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 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

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:

           

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:

           

Issue no 578 28th October 2011

node ref id: 23363

Top story

  • Nigerian bandwidth is improving but ever so slowly. There is no sign of a broadband strategy to power this process forward. However, despite this unpromising soil for growth, there are a number of interesting start-ups in the online content and services space that are beginning to establish themselves. Russell Southwood tries to read the tea leaves in a country where data is hard to come by.

    At STM1 level, international bandwidth is now down to US$225-250 per meg and will continue to drop once WACS and ACE become operational. There also some signs that up-times are improving on national routes, particularly as carriers fight it out to deliver international bandwidth from Glo and Main One.

    Slow improvements on the data access front

    However one operator who buys on this route says that carriers still only achieve around 95% up-time. Nigeria has three big cities where the Internet needs to establish a critical mass – Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt – which is which is why performance on routes like these is critical. Regular use will not become a fact of life if the service is not reliable to the customer.

    The key barrier now is the high cost of delivering this bandwidth at a wholesale level. One operator told us that wholesale capacity delivered in Lagos cost US$500 against US$2,000 in due to high national backbone charges and the same story came back from a range of different people. There are five carriers on this route but magically they all seem to offer broadly similar rates.

    Among others, Glo has bought down retail customer data prices by 50% over past year. Prices will continue to go down as volumes rise. One operator reported a 60-75% jump in data use and another told us that there had been a five fold increase in data requirements for a well-known smartphone. According to Main One, the University of Nigeria had bought a 45 meg connection and is already bursting out of it. But as one interviewee told us:”Internet is still a relatively expensive experience.”

    The use of smartphones and feature phones continues to rise. One of the larger mobile operators already has 60% of its subscribers on S40/Java devices. Smartphones are no more than 10% but this is a small percentage of a huge number of subscribers.

    60% of Glo’s 17 m  active and non-active users have S40/Java devices. Smartphones are no more than 10% and many are bought in the grey market. Another large mobile operator says it 25% of its subscribers on feature phones. Banky Ojutalayo, Executive Director, Starfish Mobile pointed out that:”People continuously change phones, maybe 2-3 times in 12 months for reasons of fashion and theft.” No right-minded middle class Nigerian has less than 2-3 phones.

    Tablets? There are probably tens of thousands out there. In June of this year, I saw no tablets in a weeks interviewing in the tech community. This time I saw a much larger number. News channel Channels TV is doing an iPad app which will be launched shortly. But one person reported frustration at the bandwidth not being good enough to download Blackberry apps.

    Local access delivery continues to be a weak spot. However, one operator is planning to roll out near ubiquitous Wi-Fi coverage in key urban centres in the next 12 months. Glo is testing LTE and waiting for spectrum to be allocated and MTN is provisioning its network in readiness for LTE.

    Local access is still mainly through wireless: on 3G (which is much better than it was bit still not great) and Wi-Fi (which is again better but not really yet delivering You Tube streaming levels everywhere). You can get seamless You Tube streaming on parts of Victoria Island (VI) but not really elsewhere. And as Nigerians will be the first to tell you, VI is not Nigeria.

    Able to stream video on VI but less well elsewhere. Afam Edozie, FiCres Capital, an investor in WiMAX provider Swift said: “The bottleneck is the last mile. Rolling out infrastructure (at this level) is challenging”.

    Someone who attended a meeting with mobile operators in January this year says that with one exception, they all failed to spot the coming importance of data. There’s a mindset issue. In one of our conversations, the interviewee was at pains to point out that there were literacy problems that constrained data use. But it emerged that 70-80% of its subscribers used SMS.

    Despite a steady trickle of stories in local paper Business saying that generating capacity was going up and service delivery getting better in Lagos, I met few people who few people who found that this had happened either in their business or at home. Getting regular energy is a key issue for an economy as large as this and the potential savings are enormous. One interviewee said he paid US$200 a month to the electricity company and US$1,000 in generator costs at home and US$2,000 a month on generator costs in his home.

    Despite these difficulties, a much larger “critical mass” of Internet use is beginning to take hold and new content and services start-ups are beginning to take advantage of this new-found audience.

    Jobberman begins to change how the jobs market

    Jobs site Jobberman started in 2009 when the founders were still in College. As Ayodeji Adewunmi tells it:“It didn’t require much capital and we knew we had the technical skills to develop it. We knew the unemployment situation in Nigeria was particularly high amongst young people aged 25-45. We wanted a better user experience and to help people better their chances.”

    People use the site not only to get new jobs but those in work use it to benchmark their salaries and take the opportunity to see whether they can get jobs outside their immediate experience.

    And the business model? It makes money from the employer side as they pay a fee to post a job usually for 30 days and it is free for the job seeker. There are 1,800 jobs on the site at any one time that are live across all sectors and specialisations, both entry level and mid-career plus a couple of C level jobs. They don’t yet do blue collar jobs. Applicants can put their CVs on the site and when they apply, the company in question gets your CV. It can also do some basic filtering to cut down on unsuitable applicants.

    There are currently 50,000 unique views a day, both from inside and outside but with 95% coming from inside the country. It is currently number 18 in the Alexa.com ratings.

    And competitors? According to Adewunmi:” There are some newspapers and a couple of other job sites like Careers Nigeria who also do recruitment. We don’t do recruitment.” In our view, it will take advertising revenues from print media and the biggest of these is Tuesday’s copy of local paper, The Guardian. Its current print circulation is 50,000. Number of readers per copy? Unknown. However, 2-3 million people get news online in Nigeria so it probably has the platform to fight back.

    Jobberman also has a mobile site which gets 60-65% of the views total. The more entry level job seekers use a mobile phone more than those already with jobs who browse using a PC in the office.

    What was the attitude to online when it started:”When we started, it was hell but now a lot of employees now advertise both in a paper and Jobberman.” It is not yet breaking even but believes that it will do so in the not too distant future.

    Spinlet – an iTunes for Africa?

    Spinlet can best be described as an “i-tunes” for Africa optimized for the large base of mobile users on the continent. Nigerian investment company Verrod Capital met the Finnish developers of the technology Spinlet and bought into the company. Music distribution doesn’t really exist in Nigeria except through the pirate sellers.

    (Waiting in the departure lounge for a flight to Abuja, one of the stall-holders was putting piles of pirated VCDs in front of people, trying to encourage them to buy. A well-dressed European business man declined politely pointing out they were all pirated and that he was in the business of protecting IP. There were no shortage of Nigerian buyers.)

    In terms of handset manufacturers Spinlet has started with Nokia so it has had to get the platform to work on Windows. Also it has an office in San Francisco doing Blackberry and Android platforms. The platform can also work with basic Java phones.

    It wants to sell Nigerian music to the rest of Africa and African music from every country across their home borders. You will be able to buy per song for something like US33-35 cents and by album for which they don’t want to go above US$5. They are doing deals with labels right now and want to have a million songs to sell. Music rights are general sold for South Africa and the rest  of Sub-Saharan Africa.

    Marketing will be the key to whether it is successful and it has ambitious plans.  It is doing a concert on 19 November where it will bring out a Jamaican artist popular in Africa called Gyptian who will do a collaboration with a local Nigerian artist Ice Prince. It will be popular because there is an audience for reggae/dancehall in many African countries. It will go out on Channel O, MTV Base and Trace with product tie-ins on Spinlet. There will be 12 of these musical collaborations, with the main ones in Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Ghana. Music tracks exclusive to Spinlet will come from these collaborations.

    According to Eric Idiahi of Verrod Capital Management:“We want to develop the music industry and create wealth for our artists. Our software has a DRM that can help curb piracy.” Their software will also allow musicians to upload their CDs on to the platform. Artists already with a strong fan base on Facebook or Twitter can push them over to Spinlet to buy their music directly.

    ‘We believe there are 8 million smartphone users (in Nigeria) using VAS services and would like to get 10% of that,” says Idiahi. It wWill break even with the hundreds of thousands. Because it will be primarily used on a mobile phone rather than an iTunes browser on PC or laptop, the service will keep you updated with new tracks to buy. Its soft launch in Nigeria is on 19 November and this will be followed by a later launch in South Africa.

    The transition from SMS to online

    As content transitions from SMS on mobile to online, the more thoughtful SMS aggregators are looking at what’s next. Starfish Mobile will launch an app-based mobile TV solution to stream content over 3G, which connects to central server over proprietary connection.  It is  building an internet content portfolio where you send an SMS to get online on its portal. Banky Ojutalayo, Executive Director, Starfish Mobile:“Payment will still be there and we’ll be fusing the SMS and Internet”. Other aggregators were more skeptical claiming that SMS would remain the platform of choice. The truth ids probably that the two will operate alongside each other as the handset devices change and habits change with them.

    Besides these developments there are a slew of sites attracting significant traffic including: Wakanow.com (a travel site offering air tickets and hotel offers like Expedia); Bella Naija (with pictures of Genevieve Nnaji and Africa’s Richest Man); directory sites like VConnect and Mocality and classified sites like Dealfish. In terms of everyday life, there is a company providing online vehicle registration in 19 states and 70-80% of vehicle registrations are now online.

    Nollywood Love/Iroko Partners has only 35,000 users in Nigeria but millions elsewhere in the world. But it has huge numbers of search enquiries from mobile users not able to access their material effectively.

    Payment services being put in place but no critical mass yet

    One of the keys to successful online service use is payment and whilst things are beginning to gear up, they have not ye reached critical mass. Mitchell Elegbe, CEO, Interswitch says that there are three times as many payments online as through POS (Point of Sale) but this is to compare two relatively little used payment methods. That said, Interswitch wants to add 40,000 POS a year. It will soon also be able to offer a payment code to the unbanked so that they can take cash out of ATMs.

    Local airline Aero Contractors apparently makes 60-70% of all its ticket sales online: anyone who has stood in a Nigerian queue waiting for service will know why.

    The Central Bank of Nigeria has a cashless society initiative, insisting that banks have record of all transactions and that they charge for cash collections from companies to reflect the real costs. There are high levels of SMS from banks where customers are getting informed of transactions made (2-4 million daily through one operator) and this will increase.

    In terms of m-payment, Nigeria has chosen to licence companies working with banks and not proprietary operator systems. One of these m-payment companies is Paga which has partnered with 6 banks. It has a range of channels including: SMS, online, agents, mobile apps, IVR and USSD. It wants to have 30,000 agents nationwide by 2015 and believes that 40% of mobile subscribers will be using m-payments by this date. It has signed an exclusive deal with DStv to take payment from its subscribers.

    All of the above might seem faintly crazy in a week in which Naspers-owned MIH closed down its Kalahari e-commerce sites in Kenya and Nigeria. But the logic of where the market is going in Nigeria is clear and it remains a case of when not if.


    On the Balancing Act You Tube Channel this week:

    Nic Rudnick, CEO, Liquid Telecom on its Southern African Fibre Network

    Future mobile content? Lippe Oosterhof, CEO, Livestation on live streaming for African news broadcasters and its mobile platform

    Henk Kleynhans, Chair of WAPA on TV White Spaces proposals in South Africa

    Steve Song, CEO, Village Telco
    on the TV White Spaces Workshop

    Richard Bell, CEO, Wananchi Group in Kenya on international fibre connectivity, local TV content for its Zuku bouquet and financing its vision:

    Riyaz Bachani, CTO, Wananchi on its Wazi hot-spots partnership with Google

    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

  • Customers of Bharti Airtel in Africa will soon enjoy seamless internet connectivity and simpler, more intuitive mobile data services. The operator has selected Nokia Siemens Networks’ Serve at Once Device Management (SADM) software to be implemented across affiliates in 16 African countries.

    In addition, Nokia Siemens Networks will consolidate the operator’s existing MMSC platforms into one centrally managed virtual platform.“Nokia Siemens Networks’ robust mobile device management solution will allow our customers in Africa to enjoy the latest services by enabling seamless internet connectivity and excellent customer care support, while Airtel will benefit from reduced operational costs when introducing new devices or services,” said Manoj Kohli, CEO (International) and Joint Managing Director, Bharti Airtel.

    Rajeev Suri, chief executive officer of Nokia Siemens Networks, said: “The shift towards smart networks that understand user preferences and enable delivery of customized services is helping operators such as Bharti Airtel deliver a superior Mobile Broadband experience. Nokia Siemens Networks supports this transition by helping operators to manage user experience better and deliver improved services seamlessly.”
    Nokia Siemens Networks’ SADM will enable Bharti Airtel to remotely and automatically manage and configure user devices for new data services. The software will also enable the operator to gain valuable insights on device capabilities to make right business decisions when introducing new services.

    Under a three-year contract, Nokia Siemens Networks will provide its mobile internet browsing solution (MIBS) and multimedia messaging solution (MMSC), hosted on a virtualized and centrally managed VaaS platform. This will allow Bharti Airtel to provide these services faster and cost efficiently to all its customers across all affiliates in Africa.
    Source:Press release
    Court orders CWN chairman to stand down temporarily

    The chairman of Congo Wireless Networks (CWN), the local partner of South African telco Vodacom in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and 49% owner of Vodacom Congo, will be temporarily replaced at the behest of the DRC Court of Appeals, reports Bloomberg.

    Gambian Alieu Conteh, the current chairman and founder of CWN will be replaced for a minimum of three months by company accountant Mupepe Lebo. The suspension will allow the Congolese company to call a general assembly to discuss the proposed sale of Vodacom’s stake in Vodacom Congo. As previously reported, Vodacom is looking to sell off its operations in DRC to end a dispute with CWN over the structure and funding of Vodacom Congo that has raged since 2009. The South African MTN Group and Angola’s Unitel have both expressed an interest in purchasing Vodacom’s stake, as have at least two more as-yet-unnamed companies.

    The Kinshasa court made the ruling following CWN’s attempt earlier this week to block the sale of Vodacom’s stake until the two had resolved their dispute. In its judgement, the court said that a dispute between the shareholders of CWN risked paralysing the company, the threat of which granted it power to appoint an administrator with ‘the broadest powers’. Conteh’s lawyers are disputing the decision, claiming that the court does not have the power to appoint an administrator with such power. Conteh is currently considering taking the matter to the Supreme Court.

  • Worried by the increasing and persistent cases of poor service delivery, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has again, threatened to sanction the three major telecoms operators - MTN Nigeria, Globacom and Airtel Nigeria - if at the end of next month, the quality of service does not improve on their various networks.

    The NCC, in a statement last Tuesday, also threatened to stop the three major operators from further sale of subscriber identification module (SIM) cards by the end of November this year, if they fail to measure up to  the key performance indicators (KPI) set by the NCC to improve quality of service.

    The three operators have been issued a 30-day deadline, effective from November 1, 2011, to reverse the ugly trend. Any new SIM card sold, or additional subscriber added to the network in contravention of the directive, will attract a penalty of N1million per subscriber. The commission also said that after the expiration of the 30-day ultimatum, it would strictly enforce the impending directive, which if contravened, would attract a penalty of N5 million and additional N500, 000 per day that such contravention persists.

    The warning and deadline notices are sequel to a dismal performance by the three operators on quality of service from the result of an independent monitoring exercise carried out by the commission across the country.
    The exercise showed that all the three operators failed to measure up to four key performance indicators that are crucial for quality of service improvements as set by the commission.

    Consequently, the commission has notified the three operators of its intention to issue a directive that with effect from November 30, 2011, any of the operators that fail to meet the targets would be barred from further sale of its SIM cards or addition of any new subscriber to its network.
    According to NCC’s Head, Media and Public Relations, Mr. Reuben Muoka, failure of any of the operators to meet the quality of service targets from November 30, 2011 would attract a fine of N500, 000 for every month of failure.

    “It is not in doubt that the customer experience on your network has been far from satisfactory, especially as the commission has been inundated with complaints from various subscribers on this matter,” the commission said in the correspondence to the three respective operators.

    It expressed concerns that the operators were not doing enough to reverse the trend of unacceptable quality of service which had persisted for too long. The KPI measured by the commission included Call Set Up Success Rate, Call Completion Rate, Stand Alone Dedicated Control Channel and Handover Success Rate.

    Telecoms subscribers have over the years, suffered from poor quality of service ranging from incessant drop calls, poor voice clarity, inability to make successful calls, to inability to recharge phones, among others.

    The issue of poor quality of service cuts across the networks, and the NCC had warned the operators to improve. But the warning did not cut any ice among the operators.
    Although the telecoms operators have been blamed for poor quality of service, they have in some form, exonerated themselves from blame, shifting it to wilful destruction of their facilities by persons within and outside the sector.

  • Telkom’s mobile arm, 8ta, has built six base stations using next-generation long-term evolution (LTE) wireless broadband technology, with 50 sites under construction and plans to expand the network to Cape Town and Durban in the next few months as part of a field trial.

    The company is the third SA operator, after MTN and Wireless Business Solutions, to announce plans to build a radio access network using LTE.Telkom plans to use LTE as a substitute in areas where it doesn’t have fixed-line coverage as well as in places where it suffers from copper theft, says 8ta head Amith Maharaj says.

    “Fixed-mobile [LTE] is a good substitute for ADSL-type services,” he says. It could also potentially be used to provide video-on-demand (VOD) services. Telkom has announced plans to launch VOD products within the next year.“For ADSL-type services, [LTE is] definitely an alternative,” Maharaj says. “You can offer speeds of above 10Mbit/s.”

    However, he cautions that LTE is still “bleeding edge” technology and the pricing model must still be determined. There are also concerns around the device ecosystem that supports LTE and the “quality-of-service parameters”.In addition, installing sufficient backhaul is important to provide for the faster access speeds provided by the technology.
    “Making too bold and too earlier a move [into LTE] and you could find your fingers burnt,” Maharaj says.

  • The government of Swaziland is to hold talks with the local subsidiary of MTN regarding the transfer of the government's indirect stake in the company to the government's Ministry of Finance.

    Swazi MTN is a joint-venture between South Africa's MTN and the state-owned Swaziland Posts and Telecommunications Corp. Under the terms of the venture, SPTC is barred from offering mobile services as it is a shareholder in MTN. The government is now looking to unlock the market by taking SPTC's shares in MTN so that there is no longer a conflict of interest.

    However, MTN has some rights of first refusal if the shares are "sold" by SPTC, and is holding out for its long desired international carrier license from the government before agreeing to its request.
    Countering that request is a proposal currently being considered that would grant Sptc a five-year monopoly on landline services in the country - which could affect MTN's own backhaul plans.

  • The 11th meeting of ECOWAS Telecommunications and Information and Communication Technologies Ministers (Telecoms-ICT) ended with an adoption of a draft regulation on conditions for access to submarine cable landing stations in West Africa.

    The meeting which was held in Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire, ended October 14, 2011 with Ministers coming from the 15 Community Member States. It also informed Ministers of the progress made in regional broadband connectivity programmes and in the harmonization of the Telecommunications and ICT regulatory framework in the Community at large.

    During the meeting, ECOWAS in a statement said “The ministers also considered and adopted the draft regulation on conditions for access to submarine cable landing stations in West Africa. The text, comprising 16 articles, provides ECOWAS States with the necessary tools for addressing issues of confidence relating to landing stations and submarine cable access.”

    In that regard, the countries of the hinterland raised the issue of rights of way between Member States, the resolution of which would be necessary to facilitate access to submarine cable landing stations, among other things, it added.
    The meeting, the statement said therefore recommended a study to develop a harmonized regulation on the rights of way by learning from existing best practices, particularly that of Rwanda.

    “This activity will be included in the strategy for the implementation of priority Telecoms-ICT projects in the ECOWAS region for the next five years. As a matter of fact, the Ministers adopted a strategy paper in that regard, outlining the priority projects to be implemented in the coming years,” ECOWAS stressed.

    The statement disclosed that the Ministers recommended the creation of a Directorate of Telecoms-ICT and Post sectors by the third quarter of 2012 in order to build ECOWAS’ operational capacity and enhance the planning and monitoring of the activities of these sectors at the Community level.

    The meeting also saw representatives from the African Union, the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the Pan African Postal Union (PAPU), the West Africa Telecommunications Regulators Assembly (WATRA), the African Development Bank (AfDB), the National Union of Telecommunications Companies of Cote d’Ivoire (UNETEL), the West African Telecommunications Conference (WATC), the African Registry Consortium (ARC), the Information and Communication Technologies Sector Operators Group (GOTIC), and the Initiative for Internet Governance in Cote d’Ivoire (IGICI).

internet

  • Nigerians last week in Lagos, witnessed a renewed campaign for broadband access and penetration at the just-concluded 3rd West African Information and Communications Technology (WAFICT) Congress, as almost all papers presented were focused on new strategies for broadband.

    The theme of the congress was “An Emerging New Frontier: Opportunities and Potentials for Deployment of Broadband Services for Sustainable Growth in West Africa.”

    The Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson who was represented at the WAFICT Congress by the Director Telecoms and Post of the Ministry, Ngozi Ogunjiofor, revealed that the Federal Government was considering the development of a national ICT broadband network and another National network for Education and Research, which would require the setting up of Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) for implementation.

    Johnson expressed the hope that the on-going ICT Policy harmonisation would provide the necessary legal framework for the operation of the SPVs.She called on interested stakeholders to participate in the venture. According to her,  a number of efforts had been made by both the government and the private sector to develop the broadband industry but a lot more needed to be done to link up the un-served and the underserved areas of the Federation.

    "Government has over the years noted its responsibility to provide the basic infrastructure for our development and realised the constraint on the available resources and has provided the enabling legal framework for the private sector participation. Similarly, Government’s readiness to partner with the private sector can be seen from the provisions of the Communications Act of 2003 and the subsequent creation of the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF)", she said,  adding that the fund was basically designed to assist interested stakeholders in ICT infrastructure development, to access some funds in line with the laid down regulations of the Act.

    Presenting a paper on broadband penetration at the forum, Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, (NCC), Dr. Eugene Juwah, explained that the Commission had already indicated its commitment to the deployment of broadband through a structured and predictable approach that will give room to cross border extension of infrastructure where practicable.

    “Giving our position within the sub-region and indeed the continent, and our role as a regulator within the framework of the Economic Community of West African States, (ECOWAS) and the West African Telecommunications Regulators Assembly, (WATRA), we are desirous of partaking in initiatives or institutional frameworks that will facilitate the integration of telecommunications resources and facilities in Africa. Broadband presents one of such windows that could be exploited for the much sort after sub-regional integration.  It is therefore very interesting that broadband in the sub-region is at the hearts of ICT stakeholders,” he said.

    Juwah added: “When we put broadband in the perspective of cross border implementation, it calls for harmonisation of policies across the states or nations involved at regional or continental levels. We need to evolve a uniform inter-regional policy framework such that when broadband is fully implemented in any of our nations, the benefits can easily spread to sister nations in the continent. A careful appraisal of the growth of broadband in developed countries can be traced to a semblance of policies accentuated by uniform level of development in terms of telecommunications and ICT infrastructure.”

    According to him, “Most African countries are yet to be directly interconnected, which is the reason why it costs higher to make calls across the continent than it is to make calls to and from outside the continent. We must, therefore, collectively pursue a deliberate policy of liberalization that will attract service providers to go beyond their immediate environments and also allow interconnection within and among African countries.”

    Managing Director of Pinet Informatics, Lanre Ajayi, in a paper presentation, said the two expressions for broadband remained broadband capacity supply and broadband capacity demand, but that they were yet to be balanced. He explained that unless there is an increase in broadband capacity demand, broadband penetration would continue to move at a slow pace and remain largely unbalanced.

    He listed strategies that could stimulate broadband demand to include promotion of eGovernment processes, e-Business, Human Capacity Building and re-directing Institutional Responsibilities.

    He stressed that the Nigerian broadband equation would only be balanced when the rate of broadband consumption matches the rate at which broadband infrastructure is rolled out.“To achieve this, there is need to stimulate demand for broadband Internet in Nigeria,” Ajayi said.

    In his paper titled ‘Providing the right backbone for broadband penetration’ Head of Glo 1 Submarine Cable, Folu Aderibigbe, said “Nigeria is a key market for broadband penetration, among other African countries.” He called on telecom operators to take advantage of the landing of Glo 1 submarine cable to further push broadband penetration in the country.

