Issue no 359 17th June 2009

top story

  • Although the roll-out date for One Laptop Per Child’s (OLPC) low-cost machine has been put back until October 2007, OLPC is using a limited number of trial machines to run pilots to gain experience of how it will work in the local context. The machine is made of tough white and green plastic, has a four-hour battery, a color screen and built-in Wi-Fi. Russell Southwood caught up last week with Antoine Van Gelder who is part of OLPC’s South African developer programme. He gave a frank but enthusiastic assessment of what’s being done to get the machine into use in Africa.

    Q: What’s your relationship to One Laptop Per Computer (OLPC)?

    I am a cheerleader for OLPC but I have no formal affiliation to OLPC Worldwide. We want what happens here in South Africa to be as grassroots as possible. It’s a case of ‘you’ve got the hardware, how are you going to market it?’ The idea is to be a central point for anyone who needs help.

    Q: So how did you get the laptop?

    We got the laptop for free. OLPC run a developer programme. At the moment it has a limited number of machines and these have tended to go to the software developers. It urges people to join this programme if they’ve got an idea. Morgan Collett is the other person in South Africa who’s involved.

    Q: So how are you going to sell the laptops?

    The reason the laptop is so cheap is because there’s a fatal flaw in the project. 50% of the cost of any project of this kind is the distribution and marketing chain. Nicholas Negoponte (the project’s founder) ‘fired’ the distribution and marketing chain! OLPC will sell you the laptops provided you make an order for 250,000. That’s better than last year when it was 1 million. There’s very few organisations that can put up the money for that size of order so it leaves Governments and UN organisations. The current price is US$175 so an order of that size would cost $4,375,000.

    Q: So who are you talking to?

    The idea is to give away a laptop to every child in South Africa. That’s a relatively small percentage of the education budget for one year so it’s not completely unthinkable. The machine has a lifespan of five years. If we can’t get the Government to do this, we’ll look at other options. We’ll find someone who’s got cash to float the loan and then collate orders for organisations and individuals. The price of an individual unit is the price of a cellphone. People can find that kind of money. Someone like a Foundation may buy the first 250,000.

    Q: You mentioned starting a pilot?

    Yes, the main thing at the moment is to get a pilot running. We need enough laptops to put them in every classroom in a place. We are looking at the Eastern Cape where most of the figures in the democratic struggle came from. We’ve got a candidate school on the Wild Coast and we’ve got a guy there who’s strongly involved in this local community. We cannot afford to be perceived as coming from outside with this thing that will change people’s lives.

    The first thing we need to do is to get a handle on the leadership in the community and get to know them. It’s a case of convincing them that the 4-5 strangers who will come with these strange green and white boxes that may threaten their position. We need to work carefully with them and step one is getting that conversation going.

    Q: What happens then?

    If we can get buy-in, we’ll have enough laptops for every kid in the village for one month, which they get to keep afterwards. We’ll be there to see what they do with them.

    Q: What’s your best guess at this point as to what will happen?

    My only real previous experience comes from Scarborough which about a year ago where we started preparing for the OLPC pilot. We did this pre-pilot in a white, upper middle-class community. To start with we put in a free mesh network. After a year, the whole village was connected.

    One of the first things that happened was that the kids started socialising using the network and playing games. There’s an incredibly strong community of kids as a result. We gave them a whole universe of their own they can play with. They’re now running their own radio station.

    After about six months the adults started to get it. Scarborough has a huge but not much used community hall. A couple of parents started a youth centre with ping-pong and pool tables and a DVD player. They set this up for the kids. All kinds of politics came with it. There are new power structures, leaders and followers. So it’s not been all wine and roses but new life has been pumped in. We’re hoping for much of the same when we do the pilot.

    Q: How will the laptop be used in the formal context of the classroom?

    There’s no curriculum. There’s no training programme. Teachers will sink or swim. We can show them the e-Toys and other programmes on the laptop, but when we leave, they’re on their own.

    If the goal is to create a nation of scientists and engineers, I don’t think we’ve got 1% of that with this. Mark Shuttleworth with the programme is tackling that need. We’re hoping that workbooks and worksheets will come out of that. He’s also putting his money into Python and Smalltalk.

    Q: But how do you overcome the lack of engagement with the curriculum?

    There’s a lot of scope to use the laptop as an exploratory tool. For example with geography, you can go to Wikipedia and look up pictures and information. It’s to do with the shifting of constraints.

    Normally a classroom has to keep quiet so the teach can teach. Technology enables you to shift the classroom conversation (that might take place if everyone was not quiet) into cyberspace so as not to interrupt the teacher.

    With e-Toys you can build things and the tools are very strongly focused on science and maths. This is great for science and maths teachers but there are not many projects for those who don’t follow that path.

    I’ve also not mentioned the school servers. It’s not a standalone fileserver. There’s Wikipedia software on it. The server price is not yet finalised but it’s likely to be between $250-300.

    Q: What’s the battery life of the machine?

    Absolutely beyond awesome. It lasts for four hours with standard use and no power management. With the new battery chemistry, there’s talk of getting 8 hours. The screen of the machine is 10 inches, high resolution and in colour.

    Q: What’s security like? Won’t the laptops simply go walkies?

    If you give candies to every kid, there will be adults who want to take them away from the kids. The machines come with revocation keys. So if these are not renewed, the machine will disable itself. I don’t think that anyone is expecting that no machines will be stolen but the idea is to minimise it.

    Q: Are pilots happening elsewhere?

    Most of the other pilots are happening in Nigeria, Argentina, Nepal and Mexico.

    Q: What’s happening in Nigeria?

    Those working with OLPC found a village and put in the laptops and it’s been happening for about a month. It’s difficult to get a clear analysis but their web site has a lot of smiling kids. But the real take-home message was that the kids refused to go home and attendance figures have gone up to 100%. Indeed kids they thought were lost to the system have started coming back to school. So with no running software to speak of, no preparation and it is revitalising the school. Whether it will last, we’ll have to see.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Celtel Nigeria has spent around NGN8.6 billion (USD69 million) on the expansion of its network over the last twelve months with the completion the transmission backbone from the South West to the South East across the Niger Delta. Meanwhile work is progressing on the North to South backbone which will complete a ring across the country. The company also plans to roll out 100 base stations per month across the six geopolitical zones of the country with a special focus on increasing the number of base stations in the north west region from 186 to 400.

    - Algerian mobile operator Wataniya Telecom Algeria has launched a suite of bespoke mobile and web service digital media offerings supplied by Wmode, a provider of digital media distribution services.

    - Incumbent telco Malawi Telecommunications Limited (MTL) has launched its fixed-wireless ‘Liberty Phone’ service in the Zomba region, as part of its USD7.5 million project to provide telcoms to unserved rural areas. . The Liberty Phone, which has a range of 40km comes with a solar panel for recharging in areas of unstable power supply.

    - Econet Wireless, Zimbabwe’s largest mobile phone operator, is to set up six new base stations in Bulawayo as part of its expansion programme that will see it increasing its capacity to 1.2 million subscribers by February next year.

