Issue no 435

top story

  • The number of potential wireless data applications is bewildering but the big battle appears to be between WiMAX and a technology that doesn’t yet exist, LTE. But in Africa, there are over 100 installed WiMAX applications and all of the big players have either got it working for them or will do over the next year. Russell Southwood investigates what it is WiMAX can and can’t do.

    One of the largest WiMAX equipment vendors in Africa, Alvarion, estimates that there are just over 100 installed WiMAX systems in Africa; over 45 of these are operating in unlicensed spectrum and over 55 in 2.X or 3.X spectrum. Increasingly new systems are being licensed in the 2.X spectrum. Alvarion claims to have more 50% of the market and out of the 40 key major operators (many with Pan-African operations), it claims to have sold to 26 of them. Other vendors who have sold in the market include: Telsima, ZTE, Huawei, Soma Networks, Smart Link Communication, Galaxia Telecom, Redline Communications and Airspan Networks.

    The 2.X spectrum has increasingly been opened by regulators in part under pressure from satellite operators who want WiMAX to move from that spectrum band to avoid claimed interference. However, the move is causing uncertainty in some countries. For example, Nigeria’s NCC has announced it will make the transition but there is currently no clear message on how it will do it or how it will to compensate existing investors. Potential users see a dividend in 2.X as it will offer better coverage.

    A factor holding back all wireless technologies in some countries is the lack of a defined and enforced frequency allocation policy. Even some of the best of African regulators have little capacity to police how frequency is used as the chaos over wi-fi in some cities illustrates. In some countries like the DRC several operators have been given the same frequencies. So there is a direct relationship between transparency on this issue and the desire for companies to invest in technologies like WiMAX.

    So who is making the transition to WiMAX and why? Africa’s fixed operators in particular seem to have been persuaded to sell the low speed versions of CDMA 2000 for both fixed voice and data. And as we described in issue 411, this seems to have had a good run for its money as a fixed line substitute product.

    Many are planning to offer CDMA 2000 Rev A which has achievable speeds on data of 300-700 kbps per second and can be operated in the 800 mghz spectrum in SADC countries. But one operator in a large market is offering Rev A to household customers and WiMAX to corporates, particularly offering hot zones in business centres. But logically if household customers want faster speeds in future then will it be WiMAX that’s used to deliver it? Possibly not, for as this operators told us:”The limitation of WiMAX is that it’s just not 4G.” This comment captures the almost theological struggle over what performance the different technologies will deliver, both now and in the future.

    What no-one is telling their CDMA 2000 customers is that when everyone else gets cheaper and faster household data connections, as they will do when the new international fibre arrives mid-year 2009, they will have to throw away the widely sold CDMA 2000 phones and buy another piece of kit if they want to upgrade.

    For Africa’s mobile operators, the installation of WiMAX has had a double motivation. As mobile data prices have been lowered, the use of the service has shot up with tens of thousands of customers even in mid-scale markets. If someone in a cell is downloading a large file, it quickly impacts on voice customers. Likewise, if there are a lot of data customers in the cell. So the mobile operators need to have two parallel networks if they are to preserve the integrity and quality of their voice services. For as David Levy, General Manager, Africa and the Middle East at Alvarion says:” You need to use something like WiMAX because it’s easier to add services on top. HSDPA is not a long-term usage, mobile-based IP technology.”

    However, as the larger mobile operators like MTN go through a process of becoming vertically integrated operators, they are keen to build their knowledge internally about how to operate fixed wireless services. In the case of MTN this education process extends to having different vendors in different territories to get a clear picture of actual performance.

    There’s been a long symbiosis between WiMAX in its formative years and Wi-Fi. However, the reality in many African cities is that there are high levels of interference in services delivered in the unlicensed spectrum. Also like the mobile operators’ data services, if you have one heavy download customer or too many customers on a base station, it gets to be relatively slow.

    Wi-Fi has been the boon for travellers in Africa that has replaced the previously excruciatingly slow dial-up services. When it works well, you can almost believe that it’s just what you’ve always wanted. This seeming bandwidth paradise tempts those from developed countries to treat it as if they could make heavy downloads like they do back home. The result is often gridlock in speed terms.

    In some ways these issues are as much to do with how the technology is provisioned as the intrinsic limitations of the technology. Africa’s chronically high user contention rates are at least half the answer to the question of why it gets so slow. But as Alvarion’s Levy points out:” Wi-fi’s a fantastic way to extend data services into rural areas. There’s practically no CPE cost and little interference”.

    But this is where it gets interesting because Namibian incumbent Telecom Namibia (also a CDMA 2000 user) has flipped the proposition on its head and is using WiMAX to roll-out fixed wireless voice to a farming area with a dispersed population of between 3-5,000 people. But now it is running a campaign to persuade them to also use data. Another major African mobile operator has a household CPE product that will support fixed wireless VoIP and is offering that wherever VoIP is legal.

    But although WiMAX’s 16e support’s mobile voice, it has been very coy about if and how this will be used. Alvarion’s Levy is clear that it currently makes no sense for existing operators:”If the operator has no access to a GSM or CDMA licence, then it might make sense. For others, the price of the CPE needs to be lower to be attractive.”

