Issue no 225

top story

  • As Libya gradually loses its pariah status and slowly but surely returns to the bosom of the family of acceptable nations, changes are also afoot within the state-run Libyan economy. Money is being spent on the country’s tired and overstretched telecoms infrastructure and Libya now has a new mobile phone network that has introduced a sort of competition into what was a massively overpriced and moribund sector.

    It is competition “of a sort” because the new operator, ‘Libyana’, is as much owned by the government as is ‘Al Madar’, the country’s original mobile network.

    And, the fact is that just how real any competition may be is probably an academic question anyway, because, for the average Libyan, mobile phones are an unimaginable and unattainable luxury. So it is all the more interesting then that Libyana is being pushed as a trendier and more sophisticated version of Al Madar.

    It will surprise no-one, either in Libya or elsewhere, to learn that the CEO of Libyana is a certain Mohamed Gaddafi. Yes, he is indeed the son of Muhammar Gaddafi, who has been Libya’s head of state since the late King Idris fled the country for Switzerland.

    Mohamed Gaddafi says the fact that the country’s two mobile networks remain firmly in the hands of the state does not mean that the government will keep prices artificially high. He points out that the cost of becoming a mobile subscriber in Libya has fallen by thousands of percent in the last few years and insists that as the Libyana network expands this year and next, costs for subscribers will continue to decline.

    Certainly, prices have come down but then it’s all relative, isn’t it? In 1997, it cost the equivalent of USD3,300 to become a subscriber to Al Madar, a sum that would definitely have put all but Colonel Gaddafi’s inner circle out of the running in the “I want a handset” stakes.

    In the seven years since, prices have fallen to USD68, an astonishing drop, but subscribers still have to cough up USD410 deposit – and that’s the equivalent of three months pay for the average Libyan. Steep? Certainly, but it is cheaper than the USD710 Al Madar charged before Libyana broke its monopoly.

    With the wacky economic logic for which Libya is justifiably famous, Mohamed Gaddafi acknowledges that the deposit is high but says it has been set at that level to discourage a sudden surge in people subscribing to the new operator: So much then for network planning and the laws of supply and demand.

    The CEO also says that the each deposit will, “in due course” be offset against call charges and that tariffs will “gradually decrease” as the network expands. Initially Libyana covers the three main cities of Tripoli, Benghazi and Sebha, but will be expanded to cover the entire country during 2005 and 2006.

    Now that his father is bringing Libya in from the cold, the country is starting to attract foreign investment for the first time in a generation and Libya now has a better route to market for its considerable oil exports, so money for infrastructure improvement is no longer a problem – and a lot needs to be spent on the fixed line network which is overloaded and old-fashioned. Indeed the country has just signed a USD242 million deal with Alcatel and Nokia for a network upgrade (see Telecom News - issue 224)

    However, Mohamed Gaddafi says, “Foreign mobile network companies could come here and spend millions in establishing themselves and their networks, but the reality is that within a few years they would generate billions in profit which would then be taken abroad. This would be counter-productive to our economy. At least the profits generated by Al-Madar and Libyana will be invested in future projects to develop our telecommunications sector and improving the lives of Libyans.”

    He does have a point but those prices are going to have to come down. Mobile subscriptions (with a handset thrown in) cost about USD20 in Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco.

    (SOURCE: Telecom TV)

telecoms

  • The General Manager of the Lone Star Communication Corporation (LCC), Hassan Baydoum, has accused the Management of the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation (LTC) of collecting interconnection fees from his company but not providing interconnection.

    Appearing before the National Transitional Legislative Assembly (NTLA) Committee on Post and Telecommunications Special Hearing recently, to provide clarification on why LCC cannot interconnect with other phone companies, Baydoun said his corporation has been compelled by LTC to pay for forty channels some of which have not being used by the corporation.

    He told the committee that although his company is not using all the channels, Lone Star is paying USD100 to the LTC per channel amounting to USD4,000.

    He disclosed that his company is prepared to inter-face with other cell phone companies in the country but said that the "problem has been with the LTC switchboard which makes it difficult for the Lone Star to interconnect.

    He challenged the LTC Managing Director, Joe Gballah, to prove that it is the Lone Star that failed to interconnect when in fact, it requested the LTC management to provide the corporation the opportunity that would lead to the interconnection but Lone Star is yet to do so. For his part, the General Manager of Atlantic Wireless (Liberia) Incorporated (AWI), Azzam Sbaity, expressed similar statement but blamed the LTC for not interconnecting with other phone companies. He averred that currently the AWI is conducting an interconnecting testing exercise which will begin operating hopefully by October 2004.

    The Perspective

  • The telecommunications liberalisation announced last week will create a boom for the Western Cape’s already vibrant call centre market, predicts Luke Mills of industry development agency CallingtheCape.