    - Sotel Chad, the national incumbent has launched a new fixed line service branded “Tawali”. Based on CDMA 2000 technology and supplied by Chinese company ZTE, the new phone service combines mobile and fixed line telephony and also offers high speed internet connection.


  • The liberalization and privatization process of Sudan’s communication sector is on the right track, according to the country’s Information and Communications Minister Al-Zahawi Ibrahim Malik. He said the African country which has nine neighbours on its borders had also taken various steps to develop its communication system, particularly with neighboring countries.

    Sudan was planning to have fibre-optic cable connection to Eritrea, Al-Zahawi said at a press conference here. Being Africa’s largest country with 35 million population, Sudan planned to build fibre-optic cable connections with Chad and Cameroon, he said. Sudan currently has fibre-optic cable connections with Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

    Al-Zahawi said fibre-optic cable connections boosted international communication flow with high speed and Internet services, providing a better environment for foreign investors. He said a river cable system to Uganda and from there to Rwanda was also in the pipeline.

    Sudan currently has 16,000 kilometres of fibre-optic cable connections with about 13,000 kilometres under Sudanese Telecommunications Ltd (Sudatel). A total of 27 universities in the country have fibre-optic cable connections, Al-Zahawi said.

    He also said that the liberalization of the communication sector had made it more easy for the private sector to invest in the fast-growing sector. "The government is only concerned with giving out licences and supervising performance of the communication companies," he added.

    Al-Zahawi said the privatization process had also caught up with television and radio services with the Sudanese government granting licences for radio stations to be owned either by individuals or private enterprises.

    "Currently we are thinking seriously of enacting laws to liberalize TV and radio transmission, giving more opportunities for the private sector to play a more effective role," he said. Al-Zahawi said the next step was to expand TV coverage to cover the whole country and in this context, the government has an integrated plan of action.

    Sudan Tribune

  • In its drive to make telecommunications more affordable and accessible, Telkom has planned overall price reductions from 1 August this year. The telecommunications giant is waiting for word from the Independent Communication Authority of South Africa (ICASA), on whether these proposed price-cuts will be approved. "We are reducing our prices again in line with our overall drive to defend and grow our revenues.

    "The proposed price reductions will not only ensure more savings for our existing customers but will also attract new entrants to the broadband experience," Reuben September, Telkom's Acting Chief Executive Officer said in a statement Wednesday.

    The regulatory formula allows Telkom to file a change in the basket of products of 8.7 percent. Therefore, Telkom could have increased its prices by 8.7 percent but instead is filing for an overall price decrease of 1.2 percent.

    "That we have kept our increases well within these limits and have filed for an overall price decrease of 1.2 percent on our basket services, clearly demonstrates our on-going commitment to our customers," said September. "In addition, it reflects our determination to make telecommunications more affordable and accessible."

    "While the net impact of the proposed prices will vary among customers the overall effect will be a reduction in the cost of telecommunications in South Africa." The minimum charge for local calls remains unchanged at 59.4 cents, including VAT, as does the per minute rate of 38 cents, including VAT, with a small increase in the Callmore rate (from 16c to 17c per minute, including VAT).

    Calls to neighbouring countries see an average decrease of 15 percent during peak times and 19 percent during Global off-peak times. Further good news is the 10 percent decrease in long distance call charges - 65c per minute, including VAT, during Standard Time and 32.5c per minute, including VAT, during Callmore Time - and a 9 percent average reduction in International calls.

    Those with family or business ties in the UK and USA others, will especially benefit, with calls costing 95c and 85c, including VAT, during Global Peak times and Global Off-peak Times respectively. The main beneficiaries of the proposed price changes will be DSL users. They will enjoy an average reduction of 18.2 percent and in the entry level (up to 384 Kbps Access) of 38 percent.

    The new broadband offering - the entry level Do Broadband - which combines DSL 384 Kbps access and the Internet Service Provider (ISP) - has also been cut and will cost R199 per month, including VAT, (a 29 percent reduction). "For the past five years we have been aligning our prices to be more competitive, and in line with international standards and related cost," said September.


  • Mobile phone subscribers will pay about N8.1 billion annually under a proposal being pushed by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to implement a system for blocking stolen handsets on the nation's telecoms networks.

    But the service will not come free as phone suscribers will cough out a monthly fee of N20 for the compulsory services if ongoing talks with stakeholders in the telecoms market, which is receiving mixed reactions, is implemented by the telecoms regulator.

    Technology Times checks revealed that NCC, in its bid to check the incidence of mobile phone theft in the country has issued a licence to a company called Net Visa to begin a central equipment identity register (CEIR) that will offer a clearing house for operators to exchange data on stolen phones and block such handsets across all networks.

    According to official statistics from NCC, the Nigerian mobile market which has experienced significant growth in recent years peaked at 34 million subscribers in January 2007.

    Under the plan, every mobile phone users in Nigeria will pay a compulsory monthly fee of N20 that adds up to N680 million and N8.1billion in monthly and annual revenue respectively for the CEIR licensee under the proposed system championed by the NCC to stem the incidence of handset theft.

    Technology Times checks revealed that the point of convergence among all stakeholders is that there is clear and urgent need for a mechanism to combat the growing incidence of mobile phone theft.

    However, there is divergence of views among stakeholders on measures being taken by NCC to address the issue which some analysts reckon may enrich a few well-connected people at the expense of the exponentially-growing mobile phone users in the country.

    A meeting called by NCC in Abuja Tuesday this week in Abuja among stakeholders in the sector in a bid to push ahead with the implementation of the scheme was not conclusive because of divergence of viewpoints on the regulator's implementation plans.

    One of the areas in contention is the issue of the compulsory N20 monthly fee that phone users nationwide will have to pay if the NCC proposal is carried out; a developement that may also pit the regulator against mobile phone companies who claimed they are able to provide the service cost-free to users as part of their corporate social responsibility without the need for Net Visa, "which they reckon is a 'middle man' out to benefit from the mobile boom without adding any value", a source told Technology Times.

    Spokesman of NCC, Dave Imoko, did not comment when asked about the issue of licence allegedly issued Net Visa. Based on this Net Visa is projected to earn an estimated N68 million monthly and N6.8 billion if the service goes live on the the contentious N20 monthly fee being proposed for the service by NCC.

    The meeting could not reach a middle ground of the issue of payment by subscribers which operators are expected to deduct from the airtime of their respective subscriber base and then pass on to the CEIR licensee, sources said last week.

    If the proposed fee for cell phone blocking takes off, analysts reckon that the booming mobile market is projected to pay more than the projected N8.1 billion with increasing amid increasing market growth recording over 100 per cent year-on-year.

    Nigeria's mobile penetration which grew from less than one per cent in 2001 to over 24 per cent in January this year is projected by industry watchers to exceed 40 million by year end driven by industry reforms, introduction of unified access service licensing and competition among the big three GSM operators: MTN, Glo mobile and Celtel.

    This Day

  • The Ethiopian Telecommunication Corporation (ETC) announced that is expanding mobile telephone service in connection of the celebration of the Ethiopian Millennium. The General Manager of ETC’s Corporate Communications, Abdurhim Ahmed, recently told ENA that an emergency plan is being excuted in order to satisfy an increasing need for additional mobile phone services.

