Issue no 469 28th August 2009

top story

  • When the SAT3 submarine fibre cable was damaged on 24th July at Cotonou in Benin, alternative routes were quickly put in place to carry a major chunk of the international outgoing and incoming voice and data traffic from Benin, Togo and Nigeria. At the time, Côte d’Ivoire Telecom confirmed to us that both Togo and Benin asked for capacity on 25th July. International connectivity was restored on 26th July 3pm for Togo and 7pm for Benin via Côte d’Ivoire’s access to SAT3. This incident underlined the vital role that alternative terrestrial transmission networks have to play as well as Côte d’Ivoire’s potential as a hub routing neighbouring countries’ traffic. What might have been a bright future has just lost a bit of its shine as Côte d’Ivoire’s Government has introduced a new tax on international incoming voice traffic. Isabelle Gross looks at the impact of the Government’s decision on the telecommunications sector in Côte d’Ivoire.

    On 10th August, the Minister of ICT informed Côte d’Ivoire’s telecoms operators that the tax on international incoming traffic will apply as of 1st July. It is worth noting that the initial application date of the tax was 4th May 2009 but was suspended when UNETEL, Côte d’Ivoire’s telecommunications industry confederation, requested further clarification. The new tax applies to all international incoming voice traffic: this includes direct traffic as well as transit traffic and roaming calls.

    Article 54 of the Official Journal of 16 April 2009 states that the tax “is incurred by any foreign company benefiting from interconnection and is paid on its behalf to the fiscal administration by the national operator. The tax rate is 20 CFA francs (4.5 US cent) per minute of international incoming voice traffic”. In other words, the Ivorian Government has increased the wholesale price for terminating voice traffic in Côte d’Ivoire by about 20%. This increase flies in the face of the current downward trend in wholesale prices for African destinations. For Côte d’Ivoire’s telecoms operators, the outcome in the short term is pretty clear: a fall in the volume of incoming minutes that will translate into reduced income. In other terms, this price increase means that people calling Côte d’Ivoire from abroad (including the Ivorian diaspora) will call less often or for less long.

    Côte d’Ivoire telecoms operators are simply the scapegoats of the whole affair. They were given the task of informing international carriers that they will need to pay an extra 4.2 US cent per minute to terminate their voice traffic in Côte d’Ivoire. They have also been tasked to collect the money on behalf of Côte d’Ivoire’s fiscal administration. When international carriers and foreign telecoms operators have been made aware of the increase in termination costs, some of them, particularly those with bilateral termination agreements have in turn been inclined to increase their own termination prices. As a result, some international destinations will become more expensive for Ivorian too and they are likely to call less often or for less long. Côte d’Ivoire telecoms operators will be twice penalised, with a potential decrease in volume of international outgoing traffic.

    Last point of contention: who will pay 4.2 US cent per minute on all incoming traffic between 1st July and 10th August? Will it be Côte d’Ivoire’s telecoms operators, or the international carriers? It is unlikely that international carriers will pay for it as this would mean them incurring a net loss. In order to minimise default risks that Côte d’Ivoire telecoms operators might incur, the tax should not be applied at the billing stage but rather when the payment has been received.

    What will this 4.2 US cent tax be used for? According to the Official Journal of 16 April 2009:

    - 2.5 US cent “will be allocated to finance checks on incoming international traffic to Côte d’Ivoire and fight fraud in the telecommunications sector. This portion of the tax will be affected to a fund to be created named the Control and Fraud-fighting Fund”.

    - 1.5 US cent “will be allocated to the State’s budget”.

    - 0.2 US cent “will be allocated to the Culture Fund”.