  • The eNews Channel is fuming after it went off air for 47 minutes on Monday during President Jacob Zuma’s press conference at which he axed two of his ministers and announced a wide-ranging cabinet reshuffle. The channel says it is compiling a report into what happened and will demand answers from DStv, owned by MultiChoice, which it is blaming for the incident.

    The fault started at 2.08pm on Monday, shortly before Zuma began addressing the media. Hundreds of frustrated viewers took to social media services like Twitter to vent their frustration.

    eNews, which is a sister channel to free-to-air broadcaster e.tv, is blaming a “signal failure to DStv” that resulted in a “freeze frame” on air. “A second redundant line to DStv was operational, but engineers at DStv were unable to switch over immediately,” says Rob Brown, head of technical operations at eNews.

    “Usually the switchover to the second signal would take only a few seconds, or minutes at most,” says Brown. “DStv regrettably took longer than expected to switch over.”
    Group head of news Patrick Conroy says eNews is “very disappointed that the switch over took so long”.

    “We have redundancy lines in place for just this kind of problem and should never have been off air. We have received numerous complaints from viewers, which is entirely understandable.”The channel says a full report is being drawn up ahead of the matter being raised with DStv management.

  • All ministries, government departments and institutions are to be connected to the National Backbone Infrastructure and e-Government Infrastructure cable (NBI/EGI) which was launched on October 7.

    This follows completion of the first and second phase of laying the government's fibre optic cable, being managed by the National Information Technology Authority (NITA-U) at Statistics House in Kampala.

    President Yoweri Museveni has directed that for the investment in the NBI to be harnessed fully, all government data and voice services must use the infrastructure as their primary vehicle.

    This means that all government internet bandwidth will be centrally procured, distributed and managed by NITA-U, which will significantly reduce expenditure on internet bandwidth both for government and other public priority users such as schools, universities and hospitals which use them for health and education services, as well as research.

    It also means increased communication efficiency, as the NBI claims to be stronger and more reliable than the ISPs.However, the move has been met with anxiety from private Internet Service Providers (ISPs), for which government departments and public institutions have been the biggest client.

    However, NITA-U says the concern is uncalled for, as the Internet market in Uganda still has high potential for growth, having one of the lowest penetration levels in the world. The NBI so far scales almost 2,000 km of fibre optic cable, covering more than 20 districts countrywide.

    In addition, the NBI's large capacity presents opportunity for Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) service providers to grow business across the country. Government last month awarded contracts to three companies from India and Kenya - Dhanush, Raps-Spanco and TechnoBrain - to run Uganda's first BPO call centre. According to NITA-U Executive Director James Saaka, the firms will start with a start with a three-year pilot scheme in December 2011.

    Uganda is several years behind Kenya in the BPO industry, and is apparently living up to its reputation as a late adopter. Kenya's KenCall, which employs hundreds of Kenyans, pioneered BPOs in East Africa six years ago.

    Additionally, Uganda's Digital Migration Project is way behind schedule, while regional counterparts Kenya and Rwanda have already switched on.

    Even the NBI, which was funded by a controversial US$ 103 million loan from Chinese bank Exim, is two years behind schedule and is now a subject of a forensic audit to address value-for-money queries and allegations of inflated costs and poor quality cables.
    NITA-U ICT Ministry are themselves only recent creations, with lots of work to do to catch up with the region.

    According to Saaka, the NBI will function as a commercial project to generate money and repay the Chinese loan. Additional revenue will be raised by leasing excess capacity to telecoms and other institutional users.

  • MIH Internet has announced it is to close down its e-commerce Web sites, Kalahari Kenya and Kalahari Nigeria, due to their lack of profitability.
    The digital arm of South African media giant Naspers launched the sites in October 2009 and January 2010, respectively, but has now admitted defeat.

    “Performance of the service has been below expectation since launch, and reaching profitability was not a reasonable near-term prospect,” said Stefan Magdalinski, GM of E-commerce in Sub-Saharan Africa for MIH.

    "Following a strategic review of investment priorities, we will be closing down the Kalahari Kenya and Nigeria operations with immediate effect.”
    Operations in both countries ceased on 19 October, with no more orders being taken. The sites hope to complete delivery of current open orders. A notice of closure has been sent to all employees of the two sites.

    As recently as April, Kalahari appointed Joseck Luminzu Mudiri, former business development manager of M-Pesa at Safaricom, as its new country manager in Kenya. It remains unclear whether he and other high-level staff will be retained by MIH Internet.

    Kalahari was an inventory-based e-commerce site based on the successful Amazon models in the US and UK. With products listed at set prices, it is differentiated from auction and classified sites, such as Dealfish and Mocality, also owned by MIH, which have just been joined in the market by Google Trader. MIH said Dealfish and Mocality will remain open, suggesting the issues that have forced Kalahari to close do not extend to the auction sites.

    The failure of the Kalahari sites, which were branches of the mother site in South Africa, has been attributed by analysts to high operational and marketing costs. It is reported that advertising in the two markets alone cost the company around $50 000.

    Though the site boasted 14 million users and three million products, costs of pan-African delivery and advertising have clearly taken their toll. Platforms for small advertisements, such as Dealfish, can also face high costs in promotion, but have no need to carry any inventory or incur distribution costs.

    There have also been difficulties with persuading Kenyans to trust online shopping, with many preferring to use sites for products they have been unable to physically buy. Finding an efficient and trustworthy payment gateway has also been a challenge, with credit card uptake in Kenya still low and mobile-to-Web payment systems, like PesaPal, yet to gain mass adoption and trust.

computing

  • Apple has agreed to enter a joint-venture with the Zimbabwean government to deliver solar-powered iPads to rural and remote schools, reducing the digital divide between rural and urban areas in the country.

    Government Education, Sport, Arts and Culture minister David Coltart travelled to Europe to meet with Apple executives in Paris, working on a new ‘School Box’ which will use solar power and micro projectors to help bring iPad teach aids to some of Zimbabwe’s poorest schools.

  • Safaricom has entered the data storage business as it seeks to diversify its product portfolio from the voice market that has witnessed decline in revenues following a price war in the telecoms industry started last year.

    The firm on Tuesday launched the business line branded as SafaricomCloud targeting provision off data storage and backup services to companies and small businesses.

    Fast gaining currency, cloud computing involves storage of data in a similar way to how e-mail and social network data are stored only that in cloud computing this is in large scale.

    Safaricom's chief executive officer Mr Bob Collymore said the firm has invested an initial Sh2 billion in putting up the necessary infrastructure, while a further Sh1.5 billion will be deployed in the venture within the next two years.

    "Cloud computing allows a company to seek a number of IT services relevant to its operations, under a cost-efficient, money-saving, pay-for-what-you-use model. Such services may include a data centre, disaster recovery, back-up, software applications, among others," said Collymore.

    Cloud computing has been gaining traction in companies in Kenya seeking for ways to cut the rising technology costs and operators.It is estimated that firms can cut their IT expenditure by 30 per cent.

    Currently banks and telecoms with sensitive digital data use offshore servers, while many small and medium enterprises rely on disaster recovery. The post-election violence also saw businesses lose vital documents, rousing interest in secure data storage.

    Safaricom's entry is set to increase competition for the archive business with firms like Kenya Data Networks, security firm G4S and Internet Solutions firms as well as companies in Europe and US who were providing the services to local firms from offshore servers.

  • According to ITWeb, writing for DefenceWeb, the Department of Science and Technology opened its 36th dedicated centre, in the country's biggest province, in a bid to demystify science and raise interest in the discipline among South Africa's youth. The centre, a "spacious, converted house" in Mothibistad, next to Kuruman, was officially unveiled by Deputy Minister of science and technology Derek Hanekom, - who also delivered the keynote speech.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Egyptian telecommunications mobile operator, Mobinil has posted a 96% drop in third quarter net profits.

    Mobinil received only 10 million Egyptian pounds (about US $1.6 million) in profits in the previous quarter, the company stated in a press release today, 26 October 2011.
    The result is a net loss of nearly 110 million Egyptian pounds from the previous quarter. The reason is the continued economic and political turmoil facing the country after former President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February.The company also said that it was hit hard by deferred taxes.

    “The impact of the new tax regime is limited to current period profits as the hit related to deferred taxes was registered during the second quarter of 2011,” Mobinil said in a statement, but did not give further details.

    Mobinil said in the statement that its total subscribers in the quarter increased 3.4 percent quarter-on-quarter to a total of 31.576 million subscribers. It was also hit by a large number of subscribers who left the company after former CEO Naguib Sawiris posted what many Muslims felt was a blasphemous cartoon depicting Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse as conservative Muslims.

  • Exim Bank Tanzania has now moved on to a new state-of-the-art Information Technology (IT) platform for its Core Banking applications.

    Speaking in Dar es Salaam on Tuesday, the Bank's Group-Head, Operations, Mr Eugen Massawe, said:"It has been a landmark achievement having migrated to the new state-of-the-art solution, with much ease, since October 17.

    The new solution has been sourced from M/s Polaris Software Labs Limited, one of the leading IT enabled Banking solution provider in the world. Massawe said: "Exim Bank has always been distinctive in its approach towards customer satisfaction, be it in introducing innovative products or using technology for faster and effective delivery". The new solution shall be a delight for our customers", he added.

    Mr Massawe said that it has been a meticulous and well coordinated effort from the bank and the software vendors that has resulted in achieving the success.Highlighting features of the solution, he said that customers shall now be able to benefit with value added services including Internet Banking from the comfort of their homes or offices. It will facilitate more efficient transfers of funds within the bank, outside the bank, request for issuance of Letters of Credit, Application for Credit Facilities shall have several other value added features.

    The bank has been providing down load of statement of accounts, balance enquiries.
    On cash management services -- Business houses would now be able to manage their funds effectively with the help of Bank's Cash Management solution.

    The bank shall be at a distinct advantage with 21 branches across major centres in the country, providing Corporates a One Stop Solution for all their banking needs.
    All payments to TRA would be system-enabled with relevant information available for the remitter for future references.

    Educational institutions such as schools, colleges, universities have been facing perennial problems in collection and management of fees from Students.

    The bank has launched an ideal solution that shall not only facilitate students, parents with a wide option to choose the place of deposit, but shall be a boon for the institutions as it will eliminate lot of human effort and facilitate reconciliation of fees collection electronically.

    There is instant credit of inward remittances, straight through credit of both local and foreign remittances is yet another feature which shall help the customers in getting their remittances into their account, seamlessly.

    With the new facility, customers would be able to request for instant opening of Letters of credit, Guarantees and collection Import & export bills over net itself and shall be advised with the confirmations electronically. Having pioneered in inculcating the habit of savings amongst the masses through its FAIDA, an innovate savings account, the bank is embarking to launch yet another innovative product.

    The product, enabled by the new solution, is aimed to inculcate the habit of regular savings amongst people, to plan and secure their future. An Innovative product for would be millionaires & billionaires of the economy!! After-all, little drops make an ocean !!

    Institutions and corporates can now relax and ensure payment of salaries of their employees on time and without hassle through Exim's salary account-facility. Customers can also utilise the safe locker facility of Exim for safe-keeping of their valuables, without fear of theft and live a tension-free life.

    Customers can henceforth give standing instructions for any regular payment to be made on specified dates, without the botheration of getting reminded and being penalized for delayed payments.

    Exim's Master Card and Visa Cards can be very effectively used in the ATMs and POS machines of other Banks.Exim Bank with a balance sheet size of over 800bn/- is the sixth largest bank in the country in terms of total assets, deposits and advances. The bank has 21 branches and 48 ATMs across the country. With the new solution in place, the bank has plans to expand its network aggressively.Exim holds to its credit being the 1st Tanzanian bank to establish footprints overseas. The bank has two overseas banking subsidiaries in Comoros (2 branches) and Djibouti.

Digital Content

  • The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)said the rapid increase in mobile phone deployment in Zimbabwe has created business opportunities for small and medium-scale entrepreneurs in the country.

    According to the Voice of America, the UNCTAD said such entrepreneurs are able to conduct electronic business or e-business as 59% of Zimbabweans have access to mobile phones compared with only about 5% in 2005.

    Such penetration, though still below the average of 77% in developing economies, is playing a critical role in boosting micro and small enterprises in Zimbabwe, UNCTAD said. It noted that there is a gender gap in mobile phone ownership in the developing world with 300 million fewer women than men owning mobile devices.

    Information and Communications Technology Minister Nelson Chamisa told VOA that e-business has become a key component in reviving Zimbabwe’s economy and creating business opportunities for smaller players.

    Economic commentator Rejoice Ngwenya said that while many small-scale entrepreneurs are doing business over mobile phones, mobile service quality remain an issue. “There is need for service providers to improve services in order to create more opportunities for small-scale businesses,” said Ngwenya.

    The report said that as mobile phones are the main ICT tool used by micro-enterprises and SMEs in low-income countries, these trends reinforce the likelihood that mobile networks will be their main way of accessing the Internet in the near future.

    According to the 2011 information economy report, “In Africa, where 84 million mobile handsets are already capable of using the Internet, 7 out of 10 are expected to be Internet-enabled by 2014.”

  • Democracy activists in some repressive countries are protecting themselves from harassment with technology training they received from the U.S. Department of State. The U.S. assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor offered a few insights into the programs in a speech October 24.

    Speaking at the University of Southern California's Annenberg Center in Los Angeles, Assistant Secretary Michael Posner said, "We've funded a wide range of programs and trainings aimed at keeping activists in the most repressive environments safe, including a number of Syrians who tell us they are using what they learned in the current struggle for political freedom."
    Posner said Congress has allocated $70 million to support Internet freedom through technology and training for groups overseas. One nongovernmental organization that received a State Department grant developed a mobile phone application that Posner called a "panic button," for use by democracy activists anticipating ugly encounters with government authorities.

    "If [activists] are being arrested, they can push a button that sends text messages to people to let [their associates] know they're in trouble," Posner told the California audience. "And it wipes the contacts in their phone, which we've been told has already proven useful."

    In a speech earlier this year, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke strongly about the U.S. intent to provide support for people struggling to assert their right of free expression.

    "The United States continues to help people in oppressive Internet environments get around filters, stay one step ahead of the censors, the hackers and the thugs who beat them up or imprison them for what they say online," Clinton said in a major address on Internet policy.

    Amid recent successes in the cause of human rights in North Africa, Posner said Obama administration officials remain concerned about three likely threats against Internet freedom and human rights.

    U.S. officials are watchful of some repressive governments' actions inhibiting citizens engaged in peaceful online activities. Posner said any government action of this type is a violation of international human rights law.

    Some governments are adapting the most sophisticated new information technology tools, Posner said, "to spy on their own citizens for the purpose of quashing peaceful political dissent or even information that would allow citizens to know what is happening in their communities." That too is a trend the United States is monitoring.
    A third trend, which Posner said has not received the scrutiny it deserves, is the attempt by some nations to convince the international community to adopt an international code of conduct for information security. Despite that innocuous name, Posner said, such a code, now proposed by China and Russia, would surely undermine media and individual freedoms.

    "And it would shift cyberspace away from being people-driven to a system dominated by centralized government control," Posner said. "Not a good idea."

    In her February speech on the issue, Clinton urged all nations to support an open Internet in the belief that it will lead to stronger and more prosperous countries. She expressed the view "that open societies give rise to the most lasting progress, that the rule of law is the firmest foundation for justice and peace, and that innovation thrives where ideas of all kinds are aired and explored."

  • Kenya's available international bandwidth increased 25-fold between March and June this year, leaving the country using less than 1% of it, according to new figures from the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK).

    Kenya's available bandwidth increased to 5 137 237.12Mbps in the second quarter of 2011, but is as yet barely utilised, the commission reported. This is despite the fact that Internet subscriptions rose by 10.9%, from 3.84 million to 4.25 million, over the same three months, with the total number of Internet users rising by 13.6%, to 12.53 million.

    About 31.8% of the Kenyan population are now able to access the Internet.
    The increased available bandwidth is the result of the arrival in Kenya of the 10 000km Eassy fibre-optic cable, which links SA with eight southern and eastern African countries. The cable is the third of its kind in Kenya, joining Seacom and Teams, but offers by far the greatest bandwidth capacity. Its arrival means there is now sizeable bandwidth available for overseas investors in Kenya's technological market, which is emerging as a regional hub.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Airtel and the Republic of Congo has taken a significant step towards building the largest 3G network across Africa by announcing the launch of a 3.75G platform in the country.
    The launch on Tuesday 25th October  followed the application and issuance of a 3G license by the Republic of Congo. The issuance of the license was a significant move by the Congolese Government and a milestone in a region that is set to embrace first world mobile platforms. This is the first 3G license issued in Central Africa and the second amongst the French-speaking African nations, after Senegal.

    - mCel, Mozambique’s largest mobile operator by subscribers, has selected Swedish equipment vendor Ericsson to upgrade and expand its existing 3G network in the country’s capital city Maputo. Under the terms of the agreement, Ericsson will deploy its core network solutions as well as its multi-standard ‘RBS 6000’ base stations, which support GSM, EDGE, W-CDMA, HSPA and Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology. The core network includes Ericsson’s Mobile Softswitch and SmartEdge-based Mobile Packet Backbone Network (MPBN) solutions.

More

  • - Blaise Compaoré, President of Burkina Faso, has been appointed Chairman of the International Advisory Board (IAB) of the International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber Threats (IMPACT), which serves at the executing arm of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in the area of cyber security.

  • Senior Huawei 3G Planning and Optimisation Team Leader
    Posted by: emiliosrize

    Posted date: Fri, 28th Oct

    Location: Zambia

    I am currently looking for a senior Huawei 3G Radio network Planning and Optimsation consutlant who has team leader experience to work on a 6 month extendable for a market leading client of mine in Zambia.

    My client are looking for a 3G expert in planning and optimisation who will also have the presence and knowledge to be able to provide mentoring, skills and knowledge transfer to the rest of the teams.

    * All applicants MUST have at least 4-5 years experience with detailed 3G design, planning and optimisation.

    It would be beneficial to have someone who has a good knowledge of the 3G/Data aspects of the Core network and can clearly map 3G access capacity with core network design.

    All applicants must be available to start within the next 2 weeks.

    Huawei UMTS planning and optimization experience are strongly preferred.

    To Apply online please click here: 

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

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

    G | Angola!
    8 - 9 November, 2011
    , Hotel Victoria Garden, Luanda, Angola
    G of Angola | Angola. We will demonstrate how the
    tools for Web and mobile phone from Google is driving the development
    technological and business here in Africa and around the world.
    For further information and to register to attend this free event please visit here:

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

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

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

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

    Mobile Web in Africa 2011
    22 - 25 November, 2011, Johannesburg, South Africa

    Harnessing the potential of the internet and applications on mobile devices. Back for a third year, Mobile Web in Africa is South Africa’s premier mobile conference.  Following on from unrivalled, sell-out successes in 2009 and 2010, no other event on the South African calendar compares in terms of topic, speaking faculty, agenda, interaction and business opportunities.
    Write to info@allamber.co.uk to find out about the fantastic discount
    available to Balancing Act readers.
    Confirmed Speakers:
    •    Tomi T Ahonen, Bestselling Author & Consultant
    •    Dr Marc Smith, Chief Social Scientist, Connected Action Consulting Group
    •    Toby Shapshak, Editor, Stuff Magazine
    •    Adam Holtrop, Creative Director, Vidamo
    •    Salim Amin, Chairman, Camerapix, The Mohamed Amin Foundation & A24Media
    •    Alistair Fairweather, Digital Platforms Manager, The Mail & Guardian Online
    •    David Erasmus, Founder, Cubate
    •    Isis Nyong’o, Managing Director - Africa, InMobi
    •    Ronald Bach, Mobile Product Manager, News24
    •    Mark Kaigwa, Partner, Affrinovator
    •    Jean-Patrick Ehouman, Founder, AllDenY
    •    Musa Kalenga, Managing Director, IHOP World
    •    Nevo Hadas, New Media Consultant
    •    Russell Southwood, Editor, Balancing Act
    •    Johan Nel, CEO & Founder, Umuntu Media
    •    Leslie Tita, Co-Founder, Pulse
    •    Justin Spratt, CEO, Quirk
    For further information please visit here:

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

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

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

    For more informtion visit here:

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

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

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

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

    New Media Gathering Africa!
    7 - 8 March, 2012, Lagos Nigeria

    Leading media content and communication company Red Media Group (RMG) and
    frontline ICT consulting firm, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) have
    announced the first edition of the annual New Media Gathering Africa. The
    event will be held in Lagos  and will present to
    corporate, governments, change organisations and small businesses
    practical, outcome-oriented tools to enhance capacity and enrich bottom
    line. Information about registration for the conference will be unveiled on the website www.newmediagathering.com on January 1, 2012. For immediate
    enquiries and sponsorship consideration, please contact the Conference
    Lead on info@newmediagathering.com.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Issue no 577 21st October 2011

node ref id: 23304

Top story

  • Liquid Telecom has been quietly building out its Southern Africa fibre network that will eventually be 8,500 kms long and cost US$170 million. Its network is now meeting the fibre networks of East Africa and it wants to go into DRC from Zambia. However, the continent’s other carriers’ carriers are not in bullish expansion mode and the example of Kenya’s KDN shows what can go wrong. Russell Southwood spoke to Liquid Telecom’s CEO this week.

    Liquid Telecom has now got a fibre route from Johannesburg up to the Zambian border. Alongside this network it has two metro rings in Zimbabwe and several in Zambia. Its network in Zambia is through a joint venture with Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC) and includes the assets of Realtime Technologies, who used to manage the network on behalf of CEC. The CEC network reaches up to the Zambian border with DRC and there may yet be a cross-border link to Lubumbashi. Rudnick says:”We’re working on an arrangement to extend the network in DRC and will make an announcement shortly.”

    In the not yet completed part of phase two and phase three it will: build out customer access in Zimbabwe; and build links into Botswana (Gaberone and Francistown). It is also connected to Namibia via Neotel. In South Africa, it has its own network north of Johannesburg but uses other people’s network for the onward journey south.

    The customers of the network are the mobile operators and corporate customers operating across Southern Africa:”In terms of corporate customers, we have a significant and growing number of corporates with regional branches, particularly banks.”

    As an existing satellite operator across the continent, Liquid Telecom is in a position to see the difference the new fibre network has made to bandwidth volumes bought. Satellite is now less than 10% of its total capacity: it continues to fall as an overall percentage but grow in bandwidth terms:”Data is 8 times greater than it was 12 months ago when everything was going by satellite.” On its network, prices have come down 50% on satellite and early fibre prices:”Now there is sufficient bandwidth but congestion is still occurring”.

    “Costs will continue to come down but volumes will go up. The wholesale reductions have not yet been passed on to the consumer as operators are still investing in local access networks. But retail prices will come down by more than a third and could even come down more. The networks are still trying to understand consumer behaviour.”

    Its competitors are mainly alternative fibre providers, the state-owned electricity utilities like Powertel:”They used to charge as much as they could now it’s swung the other way and they’ll charge as little as they can to keep the business. They don’t have a commercial model.”

    The continent currently has four carriers’s carriers of any scale that offer services to all operators: Liquid Telecom, KDN, Suburban and Phase3 Telecom. The latter only has a domestic fibre network.

    Of these, KDN provides an interesting case study in what can go wrong. Originally launched by the Sameer Group (which also owned the mobile company Celtel bought and is now Airtel), it was bought into by South African family business Altech. The latter had previously bought into a Uganda ISP and set up another in Rwanda. However, towards the end of the period of its previous CEO Kai Wulff, the timetable for investment seemed to slow down.

    The South African co-owners bought in a new CEO, Rykus Matthyser, who had formerly been with Telkom and latterly Telkom Media (before it became Super5 Media). He has recently left the company.

    As Jane Austen might have said if she was in the telecoms business, it is truth widely acknowledged that South Africans and Kenyans do not always get along. On occasions, South Africans can exhibit the tendency to give the impression that they know it all. At KDN key staff left, feeling that they had been treated as if they didn’t know the business and the local market. All of which might have become bar-room gossip if success had followed.

