, not anywhere else. We are a specialist, niche media so bear these figures in mind when looking at the stats below.

    Readers sometimes write and talk about “in your blog” and the “the blog you write” but besides the Top Story every week in these e-letters (which are based on facts but are opinionated), the rest is a newsletter. It comes out at a particular time so people know when to expect it and it has sections so they know where to look for things that might interest them. We could do a blog separately but somehow what’s the point when you have a weekly opportunity to say something?

    So about 12 months ago we decided to get engaged with social media to see in practical terms what it meant. Since it eats time like some minor addiction, you have to decide what you’re going to do and how much of it. We chose to put time into LinkedIn because it is a site for professionals rather than Facebook that has taken advantage of corporate interest but is still fundamentally individuals.

    You can’t appear on all social platforms so we chose Twitter rather than the slightly more long-form Tumblr and we chose You Tube rather than Vimeo. In other words, we made somewhat safe choices on the basis that it’s easier to be on platforms that are well-known and established with existing audiences. So for example in African terms, You Tube is up in the Top 5 most-used sites in those African countries analysed by alexa.com whereas Vimeo and Tumblr are not.

    We have 1,816 LinkedIn contacts right across the continent from the smallest most unconnected country to the largest and it is an excellent way of meeting people at all levels in a company. However, its mail lists are amongst the dullest we sample and rare is the week when they produce interesting and surprising information: people use it to promote what they do (as we do) and that is usually less than riveting.

    Our You Tube channel attracts just under 2,000 users a month and has just under 4,000 views a month. This has happened in the space of 12 months and it is still growing. These are 5-10 minute interviews with industry leaders about what’s happening in their company or more widely in the business. A successful interview can expect to get 300-500 views. The exceptions have been film-makers: Ghana’s Shirley Frimpong Manso who made Adam’s Apples has got 10,508 views and Tunisia’s Nadia El Fani who made Ould Lenine 5,569 views. In the telecoms field, Kenya’s John Kamau has got 1,437 views talking about Fibre-To-The-Home.

    It’s not broadcast quality but rough-and-ready compressed HD video clips shot using a small camera with no external mike or additional lighting. There’s not enough time to edit, except to take out the more obvious mistakes. You soon discover that what you thought was quiet and undisturbed attracts noise and disturbance. Watch Jessica Verrili of Twitter not just because it’s on topic for this article but also because you can see the hotel staff in the background opening and closing the doors behind her head as they are shooed away off-camera:

    People are more cautious about what they say in a video clip than they are when they talk in an interview for a print article but there are still plenty of surprises. Although you can put your videos into topic categories, which run down the right hand side of the featured video clip, it feels awkward and it is not designed to create easy ways for people – professional or otherwise – creating categories they can use. Surprise, surprise, you have to use a search engine to do that….

    Currently we have only 106 subscribers to the channel and 22 friends but thus far we have promoted individual videos rather than subscribing to the channel. But if you want to know about 2-5 videos a week covering your industry, subscribe to BalancingActAfrica on You Tube.

    We currently have 889 followers on Twitter (@balancingactafr) and on the current growth pattern will go over a thousand in the next month or two. We follow 253 other people or companies and tweet about 200 times a month. Twitter eats time if you let it but it’s a good way of spotting things that you might not otherwise have come across.

    In African terms, the majority of the users seem to be from South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya with lesser showings from Ghana and Senegal. The outliers are people like Nenna (from Cote d’Ivoire) and George Mpoudi of MTN (from Cameroon). The twitterscape from where we are seems to be dominated by ICT4D (as in development) folk rather than private sector companies, which is a little surprising. The corporate tweets tend to be a little dull and uninformative or aimed at the consumers of that company’s products. The exception is Bob Collymore, CEO of Safaricom who engages in regular banter with Safaricom’s users in Kenya.

    Getting the tone right on Twitter is hard. Some people use it simply to talk about what they’re feeling or what they think. Others describe every last person they’ve met. But we meet people who don’t really want to feature in our Twitter feed and whilst we think our opinions about everything in the whole wide world are riveting, we’re not sure you would. That said, there’s no doubt Twitter users are (awful word) “thought leaders”.

    So we’ve come a long way since Balancing Act’s newsletter output used to be a simple e-mail using Outlook Express. Our target readers may not always have the bandwidth to hand for You Tube but they want to be part of it. One person asked us why we weren’t doing audio blogs rather than video clips, with the unspoken assumption that because “this is Africa”. We’ve now passed that point and whilst everything won’t work for everybody, there’s no reason to assume that something won’t work for a large number of people, including You Tube.

    In terms of devices, we have below 5% who use mobile phones to access our content because our core audience is in the content and bandwidth business. Nevertheless, the number of smartphones, feature phones and tablets is growing fast so the Internet will allow us to be on all those platforms as they achieve “critical mass”.

    The newsletters are done as an adjunct to our consultancy and research business and are supported by advertising. But what is much less clear is the business model for other parts of social media. You can see Twitter as a way of engaging with audiences but there are few ways that it converts into cash, even for the company itself.

    Likewise, despite already having just under half the users of the text e-letter, there is no quick and easy way to monetize the You Tube Channel. You make money with Google Ads if you have millions of views, not if you are a niche channel with thousands. Any daring advertiser out there, give us a ring (+44 207 582 5220): it only took one advertiser on the text e-letters for all the others to get the idea.

    If you have your own experiences with social media in Africa, send them to: editorial@balancingact-africa.com

    On the Balancing Act You Tube Channel this week a Nigeria special:

    Adebayo Oyewole, Hd Marketing & Strategy, Main One on its new IP products

    Uchechi Chuta on Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's use of social media

    Olalekan Olude, Head of Sales, Jobberman.com on the growth of this jobs website

    Azuka Ndulewe, Chief Marketing Officer, Helios Towers Nigeria on the business case for shared towers

    Ojaye Idoko, CEO, Layer3 on the barriers to broadband expansion in Nigeria

    Want up-to-the-minute breaking news? 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

  • France Telecom announced on 31 October 2011that it has finalized the acquisition of Congolese operator Congo Chine Telecom. The deal means France Telecom will own 51% of the company’s stake with the remaining 49% owned by the government.

    The French company said in a press statement, that the move is part of expansion efforts and reflects France Telecom-Orange’s international strategy, which aims to stimulate growth by entering high potential emerging markets.

    “The acquisition of CCT is an important step in our policy of expansion outside Europe, and contributes to our stated aim of doubling our revenues in Africa and the Middle East by 2015. Orange is already present in over 20 countries in the region and has built up considerable experience developing networks and new services that are specifically tailored to the needs of local markets,” Stephane Richard, France Telecom-Orange CEO and Chairman said in a press statement.

    France Telecom will initially pay $10 million followed by a $7 million second payment to the Chinese company for the take over. France Telecom-Orange will also deliver to CCT a capital increase of $185 million in order to finance its operations.

    Infrastructure and other services will be provided to CCT by ZTE, France Telecom-Orange has referred to the vendor as a preferred supplier. In addition, China Development Bank will provide strategic financing support.

    A statement from France Telecom-Orange promises that the French firm will contribute its marketing, commercial and technical expertise as well as the Orange brand, to leverage CCT’s solid network assets.

    The operator acknowledges CCT’s real potential for growth over the next few years, noting the DRC – the fourth most populous African country – has a small penetration rate of just 17% despite its population of 70 million.

  • MTN has increased its fibre footprint through partnerships with Metro Fibre Networx (MFN) in Gauteng and Neotel fibre and Ethekweni Metroconnect in the Western Cape and KZN.

    MTN Business announced on 1 November 2011 that it had expanded their Metro Ethernet footprint through the development of strategic last mile relationships. According to Justin Colyn, GM of Fixed Mobile Convergence at MTN Business, they will also use Telkom Wholesale to connect businesses in areas that do not have a fibre footprint.

    Colyn said that the demand for Metro Ethernet is currently very strong in Gauteng, and with Metro Fibre Networx expanding its footprint in high-concentration business areas in Gauteng, it means that their customers will benefit from this partnership.

    The company said in a press statement that their MTN Metro Ethernet product offering provides customers with a high speed, high availability and low latency broadband Ethernet service. “Through this offering, customers can choose bandwidths speeds from 2Mbps to 1Gbps in specific intervals,” said MTN Business.

    The MTN Metro Ethernet service is based on a fibre network that uses Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) technology to supply point-to-point, point-to-multi-point or virtual LAN services between customer branches within the Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban metropolitan areas.

  • According to Morocco’s telecoms regulator, the ANRT, mobile subscribers in the country reached a total of 36.15 million at the end of September 2011, up by 3.4% quarter-on-quarter and 18.5% in twelve months. In terms of market share, at that date the watchdog reported that Maroc Telecom accounted for 46.9% of subscribers, Meditel 32.8% and Wana nearly 20.3%. Also at 30 September, the ANRT said that Moroccan 3G mobile internet services had 2.33 million subscribers, up from 1.82 million the previous quarter and 1.16 million a year earlier.