    It may seem amazing that 60% of the tax will be allocated to a “Control and Fraud Fighting Fund” when the decree’s explanatory notes says that “it (the tax) is to ensure a minimum of tax income from the turnover generated by these services”. Unfortunately Côte d’Ivoire is not the only country tightening its control on international traffic. Congo has recently introduced similar measures. In an interview with the magazine Reseau Telecom, Thierry Lézin Moungalla, Congo’s Minister of Post and Telecommunications, insisted on the regulator’s control mission and justified signing up a foreign company for technical assistance in the following words “ the company, Global Voice (GVG) is well known in the international wholesale voice market and has made us a service proposal with a very good partnership contract. We didn’t hesitate and went for it. In other words, it is win-win partnership”. At 2.5 US cents per minute, the company gaining the contract in Côte d’Ivoire will hit the jackpot. With roughly 50 million international incoming minutes per month, the tax will generate about US$2.1 million per month.

    This tax, which looks more like a new customs duty, will be a serious barrier if Côte d’Ivoire’s telecoms operators are to make any significant progress in capturing the transit traffic of neighbour countries. If the wholesale price of a minute of transit traffic becomes too expensive via Côte d’Ivoire, the existing demand for transit capacity will shift to countries offering lower prices. Just as Côte d’Ivoire is closing downs its borders, leading African telecoms professionals are calling for borderless networks. In a recent press conference, Ernest Ndukwe, CEO of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has advocated the concept of "Fibre Without Borders (FWB) as a panacea for achieving a possible African telecoms revolution in terms of seamless telecommunications connectivity, quick and affordable broadband access to the citizenry.” It looks like as if Côte d’Ivoire is set to go in the opposite direction!

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - CellOne is getting a name change. After being sold to Egyptian-based telecoms giant Orascom Telecom Holdings in January, the company has announced that it will change its name to Leo (pronounced lay-o). The name was taken from the Swahili word meaning "today", while also representing the Spanish "lion", Chief Commercial Officer Chris Keeping said.

    - Nigeria’s National Antimobile phone theft scheme has received a boost as two leading mobile phone operators, MTN Nigeria and Zain Nigeria, have now hooked on to the network of the service provider, NetVisa Nigeria Limited. The connection allows both firms to offer their subscribers a service whereby when they report their phones as stolen; such phones would be rendered unusable in any mobile network in Nigeria.

    - The largest providers of mobile communication service in Liberia, Lonestar has made communication much cheaper with the introduction of sim cards that are rechargeable with scratch cards purchased in Liberian dollars. Known as the Liberty Sim card, the company introduced the new scratch cards which can be purchased in Liberia dollars on the market making those financial incapable of affording United States dollars before purchasing scratch cards to buy directly in Liberian dollars.

telecoms

  • The Ghana government has decided not to license new telecom operators to safeguard the integrity of the industry, Mr. Haruna Iddrisu, Minister of Communications said this week. “Government has no intentions of adding a new telecom player to the six players in the Ghanaian market,” he added.

    Mr. Iddrisu noted that telecom and mobile telecom in particular was a key driver of the country’s development, saying that as at the close of the first quarter of the year, (March 2009), 67 per cent of the 22 million Ghanaians owned and used mobile phone numbers, representing an increase of 13 per cent over the record of December 2008, which stood at 54 per cent.

    He observed that in response to the call by the government for telecom operators to print their scratch cards in Ghana, some of the operators were currently doing so, saying “we will like to further urged Tigo to explore that opportunity too”.

    Mr. Iddrisu assured the operators that in line with President Evans Atta Mills promise of a transparent and consultative government, the ruling National Democratic Congress, would continue to engage industry players in every major policy decisions regarding the industry.

    GNA

  • Vice President Goodluck Jonathan has inaugurated the new board for the government-owned moribund communication company, NITEL/Mtel, with a 60-day marching order on the new board to take immediate steps towards making the ailing company more attractive to investors preparatory to its resale.

    The Federal Government had early this year revoked the 51 per cent equity stake of Transnational Corporation (Transcorp) in Nitel/Mtel, citing a breach of the Share Sale Purchase Agreement (SSPA) among others.

    Inaugurating the interim board chaired by Ammuna Ali, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information and Communication, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Vice President Jonathan warned that on no account should the board embark on new projects until the company was handed over to the new core investor.