    But as one insider told us:”They thought they could hold the East African market hostage.” According to several sources they put up the prices they were charging the dominant player Safaricom (by some accounts by as much as 10 times) and lost this account which represented 30% of the company’s turnover. Worse still, by seeking to put up prices charged in a highly competitive market where rates were falling, they encouraged operators and other companies to build their own networks and now there is something of a capacity glut in Kenya.

    To add to its troubles, the company has been squeezed from two sides in cash flow terms. Contractor Soliton Telemec went to Court in July 2011 with a winding up petition over payment for the redundant Wajir-Mombasa link it built. KDN claims they have been over-paid. On the other side of the balance sheet, Essar (owners of Yu) agreed in September 2011 to make monthly payments on their debt that settled an outstanding dispute.

    The business case for pan-continental carriers’ carriers is simple and remains valid. For the operator, it means that the investment they might make in terrestrial fibre can be put into other parts of the network and new customer services. This leaves the risk with the carriers’ carriers who have to ride the down cycle of prices and still make money.

    The biggest customers for carriers’ carriers are the mobile operators and as with their attitude to content, they are conflicted about where to place themselves strategically: in or out? It’s very much case of the two conflicting Ts: trust and testosterone.

    Local opco managers will argue to themselves and their investment committees that on certain routes they need to build their own fibre but the approach appears piecemeal. In the main, opco managers are engineers by background and like to control their own networks. On the other side, the carriers’ carriers have to build trust both in how they deliver their service and the way they behave.

    With Liquid Telecom’s  fibre network now joining parts of the east African fibre networks, this is a business case that it is in everyone’s interest to get right.


    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube Channel

    Nic Rudnick, CEO, Liquid Telecom on its Southern African Fibre Network

    Future mobile content?
    Lippe Oosterhof, CEO, Livestation on live streaming for African news broadcasters and its mobile platform

    Henk Kleynhans, Chair of WAPA
    on TV White Spaces proposals in South Africa

    Steve Song, CEO, Village Telco
    on the TV White Spaces Workshop

    Richard Bell, CEO, Wananchi Group in Kenya on international fibre connectivity, local TV content for its Zuku bouquet and financing its vision:

    Riyaz Bachani, CTO, Wananchi on its Wazi hot-spots partnership with Google

    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

More

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

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

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

    For more informtion visit here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Mobile Web in Africa 2011
    22 - 25 November, 2011, Johannesburg, South Africa

    Harnessing the potential of the internet and applications on mobile devices. Back for a third year, Mobile Web in Africa is South Africa’s premier mobile conference.  Following on from unrivalled, sell-out successes in 2009 and 2010, no other event on the South African calendar compares in terms of topic, speaking faculty, agenda, interaction and business opportunities.
    Write to info@allamber.co.uk to find out about the fantastic discount
    available to Balancing Act readers.
    Confirmed Speakers:
    •    Tomi T Ahonen, Bestselling Author & Consultant
    •    Dr Marc Smith, Chief Social Scientist, Connected Action Consulting Group
    •    Toby Shapshak, Editor, Stuff Magazine
    •    Adam Holtrop, Creative Director, Vidamo
    •    Salim Amin, Chairman, Camerapix, The Mohamed Amin Foundation & A24Media
    •    Alistair Fairweather, Digital Platforms Manager, The Mail & Guardian Online
    •    David Erasmus, Founder, Cubate
    •    Isis Nyong’o, Managing Director - Africa, InMobi
    •    Ronald Bach, Mobile Product Manager, News24
    •    Mark Kaigwa, Partner, Affrinovator
    •    Jean-Patrick Ehouman, Founder, AllDenY
    •    Musa Kalenga, Managing Director, IHOP World
    •    Nevo Hadas, New Media Consultant
    •    Russell Southwood, Editor, Balancing Act
    •    Johan Nel, CEO & Founder, Umuntu Media
    •    Leslie Tita, Co-Founder, Pulse
    •    Justin Spratt, CEO, Quirk
    For further information please visit here:

    G | Angola!
    8 - 9 November, 2011
    Hotel Victoria Garden, Luanda, Angola

    G of Angola | Angola. We will demonstrate how the
    tools for Web and mobile phone from Google is driving the development
    technological and business here in Africa and around the world.
    For further information and to register to attend this free event please visit here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    New Media Gathering Africa!
    7 - 8 March, 2012, Lagos Nigeria

    Leading media content and communication company Red Media Group (RMG) and
    frontline ICT consulting firm, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) have
    announced the first edition of the annual New Media Gathering Africa. The
    event will be held in Lagos  and will present to
    corporate, governments, change organisations and small businesses
    practical, outcome-oriented tools to enhance capacity and enrich bottom
    line. Information about registration for the conference will be unveiled on the website www.newmediagathering.com on January 1, 2012. For immediate
    enquiries and sponsorship consideration, please contact the Conference
    Lead on info@newmediagathering.com.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • - Telkom’s group executive for communications and brand, Brenda Kali, has resigned. She had been with the group for the past three years.

    -  MTN Group has announced the appointment of new CEOs for its Zambian and Cameroonian operations. Abdul Ismail will take over as new MTN Zambia CEO and Karl Toriola will become CEO of MTN Cameroon on November 1 2011.

  • Opening for Site Acquisition(Only from Zimbabwe)

    Posted date: Fri, 21st Oct

    Location: Zimbabwe

    Currently we have opening for Site Acquisition .Client needs someone from Zimbabwe

    It is a 3-6 months extendable contract position.

    It’s a site acquisition requirement, we will need a local if possible, someone with fibre experience and right of way would be preferable.

    If you are interested then please send me your updated resume at here: richa.gupta@netc-intl.com mentioning the position for which you are applying or In case you are currently occupied with some contracts or projects please pass on this information to your friends or colleagues who might be available and interested for this position.

    Thanks & Regards

    Richa Gupta

    Tel: - +91 9760022914

    Email: - richa.gupta@netc-intl.com

    Skype Id:- richa.gupta97

telecoms

  • MTN Group, Africa’s largest mobile-phone company, is seeking to buy Vodafone Group Plc (VOD)’s wireless venture in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to a Bloomberg report

    MTN is part of a bidding process for Vodacom Congo SPRL, the company 51 percent owned by Vodacom Group Ltd. (VOD), which in turn is controlled by Vodafone, the Bloomberg sources said, declining to be identified because the matter is confidential. Johannesburg- based MTN made a presentation to Vodacom last week, one of the sources said.

    Vodacom has been in a dispute with the venture’s local partner Congolese Wireless Network SPRL over funding and operational structure since at least early 2010, following a $484 million capital injection into the business by Vodacom. Vodacom may sell its stake to end the dispute, Chief Executive Officer Pieter Uys said on May. 16. Vodacom Congo had 4.2 million subscribers at the end of March.

    Vodacom, also based in Johannesburg, is busy with a process being run by London’s NM Rothschild & Sons Ltd. to “explore options” for its Congo unit, spokesman Richard Boorman said in an e-mailed response to questions today. MTN “continues to search for value-enhancing opportunities everywhere,” spokesman Rich Mkhondo said in a text message.

    “Vodacom is apparently convinced it must get out of the DRC, therefore the only thing that would need to be sorted out is the price,” Gilmour said by telephone.

  • According to Business Daily Africa, the Kenyan government is set to unveil a new set of shareholder rules that will ensure international firms are allowed to bid for a share of its planned ‘open access’ Long Term Evolution (LTE) network, overruling strong opposition from local operators. Last month, a total of 17 telecoms firms registered their interest in the open access 4G initiative.

    Of the companies involved, eight were known to be international equipment vendors, although are all were believed to have partnered with as-yet unnamed local companies in order to secure their participation in the project. Global vendors included: Alcatel-Lucent (France), Huawei and ZTE (both China), Lollakfi (UK), Ericsson (Sweden), and three US firms – IBM, Epesi Technologies and Cisco Networks.

    Under revised shareholding rules, international firms will now be able to participate without the involvement of a local partner, as long as they register local affiliates in Kenya before 1 February 2012. However, Business Daily Africa reports that all international firms must cede a 20% stake to Kenyan shareholders after a three-year period.

  • Following reports of alleged service providers tapping on consumers' wires to monitor their conversations, the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) has denied such claims which appeared in a local daily, linking the Lone Star Communication Corporation.

    In a statement issued Thursday, the LTA noted that it was not aware of any such act, adding that any service providers caught tapping on private communication lines will be dealt with under the laws of Liberia.

    The LTA said a communications company could only be authorized by a court of law to monitor the conversation of individuals in connection with high profile state offenses, among others. But recent reports have alleged that journalists and others' communication lines have been tapped by the Lone Star Cell Communication which has since been denied.

    LTA at the same time has warned against any such practice, as it is against the Liberian Communication Act of 2007. However, the LTA did not include whether it has launched a prior investigation into the allegation and what were the findings.

  • Airtel Nigeria announced today that it will offer its BlackBerry customers a service waiver following last week’s global outage attributed to the service provider, Research in Motion (RIM).

    Research in Motion has now fully restored data services to its BlackBerry devices. The BlackBerry outage was caused by a hardware error which halted messaging and Web browsing across many parts of the world, disrupting services for 3 days. The disruptions began in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and India early in the week and later spread to North America.

    Rajan Swaroop, the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Airtel Nigeria stated: “We remain concerned about the inconvenience this has caused to all our BlackBerry users earlier this week and we would like to compensate both our pre paid and post paid customers for the inconvenience as best we can.

    “For our pre paid customers, we will extend the subscription of the services for the month of October by three days. We are communicating this to the affected customers through sms,”said Swaroop.

    “For our Post Paid customers, who are customers paying their bills at the end of every month, we will waive three days off the BlackBerry monthly rental for the month of October. The three day waiver will be reflected in the monthly bill sent to all our post paid BlackBerry users for the month of October,” added Swaroop.

    Airtel clarified that although the root cause emanated from the global provider of the services, the telco service provider was willing to offer the extension as a token compensation for its customers.

  • Postel Housing Co-operative Society has joined a court case involving the sale of 79 acres of prime land to an investor by Telkom Kenya for Sh1.5 billion. The society is claiming legal ownership of the property in Karen, Nairobi.

    It has been enjoined in the court dispute as an interested party saying it purchased 60 acres from the defunct Kenya Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (KP&TC) in 1993 for Sh21 million and entered into an agreement with an agent, Exclusive Estate Ltd, to build 514 houses.

    The latest twist comes in the wake of a dispute between Telkom and Aftraco Limited after the latter moved to court over alleged breach of an agreement involving the sale of the property.

  • South Africa’s telecoms infrastructure is slowly turning hosted or cloud-based PBXs (private branch interchange) into a viable option for small to medium sized companies. That’s according to Ryan Miles, Itec Chief Operating Officer (COO).

    Miles says that the absence of affordable uncapped or high-cap ADSL services for smaller businesses and bottlenecks in the country’s telecom infrastructure have held back the adoption of cloud-based PBXs up until now.

    However, with bandwidth prices falling at a rapid rate and the prospect of local loop unbundling and faster yet cheaper mobile broadband on the horizon, cloud-based PBXs will become attractive for smaller businesses over the next two to three years, says Miles.

    “Telkom’s control over the last kilometre is one final major obstacle to cloud-based PBX solutions,” he adds. “Once that starts to fall away, the cloud model for PBXs becomes more attractive since companies will be able to source their line, PBX and data services from a single supplier and will probably no longer need to pay for the rental of an analogue voice line.”

    In the longer term, hosted or cloud-based PBX solutions will offer a range of benefits to smaller businesses that will prove hard to ignore, says Miles. The first of these is that they no longer need to rent dedicated PBX hardware since the intelligence of the PBX will run on a service provider’s infrastructure.

    This removes a significant capital expense from their businesses, since they’ll simply need to buy IP phones or computer headsets to connect their staff to telephony services, Miles says. The benefits will multiply for companies that have branches around the country.

    Another benefit lies in the rich functionality SMEs can access through hosted PBX services. They may be able to enjoy all the features of an enterprise-class PBX without needing to invest in an expensive piece of equipment. Functionality such as caller ID, voicemail, find-me and call routing is all affordable on a cloud service.

    In addition, the service provider will take responsibility for upgrading and maintaining the system, says Miles. That frees SMEs of the headaches of installing software, firmware and security updates to the system or needing to upgrade hardware when the number of users grows.

    Cloud services are also inherently scalable, says Miles, allowing for new users to be added with minimal inconvenience. They can also be accessed from anywhere, meaning that users can access the same switchboard services wherever they are in the world.

    However, Miles still advocates caution for SMEs that want to migrate towards cloud-based services. They should ensure that their Internet connections are stable enough and offer enough bandwidth to cater both for their data needs and the voice needs of all their users. They should also ensure that call quality will be acceptable for their requirements.

    “Voice telephony is one of those business services that an SME simply cannot afford to do without, which means that they need to plan carefully and stress test any new system they put in place,” says Miles.

    “They must also do the maths to ensure that a cloud-based PBX will in fact be cheaper than their old systems once telephone line and bandwidth costs are taken into account,”concludes Miles.

  • A pilot project to use mobile phones to enable health professionals to collect data, have it analyzed and give feedback is to be launched next week at a projected cost of around 370,000 dollars.

    The project spearheaded by Technology for Change International, a non-governmental organization, aims to use 1,000 mobile handsets distributed to health professionals in four regions -Amhara, Tigray, Oromia and Southern - to collect data on pregnant women.

    The data will be collected and sent to a central server, whose algorithm will analyze and send an alert to the data collector regarding any complications, according to Naoll Addisu, executive director of the organization.

internet

  • Internet search giant Google has launched its classified ads service, Google Trader, in Kenya, the Forbes Magazine reports October 17, 2011. Kenya becomes the third African country to have the service after Ghana and Uganda.

    Google Trader is a free classifieds service that lets internet users trade products and services and search for jobs, real estate listings or just about anything else.

    As Google enters into the classifieds business in Kenya, it has to compete with the country’s largest classified service, Dealfish Kenya, owned by MIH Internet, a South African Internet services firm which in turn is owned by Naspers, Africa’s largest media company.

    Dealfish also allows Kenyan web users to search for jobs, and buy goods and services. Google Trader will be available on mobile phones, hand-held devices and personal computers, the magazine said.

  • Middle East mobile telecommunications operators, Alcatel-Lucent and Etisalat, have today signed an agreement to jointly develop a sustainable means to deliver mobile broadband to customers using a lightRadio cube.

    The agreement was signed by Nasser bin Obood, Acting CEO Etisalat and Nicolas Bouverot, Alcatel-Lucent Vice President for Middle East.

    Through its collaboration around lightRadio, Etisalat will help define the commercial introduction of this new product family in the Middle East and in other markets, meeting its own subscribers’ demands for innovative new mobile services while providing operators with a flexible path for business growth into the next decade.

    Nasser bin Obood, Acting CEO- Etisalat said “Etisalat is a pioneer in delivering innovative services and applications to our customers to meet their needs in both their social and work lives.  This agreement will allow us to shape the future of mobile networks and define how lightRadio can be best implemented to satisfy our customers growing demands. Etisalat is proud to be the only operator in the Middle East and Africa to join this pioneering program.”

    As global demand for Internet on-the-move services grows dramatically, together with the adoption of the latest smartphones and tablet devices, the need for operators to extend their wireless network coverage and capacity is also growing exponentially to cope with this demand.

    The lightRadio product family addresses both of these needs, enabling superfast speeds and high-quality delivery of applications to a variety of mobile devices, while reducing the size, complexity, cost and power consumption of mobile networks, making it a greener and more cost-effective solution for operators.

  • High Court president, Johnstone Busingye, trains lawyers in using EFS
    Members of the Kigali Bar Association (KBA) were, last week, trained in filing cases online using Electronic Filing System (EFS).

    KBA is a legal fraternity of lawyers and judges dedicated to improving the administration of justice. The president of the High Court, Johnstone Busingye, who trained the lawyers, said that EFS responds to the needs of the legal community as well as the general public.

    "The implementation of the newly introduced system is an effective case flow management method designed to ensure the function of the court is accomplished and enhance service delivery," he said.

    Busingye urged the lawyers to embrace the new system as it provides fair treatment of all litigants by the court, ensures that the time established for disposition is consistent with the nature of the case as well as enhancing the quality of the litigation process. "It instils public confidence in the court," he added.

    The High Court president pointed out that the EFS will be at the heart of all judicial systems and would manage a case from initial filing to final disposition. The EFS enables litigants to file cases online, as well as follow up their cases as they are allocated hearing dates and times and lined up on the court calendar.

    Speaking to The Sunday Times after sensitising the lawyers, Busingye said that filing cases online started last month in the Supreme Court, High courts, Commercial courts and the intermediate courts.

    "We are moving on smoothly to ensure that all 22 courts are covered and the initial phase will digitize files from 2004," he said.

    Busingye observed that, with the new system it's no longer necessary for litigants to come to the Supreme Court, and other courts using the system to file cases, they are now able to file their cases from anywhere as long as there is internet connection and this saves their time and transport.

    "The only reason we think the litigants should come to courts is to hear their cases and perhaps other matters which cannot be delivered electronically, if there are any," the High Court president emphasised.

    According to Athanase Rutabingwa, president of the Bar Association, the new system will streamline the judicial processes of work.

    "This is a very important initiative that optimises processes to reduce associated time and costs and I call upon my colleagues to implement it as we professionalise our work," he noted.

  • It may have taken seven years and numerous legal challenges, but the Competition Commission’s case against Telkom finally made it to the Competition Tribunal on Monday.

    SA’s fixed-line operator stands accused of abusing its dominance by charging excessive prices; refusing access to an essential facility; and engaging in price discrimination thereby making its downstream rivals less competitive in the telecommunications market.

    This alleged behaviour dates back to before 2002, when the initial complaint was lodged, but the commission’s case has since been subject to numerous legal challenges that delayed the case.

    Telkom has denied these allegations and is seeking to defend itself in the tribunal hearing.

    If Telkom is found guilty in the hearing, it could face a penalty of as much as 10% of its 2003 turnover, which could be as much as R3,5bn.

    The complaint was lodged with the commission by 21 entities, which included the SA Vans (value-added network services) Association, the Internet Service Providers’ Association and 19 other value added network service providers.

    By February 2004, the commission had completed its investigation and referred its case against Telkom to the tribunal.

    However, Telkom decided to challenge the commission’s jurisdiction in the supreme court of appeal, a legal move that resulted in a five-year delay to the tribunal hearing, but ultimately was lost by Telkom.

    Some subsequent legal challenges, based on the commission’s decisions to amends its papers, have since been resolved and the case has finally reached the tribunal.

    The commission’s case was laid out on the opening day of the hearing by Adv Martin Brassey, while Telkom’s case was laid out by Adv Willem van der Linde.

    The first witness was Mike Brierley, the former CEO of MTN Network Solutions and now a telecoms consultant.

    The Mail & Guardian understands that Brierley’s testimony will be key to the commission’s case but his testimony on Monday was heavily focused on telecoms technology and the definitions of the various links that create a network.

    Telkom spokesperson Pynee Chetty, when asked for comment on the tribunal hearing said: “We don’t litigate in the media, we won’t comment before the hearing.”

    The hearing has been set down to be heard between 17 October and 28 October and will then resume between the 1 and 9 December. 

computing

  • The centre will provide an academic and research programme based on the Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) curriculum which is expected to start early next year. Carnegie Mellon University is a leading ICT university based in the United States.

    Speaking during a ceremony to mark the tripartite partnership between the Bank, the Government and CMU, Dr. Agnes Soucat, AfDB's Director of Human Development said that the bank is proud to be part of the project.

    "The Bank will continue to partner with the country in ensuring that the Centre is a success. The academic and research opportunities to be offered will be linked to lower levels of the education and training systems, and will provide high quality skills," she said

    Early this year, AfDB signed a $13 million loan agreement with the government for the construction and equipping of the Centre of Excellence.

    Dr Soucat said that the establishment of the centre is in line with the bank's human development priorities which is part of its Medium Term Strategy for 2008-2012, and its higher education, science and technology strategy.

    "We hope that this unique tripartite partnership will inspire others in Africa and become an example for the continent. The Bank is ready to play a catalytic role in the development of science and technology in Rwanda," she said.

    During the event, Bruce Krogh, Director of CMU in Rwanda, presented an overview of the project and highlighted its areas of focus.

    Dr. Mathias Harebamungu, minister of State-in-Charge of Primary and Secondary Education said that the Centre is expected to alleviate the need for students from the region to study abroad in pursuit of high quality graduate ICT education.

    "Students at the CMU Rwanda campus will benefit from the opportunity to obtain a globally competitive, research-based graduate education in Africa," he noted.

  • Microsoft East and Southern Africa has unveiled an online learning platform, a fully cloud-based learning experience to assist students acquire technologies that would enhance their employability.

    Dubbed Microsoft Virtual Academy the platform leverages on Microsoft Cloud Technologies. Speaking during a press conference to announce the 2011’s Microsoft Open Door activities, Dele Akinsade, Developer Platform Evangelist, Microsoft West East and Central Africa said the company has stepped up its partnership with local universities to empower the students with the best technology tools to enhance their learning experience.

    “We are striving to develop a culture conducive to innovation. As we recognize that the potential to innovate must be nurtured early-on, Microsoft will continue to provide appropriate and superior learning tools to encourage innovation,” said Akinsade.

    Open Door is a major technology event where Microsoft showcases its latest generation of technologies to Kenyan professionals and enthusiasts.

    Targeting the student community as well as IT professionals, the Microsoft Virtual Academy is geared towards encouraging and promoting local innovation and improving employability.

    Students have access to a variety of free online training content and are able to learn at their own pace, enabling them to build the necessary Information Technology skills critical to most careers.

    The Microsoft Virtual Academy complements the recently launched Microsoft Student Partner (MSP) programme, an educational and promotional program for undergraduate and postgraduate students majoring in technology related disciplines such as computer science, computer information systems, and information technology.

    Vincent Mugambi, Developer platform manager Microsoft East and Southern Africa said the MSP program aims to enhance students' employability and increase students' awareness of Microsoft technologies.

    “Student Partners are offered training especially in product-specific skills not typically taught in academia,” said Mugambi.

    Following completion of the program, Student Partners are expected to share their knowledge among the academic community through arranging courses, giving presentations and initiating projects.

    The tenure for the Microsoft Student Program is one academic year and can be renewed on acceptable performance.

    “It is a thrilling experience to study Microsoft technologies and advance my career,” said George Mbuthia, a student at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. “By earning points for downloading and studying materials and passing the self-assessment tests the program also keeps me motivated and encouraged, as I can constantly see my progress.”

    Microsoft has already identified 15 student partners in Kenya drawing membership from Strathmore University, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agricultural Technology-JKUAT, Methodist University, University of Nairobi and Kabarak University.

  • MTN Business announced the launch of Desktop as a Service (DaaS) this week.
    According to Gartner’s latest research, worldwide hosted virtual desktop market will increase through 2013, reaching 49 million units.

    “Through this offering, MTN Business is addressing the biggest concerns that businesses have today, that of safe, cost effective ICT solutions.

    MTN DaaS offers customers a complete service that not only makes commercial sense, as it requires little reconfiguration, should there be changes to the organisation in the desktop environment, but delivers full security and limited IT maintenance – as the solution is hosted in the cloud,” says Justin Colyn, MTN Business GM for Fixed Mobile Convergence.

    According to a study undertaken by Gartner, on average, companies spend up to $7,000 per PC per year on operating costs, where 77% of this is on service and support alone.

    “These figures strongly suggest that traditional desktop PCs are an expensive capital outlay for a business, even if they are a necessary one. Furthermore, what elevates concerns for organisations is not merely the rising cost, but the heightened security risks that this digital environment brings with it, as often critical company information is lost when a computer crashes or is misplaced or stolen – and we know that managing the complexity of this information can be very overwhelming to companies,” says Colyn.