    At the end of the third quarter Maroc Telecom claimed 39.9% of the 3G broadband market, giving it 929,500 subscribers, followed by Meditel with 829,000 (35.6%) and Wana with 24.5%, or 570,000 3G mobile internet accounts. The figures include combined 3G voice and data mobile package users (handsets, computers and other devices). Subscriptions to data-only 3G mobile broadband services (e.g. via USB dongle modem) at end-September amounted to 1.403 million (60.2% of the 3G internet total), up by 9.5% quarter-on-quarter, while combined voice-plus-data package users reportedly reached 926,000 (39.8% of the 3G total), a growth rate of 73.1% from the end of June 2011.

    Fixed ADSL broadband lines in Morocco (nearly all operated by Maroc Telecom) saw a quarterly increase in 3Q11 of 4.5% to reach a total of 550,500.

  • JSE-listed Altech has appointed Shahab Meshki as new CEO of its struggling East Africa business Kenya Data Networks. At the same time, the technology group is reported to be in talks to buy Kenyan IT firm Symphony in a deal that could be worth as much as US$60m.

    An unnamed source told Reuters that Altech has been in talks with Symphony “for several months and is now nearing the end of its due diligence”. According to the wire service, Altech is like to pay between $50m and $60m for the company, which also has operations in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Ethiopia.

    According to Symphony’s website, the company delivers IT solutions focusing on consulting, training, infrastructure and maintenance. Meanwhile, Meshki’s appointed, which is effective from 1 November, comes just weeks after Altech CEO Craig Venter said he had replaced the management team in East Africa to deal with the underperformance of the operation, which dragged down the group’s interim results for the six months to the end of August.

    According to Altech, Meshki has 20 years of experience in the IT and telecommunications industries, having started his career with Siemens’ automation division where he was in charge of software and hardware development and later led marketing and sales of network analysers.

    In 1995, he joined Cisco, and in 2002 moved to Kenya to establish the US company’s presence in East Africa.

  • According to an unconfirmed report from online news journal Citi FM, a commercial court in Accra will today launch a trial concerning a lawsuit filed opposing the sale of a majority stake in national PTO Vodafone Ghana – then known as Ghana Telecom (GT) – to UK-based Vodafone Group.

    The portal writes that the courts have deliberated on the action for more than a year to determine whether or not it has jurisdiction to hear the case, filed by Professor Agyeman Badu Akosah and six others. The plaintiffs are seeking a legal cancellation of the sale of the government’s 70% stake in GT to the UK giant in 2008.

    On 3 July 2008 Vodafone agreed a deal to acquire a 70% stake in the PTO from the government for USD900 million and the sale was completed the following month. The state retains a 30% interest. The firm was rebranded Vodafone Ghana in April 2009.

  • MTN Nigeria, Globacom and Airtel Nigeria are facing possible sanctions from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) if the operators do not improve their services by the end of November 2011.

    MTN Nigeria, Glo and Airtel received notice from the Nigerian Communications Commission that the companies had not complied with the NCC quality of service requirements.

    According to the NCC, MTN Nigeria had 30 days from 1 November 2011 to meet the set targets as set out in the notice. Failure to comply will result in the NCC directive in the time frame given, will require all new sales of SIM cards to be stopped and the imposition of a financial penalty.

    If the companies do not improve their quality of service by the end of the month, the NCC said it would cancel the operators ability to issue new SIM cards.

    Mark Ogunba, a Lagos-based IT and telecom analyst, told ITNewsAfrica that the government must be careful not to alienate the companies as they push toward wider telecom and Internet penetration.

    “While it is definitely important to improve our infrastructure and quality of service, threats are unlikely to get it done and this could result in these companies deciding it is too costly,” said Ogunba.

    “We need incentives instead,” concludes Ogunba.

internet

  • Google said on 31 October 2011, that through its latest initiative, 5,000 of Nigeria ’s SMEs would move their businesses online in the next five days.

    According to BusinessDayOnline.com, statistics indicate that there are three million SMEs in Nigeria and only a paltry 17,000 are online. Analyst say a digital revolution for SMEs is in the offing, as increasing empirical evidence suggests that simply putting a website on the internet, increases the revenue, productivity and competitiveness of SMEs.

    Speaking at the Google small business web fair yesterday, Juliet Ehimuan, Google Nigeria Country Manager said small businesses are a key driver of economic growth in Nigeria .

    “We intend to remove the barriers that stop small scale businesses from getting online, such as a lack of time, anticipated expense or simply a lack of knowledge. Our tools and resources make it quick, easy and free for businesses to register an online presence and take advantage of internet opportunities”.

    Omobola Johnson, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Communication Technology, who opened the fair, said SMEs are being used as a strategy for employment generation, economic restructuring for development and growth.

    “Some compelling statistics support this view. Globally SMEs provide 50 percent of global employment and 90 percent of registered businesses are SMEs. In Malaysia , for instance, in 2006, SMEs were 99.2 percent of all businesses and contributed 47.3 percent of GDP and 65.3 percent of employment. In Nigeria , the statistics are similar but with some important differences.”

    According to Johnson, 70% of the country’s employment is provided by SMEs, but they deliver only 10 percent of economic value added (EVA) compared to an average of 55% and 25% EVA, in other developing economies and 60 percent and 50 percent respectively, in developed economies of the world.

    These statistics, according to the minister, show that Nigeria ’s SMEs are not as productive as they can, should or need to be. She listed a number of reasons that have slowed down the growth of SMEs which include: poor infrastructure, a poor skills base, poor  access to finance, low adoption of ICT and access to markets amongst others.

    With regards to infrastructure development, she said the role of the ICT Ministry is to facilitate the building of an ICT infrastructure that is cost effective, ubiquitous and gives more Nigerians better and faster access to the internet, at affordable prices.

    “We are also committed to getting as many devices into the hands of Nigerians, to enable them transact business on the internet and create a demand for products and services offered over the internet. In other words, getting businesses online is a key part of the agenda and policy direction of this ministry.

    Google has already registered its presence on the .ng domain name and is by this initiative populating the .ng domain for the benefit of Nigeria .

    “I would strongly encourage SMEs to wholeheartedly embrace the internet and take that small first step of having a website on the .ng domain. Today Nigeria has an estimated 33 million internet users and we have targets to double this number in the next three to four years,” said Johnson.

    Getting your business online immediately, gives you access to this market, not to talk of the hundreds of millions of other internet users out there – a very strong value proposition in our opinion”, said Johnson.

  • South Africa’s broadband speeds are still lagging behind the global average South Africa’s average broadband speed of 2.84Mbps is still significantly lower than the global average of 9.18Mbps. South Africa is ranked 103rd in the world when it comes to broadband speeds.

    South Africa’s average download speed of 2.84Mbps is also slower than a few other African countries like Ghana (7.62Mbps), Kenya (4.27Mbps), Rwanda (3.74Mbps), Morocco (2.92Mbps) and Angola (2.89Mbps).

    This is according to Ookla’s Net Index which uses data from the web based speed test service Speedtest.net.

    The Ookla Net Index ranks consumer download speeds around the globe using results from the past 30 days where the average distance between the client and the test server is less than 300 miles.

    According to the Net Index statistics, Lithuania had the highest average broadband speed at 33Mbps, followed by South Korea with 30Mbps and Sweden with 26Mbps.

    The top 10 countries ranked by download speed are:

       1. Lithuania 32.61Mbps
       2. South Korea 30.15Mbps
       3. Sweden 26.09Mbps
       4. Romania 25.80 Mbps
       5. Latvia 25.23 Mbps
       6. Netherlands 24.60Mbps
       7. Macau 22.56Mbps
       8. Bulgaria 21.66Mbps
       9. Andorra 21.20Mbps
      10. Switzerland 20.89Mbps

  • International and local tourists will from January be able to search and access basic information about places of interest on their smartphones .

    Yellow Pages Kenya Limited has made this possible with a new traveller's application software running on android platform that it would make available on Samsung's Galaxy tablet computer, iPhone and iPad. The application will enable travellers to check out hotels with their preferred delicacies, taxis services in particular localities and entertainment spots, among others.

    The platform is currently undergoing fine tuning tests before its is released to consumers early next year for free download from mobile phones applications stores.

    The company provides travel guide directory on hard copy, but it says the electronic version would not only provide users with an easy option but also eliminate the need of using the Internet since the application would be downloaded and stored on the smartphones for reference.

    The Yellow Pages managing director, Rizwan Jiwani, said it took the company five years to put together the content on the visitors' guide and this was mainly motivated by the realisation that most tourists depended on maps or wildlife check lists provided at most game parks with not only very little information but also difficult to obtain.

    "There is no enough free travel information both for local and international tourists, however, with this app, travellers can now search for information by area or street," said Jiwani.

    "We haven't signed contract with any of the handsets manufacturers yet, however, this should be through by December and the application made available in their stores in January."

    Even though Yellow Pages intends to offer the content available on the application for free, it expects to generate revenue through advertisement from hospitality industry. This includes the hotels and restraurants who will have an opportunity to place their content on the platform. Other than exposure, the tourism industry would also benefit from feedback from their clients.

computing

  • It appears there was method in Gijima’s madness after all. The JSE-listed IT company that earlier this year said it would buy all its employees Apple iPads has signed the first systems integrator agreement in Southern Africa with Apple. Gijima will assist with the support for Apple hardware and software solutions that work with company-managed systems, it said on Monday.