    The expansion project includes Addis Ababa, Awassa, Shashemene, Adama, Bishoftu, Dessie, Nekempte Jimma towns. The expansion work also includes the installation of a line that could give service to 1.2 million mobile uses. A network that is intended to provide "3G" services to 250 thousand lines is also under installation, according to the General Manager.

    In the project additional wireless telephone services are also under expansion. According to Abdurehim, the first phase of a programme that enable the Corporation to install additional 625 thousand telephone lines is also underway.

    He also said that a fiber optic communication network that is 10 thousand kms long is also under installation in seven directions of the country. These areas, include Wereta, Weldiya, Jimma, Bedele, Nekempte, Dire Dawa, Jijiga, Shashemene, Welkite Hosaena, said the General manager.


  • - In Benin, the government of President Yaya Boni, has announced an increase of the fees for mobile phone licences from 5 to 30 billion CFA (from US$10 to US$60 million) in a move to rectify bad decisions of the previous government. Existing mobile operators (Libercom, Spacetel Bénin (AREEBA), Telecel Bénin and Bell Bénin Communications SA) will be required to make a one-off payment if they want to carry on with their operations.

    - The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has issued a notice of its intention to make regulations for the establishment of a Consumer Advisory Panel. The purpose of the Consumer Advisory Panel regulations is to provide a framework for the establishment of the Panel, prescribe its constitution and develop terms of reference for it.

    - According the Mauritanien Press Agency, President Abdallahi has met with Abdeslem Ahizoume, Maroc Telecom president. Beside discussing Mauritel’s activities (local mobile operator owned at 51% by Maroc Telecom), the President of Mauritania encouraged Mauritel to consider building a second access to submarine fibre cable SAT3 and expanding further its network along the river and the border with Mali.

    - Socatel, the national incumbent in the Republic of Centre Afrique has started upgrading its telephone network with the technical and financial support of Chinese company Huawei. Old Alcatel switches will be replaced with new NGN equipment.

    - The Senegalese regulator, l'Agence de régulation des télécommunications et des postes (ARTP) has announced a new numbering plan to be effective in October 2007. Two new digits will be added to the existing 7 digit numbers. As of March 2007, the country counted 285,774 fixed line subscribers and 3,378,272 mobile phone subscribers.


  • The East African Submarine Cable System (EASSy) has concluded interconnection agreements with three cable systems to carry traffic between Africa, Europe and Asia. It has also included the Comoros in its planned fibre network, to which 29 African entities are party.

    The cables are SAFE/SAT3, SEA ME-WE and FLAG, according to John Sihra, the coordinator of EASSy and a director with Tanzanian operator ZANTEL. The SAT3/WASC cable runs from Portugal, through Spain, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Angola to South Africa. SAFE begins from South Africa, to La Reunion, Mauritius, on to India and Malaysia. FLAG covers the Indian sub-continent and is extending to the Middle East and North Africa, while SEA ME-WE runs in the Middle East and North Africa.

    Sihra and other members of the EASSy steering committee ended a three-day meeting in Kampala, Uganda last Friday June 8 to finalise legal paperwork for the interconnection deals and the inclusion of the Comoros, among others. They also harmonised the various legal documents they had drawn up since they signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in December 2003.

    Sihra and other parties to the EASSy MoU told Fibre for Africa that the EASSy project cost remained $235 million, and reiterated that the cable would be operated along open access principles.

    "Even 10 years from now other operators who come on board will get capacity at the same price as existing operators," said Sihra. "We have had some pressure from NEPAD (the New Partnership for African Development) to make sure the project takes into account the expectation of regional governments, namely that capacity pricing should be competitive and cost based, and that new companies have non-discriminatory access to it. We have addressed these concerns."

    But at exactly what price shall EASSy bandwidth come? "We cannot give exact prices now," he said. "There are many competing cables coming up; everyone now wants to build a cable round east Africa's coast. They were sleeping but EASSy woke them up," he added, suggesting that revealing at what price EASSy would lease out its bandwidth could play into the hands of competitors.

    With EASSy expected to be ready for commercial operations in the fourth quarter of 2008, signatories to the MoU said they were certain to be the first cable on the eastern coast of Africa. They promised competitive prices and high quality services, which they believed would make EASSy the most viable marine cable in the region. The actual laying of cables, which will be done by Alcatel Lucent Submarine Networks of France with whom a contract was signed on March 9 2007, will take 6-7 months.

    A detailed feasibility study was concluded, so has an environment impact assessment which the operators said found the cable would not negatively impact on the marine ecosystem. A marine survey is due to start, to map the cable route, and ascertain whether the findings of earlier studies are accurate regarding best route and length of the fibre system.

    Under the new arrangement there will be landing points at Grand Comoro and at Mayotte, and these will be funded by the Comoros government. Their inclusion will bring to 10 the number of EASSy landing points - the others being at Mtunzini in South Africa, Maputo (Mozambique), Toliary (Madagascar), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Mombasa (Kenya), Mogadishu (Somalia), Djibouti (Republic of Djibouti) and Port Sudan (Sudan).

    The operators said because EASSy is regional in nature with shareholders from 17 countries, and because these shareholders are not in EASSy to make money from bandwidth sales but to use the cable to improve their services, EASSy bandwidth would be competitively priced and the cable would be especially viable. "We shall be the first cable to go into water, and for that we shall have an advantage," said Sihra, adding that operators who will lease from third parties who will be in the business of selling bandwidth will end up with high costs and low capacity.

    The operators said the interconnection agreements they had concluded with other cables would enable EASSy to offer the public and other operators services from the point of origin of the call to any part of the world. "International carriers like BT, France Telecom, and Sauditel are part of EASSy and we will have multiple choices for accessing the international system, which will also make us competitive," one official said.

    Donald Nyakairu, chairman of the EASSy finance committee, said their funding was all in place, with parties such as MTN and Vodacom having contributed directly, while others would contribute through the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) known as the Western Indian Ocean Cable Company (WIOCC) which MoU partners have set up.

    He said the maximum amount of loans EASSy could accept was $170 million but it was likely that borrowed money would not exceed $110 million. The Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) announced early in June that it was ready to commit up to $40 million to EASSy but promoters say they might not need all of DBSA's kitty.

    Nyakairu, also chair of the East African Backhaul System (EABS) and corporation secretary of uganda telecom, said by the time EASSy is completed, there will be a fibre system running from Mombasa, through Nairobi, the Uganda-Kenya border town of Malaba and all the way to the Uganda's capital Kampala. The network will also have extended from Kampala through the Uganda-Rwanda border town of Kabale, to Kigali (Rwanda), through to Bujumbura, to the Tanzanian border and mainland, and onto the landing point at the Tanzanian capital Dar es Salaam.