    The announcement by Communications Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri that licensed value added network service (VANS) providers will be able to carry voice traffic over the internet (VOIP) has already led Dialogue, one major local call centre company, to cancel plans for an overseas venture in an alternative African destination in favour of keeping the operation in South Africa.

    “We expect operating costs to become more competitive; the quality, standards and efficiencies of delivery to improve and infrastructure to be enhanced,” said Dialogue’s chairman Jason Drew. “This means South Africa can compete more effectively on global markets”.

    CallingtheCape’s Mills says the liberalisation should reduce the per-minute cost of an international call for mid-sized call centres to about R0.20 (US$0.03) over the next 18 months, from the current R0.65 (USD0.10), the lowest cost reported by call centre operators in a recent survey. This would bring telecommunications costs in line with other offshore locations. Telkom already provides a highly effective specialist call centre solution, using some VOIP technology, which offers rates as low as R0.30 (USD0.04) per minute for 5 million minutes per month. With increased competition prices should fall, even for lower volumes, and service levels should increase.

    “It’s a bold and far-sighted move by the Minister,” says Mills. “These reforms will over time make our rates competitive with those available in other offshore destinations and enable end-to-end VOIP to the desktop, which is a key requirement for some of the larger call centre investors. Add that to the Western’s Capes excellent skills base, work ethic and competitive costs, and the province is in a position to win a great deal of international business in the next few years.”

    Mills believes the industry could grow by as much as 10,000 new seats by 2008. “We know there is currently some excess managerial capacity in the industry so we’re well able to cope with this kind of growth,” he adds. “Investors have always seen high relative telecommunications costs as a major obstacle; with that removed, the prospects for the industry couldn’t be better.”

  • Nigeria will launch its information and communication satellite, "NIGCOMSAT-1" in 2006.The communication satellite, when launched, would help to improve telecommunication services in the country.It would also address a broad array of communication needs in the areas of telephony, broadcasting, broadband and Internet services.The satellite would also have a subsidiary pay load for space-based augmentation systems for navigation and global positioning systems.

    Nigeria is to launch its second satellite in 2007, Science and Technology Minister Turner Isoun said last week in Abuja. The satellite, christened "NigeriaSat-2"is coming after the pioneer "NigeriaSat-1" launched on Sept. 27, 2003 at Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia.

    NigeriaSat-1, a medium resolution and disaster observing and monitoring spacecraft with a life expectancy of about five years, had capability to conduct agricultural monitoring, hydrological mapping and assess damage through hazard mapping."The NigeriaSat-2, a 2.5-metre high resolution satellite is presently at the design stage and is expected to be launched by the grace of God in 2007," Isoun said.

    He said that the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) was working on the new satellite as part of African Resources and Environmental Management Constellation (AREMAC) satellite.The satellite, he said was being developed in the interest and in line with the objective of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) for the sustainable development of the continent.When launched, the minister said NigeriaSat-2 would also cater for the wider interests of geo-information stakeholders.It would serve as sources of geo-information data acquisition for both core and thematic data sets for the National Geospatial Data Infrastructure (NGDI) project.

    The Director-General, National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), Prof. Robert Boroffice, who confirmed the plan said the preliminary work on the satellite had started."We have already invited interested organisations for the design and manufacture of NIGCOMSAT-1 and we have appointed consultants for the project and for the frequency co-ordination of the satellite," Boroffice said yesterday.He disclosed that President Olusegun Obasanjo had mandated NASRDA to ensure that the satellite was launched in 2006 for sustainable growth and development of the country.The federal government had budgeted N3 billion for the communication satellite project.

    Vanguard

  • OPT telephone lines at Bohicon in the Zou district have been targeted by line traffickers who are using them to offer calls that they do not pay for. An enquiry by the Head of OPT in Bohicon and the police has uncovered network of line traffickers. OPT has been conducting a surveillance exercise against the traffickers for the last three months. One of the traffickers was arrested last week and all the members of the network are said to come from the Ibo community in Nigeria. Two others fled before the police pounced. They had been exploiting OPT lines situated near Tindji. The traffickers were technically sophisticated had opened up the telephone trunking and installed equipment to divert calls to themselves at no charge. Fraternité

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    Meanwhile in South Africa two men have been arrested for allegedly hacking into Telkom's network and operating an illegal exchange. Telkom says the two were found in a Telkom manhole near Heidelberg in Gauteng at 2am on Tuesday last week. They were arrested by Telkom investigating officers and an armed response company and taken to the Heidelberg police station where they were charged with fraud and malicious damage to Telkom's network. Telkom alleges in a statement that the men were responsible for damaging its network by breaking cables and operating their own illegal exchange. Known as “clip-on” fraud, this involves selling phone calls to a network of users by using legitimate lines and reconnecting them to international destinations. Illegal operators then collect money for the calls.