    “Industry observers have noted that IT departments are not only faced with the challenge of integrating company-owned technology, but also personal devices that employees want to bring to work,” Gijima said. “Employees recognise that devices, such as the iPad, are excellent productivity tools and are demanding that their personal technology integrates with their organisations’ back-end systems.”

    The use of Apple technology has increased substantially in the enterprise space and there is demand for more systems support, according to RJ van Spaandonk, executive director of Core Group, which represents Apple in SA.

    As an authorised reseller and systems integrator, Gijima will sell and support iPad, MacBook Pro, Macbook Air, iMac, Mac Mini, Lion and Lion Server for business customers.

    “In June this year … we integrated 3,300 iPads into our own organisation, so we have first-hand experience with the requirements and systems needed to support companies with their Apple technology needs,” said Gijima chief financial officer Carlos Ferreira.

  • Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) has provided 110 computers to nine schools and orphanages on the Copperbelt in a bid to enhance Information Communication Technology and the quality of education.

    The donation of the 110 computers and nine printers, worth about US$100,000, was a follow-up to another donation of 300 computers to 19 Government schools in the last three years in areas where KCM operated.

    According to a KCM statement, several schools requested for the computers, prompting the company to expand its programme to provide more computers to schools and children.

    KCM corporate social responsibility (CSR) manager Sampa Chitah said the initiative to provide computers to schools and orphanages was intended to promote computer literacy in learning institutions and enable mainly underprivileged pupils compete favourably with their peers in privately-run schools. "This opportunity will foster an e-learning culture that is good to our education system," she said.

    Chitah said the government alone could not achieve the goal of providing quality education, prompting KCM to partner with the government to provide computers to schools.

    The project would impact positively on the pupils, particularly disadvantaged children in the orphanage centres as beneficiaries would keep abreast with basic computer skills. She urged school administrators and pupils to take advantage of the equipment to improve their computer literacy.

    The schools which received the computers were Matelo Basic School, Maiteneke High School, Mutende Orphanage in Chingola, Chilabombwe's Konkola and Kamenza basic schools and One-way Mission Orphanage.

    Rokana and Riverain basic schools and the SOS Children's Village in Kitwe were the other beneficiaries.

  • The Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Prof. Cleopas Angaye, has said the national software policy being developed by the Federal Government will help in making the economy knowledge-driven rather one that is based on revenue from oil alone.

    Angaye who stated this at the just-concluded national software conference and competition organised by the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON), noted that the national software policy is expected to guide the deployment of local software.

    "We have tried some initiatives in enhancing the software industry in Nigeria, such as the national software development initiative, national software development taskforce and the national information technology (IT) policy. Despite these, we have not been able to adequately explore the full potentials of the industry in a way to make Software Nigeria a major player in the global industry," he said.

    Angaye reiterated that the software industry had no doubt become a thing of utmost importance to future competitiveness for economies across the globe especially with its halo effect in creating business opportunities.
     
    According to him, Nigeria had not been able to adequately explore the full potentials of the industry in a way to make her software, major player in the global market.

    The software industry, he said, was important to future competitiveness across the globe especially with its effect in creating related business opportunities, adding that the critical role of software could not be over emphasised.

    Angaye noted that IT assisted in developing globally competitive human capital as it played a key role especially in the areas of teaching aids, research, online education and with opportunity and additional skills that would allow them to secure employment and provides information available job opportunities.

    "The role of our youths and students in IT and in particular software development as a major in economic growth and development is very obvious across the globe. The positive implication of this new trend is that job opportunities abound for citizens of countries like Nigeria where unemployment rate very high.

    "Through IT, Nigerian youths can be exposed to borderless opportunities, global competitiveness and create wealth for themselves and nation as whole" he said.

    Angaye stressed that there was an urgent need for all stakeholders in the IT industry to come together and contribute meaningfully to empowering youths in becoming major players in the global IT market.

  • A new software service provider “Twenty Third Century Systems” (TTCS) will this week launch its services in Uganda.

    The Uganda launch will be the fourth destination for the company among the EAC partner states after already having subsidiary companies in Rwanda, Burundi and Kenya, reports EA Business Week.

    According to Stuart Mugabe, the company Chief Executive Officer, the launch of the Twenty Third Century Systems Uganda is a culmination of the strategic alliance forged by local ICT provider Spacecomms Consulting Ltd a company incorporated in Uganda and wholly owned by Ugandans, and a Pan African business solutions provider Twenty Third Century Systems (pvt) Ltd (TTCS) a company incorporated in Zimbabwe.

    TTCS is the largest SAP (Software Applications) resource partner in Africa outside South Africa with a Gold partner status.

    Mugabe says that the company has been in the business of deploying the world's leading ERP solution (SAP) for the last 15 years, with so many end to end SAP implementations to its name.

    "TTCS has spread its operations from Zimbabwe to open other subsidiaries across Africa i.e. Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, Malawi, Botswana, Zambia and Nigeria.

    "The opening of the Uganda Subsidiary through this strategic partnership represents our commitment to delivering world-class solutions to East Africa using Ugandan resources," said Mugabe in an interview with East African Business Week in Kampala.

    He adds that Twenty Third Century Systems has extensive experience in Africa and the Middle East, with successful projects in countries such as Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, South Africa, Nigeria, Mauritius, Malawi, Rwanda, Botswana and Bahrain.

    "TTCS has a wealth of knowledge and experience, employing over 130 SAP consultants to date.

    "We have invested hugely in providing software as a service (cloud computing) and training Ugandans to replace imported skills, thereby creating local capacity for the delivery and support of future SAP implementations in the region using Ugandan resources," adds Mugabe.

    He notes that their strategy is to build on its relationship with SAP to deploy a large number of SAP solutions to the private sector and Government  institution, providing complete solutions which cover the full spectrum of ICT projects, i.e. hardware, software , connectivity and implementation services.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele has put a halt on all future tolling projects.
    The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) says the hearing into e-tolling at the Gauteng Legislature will be futile.

    After receiving several petitions against e-tolling, the Gauteng Legislature combined them into one and announced it would host a hearing on the matter on 11 November.

    It believes it is through this process that parties will begin finding a solution to the tollgates impasse in the province.

    However, Cosatu says this process will be futile if the current project is already set to move ahead. Last month, Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele put a halt on all future tolling projects, but said this does not include e-tolling, which would definitely go ahead in February. For this reason, Cosatu says the hearing will be futile.

    “There will be no solution to the impasse if objectors at the hearing are told the current tolling project is going ahead anyway, and they can only raise issues about future tolling plans, in which case, this hearing will be a futile exercise.”

    The federation says it will insist at the hearing that e-tolling has never been properly debated, and has not been accepted by the people of Gauteng.

    “The current tolling project must be scrapped. The tolls will mean a steep increase in the cost of living of all road users, especially workers who have no alternative but to drive to work, because of the lack of a proper public transport system. They already pay taxes and a fuel levy every time they buy petrol.”

    If there is no change in policy from government, the negotiations deadlock, and tolls are not scrapped, Cosatu will plan marches, demonstrations, pickets and stay-aways.

    “We are confident that thousands of other Gauteng residents will be joining us in these protests. We shall also consider court action if people are discriminated [against] on the basis of geography. We shall continue to demand, as the alternative to tolled roads, an integrated, safe, reliable and affordable public transport system.”
    Going ahead

    Fees initially gazetted for the e-toll system in February were suspended due to public pressure. Cabinet in August approved reduced tariffs for e-tolling in Gauteng, which dictate that motorcycles (Class A1) with e-tags will pay 24c/km; light vehicles (Class A2) will pay 40c/km; medium vehicles (Class B) 100c/km; and “longer” vehicles (Class C) 200c/km.

    Qualifying commuter taxis (Class A2) and commuter buses (Class B) are completely exempt from the e-toll system. The reduction for light vehicles without e-tags saw a drop from 66c/km to 58c/km, and from R3.95/km for heavy vehicles without e-tags to R2.95/km. The e-tolling project is an open road, multilane toll infrastructure that allows tolls to be charged without drivers having to stop. There are no physical booths.

    The system is set to go live in February, despite strong opposition from labour, political parties and citizens.

  • The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) says Africa is leading the trend with 51 mobile money systems in place, and as many as 37 of the deployments being in least developed countries (LDCs).

    “Mobile money deployments have taken off in the past two years. According to data from the GSM Association, some 109 such deployments had been implemented as of April 2011, spanning all developing regions. Only 11 of these are in developed countries. Africa is leading the trend with 51 mobile money systems in place, and as many as 37 of the deployments are in least developed countries (LDCs),” said the report titled “Information Economy Report 2011: ICTs as an Enabler for Private Sector Development.”

    The report released October 19, 2011 adds that “There are now more than 40 million users, according to the providers from whom subscription data are available.”

    According to the report, the rapid expansion of mobile money systems is creating new opportunities for small-micro enterprises (SMEs) – particularly in low-income countries – to access financial services.

    UNCTAD said mobile money is providing increased access to finance for SMEs, which traditionally have been poorly served by existing lending institutions.

    “Banking through mobile phones allows for real-time transfer and the receipt of small amounts of funds at low cost. They can reduce the costs of processing and administering small loans, thereby alleviating a significant disincentive for lenders to extend credit to SMEs,” it said.