    WiMAX is also not really geared up for multimedia streaming or very large downloads of the kind those wishing to deploy Triple Play might need. Again Levy is clear on where the boundaries lie:”You can achieve 10-30 mbps per sector on WiMAX. You’d need a minimum of 500 kbps per second or more per customer. (To achieve that speed), you’d need only 35 customers per sector. Streaming video is not there yet. The compression rates are not there yet. On straight ARPUs, it doesn’t make sense. But we are exploring business models using advertising.” However, there is a planned speed increase that will match LTE by the time that technology is available.

    So what of the future and the big arm-wrestle with LTE? The supporters of LTE are spinning a confusing number of different stories. Firstly, the technology will be up and ready in eighteen months to two years. Secondly, all existing technologies will merge towards LTE. Thirdly, WiMAX will become last year’s technology very shortly so don’t make any down payments on it.

    To an outsider like myself who is not committed to any particularly technology but only that which works in the African context, these lines or argument are about spreading FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt). Anyone who has watched the lengthy and very frustrating discussions between vendors and other parties on WiMAX knows that nothing springs straight from the research lab into the showroom. By the time LTE arrives, WiMAX will already have a 3-6 year track record as a working technology. All technologies may well merge towards LTE but you first need to know what LTE actually is as a set of standards.

    LTE’s promoters can claim with some justification that they have learnt these lessons from the WiMAX experience but that does not help them overcome the considerable divergent interests: this is always the circle that has to be squared. And in the African context, the vertically integrated new incumbents will know from what happens operationally that their data networks will need to work seamlessly if they are to keep a hold on these new ARPU’s.

    As Alvarion’s Levy puts it:”If you want to keep your ARPUs, you need to install now and not wait for tomorrow. It’s pure time to market. If you’re 99.9% in voice, don’t get into WiMAX. But Africa has a hunger for connectivity which WiMAX meets and with the arrival of the new international cables in 2009 that hunger will only increase.”

    So WiMAX investment in Africa can be good for fixed data and voice. Urban areas like Douala can be covered with about 10-15 base stations. The average equipment cost per base station is US$50,000 plus or minus 10%. It can also deliver fixed data and voice in rural areas as the Telecom Namibia example demonstrates. And with a more open attitude to VoIP by more countries, these could all be low-cost IP calls thus helping to expand the rural voice market.

    Current CPE costs are an obstacle that will either mean operators offer a partially or fully subsidised product. A PCMCIA card currently costs between US$80-100. An indoors unit costs between US$200-220 whereas an outdoor rooftop unit costs US$300. Nevertheless Alvarion’s Levy believes prices are set to fall:”In 2009, equipment will become standardised for 16e and with higher runs, costs will begin to come down”.

    Further afield, all eyes are on Clearwire’s network in Baltimore. Sprint completed its takeover of the company at the beginning of this month. It represents the first real attempt to put a network together that operates seamlessly at all levels. Information Week’s J.Nicholas Hoover reports getting download speeds of 3.4 mbps and upload speeds of 1.2 mbps. Nokia has released an N810 Tablet WiMAX edition specially for Clearwire which sold through very quickly. Cost? A cool US$450 or thereabouts.

    Wi-MAX and Wi-FI enabled laptops have started to go on sale and are being used by the network’s customers. Numbers will begin to build from next year. For the majority of us who will be without a Wi-MAX-enabled chip, there will a US$20-30 dongle. Not surprisingly, Clearwire’s CEO Ben Wolff has the same line on LTE as Alvarion’s Levy:”Clearwire chose WiMAX because it may be four years before LTE is ready for commercial use.”

    So it will be interesting to see when the first LTE products are announced, when they start being sold into Africa and what bar they will set for other new wireless products.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Rwandatel the country's incumbent telecom operator, that has just launched its 3G, GSM technology is targeting more than 600,000 mobile subscribers by end of 2009.

    - Zimbabwe’s sole fixed line operator, TelOne, is reportedly planning to start rolling out fully mobile CDMA2000 technology. TelOne is relying on CDMA to provide a means of low-cost network rollouts in the face of Zimbabwe’s disastrous economic decline, and has recently admitted it has scaled down its operations in the face of chronic shortages of both electricity and backup fuel.

    - The French telecom company Orange announced the commercial launch of its service "Orange Money" in Côte d'Ivoire, the first country to benefit from this service within Africa.

telecoms

  • The Tanzania Cabinet is early next year expected to decide whether to suspend or continue with the three-year contract awarded to Canadian firm SaskTel International Inc to operate the Tanzania Telecommunication Corporation Ltd (TTCL).

    This follows recommendations by a team appointed by the government to audit operational and financial performance before and after the SaskTel management took over at the largest state-owned telecommunication utility in the country.

    A high placed source in the government told The East African last week that the ministry responsible for the telco was now drafting the paper that is to be submitted to the Cabinet for final discussion and decision as early as January next year.

    The source said that among the issues to be discussed by the Cabinet will be the failure by the Canadian firm to raise funds to bail out the telecommunication utility, contrary to the commitment it signed in the operational contract.

    SaskTel, which will next year remain with one and half years on its contract to run the profit-making firm, has for some time been trying to secure loans from local and international banks for the operations of the telecommunication firm.

    The source said the Canadian firm has already approached NBC Ltd and Stanbic Bank Tanzania. Abroad, it sought funds from China Development Bank, which however gave such stringent conditions that SaskTel withdrew the request.