  • - Telecom Egypt and Ericsson have signed a contract for the supply of a multi-service network in Egypt in the region of Alexandria. The new network will provide both traditional narrowband services like wireline telephony and broadband service for fast Internet communications for both private and corporate subscribers.

    - On the final day of negotiations, SA's Telkom and its three communication unions have reached an agreement regarding the monopoly's proposed job cuts. Telkom is hoping to reduce its staff by some 1,381 jobs by the end of this year, and had sought to offer employees the option of voluntary retrenchment or early retirement, or for those whose jobs became redundant, the opportunity to be placed with Telkom's Agency for Career Opportunities for up to 12 months with full pay and benefits, while awaiting redeployment or reskilling.

    * Senegalese call centre operator Premium Contact Center International will have doubled its capacity by the end of September from 700 employees to 1500. The extension of its employee capacity has involved an investment in the region of FCFA 4.5 billion.

    PCCI : http://www.pcci.sn/

  • * Mali's Sotelma has launched a new product in its continuing war with its competitor Ikatel, Mali's SNO and mobile operator. The new service is called Ilafia and offers a combination of fixed and mobile telephony on a pre-paid basis. Pre-paid card values are FCFA2500, 5000, 10,000 and 25,000. A subscription to Ilafia costs FCFA 71,000 including taxes and users get FCFA5,000 of free calls. It is currently being tested on 300 lines but 29,000 lines have been set aside for the launch at the end of the year.

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    * SA's Vodacom, SA's last week announced the introduction of the 076 number range in its local network, which is immediately available to new customers.The new number range will add to the existing base of 082 and 072 Vodacom numbers. Vodacom has been allocated two million numbers in the 0761 and 0762 ranges by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa.

    * Telecom Namibia has launched a prepaid, fixed-line telephony service called CallMaker, on its Communication Application Platform supplied by Unisys Africa. The new offering services low-income earners, reduces the number of disconnected subscribers who are unable to pay their monthly bills, and aims to retain and grow the telco's 114 000-strong customer base.

    * Celtel Zambia Commercial Director Norman Moyo has attributed the lack of service in Chipata and Solwezi districts to the on-going upgrading exercise the company is undertaking. And Moyo has disclosed that coverage in Mongu in Western Province has been normalised. Mongu and Solwezi have been off the network since September 11, while service to Chipata has been erratic since last month.In an interview, Moyo assured that the problem would be resolved in the next three weeks.He admitted that the Celtel network has been on and off in some areas but said once the upgrading exercise was done, service provision would revert to normal.Last Friday, Celtel managing director David Venn said the company was upgrading its network capacity to enable it carry one million subscribers by 2006. Venn said for the present, the network upgrading exercise would facilitate the connection of Chongwe and Kazungula districts, which have been targeted after the launch of Kafue Gorge early this month.

internet

  • Alcatel announced that it has signed a contract with Divona Télécom, a consortium formed by Tunisian Internet service provider Planet and Monaco Télécom. The contract covers the turnkey delivery of a "DSL in the Sky" broadband network that will enable data transmission by satellite in Tunisia.This is the second consortium we have reported recently to be made up of a telco and an ISP combing forces to work together.

    The network, to be delivered by Alcatel Space before year-end, is based on the DVB-RCS Alcatel 9780 platform and integrates a satellite gateway and associated terminals. Divona will use it to develop its activities as a broadband service provider, notably through the offering of services such as Internet web browsing and high-quality virtual private networks (VPNs). This contract marks the beginning of a partnership with Divona Télécom, Tunisia's first private VSAT operator.

    The Alcatel "DSL in the Sky" solution seamlessly integrates with wireline DSL networks and with Alcatel's management solutions. It features two-way satellite communication that does not require any terrestrial connection, anywhere in the world. The downstream voice traffic allows flows of up to 2 Mbps while the upstream one allows for flows of up to 72 Mbps. The Alcatel solution, which is based on the open standard DVB-RCS, can be used to deliver a host of applications for ISPs and private corporate networks such as e-health, e-learning, voice over IP, videoconferencing and others.

    Gilles Souche, Country Senior Officer for Alcatel in Tunisia expressed his thanks to Divona Télécom for trusting Alcatel with this contract, which sets the foundation for a long-term and durable relationship. He added that "this partnership will contribute to expanding Tunisia's telecommunications network thanks to this satellite-based solution that is based on state-of-the art technology and which permits access to high speed Internet service. It will also make it possible for Alcatel to access new markets, especially in North Africa."

    WIFI Technology Forum

  • Telkom and Intel announced last night that they are to trial WiMAX broadband wireless networks locally, to give the end-user wireless alternative connections to the telco's network.Trials are expected to begin in the first part of next year in Pretoria and Durban.