    "From the Uganda-Rwanda perspective, we see no problem of hooking up from Mombasa all the way to Rwanda," said Noel Meier, chief executive of MTN Uganda. Telkom Kenya is this year extending the fibre to Malaba from where Ugandan operators will pick it up. MTN currently has fibre from Kampala to the town of Bugiri not far from Malaba; while uganda telecom leases Uganda Electricity Transmission Company capacity that carries fibre to Tororo town, also near the border.

    On the western side, MTN has fibre to the Ugandan town of Mbarara, and uganda telecom is due to build fibre from there to the Rwandan border where it will link to the fibre that MTN Rwandatel is erecting to that point.

    Within Uganda, the EABS is expected to be hooked to a national fibre backbone which government is building with Chinese funding of up to $110 m. A backhaul system similar to EABS will be developed by operators in southern Africa.

    Parties to the EASSy MoU comprise of 11 operators who are 100% government owned and 18 who are either partially government owned or fully private sector-owned. They are Botswana Telecom, Onatel (Burundi), Telecel (Burundi), Comoro Telecoms, Djibouti Telecoms, Ethiopia Telecoms Corporation, Kenya Telkom, Kenya Data Networks, Lesotho Telecom Authority, Telcom Malagasy, (Madagascar), France Telecom (Mayotte), Mauritius Telecom, Telecom de Mozambique, Vodacom (Mozambique), MTN Rwanda, Dalkon (Somalia), MTN South Africa, Telkom South Africa, Vodacom (South Africa), Neotel (South Africa), Canartel (Sudan), Sudatel (Sudan), Satcom Tanzania, Vodacom Tanzania, ZANTEL (Tanzania), Tanzania Telecoms Company (TTCL), MTN Uganda, ZAMTEL (Zambia) and Tel.One (Zimbabwe).

    The non-African members are: BT (UK), Saudi Telecom, VSNL/Teleglobe (India), AT&T (USA), Verizon/ ex MCI (USA), France Telecom, and Etisalat (United Arab Emirates).

    CIPESA/ Fibre for Africa

  • The Malawian Government has joined the lengthening list of African governments looking at legalising VoIP. Information and Civic Education Minister Patricia Kaliati disclosed this at a weeklong seminar on VoIP/SIP technologies she opened in Blantyre Monday. She said cabinet deferred a policy on VoIP technologies her ministry developed because it was wanting.

    Kaliati challenged participants drawn from Malawi Communications and Regulatory Authority (Macra), organisers of the seminar, the sole ground line operator Malawi Telecommunications Limited (MTL), private mobile companies Celtel Malawi and Telekom Networks Malawi, among others, to come up with input that would help polish up the policy the cabinet failed to adopt.

    Kaliati said the cabinet questioned how the policy was going to benefit rural masses, a question she said the policy did not answer. “Government wants to know how these technologies are going to assist people living in rural areas. That is why we are also appealing to private mobile companies to provide networks in as many rural areas as you can, villagers have handsets but the network is not available. We know you are trying, but you have to do more,” she said.

    “Voice over IP technologies has revolutionalised the way how telecommunications operators are able to deliver services [voice and data]. Where VoIP is introduced either on local traffic or international traffic, cost of delivering services has been reduced and this savings have been passed over to consumers,” she said.

    Daily Times

  • 25 Internet service providers (ISPs) across the country have decided to come together to form an alliance to build a broadband network in all the major cities of Nigeria. The consortium, NAIJAWiFi, called on the government of President Umaru Yar Adua to urgently declare a ‘state of broadband emergency’, claiming that ‘broadband connectivity remains the key to unlock the nations potentials and accelerate economic growth’.

    The consortium applauded the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on its broadband initiatives. ‘The declaration of 2007 as the year of broadband, the NCC State Accelerated Broadband Initiative, the WIN project, and its excellent frequency and broadband plan as unveiled at the national broadband workshop, clearly shows the Commission is on the path to history once more. The consortium also appreciates the effort of the Federal government with the launch of NIGCOMSAT 1, which would definitely impact positively on the broadband path,’ said Ndukwe Kalu, CEO of Amsco Telecoms and spokesman for the the NAIJAWiFi consortium, which is made up of ISPs with operations in 30 Nigerian states. ‘We do not discriminate as the consortium is open to the big and small and from any part of the country,’ said Kalu. ‘Our foundational belief is that any city can be Nigeria's Silicon Valley.’

    The consortium’s plan is to build a network across 47 cities of Nigeria, covering all state capitals and other key cities, a clear departure from the usual Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja deployments. The project is estimated to swallow over NGN5 billion (USD39.9 million), and has the backing of local financiers. The consortium is also talking to international financial groups. Members of NAIJAWiFi include Amsco Telecoms, Siotel, Linkserve, Acet Technology, Acti Tech, Afrione, Amdifol, AS Technologies, Best Communications, Blue Topaz, Cobranet, CyberGold, Falmur Communications, I-Net Global, NOVA, Juninet, Kidacom, Orbit Infolinks, SITL, Spaceway, Steineng, Swift Talk, WebOnLan, WorldWeb and Zeccon.


  • A US science organisation has developed a system to enable human rights groups to access high-resolution satellite images and monitor the activity of military groups in Sudan's western region, Darfur.

    Researchers from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) will analyse the satellite images and then make them available online. Millions of computer users around the world can then track the status of settlements considered at high risk of attacks in the volatile Darfur region.

    In particular, the AAAS is providing technical support to Amnesty International USA to monitor the activity of rebel groups and the Arab militia — the Janjaweed — accused of aerial bombardment of villages in Darfur. The project was launched last week (6 June) at a digital earth conference at the US-based University of California.

    The new site monitors 12 intact but vulnerable villages and also provides archived satellite photos showing the destruction of 12 settlements in Darfur since January 2005. Objects as small as vehicles, cows and fences can be seen in the images.

    Since 2006, researchers at the AAAS have been exploring how to use scientific methods, including forensic science, satellite imagery and other space technologies to help advance human rights and prevent human rights abuses.

    "[The project] is an excellent example of how science and technology can be applied to help expose human rights violations," said Mona Younis, director of the Science and Human Rights Programme at the AAAS, in a press release. This kind of monitoring has become essential because the Sudanese government has been unwilling to grant entry permits to Darfur.

    Hashim Mloso, field program manager with Save the Children in Darfur, said the launch of the program could help with preparation of contingency plans for relief agencies, as field staff usually need to go to villages to gauge the level of assistance needed.

    But Oxfam's pan African policy analyst, Houghton Irungu, told SciDev.Net that the project might not have immediate benefits for an organisation like Oxfam which already has operations in the refugee camps in Darfur — though it could be very useful for agencies intending to operate in the region in the near-future. "It would contribute to Sudan's overall development if it covered the entire country," he added.

    afrol News / SciDev

  • The inflexibility of two companies which were fighting over the brand name Mr Plastic has been resolved in the first verdict handed down under new rules for quelling local internet address disputes.

    A clash for the cyber address had reached melting point between Mr Plastic and Mr Plastic Mining & Promotional Goods, but was resolved in less than two months under the new arbitration.

    The complainant, Mr Plastic, has been using its name and a flag logo for 27 years. Mr Plastic Mining & Promotional Goods has used the same logo for 18 years, but was first to register the internet domain name.