    The Chinese bank wanted the Canadian firm to purchase telecommunication infrastructure and facilities from a Chinese state-owned manufacturing firm, to include engineers and technicians for installation of the equipment.

    The source said the two local banks for their part refused to grant SaskTel the money until the management firm had reviewed and audited TTCL’s financial and operational performance.

    The EastAfrican has learnt that what has irked the Tanzania government the most is the Canadian firm’s bid to raise loans from local banks by purporting the government would be the guarantor of the multimillion-dollar credits.

    This, the source said, led the government to direct SaskTel to seek funding from outside Tanzania without a state guarantee. The failure by Sasktel to raise the money prompted the government to form a team to conduct an operational performance audit of the management firm.

    TTCL is yet to emerge from the managerial problems that have been affecting its operations, thwarting expansion plans drawn up by the local management that were on the drawing board before the SaskTel team moved in.

    East African Standard

  • Wireless network operator Tunisiana has been barred from bidding for the country's third telecoms licence, which includes the right to provide fixed line services.

    Last week the country’s Ministry of Technologies and Communication launched an invitation to tender for a combined licence as part of a drive to boost inward investment and accelerate growth. ‘In order to open up the telecoms sector, Tunisia's telecoms ministry has decided to award, via an international auction, a licence to install and exploit a public telecoms network and provide fixed line phone and 2G and 3G mobile phone services,’ a spokesperson for the ministry said in a statement.

    The licence is technology neutral, allowing the winner to choose any technology platform. Potential bidders should be either a telecoms network operator or a consortium comprising a telco. The operator must own its own infrastructure and must have held at least one fixed or wireless operating licence for at least two years or hold an operating licence in Tunisia.

    Interested parties must register their interest by purchasing tender documentation for USD4,400. Offers must be submitted no later than 5 May 2009, with the winner expected to be announced in the second quarter.

    Telegeography

  • LapGreen Networks, a subsidiary of Libyan African Investment Portfolio, plans to build 'the biggest' telecommunications company with a single network in Africa. "LapGreen plans to build a big telecoms company in Africa and this company will be built by African skills," the managing director of LapGreen Networks and Uganda Telecom, Eng. Abdulbaset Elazzabi last week told East African Business Week in an exclusive interview in Kigali.

    He said this will be realized by expanding their network from one country to another. "As you see, to build a network, we are expanding our network daily from country to country. By 2010/11, we will be one network from East to West Africa and this network will be built by Africans, bringing African countries together as one country," he said.

    Elazzabi, who also serves as the chairman of Rwandatel, a telecoms company in which LapGreen owns 80% stake valued at US$100million, was in Rwanda to mark the company's launching of GSM and 3G networks. LapGreen Networks, valued at US$500million, is owned 100% by the US$5billion Libyan African Investment, an investment arm of the Libyan government.

    It is managed by Eng. Abdulbaset Elazzabi, Bashir Saleh Bashir serves as board chairman and Dr. Ali Shamakh, chairman of Tamoil Africa is a board member. LapGreen which specializes in telecommunications has operations in Uganda, Togo, Niger, Rwanda, Ivory Coast and Gabon.

    East African Business Week

  • A bid by fraudsters to rip off unsuspecting Nigerian mobile phones users has been on the increase in the past months using cloning. Crackers have visited Nigerian mobile networks cloning handsets and SIM cards as they divert calls and even use other people's phone numbers to make calls.

    This phenomenon is however not new to Nigerian networks as cases of cloning had been reported in several networks across the globe. The matter has become so worrisome that MTN at the weekend alerted its numerous customers to a rash of fraudulent text messages being sent by individuals wishing to cash in on its ongoing MTN Treasure Hunt promo.

    A statement from the company said some persons yet to be identified are currently sending text messages to subscribers, announcing they have won some money and requesting them to call a number in order to redeem their winnings.

    Phone users have complained of crackers in different locations and with different handsets using their own phone numbers to make calls to their handsets. Some have even noticed their credits depleting massively over a short period of time when it was obvious they never made calls.

    MTN has advised its subscribers should to ignore text messages telling them they have won money or any other promo prize saying that such messages are neither from MTN nor any of our staff members. They are from individuals who are intent on defrauding innocent people," said Bola Akingbade, Chief Marketing Officer, MTN.

    It would be recalled that some individuals have been sending out text messages to some MTN subscribers telling them they had won some prizes in the ongoing promo and requesting them to go online to fill in their personal and bank details, including ATM card numbers and PIN. For this purpose, the con-artists set up fraudulent websites, such as www.mtnwinning.com, which has since been shut down.

    “When a subscriber wins a prize in any of our promos, we will call them and direct them to the MTN office where they can redeem their prize. MTN staff will not, under any circumstances, request for credit or ask subscribers to fill in their bank details, ATM card number and PIN in order to claim a promo prize or winning," said Akingbade.

    The Daily Independent

  • - The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has given mobile operators the go-ahead to offer additional services based on 3G and VoIP technology under their current licences, reports local news source Business Chronicle.

    ­Zambian state owned telco, Zamtel is to be partially privatised within the next few months in an effort to stave off a financial collapse. The company has been loss-making for many years and has a large unionised workforce, which recently held a lengthy strike over wages and conditions.

    - Egyptian government has requested that the Apple company turn off the Global Positioning System in its IPhone 3G. The government says that in Egypt, GPS is the military's "prerogative." Apple "apparently complied", the Times reported, raising questions about what the company is willing to change in its technology in order to gain access into the markets of countries with poor human rights records.