    Jonathan said: "The president has given an unwritten order that we must conclude the privatisation of Nitel and Mtel within 60 days, but if we cannot achieve what we have to do within the 60 days, we can write to him and explain.

    "You do not need to go into new investments, but if there are some critical things you need to do, you can clear with my office," the VP warned.

    He admitted that "over a period of time, a lot of things have gone wrong in NITEL and Mtel and, therefore, urged the new board to try to ensure that things go right within the 60 days stipulated period for the appointment of another core investor for the ailing company.

    "The board must also make sure that NITEL and Mtel management is intact, check if things are intact and if anybody has stolen anything, it must be brought to our notice and they will be made to pay for it," the VP said.

    Vanguard

  • Net*One, the country's largest mobile phone operator by network coverage and second largest by subscriber base, may list on the local bourse if its shareholder, the government, approves a financing model, which is one of the two options currently on the table.

    Information Communications Technology Minister, Nelson Chamisa, says the government plans to re-capitalise Net*One through an initial public offer (IPO) or through a technical partnership arrangement.

    Either option would see the government rolling back by up to 60 percent and attracting a substantial equity capital infusion to sustain current operations and finance the company's huge expansion plans.

    "Net*One is one of the four parastatals that the government is planning to re-capitalise as soon as possible. We are looking at a number of recapitalisation models," Chamisa said.

    "For Net*One, we are looking at either public listing or technical partnership. The more efficient of the two is what we will go for."

    Net*One plans to expand its network capacity throughout the country and diversify its operations to data services after applying for an Internet Access Provider licence last year. This requires large-scale investments in communications technology.

    Though it looks the cheapest source of huge capital for growth, an IPO, however, presents a pricing dilemma that may run up against the government's goal of re-capitalising its mobile phone operator as share prices are currently too undervalued to support a meaningful cash offer per share.

    Under the option, the government will have to appoint an underwriter to decide on the number of shares to issue, the type of share to issue, the offering price and when to bring the deal to the market. The money raised constitutes the issued share capital of the company.

    Should this option falter, a partnership deal with leading telecommunications corporations with vast operations in Africa looks set to sail through.

    MTN Group, South Africa's largest mobile phone operator, and the United Kingdom's Vodacom are among those that have an interest in buying into the country's three mobile operations.

    Financial Gazette

  • Three new telecom firms are to start operations soon, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has said, adding that the firms were licensed over the last one year.

    This brings to eight the number of licensed telecom firms with, Zain, MTN, uganda telecom, Orange and Warid in operation. Patrick Masambu, the UCC executive director, confirmed the entry of the three new telecom firms, but refused to reveal their identity, saying it was not right to reveal them at this stage.

    Masambu added that it was upon the telecom firms to confirm when they would go commercial as they already had the nod from the regulator and investment licences.

    Maggie Kigozi, the Uganda Investment Authority boss, had confirmed in an earlier interview that they had licensed a number of new investors to venture into the lucrative and fast-growing telecom industry.

    New Vision

  • - The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) says it has initiated a fresh bidding round for licences in the 2.3GHz and other frequency bands. In a statement in Lagos on Monday, the commission said that the fresh bid was part of the issues resolved at its board meeting on Aug. 20, 2009 in Abuja. Full details will be announced in due course and all stakeholders are advised to look out for public announcements in this regard.

    - Telkom Kenya has successfully stopped the reinstatement of some 597 employees pending the hearing and determination of a suit it has filed. The ruling follows an application by Telkom-K after the Industrial Court ordered the reinstatement of the sacked employees in April this year.

    - WARID Uganda has denied that it is rebranding itself. "That is inaccurate. We are not considering any kind of rebranding," said Zul Javaid, the chief executive officer. The Dhabi Group, which owns WARID, has been discussing with Essar, another telecom group about how it could take over its African assets. Zul said since the firm opened shop last year, it had built up WARID into a leading brand.

internet

  • The company’s Managing Director, Funke Opeke stated in Lagos this week that the company remains committed to completing its 7,000 Kilometre transatlantic submarine cable for the middle of next year. The first phase of the massive project will extend from Portugal to Lagos in Nigeria and Accra in Ghana, respectively.