    “Through using MTN DaaS these costs and concerns can be significantly reduced. In fact, through our own research, we have discovered that MTN DaaS can assist businesses in saving between R60 000 – R70 000 per employee over a three year period. What’s more, MTN DaaS can also assist a business in promoting a greener framework, as currently each PC user consumes between 360 to 500 watts per hour. By implementing MTN DaaS into a business model, this can be condensed down to 4 to 12 watts of power per user/hour – a massive power saving.”

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Dimension Data’s Internet Solutions (IS) subsidiary has increased its shareholding in its Kenyan unit from 51% to 80%, as part of a long-term strategy to increase its presence across East Africa. IS initially acquired a 51% stake in Kenyan service provider iConnect in 2005, which was duly rebranded IS Kenya following the transaction.

    The latest deal gives IS the option to acquire the remaining 20% of the company that it does not already own at an unspecified point in the future. Incoming managing director Loren Bosch commented: ‘East Africa is experiencing a boom, with [the] telecommunications sector playing a vital role in fuelling rapid growth across multiple vertical markets.

     This is largely due to the increased international bandwidth capacity supplied via the numerous undersea cable systems’. IS Kenya also serves parts of Tanzania and Uganda, and Bosch said that the ISP plans to expand its scope to cover Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan in the ‘near future’.

  • Safaricom is mulling acquiring a majority stake in another local IT service firm Seven Seas Technologies (SST) as it races to reduce its reliance on the voice market that is faced with increased competition and shrinking margins.

    The mobile telephony firm is to sign two-year partnership deal with the firm on Tuesday where both firms will contribute Sh1.5 billion in the joint venture and Safaricom has been given option of buying a controlling stake in SST at the end of 2013.

    The two firms had agreed to a buyout plan that was scuttled by the board of the mobile telephony firm which raised concerns over the viability of the business, paving way for the two-year partnership.

    “We have been tasked to demonstrate that’ there is a market for managed services in the next 24 months,” said Silvia Mulinge, Safaricom’s general manager enterprise business.

    “The board felt that we should take a moderate approach and that’s why we are entering into a partnership before we can pursue an acquisition of a majority stake in the firm,” she said.

    The SST has been in operations since 1999 and is a lead player on software developments, network integration, data security and storage as well as cloud computing—the delivery of technology services and software through the Internet to avoid buying hardware or infrastructure.

    Under the two-year partnership, Safaricom will provide its infrastructure (fibre optic network and wireless Internet connection), cash and widen customer base to SST, which will provide its expertise and talent on IT services.

    The companies said they will share revenue in a ratio that they did not divulge citing a non-disclosure agreement.

  • It has a licence to operate, what is it doing with it? First National Bank says it will not be using its ECNS (Electronic Communications Network Service) licence to become the country’s next cellphone operator, but rather to increase value added services for its clients.

    The licence is a fundamental requirement for companies wanting to become cellphone network operators. The bank acknowledges that it has the capability to venture into this market, but says it will use the licence to provide financial services on smartphones. It is currently offering products, such as FNB Banking, Quicksell and Connect Apps.

    The apps allow clients to purchase prepaid airtime, apply for products and services or search for properties.

    App users can now purchase prepaid airtime for – FNB Connect; Vodacom; MTN; Cell C; 8ta; and Virgin Mobile. The bank has also catered for data users by providing the purchase of SMS bundles, ADSL bundles and prepaid 3G.

    Initially the app enabled clients to make free calls to other registered app users and to FNB Contact centres. It also allows app users to make calls to other mobile operators for 79c per minute, and offers cheaper roaming costs – potentially posing a threat to other operators.

    In a written statement from the bank, head of products and markets at FNB Connect, Farren Roper says it is important to offer such products as its customers expect it.

    “But more than that, our prepaid solution offer all the benefits of traditional prepaid and also have some added advantages. For example, when calling from the app, not only can you control your spend, but you can make the cheapest mobile calls in South Africa from 79c. You can also make international calls to the top 20 destinations including the US, UK, Australia, Zimbabwe and the like at only 25c, without having to activate international roaming.”

    FNB bank which is spearheading innovation in the financial services sector received its ECNS licence in 2008, following a legal battle between Icasa and Altech Autopage.

    The legal dispute resulted in all VANS (Value Add Network Service) licensees – including FNB at the time, being permitted to convert their licences to an ECNS.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

Issue no 576 14th October 2011

node ref id: 23246

Top story

  • In Africa, mobile operators are finding themselves in a situation where their data traffic exceeds their voice traffic but the income from data is much smaller. The crunch is that data also congests the network far more quickly than voice. Many assume that LTE will deal with this surge of data use but bandwidth is like a recreational drug: the more you have access to, the more you use. Russell Southwood looks at how good, old-fashioned Wi-Fi has suddenly come into its own and how it poses a number of challenges for Africa’s mobile operators.

    The dream of the insurgent challengers to the mobile operators was that those providing hot-spots would take the static part of a customer’s voice use, leaving the mobile operator with “the road”. Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) was an attempt to integrate Wi-Fi voice offload but it never worked. When Wi-MAX was at its high point, mobile voice was a promise that seemed always round the corner but never quite with us. Now LTE has arrived and Wi-MAX is a “transitional technology”: in other words, it will soon be, so long it’s been good to know you.

    With the rise of smartphones and the steady arrival of tablets in Africa, data use is increasing within the constraints of what is still largely premium pricing. Estimates vary but somewhere between 20-40% of data traffic in developed markets is going over Wi-Fi networks, The main reason for this “Wi-Fi offloading” is that the mobile operators can’t keep up in network terms with the rapid growth in data. Africa’s pattern will differ only by degree.

    So here’s the dilemma for the mobile operators. There are a small number of premium customers who generate the largest percentage of your high-margin income. Increasingly they are wandering round with different devices – smartphones, tablets and laptops – that allow them to pick and choose for data (by price and quality) which network they want to be on.

    So the threat comes from those who might provide better pricing and less congested access. Google has partnered with Kenya’s Wananchi to provide (through a new business unit) Wazi hot-spots. It has piloted one at The Junction shopping mall in Nairobi and has 500+ regular customers.

    It will work with ISPs and mobile operators to offer a unified roaming scheme (like Boingo) and has a back-end exchange that deals with retail and wholesale billing. It will fill in gaps where it doesn’t have wholesale partners and will roll out in Kenya and across East Africa. You get the first ten minutes free and then it costs you KS50 (US47 cents) an hour or KS500 (US$4.73) a month.

    In another part of the continent, In September South Africa’s IS confirmed that it was at an advanced stage of planning for a project that could see it build out a series of metropolitan Wi-Fi networks to serve business campuses and city streets in densely populated urban areas.

    The region’s mobile operators have not been slow to see the threat and some are moving pre-emptively into the space and exploring the business model. One operator has rolled out 1,500 hot-spots in one country but the experience has raised significant issues for them that will affect any hot-spot operator at scale.

    The backhaul network needs to be upgraded to handle additional traffic and from a new source. As with base stations, the hot-spots need to have 24 hour guaranteed power and there are sometimes licensing issues for masts with city hall or local government. Note to Governments: rein in greedy local authorities who are increasing the costs of closing the digital divide.

    The aim is to provide relatively large geographic areas that are covered by 20-50 metre Wi-Fi hot-spots. Others are looking at Wi-Fi mesh networks but these can be expensive if they are provisioned with back-up units. However, whatever its limitations, a Wi-Fi mesh network can provide up to 50 kms coverage. If both operate in unlicensed spectrum, this reduces the cost of delivery, although on occasions it reduces the quality of delivery.

    But Wi-Fi is a significantly different technology to existing mobile infrastructure as Hans Beijner, Ericsson's head of product marketing management told Fierce Wireless. The QoS provided by Wi-Fi is very dependent on how it is deployed and what backhaul techniques are used. "It's possible to get close to ‘carrier-grade' performance with Wi-Fi for data services, but not good enough for voice," he said. "Also, the technology doesn't have the same admission controls that you have with cellular, which can result in complete congestion." Since voice and data congestion is a fairly constant feature of most urban African networks, the issue is surely hot-spot capacity.

    The fear of the mobile operators is that their high-margin, premium customers will choose to “sleep with” other data providers who are more cost effective and only come home to them for cheap voice. Or, heaven forbid, they might start using mobile Skype clients with these less fussy hot-spot providers to reduce their outgoings. The cost of both current voice and data roaming charges makes this a great temptation for the international visitor. For lower-end customers who are heavy SMS users, the attractions of e-mail will soon become apparent if they are not already.

    But with LTE, isn’t this really another of those transitional moments, like the coming and going of WiMAX? Maybe but…The but is as Mark Rayner, CEO, DStv Mobile observed that the upward suck of bandwidth required to use “rich” content will continue to grow:”LTE will come and make the lives of content owners vastly different. But the new bandwidth will bring more demands like HD. So we will still need to be fighting for bandwidth and fighting for it at the right price.”

    Also, LTE provides those impressive theoretical download and upload speeds by using a lot of spectrum and all of that will have to be paid for. In addition, one of Africa’s key mobile operators told us that they would be provisioning each LTE base station with 2-8 fibre cores. Some mobile operators are ready for this moment and have extensive fibre backbones but the cost for others will be punishing. All that speedy new LTE data will only go as fast as the slowest link in the network.

    So good, old-fashioned Wi-Fi still has legs to run for some time to come. But what would really make a difference would be if a regulator was to offer a series of 2 year pilot licences to new and existing operators to offer data and voice using Wi-Fi in the unlicensed spectrum in un-serviced areas.

     


    This week on the BalancingActAfrica You Tube channel:

    Henk Kleynhans, Chair of WAPA on TV White Spaces proposals in South Africa

    Steve Song, CEO, Village Telco on the TV White Spaces Workshop

    Richard Bell, CEO, Wananchi Group in Kenya on international fibre connectivity, local TV content for its Zuku bouquet and financing its vision:

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

    Riyaz Bachani, CTO, Wananchi on its Wazi hot-spots partnership with Google

    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

     

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    For more informtion visit here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Mobile Web in Africa 2011
    22 - 25 November, 2011, Johannesburg, South Africa

    Harnessing the potential of the internet and applications on mobile devices. Back for a third year, Mobile Web in Africa is South Africa’s premier mobile conference.  Following on from unrivalled, sell-out successes in 2009 and 2010, no other event on the South African calendar compares in terms of topic, speaking faculty, agenda, interaction and business opportunities.
    Write to info@allamber.co.uk to find out about the fantastic discount
    available to Balancing Act readers.

    Confirmed Speakers:
    •    Tomi T Ahonen, Bestselling Author & Consultant
    •    Dr Marc Smith, Chief Social Scientist, Connected Action Consulting Group
    •    Toby Shapshak, Editor, Stuff Magazine
    •    Adam Holtrop, Creative Director, Vidamo
    •    Salim Amin, Chairman, Camerapix, The Mohamed Amin Foundation & A24Media
    •    Alistair Fairweather, Digital Platforms Manager, The Mail & Guardian Online
    •    David Erasmus, Founder, Cubate
    •    Isis Nyong’o, Managing Director - Africa, InMobi
    •    Ronald Bach, Mobile Product Manager, News24
    •    Mark Kaigwa, Partner, Affrinovator
    •    Jean-Patrick Ehouman, Founder, AllDenY
    •    Musa Kalenga, Managing Director, IHOP World
    •    Nevo Hadas, New Media Consultant
    •    Russell Southwood, Editor, Balancing Act
    •    Johan Nel, CEO & Founder, Umuntu Media
    •    Leslie Tita, Co-Founder, Pulse
    •    Justin Spratt, CEO, Quirk
    For further information please here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    New Media Gathering Africa!
    7 - 8 March, 2012, Lagos Nigeria

    Leading media content and communication company Red Media Group (RMG) and
    frontline ICT consulting firm, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) have
    announced the first edition of the annual New Media Gathering Africa. The
    event will be held in Lagos  and will present to
    corporate, governments, change organisations and small businesses
    practical, outcome-oriented tools to enhance capacity and enrich bottom
    line. Information about registration for the conference will be unveiled on the website www.newmediagathering.com on January 1, 2012. For immediate
    enquiries and sponsorship consideration, please contact the Conference
    Lead on info@newmediagathering.com.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • - Glo introduces George Andah as new Chief Operating Officer for Ghana operations
    Mr Andah, who recently joined Glo from Bharti Airtel, said the Ghanaian market hold good prospects which the company would explore and tap into, adding that Glo is in the position to make significant strides. Mr Andah previously worked with Guinness Ghana Breweries Limited, MTN Ghana and was in 2009 awarded the Marketing Man of the Year.

  • Supervisor, Network Operation Center - Sierra Leone
    Posted date: Fri, 14th Oct
    Location: Sierra Leone

    The job - holder will have sufficient technical expertise to run the Network Operations Center, liase with network operators and interface with field operations to provide back-office support. The duties include but are not limited to:

        * Overseeing 24hr operations of a maintenance activities coordination centre which is the link between the clients’ network monitoring centre and our field service teams.
        * Ensure timely communcation with field operations to meet the standards of the SLA
        * Developing the monthly preventive maintenance route plans for the field operation teams and coordinating the same with the field teams.
        * Developing daily, weekly and monthly reports as required by the management

    The desired candidate will be a graduate of telecommunications engineering. He/she will have 2-3 years experience in NOC operations. Experience in field operations will be an added advantange. The candidate should also possess a good understanding of the region of operation.

    To apply online please click here:

telecoms

  • Zimbabwean technology journal Techzim reports that state-run GSM network operator NetOne has notified 3G test users that they will soon have to pay for mobile broadband access. An SMS message told test participants that ‘unlimited’ internet access will be charged at USD40 per month.

    Techzim notes that local cellular market leader Econet Wireless currently charges users of its commercial 3G/2.5G mobile internet service an average of USD0.10 per 1MB depending on the data bundle, while NetOne’s other rival Telecel Zimbabwe has set its mobile internet rate at USD0.11 per 1MB; neither cellco plans to offer unlimited data packages.

    However, Techzim also points out that NetOne’s uncapped internet usage ‘offer’ may simply be a result of it lacking the facilities to bill customers for their high speed data usage, in which case it is likely to switch to volume-based data charging once the necessary billing system is in place.

  • The government says it has initiated policies that will see the operations of the National Communications Authority (NCA) decentralised.

    The Minister of Communications, Haruna Iddrissu told reporters that the decentralisation is to make the NCA show presence in all the regions.

    “As I speak the Authority is in the process of establishing regional offices in Kumasi, Sekondi-Takoradi and Tamale to enhance close monitoring activities and also help address customer concerns in a decentralized manner,” says the Minister in speech during a press briefing October 3, 2011 in Accra.

    He adds “Temporal offices in these three areas would be ready for commissioning and operation by the close of November 2011. Three additional regional offices in Volta, Brong-Ahafo and Upper East Regions would be established next year.”

  • Starcomms Plc, last week introduced Huawei IDEOS C8150 Android phones into the Nigerian market. It also launched another value added service called S-Credit.

    Huawei C8150 is a smart mobile phone that allows a customer to apply voice and data services on its network such as calls, web access, application download, e-books and information search on the web for exciting places at the touch of the button. The phone features Google Android 2.2 and is supported on EVDO Rev A network with pre-loaded Google applications.

    Unveiling the product, the Chief Executive Officer, Starcomms Plc, Logan Pather, said: “Android has continued to maintain its position as the’ most innovative smart phone operating system in the telecoms world. Starcomms has a culture of applying cutting edge technology for the benefit of our customers. That is why we will continue to give them value for their I money.

    The C8150 Android phone is a mobile phone with full touch screen and Android 2.2 OS that supports push mail on its platform. It is targeted at mobile entrepreneurs and business executives who need to stay connected with clients, business partners and also have access to vital information on the go.

    According to Logan, the novel product has unique portable Wi-Fi feature which allows customers to connect with other suitable portable devices and access available wireless internet connection.

    “It is a true mobile device that is comfortable to carry around and use on the move or at leisure while enjoying the G-sensor feature that I allows the phone to be rotated for a landscape view for a better view of the screen contents,” said the Starcomms CEO.

    He said that the company will continue to listen to its customers and· put their satisfaction on the front burner of its innovations and service delivery. Meanwhile, the company , has launched another value added service called S-Credit. The service is designed to ease subscribers of the problems associated with recharge card purchase and distribution, especially where there is need for emergency calls and where access to recharge cards is difficult or impossible.

    The 5­Credit service, otherwise known as bridging credit, allows pre-paid subscribers a post-paid lifestyle where airtime can be accessed at critical times and will be paid back the next time a customer recharges.

  • Nigerian telephone subscribers will be able to move from one network to another without losing their numbers as number portability starts from the first quarter of 2012, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said.

    Number portability allows subscribers to move to alternate networks when they no longer enjoy quality of services from their current operators, or when they are no longer happy with the tariffs offered by them and still retain their original numbers irrespective of the new network they moved to.

    NCC said in a statement by its Head of Media and Publicity Reuben Muoka that a consortium of Interconnect/Saab Grintek/Telecordia would be providing the number portability service for Nigerians phone users six months from now.

    NCC said the company will be responsible for the set up and implementation of number portability clearing house in Nigeria, and provide mobile number portability solution administration in Nigeria within six months of receiving the license with a testing period of two months.

  • Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) has gazetted the amendments of telecoms operators licence to allow four of them to provide both fixed and mobile phone services.

    This is contained in the Malawi government gazette published in Zomba on September 23, this year.

    Macra’s Director General Charles Nsaliwa indicates in the gazette that the regulator had made amendments of licences awarded to ACL Limited, Airtel Limited, Malawi Telecommunications Limited (MTL) and TNM Limited.

    “The amendments are being made to comply with the new converged licensing framework that the authority has embarked on.

    “Under such a converged regime, the authority will ensure a technology neutral network licensing framework thereby enabling the current telecommunications operators to provide any public telecommunication services,” said Nsaliwa.

    In an interview on Friday, Macra’s Communications Manager Zadziko Mankhambo said it is now up to the operators to offer the public wider quality services.

    “The development means the mentioned players in the telecommunications sector can now offer both fixed and mobile phone services which we as a regulator feel it is fair to them but the operators must ensure that apart from offering the public choice of service the output must be of high quality,” Mankhambo said.

    Other players in telecoms sector include G-Mobile which has not yet rolled out its services and newly licensed Celcom.

  • Glomile Ghana will launch its 023 mobile services in Ghana before the close of this year, and it would do so on an 'aggressive' note.

    Group Chief Operations Manager, Mohammed Jameel told journalists “we know Ghanaians have been waiting for us, we have crossed a number of mile stones and we are ready to launch before the close of 2011.

    “We will be aggressive – we will be unique – we will be very competitive in pricing – we will be superior in terms of products and service and be present in all the key cities of Ghana at our launch,” he said.

    Jameel made the announcement at a press conference to officially introduce Mr. George Kwadwo Andah as the new Chief Operating Officer (COO) for Glomobile Ghana.

    Jameel said Glo had installed enough equipment and brought the most modern mobile and internet technology to Ghana to ensure that Ghanaians would be proud of Glo and say “it was worth the long wait for Glo”.

    He said from Ghana, Glo would expand to other African countries providing services in gateway, submarine cable and mobile, adding that Glo had the technology and expertise to ensure its products and services were second to none.

    Adom News is reliably informed that one of the reasons Glo had delayed was because they had wanted to install enough equipment and infrastructure to start from almost 100% coverage. New COO, Mr. George Andah confirmed this by saying “we want to ensure that from the day we launch every Ghanaian can stand anywhere in Ghana and be able to make a call on the Glo network.”

    "We will do test runs this month and do a full commercial launch later this year," he said.

    Glo mobile missed an August 2011 deadline to have covered at least 50% of Ghana as per its licensing requirement. Government then gave Glo up to September 15, 2011, but that was also missed.

    The company is not revealing any dates, but unconfirmed information say the launch is slated for November 3, 2011.

    Meanwhile Glo has already launched Africa's first fully privately-owned 9,800km long submarine fibre optic cable with landing stations in Ghana, and other countries in West Africa.

    It has already started commercial service on Glo One for a number of corporate clients in Ghana. Glo Mobile would launch on 023 prefix as the 6th mobile operator, and 5th GSM operator in Ghana.

  • Swaziland is now the only country in the southern African region that has not yet liberalised its telecommunications market.Swazi MTN CEO Ambrose Dlamini said because of this, the company was ‘forced’ to use another company’s infrastructure and as such, this hindered development of the industry as well as improvement of service delivery.

    He said Swazi MTN wants to have its own infrastructure because reliance on the Swaziland Post and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC)’s transmission network was a challenge for the mobile network company.
    “In terms of the law, SPTC has exclusive privilege to provide backbone infrastructure in the country. For us this is a challenge because we’d prefer to have our own so we can have control over our transmission and how we use the infrastructure,” said Dlamini yesterday during a media breakfast meeting at Gigi’s Restaurant at Ezulwini.

    “MTN has no control over the performance of SPTC’s transmission network. This is a problem for us, especially when the infrastructure we’re using belongs to the competition. We would like to be able to put up our own infrastructure. As it is, we’re the only company in the region that’s still being forced to use another company’s backbone infrastructure and this is making Swaziland uncompetitive.”

    Swazi MTN says the continued reliance on the Swaziland Post and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC)’s international gateway increased costs which had a spillover effect on service rates for consumers.
    CEO Ambrose Dlamini said this reliance also increased the time it takes to resolve faults. Adding, he said Swaziland was now the only country in the region that had not liberalised the market. “MTN is the leading telecommunications company therefore we need a reliable gateway so that Swaziland can enjoy significant macro-economic benefits. All the countries in the region have liberalised the market; Mozambique, Botswana and Lesotho have all done it so there’s no reason for Swaziland to be lagging behind,” he said.

    “I think we can do much more, especially if we were to be given our own international gateway which would result in reduced costs and by extension, benefits for consumers as well. There’s really no reason why we should be lagging behind even Mozambique when we’ve never been at war. Government is trying to address this but the process requires that the laws must be changed.”

    Swazi MTN is currently paying E627,000 per month for transmission of calls within a 30-kilometre radius, like for instance, between Mbabane and Manzini.
    If the company were to connect via undersea cables, it could be paying about E53,000 per month for a distance between Swaziland and any point of presence in London, Amsterdam or New York, said Chief Marketing Officer Phillip Besiimire.
    CEO Ambrose Dlamini said a survey conducted by KPMG found that Swazi MTN pays almost the highest in the world for leased lines.

    “For transmission of a call between Mbabane and Manzini we use a leased line from SPTC (Swaziland Post and Telecommunications Corporation), which is very costly,” he said yesterday during a media breakfast meeting at Gigi’s Restaurant in Ezulwini.
    Benefit

    “If we were able to provide our own, we would be able to reduce costs and pass on the benefit to consumers. For example, in South Africa if a mobile operator leases a line from Telkom, it pays about E500 but for us we would pay around E16 000.” Dlamini said if MTN were to link to EASSy’s undersea fibre-optic cable this would improve the company’s bandwidth and boost its broadband capacity. EASSy is a fully integrated high -capacity, multi-technology network that links southern, eastern and northern African countries to the rest of the world through various interconnection points to the existing global submarine cable network. MTN Group has direct ownership in EASSy.

    “MTN Swaziland is an owner of EASSy cables through the MTN Group which allows all its operations to benefit. What we want is to be allowed to be connected to these cables through our own international gateway, which would reduce costs as right now we’re using SPTC’s broadband in terms of international connection.
    Forced

    “We’re forced to use whatever SPTC has in terms of international connectivity. We don’t want to be forced to use someone else’s infrastructure, we want to use our own undersea cables where MTN has invested,” said Dlamini.

    He said the introduction of competition into the international gateway market could reduce call rates by up to 90% and double call volumes as shown by several studies. Adding, he said in Nigeria the cost of international calls was reduced by more than 90% since liberalisation while in Zambia it was by up to 80% and Kenya cut its international call rates by 70%.

    “This in turn delivers significant macro-economic benefits by lowering the cost of business facilities, increasing trade and improving connections to the global economy; factors that are particularly important to developing countries,” he added.