    - Uganda's parliament has approved a US$75 million loan for the second and third phases of the country's national data transmission backbone, ICT Minister Ham Mulira announced. In addition, a fourth phase has been added to the project in order to connect the war-torn region of Northern Uganda, which was not included in the original broadband infrastructure plans.

    - Nokia has finalised a deal with Symbian deal and says 2010 is the target date

    for releasing a full open source version of the operating system.

    - Striking employees of Mtel, the mobile subsidiary of Nigerian incumbent Nitel appealed to Minister of Information and Communications John Ogar Odey last weekend, saying they will not rest until their October and November salaries and annual leave allowances are paid in full.

internet

  • Main One Cable Company, one of the firms in the race to provide international communication links between Nigeria and the rest of the world through undersea fibre optic cable links has secured the pioneer landing licenses in Nigeria and Ghana.

    The licenses, secured from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and Ghana's National Communications Authority (GNCA) respectively, grant Main One Cable Company the right to land its intercontinental undersea fibre optic cable in Nigeria and Ghana. Main One Cable Company has since begun work on erecting an undersea fibre optic cable from Portugal to Africa.

    The first phase of the project spans 6,900 Kilometres and will extend from Portugal to Ghana and Nigeria with an additional 6,000 Kilometres extension to South Africa and Angola in the second phase.

    Chief Executive Officer of Main One Cable Company, Funke Opeke, said the development represents a major landmark for the continent, as it 'is the first time ever that a private sector driven undersea cable network is receiving landing licences'. The development according to Opeke, sets the stage for Main One to land its undersea fibre optic cable, in both countries, even while negotiations are ongoing with other countries along the coastal route earmarked for the undersea cable.

    The Main One undersea cable promises to boost Internet access across the African continent stated Opeke, "lies in the huge improvement in bandwidth which we will be driving even while reducing costs phenomenally". Main One, said Opeke, is deploying the very latest technology in undersea fibre optic cabling.

    "In employing the combination of Dense Wave Multiplexing Technology of 1.28 Terabits per second and two fibre pairs", said Opeke, "Main One will deliver far more capacity to the region than any existing or proposed undersea projects even while bringing costs down to about twenty percent of what is currently obtainable from SAT 3 or satellite service operators". The project, she added will provide open access to regional telecom operators and Internet Service providers.

    In addition to providing a major boost to Internet access on the continent, Main One, said Opeke will help to considerably minimize the difficulties of switching traffic between African countries and eliminate the inconveniences and added costs of first routing traffic to Europe.

    Opeke expressed delight at the impressive pace at which the ambitious Main One cabling project is progressing. "All of the key stakeholders on this project including regulators, individual investors, private equity institutions, development finance institutions and a handful of African banks, as well as our turnkey project partners among others have been very supportive, and we remain confident that the Main One project will be completed on schedule in May 2010".

    The Daily Independent

  • The West African Cable System (WACS) will make a decision whether to use either Tyco or Alcatel-Lucent to construct its 14,000km cable in the coming week, says Andrew Mthembu, WACS spokesperson.

    The cable, which has been in the planning and negotiating phase for several years, is to stretch from Cape Town and terminate in Europe, most likely London. It was initially envisaged it would be operational in time for the 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup; this is now considered to be unrealistic.

    WACS will have the highest capacity, of 3TBps, of any of the undersea cables that are being planned or constructed. It is considered to be of strategic importance to South Africa, especially in the country's bid to host large projects such as the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope.

    The consortium that is building WACS consists of an equal share split between Telkom, Neotel, MTN, Vodacom, and government's Broadband Infraco. The latter was supposed to have built the cable on its own; however, rising costs and a lengthy licensing process meant Broadband Infraco became part of the consortium earlier this year. Mthembu, who is also Broadband Infraco's chairman, says discussions are being held with at least two other international telecommunications companies with the aim of allowing them to join.

    “We have decided to keep the consortium small as it eases decision-making and the management of the project. In our experience, having too many partners and trying to accommodate too many parties makes it almost impossible to manage,” he says.

    Value-added network service provider Internet Solutions has expressed interest in joining the consortium directly and so has the Department of Communication's champion project, Uhurunet. Mthembu says these other parties can join indirectly by either tying up with one of the participants directly, or by buying capacity from them.

    “Uhurunet signed an agreement with Broadband Infraco that allows them to buy capacity from Infraco when they have the money,” he says. Once WACS has made its decision on whether to go with the best and final offer of either Tyco or Alcatel-Lucent, then a construction and maintenance agreement is signed. The timelines will then be set in place, which will lead to a date when the cable will be operational, Mthembu notes.

    He adds that the fluctuating rand/dollar exchange rate may have some effect on the budgeting of the project, but this is up to the individual partners to solve. The global financial meltdown has caused the rand to depreciate by up to 20% against the US currency in the last three months. “The structure of this organisation [WACS] is that it is not capitalised directly, but that each individual party makes its own financing arrangements,” he says.

    ITWeb

  • On November 27, 2008, France Telecom-Orange signed a memorandum of understanding leading up to the installation of a submarine fibre-optic cable that will provide over 20 countries within the West African coastal region with internet access.