    The report stressed that existing mobile money systems can become even better if adapted to meet the needs of small businesses saying “Basic money transfer or payment functions can have a major impact on the way small enterprises operate – they can enable them to better manage their cash flow and expedite the delivery of supplies and goods.”

    It called on governments to pioneer new legislation and regulations for mobile money and urged the international community to actively support the development of sound regulatory frameworks and relevant institutions, as well as facilitate the exchange of practice and expertise.

    “Governments and their central banks should explore ways to absorb small enterprises into the mainstream by means of mobile-based commercial and financial transactions,” it said.

    In Ghana, MTN, Tigo and Airtel are the telecommunication firms offering the mobile money services.

  • Roamware has announced that FETS (Funds & Electronic Transfer Solutions), a consortium focused on increasing mobile payment usage in Nigeria has chosen its Macalla service as their mobile financial services platform and has launched eMoni, a mobile payments service using the platform.

    FETS, a non-bank service provider has recently been awarded a license by the Central Bank of Nigeria to roll out mobile payment services to the banked and vast unbanked segments (~80%) of the Nigerian population.

    "About 80% of the Nigerian population is unbanked. The policy initiative of the Central Bank of Nigeria to increase mobile payment usage will accelerate Nigeria's transition to a cashless economy.", said Oluwadare Owolabi, Managing Director, FETS .

Digital Content

  • Ubuntu Linux, the free and open-source operating system, will power tablet computers, cellular phones, TVs and smart screens in cars and elsewhere, Mark Shuttleworth, the South African behind the software announced in a blog post on Monday 31st October.

    The software will support all these new devices in time for version 14.04 LTS, expected in April 2014. Shuttleworth promises the software will connect supported devices “cleanly and seamlessly to the desktop, the server and the cloud”.

    He explains that Unity, the desktop interface used in Ubuntu, was specifically designed with this in mind. “While the interface for each form factor is shaped appropriately, Unity’s core elements are arranged in exactly the way we need to create coherence across all of those devices. This was the origin of the name Unity — a single core interface framework, that scales across all screens, and supports all toolkits.”

    Shuttleworth believes desktop interfaces will merge with mobile, touch interfaces into a seamless personal computing platform in the future. “Today, we are inviting the whole Ubuntu community — both commercial and personal — to shape that possibility and design that future; a world where Ubuntu runs on mobile phones, tablets, televisions and traditional PCs, creating a world where content is instantly available on all devices, in a form that is delightful to use.”

    He says the “opportunity remains wide open but only to products that deliver excellent experiences for users across a full range of device categories”, adding that there is “no winner in place yet”.

    According to Shuttleworth, the investment that Ubuntu funder Canonical has already made in the user interface “accommodates the touch scenarios required in some form factors” and “will work equally well in mouse-, keyboard- or stylus-driven environments”.

    In addition, Ubuntu’s personal cloud and application centre services will deliver the “storage, syncing and sharing capabilities that are not just a convenience but a requirement as we move to a universe where content is increasingly shared but the devices that access them become more diverse”.

  • Two Rwandan young innovators participated in this year’s ICT Telecom World 2011 held Geneva, Switzerland.

    According to the NewTimes, Joseph Gatete who presented Quickisms in Secondary School Projects and Robert Katabarwa with his Igisekuru innovation, were among 45 of 160 entrants selected to participate in the young innovators competition.

    “Their innovative contributions will definitely help bring digital solutions to challenges that we are currently facing,” said Rwanda’s Ambassador to Switzerland, Solina Nyirahabimana.

    Nyirahabimana who was visiting the Rwandan stand at the summit, said that Rwanda is an emerging market that has great potential in ICT and the young generation are critical players.

    The competition targeted young innovators with fresh ideas that take advantage of ICT with the aim of making the world a better place.

    Prime Minister Pierre Habumurenyi also visited the Rwandan stand at the summit.

    The four -day summit that marked its 40th anniversary celebrations and was marked in tandem with the Broadband Leadership Summit which entailed highest level meetings on the implementation of broadband worldwide, exhibitions, competitions and networking sessions.

    The summit also looked at core issues shaping the future of networks and services; technical symposiums which provided debate and information exchange on cutting edge technological development, Digital Cities ’11.

    Patrick Nyirishema, the Head of RDB-ICT said the event provides an opportunity for Rwanda to showcase specific ICT projects in order to harness investment potential.

    “This year’s event has been special in that there has been a huge involvement of youth to share fresh and practical ideas and even compete globally,” said Nyirishema.

  • What is holding back digital stores, such as Apple’s iTunes, in South Africa?

    Getting the license agreements in place to sell content such as music and apps seems to be the greatest hurdle for a digital store in South Africa.

    While many have blamed organisations such as the Recording Industry of South Africa (RiSA) and the Film and Publications Board (FPB), both organisations have offered good answers to the allegations made against them when it comes to digital content.
    Video games on digital content delivery systems

    For example, the FPB is responsible for giving age restrictions to not just movies and books, but video games as well. As such, the lack of games in the Apple App Store was laid at their feet.

    However, the FPB explained that no game developer or publisher, nor Apple had approached them to express concerns with South Africa’s ratings system.

    Curious about why platforms such as Steam and the Android Market don’t seem to have any qualms about delivering content in South Africa, we asked Nicholas Hall from Michalsons Attorneys for his take on the issue. According to Hall, there is an argument for online stores like Steam to be exempt from FPB ratings requirements if they deliver their content through a network provider with an ICASA license.

    Considering that many Internet service providers have their own Steam servers and ECNS licenses, Steam could be considered exempt from needing FPB ratings for the games it sells.
    Digital music

    Another oddity in South Africa is the lack of music on a large online store such as iTunes while Nokia’s Ovi Music and DStv’s OMusic sell music from international and local artists.

    RiSA’s operations director, David du Plessis, said that they don’t enter into the picture at all when it comes to license agreements for online stores to distribute content. Negotiations between aggregators like Nokia and rights holders are not conducted on a collective basis, but individually, du Plessis explained.

    Such licensing agreements, conducted across most creative industries, are usually quite an in-depth and involved process, said Nokia service manager, Dominique Silva.

    Silva explained that to get local artists on the store we have structured agreements with a few key local digital content distributors; sometimes key labels, sometimes a company with a collection of labels and independent artists.

    “We do this so our local artists can come as direct to us as possible and so local labels and artists make as much money from the deal as possible,” said Silva. “If an artist is keen to get on the store, we usually guide them to a selection of content distributors, both local and international, so they can investigate and then select a distribution deal that suits them. This is usually this quickest and most effective way of getting them on to the store.”

    If getting content available through international digital stores is just about licensing agreements, then perhaps something else has hamstrung the process.

    Something like South Africa’s 33 year old copyright act, for instance.
    So what is holding back digital music distribution?

    Not so, according to both RiSA and Nokia.

    Du Plessis said that in his personal opinion, the digital divide in the country is more likely to make investors think twice, than any perception that may exist about South Africa’s copyright legislation, and that our copyright legislation as it currently stands, does not serve as any barrier of entry.

    Nokia’s Silva also said that getting the rights to sell music locally is not more complicated, but similar to other license agreements.

    Silva went on to list three hurdles to digital content distribution that apply to SA:

       1. Globally, music licensing is a difficult process.
       2. Education of both the artists and labels: When a new album is released, everyone in the chain needs to be much more aggressive in pushing and promoting the digital channels for music – from the retailer to the artist.
       3. Cost of data and bandwidth.

    To the first barrier, Silva said that getting the license agreements is always tricky, but that they have tried to make sure that they streamline it as much as possible and make sure as much money goes to the local label, and hopefully therefore the artist, as possible.

    Secondly, Silva said that online retailers can push as hard as they like, but the artists and labels themselves need to push their digital releases as hard as their physical releases to make sure customers buy their music legally.

    Finally, cheaper data and bandwidth would go a long way to increasing the consumptions of digital music, “As with so many other digital businesses in South Africa,” Silva said.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Airtel Nigeria has introduced an international call rate bundle offer worth N8.33 (about US $0.056) per minute to any of the listed destinations. The International call bundle offer is structured into three categories: N500 (about US $3.14), N200 (about US $1.25) and N100 (about US $0.62). It is applicable only to pre-paid customers on the Airtel network.

    - Blackberry users in Rwanda can now access online videos on their handsets but at a fee of Rwf 30 per megabyte.

More

  • - Absa group chief information officer Len de Villiers is stepping down at the end of the year and says he plans to take time off to “recharge his batteries” before deciding what to do next. The Absa CIO role is one of the biggest and most demanding IT management jobs in South Africa.

  • Ericsson 3G RF Optimisation for Northern Africa
    Posted date: Wed, 2nd Nov

    Location: Northern Africa
    Job Title     Ericsson 3G RF Optimisation for Northern Africa
    Start Date     ASAP

    Looking for Ericsson 3G RF Optimisation experts for our project in Northern Africa, mission is for 3 months renewable with visibility of one year.

    To apply or for more information please contact: olga.naumets@axirconsulting.com
    or visit here:

           

Issue no 579 4th November 2011

node ref id: 23394

Top story

  • The growth in Africa’s Facebook numbers show that it has touched a chord with users at a near mass level. Social media played a part in the Arab Spring and they’ve been arguing about what part ever since. Here at Balancing Act we decided to engage with social media about 12 months ago and this article looks at what we’ve discovered since then.