    Reuben September, managing executive for Telkom's technology and network services, says the move is aimed at fulfilling a demand in the market and solving broadband issues.

    Telkom's Reuben September says this move could see Telkom winning back some of the customers it lost to Sentech. “We believe this is a big step toward getting over the bandwidth issues we have had in the past which have always been attributed to the slow uptake in certain technologies.”

    The broadband technology will enable a wireless alternative for the ‘last mile' broadband connectivity for business and residential customers, and will connect many to the Internet for the first time. The so-called 'last mile' is the connection between the end-user and the exchange.

    "Delivery of last mile access has and will continue to be one of the biggest technical challenges facing the ICT industry," says September.

    He adds that the broadband problem can not only be resolved with DSL or fibre solutions, as customers today want portability and mobility in addition to broadband connectivity.

    “Wireless broadband technology has the potential to satisfy these customer demands. In addition, this technology has the potential of opening new market opportunities through filling gaps and complementing the fixed-line networks."

    September says this move could see Telkom winning back some of the customers it lost to Sentech, particularly as the wireless connectivity provider has not been popular with its customers recently.

    "Broadband wireless networks like WiMAX have particular appeal in emerging market segments like SA, where new areas are being developed that today have limited wired infrastructure,” says John Davies, Intel VP of the Sales and Marketing Group.

    He adds that with broadband wireless, companies like Telkom will be able to provide mobile connectivity to customers who have a portable and nomadic lifestyle.

    “By 2006/07 Intel sees WiMAX technology being integrated into the first mobile devices such as laptops, PDAs and personal communicators," he says.

    The agreement between Telkom and Intel outlines the companies' plans to deploy the necessary infrastructure to take advantage of next-generation WiMAX broadband wireless technology (also known as 802.16). Early work has already begun to identify sites for the network infrastructure and obtain the necessary equipment.

    ''This agreement is part of Intel's effort to accelerate the deployment of broadband wireless technologies to the approximately 1billion users that already have high-speed access, and bring broadband capability to the next 3billion people around the world who don't,” says Davies.

    "Much the way Intel's Centrino mobile technology and WiFi changes the way businesses and individuals now use technology, new communications standards such as WiMAX will further accelerate and expand the benefits of wireless and mobile computing.''

    The WiMAX specification is in the process of being ratified by the IEEE, an international body tasked with developing an industry-wide technology standard.

    Ratification of the WiMAX standard and subsequent interoperability testing is expected later this year. WiMAX promises to enable high-speed, broadband wireless access across several kilometres to homes and businesses.

    Telkom believes standardisation is the driving force for economies of scale and the success of fixed wireless broadband adoption.

    "We see wireless broadband as being complementary to fixed broadband services providing a holistic approach to broadband penetration," September concludes.

    IT Web

  • LugandaICT Translations, a Ugandan based organization last week launched the first ever-indigenous local language software in Uganda, writes Esther Nakkazi. The software is in Luganda, a widely used dialect spoken by over 80 percent of the entire population and is available for download from the Internet. "We did not go for the deep Luganda because it is not comprehensively understood by the young generation who are the core users of the Internet. Most of the Luganda words used are slangs and can be understood by people from different areas,‰ said Ivan Mugabi from Linux solutions at the launch of the software. The software named Kayungirizi web browser‚ was launched by Johnson Nkuuhe, a Member of Parliament at the Nile Conference Center in Kampala.

    The Managing Director of Linux Solutions James Lunghabo said it would be easier for local communities who speak Luganda to surf the Internet. They will not ask for any explanations since everything is explained in Luganda-the keyboard, commands and pop ups.Lughabo said users will be able to access information on health, agriculture, education and news from the ŒKayungirizi web browser‚, which can be, used in computers, that have windows, Linux of Unix operating systems.ICT experts said the more than 50 percent of Ugandans will be potential users of the product especially in the rural areas where there is a shortage of information and low literacy levels. ŒKayungirizi‚ will be extended into other local languages like Lunyankole, Lunyoro, Luo and Ateso. Research is underway.The initiative follows the South African translation of computer software into indigenous South African languages.

  • - After much criticism of its monopoly of SAT-3 bandwidth, Telkom South Africa has cut its international bandwidth prices by 25%.

    - First National Bank (FNB) has introduced an FNB-branded Internet service as an extension to its existing eBucks Internet access option. The Internet access service was given a low-key launch in FNB branches last month and online in the past week, and is aimed at supporting Internet banking by providing clients with affordable Internet access.