  • South Africa based Wireless Business Solutions (WBS), the holding company that owns the WiMAX network, iBurst and Broadlink, has announced plans to roll out a LTE network by mid-2012.

    The company said that the development will enable it to reduce congestion the 3G demands of areas in Gauteng such as Sandton, Randburg and Westcliff.

    WBS also said that it would not ruling out possibilities of spectrum sharing and partnering in the deployment of LTE.

    WBS has already signed up agreements with reputable international partners for equipment supply and equipment funding.

    They envisage commencing the LTE deployment this month, and will continue until the first phase where 2,500 base stations are to be built, is completed. WBS expects to launch commercial LTE services in the first half of 2012.

internet

  • Sierra Leone is set to receive its first international fibre-optic connection following the landing of the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable in the country’s capital Freetown, Reuters reports. Gilbert Cooper, director of administration of the state-owned Sierra Leone Cable Company, said the cable is expected to become operational during the second half of 2012.

    When complete, the 17,000km fibre-optic system will run along West Africa with connections to France and South Africa, connecting 23 countries. ‘We are transforming because, as we are speaking, the only available communication outside Sierra Leone is through the satellite, and it is expensive, the quality is limited and the capacity also has some limitations,’ President Ernest Bai Koroma said at an event to mark the landing of the cable by Lumley Beach in western Freetown.

    The World Bank is providing USD30 million to fund Sierra Leone’s connection to ACE; in return the government said it would liberalise the international gateway for voice calls.

  • The cost of providing services through Telkom's network is maddening, says MWeb CEO, Rudi Jansen. Internet service providers (ISPs) MWeb and Internet Solutions argue that Telkom's current prices for connecting into its network to provide services to end-users are untenable.

    The ISPs were addressing an Independent of Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) committee during hearings into local loop unbundling (LLU). They argued that the cost of connecting into Telkom's network on the current IP Connect (IPC) model is hampering competition.

    Khetan Gajjar, head of new business development at IS, said there is “a lot” of bandwidth arriving on SA's shores, but this needs to get to the end-user. He argued that the current cost of connecting into Telkom's network is prohibitive.

    IP Connect (IPC), which connects ISPs into Telkom's infrastructure so they can deliver a service, is charged at an “exorbitant and unreasonable” level, said Gajjar. He added that ISPs cannot innovate, because they are limited to offering the products that Telkom will allow.

    ISPs are charged three times to deliver a service through IPC, said Gajjar. He noted that this is the only way of connecting into the last mile. “Telkom is stifling the market.”

    IPC is a broken model and needs to be changed into “something that works”, said Gajjar. “IPC is fundamentally broken, but it's what we have at the moment.”

    Ryan Hawthorne, senior manager of economic regulation at Neotel, said during the hearings that IPC accounts for 80% of Internet bandwidth costs, a price that the second operator can bring down substantially if it has access to the last mile.

    IS regulatory director Siyabonga Madyibi said local loop unbundling is the start of the introduction of a wholesale pricing regime. He says the process is a “stepping stone” towards effective regulation.

    There have been a number of interventions by the regulator, but these have not been effective, said Madyibi. He added that the playing field is tilted in Telkom's favour and there is very little new operators can do to stimulate competition and push down pricing.

    Although the effects of lower interconnect prices have been seen at wholesale level, other regulations have not changed the wholesale pricing model, argued Madyibi. He said geographic number portability has failed, because numbers are charged on a single basis, and blocks become too costly to port.

    In addition, said Madyibi, carrier pre-select is also not a success, because the incumbents have moved to protect their market share by increasing the cost of the origination fee. This means the regulation is only good on paper.

    As a result, argued Madyibi, ICASA has to get LLU right. If it does not have a regulatory impact; the sector will end up back at “square one”, he said. There is a need to intervene in the wholesale cost of data, he added.

    Madyibi said IS has tried to go around the last mile issue to connect to its clients, without any real success.

    MWeb CEO Rudi Jansen said the cost of IPC is “driving everybody mad”. He said it is about nine times the expense of moving data between Cape Town and Europe. “That is just absolutely absurd.”

    Jansen said it is difficult for ISPs to compete effectively with such high prices, and IPC causes congestion on the network, a situation that is out of ISPs' hands. The cost of an ADSL line rental is a big bugbear, said Jansen. He added that Telkom charges both the customer and the ISP for access to the last mile.

  • The government of Ghana led by the Ministry of Communications is facilitating moves to establish a public Internet Registry that will improve the governance and security of the internet in the country.

    An Internet registry is an organization that manages the allocation and registration of Internet number resources within a particular region of the world. Internet number resources include Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and autonomous system (AS) numbers, according to Wikipedia.

    “This registry will improve the governance and security in Internet.   As part of the arrangement the Ministry is  facilitating the establishment of a Network Computer Incidence Reporting Team (CIRT) with a Network Operation Centre (NOC)  to address issues of computer glitches and possible incidence on a 24/7 basis,” said Communications Minister Mr Haruna Iddrissu at a press conference in Accra early October this year.

    According to the Iddrissu, the CIRT will also provide remedial actions as well as facilitate the addressing of computer malfunction, cyber crime and virus attacks among others. He however did not give a timeline for the project.

    The world has five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs). They are the African Network Information Centre (AfriNIC) for Africa; American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) for the United States, Canada, several parts of the Caribbean region, and Antarctica; Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC) for Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and neighboring countries; Latin America and Caribbean Network Information Centre (LACNIC) for Latin America and parts of the Caribbean region and the Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre (RIPE) for Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia.

  • Determined to change internet users’ experience in the country, Spectranet Limited, a national broadband wireless access (BWA) provider has began operation in the country with the commercial inauguration of its WiMAX wireless broadband services, which provides cutting edge services at affordable price points.
     
    The company which was one of the four telecommunications companies that participated in the 2009 2.5 GHz spectrum licencing, is using the most advanced 16E Wimax technology, which facilitates fast, reliable internet access service.  Speaking at the launch in Lagos, Spectranet’s Chief Operating Officer, Rajiv Rao, said compared to some other technologies which are fixed access, the Spectranet wireless broadband service would provide a certain level of portability. “This is being delivered on the retail-friendly frequency, which facilitates better signal penetration and therefore, more stable services indoor”, he said.
     
    Initially available in Lagos, Spectranet said it would soon cover other cities across Nigeria in the nearest future. Chief Ezekiel Fatoye, a director in the company, noted, “today, reliable internet is no more a luxury, it is a necessity. We see tremendous potential in delivering high quality reliable broadband services as consumers in Nigeria increasingly demand high quality internet connectivity but at an affordable price.
     
    He said besides, the advantage of cost, convenience and reliability, Spectranet broadband services comes with easy deployment and wide choice of tariff and plans, which will be of great value to the customers.  Also speaking at the event, chairman of the company, the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, said, the company is committed to growing the business and making sure that every Nigerian benefits from the venture.

computing

  • Indian businessmen and women have been asked to seize the abundant opportunities in Tanzania by investing in key areas such as Information and Communication Technology (ICT) development.

    The challenge was thrown here by the Minister for Communications, Science and Technology, Prof Makame Mbarawa, during the plenary session of the India-Africa Business Partnership summit which opened here on Thursday.

    He said the government wants investors particularly in developing local multi-media content software that would address issues that are relevant to the national development.

    "Instead of relying on software that has been designed for the entire world, we need investors who would develop a customized IT content for our country," he said.

    He told the two-day forum that has brought together ministers from different African countries, businessmen and women, diplomats and representatives from multinational companies mainly based in India that Tanzania's fiscal and political stability offer a credible offer for investments.

    "With its strategic geographical position, Tanzania places itself as the most ideal place in the entire East and Central African region where investors not only from India but world over could come and explore various untapped business opportunities," he said.

    He mentioned other areas which are yet to be tapped fully as IT parks and small ICT villages where the youth could assemble and design software that is ideal for the local markets.

    He gave an example of business processing outsourcing (BPO) system which could create more jobs for Tanzanians by creating calling centres in the country.

    The minister said Indian investors should also capitalize on the fast growing East African Community (EAC) market, covering over 140 million people.

    He said that with the improved communication and infrastructure such as road and railway network, the EAC market offers a quick return on investment (ROI).

    "The fibre optic project has made communication easier for Tanzania and the landlocked countries such as Zambia, Malawi, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Rwanda," he said.

    The first phase of Tanzania's 10,674-kilometre national fibre-optic backbone was completed in May last year, connecting to the SEACOM, and EASSy submarine cables.

    It runs from Mombasa (Kenya) through Nairobi (Kenya), Kampala (Uganda), Kigali (Rwanda), and Bujumbura (Burundi) to Dar es Salaam.

  • Eight local technology start-ups have been offered a unique opportunity to pitch their business ideas to delegates, potential investors and media at this year’s Tech4Africa conference, taking place at The Forum in Bryanston, Johannesburg on 27 and 28 October.

    This platform has been created by virtue of Samsung Ignite, an initiative that aims to showcase and foster local technology development, and which has been made possible by Samsung Apps store, in association with Tech4Africa.

    “We are extremely excited about such a platform from which local technology innovators can showcase their ideas to a broad audience, potential investors and technology entrepreneurs who have walked this path before,” says Gareth Knight, Tech4Africa Founder and Managing Director. “Tech4Africa’s primary aim is to promote and inspire local mobile and web innovators, entrepreneurs and developers by inviting global leaders in the sector to share their knowledge and insight with an audience from across the continent.

    “The Samsung Ignite programme is an integral part of the overall vision that it is hoped will provide the spark that the eight start-ups need to take the next step in their development.”

    The 8 selected startups include:

    10Layer: the most feature-complete, competent and customisable open source content management system for serious publishers and media houses.

    Feedback Rocket: which offers an innovative online solution to obtain useful, insightful and honest feedback.

    iSign.pro: that allows users to get legally-binding contracts signed in minutes - legally, cheaper, greener and stored forever, with automatic reminders before renewal/expiry.

    Lessfuss: is an affordable South African personal assistant service that helps you save time and get things done for as little as R30/task.

    Mobiflock: is a product range that consists of a parental control service, a personal smartphone tracker, and a corporate smartphone manager.

    Plot my Ride: is a social networking service for the cycling community that offers an easy and real-time means of capturing, displaying, saving and sharing a cyclist’s riding activity.

    Real Time Wine: captures the supermarket wine-buying audience and empowers them to discover, review, engage with and buy wine using smartphone apps, game mechanics & barcode scanning.

    SnapBill: is an automated billing system that allows users to easily sell their services online.

    “We are very passionate about the African market and encouraged by the innovations emerging from the continent, so it’s a natural fit for us to partner with Tech4Africa to present this stage for innovators to showcase their products,” says Brett Loubser, B2C Apps Development Lead at Samsung. “We intend using this partnership to help create a wider network of local developers, reward African innovation in the mobile tech and app space and promote the Samsung Apps Store as an alternative channel for smartphone developers.

    “A key outcome of our participation as the Ignite partner is to engage South African developers and therefore we have made available a number of discounted tickets to facilitate their involvement at this year’s conference.”

    The Samsung Ignite participants will each be afforded five minutes to showcase their products in the main auditorium at the end of the first day of the conference. A panel of judges has been gathered to adjudicate and the winning startup will be announced on the second day of the event, and be given the opportunity to present their start-up to the entire Tech4Africa audience. The winner will also receive the latest Samsung mobile devices and valuable exposure and profiling through the Tech4Africa website.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Egyptian mobile network operator and broadband provider Etisalat Misr has reportedly delayed a listing on the country’s stock exchange until market conditions improve, Reuters reports citing local daily al-Mal.

    Etisalat Misr’s CEO Saleh al-Abdouli was quoted by the Egyptian newspaper as saying: ‘The significant impact (of the uprising) on the capital markets reduces the feasibility of the share listing, especially in light of the reduced liquidity circulating in the market.’ Prior to the political turmoil and popular uprising in the country

    Etisalat Misr is understood to have approached a number of Egyptian and regional investment banks with a view to procuring financial and legal advisory services for a listing, with between a 15% and 25% stake in the operator expected to be made available. Abdouli has reportedly said that his company is continuing to examine the prospects for listing and is now looking for the right time to launch the process.

  • The World bank has said that all players in African Global System for Mobile Communications networks, GSM, Nigeria inclusive would need about $15.5bn to enhance GSM coverage across the continent.

    In a recent report released by the bank, the African GSM market is capable of expanding beyond its present status, if the needed funding is injected into the industry.

    The World Bank report by Mark Williams, Rebecca Mayer and Michael Minges, posited that Africa will require a total expenditure of $15.5bn between 2007 and 2015, for Africa to expand its coverage of the GSM network across the continent.

    The report rated Nigeria as one of the countries that attracted the highest investment between the periods of 1998 to 2008, with an estimate figure of $12.7bn behind South Africa, that had $18bn.

    Other African countries rated in the report include: Kenya ($2.9bn); Sudan ($1.8bn)); Uganda ($1.6bn); Senegal ($1.5bn); Tanzania ($1.4bn); Democratic Republic of the Congo ($1.2bn); Ghana ($1.1bn); Angola ($1bn).

    Of this, $6.9bn is for areas that are potentially commercially viable, with the total cost of expanding networks to cover the eight percent of the population that lies outside these areas amounting to $8.7bn, or about $1bn per year.

    Access to finance, according to the World Bank, is often seen as a constraint on economic development in Africa, but the telecommunications sector appears to have overcome this constraint by accessing a wide range of financing sources to fund the rapid expansion of networks.

    Besides, the report, the latest of the World Bank, noted that operators and governments in Sub-Saharan Africa are investing heavily in the region’s ICT sector, stressing that, about $5bn a year or one percent of Gross Domestic Product is been invested.

    The report informed that, private sources accounted for the majority of capital investment in the sector, but that, a significant amount of money is invested by operators that remain under state ownership.

    According to the World Bank, Official Development Assistance from outside the region is still marginal, overall.

    The World Bank, which said it was cheapest to call the United States from Ghana at $0.31 per minute, compared to $0.88 a minute in 2008 from other parts of Africa, noted that Ghana, for instance, still has a long way to go in order to provide the best network in the continent.

    “Kenya and Ghana, for example, are of similar size, but Kenya’s networks are growing much more faster – with 6,445 km versus Ghana’s 919 km of backbone network currently under construction”, it stated.

    The World Bank adduced to the fact that, African capital markets, corporate bond markets, and commercial bank loans all have played key roles in financing investment in the telecommunications sector in the Continent, but stressed that, securities exchanges in Sub-Saharan Africa are generally underdeveloped, reason why telecommunications businesses were relatively well represented in them and have successfully used exchanges to raise investment finance.

    It further added that despite the wave of privatization and liberalization of the telecommunications market in Africa, the public sector—both domestic and foreign, continues to play a significant role in financing ICT development.

    The World Bank informed that, private sector has invested heavily in ICTs since the end of the 1990s, when the expansion of telecommunications networks in Africa began, adding that, this investment has fluctuated from year to year, however, and the amount of investment received by each country has varied enormously.

    The report explained that bank loans were used to finance investment in all types of infrastructure in Africa, and telecommunications infrastructure was no exception. According to it, at the end of 2006, outstanding commercial bank loans used to finance infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa totaled $11.8 billion. It however, stressed that, though it is difficult to determine the exact allocation of these loans among sectors, but that, at least $8.3 billion went to projects in the transport and communication sectors.

    The report further revealed that other development institutions are also involved in providing financing for telecommunications infrastructure in Africa.

    “The World Bank, for example, provided $338m in financing for investment in the ICT sector in Africa between 1998 and 2008. Not all of this, however, was invested in physical infrastructure: It covered a wide range of activities, from policy and regulatory reform to e-government and information technology ndustry development.”

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Tanzania: BR Solutions, a local information and communication technology firm, has launched a product dubbed "Huduma Fasta" that will enable Tanzanians to access business information through their cell phones. The technology which is currently available in Dar es Salaam is already connected to three mobile phone operators -- Vodacom, Airtel and Tigo and plans are underway to expand it to other regions.

    - South African BlackBerry users affected by the recent outage should seek recourse from the National Consumer Commission, Business Day reported on Thursday, 13 October 2011. South African National Consumer Commissioner Mamodupi Mohlala said consumers would find protection under sections 55, 56 and 61 of the Consumer Protection Act, which provided rights on the quality of goods, and liability for damage caused by goods. Everyone who was involved in the value chain could be held liable in terms of section 61 of the act. Some commentators said this might be difficult because the system failure occurred outside South Africa.

Digital Content

  • At the first ever Mobile Application Showcase competition in Ghana, two Mest start-ups, Saya Mobile and Nandimobile picked up the 1st and 2nd prizes respectfully. Kwamena Appiah-Kubi came 3rd with his innovative SMS Tweetbox.

    The event was organised by the Mobile Consortium team and sponsored by industry big wigs such as Indigo Trust, InMobi, and Busy Internet. The event attracted a significant number of individuals with interest in technology and mobile applications. It sought to throw more light on pressing topics such as Monetizing mobile applications, etc. The event also offered tech companies the opportunity to exhibit their services. On the day exhibiting organisations included, Letigames, Sproxil, Nandimobile, Esoko, MoTech. Dozens of participants engaged the exhibitors with questions with the aim of understanding the mobile technologies and the value they provided.

    At the latter part of the event, the Appcircus Mobile Apps Competition was put together as the various mobile apps were presented to an attentive audience. In the end the judges voted Saya Mobile winner of the first ever Appcircus Mobile Competition in Ghana. The Mest start-up picked up the top prize of an i-Pad 2 and cash prize of Ghc 2,000. Saya Mobile is a mobile chatting application targeted towards feature phones. With this, the winning company gets to be nominated to represent Ghana at the Mobile Congress in Barcelona in 2012.

  • SAP has released new mobile applications onto the Nigerian market aimed at improving efficiency in communication.

    Speaking at the SAP World Tour of Nigeria in Lagos last week, SAP president in charge of Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), Franck Cohen, said the introduction of new applications would, among others, boost the status of the booming smartphone business.

    Cohen revealed that a whopping one billion smartphones and tablets were expected to be released onto the market by 2015, a development that demands the expertise of SAP in the solution and software application business to add value to the communication and information technology sector.

    “Our solutions are meant to develop businesses and we don’t only innovate, we co-innovate,” said Cohen.

    Cohen said the coming in of both new smartphones and tablets would change the way companies, governments, non-governmental organisations and individuals conduct their businesses through Sap’s various solutions and applications.

    Speaking at the same event, SAP Managing Director for West Africa, Richard Edet, said his company’s growth was expected to increase on the African continent through the adoption of new technology and SAP solutions in the area of mobility and cloud computing.

    Tried and tested for 40 years in the provision of solutions and applications, SAP aims to add value as well as improve productivity in corporate organisations on a global scale.

    SAP’s solutions and applications are widely credited with bringing value to the Nigeria community and that of the entire West African region.

Issue no 576 14th October 2011

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Top story

  • In Africa, mobile operators are finding themselves in a situation where their data traffic exceeds their voice traffic but the income from data is much smaller. The crunch is that data also congests the network far more quickly than voice. Many assume that LTE will deal with this surge of data use but bandwidth is like a recreational drug: the more you have access to, the more you use. Russell Southwood looks at how good, old-fashioned Wi-Fi has suddenly come into its own and how it poses a number of challenges for Africa’s mobile operators.

    The dream of the insurgent challengers to the mobile operators was that those providing hot-spots would take the static part of a customer’s voice use, leaving the mobile operator with “the road”. Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) was an attempt to integrate Wi-Fi voice offload but it never worked. When Wi-MAX was at its high point, mobile voice was a promise that seemed always round the corner but never quite with us. Now LTE has arrived and Wi-MAX is a “transitional technology”: in other words, it will soon be, so long it’s been good to know you.

    With the rise of smartphones and the steady arrival of tablets in Africa, data use is increasing within the constraints of what is still largely premium pricing. Estimates vary but somewhere between 20-40% of data traffic in developed markets is going over Wi-Fi networks, The main reason for this “Wi-Fi offloading” is that the mobile operators can’t keep up in network terms with the rapid growth in data. Africa’s pattern will differ only by degree.

    So here’s the dilemma for the mobile operators. There are a small number of premium customers who generate the largest percentage of your high-margin income. Increasingly they are wandering round with different devices – smartphones, tablets and laptops – that allow them to pick and choose for data (by price and quality) which network they want to be on.

    So the threat comes from those who might provide better pricing and less congested access. Google has partnered with Kenya’s Wananchi to provide (through a new business unit) Wazi hot-spots. It has piloted one at The Junction shopping mall in Nairobi and has 500+ regular customers.

    It will work with ISPs and mobile operators to offer a unified roaming scheme (like Boingo) and has a back-end exchange that deals with retail and wholesale billing. It will fill in gaps where it doesn’t have wholesale partners and will roll out in Kenya and across East Africa. You get the first ten minutes free and then it costs you KS50 (US47 cents) an hour or KS500 (US$4.73) a month.

    In another part of the continent, In September South Africa’s IS confirmed that it was at an advanced stage of planning for a project that could see it build out a series of metropolitan Wi-Fi networks to serve business campuses and city streets in densely populated urban areas.

    The region’s mobile operators have not been slow to see the threat and some are moving pre-emptively into the space and exploring the business model. One operator has rolled out 1,500 hot-spots in one country but the experience has raised significant issues for them that will affect any hot-spot operator at scale.

    The backhaul network needs to be upgraded to handle additional traffic and from a new source. As with base stations, the hot-spots need to have 24 hour guaranteed power and there are sometimes licensing issues for masts with city hall or local government. Note to Governments: rein in greedy local authorities who are increasing the costs of closing the digital divide.

    The aim is to provide relatively large geographic areas that are covered by 20-50 metre Wi-Fi hot-spots. Others are looking at Wi-Fi mesh networks but these can be expensive if they are provisioned with back-up units. However, whatever its limitations, a Wi-Fi mesh network can provide up to 50 kms coverage. If both operate in unlicensed spectrum, this reduces the cost of delivery, although on occasions it reduces the quality of delivery.

    But Wi-Fi is a significantly different technology to existing mobile infrastructure as Hans Beijner, Ericsson's head of product marketing management told Fierce Wireless. The QoS provided by Wi-Fi is very dependent on how it is deployed and what backhaul techniques are used. "It's possible to get close to ‘carrier-grade' performance with Wi-Fi for data services, but not good enough for voice," he said. "Also, the technology doesn't have the same admission controls that you have with cellular, which can result in complete congestion." Since voice and data congestion is a fairly constant feature of most urban African networks, the issue is surely hot-spot capacity.

    The fear of the mobile operators is that their high-margin, premium customers will choose to “sleep with” other data providers who are more cost effective and only come home to them for cheap voice. Or, heaven forbid, they might start using mobile Skype clients with these less fussy hot-spot providers to reduce their outgoings. The cost of both current voice and data roaming charges makes this a great temptation for the international visitor. For lower-end customers who are heavy SMS users, the attractions of e-mail will soon become apparent if they are not already.

    But with LTE, isn’t this really another of those transitional moments, like the coming and going of WiMAX? Maybe but…The but is as Mark Rayner, CEO, DStv Mobile observed that the upward suck of bandwidth required to use “rich” content will continue to grow:”LTE will come and make the lives of content owners vastly different. But the new bandwidth will bring more demands like HD. So we will still need to be fighting for bandwidth and fighting for it at the right price.”

    Also, LTE provides those impressive theoretical download and upload speeds by using a lot of spectrum and all of that will have to be paid for. In addition, one of Africa’s key mobile operators told us that they would be provisioning each LTE base station with 2-8 fibre cores. Some mobile operators are ready for this moment and have extensive fibre backbones but the cost for others will be punishing. All that speedy new LTE data will only go as fast as the slowest link in the network.

    So good, old-fashioned Wi-Fi still has legs to run for some time to come. But what would really make a difference would be if a regulator was to offer a series of 2 year pilot licences to new and existing operators to offer data and voice using Wi-Fi in the unlicensed spectrum in un-serviced areas.