    Main One Cable Company will be deploying the very latest technology in submarine fibre optic cabling. Using Dense Wave Multiplexing technology with 1.98 Terabits per second with two fibre pairs. Main One submarine cable will deliver more broadband Internet capacity to the West Africa sub region than any other existing or proposed undersea fibre projects.

    According to Opeke, "we remain painstaking in our determination to ensure that the first phase of the Main One cable project is concluded by mid 2010. Indeed, we are already working with our initial set of customers to plan for the interconnection of their networks to our cable system when it lands in Nigeria and Ghana." The company, she said, was awarded the first ever private submarine cable landing licenses by the duo of the Nigerian Communications Commission and Ghana’s National Communication’s Authority last December.

    In addition, said Opeke, Main One has since secured commitments for all of the $240m required to fully fund the transatlantic transmission cable and the various suppliers on the Main One project are working steadily towards the vital goal of on-time project completion.

    "We trust that on completion, Main One cable will help to minimise the problems regularly encountered by millions of end-users in the sub-region on account of the shortcomings and occasional glitches on the pre-existing submarine cable. Interestingly, Main One will crash Internet bandwidth tariffs in the sub-region as our tariffs will be less than half of what operators currently pay for bandwidth from SAT3 or satellite service operators."

    Opeke assured that in addition to providing jobs, Main One cable project which will operate an open access model, "will usher in a new dynamic regime of broadband Internet accessibility in Nigeria and the rest of the sub-region on completion, in mid 2010."

    Vanguard

  • A Zanzibar-based Internet Services Provider (ISP) has become the latest Tanzanian company to connect with Seacom submarine fibre optic cable. Zanlink whose trade name is Zee Communications Limited becomes the first ISP in the country to be connected with the cable.

    This is expected to increase competition among ISPs, improve service delivery and lower prices. The Tanzania Telecommunications Company Limited and SimbaNet are already linked up with Seacom.

    Zee Communications noted in a statement that its customers would get up to three or four times more bandwidth speeds.

    "This means that clients can now experience true broadband for faster surfing, downloading, online gaming, video conferencing VPN and WFI, applications that were difficult in the past due to the bottleneck in the bandwidth speeds.

    " It also indicated that broadband prices were likely to fall for residential users, small and medium businesses as well as large corporate and public sectors.

    There have been apprehensions among customers on whether Internet and data prices will decline following the landing of the Seacom cable in the country last month.

    So far only one data wholesaler, SimbaNet has announced that its prices will fall by about 50 per cent as a result of the connection with the Seacom submarine cable.

    The Citizen

  • Telkom has released its latest ADSL Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), captured between 1 April 2009 and 6 July 2009. Telkom KPIs – a requirement of the ICASA ADSL regulations – were previously dogged by inaccuracies and mistakes, and the company moved from a fairly comprehensive set of results to a trimmed down version providing significantly less detail.

    Three performance indicators form part of Telkom’s KPI reports: Packet Loss, Latency and Jitter. Each of these performance indicators are provided for Telkom’s national and international networks.

    The international packet loss is measured and averaged over 5 international links to South America, Europe and Asia while national measurements and averages come from 9 edge service routers located at different exchanges throughout South Africa.

    The same international links were used to measure latency while national round-trip times were measured and averaged over the same set of edge server routers used for packet loss measurements.

    The international jitter was measured over 5 international links to South America, Europe and Asia while local measurements involved 9 edge services routers once again located at different exchanges throughout South Africa.