    - TradeWorld, the e-trading hub, has signed an agreement with international marketplace Quadrem, which will see them merging to form what they claim will be one of the biggest local e-marketplaces. Under this agreement, TradeWorld, a wholly owned subsidiary of Tactical Software Systems (TSS), and Quadrem will deliver e-business solutions for South African clients, streamlining the procurement process from tendering or request for quotations, to purchase order and settlement notices.

computing

  • Ubuntu Linux, a new community-driven Linux distribution based on Debian, was released last week. Ubuntu is an African term meaning "humanity to others".

    Development of Ubuntu is being driven Canonical which was founded and is being funded by South Africa's Mark Shuttleworth. Canonical includes many of the world's best known and talented Linux, Gnome and Python developers. The core team selected by Shuttleworth, which include the likes of Benjamin Mako Hill and Jeff Waugh, will drive the development of the new distribution and maintain a regular six-monthly release cycle.

    Ubuntu 4.10 Preview is now available through the Ubuntu Linux website. Or users can register to receive a CD-based copy.

    The Debian-based Ubuntu Linux includes Gnome 2.8, kernel 2.6.8.1, OpenOffice.org 1.1.2 and comes with a text-based, but easy, installation procedure. Ubuntu has disabled the root user preferring to use sudo much like Mac OSX does.

    In an interview with OSNews, Ubuntu Linux team member Jeff Waugh said "Canonical has 34 employees around the world, covering almost every timezone. We work just like an open source project internally".

    "The project was started by Mark Shuttleworth. Working with the Open Source community is a natural extension of his existing educational and technology philanthropy ... and Ubuntu is a massive contribution on top of that!" said Waugh.

    Waugh said in the same interview that "at its core, Ubuntu is Debian. Our six-monthly releases are based on Debian's Sid development branch, with lots of bugfixing and integration work (which goes back to Debian), and some special additions such as the very latest GNOME releases. Ubuntu 4.10, which we call the "Warty Warthog" shipped GNOME 2.8 in our Preview release last night. We provide 18 months of high-impact, dataloss and security support with every release."

    According to the development team, "Ubuntu is a complete desktop Linux operating system, freely available with both community and professional support. The Ubuntu community is built on the ideas enshrined in the Ubuntu Manifesto: that software should be available free of charge, that software tools should be usable by people in their local language and despite any disabilities, and that people should have the freedom to customise and alter their software in whatever way they see fit."

    With this in mind Ubuntu also includes the very best in translations and accessibility infrastructure that the Free Software community has to offer, to make Ubuntu usable by as many people as possible, says the team.

    Ubuntu comes on a single CD, with thousands of extra packages available online. The install is optimised for speed and simplicity. Ubuntu has excellent support for laptops (both x86 based and Powerbook/iBook PPC based), and can also be set up in a minimalist server configuration.

    Ubuntu Linux includes:

    GNOME 2.8

    Firefox 0.9

    Evolution 2.0

    OpenOffice.org 1.1.2

    XFree86 4.3 with improved hardware support - The team says the included XFree86 packages have been updated to support plenty of new hardware. "We also have worked hard to detect as much hardware as possible, simplifying the X install considerably. We plan to ship X.org with our next release, due in April 2005."

    Tectonic

  • Microsoft last week launched its Fresh Start for Donated Computers, an education initiative designed to provide Windows 98 or Windows 2000 to schools using donated computers in Cameroon and Ethiopia.

    The initiative is part of Microsoft’s Partner’s in learning programme, aimed at empowering teachers and students to achieve their full potential by providing technology and training in education.

    “Our fundamental goal is to ensure that the latest technology is made available to students and teachers. Through the Fresh Start for Donated Computers Initiative, we will be helping schools to reinstall Windows on computers that have been donated to them at no charge ” says Reza Bardien, education programs manager for Microsoft West, East and Central Africa.

    Donated computers are a fundamental part of educational programmes around the world and it is estimated that there are approximately 600,000 donated computers in schools across Africa that can benefit from this initiative.

    The Fresh Start for Donated Computers Initiative supports the new Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) schools’ objective of ensuring that every African youth leaving school has the necessary ICT skills to compete in the digital age.

    Primary and secondary schools can apply online for the Fresh Start for Donated Computers Initiative or contact an NGO to facilitate the application process. Schools that have successfully qualified for the programme will receive a licensed copy of the windows 98 or Windows 2000 operating system for PCs (Pentium II or older ) at no charge.

    The Fresh Start for Donated Computers Initiative runs in conjunction with the Microsoft Authorized Refurbishers (MAR) programme. Through the MAR programme, Microsoft works with computer refurbishers to provide a cost effective way to re-install the Windows operating system on donated pre-used computers destined for education institution and non-proflt charitable organizations.