    Mr Plastic took the dispute to the new authority set up to resolve domain name s quabbles. The panel found that both companies had established a right to the name, and the complainant lost the case. He failed to show that the name was distinctive of his business or that the use of the domain name by a rival was unfairly detrimental to his rights, the panel ruled.

    Mr Plastic has added an "s" to trade as while Mr Plastic Mining & Promotional Goods has kept the web address. "This was not the typical case of cybersquatting where someone comes along and tries to ride on the reputation of another company, because both had built up their historical rights to the name," said Mariette Viljoen, president of the South African Institute of Intellectual Property Law, this week.

    Viljoen said the new regulations introduced by SA's Domain Name Authority last November had proven their worth as cyberspace disputes over trademarks could now be resolved quickly and effectively without involving lawyers.

    Business Day

  • - Google has opened its first office in the region in Cairo, Egypt. The branch has been set-up in part to support and promote recently launched Arabic language versions of Google News, Gmail and Google Earth, in addition to helping the firm better serve in general its Arabic-speaking users, advertisers and partners both in Egypt and throughout the MENA region. According to the Madar research cited by Google, Internet use is growing rapidly in the MENA region, with 12.4 million users expected online in Egypt alone by the year 2010.

    - In South Africa, the case between Internet Solutions (IS) and Verizon SA has been settled, following Verizon's return of more than 108 documents to the Dimension Data subsidiary. The value of the settlement was not disclosed.


  • Mrs Neneh Macdouall-Gaye, Secretary of State for Communications and Information Technology has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Microsoft Africa for cooperation and support in various areas of Information and Communication Technology development.

    SoS Gaye signed this MoU in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, at the just concluded ICT Best Practices Forum for West and Central Africa, organised by the Microsoft, in collaboration with the African Development Bank and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, where she led a Gambian delegation to the forum.

    The Ouagadougou forum opened by President Blaise Compare of Burkina-Faso was attended by more than 350 participants, including three Heads of State, Ministers of ICT, Heads of ICT agencies in 17 African countries, International Financial Institutions, Regional Economic Communities, academia, media, youth and Civil Society Organisations.

    According to a press release from the Department of State for Communications and Information Technology, a team of Microsoft officials are expected in Banjul soon for a joint commission meeting to discuss matters of programme intervention.

    At the forum during a round table discussion, SoS Macdouall- Gaye said that in closing the digital gap, there has to be more accessed to equipment, such as computers. She then noted that for it to happen, the high cost of equipment to the developing countries must be reduced- a view re-echoed by Mr Orlando Ayala, Senior Vice President of Microsoft.

    SoS Macdouall Gaye further highlighted The Gambia government's policies and strategies in creating opportunities for the youth. This, she said, includes building capacity in ICT. She, however, noted that more has to be done in this area, which she believes can be better achieved through Public-Private partnership.

    During the forum, SoS Macdouall-Gaye also held bilateral meetings with officials of Microsoft which includes Mr Orlando Ayala Microsoft Senior Vice President and Dr Sheikh Modibo Diarra, Microsoft Chairman of Africa, who is also the Vice President of the United Nations World Science Ethics Committee.

    The Daily Observer

  • Precision Air, the fifth e-ticketing compliant airline in Africa, is targeting to attain 100% e-ticketing eligibility by September this year. Alfonse Kioko, the Airline's managing director and CEO, said recently that "given the on-going campaigns plus e-ticket penetration headway achievement of 60.3% by this April the set period is realistic."

    Precision Air's set target of September is three-month ahead of an International Air Transport Association (IATA) deadline for e-ticket compliance set in December this year. In Tanzania, the e-ticketing eligibility campaigns started in Dar es Salaam in March last year.

    Kioko said the benefits of e-ticket to passengers are that the ticket does not need collecting, cannot be stolen, lost or forgotten. Changes in the passenger itinerary or ticket can easily be effected by a phone call-without physically visiting a sales office or travel agent.

    According to IATA 100% e-ticketing will save the industry up to US$ 3.0 billion per year and serve processing cost as e-ticket costs only $1 compared to $10 of paper one. IATA processes 300 million paper tickets annually.

    "We are challenging ourselves as an industry to find cost reduction possibilities in our industry's complex processes, whilst at the same time enhancing convenience for the customer," Kioko said. Precision Air currently operates the largest fleet in Tanzania comprising, four ATR 42s, two ATR 72s and one 19-seater LET 410. It covers 11 domestic and four international destinations making it the second largest carrier in East and Central Africa after Kenya Airways.

    Precision Air becomes the seventh airline in Africa to enter into IOSA registry after Kenya Airways, South Africa Airways, Air Mauritius, Comair, Ethiopia Airline, and National Wide. Others are Royal Air Maroc and Egyptair. Meanwhile, Air Zimbabwe, the national airline, also announced the introduction of an electronic ticketing system that is set to be fully operational by the end of the year.

    East African Business Week

  • Although Cabinet has only agreed in principle to consider electronic voting machines (EVMs) for the next national and presidential elections at the end of 2009, the Electoral Commission of Namibia has started training voter education officers on these devices.

    About 15 voter education officers started a week-long training course yesterday at a conference centre outside Windhoek and two full days are allocated on these electronic devices.

    An Indian state-owned enterprise, which also develops defence systems, produces the EVMs and gave a demonstration in Windhoek in October last year.

    "I encourage you to pay special attention to the training on EVMs and make sure you understand every aspect and obtain clarity," ECN Commissioner Ruusa Shipiki told the trainees.

    "People out there will bombard you with countless questions as they are keen to know more about this new initiative," Shipiki added.

    EVMs were developed by two Indian state-owned defence equipment manufacturers, Bharat Electronics and Electronics Corporation of India.

    The system is a set of two devices running on 6V batteries.

    One device, the voting unit, is used by the voter, and another device, called the control unit, is operated by the electoral officer. The units are connected by a cable. They are said to be tamper-proof but according to international news reports, this depends on the integrity of the election officers.

    Altering electronic voting machines to favour one candidate over another could be done by jamming a button or intentionally altering the ballot design to misidentify a candidate's political party.

    Three months before the Indian company came to Namibia last year, a fact-finding mission comprising staff from the ECN, the National Planning Commission and an information technology consultant visited India to study that country's electronic voting system, which is rated one of the best in the world.

    Last year, Cabinet in principle approved the introduction of EVMs, but requested more information, especially on what the system would cost, as some 1 600 electronic voting machines would have to be acquired. The ECN was to supply Cabinet with that information, but it could not be established yesterday if this has been done and if a final decision had been taken.

    The Namibian

  • - UNIDO and Microsoft signed an accord in Ouagadougou to implement a common initiative to equip African Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) with second-hand computers collected from big companies.

    - Union Bank of Nigerian Plc has embarked on aggressive computer service upgrade including the interconnection of all its branches across the country.

    - Electronic Tools (E-tools), an IT company with branch offices in Rwanda and California in the USA has teamed up with Microsoft to translate Windows Vista into the Kinyarwanda language. In addition, the company is developing a payroll and human resource solutions software that will be easily customised to meet the realities in the East African region.