    This 12,000 km cable, called ACE (Africa Coast to Europe), will extend from Gabon to France, and from 2011 will connect Gabon, Cameroon, Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Senegal, Gambia, Cape Verde, Mauritania, Morocco, Spain, Portugal and France. An extension to South Africa is also being studied.

    For this project, France Telecom and its subsidiaries Côte d'Ivoire Telecom, Orange Bissau, Orange Cameroun, Orange Guinée, Orange Mali, Orange Niger, Orange Spain and Sonatel have teamed up with numerous international operators.

    This new cable will benefit from the latest high-performance technology currently used in submarine cables, Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM), and will operate perfectly alongside existing systems. It will contribute to the development of telecommunications networks, a determining factor in West Africa's socio-economic development. Thanks to this new submarine cable, internet-based services will benefit from excellent international connectivity.

  • - According to TeleGeography's Global Internet Geography Research, Italy overtook the United Kingdom in 2008 as the top Internet hub for Africa. Today, Italy is the major international Internet route supporting the IP traffic generated by Africa’s users.

    - With the growing concerns about online security, Microsoft and Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) have formed a coalition to launch a campaign against cybercrime. This follows the recent announcements that Microsoft is also participating in the campaign against Internet lottery scams on a global level, in partnership with Yahoo!, Western Union and the African Development Bank.

    - MTN Cameroon has launched WiMAX services in 18 cities, according to Telecompaper citing Le Quotidien Mutations. A range of plans are on offer for both consumers and business users.

    - The French navy will join the Kenyan navy to offer security to the ship laying The East African Marine System Cable (TEAMS) when it reaches the coast of Somalia. Taking additional precautions, the Alcatel team will also move 90 kilometers off the coast of Somalia to ensure that it is in international waters.

    - The number of South African Internet users increased by 12.5 percent this year, the fastest growth in seven years, but Africa's biggest economy still lags Egypt, Nigeria and Morocco, a report showed on Thursday. An Internet access report by research firm World Wide Worx said 4.5 million South Africans were now using the Internet -- less than one in 10 -- and said growth in 2008 was driven by a 50 percent rise in broadband users.

    - Tunisia will soon host the Arab World Internet Institute with Tunisian ICT expert Khaled Koubaa elected as its president. The announcement was made by the vice -chair of the United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development (GAID) Mr Talal Abu Ghazaleh, during an address he gave at the "ICT 4 all Forum", recently convened in Hammamet, Tunisia.

    - Nigerian and Chinese officials have opened talks on a replacement satellite for NigComSat1. Part of the discussions includes the start of work on the design and launch of NigComSat2 and NigComSat3 as backup satellites. The Chinese have also opted to provide alternative bandwidth source for NIGCOMSAT Limited and its clients pending when the replacement satellite goes into space anywhere between 18 months and two years.

    - O3b Networks announce that it has added NEDA Telecommunications to its growing list of customers. Located in Afghanistan, NEDA Telecom is the largest ISP in the country.

    - Full-service online marketing agency Quirk eMarketing walked off with its first international accolade last week - the E-consultancy Innovation Award for Innovation in SEO & Natural Search for its South African Tourism Google Earth Layer. http://earth.southafrica.net/ is the third official tourism layer to be integrated into the Google Earth core.

computing

  • The planned introduction of a new e-payment regime by the Nigeria’s Federal Government, on 1st January 2009 fiscal year for payment of its service providers, contracts and other services would put a stop to official bottleneck associated with payments of contracts that have been completed.

    If the e-payment system as proposed by the present administration is fully implemented, the physical contacts between accounts officials and contractors with regards to payments would be a thing of the past, thereby minimizing bribery associated with physical payments.

    By the beginning of 2009 financial year, according to Vanguard Computers & E-Business findings, designated contractors will be paid electronically in order to avoid a situation where they will have to bribe officials so as to be paid for the work done.

    The electronic system, experts say, will go a long way in ensuring that payments are easily tracked electronically without any hassles. The current posture of government, keen watchers say, is to further instill transparency and accountability in the conduct of government business with regards to next year's budget.

    Announcing the new measures at the Federal Executive Council meeting at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, recently and also at the recent 2009 budget presentation at the joint session of the National House Assembly, President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua told the gathering that: "There will no longer be cash payments with regards to recurrent expenditure because it has been subject to widespread abuse with junior officials issuing cheques in their names to bring cash to MDAs for onward transmission to their bosses. All payments now should be in cheques so that there would be proper records"

    Already, the Ogun state government had commenced an e-payment system to its public service using Remita and e-payment software products locally provided by a Nigerian leading Systemspecs.

    Meanwhile, the state Accountant - General, Babatunde Salawu, has been quoted in a newspaper report as saying that despite the slight mix-up recently experienced in the payment of workers salaries through the newly introduced electronic payment technology, the system remains the best approach for government towards effective and timely payment of workers salaries and other entitlements.

    Salawu, while fielding questions from Ogun update reporter on the subject matter explained that the State Government also adopted the system of payment as a way of motivating workers for high productivity. He said the strategy assures immediate payment of salaries to workers simultaneously across the State.

    He disclosed that with the system, workers can withdraw salaries within 6 hours of lodgment as against delayed lodgment of cheques and the four to five days of waiting before salaries are cashed.

    The process of the old methods of payment was not only time wasting but also burdensome, Salawu said the e-payment has brought lots of convenience and reduced paper wastage among other advantages in processing staff salaries.