     


    This week on the BalancingActAfrica You Tube channel:

    Henk Kleynhans, Chair of WAPA on TV White Spaces proposals in South Africa

    Steve Song, CEO, Village Telco on the TV White Spaces Workshop

    Richard Bell, CEO, Wananchi Group in Kenya on international fibre connectivity, local TV content for its Zuku bouquet and financing its vision:

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

    Riyaz Bachani, CTO, Wananchi on its Wazi hot-spots partnership with Google

    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

     

More

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

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

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

    For more informtion visit here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Mobile Web in Africa 2011
    22 - 25 November, 2011, Johannesburg, South Africa

    Harnessing the potential of the internet and applications on mobile devices. Back for a third year, Mobile Web in Africa is South Africa’s premier mobile conference.  Following on from unrivalled, sell-out successes in 2009 and 2010, no other event on the South African calendar compares in terms of topic, speaking faculty, agenda, interaction and business opportunities.
    Write to info@allamber.co.uk to find out about the fantastic discount
    available to Balancing Act readers.

    Confirmed Speakers:
    •    Tomi T Ahonen, Bestselling Author & Consultant
    •    Dr Marc Smith, Chief Social Scientist, Connected Action Consulting Group
    •    Toby Shapshak, Editor, Stuff Magazine
    •    Adam Holtrop, Creative Director, Vidamo
    •    Salim Amin, Chairman, Camerapix, The Mohamed Amin Foundation & A24Media
    •    Alistair Fairweather, Digital Platforms Manager, The Mail & Guardian Online
    •    David Erasmus, Founder, Cubate
    •    Isis Nyong’o, Managing Director - Africa, InMobi
    •    Ronald Bach, Mobile Product Manager, News24
    •    Mark Kaigwa, Partner, Affrinovator
    •    Jean-Patrick Ehouman, Founder, AllDenY
    •    Musa Kalenga, Managing Director, IHOP World
    •    Nevo Hadas, New Media Consultant
    •    Russell Southwood, Editor, Balancing Act
    •    Johan Nel, CEO & Founder, Umuntu Media
    •    Leslie Tita, Co-Founder, Pulse
    •    Justin Spratt, CEO, Quirk
    For further information please here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    New Media Gathering Africa!
    7 - 8 March, 2012, Lagos Nigeria

    Leading media content and communication company Red Media Group (RMG) and
    frontline ICT consulting firm, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) have
    announced the first edition of the annual New Media Gathering Africa. The
    event will be held in Lagos  and will present to
    corporate, governments, change organisations and small businesses
    practical, outcome-oriented tools to enhance capacity and enrich bottom
    line. Information about registration for the conference will be unveiled on the website www.newmediagathering.com on January 1, 2012. For immediate
    enquiries and sponsorship consideration, please contact the Conference
    Lead on info@newmediagathering.com.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • - Glo introduces George Andah as new Chief Operating Officer for Ghana operations
    Mr Andah, who recently joined Glo from Bharti Airtel, said the Ghanaian market hold good prospects which the company would explore and tap into, adding that Glo is in the position to make significant strides. Mr Andah previously worked with Guinness Ghana Breweries Limited, MTN Ghana and was in 2009 awarded the Marketing Man of the Year.

  • Supervisor, Network Operation Center - Sierra Leone
    Posted date: Fri, 14th Oct
    Location: Sierra Leone

    The job - holder will have sufficient technical expertise to run the Network Operations Center, liase with network operators and interface with field operations to provide back-office support. The duties include but are not limited to:

        * Overseeing 24hr operations of a maintenance activities coordination centre which is the link between the clients’ network monitoring centre and our field service teams.
        * Ensure timely communcation with field operations to meet the standards of the SLA
        * Developing the monthly preventive maintenance route plans for the field operation teams and coordinating the same with the field teams.
        * Developing daily, weekly and monthly reports as required by the management

    The desired candidate will be a graduate of telecommunications engineering. He/she will have 2-3 years experience in NOC operations. Experience in field operations will be an added advantange. The candidate should also possess a good understanding of the region of operation.

    To apply online please click here:

telecoms

  • Zimbabwean technology journal Techzim reports that state-run GSM network operator NetOne has notified 3G test users that they will soon have to pay for mobile broadband access. An SMS message told test participants that ‘unlimited’ internet access will be charged at USD40 per month.

    Techzim notes that local cellular market leader Econet Wireless currently charges users of its commercial 3G/2.5G mobile internet service an average of USD0.10 per 1MB depending on the data bundle, while NetOne’s other rival Telecel Zimbabwe has set its mobile internet rate at USD0.11 per 1MB; neither cellco plans to offer unlimited data packages.

    However, Techzim also points out that NetOne’s uncapped internet usage ‘offer’ may simply be a result of it lacking the facilities to bill customers for their high speed data usage, in which case it is likely to switch to volume-based data charging once the necessary billing system is in place.

  • The government says it has initiated policies that will see the operations of the National Communications Authority (NCA) decentralised.

    The Minister of Communications, Haruna Iddrissu told reporters that the decentralisation is to make the NCA show presence in all the regions.

    “As I speak the Authority is in the process of establishing regional offices in Kumasi, Sekondi-Takoradi and Tamale to enhance close monitoring activities and also help address customer concerns in a decentralized manner,” says the Minister in speech during a press briefing October 3, 2011 in Accra.

    He adds “Temporal offices in these three areas would be ready for commissioning and operation by the close of November 2011. Three additional regional offices in Volta, Brong-Ahafo and Upper East Regions would be established next year.”

  • Starcomms Plc, last week introduced Huawei IDEOS C8150 Android phones into the Nigerian market. It also launched another value added service called S-Credit.

    Huawei C8150 is a smart mobile phone that allows a customer to apply voice and data services on its network such as calls, web access, application download, e-books and information search on the web for exciting places at the touch of the button. The phone features Google Android 2.2 and is supported on EVDO Rev A network with pre-loaded Google applications.

    Unveiling the product, the Chief Executive Officer, Starcomms Plc, Logan Pather, said: “Android has continued to maintain its position as the’ most innovative smart phone operating system in the telecoms world. Starcomms has a culture of applying cutting edge technology for the benefit of our customers. That is why we will continue to give them value for their I money.

    The C8150 Android phone is a mobile phone with full touch screen and Android 2.2 OS that supports push mail on its platform. It is targeted at mobile entrepreneurs and business executives who need to stay connected with clients, business partners and also have access to vital information on the go.

    According to Logan, the novel product has unique portable Wi-Fi feature which allows customers to connect with other suitable portable devices and access available wireless internet connection.

    “It is a true mobile device that is comfortable to carry around and use on the move or at leisure while enjoying the G-sensor feature that I allows the phone to be rotated for a landscape view for a better view of the screen contents,” said the Starcomms CEO.

    He said that the company will continue to listen to its customers and· put their satisfaction on the front burner of its innovations and service delivery. Meanwhile, the company , has launched another value added service called S-Credit. The service is designed to ease subscribers of the problems associated with recharge card purchase and distribution, especially where there is need for emergency calls and where access to recharge cards is difficult or impossible.

    The 5­Credit service, otherwise known as bridging credit, allows pre-paid subscribers a post-paid lifestyle where airtime can be accessed at critical times and will be paid back the next time a customer recharges.

  • Nigerian telephone subscribers will be able to move from one network to another without losing their numbers as number portability starts from the first quarter of 2012, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said.

    Number portability allows subscribers to move to alternate networks when they no longer enjoy quality of services from their current operators, or when they are no longer happy with the tariffs offered by them and still retain their original numbers irrespective of the new network they moved to.

    NCC said in a statement by its Head of Media and Publicity Reuben Muoka that a consortium of Interconnect/Saab Grintek/Telecordia would be providing the number portability service for Nigerians phone users six months from now.

    NCC said the company will be responsible for the set up and implementation of number portability clearing house in Nigeria, and provide mobile number portability solution administration in Nigeria within six months of receiving the license with a testing period of two months.

  • Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) has gazetted the amendments of telecoms operators licence to allow four of them to provide both fixed and mobile phone services.

    This is contained in the Malawi government gazette published in Zomba on September 23, this year.

    Macra’s Director General Charles Nsaliwa indicates in the gazette that the regulator had made amendments of licences awarded to ACL Limited, Airtel Limited, Malawi Telecommunications Limited (MTL) and TNM Limited.

    “The amendments are being made to comply with the new converged licensing framework that the authority has embarked on.

    “Under such a converged regime, the authority will ensure a technology neutral network licensing framework thereby enabling the current telecommunications operators to provide any public telecommunication services,” said Nsaliwa.

    In an interview on Friday, Macra’s Communications Manager Zadziko Mankhambo said it is now up to the operators to offer the public wider quality services.

    “The development means the mentioned players in the telecommunications sector can now offer both fixed and mobile phone services which we as a regulator feel it is fair to them but the operators must ensure that apart from offering the public choice of service the output must be of high quality,” Mankhambo said.

    Other players in telecoms sector include G-Mobile which has not yet rolled out its services and newly licensed Celcom.

  • Glomile Ghana will launch its 023 mobile services in Ghana before the close of this year, and it would do so on an 'aggressive' note.

    Group Chief Operations Manager, Mohammed Jameel told journalists “we know Ghanaians have been waiting for us, we have crossed a number of mile stones and we are ready to launch before the close of 2011.

    “We will be aggressive – we will be unique – we will be very competitive in pricing – we will be superior in terms of products and service and be present in all the key cities of Ghana at our launch,” he said.

    Jameel made the announcement at a press conference to officially introduce Mr. George Kwadwo Andah as the new Chief Operating Officer (COO) for Glomobile Ghana.

    Jameel said Glo had installed enough equipment and brought the most modern mobile and internet technology to Ghana to ensure that Ghanaians would be proud of Glo and say “it was worth the long wait for Glo”.

    He said from Ghana, Glo would expand to other African countries providing services in gateway, submarine cable and mobile, adding that Glo had the technology and expertise to ensure its products and services were second to none.

    Adom News is reliably informed that one of the reasons Glo had delayed was because they had wanted to install enough equipment and infrastructure to start from almost 100% coverage. New COO, Mr. George Andah confirmed this by saying “we want to ensure that from the day we launch every Ghanaian can stand anywhere in Ghana and be able to make a call on the Glo network.”

    "We will do test runs this month and do a full commercial launch later this year," he said.

    Glo mobile missed an August 2011 deadline to have covered at least 50% of Ghana as per its licensing requirement. Government then gave Glo up to September 15, 2011, but that was also missed.

    The company is not revealing any dates, but unconfirmed information say the launch is slated for November 3, 2011.

    Meanwhile Glo has already launched Africa's first fully privately-owned 9,800km long submarine fibre optic cable with landing stations in Ghana, and other countries in West Africa.

    It has already started commercial service on Glo One for a number of corporate clients in Ghana. Glo Mobile would launch on 023 prefix as the 6th mobile operator, and 5th GSM operator in Ghana.

  • Swaziland is now the only country in the southern African region that has not yet liberalised its telecommunications market.Swazi MTN CEO Ambrose Dlamini said because of this, the company was ‘forced’ to use another company’s infrastructure and as such, this hindered development of the industry as well as improvement of service delivery.

    He said Swazi MTN wants to have its own infrastructure because reliance on the Swaziland Post and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC)’s transmission network was a challenge for the mobile network company.
    “In terms of the law, SPTC has exclusive privilege to provide backbone infrastructure in the country. For us this is a challenge because we’d prefer to have our own so we can have control over our transmission and how we use the infrastructure,” said Dlamini yesterday during a media breakfast meeting at Gigi’s Restaurant at Ezulwini.

    “MTN has no control over the performance of SPTC’s transmission network. This is a problem for us, especially when the infrastructure we’re using belongs to the competition. We would like to be able to put up our own infrastructure. As it is, we’re the only company in the region that’s still being forced to use another company’s backbone infrastructure and this is making Swaziland uncompetitive.”

    Swazi MTN says the continued reliance on the Swaziland Post and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC)’s international gateway increased costs which had a spillover effect on service rates for consumers.
    CEO Ambrose Dlamini said this reliance also increased the time it takes to resolve faults. Adding, he said Swaziland was now the only country in the region that had not liberalised the market. “MTN is the leading telecommunications company therefore we need a reliable gateway so that Swaziland can enjoy significant macro-economic benefits. All the countries in the region have liberalised the market; Mozambique, Botswana and Lesotho have all done it so there’s no reason for Swaziland to be lagging behind,” he said.

    “I think we can do much more, especially if we were to be given our own international gateway which would result in reduced costs and by extension, benefits for consumers as well. There’s really no reason why we should be lagging behind even Mozambique when we’ve never been at war. Government is trying to address this but the process requires that the laws must be changed.”

    Swazi MTN is currently paying E627,000 per month for transmission of calls within a 30-kilometre radius, like for instance, between Mbabane and Manzini.
    If the company were to connect via undersea cables, it could be paying about E53,000 per month for a distance between Swaziland and any point of presence in London, Amsterdam or New York, said Chief Marketing Officer Phillip Besiimire.
    CEO Ambrose Dlamini said a survey conducted by KPMG found that Swazi MTN pays almost the highest in the world for leased lines.

    “For transmission of a call between Mbabane and Manzini we use a leased line from SPTC (Swaziland Post and Telecommunications Corporation), which is very costly,” he said yesterday during a media breakfast meeting at Gigi’s Restaurant in Ezulwini.
    Benefit

    “If we were able to provide our own, we would be able to reduce costs and pass on the benefit to consumers. For example, in South Africa if a mobile operator leases a line from Telkom, it pays about E500 but for us we would pay around E16 000.” Dlamini said if MTN were to link to EASSy’s undersea fibre-optic cable this would improve the company’s bandwidth and boost its broadband capacity. EASSy is a fully integrated high -capacity, multi-technology network that links southern, eastern and northern African countries to the rest of the world through various interconnection points to the existing global submarine cable network. MTN Group has direct ownership in EASSy.

    “MTN Swaziland is an owner of EASSy cables through the MTN Group which allows all its operations to benefit. What we want is to be allowed to be connected to these cables through our own international gateway, which would reduce costs as right now we’re using SPTC’s broadband in terms of international connection.
    Forced

    “We’re forced to use whatever SPTC has in terms of international connectivity. We don’t want to be forced to use someone else’s infrastructure, we want to use our own undersea cables where MTN has invested,” said Dlamini.

    He said the introduction of competition into the international gateway market could reduce call rates by up to 90% and double call volumes as shown by several studies. Adding, he said in Nigeria the cost of international calls was reduced by more than 90% since liberalisation while in Zambia it was by up to 80% and Kenya cut its international call rates by 70%.

    “This in turn delivers significant macro-economic benefits by lowering the cost of business facilities, increasing trade and improving connections to the global economy; factors that are particularly important to developing countries,” he added.

  • South Africa based Wireless Business Solutions (WBS), the holding company that owns the WiMAX network, iBurst and Broadlink, has announced plans to roll out a LTE network by mid-2012.

    The company said that the development will enable it to reduce congestion the 3G demands of areas in Gauteng such as Sandton, Randburg and Westcliff.

    WBS also said that it would not ruling out possibilities of spectrum sharing and partnering in the deployment of LTE.

    WBS has already signed up agreements with reputable international partners for equipment supply and equipment funding.

    They envisage commencing the LTE deployment this month, and will continue until the first phase where 2,500 base stations are to be built, is completed. WBS expects to launch commercial LTE services in the first half of 2012.

internet

  • Sierra Leone is set to receive its first international fibre-optic connection following the landing of the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable in the country’s capital Freetown, Reuters reports. Gilbert Cooper, director of administration of the state-owned Sierra Leone Cable Company, said the cable is expected to become operational during the second half of 2012.

    When complete, the 17,000km fibre-optic system will run along West Africa with connections to France and South Africa, connecting 23 countries. ‘We are transforming because, as we are speaking, the only available communication outside Sierra Leone is through the satellite, and it is expensive, the quality is limited and the capacity also has some limitations,’ President Ernest Bai Koroma said at an event to mark the landing of the cable by Lumley Beach in western Freetown.

    The World Bank is providing USD30 million to fund Sierra Leone’s connection to ACE; in return the government said it would liberalise the international gateway for voice calls.

  • The cost of providing services through Telkom's network is maddening, says MWeb CEO, Rudi Jansen. Internet service providers (ISPs) MWeb and Internet Solutions argue that Telkom's current prices for connecting into its network to provide services to end-users are untenable.

    The ISPs were addressing an Independent of Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) committee during hearings into local loop unbundling (LLU). They argued that the cost of connecting into Telkom's network on the current IP Connect (IPC) model is hampering competition.

    Khetan Gajjar, head of new business development at IS, said there is “a lot” of bandwidth arriving on SA's shores, but this needs to get to the end-user. He argued that the current cost of connecting into Telkom's network is prohibitive.

    IP Connect (IPC), which connects ISPs into Telkom's infrastructure so they can deliver a service, is charged at an “exorbitant and unreasonable” level, said Gajjar. He added that ISPs cannot innovate, because they are limited to offering the products that Telkom will allow.

    ISPs are charged three times to deliver a service through IPC, said Gajjar. He noted that this is the only way of connecting into the last mile. “Telkom is stifling the market.”

    IPC is a broken model and needs to be changed into “something that works”, said Gajjar. “IPC is fundamentally broken, but it's what we have at the moment.”

    Ryan Hawthorne, senior manager of economic regulation at Neotel, said during the hearings that IPC accounts for 80% of Internet bandwidth costs, a price that the second operator can bring down substantially if it has access to the last mile.

    IS regulatory director Siyabonga Madyibi said local loop unbundling is the start of the introduction of a wholesale pricing regime. He says the process is a “stepping stone” towards effective regulation.

    There have been a number of interventions by the regulator, but these have not been effective, said Madyibi. He added that the playing field is tilted in Telkom's favour and there is very little new operators can do to stimulate competition and push down pricing.

    Although the effects of lower interconnect prices have been seen at wholesale level, other regulations have not changed the wholesale pricing model, argued Madyibi. He said geographic number portability has failed, because numbers are charged on a single basis, and blocks become too costly to port.

    In addition, said Madyibi, carrier pre-select is also not a success, because the incumbents have moved to protect their market share by increasing the cost of the origination fee. This means the regulation is only good on paper.

    As a result, argued Madyibi, ICASA has to get LLU right. If it does not have a regulatory impact; the sector will end up back at “square one”, he said. There is a need to intervene in the wholesale cost of data, he added.

    Madyibi said IS has tried to go around the last mile issue to connect to its clients, without any real success.

    MWeb CEO Rudi Jansen said the cost of IPC is “driving everybody mad”. He said it is about nine times the expense of moving data between Cape Town and Europe. “That is just absolutely absurd.”

    Jansen said it is difficult for ISPs to compete effectively with such high prices, and IPC causes congestion on the network, a situation that is out of ISPs' hands. The cost of an ADSL line rental is a big bugbear, said Jansen. He added that Telkom charges both the customer and the ISP for access to the last mile.

  • The government of Ghana led by the Ministry of Communications is facilitating moves to establish a public Internet Registry that will improve the governance and security of the internet in the country.

    An Internet registry is an organization that manages the allocation and registration of Internet number resources within a particular region of the world. Internet number resources include Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and autonomous system (AS) numbers, according to Wikipedia.

    “This registry will improve the governance and security in Internet.   As part of the arrangement the Ministry is  facilitating the establishment of a Network Computer Incidence Reporting Team (CIRT) with a Network Operation Centre (NOC)  to address issues of computer glitches and possible incidence on a 24/7 basis,” said Communications Minister Mr Haruna Iddrissu at a press conference in Accra early October this year.

    According to the Iddrissu, the CIRT will also provide remedial actions as well as facilitate the addressing of computer malfunction, cyber crime and virus attacks among others. He however did not give a timeline for the project.

    The world has five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs). They are the African Network Information Centre (AfriNIC) for Africa; American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) for the United States, Canada, several parts of the Caribbean region, and Antarctica; Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC) for Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and neighboring countries; Latin America and Caribbean Network Information Centre (LACNIC) for Latin America and parts of the Caribbean region and the Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre (RIPE) for Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia.

  • Determined to change internet users’ experience in the country, Spectranet Limited, a national broadband wireless access (BWA) provider has began operation in the country with the commercial inauguration of its WiMAX wireless broadband services, which provides cutting edge services at affordable price points.
     
    The company which was one of the four telecommunications companies that participated in the 2009 2.5 GHz spectrum licencing, is using the most advanced 16E Wimax technology, which facilitates fast, reliable internet access service.  Speaking at the launch in Lagos, Spectranet’s Chief Operating Officer, Rajiv Rao, said compared to some other technologies which are fixed access, the Spectranet wireless broadband service would provide a certain level of portability. “This is being delivered on the retail-friendly frequency, which facilitates better signal penetration and therefore, more stable services indoor”, he said.
     
    Initially available in Lagos, Spectranet said it would soon cover other cities across Nigeria in the nearest future. Chief Ezekiel Fatoye, a director in the company, noted, “today, reliable internet is no more a luxury, it is a necessity. We see tremendous potential in delivering high quality reliable broadband services as consumers in Nigeria increasingly demand high quality internet connectivity but at an affordable price.
     
    He said besides, the advantage of cost, convenience and reliability, Spectranet broadband services comes with easy deployment and wide choice of tariff and plans, which will be of great value to the customers.  Also speaking at the event, chairman of the company, the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, said, the company is committed to growing the business and making sure that every Nigerian benefits from the venture.

computing

  • Indian businessmen and women have been asked to seize the abundant opportunities in Tanzania by investing in key areas such as Information and Communication Technology (ICT) development.

    The challenge was thrown here by the Minister for Communications, Science and Technology, Prof Makame Mbarawa, during the plenary session of the India-Africa Business Partnership summit which opened here on Thursday.

    He said the government wants investors particularly in developing local multi-media content software that would address issues that are relevant to the national development.

    "Instead of relying on software that has been designed for the entire world, we need investors who would develop a customized IT content for our country," he said.

    He told the two-day forum that has brought together ministers from different African countries, businessmen and women, diplomats and representatives from multinational companies mainly based in India that Tanzania's fiscal and political stability offer a credible offer for investments.

    "With its strategic geographical position, Tanzania places itself as the most ideal place in the entire East and Central African region where investors not only from India but world over could come and explore various untapped business opportunities," he said.

    He mentioned other areas which are yet to be tapped fully as IT parks and small ICT villages where the youth could assemble and design software that is ideal for the local markets.

    He gave an example of business processing outsourcing (BPO) system which could create more jobs for Tanzanians by creating calling centres in the country.

    The minister said Indian investors should also capitalize on the fast growing East African Community (EAC) market, covering over 140 million people.

    He said that with the improved communication and infrastructure such as road and railway network, the EAC market offers a quick return on investment (ROI).

    "The fibre optic project has made communication easier for Tanzania and the landlocked countries such as Zambia, Malawi, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Rwanda," he said.

    The first phase of Tanzania's 10,674-kilometre national fibre-optic backbone was completed in May last year, connecting to the SEACOM, and EASSy submarine cables.

    It runs from Mombasa (Kenya) through Nairobi (Kenya), Kampala (Uganda), Kigali (Rwanda), and Bujumbura (Burundi) to Dar es Salaam.

  • Eight local technology start-ups have been offered a unique opportunity to pitch their business ideas to delegates, potential investors and media at this year’s Tech4Africa conference, taking place at The Forum in Bryanston, Johannesburg on 27 and 28 October.

    This platform has been created by virtue of Samsung Ignite, an initiative that aims to showcase and foster local technology development, and which has been made possible by Samsung Apps store, in association with Tech4Africa.

    “We are extremely excited about such a platform from which local technology innovators can showcase their ideas to a broad audience, potential investors and technology entrepreneurs who have walked this path before,” says Gareth Knight, Tech4Africa Founder and Managing Director. “Tech4Africa’s primary aim is to promote and inspire local mobile and web innovators, entrepreneurs and developers by inviting global leaders in the sector to share their knowledge and insight with an audience from across the continent.