    Balancing Act’s universe of users is about 11,000 people, around 70% of whom are interested in telecoms and Internet in English and French and 30% in broadcast and film: that’s those topics from Africa, not anywhere else. We are a specialist, niche media so bear these figures in mind when looking at the stats below.

    Readers sometimes write and talk about “in your blog” and the “the blog you write” but besides the Top Story every week in these e-letters (which are based on facts but are opinionated), the rest is a newsletter. It comes out at a particular time so people know when to expect it and it has sections so they know where to look for things that might interest them. We could do a blog separately but somehow what’s the point when you have a weekly opportunity to say something?

    So about 12 months ago we decided to get engaged with social media to see in practical terms what it meant. Since it eats time like some minor addiction, you have to decide what you’re going to do and how much of it. We chose to put time into LinkedIn because it is a site for professionals rather than Facebook that has taken advantage of corporate interest but is still fundamentally individuals.

    You can’t appear on all social platforms so we chose Twitter rather than the slightly more long-form Tumblr and we chose You Tube rather than Vimeo. In other words, we made somewhat safe choices on the basis that it’s easier to be on platforms that are well-known and established with existing audiences. So for example in African terms, You Tube is up in the Top 5 most-used sites in those African countries analysed by alexa.com whereas Vimeo and Tumblr are not.

    We have 1,816 LinkedIn contacts right across the continent from the smallest most unconnected country to the largest and it is an excellent way of meeting people at all levels in a company. However, its mail lists are amongst the dullest we sample and rare is the week when they produce interesting and surprising information: people use it to promote what they do (as we do) and that is usually less than riveting.

    Our You Tube channel attracts just under 2,000 users a month and has just under 4,000 views a month. This has happened in the space of 12 months and it is still growing. These are 5-10 minute interviews with industry leaders about what’s happening in their company or more widely in the business. A successful interview can expect to get 300-500 views. The exceptions have been film-makers: Ghana’s Shirley Frimpong Manso who made Adam’s Apples has got 10,508 views and Tunisia’s Nadia El Fani who made Ould Lenine 5,569 views. In the telecoms field, Kenya’s John Kamau has got 1,437 views talking about Fibre-To-The-Home.

    It’s not broadcast quality but rough-and-ready compressed HD video clips shot using a small camera with no external mike or additional lighting. There’s not enough time to edit, except to take out the more obvious mistakes. You soon discover that what you thought was quiet and undisturbed attracts noise and disturbance. Watch Jessica Verrili of Twitter not just because it’s on topic for this article but also because you can see the hotel staff in the background opening and closing the doors behind her head as they are shooed away off-camera:

    People are more cautious about what they say in a video clip than they are when they talk in an interview for a print article but there are still plenty of surprises. Although you can put your videos into topic categories, which run down the right hand side of the featured video clip, it feels awkward and it is not designed to create easy ways for people – professional or otherwise – creating categories they can use. Surprise, surprise, you have to use a search engine to do that….

    Currently we have only 106 subscribers to the channel and 22 friends but thus far we have promoted individual videos rather than subscribing to the channel. But if you want to know about 2-5 videos a week covering your industry, subscribe to BalancingActAfrica on You Tube.

    We currently have 889 followers on Twitter (@balancingactafr) and on the current growth pattern will go over a thousand in the next month or two. We follow 253 other people or companies and tweet about 200 times a month. Twitter eats time if you let it but it’s a good way of spotting things that you might not otherwise have come across.

    In African terms, the majority of the users seem to be from South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya with lesser showings from Ghana and Senegal. The outliers are people like Nenna (from Cote d’Ivoire) and George Mpoudi of MTN (from Cameroon). The twitterscape from where we are seems to be dominated by ICT4D (as in development) folk rather than private sector companies, which is a little surprising. The corporate tweets tend to be a little dull and uninformative or aimed at the consumers of that company’s products. The exception is Bob Collymore, CEO of Safaricom who engages in regular banter with Safaricom’s users in Kenya.

    Getting the tone right on Twitter is hard. Some people use it simply to talk about what they’re feeling or what they think. Others describe every last person they’ve met. But we meet people who don’t really want to feature in our Twitter feed and whilst we think our opinions about everything in the whole wide world are riveting, we’re not sure you would. That said, there’s no doubt Twitter users are (awful word) “thought leaders”.

    So we’ve come a long way since Balancing Act’s newsletter output used to be a simple e-mail using Outlook Express. Our target readers may not always have the bandwidth to hand for You Tube but they want to be part of it. One person asked us why we weren’t doing audio blogs rather than video clips, with the unspoken assumption that because “this is Africa”. We’ve now passed that point and whilst everything won’t work for everybody, there’s no reason to assume that something won’t work for a large number of people, including You Tube.

    In terms of devices, we have below 5% who use mobile phones to access our content because our core audience is in the content and bandwidth business. Nevertheless, the number of smartphones, feature phones and tablets is growing fast so the Internet will allow us to be on all those platforms as they achieve “critical mass”.

    The newsletters are done as an adjunct to our consultancy and research business and are supported by advertising. But what is much less clear is the business model for other parts of social media. You can see Twitter as a way of engaging with audiences but there are few ways that it converts into cash, even for the company itself.

    Likewise, despite already having just under half the users of the text e-letter, there is no quick and easy way to monetize the You Tube Channel. You make money with Google Ads if you have millions of views, not if you are a niche channel with thousands. Any daring advertiser out there, give us a ring (+44 207 582 5220): it only took one advertiser on the text e-letters for all the others to get the idea.

    If you have your own experiences with social media in Africa, send them to: editorial@balancingact-africa.com

    On the Balancing Act You Tube Channel this week a Nigeria special:

    Adebayo Oyewole, Hd Marketing & Strategy, Main One on its new IP products

    Uchechi Chuta on Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's use of social media

    Olalekan Olude, Head of Sales, Jobberman.com on the growth of this jobs website

    Azuka Ndulewe, Chief Marketing Officer, Helios Towers Nigeria on the business case for shared towers

    Ojaye Idoko, CEO, Layer3 on the barriers to broadband expansion in Nigeria

    Want up-to-the-minute breaking news? 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

  • France Telecom announced on 31 October 2011that it has finalized the acquisition of Congolese operator Congo Chine Telecom. The deal means France Telecom will own 51% of the company’s stake with the remaining 49% owned by the government.

    The French company said in a press statement, that the move is part of expansion efforts and reflects France Telecom-Orange’s international strategy, which aims to stimulate growth by entering high potential emerging markets.

    “The acquisition of CCT is an important step in our policy of expansion outside Europe, and contributes to our stated aim of doubling our revenues in Africa and the Middle East by 2015. Orange is already present in over 20 countries in the region and has built up considerable experience developing networks and new services that are specifically tailored to the needs of local markets,” Stephane Richard, France Telecom-Orange CEO and Chairman said in a press statement.

    France Telecom will initially pay $10 million followed by a $7 million second payment to the Chinese company for the take over. France Telecom-Orange will also deliver to CCT a capital increase of $185 million in order to finance its operations.

    Infrastructure and other services will be provided to CCT by ZTE, France Telecom-Orange has referred to the vendor as a preferred supplier. In addition, China Development Bank will provide strategic financing support.

    A statement from France Telecom-Orange promises that the French firm will contribute its marketing, commercial and technical expertise as well as the Orange brand, to leverage CCT’s solid network assets.

    The operator acknowledges CCT’s real potential for growth over the next few years, noting the DRC – the fourth most populous African country – has a small penetration rate of just 17% despite its population of 70 million.

  • MTN has increased its fibre footprint through partnerships with Metro Fibre Networx (MFN) in Gauteng and Neotel fibre and Ethekweni Metroconnect in the Western Cape and KZN.

    MTN Business announced on 1 November 2011 that it had expanded their Metro Ethernet footprint through the development of strategic last mile relationships. According to Justin Colyn, GM of Fixed Mobile Convergence at MTN Business, they will also use Telkom Wholesale to connect businesses in areas that do not have a fibre footprint.

    Colyn said that the demand for Metro Ethernet is currently very strong in Gauteng, and with Metro Fibre Networx expanding its footprint in high-concentration business areas in Gauteng, it means that their customers will benefit from this partnership.

    The company said in a press statement that their MTN Metro Ethernet product offering provides customers with a high speed, high availability and low latency broadband Ethernet service. “Through this offering, customers can choose bandwidths speeds from 2Mbps to 1Gbps in specific intervals,” said MTN Business.

    The MTN Metro Ethernet service is based on a fibre network that uses Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) technology to supply point-to-point, point-to-multi-point or virtual LAN services between customer branches within the Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban metropolitan areas.

  • According to Morocco’s telecoms regulator, the ANRT, mobile subscribers in the country reached a total of 36.15 million at the end of September 2011, up by 3.4% quarter-on-quarter and 18.5% in twelve months. In terms of market share, at that date the watchdog reported that Maroc Telecom accounted for 46.9% of subscribers, Meditel 32.8% and Wana nearly 20.3%. Also at 30 September, the ANRT said that Moroccan 3G mobile internet services had 2.33 million subscribers, up from 1.82 million the previous quarter and 1.16 million a year earlier.