    The results

    Telkom’s KPI statistics may raise eyebrows from ADSL subscribers who may feel that the results are a theoretical exercise rather than representative of a real world ADSL experience. The latest stats are as follows:

    International Key Performance Indicators

    Average International Packet Loss (%) - 0.028

    Average International Round-trip latency (ms) - 291.50

    Average International Jitter (ms) - 1.27

    National Key Performance Indicators

    Average National Packet Loss (%) - 2.90

    Average National Round-trip latency (ms) - 16.10

    Average National Jitter (ms) - 3.76

    MyBroadband

  • - Uganda Telecom and Rwandatel have purchased up to 620 Mega bytes per second of capacity on the Seacom fibre optic cable and secured links from the landing point on the Kenyan coast through to Kampala and Kigali. The partnership between Seacom, UTL and RTL now extends international connectivity from the undersea cable throughout East Africa.

    - Globacom, the sixth company licensed to provide mobile telephony in Ghana has began digging the ground in Ghana to lay underground cables for its broadband service. Workmen have been seen digging trenches in parts of Accra and laying the cables which will connect to Globacom’s Glo-1 Submarine cable linking Europe to Ghana and Nigeria.

    - According to Keith Nilsson, senior vice president of international emerging markets at Yahoo! Arabic versions of services such as Yahoo!'s messenger, search engine, front page and Yahoo! mail, will be activated in early 2010.

    - An Arab ministerial commission will examine by next September the necessary steps for the implementation of the creation of Arab satellite system for Earth Observation, prevention of catastrophes and the fight against climate change.

    - Kenya Data Networks (KDN), an Altech subsidiary, has laid an estimated 1500kms of fibre backbone from the Kenyan city of Mombasa to Kampala in Uganda. Further plans include laying an additional 400 km of underground cable from Kampala to Kigali, Rwanda, totaling 6000 km of cable for the project.

computing

  • Morocco's public sector is increasingly wired with information and communications technology (ICT) but faces challenges in equipping and supporting employees, a recent survey showed.

    The comprehensive survey, the first of its type ever carried out on ICT in the public sector, was conducted by the Ministry for Public Sector Modernisation by mailing questionnaires to 256 bodies, including ministries, high commissions and public agencies.

    Although the survey showed a strong presence of ICT in 86% of the government bodies that responded, it also revealed that a relatively small number of ministerial departments have high-quality infrastructure, and few have significant levels of IT support staff.

    "While the Moroccan government has an annual budget of 600 million dirhams for operations and investment, this survey nonetheless shows that there is a small number of IT staff," said Karim Jazouan, a manager at the internet, mobile and content service provider Casanet. "IT specialists make up just 1% of the staff of the various government authorities."

    Support issues aside, several positive trends appeared in the survey, which was conducted between October 2008 and June 2009.

    First, the ministry found that local area networks are becoming more common within government agencies. The survey report, released in July, showed that more than 90% of the respondents, including those within ministerial departments, have these networks.

    A second positive sign of IT integration is the percentage of government bodies possessing domain names. More than 79% of the respondents reported having this crucial intellectual property. Yet only 287 of the public-sector agencies surveyed actually used their domain name to put up a website.

    "Besides the limited number of government websites, even those that are online do not provide up-to-date or locally relevant information," said the director of the development company ADK Media, Driss Lebbat, underlining another deficiency in the government use of ICT.

    Bolstering IT security is another priority of the Moroccan government, according to the survey. Of the government bodies surveyed, 47% reported having an integrated IT framework or IT plan, and an equal percentage said they have an IT security plan. Nearly 70% of the public-sector bodies surveyed reported having an IT system security officer.

    Despite these technological advances, challenges face Morocco's ICT efforts. The survey showed that on average, just one workstation (desktop computer or laptop) is available for every four public-sector employees. Just half of all computers are connected to the internet, the clunky 256kbps being the most common access speed. Perhaps as a consequence of this low connectivity, only 12% of public-sector employees have a work email address.

    Morocco is also working to get the bugs out of its e-governance, the survey revealed. The kingdom has 286 remote services that operate via various distribution channels such as the internet, call centres and interactive terminals, the survey found, all of which must be protected from computer and network glitches.