    - Hewlett-Packard (HP) has opened a branch in Tunis. So far HP has opened premises in South Africa, Morocco, Algeria, Nigeria, and Uganda.

    - Coseke, a Tanzanian-based IT company, has launched an electronic document management system in Uganda. The system offers business process management, workflow, information storage, automatic data capture and physical file management technologies.

Digital Content

  • Even though mystery "rent boy" Skye recently removed the list of his alleged clients from a web log (blog) which threatened the reputations of a number of high-profile South Africans, the furore created by the site is still raging.

    The website has sparked calls for government regulation of blogs, counter-claims that this would be an attack on the right to free speech, and heated debate over whether anonymity on the web is a good or bad thing.

    Independent Democrat (ID) leader Patricia de Lille has called on the government to urgently look into implementing legislation that will regulate the use of internet blogging and mobile instant messaging application MXit (pronounced "mix it").

    MXit, which was developed in SA, allows users to send and receive text messages to and from personal computers that are connected to the internet. It claims to have a registered user base of more than 3-million, with 5-million log-ons a day and more than 100-million messages sent a day.

    Reinhardt Buys, an internet lawyer from Buys Inc Attorneys, says the benefits of online anonymity far outweigh the dangers or abuses."The right to speak anonymously by using a nickname is an inherent element of the general right to free speech. Prohibiting anonymous speech on the internet would not only be impossible, but would severely impact the right to free expression."

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit group working to protect people's digital rights, says many people do not want the things they say online to be connected with their offline identities. It says they may be concerned about political or economic retribution, harassment and even physical threats. Instead of using their names, they choose pseudonyms or no name at all.

    An example of a benefit of anonymity is whistle-blowers who report things that compa-nies or governments would prefer to suppress.

    Buys says that online anonymity is more than a privilege and is in fact a right, much like other human rights."The fact that youngsters may use tools like MXit anonymously by chatting with nicknames is an important feature that protects them. These youngsters would be very much exposed to online predators if they were forced to use their real names."

    Johannesburg-based lawyer Lance Michalson says that there is no direct law on blogging, although laws against defamation can apply.

    In 2003 Natasha Tsichlas, then MD of Sundowns Football Club, applied for an interdict to make Touchline Media remove comments about her posted on their chat website. The court refused, ruling in favour of Touchline on the basis that there may be good defences justifying the statements.

    Michalson says section 75 of the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act protects internet service providers who host defamatory content against liability if they do not know about the content, but it compels them to remove it when asked to do in terms of a so-called take down notice.

    Michael Yeates, an associate at Leppan Beech Attorneys, says there is a risk to companies when employees use blogs to make statements that fall into the category of defamation. "A business is not just an entity, it is also a juristic person, which means it has certain rights and responsibilities before the law," Yeates says.

    If an employee defames someone using the company's facilities, the critical question is whether this was done in an official capacity or just as a private aberration, he says. The company will be held liable in the first situation by way of the doctrine of vicarious liability, but not in the second, he says.

    "This is where it becomes essential for businesses to have strict policies about the use of the internet and these policies have to be enforced."

    Yeates says employees must know what defamation is really about and the company itself needs to have a code of conduct that forbids defamation and deals with similar issues, such as hate speech.

    Buys says those who are defamed anonymously on blogs, bulletin boards or in chat rooms have a number of remedies.

    The first step is usually to inform the blog or chat room operator of the defamatory posting and ask for its removal. If the site is hosted in SA, the take down procedure provided for in the Electronic Communications Act may be used by submitting a notice to the service provider hosting the site.

    A court may be asked to issue a court order authorising the operator of the blog or chat room to disclose the identity of the person who posted the defamatory material, Buys says. Once the identity of the person is known, a civil case can be instituted to recover damages, he says.

    Business Day

  • People with specific needs in Tunisia will henceforth be able to access a new website allowing them better integration in society. Thanks to a website launched by the Ministry of Social Affairs, Solidarity and Tunisians Abroad, people suffering from a handicap, will be able to promote their activities by giving an exhaustive list of the shops selling their products, as well as their artistic creations. This section has a hyperlink that leads to a website ( ) devoted to the commercialization of these products.

    The move was announced on the occasion of the National Day of the Handicapped. gives information aimed at presenting the site visitors with the attributes of this section of the population.

    Many web sections are devoted to specific aspects of the legislation ensuring their welfare. The site also lists the conditions necessary in order for the handicapped to benefit from the help of NGO's. These conditions mainly consist in adhering to the national employment program, as well as owning the handicap card. For the time being, there is only one Arabic version of the gateway, but it is expected that English and French versions will soon follow. Tunisia Online

  • - The Government of South Africa has launched a web site which aims to provide information on government's preparations for the 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Zantel, a cellular phone company has paid TS350 million (US$285,000) to the Zanzibar government as its share of dividend for a two year period from 2005-2007.

    Zantel board chairman Salem Sharhan on Wednesday issued a cheque for the dividends to the Zanzibar President Abeid Karume at a colourful ceremony held at the Zanzibar State House.

    Sharhan said his company, which began services in Zanzibar in 1999 with about 3,000 customers was now providing services to over 500,000 people and has significantly increased its market share from 2 per cent to about 7.5 per cent.

    He assured his customers of improved services, saying that his company was about to reach an agreement with Thuraya Satellite Company, which will enable Zantel access every place in Tanzania and offer high quality services to customers. Sharhan said this was partly in response to the customers` feedback on hiccups experienced when using Zantel services, a problem he believed will be over in three months.


  • Telkom and Vodacom are sending out signals that their long and often fiery relationship is coming to an end, with Telkom looking likely to sell its 50% stake to Vodacom's other joint shareholder, Vodafone.

    Telkom and UK-based Vodafone are uneasy bedfellows, always circling for an opportunity to buy the other out. But neither has budged, suspending all three operators in a largely unworkable stalemate. Now Telkom is understood to be buckling, and could pocket R70bn for its stake.

    The question is what Telkom would do with that cash, and if that remains unresolved a potential deal may be scuppered."It's a dysfunctional relationship," said an analyst. "A lot of money could go to shareholders." Another analyst said a sellout looked increasingly probable. "The question is what are they going to buy because they need a mobile strategy."

    Speculation about which investor would succumb first has entertained the market for years, but yesterday Telkom and Vodacom both hinted at definite changes as they announced their financial results.

    Acting CEO Reuben September said Telkom was reviewing its Vodacom investment. "Since the process of review isn't complete I'm not at liberty to share the details but we will come to the market once we have concluded."

    A Vodacom source said: "Things are moving quite quickly. The upside for Telkom is that it frees them to do mobile anywhere in Africa themselves and unlocks a lot of shareholder value."

    Telkom has a market cap of R90bn with its stake in Vodacom accounting for R60bn, giving Telkom the credit for just R30bn of its own value. "Telkom is clearly worth more than that so it would get a really good jump-start, but walking away does have its downside," the source said.

    The downside is that shedding Vodacom would slash its figures as Vodacom accounts for 37% of Telkom's revenue and 28% of net profit. But the massive cash injection could be used to build up fresh cellular operations in a more workable format.