    Vanguard

  • Wilson Kutegeka was just an ordinary man with no big ambitions. Coming to Kampala from Bukwali Village, Kabarole, was like a dream; scaling the heights to America seemingly impossible.

    However, Kutegeka now not only has academic qualifications to his name, but has gone down in history as the first Ugandan to be recognised by Microsoft International. He recently received the Most Valuable Professional:Visual Basic award for this year.

    The holder of a Bachelor of Science degree in physics and a post-graduate diploma in computer science from Makerere University, Kutegeka beat off a challenge from over 2,000 professionals at the Microsoft Most Valuable Profesional (MVP)summit in Washington, US, to win the award.

    Kutegeka's award-winning ClinicMaster Technology is used at the Joint Clinical Research Centre to monitor patients on ARVs. It was showcased at the award ceremony. The award comes with a fully-sponsored trip to the US to attend the prize giving ceremony, as well as a $2500(about sh2m) shopping voucher.

    The winner is also entitled to the latest free Microsoft software and books. Kutegeka explains that he received the award because he was active in a technical discussion forum for Microsoft news groups, and as a result Microsoft easily spotted him.

    Kutegeka says the ClinicMaster is a new generation healthcare information management and medical billing software. It automates patients' transactions and daily procedures in the clinic. It is being used by the Joint Clinical Research Centre to manage patients on ARVs.

    "The algorithms (set of rules for solving problems) used in ClinicMaster, especially the one behind the search engine was part of what the Microsoft review board looked at before I was awarded the MVP," he says.

    He notes that it is important to change the perception that healthcare management software should be thought about only where there is need for clinical statistics. "Health management software should be part of the plan while setting up a clinic or hospital," he says.

    Before joining the high-tech world, the 35-year-old was a high school teacher of physics and mathematics at St. Leo's College, Kyegobe in Fort Portal. He says he was attracted to the ICT industry when he developed an interest in programming. "Programming became a passion whereby I found myself wanting to do more out of self-drive and self-training," he notes.

    "Because the software industry in the region is still virgin, a lot of processes are still manual especially in the health sector. This gives me the courage to develop innovative software such as ClinicMaster that automates clinical processes in hospitals or clinics," he adds.

    The fact that most software currently in use does not fully meet users' expectations, Kutegeka says, is another driving force for him to do research and come up with solutions.

    Close to 2000 other professionals were awarded in different categories this year. Six winners came from Africa. South Africa had three; Nigeria, Uganda and Algeria all had one.

    The New Vision

  • How many times have you heard that open source support is hard to find? If you collected a couple of cents for each time you heard it you would be basking in the Bahamas on a yacht right now.

    The reality is that there are tons of open source support companies in the market. It’s just that very few people know where to find them. So Tectonic has decided to add the Tectonic Open Source Business Directory to its web page.

    Phase one of the directory, which is a listing of companies providing a range of open source services, is now open and the good news is that listing any company (or finding one to help you) is completely free. And it will remain free for the foreseeable future.

    During this launch phase the directory is open to all companies operating in South Africa and providing open source services. Whether you are a trainer, a developer, provide support services or install Asterisk, the directory is there to be used.

    For the initial phase of the directory it is limited to companies and individuals providing services in South Africa specifically. In future phases, and depending on demand, it will look at expanding this to other regions.

    Tectonic

  • - Mozambique’s social security system will be computerised as Minister, Maria Helena Taipo, starts an official visit to Brazil, where she is expected to sign a protocol with her Brazilian counterpart, for the computerization of Mozambique's National Social Security Institute (INSS). The contract for INSS computerization may be awarded PREV DATA, a Brazilian company specialized on computerizing Brazil's social security.

    - Telnet, a Tunisian ICT group is expanding its international operations. The group which has signed a partnership agreement with the American firm Patton Electronics, will conceive innovative products related to broadband access technologies VDSL2, as well as multi- service digital terrestrial television.The products will be made in the US and destined to Africa, the Middle East, as well as to the American market.

    - A new district in Egypt's "Smart Village" is about to open. This new part of the national technology hub is mainly dedicated to the banking sector. The Smart Villages are part of an initiative to create technology districts all over Egypt.

    - Johannesburg city mayor Amos Masondo has unveiled a CCTV surveillance centre, aimed at improving the efficiency of the city's crime-fighting initiatives. The R42 million system will be managed by the Joburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) and operated by Omega Risk Solutions. Earlier this year, the JMPD ran a trial of the system, using footage captured from 216 CCTV cameras around the CBD to combat muggings, murders, car crashes, and smash and grabs.

Digital Content

  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (MINAFFET) Monday evening officially launched its website, www.minaffet.gov.rw, with the aim of linking all Rwandan diplomatic missions and honorary consulates overseas.

    The MINAFFET portal was launched by Rwanda Information Technology Authority (RITA) during an event at the institution's offices in Kacyiru, Gasabo District.

    "This portal is in line with vision 2020 that intends to turn Rwanda into knowledge-based economy and this will enable us to be more effective, efficient and communicate faster to with our embassies worldwide," said Foreign Affairs Minister Rosemary Museminali.

    She added that together with RITA, the ministry was working around the clock to install video conference facilities to enable the ministry have virtual communication with Rwandan embassies around the world.

    The facility which was developed under the eRwanda Project, will link 19 Rwandan diplomatic missions worldwide and about 30 honorary consulates.