    Addis Tribune and Le Messager

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  • - LinuxWorld will be held in Sandton, Johannesburg next year. Exhibitions for Africa and IDG World Expo will organise and host the South Africa version of LinuxWorld. The exhibition and conference will be held at the same time as the Futurex 2005 show, which takes place at the Sandton Convention Centre from 17-20 May 2005.

    - Sahara Computers of South Africa and Sahara India Pariwar (a completely separate company) have set up a joint venture company to pursue business in India.

    - Lagos Digital Village held a graduation ceremony for its first set of students on 15 September. The project is a multi-stakeholder partnership between Junior Achievement of Nigeria (www.janigeria.org), Microsoft (www.microsoft.com) and the Lagos State Government (www.lagosstate.gov.ng), and it enjoys support from volunteer tutors and the Lagos Mainland Local Government.

Digital Content

  • Internet service provider M-Web has come under fire for including abortion in a package of "taboo" subjects that include Satanism and pornography for young web surfers.

    The Women's Legal Centre, which earlier this year helped secure an important abortion-rights ruling in favour of minor children, says the restriction appears to be unconstitutional.

    However, M-Web said it is merely providing an option for parents to "restrict access to certain topics".

    The package appears in M-Web's free "safe-surfing" option, which parents can activate to keep their kids from "unsavoury or harmful" influences on the web.

    When activated, the programme automatically denies access to web pages or sites that feature or promote pornography, nudity, criminal activities, gambling, illegal drugs, abortion, cults, Satanism and weapons. It also cuts out blacklisted chat sites.

    Director of the Women's Legal Centre Michelle O' Sullivan said the right of access to information and the right to reproductive decision-making were guaranteed by the constitution.

    "In a sense, what they (M-Web) are doing is limiting access to information to minors that they will require in order to make an informed decision," she said.

    "I would think it is in violation of the constitution." O'Sullivan said it could also be argued that the restriction violated the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act, which said a person seeking a termination had a right to be fully informed on the procedure, and made it an offence to prevent access to termination.

    In May this year, Pretoria High Court had confirmed that girls under 18 could have abortions without parental consent. She said the internet would be a "very important" source of information for young people, and it was vital they were able to use it.

    General manager of M-Web's home division Russell Dreisenstock said his company was not limiting access to any information available on the internet, and that its "parental guidance tool" was simply an "optional restriction" that parents could select. "The final decision remains with parents.

    "However, in the light of the new (court ruling), we will be consulting with our subscriber base to reassess how our parental control tool should be adapted. All or nothing, says M-Web "We would welcome any input from the Women's Legal Centre on this issue." Dreisenstock said parents could not activate only particular items on the "taboo" list: they activated either the whole package, or nothing. This was because M-Web had found that the more complex the software options it offered, the less people were inclined to use them. "So in the interests of simplicity we've adopted a switch-on, switch-off approach."

    News24

  • - The Sports Guild, an Internet sport portal, has announced the launch of Sports Information Radio (SIR), the first SA-based satellite radio station. Providing commercial-free music and sports programming to homes across the country, SIR will reportedly broadcast from the 11th October this year, providing an informative platform for all sports persons and enthusiasts.

    - The Agence de presse sénégalaise (APS) has launched a new version of its site: http://www.aps.sn/

    - Uganda's New Vision website, www.newvision.co.ug, which was developed in 1999 has been ranked as the most accessed site in Uganda. The Monitor, Bukedde, Radio Simba, Sunday Vision, Infocom, True African, Uganda Online, Uganda Tourist Board, Travel Uganda and Procurement News follow in that order.

    - ICANN is calling on the African community to provide comments and input on appropriate modes and locations for ICANN regional presence and more significant participation in ICANN activities"

    http://www.icann.org/announcements/announcement-16sep04.htm

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Teleaccess (Zimbabwe) (Pvt) Ltd, controversially licensed by cabinet last year as the second national fixed telephone operator, is unable to roll out its project due to lack of funds. Official sources said TeleAccess, headed by Zanu PF Masvingo provincial chair Daniel Shumba, is in dire straits.

    They said TeleAccess has now dug into a Jewel Bank overdraft facility to the tune of ZD149 billion. The outlay is said to have been used largely as working capital rather than capital expenditure. Sources said the Jewel Bank, which is becoming increasingly exposed to the overdraft, has now either frozen the facility or is about to do so to cut its losses.

    Jewel Bank advanced money to TeleAccess when Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono was still its chief executive, believing that TeleAccess would start operations and repay the loan. The bank is now said to be thinking of converting debt into equity if it can't recover its money.

    Jewel Bank chief executive Nyasha Makuvise recently refused to comment, citing "client-bank confidentiality".

    However, Shumba has denied any financial problems, saying he owned a lot of assets. He said whatever the amount of overdraft, it was negligible compared to the project's total value and his asset base.