    "The challenge currently facing authorities is to successfully adopt a form of governance for its e-gov strategy and also to encourage resource-sharing and subcontracting to make successes of the projects under way," said the general secretary of the Department of Postal Services, Telecommunications and Information Technology Tayeb Debbagh.

    In the face of all these challenges, Moroccan public-sector employees are showing resourcefulness. The survey showed that more than one in three agencies uses free software, and the use of freeware jumped to 39.25% among those with a database management system (DBMS).

    Magharebia

  • The Harare Institute of Technology (HIT) will from next month offer an e-commerce degree, the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa. HIT acting Vice-Chancellor Engineer Quinton Kanhukamwe said the degree programme would enable local companies to access markets anywhere in the world.

    He said this came at the right time when the country's economic recovery was gathering momentum and demanded e-commerce skilled personnel. "In launching the B-Tech e-commerce degree, HIT aims to make Zimbabwean entrepreneurs find markets anywhere in the world with ease. "Zimbabwe is an open economy which is highly dependent on foreign trade.”

    "It is therefore imperative that the country embraces leading technologies in international commerce," said Eng Kanhukamwe. He said technological developments across the world had seen businesses in major economies adopting new forms and structures of economic activity.

    The university would offer its graduates innovative and technology rich entrepreneurial and research driven knowledge to stimulate economic growth. "Innovation is the motor of modern economy, turning ideas and knowledge into products and services. "Our nation can only succeed through innovation on all fronts and indeed HIT will strive to be at the centre of this innovation," said Eng Kanhukamwe.

    The Herald

  • South Africans prefer genuine software to the fake article – but some people will go to extraordinary lengths to get their hands on the real thing without actually paying for it.

    Microsoft’s anti-piracy manager, Charl Everton, has fielded some ingenious excuses from people looking for free software in the six months since the launch of the Office Genuine Advantage (OGA) notifier tool in South Africa.

    “’My puppy got into my study and chewed up my software’; ‘I had a legal copy of Office when I was working in the UK, but the license seems to have expired.’ ‘My ex-girlfriend stole my software and registered it as hers’. We’ve heard them all,” said Everton.

    Since the end of January, more than 384 600 South Africans have voluntarily downloaded the OGA tool to help them see whether their Office applications are authentic or not. Of these, about a third have been found to be running non-genuine copies of Office.

    Microsoft has announced the second wave of its OGA campaign, which pops a dialogue box onto the screens of users of non-genuine Office, along with options to obtain a licensed version. After 30 days, it leaves a permanent reminder in the task bar. However, in line with Microsoft’s “gentle nagging” approach, none of the visual cues presented will prevent users from accessing their data or preparing documents.

    “The scary thing is that most of these people do not know the software they are using was pirated. That’s why our anti-piracy efforts have always focused on alerting customers that their software might be counterfeit, and connecting them to support and assistance to obtain the genuine article,” said Ms Everton.

    Running pirated software has wider consequences than many people think. Right now, say Microsoft investigators, South Africa is being flooded by high quality counterfeit software from known organised criminal syndicates in the Far East. And pirates are getting more sophisticated in their approaches. In combating software pirates, however, there is a need to ensure a positive customer experience along the way.

    Contrary to popular belief, OGA notifications do not reduce Office functionality, turn your computer screen black or send your personal information to Microsoft, says Everton. They merely alert the user that they are using non-genuine Office and that action should be taken to get genuine and properly secure their PC and personal information.

  • - Nigeria’s Minister of State for Education Hajiya Aishatu Jibril Dukku has inaugurated this week the ministerial implementation committee on National Information Technology Education Framework (NITEF) to fast-track implementation of IT education in the country.

    - Rwanda’s Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Samuel Mulindwa, has said that governments' move to digitalize the curriculum is an initiative aimed at improving the quality of education. He said this at the official opening of an eight-month training of a group of technicians from key institutions who will be responsible for digitalizing and disseminating the curriculum.