    "It is easy to use, has interactive rich information, which will promote the image of Rwanda, it is also purely Rwandan," Ever Binamungu the CEO of Perspective Multimedia Solution who designed the portal said in his presentation.

    Also present at the function was Romain Murenzi, the Minister in the Office of the President in charge of Science, Technology, Scientific Research and ICT. In his remarks, Murenzi said that the portal was an example of ICT solution which should be applied by all ministries and different government institutions to foster eGovernment.

    The government of Rwanda received a grant of US$38million from the World Bank for the implementation of its eGovernment strategy. This grant was provided under the eRwanda project and is being implemented by RITA and the project focuses on specific activities within the National Information and Communication Infrastructure (NICI II) plan whose role include giving a boost to good governance.

    The New Times

  • The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa has published an Invitation To Apply (ITA) calling for interested individual Electronic Communications Services, Broadcasting Services and Electronic Communications

    Network Services licensees to apply for frequencies to provide mobile digital video broadcasting services.

    Two metropolitan multiplexes have been set aside to enable a provision of mobile digital video broadcasting services based on the Digital Video Broadcasting-Handheld (DVB-H) standard. The DVB-H standards were adopted by South Africa as per the Ministerial Policy Directive of September 2007 and are also consistent with the decisions adopted at the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Regional Radio Conference of 2006.

    Currently, frequencies are available in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town and the areas surrounding this metropolis. It is envisaged that in the future and with the freeing-up of spectrum following the digital migration process, the Authority may extend the coverage to other areas in South Africa.

    The copy of the ITA can be accessed using the following link

    http://www.icasa.org.za/Licensing/tabid/56/ctl/ItemDetails/mid/695/ItemI...

    or alternatively from Government Gazette Notice 1505 published in GG: 31686 dated 05 December 2008. The closing date for the response is 27 February 2009.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • African investors have hatched an ambitious plan to launch a dedicated satellite to beam more bandwidth to the continent. Africans will supply 90 per cent of the funding, with global satellite company Intelsat providing the experience and credibility to get the project done. The main local backer is Convergence Partners, a hi-tech investment fund chaired by Andile Ngcaba, a former Director-General of South Africa’s Department of Communications.

    The Oppenheimer family is also investing, while Nedbank Capital and the Industrial Development Corporation have pledged debt financing. Although the new dawn satellite will only switch on in 2011, half its transmission capacity has already been sold to Vodacom, Gateway Communications, Zain Nigeria and Gilat Satcom. Those deals guarantee an income of $350m, and Intelsat vice-president, Ed Berger, believes 90% of its capacity will be sold before it launches.

    "The price will be similar to what we have in the market right now," said Berger. Ngcaba said satellites remained important for Africa as its sheer size made it impossible to cover by fibreoptics.

    New Dawn will sit 36,000km above Africa and will deliver telephony, broadband Internet access and television channels to most of Africa for at least 15 years. Of the $250m cost, 85% will be met by loans. The other 15% will be equity funded, with Intelsat investing $25m for a 75% stake. The other 25% will be owned by Convergence Partners and Altirah Telecoms, making their investment worth about $8,3m, or R84m.Altirah Telecoms includes the Oppenheimers and David Frankel, a co-founder of Internet Solutions. Frankel admitted it was disappointing that New Dawn would not be active in time to broadcast the 2010 World Cup

    This Day

  • Deep pockets at Nedbank Capital are still open despite the global financial crisis, with the institution lending R4,5bn to projects to swell SA's telecoms infrastructure. The latest company to win Nedbank's support is Neotel, which has now met all its foreseeable capital expenditure needs by raising R4,4bn in loans and R3,1bn from a fresh cash injection by its shareholders.

    On Tuesday, Nedbank Capital announced it had thrown its weight behind the New Dawn satellite project, supporting ambitious African investors who are working with Intelsat to put bandwidth in the sky. Nedbank is also helping to fund the $600m Seacom undersea cable, by providing roughly half the debt financing needed to construct the 14000km cable.

    Nedbank is supplying about half the debt financing for the New Dawn satellite and about 20% of Neotel's new loan. Together, those terrestrial, sea-bed and satellite projects will ultimately give consumers more access to cheaper voice, data and media services.

    "We're investing about R4.5bn across the three deals," said Nedbank Capital's Mike Peo, probably making the company SA's most prolific funder of telecoms projects. "We are very positive about the telecoms sector in general, notwithstanding the current market conditions. Infrastructure is phenomenally important at the moment."

    Peo said the bank was charging an interest rate "appropriate" to the risks, and earned a fee as the lead financier that put the funding consortium together. "We wouldn't do this if we weren't making significant returns." The Industrial Development Corporation is also contributing to Neotel's R4.4bn loan and is also backing the New Dawn satellite.

    Neotel will spend the cash over several years, aiming for a total capital expenditure of R11bn over a decade. CEO Ajay Pandey said its financial needs had now been met, as R2bn had already been spent, and cash generated by its operations would fund the rest.

    People wanted to know what interest rate Neotel was paying for its debt facilities during a financial crisis that had made investors cautious with their cash. Pandey said these days "you are not worried about the rate, you are worried about whether you have a deal".