    Shumba said his licence alone was worth US$100 million, although banking sources described it as "a piece of political paper that is not transferable".

    Sources said Shumba had been struggling in vain to raise money from abroad to finance his project. He recently shifted offices at the up-market Sandton business centre in Johannesburg after a row with his landlords over rentals. In Harare TeleAccess is moving offices to BB House from the expensive Kopje Plaza.

    Zimbabwe Independent

  • Econet Wireless Holdings Limited (EWHL), stands to rake in USD14 million from the proposed sale of its 14 percent stake in Botswana's Mascom Wireless.

    EWHL founder and group chief executive officer Strive Masiyiwa told The Financial Gazette last week that the transaction, likely to come under shareholder scrutiny in November, would see the Zimbabwe operation getting a US$14 million boost for its network expansion.

    "That transaction is very straightforward. The (Mascom) shares were owned by my family and were sold to EWHL. In fact, it was not a sale, but a reorganisation. The company (EWHL) will get US$14 million for that asset," Masiyiwa said, adding that the funds would go towards increasing EWHL's subscriber base.

    "It is an opportunity to increase the subscriber base to about 400 000, which is double the current figures," Masiyiwa, who is on the verge of concluding a multi-billion-dollar deal with South Africa's Allied Technologies Limited (Altech), said.

    EWHL's subscriber base grew by 20 percent in the first half of the year, to 173 606 subscribers by June, to consolidate its position as Zimbabwe's biggest mobile phone network.

    Zimbabwean cellular phone companies have been hamstrung in their expansion plans by a chronic shortage of foreign currency. Over 90 percent of cellphone companies' costs are foreign currency- denominated.

    The Econet Wireless Group (EWG), which warehouses the various international Econet companies Masiyiwa has established in the past five years, has entered into a joint venture agreement with Altech, a JSE Securities Exchange-listed technology group, to establish a multi- billion-dollar firm to explore the international telecommunications market.

    Should EWHL successfully dispose of its Mascom stake, then EWG will effectively control 40 percent of the company, which operates Botswana's biggest mobile network and is that country's second largest company, after kimberlite giant, Debswana.

    Masiyiwa indicated that the proposal could be presented before EWHL shareholders at the company's Annual General Meeting (AGM), scheduled for November.

    "We are not in a big hurry. We will put the it on our AGM agenda in two months," Masiyiwa said.

    The pioneering mobile phone technology mogul warded off spirited resistance from minorities last year, when he shored up his EWHL from 26.1 percent to 60 percent following a share swap that saw EWHL taking up the 14 percent interest Mascom.

    Mascom has proved to be a shrewd investment for EWHL, contributing a quarter of the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed group's attributable earnings of $53.3 billion in equity earnings in the past financial year.

    However, the prospect of doubling its subscriber figures in Zimbabwe, where increased regulatory flexibility on tariff reviews has seen Average rate Per User (ARPU) figures growing five-fold, might be an attractive option, more so as EWHL is guaranteed dividend income from EWG, despite not being a shareholder.

    The Econet Wireless Holdings Trust, which currently warehouses EWHL's interest in the foreign Econet operations, will have an effective 23 percent interest in the company to emerge from the merger of EWG and Altech.

    EWHL chairman Tawanda Nyambirai has said that Louvre Trustees, trustees of EWH Trust, have decided that his company was entitled to dividend income from the shares held by the trust in EWG.

    The Financial Gazette

  • The minister of communications has pressed ahead with the awarding of the second national operator (SNO) licence today, despite the dark clouds of pending legal action against her.

    A statement issued by minister Ivy Matsepe-Cassaburri's office today says she has granted to the SNO comprising Nexus Connexion, Transtel, Esitel, WIP Investments Nine trading as CommuniTel, Two Consortium and the remaining unallocated equity shareholder, a licence to provide public switched telecommunications services, subject to the following conditions:

    * Acceptance of the shareholding and control structure of the SNO.

    * Finalisation of and agreement on the business plan.

    * Finalisation of the shareholders and subscription agreements.

    As stated in the 26 August announcement, a new company will be incorporated which will hold 51% of the equity share capital of the SNO.

    In terms of the procedure, the minister awards the licence, then the regulator (ICASA – the Independent Communications Authority of SA) finalises the terms and conditions, and then finally issues the licence with the conditions attached.

    Socikwa says the three elements of the process going forward are the selection of the SNO partners, the integration of the various companies to create one entity, and then the final issuing of the licence by ICASA.

    “What we have come to expect from ICASA is that they issue a timeline stating when they will hold public hearings and when written submissions have to be made so as to keep the process as transparent as possible,” he says.