    “The Samsung Ignite programme is an integral part of the overall vision that it is hoped will provide the spark that the eight start-ups need to take the next step in their development.”

    The 8 selected startups include:

    10Layer: the most feature-complete, competent and customisable open source content management system for serious publishers and media houses.

    Feedback Rocket: which offers an innovative online solution to obtain useful, insightful and honest feedback.

    iSign.pro: that allows users to get legally-binding contracts signed in minutes - legally, cheaper, greener and stored forever, with automatic reminders before renewal/expiry.

    Lessfuss: is an affordable South African personal assistant service that helps you save time and get things done for as little as R30/task.

    Mobiflock: is a product range that consists of a parental control service, a personal smartphone tracker, and a corporate smartphone manager.

    Plot my Ride: is a social networking service for the cycling community that offers an easy and real-time means of capturing, displaying, saving and sharing a cyclist’s riding activity.

    Real Time Wine: captures the supermarket wine-buying audience and empowers them to discover, review, engage with and buy wine using smartphone apps, game mechanics & barcode scanning.

    SnapBill: is an automated billing system that allows users to easily sell their services online.

    “We are very passionate about the African market and encouraged by the innovations emerging from the continent, so it’s a natural fit for us to partner with Tech4Africa to present this stage for innovators to showcase their products,” says Brett Loubser, B2C Apps Development Lead at Samsung. “We intend using this partnership to help create a wider network of local developers, reward African innovation in the mobile tech and app space and promote the Samsung Apps Store as an alternative channel for smartphone developers.

    “A key outcome of our participation as the Ignite partner is to engage South African developers and therefore we have made available a number of discounted tickets to facilitate their involvement at this year’s conference.”

    The Samsung Ignite participants will each be afforded five minutes to showcase their products in the main auditorium at the end of the first day of the conference. A panel of judges has been gathered to adjudicate and the winning startup will be announced on the second day of the event, and be given the opportunity to present their start-up to the entire Tech4Africa audience. The winner will also receive the latest Samsung mobile devices and valuable exposure and profiling through the Tech4Africa website.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Egyptian mobile network operator and broadband provider Etisalat Misr has reportedly delayed a listing on the country’s stock exchange until market conditions improve, Reuters reports citing local daily al-Mal.

    Etisalat Misr’s CEO Saleh al-Abdouli was quoted by the Egyptian newspaper as saying: ‘The significant impact (of the uprising) on the capital markets reduces the feasibility of the share listing, especially in light of the reduced liquidity circulating in the market.’ Prior to the political turmoil and popular uprising in the country

    Etisalat Misr is understood to have approached a number of Egyptian and regional investment banks with a view to procuring financial and legal advisory services for a listing, with between a 15% and 25% stake in the operator expected to be made available. Abdouli has reportedly said that his company is continuing to examine the prospects for listing and is now looking for the right time to launch the process.

  • The World bank has said that all players in African Global System for Mobile Communications networks, GSM, Nigeria inclusive would need about $15.5bn to enhance GSM coverage across the continent.

    In a recent report released by the bank, the African GSM market is capable of expanding beyond its present status, if the needed funding is injected into the industry.

    The World Bank report by Mark Williams, Rebecca Mayer and Michael Minges, posited that Africa will require a total expenditure of $15.5bn between 2007 and 2015, for Africa to expand its coverage of the GSM network across the continent.

    The report rated Nigeria as one of the countries that attracted the highest investment between the periods of 1998 to 2008, with an estimate figure of $12.7bn behind South Africa, that had $18bn.

    Other African countries rated in the report include: Kenya ($2.9bn); Sudan ($1.8bn)); Uganda ($1.6bn); Senegal ($1.5bn); Tanzania ($1.4bn); Democratic Republic of the Congo ($1.2bn); Ghana ($1.1bn); Angola ($1bn).

    Of this, $6.9bn is for areas that are potentially commercially viable, with the total cost of expanding networks to cover the eight percent of the population that lies outside these areas amounting to $8.7bn, or about $1bn per year.

    Access to finance, according to the World Bank, is often seen as a constraint on economic development in Africa, but the telecommunications sector appears to have overcome this constraint by accessing a wide range of financing sources to fund the rapid expansion of networks.

    Besides, the report, the latest of the World Bank, noted that operators and governments in Sub-Saharan Africa are investing heavily in the region’s ICT sector, stressing that, about $5bn a year or one percent of Gross Domestic Product is been invested.

    The report informed that, private sources accounted for the majority of capital investment in the sector, but that, a significant amount of money is invested by operators that remain under state ownership.

    According to the World Bank, Official Development Assistance from outside the region is still marginal, overall.

    The World Bank, which said it was cheapest to call the United States from Ghana at $0.31 per minute, compared to $0.88 a minute in 2008 from other parts of Africa, noted that Ghana, for instance, still has a long way to go in order to provide the best network in the continent.

    “Kenya and Ghana, for example, are of similar size, but Kenya’s networks are growing much more faster – with 6,445 km versus Ghana’s 919 km of backbone network currently under construction”, it stated.

    The World Bank adduced to the fact that, African capital markets, corporate bond markets, and commercial bank loans all have played key roles in financing investment in the telecommunications sector in the Continent, but stressed that, securities exchanges in Sub-Saharan Africa are generally underdeveloped, reason why telecommunications businesses were relatively well represented in them and have successfully used exchanges to raise investment finance.

    It further added that despite the wave of privatization and liberalization of the telecommunications market in Africa, the public sector—both domestic and foreign, continues to play a significant role in financing ICT development.

    The World Bank informed that, private sector has invested heavily in ICTs since the end of the 1990s, when the expansion of telecommunications networks in Africa began, adding that, this investment has fluctuated from year to year, however, and the amount of investment received by each country has varied enormously.

    The report explained that bank loans were used to finance investment in all types of infrastructure in Africa, and telecommunications infrastructure was no exception. According to it, at the end of 2006, outstanding commercial bank loans used to finance infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa totaled $11.8 billion. It however, stressed that, though it is difficult to determine the exact allocation of these loans among sectors, but that, at least $8.3 billion went to projects in the transport and communication sectors.

    The report further revealed that other development institutions are also involved in providing financing for telecommunications infrastructure in Africa.

    “The World Bank, for example, provided $338m in financing for investment in the ICT sector in Africa between 1998 and 2008. Not all of this, however, was invested in physical infrastructure: It covered a wide range of activities, from policy and regulatory reform to e-government and information technology ndustry development.”

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Tanzania: BR Solutions, a local information and communication technology firm, has launched a product dubbed "Huduma Fasta" that will enable Tanzanians to access business information through their cell phones. The technology which is currently available in Dar es Salaam is already connected to three mobile phone operators -- Vodacom, Airtel and Tigo and plans are underway to expand it to other regions.

    - South African BlackBerry users affected by the recent outage should seek recourse from the National Consumer Commission, Business Day reported on Thursday, 13 October 2011. South African National Consumer Commissioner Mamodupi Mohlala said consumers would find protection under sections 55, 56 and 61 of the Consumer Protection Act, which provided rights on the quality of goods, and liability for damage caused by goods. Everyone who was involved in the value chain could be held liable in terms of section 61 of the act. Some commentators said this might be difficult because the system failure occurred outside South Africa.

Digital Content

  • At the first ever Mobile Application Showcase competition in Ghana, two Mest start-ups, Saya Mobile and Nandimobile picked up the 1st and 2nd prizes respectfully. Kwamena Appiah-Kubi came 3rd with his innovative SMS Tweetbox.

    The event was organised by the Mobile Consortium team and sponsored by industry big wigs such as Indigo Trust, InMobi, and Busy Internet. The event attracted a significant number of individuals with interest in technology and mobile applications. It sought to throw more light on pressing topics such as Monetizing mobile applications, etc. The event also offered tech companies the opportunity to exhibit their services. On the day exhibiting organisations included, Letigames, Sproxil, Nandimobile, Esoko, MoTech. Dozens of participants engaged the exhibitors with questions with the aim of understanding the mobile technologies and the value they provided.

    At the latter part of the event, the Appcircus Mobile Apps Competition was put together as the various mobile apps were presented to an attentive audience. In the end the judges voted Saya Mobile winner of the first ever Appcircus Mobile Competition in Ghana. The Mest start-up picked up the top prize of an i-Pad 2 and cash prize of Ghc 2,000. Saya Mobile is a mobile chatting application targeted towards feature phones. With this, the winning company gets to be nominated to represent Ghana at the Mobile Congress in Barcelona in 2012.

  • SAP has released new mobile applications onto the Nigerian market aimed at improving efficiency in communication.

    Speaking at the SAP World Tour of Nigeria in Lagos last week, SAP president in charge of Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), Franck Cohen, said the introduction of new applications would, among others, boost the status of the booming smartphone business.

    Cohen revealed that a whopping one billion smartphones and tablets were expected to be released onto the market by 2015, a development that demands the expertise of SAP in the solution and software application business to add value to the communication and information technology sector.

    “Our solutions are meant to develop businesses and we don’t only innovate, we co-innovate,” said Cohen.

    Cohen said the coming in of both new smartphones and tablets would change the way companies, governments, non-governmental organisations and individuals conduct their businesses through Sap’s various solutions and applications.

    Speaking at the same event, SAP Managing Director for West Africa, Richard Edet, said his company’s growth was expected to increase on the African continent through the adoption of new technology and SAP solutions in the area of mobility and cloud computing.

    Tried and tested for 40 years in the provision of solutions and applications, SAP aims to add value as well as improve productivity in corporate organisations on a global scale.

    SAP’s solutions and applications are widely credited with bringing value to the Nigeria community and that of the entire West African region.

Issue no 576 14th October 2011

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Top story

  • In Africa, mobile operators are finding themselves in a situation where their data traffic exceeds their voice traffic but the income from data is much smaller. The crunch is that data also congests the network far more quickly than voice. Many assume that LTE will deal with this surge of data use but bandwidth is like a recreational drug: the more you have access to, the more you use. Russell Southwood looks at how good, old-fashioned Wi-Fi has suddenly come into its own and how it poses a number of challenges for Africa’s mobile operators.

    The dream of the insurgent challengers to the mobile operators was that those providing hot-spots would take the static part of a customer’s voice use, leaving the mobile operator with “the road”. Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) was an attempt to integrate Wi-Fi voice offload but it never worked. When Wi-MAX was at its high point, mobile voice was a promise that seemed always round the corner but never quite with us. Now LTE has arrived and Wi-MAX is a “transitional technology”: in other words, it will soon be, so long it’s been good to know you.

    With the rise of smartphones and the steady arrival of tablets in Africa, data use is increasing within the constraints of what is still largely premium pricing. Estimates vary but somewhere between 20-40% of data traffic in developed markets is going over Wi-Fi networks, The main reason for this “Wi-Fi offloading” is that the mobile operators can’t keep up in network terms with the rapid growth in data. Africa’s pattern will differ only by degree.

    So here’s the dilemma for the mobile operators. There are a small number of premium customers who generate the largest percentage of your high-margin income. Increasingly they are wandering round with different devices – smartphones, tablets and laptops – that allow them to pick and choose for data (by price and quality) which network they want to be on.

    So the threat comes from those who might provide better pricing and less congested access. Google has partnered with Kenya’s Wananchi to provide (through a new business unit) Wazi hot-spots. It has piloted one at The Junction shopping mall in Nairobi and has 500+ regular customers.

    It will work with ISPs and mobile operators to offer a unified roaming scheme (like Boingo) and has a back-end exchange that deals with retail and wholesale billing. It will fill in gaps where it doesn’t have wholesale partners and will roll out in Kenya and across East Africa. You get the first ten minutes free and then it costs you KS50 (US47 cents) an hour or KS500 (US$4.73) a month.

    In another part of the continent, In September South Africa’s IS confirmed that it was at an advanced stage of planning for a project that could see it build out a series of metropolitan Wi-Fi networks to serve business campuses and city streets in densely populated urban areas.

    The region’s mobile operators have not been slow to see the threat and some are moving pre-emptively into the space and exploring the business model. One operator has rolled out 1,500 hot-spots in one country but the experience has raised significant issues for them that will affect any hot-spot operator at scale.

    The backhaul network needs to be upgraded to handle additional traffic and from a new source. As with base stations, the hot-spots need to have 24 hour guaranteed power and there are sometimes licensing issues for masts with city hall or local government. Note to Governments: rein in greedy local authorities who are increasing the costs of closing the digital divide.

    The aim is to provide relatively large geographic areas that are covered by 20-50 metre Wi-Fi hot-spots. Others are looking at Wi-Fi mesh networks but these can be expensive if they are provisioned with back-up units. However, whatever its limitations, a Wi-Fi mesh network can provide up to 50 kms coverage. If both operate in unlicensed spectrum, this reduces the cost of delivery, although on occasions it reduces the quality of delivery.

    But Wi-Fi is a significantly different technology to existing mobile infrastructure as Hans Beijner, Ericsson's head of product marketing management told Fierce Wireless. The QoS provided by Wi-Fi is very dependent on how it is deployed and what backhaul techniques are used. "It's possible to get close to ‘carrier-grade' performance with Wi-Fi for data services, but not good enough for voice," he said. "Also, the technology doesn't have the same admission controls that you have with cellular, which can result in complete congestion." Since voice and data congestion is a fairly constant feature of most urban African networks, the issue is surely hot-spot capacity.

    The fear of the mobile operators is that their high-margin, premium customers will choose to “sleep with” other data providers who are more cost effective and only come home to them for cheap voice. Or, heaven forbid, they might start using mobile Skype clients with these less fussy hot-spot providers to reduce their outgoings. The cost of both current voice and data roaming charges makes this a great temptation for the international visitor. For lower-end customers who are heavy SMS users, the attractions of e-mail will soon become apparent if they are not already.

    But with LTE, isn’t this really another of those transitional moments, like the coming and going of WiMAX? Maybe but…The but is as Mark Rayner, CEO, DStv Mobile observed that the upward suck of bandwidth required to use “rich” content will continue to grow:”LTE will come and make the lives of content owners vastly different. But the new bandwidth will bring more demands like HD. So we will still need to be fighting for bandwidth and fighting for it at the right price.”

    Also, LTE provides those impressive theoretical download and upload speeds by using a lot of spectrum and all of that will have to be paid for. In addition, one of Africa’s key mobile operators told us that they would be provisioning each LTE base station with 2-8 fibre cores. Some mobile operators are ready for this moment and have extensive fibre backbones but the cost for others will be punishing. All that speedy new LTE data will only go as fast as the slowest link in the network.

    So good, old-fashioned Wi-Fi still has legs to run for some time to come. But what would really make a difference would be if a regulator was to offer a series of 2 year pilot licences to new and existing operators to offer data and voice using Wi-Fi in the unlicensed spectrum in un-serviced areas.

     


    This week on the BalancingActAfrica You Tube channel:

    Henk Kleynhans, Chair of WAPA on TV White Spaces proposals in South Africa

    Steve Song, CEO, Village Telco on the TV White Spaces Workshop

    Richard Bell, CEO, Wananchi Group in Kenya on international fibre connectivity, local TV content for its Zuku bouquet and financing its vision:

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

    Riyaz Bachani, CTO, Wananchi on its Wazi hot-spots partnership with Google

    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

     

More

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

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

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

    For more informtion visit here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Mobile Web in Africa 2011
    22 - 25 November, 2011, Johannesburg, South Africa

    Harnessing the potential of the internet and applications on mobile devices. Back for a third year, Mobile Web in Africa is South Africa’s premier mobile conference.  Following on from unrivalled, sell-out successes in 2009 and 2010, no other event on the South African calendar compares in terms of topic, speaking faculty, agenda, interaction and business opportunities.
    Write to info@allamber.co.uk to find out about the fantastic discount
    available to Balancing Act readers.

    Confirmed Speakers:
    •    Tomi T Ahonen, Bestselling Author & Consultant
    •    Dr Marc Smith, Chief Social Scientist, Connected Action Consulting Group
    •    Toby Shapshak, Editor, Stuff Magazine
    •    Adam Holtrop, Creative Director, Vidamo
    •    Salim Amin, Chairman, Camerapix, The Mohamed Amin Foundation & A24Media
    •    Alistair Fairweather, Digital Platforms Manager, The Mail & Guardian Online
    •    David Erasmus, Founder, Cubate
    •    Isis Nyong’o, Managing Director - Africa, InMobi
    •    Ronald Bach, Mobile Product Manager, News24
    •    Mark Kaigwa, Partner, Affrinovator
    •    Jean-Patrick Ehouman, Founder, AllDenY
    •    Musa Kalenga, Managing Director, IHOP World
    •    Nevo Hadas, New Media Consultant
    •    Russell Southwood, Editor, Balancing Act
    •    Johan Nel, CEO & Founder, Umuntu Media
    •    Leslie Tita, Co-Founder, Pulse
    •    Justin Spratt, CEO, Quirk
    For further information please here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    New Media Gathering Africa!
    7 - 8 March, 2012, Lagos Nigeria

    Leading media content and communication company Red Media Group (RMG) and
    frontline ICT consulting firm, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) have
    announced the first edition of the annual New Media Gathering Africa. The
    event will be held in Lagos  and will present to
    corporate, governments, change organisations and small businesses
    practical, outcome-oriented tools to enhance capacity and enrich bottom
    line. Information about registration for the conference will be unveiled on the website www.newmediagathering.com on January 1, 2012. For immediate
    enquiries and sponsorship consideration, please contact the Conference
    Lead on info@newmediagathering.com.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • - Glo introduces George Andah as new Chief Operating Officer for Ghana operations
    Mr Andah, who recently joined Glo from Bharti Airtel, said the Ghanaian market hold good prospects which the company would explore and tap into, adding that Glo is in the position to make significant strides. Mr Andah previously worked with Guinness Ghana Breweries Limited, MTN Ghana and was in 2009 awarded the Marketing Man of the Year.

  • Supervisor, Network Operation Center - Sierra Leone
    Posted date: Fri, 14th Oct
    Location: Sierra Leone

    The job - holder will have sufficient technical expertise to run the Network Operations Center, liase with network operators and interface with field operations to provide back-office support. The duties include but are not limited to:

        * Overseeing 24hr operations of a maintenance activities coordination centre which is the link between the clients’ network monitoring centre and our field service teams.
        * Ensure timely communcation with field operations to meet the standards of the SLA
        * Developing the monthly preventive maintenance route plans for the field operation teams and coordinating the same with the field teams.
        * Developing daily, weekly and monthly reports as required by the management

    The desired candidate will be a graduate of telecommunications engineering. He/she will have 2-3 years experience in NOC operations. Experience in field operations will be an added advantange. The candidate should also possess a good understanding of the region of operation.

    To apply online please click here:

telecoms

  • Zimbabwean technology journal Techzim reports that state-run GSM network operator NetOne has notified 3G test users that they will soon have to pay for mobile broadband access. An SMS message told test participants that ‘unlimited’ internet access will be charged at USD40 per month.

    Techzim notes that local cellular market leader Econet Wireless currently charges users of its commercial 3G/2.5G mobile internet service an average of USD0.10 per 1MB depending on the data bundle, while NetOne’s other rival Telecel Zimbabwe has set its mobile internet rate at USD0.11 per 1MB; neither cellco plans to offer unlimited data packages.

    However, Techzim also points out that NetOne’s uncapped internet usage ‘offer’ may simply be a result of it lacking the facilities to bill customers for their high speed data usage, in which case it is likely to switch to volume-based data charging once the necessary billing system is in place.

  • The government says it has initiated policies that will see the operations of the National Communications Authority (NCA) decentralised.

    The Minister of Communications, Haruna Iddrissu told reporters that the decentralisation is to make the NCA show presence in all the regions.

    “As I speak the Authority is in the process of establishing regional offices in Kumasi, Sekondi-Takoradi and Tamale to enhance close monitoring activities and also help address customer concerns in a decentralized manner,” says the Minister in speech during a press briefing October 3, 2011 in Accra.

    He adds “Temporal offices in these three areas would be ready for commissioning and operation by the close of November 2011. Three additional regional offices in Volta, Brong-Ahafo and Upper East Regions would be established next year.”

  • Starcomms Plc, last week introduced Huawei IDEOS C8150 Android phones into the Nigerian market. It also launched another value added service called S-Credit.

    Huawei C8150 is a smart mobile phone that allows a customer to apply voice and data services on its network such as calls, web access, application download, e-books and information search on the web for exciting places at the touch of the button. The phone features Google Android 2.2 and is supported on EVDO Rev A network with pre-loaded Google applications.

    Unveiling the product, the Chief Executive Officer, Starcomms Plc, Logan Pather, said: “Android has continued to maintain its position as the’ most innovative smart phone operating system in the telecoms world. Starcomms has a culture of applying cutting edge technology for the benefit of our customers. That is why we will continue to give them value for their I money.

    The C8150 Android phone is a mobile phone with full touch screen and Android 2.2 OS that supports push mail on its platform. It is targeted at mobile entrepreneurs and business executives who need to stay connected with clients, business partners and also have access to vital information on the go.

    According to Logan, the novel product has unique portable Wi-Fi feature which allows customers to connect with other suitable portable devices and access available wireless internet connection.

    “It is a true mobile device that is comfortable to carry around and use on the move or at leisure while enjoying the G-sensor feature that I allows the phone to be rotated for a landscape view for a better view of the screen contents,” said the Starcomms CEO.

    He said that the company will continue to listen to its customers and· put their satisfaction on the front burner of its innovations and service delivery. Meanwhile, the company , has launched another value added service called S-Credit. The service is designed to ease subscribers of the problems associated with recharge card purchase and distribution, especially where there is need for emergency calls and where access to recharge cards is difficult or impossible.

    The 5­Credit service, otherwise known as bridging credit, allows pre-paid subscribers a post-paid lifestyle where airtime can be accessed at critical times and will be paid back the next time a customer recharges.

  • Nigerian telephone subscribers will be able to move from one network to another without losing their numbers as number portability starts from the first quarter of 2012, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said.

    Number portability allows subscribers to move to alternate networks when they no longer enjoy quality of services from their current operators, or when they are no longer happy with the tariffs offered by them and still retain their original numbers irrespective of the new network they moved to.

    NCC said in a statement by its Head of Media and Publicity Reuben Muoka that a consortium of Interconnect/Saab Grintek/Telecordia would be providing the number portability service for Nigerians phone users six months from now.

    NCC said the company will be responsible for the set up and implementation of number portability clearing house in Nigeria, and provide mobile number portability solution administration in Nigeria within six months of receiving the license with a testing period of two months.

  • Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) has gazetted the amendments of telecoms operators licence to allow four of them to provide both fixed and mobile phone services.

    This is contained in the Malawi government gazette published in Zomba on September 23, this year.

    Macra’s Director General Charles Nsaliwa indicates in the gazette that the regulator had made amendments of licences awarded to ACL Limited, Airtel Limited, Malawi Telecommunications Limited (MTL) and TNM Limited.

    “The amendments are being made to comply with the new converged licensing framework that the authority has embarked on.

    “Under such a converged regime, the authority will ensure a technology neutral network licensing framework thereby enabling the current telecommunications operators to provide any public telecommunication services,” said Nsaliwa.

    In an interview on Friday, Macra’s Communications Manager Zadziko Mankhambo said it is now up to the operators to offer the public wider quality services.

    “The development means the mentioned players in the telecommunications sector can now offer both fixed and mobile phone services which we as a regulator feel it is fair to them but the operators must ensure that apart from offering the public choice of service the output must be of high quality,” Mankhambo said.

    Other players in telecoms sector include G-Mobile which has not yet rolled out its services and newly licensed Celcom.

  • Glomile Ghana will launch its 023 mobile services in Ghana before the close of this year, and it would do so on an 'aggressive' note.

    Group Chief Operations Manager, Mohammed Jameel told journalists “we know Ghanaians have been waiting for us, we have crossed a number of mile stones and we are ready to launch before the close of 2011.

    “We will be aggressive – we will be unique – we will be very competitive in pricing – we will be superior in terms of products and service and be present in all the key cities of Ghana at our launch,” he said.