    The fresh equity investment of R3.1bn has been pumped in by Neotel's existing shareholders, led by Bombay-listed Tata Communications. Tata holds 26%, but the government is selling it another 30% that is owned by Eskom and Transnet. Pandey said the deal was still progressing, but would not disclose how much Tata had been asked to pay.

    Its other shareholders are black-owned Nexus with 19%, and CommuniTel and Two Telecom Consortium with 12,5% each. Pandey said they had already put in the extra equity, as the banks would not supply the loans until the shareholders produced the equity.

    Pandey rarely discloses figures to show how Neotel is faring, and last week would only say almost 300 companies were using its services.

    Business Day

  • The Managing Director of Telecom Namibia, Frans Ndoroma, said the negative perception around the Switch product emanating from the restriction imposed by Cabinet is one of the factors that contributed to the current sluggish growth in the company's turnover.

    Other factors included the imposition of value added tax (VAT) on prepaid products and the absence of bandwidth capping on the broadband services. According to him, preliminary figures show that his company's turnover for 2008 grew by 3 per cent to N$1.07 billion, adding that an increase in role-players in the industry had decreased his company's turnover growth.

    He said net income before tax for 2008 amounts to N$98 million, which is 19.44 per cent below budget, adding that this is attributable to the below-budget sales. He noted that capital expenditure in the local infrastructure and fixed asset acquisitions amounted to N$235 million in 2008, adding that the cumulative capital expenditure over the past five years stands now at N$1.1 billion, an investment which increased the current fixed asset base to N$2.6 billion.

    The Namibian

  • Telecoms company the Huge Group has been thwarted in its bid to take part in hearings to determine whether MTN will be allowed to acquire an airtime distribution company.

    Huge Group had sought permission to participate so it could cross-examine witnesses and present its own evidence in a bid to prove that MTN's move to buy iTalk Cellular was anti-competitive. But the Competition Tribunal last week dismissed its application to participate and awarded costs against it.

    That is the second blow to Huge. The first was when MTN prevented Huge from buying iTalk itself. MTN already owns 41% of iTalk and opted to exercise a pre-emptive right to buy the other 59%, offering R363m for the shares.

    Huge Group chairman Anton Potgieter said the tribunal had not yet given a reason for dismissing its application, but he now feared MTN's acquisition was a done deal. He has backtracked on a previous plan to escalate the matter to the Competition Appeal Court if necessary.

    If the tribunal only looked at market share, iTalk's claim of less than 2% meant its disappearance would not appear to have any major consequences, Potgieter said. But since there were only three remaining airtime resellers that were not fully controlled by the cellular networks, eliminating one of them reduced the choice to consumers by a third.

    Business Day

  • - Telkom South Africa is taking an almost silent approach to accusations of dodgy tenders and claims that its sale of Vodacom is a huge and possibly tainted decision, with its CEO and chief financial officer remaining tight-lipped on the issues.

    - Nigeria’s government through the Bureau for Public Enterprise (BPE) has announced that the absence of audited accounts for Nitel and Mtel will hold back the privatisation body in its bid to move forward in the privatisation process.

    - Wireless mobile communications company Motorola has appointed a new distributing agent for the Eastern African region. New Edge Solutions Limited (NESL) will distribute Motorola products to nine countries in the region as the company seeks to increase its market share currently threatened by stiff competition.

More

  • * Mukela Muyunda has been appointed as the managing director of ZAMTEL effective December 9, 2008.

  • * INVESTING IN ICT SECTOR IN EMERGING MARKETS

    11-12 December 2008, London, UK

    Organised by the CTO, the conference aims at emerging Markets in Asia, Africa and the Americas present unique opportunities for Telecommunications and ICT Firms, but also Banks, Infrastructure Providers, Private Equity Firms, Technology and Solution Providers, Legal Advisors and other Financial Intermediaries to enhance their business development goals and succeed where the market is.

    www.cto.int

    * REVENUE ASSURANCE FOR HIGH GROWTH MARKETS

    18th-21st January Mövenpick Hotel, Dubai

    http://www.iir-events.com/IIR-Conf/page.aspx?id=16215

    * TELECOM FINANCE 2009

    27th – 29th January 2009, Renaissance Chancery Court Hotel, London, UK

    Now in its fourth year, the TelecomFinance 2009 Conference and Awards Dinner will gather an exclusive group of the global telecom industry’s leading decision makers and visionaries to debate the challenges and opportunities we face in 2009.

    www.telecomfinance.com/2009

  • * CALL FOR PAPERS FOR WORLD e-ID 2009 CONFERENCE

    WORLD e-ID 2009 aims to be an ideal opportunity to share visions, see new perspectives and opportunities based on new application standard such as ISO 18013, CEN TC 224, ISO 24727, BIG ePass/EAC, BIG eRP/BAC&EAC and new technologies, identify new programs on national and international level and show lessons learned from implementations and projects running.

    The submission deadline is March 13th 2009.

    All detailed information including the list of topics, the submission procedure available at:

    www.strategiestm.com/conferences/smart-event/09/worlde-id/calls.htm

  • * mcel and Aircom - Mozambique

    Independent network planning and optimisation consultancy Aircom International has announced that it is working with Mozambique operator mcel to support the update of mcel's planning tools for 2G and 3G networks. In a deal worth US$1 million mcel will use Aircom's network planning and optimisation tools Asset and Optima to plan and manage its new 3G UMTS network, which is currently being deployed.

    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 info@balancingact-africa.com

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