    Transtel CEO Karl Socikwa says the process going forward will see the selection of the SNO partners, the integration of the various companies to create one entity, and then the final issuing of the licence by ICASA. One of the original bidders, Optis Telecommunications, has instituted legal action against the minister to stop the awarding of the licence until the judicial review is completed. However, the Pretoria High Court yesterday upheld the minister's point of view that the licence announcement must happen.

    However, Optis' attorney Bradley Allison says: “My client will continue with his action, especially in the light of Nexus restarting theirs.”

    CommuniTel's Mike van den Bergh says the organisation welcomes this as an important and positive step forward, but it had hoped to achieve greater clarity on the investor who will get the unallocated equity.

    “The wording of [the Minister's] announcement shows that she's actually playing fast and loose and essentially, being a typical politician.” - CommuniTel's Mike van den Bergh. “The lack of clarity on this issue is currently impeding our progress towards formulating a business plan and shareholders agreement,” he says.

    “A key factor here is also that the minister has awarded the licence, but the regulator still has to issue it, so effectively all she has done is made it ICASA's problem.

  • - Cointel, and its commerce brand Simplus, today announced that it has reached a milestone achievement for the processing of m-commerce transactions. Together with its strategic partners, Absa and MasterCard International, Cointel has processed transactions worth 5 billion in gross rand value, making it the largest m-commerce facilitator in SA.

    ADVERTISEMENT Nigeria has the fastest growing teledensity in the world. Are you aware of its full potential? For a comprehensive analysis of this market and its opportunities we invite you to join us at CWCs 3rd International Nigerian Telecommunications Summit ‘Realising Opportunities in Nigerian Telecommunications’ help under the patronage of the Ministry of Communications, Federal Republic of Nigeria, 20 - 21 September 2004, Carlton Towers Hotel, London, UK. Discussion topics to include, Government policies and incentives for investors, Strategies to improve operator performance and enhance quality of service, Viable options for solving the interconnectivity problem in Nigeria, Keeping pace with new technology, Plans to increase local content. For full details contact Tim Millard, tmillard@thecwcgroup.com, +44(0)2070894200, www.thecwcgroup.com

More

  • - Lyndall Shope-Mafole has been appointed Director-General of South Africa's Department of Communications. Announcing the appointment from a conference in Rumania, Minister of Communications Dr Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri said:"Ms Lyndall Shope-Mafole brings with her a wealth of experience technically, managerially and politically. She has vast experience as an activist for developing nations in various international ICT forums. She has also been closely involved in the evolution of the South African ICT sector".

    The African Telecommunications Union (ATU) and International Telecommunications Union (ITU) have been called to put more effort in the promotion and investment in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure by Sentech's Chief Operating Officer, speaking at the Highway Africa Conference. Presenting a paper at the plenary session of the conference Gladwin Marumo said inadequate infrastructure makes the industries very uncompetitive hence organisations like the ATU and ITU needs to come put in more effort, writes Timothy Kasolo. He cited a project that his company is undertaking in Gauteng province of South Africa where the Sentech has connected about 1100 schools to the internet.

    - On the move: Paul Fitchet is leaving Iridium Satellite LLC...Comztech has appointed a Citrix Product Manager - Donovan Mooney - to look after the channel.

  • VSAT Field Engineering Training Course, 22-23 September 2004

    AITEC in association with Q-Kon of South Africa would like to invite delegates to a 2 day VSAT Training course to be held on the 22nd -23rd September 2004 at the Grand Regency Hotel, Nairobi.

    Helen Moroney

    AITEC

    Address: 20 Wellington Street, St Ives, Cambridgeshire PE27 5AZ, UK

    Email: helenm@aitecafrica.com

    Tel: +44 (0)1480-495595

    Fax: +44 (0) 1480-495596

    Web: www.aitecafrica.com

    Women and ICT: Challenges and Opportunities on the Road to Tunis 2005

    A pan-African conference covering all gender issues related to ICT development in Africa.

    Arusha International Conference Centre, Arusha, Tanzania 20-22 October 2004 website www.aitecafrica.com to book online.

    3RD NIGERIAN TELECOM SUMMIT

    Nigeria's annual high level talk-shop on telecommunications policy direction and stocktaking.

    Host Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC

    Date October 26 - 27, 2004

    Venue NICON Hilton Hotel, Abuja

    For more information: ncc@ncc.gov.ng

  • - The African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) is looking for a Technical Operations Manager to be based in Nairobi.The successful candidate will be responsible for identifying appropriate opportunities for agricultural technology interventions to address the needs of resource-poor African farmers. S/he will provide overall leadership and technical supervision in the implementation of the AATF's project portfolio.

    http://www.comminit.com/vacancy1978.html

    Contact m.tilahun@cgiar.org

    If our correspondent is "off the mark" or you have factual amendments, mail them to us and we will include them in subsequent News Updates. If you'd like to contribute, write and let us know.

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