    Jameel made the announcement at a press conference to officially introduce Mr. George Kwadwo Andah as the new Chief Operating Officer (COO) for Glomobile Ghana.

    Jameel said Glo had installed enough equipment and brought the most modern mobile and internet technology to Ghana to ensure that Ghanaians would be proud of Glo and say “it was worth the long wait for Glo”.

    He said from Ghana, Glo would expand to other African countries providing services in gateway, submarine cable and mobile, adding that Glo had the technology and expertise to ensure its products and services were second to none.

    Adom News is reliably informed that one of the reasons Glo had delayed was because they had wanted to install enough equipment and infrastructure to start from almost 100% coverage. New COO, Mr. George Andah confirmed this by saying “we want to ensure that from the day we launch every Ghanaian can stand anywhere in Ghana and be able to make a call on the Glo network.”

    "We will do test runs this month and do a full commercial launch later this year," he said.

    Glo mobile missed an August 2011 deadline to have covered at least 50% of Ghana as per its licensing requirement. Government then gave Glo up to September 15, 2011, but that was also missed.

    The company is not revealing any dates, but unconfirmed information say the launch is slated for November 3, 2011.

    Meanwhile Glo has already launched Africa's first fully privately-owned 9,800km long submarine fibre optic cable with landing stations in Ghana, and other countries in West Africa.

    It has already started commercial service on Glo One for a number of corporate clients in Ghana. Glo Mobile would launch on 023 prefix as the 6th mobile operator, and 5th GSM operator in Ghana.

  • Swaziland is now the only country in the southern African region that has not yet liberalised its telecommunications market.Swazi MTN CEO Ambrose Dlamini said because of this, the company was ‘forced’ to use another company’s infrastructure and as such, this hindered development of the industry as well as improvement of service delivery.

    He said Swazi MTN wants to have its own infrastructure because reliance on the Swaziland Post and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC)’s transmission network was a challenge for the mobile network company.
    “In terms of the law, SPTC has exclusive privilege to provide backbone infrastructure in the country. For us this is a challenge because we’d prefer to have our own so we can have control over our transmission and how we use the infrastructure,” said Dlamini yesterday during a media breakfast meeting at Gigi’s Restaurant at Ezulwini.

    “MTN has no control over the performance of SPTC’s transmission network. This is a problem for us, especially when the infrastructure we’re using belongs to the competition. We would like to be able to put up our own infrastructure. As it is, we’re the only company in the region that’s still being forced to use another company’s backbone infrastructure and this is making Swaziland uncompetitive.”

    Swazi MTN says the continued reliance on the Swaziland Post and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC)’s international gateway increased costs which had a spillover effect on service rates for consumers.
    CEO Ambrose Dlamini said this reliance also increased the time it takes to resolve faults. Adding, he said Swaziland was now the only country in the region that had not liberalised the market. “MTN is the leading telecommunications company therefore we need a reliable gateway so that Swaziland can enjoy significant macro-economic benefits. All the countries in the region have liberalised the market; Mozambique, Botswana and Lesotho have all done it so there’s no reason for Swaziland to be lagging behind,” he said.

    “I think we can do much more, especially if we were to be given our own international gateway which would result in reduced costs and by extension, benefits for consumers as well. There’s really no reason why we should be lagging behind even Mozambique when we’ve never been at war. Government is trying to address this but the process requires that the laws must be changed.”

    Swazi MTN is currently paying E627,000 per month for transmission of calls within a 30-kilometre radius, like for instance, between Mbabane and Manzini.
    If the company were to connect via undersea cables, it could be paying about E53,000 per month for a distance between Swaziland and any point of presence in London, Amsterdam or New York, said Chief Marketing Officer Phillip Besiimire.
    CEO Ambrose Dlamini said a survey conducted by KPMG found that Swazi MTN pays almost the highest in the world for leased lines.

    “For transmission of a call between Mbabane and Manzini we use a leased line from SPTC (Swaziland Post and Telecommunications Corporation), which is very costly,” he said yesterday during a media breakfast meeting at Gigi’s Restaurant in Ezulwini.
    Benefit

    “If we were able to provide our own, we would be able to reduce costs and pass on the benefit to consumers. For example, in South Africa if a mobile operator leases a line from Telkom, it pays about E500 but for us we would pay around E16 000.” Dlamini said if MTN were to link to EASSy’s undersea fibre-optic cable this would improve the company’s bandwidth and boost its broadband capacity. EASSy is a fully integrated high -capacity, multi-technology network that links southern, eastern and northern African countries to the rest of the world through various interconnection points to the existing global submarine cable network. MTN Group has direct ownership in EASSy.

    “MTN Swaziland is an owner of EASSy cables through the MTN Group which allows all its operations to benefit. What we want is to be allowed to be connected to these cables through our own international gateway, which would reduce costs as right now we’re using SPTC’s broadband in terms of international connection.
    Forced

    “We’re forced to use whatever SPTC has in terms of international connectivity. We don’t want to be forced to use someone else’s infrastructure, we want to use our own undersea cables where MTN has invested,” said Dlamini.

    He said the introduction of competition into the international gateway market could reduce call rates by up to 90% and double call volumes as shown by several studies. Adding, he said in Nigeria the cost of international calls was reduced by more than 90% since liberalisation while in Zambia it was by up to 80% and Kenya cut its international call rates by 70%.

    “This in turn delivers significant macro-economic benefits by lowering the cost of business facilities, increasing trade and improving connections to the global economy; factors that are particularly important to developing countries,” he added.

  • South Africa based Wireless Business Solutions (WBS), the holding company that owns the WiMAX network, iBurst and Broadlink, has announced plans to roll out a LTE network by mid-2012.

    The company said that the development will enable it to reduce congestion the 3G demands of areas in Gauteng such as Sandton, Randburg and Westcliff.

    WBS also said that it would not ruling out possibilities of spectrum sharing and partnering in the deployment of LTE.

    WBS has already signed up agreements with reputable international partners for equipment supply and equipment funding.

    They envisage commencing the LTE deployment this month, and will continue until the first phase where 2,500 base stations are to be built, is completed. WBS expects to launch commercial LTE services in the first half of 2012.

internet

  • Sierra Leone is set to receive its first international fibre-optic connection following the landing of the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable in the country’s capital Freetown, Reuters reports. Gilbert Cooper, director of administration of the state-owned Sierra Leone Cable Company, said the cable is expected to become operational during the second half of 2012.

    When complete, the 17,000km fibre-optic system will run along West Africa with connections to France and South Africa, connecting 23 countries. ‘We are transforming because, as we are speaking, the only available communication outside Sierra Leone is through the satellite, and it is expensive, the quality is limited and the capacity also has some limitations,’ President Ernest Bai Koroma said at an event to mark the landing of the cable by Lumley Beach in western Freetown.

    The World Bank is providing USD30 million to fund Sierra Leone’s connection to ACE; in return the government said it would liberalise the international gateway for voice calls.

  • The cost of providing services through Telkom's network is maddening, says MWeb CEO, Rudi Jansen. Internet service providers (ISPs) MWeb and Internet Solutions argue that Telkom's current prices for connecting into its network to provide services to end-users are untenable.

    The ISPs were addressing an Independent of Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) committee during hearings into local loop unbundling (LLU). They argued that the cost of connecting into Telkom's network on the current IP Connect (IPC) model is hampering competition.

    Khetan Gajjar, head of new business development at IS, said there is “a lot” of bandwidth arriving on SA's shores, but this needs to get to the end-user. He argued that the current cost of connecting into Telkom's network is prohibitive.

    IP Connect (IPC), which connects ISPs into Telkom's infrastructure so they can deliver a service, is charged at an “exorbitant and unreasonable” level, said Gajjar. He added that ISPs cannot innovate, because they are limited to offering the products that Telkom will allow.

    ISPs are charged three times to deliver a service through IPC, said Gajjar. He noted that this is the only way of connecting into the last mile. “Telkom is stifling the market.”

    IPC is a broken model and needs to be changed into “something that works”, said Gajjar. “IPC is fundamentally broken, but it's what we have at the moment.”

    Ryan Hawthorne, senior manager of economic regulation at Neotel, said during the hearings that IPC accounts for 80% of Internet bandwidth costs, a price that the second operator can bring down substantially if it has access to the last mile.

    IS regulatory director Siyabonga Madyibi said local loop unbundling is the start of the introduction of a wholesale pricing regime. He says the process is a “stepping stone” towards effective regulation.

    There have been a number of interventions by the regulator, but these have not been effective, said Madyibi. He added that the playing field is tilted in Telkom's favour and there is very little new operators can do to stimulate competition and push down pricing.

    Although the effects of lower interconnect prices have been seen at wholesale level, other regulations have not changed the wholesale pricing model, argued Madyibi. He said geographic number portability has failed, because numbers are charged on a single basis, and blocks become too costly to port.

    In addition, said Madyibi, carrier pre-select is also not a success, because the incumbents have moved to protect their market share by increasing the cost of the origination fee. This means the regulation is only good on paper.

    As a result, argued Madyibi, ICASA has to get LLU right. If it does not have a regulatory impact; the sector will end up back at “square one”, he said. There is a need to intervene in the wholesale cost of data, he added.

    Madyibi said IS has tried to go around the last mile issue to connect to its clients, without any real success.

    MWeb CEO Rudi Jansen said the cost of IPC is “driving everybody mad”. He said it is about nine times the expense of moving data between Cape Town and Europe. “That is just absolutely absurd.”

    Jansen said it is difficult for ISPs to compete effectively with such high prices, and IPC causes congestion on the network, a situation that is out of ISPs' hands. The cost of an ADSL line rental is a big bugbear, said Jansen. He added that Telkom charges both the customer and the ISP for access to the last mile.

  • The government of Ghana led by the Ministry of Communications is facilitating moves to establish a public Internet Registry that will improve the governance and security of the internet in the country.

    An Internet registry is an organization that manages the allocation and registration of Internet number resources within a particular region of the world. Internet number resources include Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and autonomous system (AS) numbers, according to Wikipedia.

    “This registry will improve the governance and security in Internet.   As part of the arrangement the Ministry is  facilitating the establishment of a Network Computer Incidence Reporting Team (CIRT) with a Network Operation Centre (NOC)  to address issues of computer glitches and possible incidence on a 24/7 basis,” said Communications Minister Mr Haruna Iddrissu at a press conference in Accra early October this year.

    According to the Iddrissu, the CIRT will also provide remedial actions as well as facilitate the addressing of computer malfunction, cyber crime and virus attacks among others. He however did not give a timeline for the project.

    The world has five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs). They are the African Network Information Centre (AfriNIC) for Africa; American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) for the United States, Canada, several parts of the Caribbean region, and Antarctica; Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC) for Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and neighboring countries; Latin America and Caribbean Network Information Centre (LACNIC) for Latin America and parts of the Caribbean region and the Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre (RIPE) for Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia.

  • Determined to change internet users’ experience in the country, Spectranet Limited, a national broadband wireless access (BWA) provider has began operation in the country with the commercial inauguration of its WiMAX wireless broadband services, which provides cutting edge services at affordable price points.
     
    The company which was one of the four telecommunications companies that participated in the 2009 2.5 GHz spectrum licencing, is using the most advanced 16E Wimax technology, which facilitates fast, reliable internet access service.  Speaking at the launch in Lagos, Spectranet’s Chief Operating Officer, Rajiv Rao, said compared to some other technologies which are fixed access, the Spectranet wireless broadband service would provide a certain level of portability. “This is being delivered on the retail-friendly frequency, which facilitates better signal penetration and therefore, more stable services indoor”, he said.
     
    Initially available in Lagos, Spectranet said it would soon cover other cities across Nigeria in the nearest future. Chief Ezekiel Fatoye, a director in the company, noted, “today, reliable internet is no more a luxury, it is a necessity. We see tremendous potential in delivering high quality reliable broadband services as consumers in Nigeria increasingly demand high quality internet connectivity but at an affordable price.
     
    He said besides, the advantage of cost, convenience and reliability, Spectranet broadband services comes with easy deployment and wide choice of tariff and plans, which will be of great value to the customers.  Also speaking at the event, chairman of the company, the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, said, the company is committed to growing the business and making sure that every Nigerian benefits from the venture.

computing

  • Indian businessmen and women have been asked to seize the abundant opportunities in Tanzania by investing in key areas such as Information and Communication Technology (ICT) development.

    The challenge was thrown here by the Minister for Communications, Science and Technology, Prof Makame Mbarawa, during the plenary session of the India-Africa Business Partnership summit which opened here on Thursday.

    He said the government wants investors particularly in developing local multi-media content software that would address issues that are relevant to the national development.

    "Instead of relying on software that has been designed for the entire world, we need investors who would develop a customized IT content for our country," he said.

    He told the two-day forum that has brought together ministers from different African countries, businessmen and women, diplomats and representatives from multinational companies mainly based in India that Tanzania's fiscal and political stability offer a credible offer for investments.

    "With its strategic geographical position, Tanzania places itself as the most ideal place in the entire East and Central African region where investors not only from India but world over could come and explore various untapped business opportunities," he said.

    He mentioned other areas which are yet to be tapped fully as IT parks and small ICT villages where the youth could assemble and design software that is ideal for the local markets.

    He gave an example of business processing outsourcing (BPO) system which could create more jobs for Tanzanians by creating calling centres in the country.

    The minister said Indian investors should also capitalize on the fast growing East African Community (EAC) market, covering over 140 million people.

    He said that with the improved communication and infrastructure such as road and railway network, the EAC market offers a quick return on investment (ROI).

    "The fibre optic project has made communication easier for Tanzania and the landlocked countries such as Zambia, Malawi, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Rwanda," he said.

    The first phase of Tanzania's 10,674-kilometre national fibre-optic backbone was completed in May last year, connecting to the SEACOM, and EASSy submarine cables.

    It runs from Mombasa (Kenya) through Nairobi (Kenya), Kampala (Uganda), Kigali (Rwanda), and Bujumbura (Burundi) to Dar es Salaam.

  • Eight local technology start-ups have been offered a unique opportunity to pitch their business ideas to delegates, potential investors and media at this year’s Tech4Africa conference, taking place at The Forum in Bryanston, Johannesburg on 27 and 28 October.

    This platform has been created by virtue of Samsung Ignite, an initiative that aims to showcase and foster local technology development, and which has been made possible by Samsung Apps store, in association with Tech4Africa.

    “We are extremely excited about such a platform from which local technology innovators can showcase their ideas to a broad audience, potential investors and technology entrepreneurs who have walked this path before,” says Gareth Knight, Tech4Africa Founder and Managing Director. “Tech4Africa’s primary aim is to promote and inspire local mobile and web innovators, entrepreneurs and developers by inviting global leaders in the sector to share their knowledge and insight with an audience from across the continent.

    “The Samsung Ignite programme is an integral part of the overall vision that it is hoped will provide the spark that the eight start-ups need to take the next step in their development.”

    The 8 selected startups include:

    10Layer: the most feature-complete, competent and customisable open source content management system for serious publishers and media houses.

    Feedback Rocket: which offers an innovative online solution to obtain useful, insightful and honest feedback.

    iSign.pro: that allows users to get legally-binding contracts signed in minutes - legally, cheaper, greener and stored forever, with automatic reminders before renewal/expiry.

    Lessfuss: is an affordable South African personal assistant service that helps you save time and get things done for as little as R30/task.

    Mobiflock: is a product range that consists of a parental control service, a personal smartphone tracker, and a corporate smartphone manager.

    Plot my Ride: is a social networking service for the cycling community that offers an easy and real-time means of capturing, displaying, saving and sharing a cyclist’s riding activity.

    Real Time Wine: captures the supermarket wine-buying audience and empowers them to discover, review, engage with and buy wine using smartphone apps, game mechanics & barcode scanning.

    SnapBill: is an automated billing system that allows users to easily sell their services online.

    “We are very passionate about the African market and encouraged by the innovations emerging from the continent, so it’s a natural fit for us to partner with Tech4Africa to present this stage for innovators to showcase their products,” says Brett Loubser, B2C Apps Development Lead at Samsung. “We intend using this partnership to help create a wider network of local developers, reward African innovation in the mobile tech and app space and promote the Samsung Apps Store as an alternative channel for smartphone developers.

    “A key outcome of our participation as the Ignite partner is to engage South African developers and therefore we have made available a number of discounted tickets to facilitate their involvement at this year’s conference.”

    The Samsung Ignite participants will each be afforded five minutes to showcase their products in the main auditorium at the end of the first day of the conference. A panel of judges has been gathered to adjudicate and the winning startup will be announced on the second day of the event, and be given the opportunity to present their start-up to the entire Tech4Africa audience. The winner will also receive the latest Samsung mobile devices and valuable exposure and profiling through the Tech4Africa website.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Egyptian mobile network operator and broadband provider Etisalat Misr has reportedly delayed a listing on the country’s stock exchange until market conditions improve, Reuters reports citing local daily al-Mal.

    Etisalat Misr’s CEO Saleh al-Abdouli was quoted by the Egyptian newspaper as saying: ‘The significant impact (of the uprising) on the capital markets reduces the feasibility of the share listing, especially in light of the reduced liquidity circulating in the market.’ Prior to the political turmoil and popular uprising in the country

    Etisalat Misr is understood to have approached a number of Egyptian and regional investment banks with a view to procuring financial and legal advisory services for a listing, with between a 15% and 25% stake in the operator expected to be made available. Abdouli has reportedly said that his company is continuing to examine the prospects for listing and is now looking for the right time to launch the process.

  • The World bank has said that all players in African Global System for Mobile Communications networks, GSM, Nigeria inclusive would need about $15.5bn to enhance GSM coverage across the continent.

    In a recent report released by the bank, the African GSM market is capable of expanding beyond its present status, if the needed funding is injected into the industry.

    The World Bank report by Mark Williams, Rebecca Mayer and Michael Minges, posited that Africa will require a total expenditure of $15.5bn between 2007 and 2015, for Africa to expand its coverage of the GSM network across the continent.

    The report rated Nigeria as one of the countries that attracted the highest investment between the periods of 1998 to 2008, with an estimate figure of $12.7bn behind South Africa, that had $18bn.

    Other African countries rated in the report include: Kenya ($2.9bn); Sudan ($1.8bn)); Uganda ($1.6bn); Senegal ($1.5bn); Tanzania ($1.4bn); Democratic Republic of the Congo ($1.2bn); Ghana ($1.1bn); Angola ($1bn).

    Of this, $6.9bn is for areas that are potentially commercially viable, with the total cost of expanding networks to cover the eight percent of the population that lies outside these areas amounting to $8.7bn, or about $1bn per year.

    Access to finance, according to the World Bank, is often seen as a constraint on economic development in Africa, but the telecommunications sector appears to have overcome this constraint by accessing a wide range of financing sources to fund the rapid expansion of networks.

    Besides, the report, the latest of the World Bank, noted that operators and governments in Sub-Saharan Africa are investing heavily in the region’s ICT sector, stressing that, about $5bn a year or one percent of Gross Domestic Product is been invested.

    The report informed that, private sources accounted for the majority of capital investment in the sector, but that, a significant amount of money is invested by operators that remain under state ownership.

    According to the World Bank, Official Development Assistance from outside the region is still marginal, overall.

    The World Bank, which said it was cheapest to call the United States from Ghana at $0.31 per minute, compared to $0.88 a minute in 2008 from other parts of Africa, noted that Ghana, for instance, still has a long way to go in order to provide the best network in the continent.

    “Kenya and Ghana, for example, are of similar size, but Kenya’s networks are growing much more faster – with 6,445 km versus Ghana’s 919 km of backbone network currently under construction”, it stated.

    The World Bank adduced to the fact that, African capital markets, corporate bond markets, and commercial bank loans all have played key roles in financing investment in the telecommunications sector in the Continent, but stressed that, securities exchanges in Sub-Saharan Africa are generally underdeveloped, reason why telecommunications businesses were relatively well represented in them and have successfully used exchanges to raise investment finance.

    It further added that despite the wave of privatization and liberalization of the telecommunications market in Africa, the public sector—both domestic and foreign, continues to play a significant role in financing ICT development.

    The World Bank informed that, private sector has invested heavily in ICTs since the end of the 1990s, when the expansion of telecommunications networks in Africa began, adding that, this investment has fluctuated from year to year, however, and the amount of investment received by each country has varied enormously.

    The report explained that bank loans were used to finance investment in all types of infrastructure in Africa, and telecommunications infrastructure was no exception. According to it, at the end of 2006, outstanding commercial bank loans used to finance infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa totaled $11.8 billion. It however, stressed that, though it is difficult to determine the exact allocation of these loans among sectors, but that, at least $8.3 billion went to projects in the transport and communication sectors.

    The report further revealed that other development institutions are also involved in providing financing for telecommunications infrastructure in Africa.

    “The World Bank, for example, provided $338m in financing for investment in the ICT sector in Africa between 1998 and 2008. Not all of this, however, was invested in physical infrastructure: It covered a wide range of activities, from policy and regulatory reform to e-government and information technology ndustry development.”

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Tanzania: BR Solutions, a local information and communication technology firm, has launched a product dubbed "Huduma Fasta" that will enable Tanzanians to access business information through their cell phones. The technology which is currently available in Dar es Salaam is already connected to three mobile phone operators -- Vodacom, Airtel and Tigo and plans are underway to expand it to other regions.

    - South African BlackBerry users affected by the recent outage should seek recourse from the National Consumer Commission, Business Day reported on Thursday, 13 October 2011. South African National Consumer Commissioner Mamodupi Mohlala said consumers would find protection under sections 55, 56 and 61 of the Consumer Protection Act, which provided rights on the quality of goods, and liability for damage caused by goods. Everyone who was involved in the value chain could be held liable in terms of section 61 of the act. Some commentators said this might be difficult because the system failure occurred outside South Africa.

Digital Content

  • At the first ever Mobile Application Showcase competition in Ghana, two Mest start-ups, Saya Mobile and Nandimobile picked up the 1st and 2nd prizes respectfully. Kwamena Appiah-Kubi came 3rd with his innovative SMS Tweetbox.

    The event was organised by the Mobile Consortium team and sponsored by industry big wigs such as Indigo Trust, InMobi, and Busy Internet. The event attracted a significant number of individuals with interest in technology and mobile applications. It sought to throw more light on pressing topics such as Monetizing mobile applications, etc. The event also offered tech companies the opportunity to exhibit their services. On the day exhibiting organisations included, Letigames, Sproxil, Nandimobile, Esoko, MoTech. Dozens of participants engaged the exhibitors with questions with the aim of understanding the mobile technologies and the value they provided.

    At the latter part of the event, the Appcircus Mobile Apps Competition was put together as the various mobile apps were presented to an attentive audience. In the end the judges voted Saya Mobile winner of the first ever Appcircus Mobile Competition in Ghana. The Mest start-up picked up the top prize of an i-Pad 2 and cash prize of Ghc 2,000. Saya Mobile is a mobile chatting application targeted towards feature phones. With this, the winning company gets to be nominated to represent Ghana at the Mobile Congress in Barcelona in 2012.

  • SAP has released new mobile applications onto the Nigerian market aimed at improving efficiency in communication.

    Speaking at the SAP World Tour of Nigeria in Lagos last week, SAP president in charge of Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), Franck Cohen, said the introduction of new applications would, among others, boost the status of the booming smartphone business.

    Cohen revealed that a whopping one billion smartphones and tablets were expected to be released onto the market by 2015, a development that demands the expertise of SAP in the solution and software application business to add value to the communication and information technology sector.

    “Our solutions are meant to develop businesses and we don’t only innovate, we co-innovate,” said Cohen.

    Cohen said the coming in of both new smartphones and tablets would change the way companies, governments, non-governmental organisations and individuals conduct their businesses through Sap’s various solutions and applications.

    Speaking at the same event, SAP Managing Director for West Africa, Richard Edet, said his company’s growth was expected to increase on the African continent through the adoption of new technology and SAP solutions in the area of mobility and cloud computing.

    Tried and tested for 40 years in the provision of solutions and applications, SAP aims to add value as well as improve productivity in corporate organisations on a global scale.

    SAP’s solutions and applications are widely credit