    At the end of the third quarter Maroc Telecom claimed 39.9% of the 3G broadband market, giving it 929,500 subscribers, followed by Meditel with 829,000 (35.6%) and Wana with 24.5%, or 570,000 3G mobile internet accounts. The figures include combined 3G voice and data mobile package users (handsets, computers and other devices). Subscriptions to data-only 3G mobile broadband services (e.g. via USB dongle modem) at end-September amounted to 1.403 million (60.2% of the 3G internet total), up by 9.5% quarter-on-quarter, while combined voice-plus-data package users reportedly reached 926,000 (39.8% of the 3G total), a growth rate of 73.1% from the end of June 2011.

    Fixed ADSL broadband lines in Morocco (nearly all operated by Maroc Telecom) saw a quarterly increase in 3Q11 of 4.5% to reach a total of 550,500.

  • JSE-listed Altech has appointed Shahab Meshki as new CEO of its struggling East Africa business Kenya Data Networks. At the same time, the technology group is reported to be in talks to buy Kenyan IT firm Symphony in a deal that could be worth as much as US$60m.

    An unnamed source told Reuters that Altech has been in talks with Symphony “for several months and is now nearing the end of its due diligence”. According to the wire service, Altech is like to pay between $50m and $60m for the company, which also has operations in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Ethiopia.

    According to Symphony’s website, the company delivers IT solutions focusing on consulting, training, infrastructure and maintenance. Meanwhile, Meshki’s appointed, which is effective from 1 November, comes just weeks after Altech CEO Craig Venter said he had replaced the management team in East Africa to deal with the underperformance of the operation, which dragged down the group’s interim results for the six months to the end of August.

    According to Altech, Meshki has 20 years of experience in the IT and telecommunications industries, having started his career with Siemens’ automation division where he was in charge of software and hardware development and later led marketing and sales of network analysers.

    In 1995, he joined Cisco, and in 2002 moved to Kenya to establish the US company’s presence in East Africa.

  • According to an unconfirmed report from online news journal Citi FM, a commercial court in Accra will today launch a trial concerning a lawsuit filed opposing the sale of a majority stake in national PTO Vodafone Ghana – then known as Ghana Telecom (GT) – to UK-based Vodafone Group.

    The portal writes that the courts have deliberated on the action for more than a year to determine whether or not it has jurisdiction to hear the case, filed by Professor Agyeman Badu Akosah and six others. The plaintiffs are seeking a legal cancellation of the sale of the government’s 70% stake in GT to the UK giant in 2008.

    On 3 July 2008 Vodafone agreed a deal to acquire a 70% stake in the PTO from the government for USD900 million and the sale was completed the following month. The state retains a 30% interest. The firm was rebranded Vodafone Ghana in April 2009.

  • MTN Nigeria, Globacom and Airtel Nigeria are facing possible sanctions from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) if the operators do not improve their services by the end of November 2011.

    MTN Nigeria, Glo and Airtel received notice from the Nigerian Communications Commission that the companies had not complied with the NCC quality of service requirements.

    According to the NCC, MTN Nigeria had 30 days from 1 November 2011 to meet the set targets as set out in the notice. Failure to comply will result in the NCC directive in the time frame given, will require all new sales of SIM cards to be stopped and the imposition of a financial penalty.

    If the companies do not improve their quality of service by the end of the month, the NCC said it would cancel the operators ability to issue new SIM cards.

    Mark Ogunba, a Lagos-based IT and telecom analyst, told ITNewsAfrica that the government must be careful not to alienate the companies as they push toward wider telecom and Internet penetration.

    “While it is definitely important to improve our infrastructure and quality of service, threats are unlikely to get it done and this could result in these companies deciding it is too costly,” said Ogunba.

    “We need incentives instead,” concludes Ogunba.

internet

  • Google said on 31 October 2011, that through its latest initiative, 5,000 of Nigeria ’s SMEs would move their businesses online in the next five days.

    According to BusinessDayOnline.com, statistics indicate that there are three million SMEs in Nigeria and only a paltry 17,000 are online. Analyst say a digital revolution for SMEs is in the offing, as increasing empirical evidence suggests that simply putting a website on the internet, increases the revenue, productivity and competitiveness of SMEs.

    Speaking at the Google small business web fair yesterday, Juliet Ehimuan, Google Nigeria Country Manager said small businesses are a key driver of economic growth in Nigeria .

    “We intend to remove the barriers that stop small scale businesses from getting online, such as a lack of time, anticipated expense or simply a lack of knowledge. Our tools and resources make it quick, easy and free for businesses to register an online presence and take advantage of internet opportunities”.

    Omobola Johnson, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Communication Technology, who opened the fair, said SMEs are being used as a strategy for employment generation, economic restructuring for development and growth.

    “Some compelling statistics support this view. Globally SMEs provide 50 percent of global employment and 90 percent of registered businesses are SMEs. In Malaysia , for instance, in 2006, SMEs were 99.2 percent of all businesses and contributed 47.3 percent of GDP and 65.3 percent of employment. In Nigeria , the statistics are similar but with some important differences.”

    According to Johnson, 70% of the country’s employment is provided by SMEs, but they deliver only 10 percent of economic value added (EVA) compared to an average of 55% and 25% EVA, in other developing economies and 60 percent and 50 percent respectively, in developed economies of the world.

    These statistics, according to the minister, show that Nigeria ’s SMEs are not as productive as they can, should or need to be. She listed a number of reasons that have slowed down the growth of SMEs which include: poor infrastructure, a poor skills base, poor  access to finance, low adoption of ICT and access to markets amongst others.

    With regards to infrastructure development, she said the role of the ICT Ministry is to facilitate the building of an ICT infrastructure that is cost effective, ubiquitous and gives more Nigerians better and faster access to the internet, at affordable prices.

    “We are also committed to getting as many devices into the hands of Nigerians, to enable them transact business on the internet and create a demand for products and services offered over the internet. In other words, getting businesses online is a key part of the agenda and policy direction of this ministry.

    Google has already registered its presence on the .ng domain name and is by this initiative populating the .ng domain for the benefit of Nigeria .

    “I would strongly encourage SMEs to wholeheartedly embrace the internet and take that small first step of having a website on the .ng domain. Today Nigeria has an estimated 33 million internet users and we have targets to double this number in the next three to four years,” said Johnson.

    Getting your business online immediately, gives you access to this market, not to talk of the hundreds of millions of other internet users out there – a very strong value proposition in our opinion”, said Johnson.

  • South Africa’s broadband speeds are still lagging behind the global average South Africa’s average broadband speed of 2.84Mbps is still significantly lower than the global average of 9.18Mbps. South Africa is ranked 103rd in the world when it comes to broadband speeds.

    South Africa’s average download speed of 2.84Mbps is also slower than a few other African countries like Ghana (7.62Mbps), Kenya (4.27Mbps), Rwanda (3.74Mbps), Morocco (2.92Mbps) and Angola (2.89Mbps).

    This is according to Ookla’s Net Index which uses data from the web based speed test service Speedtest.net.

    The Ookla Net Index ranks consumer download speeds around the globe using results from the past 30 days where the average distance between the client and the test server is less than 300 miles.

    According to the Net Index statistics, Lithuania had the highest average broadband speed at 33Mbps, followed by South Korea with 30Mbps and Sweden with 26Mbps.

    The top 10 countries ranked by download speed are:

       1. Lithuania 32.61Mbps
       2. South Korea 30.15Mbps
       3. Sweden 26.09Mbps
       4. Romania 25.80 Mbps
       5. Latvia 25.23 Mbps
       6. Netherlands 24.60Mbps
       7. Macau 22.56Mbps
       8. Bulgaria 21.66Mbps
       9. Andorra 21.20Mbps
      10. Switzerland 20.89Mbps

  • International and local tourists will from January be able to search and access basic information about places of interest on their smartphones .

    Yellow Pages Kenya Limited has made this possible with a new traveller's application software running on android platform that it would make available on Samsung's Galaxy tablet computer, iPhone and iPad. The application will enable travellers to check out hotels with their preferred delicacies, taxis services in particular localities and entertainment spots, among others.

    The platform is currently undergoing fine tuning tests before its is released to consumers early next year for free download from mobile phones applications stores.

    The company provides travel guide directory on hard copy, but it says the electronic version would not only provide users with an easy option but also eliminate the need of using the Internet since the application would be downloaded and stored on the smartphones for reference.

    The Yellow Pages managing director, Rizwan Jiwani, said it took the company five years to put together the content on the visitors' guide and this was mainly motivated by the realisation that most tourists depended on maps or wildlife check lists provided at most game parks with not only very little information but also difficult to obtain.

    "There is no enough free travel information both for local and international tourists, however, with this app, travellers can now search for information by area or street," said Jiwani.

    "We haven't signed contract with any of the handsets manufacturers yet, however, this should be through by December and the application made available in their stores in January."

    Even though Yellow Pages intends to offer the content available on the application for free, it expects to generate revenue through advertisement from hospitality industry. This includes the hotels and restraurants who will have an opportunity to place their content on the platform. Other than exposure, the tourism industry would also benefit from feedback from their clients.

computing

  • It appears there was method in Gijima’s madness after all. The JSE-listed IT company that earlier this year said it would buy all its employees Apple iPads has signed the first systems integrator agreement in Southern Africa with Apple. Gijima will assist with the support for Apple hardware and software solutions that work with company-managed systems, it said on Monday.