    Telkom's growth depends on teaming up with a mobile operator to expand into Africa with a full range of voice, data and internet services. "For Telkom, a good mobile investment must translate into a good mobile partner for geographic expansion," said September.

    But Vodacom has proved a reluctant partner too often to pretend it is the ideal match. When Telkom bid for Nigeria's state-owned operator Nitel, Vodacom refused to support it and demanded a management fee for its services.

    Other options may be to buy one of the dozens of cellular operators active in Africa, or to buy a rival telecoms player in SA and grow its cellular skills. A third option -- and one mentioned by September -- is to work with existing mobile operators as it enters different countries.

    September said Telkom still viewed Vodacom as its preferred partner, "so to indicate that we will reach the end game with or without Vodacom would be absolutely premature. We want to look at all our options, and make sure we arrive at the best fit for Telkom."

    In May, Citigroup said it expected Vodafone to buy the rest of Vodacom for R73,4bn, but Vodafone CEO Arun Sarin declined to comment. The British operator is anxious to strengthen its stance in emerging markets, with analysts applauding that as essential to avoid a terminal decline as European markets reach saturation.

    Business Day

  • IFC, the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, last week announced that it will provide financing to five subsidiaries of Celtel International B.V. to help expand and upgrade the company's fast-growing mobile networks in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Malawi, Sierra Leone, and Uganda.

    The $320 million investment package, IFC's largest financing to date in Sub-Saharan Africa, will result in better quality mobile access in countries with extremely limited telephone services, creating new opportunities for businesses and consumers across the economic spectrum.

    IFC will provide a $160 million loan for its own account, and an additional $160 million in syndicated loans with participating commercial banks and parallel loans from bilateral financial institutions. The transaction also marks the first-ever mobilization of IFC syndicated loans in Madagascar, Malawi, and Sierra Leone, helping bring long-term commercial financing to markets at the frontier of private sector development. The syndication includes three South African banks that are participating in IFC's syndications program for the first time.

    Celtel, which was acquired by MTC of Kuwait in 2005, will use the funds to modernize and develop the mobile networks in countries with obsolete and inadequate fixed-line networks and low telephone penetration rates, ranging from just over four phones for every 100 people in Malawi and Madagascar to about 10 per 100 people in Sierra Leone.

    "Investment in infrastructure such as telecommunications is crucial for Africa's economic development, and our long-term collaboration with IFC shows that the private sector can play an important role in fulfilling that need," said Mo Ibrahim, Celtel's Chairman.

  • Vodacom is planning a multi- million-rand acquisition to catapult it further in the internet arena, and has set its sights on a technology group that is welcoming its overtures.

    CEO Alan Knott-Craig said the deal would involve a company roughly the size of Dimension Data's local operations, but he would neither confirm nor deny whether Didata's Internet Solutions subsidiary was the target. Vodacom has already bought 10% of WBS, a wireless internet service provider, with an option to take 15,5%. But Knott-Craig said the new target was "much bigger stuff than WBS".

    If the plan reached fruition it would give Vodacom a presence in far more technologies than the internet alone, he said, which widens the potential field of targets it may be wooing. One market watcher said Internet Solutions seemed the best candidate, and with Vodacom "money isn't exactly a problem". Didata has a market cap of R11,6bn, but generates 80% of its $3bn revenue from outside Africa. Listed company DataPro was also shaping up nicely as an acquisition target, he said.

    The planned acquisition is a key part of Vodacom's new strategy to reinvent itself as a supplier of all telecoms services, including fixed and mobile telephony, broadband internet access and television broadcasts. Those plans were firmed up yesterday as it issued sparkling results, showing its profits have continued to soar.

    Its revenue of R41,1bn for the year to March was up 21% and its net profit rose 27,6% to hit R6.6bn. It declared dividends of R5.4bn. It now serves 30.2-million customers, 23-million of them in SA. Despite that growth, the company is determined to change its profile. "We are looking for new business opportunities in SA to provide total solutions for corporates."

    As the demand for everything from simple SMS messages to broadband internet surged, SA's bandwidth capacity was struggling, he said. The new Electronic Communications Act allows operators to build their own networks rather than being forced to lease lines from Telkom, and Vodacom intended to do that. A new division, Vodacom Converged Solutions, would lay fibreoptic lines in metropolitan areas this year to gain additional data capacity and end its reliance on Telkom.

    "We have to become the provider of our own infrastructure to give us independence and capacity and lower costs to transmit voice and data. Fixed lines will become part of our business," he said.

    Buying into WBS gave Vodacom access to a licence and spectrum for WiMax wireless technology, but true broadband demanded fixed lines, not wireless technologies. That meant Vodacom had to buy a company with fibreoptic cables in the ground, international data links and its own earth stations to receive satellite signals. "There is a company that looks attractive right now, but it's early days."

    Vodacom has 139,000 people using its network to connect computers to the Internet, and 33,000 people watch its mobile television channels. Future offerings will include pay television via digital satellite in partnership with MultiChoice. It also bought into two small wireless companies , GMobile and Gogga Tracking Services, he said.

    Business Day

  • Confusion has continued to trail the adjustments made by mobile and fixed telecommunication operators to their tariffs as a result of the 100 per cent increase in the value added tax (VAT). The Federal Government, for the first time since the introduction of VAT in 1993, recently adjusted upwardly the consumption tax rate from 5 per cent to 10 per cent. This has directly resulted in higher prices of consumer goods and services across the country, while the increment also took its toll on telephone subscribers.

    Apart from vague text messages sent by GSM operators to their subscribers informing them of the adjustment to VAT charges, no explanation has been given yet as to what extent the adjustments would affect telephone call durations.

    In a short messaging service (SMS) to its subscribers, leading GSM operator, MTN Nigeria said: "Please note that MTN has implemented a rate increase in line with the Federal Government 10 per cent VAT directive."

    Despite this notice, an official of the telecom firm denied that it would result in tarrif increase. "What has happened", said the official, "is that MTN just adjusted its VAT rate from 5 to 10 per cent to reflect the new directive from the Federal Government."

    Similarly, Celtel, also effected a readjustment to reflect the new VAT rate in an SMS sent to subscribers on its network saying, "Due to the recent changes in VAT, all our call tariffs except SMS and Data have been adjusted accordingly. We regret inconveniences caused."

    Although Globacom is yet to alert its subscribers to the adjustment, subscribers are already complaining that it has been reflected in their tariffs.

    Other fixed line and fixed wireless operators including Starcomms, Multi-Links, 21st Century, MTS First Wireless, are already adjusting their billing switches to reflect the new VAT rate which they may not communicate to their subscribers.

    Subscribers are now worried about the extent to which they are being charged by telephone service providers in their bid to reflect the VAT increase.

    Although many of the operators told THISDAY that "there was no tariff increment", investigations however revealed that, for example, there is now a reduction in the call duration (in minutes or seconds) a N500 recharge voucher would give a subscriber after the VAT rate increase.