    “Industry observers have noted that IT departments are not only faced with the challenge of integrating company-owned technology, but also personal devices that employees want to bring to work,” Gijima said. “Employees recognise that devices, such as the iPad, are excellent productivity tools and are demanding that their personal technology integrates with their organisations’ back-end systems.”

    The use of Apple technology has increased substantially in the enterprise space and there is demand for more systems support, according to RJ van Spaandonk, executive director of Core Group, which represents Apple in SA.

    As an authorised reseller and systems integrator, Gijima will sell and support iPad, MacBook Pro, Macbook Air, iMac, Mac Mini, Lion and Lion Server for business customers.

    “In June this year … we integrated 3,300 iPads into our own organisation, so we have first-hand experience with the requirements and systems needed to support companies with their Apple technology needs,” said Gijima chief financial officer Carlos Ferreira.

  • Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) has provided 110 computers to nine schools and orphanages on the Copperbelt in a bid to enhance Information Communication Technology and the quality of education.

    The donation of the 110 computers and nine printers, worth about US$100,000, was a follow-up to another donation of 300 computers to 19 Government schools in the last three years in areas where KCM operated.

    According to a KCM statement, several schools requested for the computers, prompting the company to expand its programme to provide more computers to schools and children.

    KCM corporate social responsibility (CSR) manager Sampa Chitah said the initiative to provide computers to schools and orphanages was intended to promote computer literacy in learning institutions and enable mainly underprivileged pupils compete favourably with their peers in privately-run schools. "This opportunity will foster an e-learning culture that is good to our education system," she said.

    Chitah said the government alone could not achieve the goal of providing quality education, prompting KCM to partner with the government to provide computers to schools.

    The project would impact positively on the pupils, particularly disadvantaged children in the orphanage centres as beneficiaries would keep abreast with basic computer skills. She urged school administrators and pupils to take advantage of the equipment to improve their computer literacy.

    The schools which received the computers were Matelo Basic School, Maiteneke High School, Mutende Orphanage in Chingola, Chilabombwe's Konkola and Kamenza basic schools and One-way Mission Orphanage.

    Rokana and Riverain basic schools and the SOS Children's Village in Kitwe were the other beneficiaries.

  • The Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Prof. Cleopas Angaye, has said the national software policy being developed by the Federal Government will help in making the economy knowledge-driven rather one that is based on revenue from oil alone.

    Angaye who stated this at the just-concluded national software conference and competition organised by the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON), noted that the national software policy is expected to guide the deployment of local software.

    "We have tried some initiatives in enhancing the software industry in Nigeria, such as the national software development initiative, national software development taskforce and the national information technology (IT) policy. Despite these, we have not been able to adequately explore the full potentials of the industry in a way to make Software Nigeria a major player in the global industry," he said.

    Angaye reiterated that the software industry had no doubt become a thing of utmost importance to future competitiveness for economies across the globe especially with its halo effect in creating business opportunities.
     
    According to him, Nigeria had not been able to adequately explore the full potentials of the industry in a way to make her software, major player in the global market.

    The software industry, he said, was important to future competitiveness across the globe especially with its effect in creating related business opportunities, adding that the critical role of software could not be over emphasised.

    Angaye noted that IT assisted in developing globally competitive human capital as it played a key role especially in the areas of teaching aids, research, online education and with opportunity and additional skills that would allow them to secure employment and provides information available job opportunities.

    "The role of our youths and students in IT and in particular software development as a major in economic growth and development is very obvious across the globe. The positive implication of this new trend is that job opportunities abound for citizens of countries like Nigeria where unemployment rate very high.

    "Through IT, Nigerian youths can be exposed to borderless opportunities, global competitiveness and create wealth for themselves and nation as whole" he said.

    Angaye stressed that there was an urgent need for all stakeholders in the IT industry to come together and contribute meaningfully to empowering youths in becoming major players in the global IT market.

  • A new software service provider “Twenty Third Century Systems” (TTCS) will this week launch its services in Uganda.

    The Uganda launch will be the fourth destination for the company among the EAC partner states after already having subsidiary companies in Rwanda, Burundi and Kenya, reports EA Business Week.

    According to Stuart Mugabe, the company Chief Executive Officer, the launch of the Twenty Third Century Systems Uganda is a culmination of the strategic alliance forged by local ICT provider Spacecomms Consulting Ltd a company incorporated in Uganda and wholly owned by Ugandans, and a Pan African business solutions provider Twenty Third Century Systems (pvt) Ltd (TTCS) a company incorporated in Zimbabwe.

    TTCS is the largest SAP (Software Applications) resource partner in Africa outside South Africa with a Gold partner status.

    Mugabe says that the company has been in the business of deploying the world's leading ERP solution (SAP) for the last 15 years, with so many end to end SAP implementations to its name.

    "TTCS has spread its operations from Zimbabwe to open other subsidiaries across Africa i.e. Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, Malawi, Botswana, Zambia and Nigeria.

    "The opening of the Uganda Subsidiary through this strategic partnership represents our commitment to delivering world-class solutions to East Africa using Ugandan resources," said Mugabe in an interview with East African Business Week in Kampala.

    He adds that Twenty Third Century Systems has extensive experience in Africa and the Middle East, with successful projects in countries such as Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, South Africa, Nigeria, Mauritius, Malawi, Rwanda, Botswana and Bahrain.

    "TTCS has a wealth of knowledge and experience, employing over 130 SAP consultants to date.

    "We have invested hugely in providing software as a service (cloud computing) and training Ugandans to replace imported skills, thereby creating local capacity for the delivery and support of future SAP implementations in the region using Ugandan resources," adds Mugabe.

    He notes that their strategy is to build on its relationship with SAP to deploy a large number of SAP solutions to the private sector and Government  institution, providing complete solutions which cover the full spectrum of ICT projects, i.e. hardware, software , connectivity and implementation services.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele has put a halt on all future tolling projects.
    The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) says the hearing into e-tolling at the Gauteng Legislature will be futile.

    After receiving several petitions against e-tolling, the Gauteng Legislature combined them into one and announced it would host a hearing on the matter on 11 November.

    It believes it is through this process that parties will begin finding a solution to the tollgates impasse in the province.

    However, Cosatu says this process will be futile if the current project is already set to move ahead. Last month, Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele put a halt on all future tolling projects, but said this does not include e-tolling, which would definitely go ahead in February. For this reason, Cosatu says the hearing will be futile.

    “There will be no solution to the impasse if objectors at the hearing are told the current tolling project is going ahead anyway, and they can only raise issues about future tolling plans, in which case, this hearing will be a futile exercise.”

    The federation says it will insist at the hearing that e-tolling has never been properly debated, and has not been accepted by the people of Gauteng.

    “The current tolling project must be scrapped. The tolls will mean a steep increase in the cost of living of all road users, especially workers who have no alternative but to drive to work, because of the lack of a proper public transport system. They already pay taxes and a fuel levy every time they buy petrol.”

    If there is no change in policy from government, the negotiations deadlock, and tolls are not scrapped, Cosatu will plan marches, demonstrations, pickets and stay-aways.

    “We are confident that thousands of other Gauteng residents will be joining us in these protests. We shall also consider court action if people are discriminated [against] on the basis of geography. We shall continue to demand, as the alternative to tolled roads, an integrated, safe, reliable and affordable public transport system.”
    Going ahead

    Fees initially gazetted for the e-toll system in February were suspended due to public pressure. Cabinet in August approved reduced tariffs for e-tolling in Gauteng, which dictate that motorcycles (Class A1) with e-tags will pay 24c/km; light vehicles (Class A2) will pay 40c/km; medium vehicles (Class B) 100c/km; and “longer” vehicles (Class C) 200c/km.

    Qualifying commuter taxis (Class A2) and commuter buses (Class B) are completely exempt from the e-toll system. The reduction for light vehicles without e-tags saw a drop from 66c/km to 58c/km, and from R3.95/km for heavy vehicles without e-tags to R2.95/km. The e-tolling project is an open road, multilane toll infrastructure that allows tolls to be charged without drivers having to stop. There are no physical booths.

    The system is set to go live in February, despite strong opposition from labour, political parties and citizens.

  • The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) says Africa is leading the trend with 51 mobile money systems in place, and as many as 37 of the deployments being in least developed countries (LDCs).

    “Mobile money deployments have taken off in the past two years. According to data from the GSM Association, some 109 such deployments had been implemented as of April 2011, spanning all developing regions. Only 11 of these are in developed countries. Africa is leading the trend with 51 mobile money systems in place, and as many as 37 of the deployments are in least developed countries (LDCs),” said the report titled “Information Economy Report 2011: ICTs as an Enabler for Private Sector Development.”

    The report released October 19, 2011 adds that “There are now more than 40 million users, according to the providers from whom subscription data are available.”

    According to the report, the rapid expansion of mobile money systems is creating new opportunities for small-micro enterprises (SMEs) – particularly in low-income countries – to access financial services.

    UNCTAD said mobile money is providing increased access to finance for SMEs, which traditionally have been poorly served by existing lending institutions.

    “Banking through mobile phones allows for real-time transfer and the receipt of small amounts of funds at low cost. They can reduce the costs of processing and administering small loans, thereby alleviating a significant disincentive for lenders to extend credit to SMEs,” it said.

    The report stressed that existing mobile money systems can become even better if adapted to meet the needs of small businesses saying “Basic money transfer or payment functions can have a major impact on the way small enterprises operate – they can enable them to better manage their cash flow and expedite the delivery of supplies and goods.”

    It called on governments to pioneer new legislation and regulations for mobile money and urged the international community to actively support the development of sound regulatory frameworks and relevant institutions, as well as facilitate the exchange of practice and expertise.

    “Governments and their central banks should explore ways to absorb small enterprises into the mainstream by means of mobile-based commercial and financial transactions,” it said.

    In Ghana, MTN, Tigo and Airtel are the telecommunication firms offering the mobile money services.

  • Roamware has announced that FETS (Funds & Electronic Transfer Solutions), a consortium focused on increasing mobile payment usage in Nigeria has chosen its Macalla service as their mobile financial services platform and has launched eMoni, a mobile payments service using the platform.

    FETS, a non-bank service provider has recently been awarded a license by the Central Bank of Nigeria to roll out mobile payment services to the banked and vast unbanked segments (~80%) of the Nigerian population.

    "About 80% of the Nigerian population is unbanked. The policy initiative of the Central Bank of Nigeria to increase mobile payment usage will accelerate Nigeria's transition to a cashless economy.", said Oluwadare Owolabi, Managing Director, FETS .

Digital Content

  • Ubuntu Linux, the free and open-source operating system, will power tablet computers, cellular phones, TVs and smart screens in cars and elsewhere, Mark Shuttleworth, the South African behind the software announced in a blog post on Monday 31st October.

    The software will support all these new devices in time for version 14.04 LTS, expected in April 2014. Shuttleworth promises the software will connect supported devices “cleanly and seamlessly to the desktop, the server and the cloud”.

    He explains that Unity, the desktop interface used in Ubuntu, was specifically designed with this in mind. “While the interface for each form factor is shaped appropriately, Unity’s core elements are arranged in exactly the way we need to create coherence across all of those devices. This was the origin of the name Unity — a single core interface framework, that scales across all screens, and supports all toolkits.”

    Shuttleworth believes desktop interfaces will merge with mobile, touch interfaces into a seamless personal computing platform in the future. “Today, we are inviting the whole Ubuntu community — both commercial and personal — to shape that possibility and design that future; a world where Ubuntu runs on mobile phones, tablets, televisions and traditional PCs, creating a world where content is instantly available on all devices, in a form that is delightful to use.”

    He says the “opportunity remains wide open but only to products that deliver excellent experiences for users across a full range of device categories”, adding that there is “no winner in place yet”.

    According to Shuttleworth, the investment that Ubuntu funder Canonical has already made in the user interface “accommodates the touch scenarios required in some form factors” and “will work equally well in mouse-, keyboard- or stylus-driven environments”.

    In addition, Ubuntu’s personal cloud and application centre services will deliver the “storage, syncing and sharing capabilities that are not just a convenience but a requirement as we move to a universe where content is increasingly shared but the devices that access them become more diverse”.

  • Two Rwandan young innovators participated in this year’s ICT Telecom World 2011 held Geneva, Switzerland.

    According to the NewTimes, Joseph Gatete who presented Quickisms in Secondary School Projects and Robert Katabarwa with his Igisekuru innovation, were among 45 of 160 entrants selected to participate in the young innovators competition.

    “Their innovative contributions will definitely help bring digital solutions to challenges that we are currently facing,” said Rwanda’s Ambassador to Switzerland, Solina Nyirahabimana.

    Nyirahabimana who was visiting the Rwandan stand at the summit, said that Rwanda is an emerging market that has great potential in ICT and the young generation are critical players.

    The competition targeted young innovators with fresh ideas that take advantage of ICT with the aim of making the world a better place.

    Prime Minister Pierre Habumurenyi also visited the Rwandan stand at the summit.

    The four -day summit that marked its 40th anniversary celebrations and was marked in tandem with the Broadband Leadership Summit which entailed highest level meetings on the implementation of broadband worldwide, exhibitions, competitions and networking sessions.

    The summit also looked at core issues shaping the future of networks and services; technical symposiums which provided debate and information exchange on cutting edge technological development, Digital Cities ’11.

    Patrick Nyirishema, the Head of RDB-ICT said the event provides an opportunity for Rwanda to showcase specific ICT projects in order to harness investment potential.

    “This year’s event has been special in that there has been a huge involvement of youth to share fresh and practical ideas and even compete globally,” said Nyirishema.

  • What is holding back digital stores, such as Apple’s iTunes, in South Africa?

    Getting the license agreements in place to sell content such as music and apps seems to be the greatest hurdle for a digital store in South Africa.

    While many have blamed organisations such as the Recording Industry of South Africa (RiSA) and the Film and Publications Board (FPB), both organisations have offered good answers to the allegations made against them when it comes to digital content.
    Video games on digital content delivery systems

    For example, the FPB is responsible for giving age restrictions to not just movies and books, but video games as well. As such, the lack of games in the Apple App Store was laid at their feet.

    However, the FPB explained that no game developer or publisher, nor Apple had approached them to express concerns with South Africa’s ratings system.

    Curious about why platforms such as Steam and the Android Market don’t seem to have any qualms about delivering content in South Africa, we asked Nicholas Hall from Michalsons Attorneys for his take on the issue. According to Hall, there is an argument for online stores like Steam to be exempt from FPB ratings requirements if they deliver their content through a network provider with an ICASA license.

    Considering that many Internet service providers have their own Steam servers and ECNS licenses, Steam could be considered exempt from needing FPB ratings for the games it sells.
    Digital music

    Another oddity in South Africa is the lack of music on a large online store such as iTunes while Nokia’s Ovi Music and DStv’s OMusic sell music from international and local artists.

    RiSA’s operations director, David du Plessis, said that they don’t enter into the picture at all when it comes to license agreements for online stores to distribute content. Negotiations between aggregators like Nokia and rights holders are not conducted on a collective basis, but individually, du Plessis explained.

    Such licensing agreements, conducted across most creative industries, are usually quite an in-depth and involved process, said Nokia service manager, Dominique Silva.

    Silva explained that to get local artists on the store we have structured agreements with a few key local digital content distributors; sometimes key labels, sometimes a company with a collection of labels and independent artists.

    “We do this so our local artists can come as direct to us as possible and so local labels and artists make as much money from the deal as possible,” said Silva. “If an artist is keen to get on the store, we usually guide them to a selection of content distributors, both local and international, so they can investigate and then select a distribution deal that suits them. This is usually this quickest and most effective way of getting them on to the store.”

    If getting content available through international digital stores is just about licensing agreements, then perhaps something else has hamstrung the process.

    Something like South Africa’s 33 year old copyright act, for instance.
    So what is holding back digital music distribution?

    Not so, according to both RiSA and Nokia.

    Du Plessis said that in his personal opinion, the digital divide in the country is more likely to make investors think twice, than any perception that may exist about South Africa’s copyright legislation, and that our copyright legislation as it currently stands, does not serve as any barrier of entry.

    Nokia’s Silva also said that getting the rights to sell music locally is not more complicated, but similar to other license agreements.

    Silva went on to list three hurdles to digital content distribution that apply to SA:

       1. Globally, music licensing is a difficult process.
       2. Education of both the artists and labels: When a new album is released, everyone in the chain needs to be much more aggressive in pushing and promoting the digital channels for music – from the retailer to the artist.
       3. Cost of data and bandwidth.

    To the first barrier, Silva said that getting the license agreements is always tricky, but that they have tried to make sure that they streamline it as much as possible and make sure as much money goes to the local label, and hopefully therefore the artist, as possible.

    Secondly, Silva said that online retailers can push as hard as they like, but the artists and labels themselves need to push their digital releases as hard as their physical releases to make sure customers buy their music legally.

    Finally, cheaper data and bandwidth would go a long way to increasing the consumptions of digital music, “As with so many other digital businesses in South Africa,” Silva said.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Airtel Nigeria has introduced an international call rate bundle offer worth N8.33 (about US $0.056) per minute to any of the listed destinations. The International call bundle offer is structured into three categories: N500 (about US $3.14), N200 (about US $1.25) and N100 (about US $0.62). It is applicable only to pre-paid customers on the Airtel network.

    - Blackberry users in Rwanda can now access online videos on their handsets but at a fee of Rwf 30 per megabyte.

More

  • - Absa group chief information officer Len de Villiers is stepping down at the end of the year and says he plans to take time off to “recharge his batteries” before deciding what to do next. The Absa CIO role is one of the biggest and most demanding IT management jobs in South Africa.

  • Ericsson 3G RF Optimisation for Northern Africa
    Posted date: Wed, 2nd Nov

    Location: Northern Africa
    Job Title     Ericsson 3G RF Optimisation for Northern Africa
    Start Date     ASAP

    Looking for Ericsson 3G RF Optimisation experts for our project in Northern Africa, mission is for 3 months renewable with visibility of one year.

    To apply or for more information please contact: olga.naumets@axirconsulting.com
    or visit here:

           

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