    In other words, the VAT increase led to a little tariff increase, even though operators would rather call it "re-adjustment" mainly because VAT is remitted to government. This is coming at a time when subscribers are generally experiencing difficulties in accessing good and reliable services characterised by poor network quality across providers' platforms.

    In the face of high rate of dropped calls, call interference and loss of audio, recurrent down times, long delay and non delivery or multiple delivery of SMS being experienced by Nigerians, many subscribers are not too happy with the "adjustments".

    This Day

  • - Telkom South Africa has reported an 8.4% rise in operating revenue to ZAR51.62 billion (USD7.32 billion), though operating profit fell back 1.4% to ZAR14.47 billion. The fall in earnings was attributed to a 12.3% increase in operating expenses. Unlike many western telcos, Telkom is still seeing growth in its fixed line operations, with sales up 1.7% to ZAR33.3 billion. The firm’s CEO Reuben September says the growth has come in spite of tariff decreases and growing competition from cellcos.


    In this issue you stated that Inmarsat had re-launched its Regional BGAN Service. In fact, the system is not Regional BGAN (RBGAN) which will cease in the near future, but the fully fledged Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) service.

    RBGAN was a filler until Inmarsat got it's BGAN service up and running in December 2005 with the commissioning of the two largest and most powerful commercial communications satellites ever launched. There is only one class of RBGAN terminal and it is a data only unit.

    BGAN terminals are a two channel device enabling simultaneous Voice & Data transmissions. There are three classes of terminals available in various portable, semi-permanent/permanent, vehicular, and soon to be released aero and maritime versions

    The background IP shared data channel has a capability up to 492 kbps. There are also QOS Streamed channels of 32, 64, 128 & 256 kbps. The data capabilities are dependent upon which class of terminal you use.

    FYI, Inmarsat have just activated the 10,000th BGAN terminal. For more info, I suggest and

    Alastair W Pettie Sales Engineer Commercial Shipping & Offshore Pertec (Pty) Ltd (Coastal Division) South Africa


  • Nigeria's Internet Service Provider, HiREST Africa Limited has announced the appointment of Mrs. Ify Obim as the company's Regional Director for the Eastern Region of Nigeria.

    The Executive Board of the ICT multinational has appointed Sami Smaoui as the Director of HP's operations for Tunisia.


    June 2007 – South Africa

    The conference and exhibition organised by SANGONeT will be aimed at increasing NGOs’ awareness of the strategic importance of their websites and the online environment in general.

    For further information visit


    19-21 June 2007, Gallagher Estate, Johannesburg, South Africa

    IQPC's 2nd Annual High Speed Access Technologies conference is perfectly positioned giving you answers at a critical time offering an objective platform for you to hear case studies on current obstacles and successes of Broadband. You will also be able to join us for a Site Visit To the Eskom Test Site. This site visit will show you what progress has been made over the past few years and what MainNet is doing to promote broadband over Power Lines.

    For more information please contact Susan Theron on +27 (0) 11 669 5019 or visit our website


    EAST AFRICA: Safari Park Hotel, Nairobi, 11-13 July 2007

    WEST AFRICA: Muson Centre, Lagos, 21-23 August 2007

    Theme: ”Broadband bridges across Africa: First and last mile solutions” Local and international industry leaders will make presentations on the following topics: Efficient bandwidth delivery mechanisms Next Generation Networks: Selecting the right migration path Building wireless communities Fiber optic vs. satellite-based connectivity: Do they compete or do they complete? DVBS2: Its role in trunking Rural Wireless: The role of WiMAX, WiFi, CDMA and hybrid technologies VoIP survival strategies for telcos, ISPs and cyber cafes Build vs. buy: VoIP solutions for Africa Providing a VoIP service over a WiMAX network Maximising international VoIP services

    The event also includes a Masterclass on Building Wireless Communities by Paul Munnery, CEO, Wireless Digital Cities, UK


    31st July - 2nd August 2007, Johannesburg, South Africa

    Key decision-makers in South Africa and leading international players will share their expertise and forge invaluable business relationships in a highly interactive environment.

    For further information visit

    - WI-WORLD AFRICA 2007

    27 – 30 August 2007, Michelangelo Hotel, Johannesburg, South Africa.

    In Africa, fixed-line infrastructure is lacking and there is a major problem with copper wire theft. Wireless communication is therefore a great alternative.

    For further information visit


    2007 October 1-5, 2007, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi, Kenya

    ICT Africa is an annual continental information and communications technology conference addressing all aspects of ICT development in Africa. The conference is convened by NEPAD council in collaboration with the NEPAD Kenya secretariat. The 2007 event will be organized by Global Conferences, Cape Town, South Africa.

    For further information contact


    3rd - 5th October, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo

    iPAD Central Africa 2006 provides an opportunity to network directly with key partners. The event aims to facilitate regional planning and collaborations under one roof between government, the public sector and business. iPAD Central Africa 2006 is a one-stop-shop for investigating investment opportunities in DRC and the Central African region as a whole.

    For further information visit


    The UbuntuNet Alliance wishes to appoint an enthusiastic and self motivated person as Chief Executive Officer (CEO). This is a full-time senior post, with a competitive salary package. The applicant should have the ability to work independently and as part of a team in building the African Research and Education Backbone. Applicants with strong academic credentials and 3 years experience in senior network management will have an added advantage.

    Further details: Applicants should send CV and covering letter to:, cc by Friday 6 July 2007


    The company requires the service of a 3G project manager with 3G project manager knowledge, for the introduction of WCDMA, new SGSN, GGSN, RNC and 15 node base stations.

    For further information please contact


    The EuroAfrica-ICT initiative will organise its third and fourth awareness workshops in Africa: in Accra, Ghana (July 20 & 21) and in Nairobi, Kenya (July 26 & 27). The workshop in Ghana is supported by the African Network Operators Group (AFNOG) and Busy Internet, Ghana and the workshop in Kenya is supported by the African eDevelopment Resource Centre, Kenya, the consortium partners of the Science & Technology - Europe Africa Project (ST-EAP), the African Academy of Sciences, Kenya and the Council for Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), South Africa.

    The EuroAfrica-ICT initiative has also developed a set of services dedicated to European and African organisations willing to develop S&T cooperation in the field of ICT: search for partners service, helpdesks, open consultation, etc.

    For further information, please visit the project dedicated website ( or contact us (


    The Angolan private telephone company Unitel and Ericsson signed an agreement for the supply, equipping and assistance estimated at USD 45 million. Ericsson will install a third generation modern network for Unitel, dubbed as UMTS.


    Teledata de Mozambique has expanded its WiMAX contract with equipment supplier Redline Communications to cover the two additional cities of Matola and Nampula after having deployed a fixed wireless broadband network covering Maputo and Beira. Teledata says it currently has around 800 businesses signed up to its WiMAX services, which were launched almost a year ago.

    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.

    If you need information about a particular place or issue, just send your questions in. We are always happy to follow up on readers concerns.

    News Update is a free e-letter produced by Balancing Act that covers African internet content and infrastructure developments, It goes out to government, the private sector, education and NGOs. To subscribe, send a message saying "I want to subscribe" to

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