    - Payment with Algerie Post’s smart cards in supermarkets and pharmacies will be possible during the fourth quarter of 2009. Algerie Post (AP) has begun the deployment of 1,000 electronic payment terminals (TPE) across the national territory.

Digital Content

  • Access to online news content on Nigerian news websites will no longer be free of charge by end of 2010, Jeremy Weate of the School of Media and Communications, Pan-African University, Lagos has predicted.

    Weate who made this forecast today at the ongoing international conference on journalism and new media technology in Africa holding in Lagos told attendees that access to the website of major newspapers like ThisDay, Guardian, among others is not expected to be free by next year going by developments in other media markets in developed economies.

    Already, it has started in Nigeria with Punch, one of the nation's leading newspapers charging for access to its website.

    Weate who based his forecast on the direction in which the largest news media outfit, The News International, is headed, said that media managers in Nigeria will also head in that direction in his lecture entitled, Traditional News Journalism Versus 2.0 Journalism, delivered at the forum.

    Generally, Journalism 2.0 is regarded as new media outlets such as YouTube, citizen journalism driven by the emergence of the internet.

    According to him, The News International owned by Australian born media mogul, Rupert Murdoch has often been in the forefront of trends in the media and has announced its plan to begin charging for its online news stories.

    Because of the size and influence of The News International its fee payment take-off will begin a trend in the industry and thus these fee-paying internet news media will by extension encourage widespread adoption of premium content models on rival sites, Weate added.

    Though he foresaw some information still remaining free in such areas as initial access to the homepage and perhaps a free one-month trial subscription, he foretold various pay-for-news structures and models such as “pay per story/word” content, or “pay for analysis” by popular columnists, or news groups subscriptions and kindle-based subscriptions.

    However, asked whether Nigeria's Punch Newspaper, which earlier this year adopted fee payment for its online news stories was setting the pace for Nigeria and conforming to his prediction for the future, Weate was of the opinion that The Punch had begun two years earlier than it should.

    “I wonder how much money they could be making charging a fee at this time, considering that their subscribers will only need to go to other websites offering similar stories for free,” he said. He argued that the more realistic model would be to take off with fee payment in two years' time when majority of the online news media would be embracing the payment trend simultaneously.

    Technology Times

  • Google has announced the launch a full suite of translation tools in Afrikaans and Swahili. This announcement means that Afrikaans-speaking users will be able to find and view search results on foreign language web pages in their own language.

    The Google Translate translation service makes it possible for users to translate specific web pages or text, as well as search English web pages using Afrikaans keywords and have the results translated from any of 51 other languages into Afrikaans.

    Users can also paste text or a URL for a particular webpage in any of the 51 supported languages and receive a translation in Afrikaans immediately via Google Translate.

    “At Google we believe that the Internet is about enabling access to the world’s information -- all of the world’s information, in all of its languages. Today’s launch of Google Translate in nine new languages makes it easier to access web content from all over the web, even when it was written in language not your own.” says Tom Stocky, Director of Product Management at Google.

    “Google Translate is a great tool for people around the world who want to search and get results in their own language,” said Stephen Newton for Google South Africa. “Machine translation is a complex challenge but Google recognises the rich diversity of languages in Africa, and the introduction of Swahili and Afrikaans is one step in our ongoing strategy to develop products tailored to Africa, so we can best serve all users across all countries and communities.”

    Machine translation isn’t perfect, but it’s a great tool for anyone looking to access and get an overview of information in languages he or she doesn’t know well. In addition, Google also provides users the ability to suggest a better translation if they encounter a translation that’s awkward or not quite right. Google uses this feedback to help improve translation quality in future updates to the system.

    MyBroadband

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Egyptian telecoms group Orascom Telecom has released its financial results for the six months ended 30 June 2009, posting a 6.5% decline in consolidated group revenue to USD2.48 billion, down from USD2.65 billion a year earlier.

    The company cited currency devaluations in some of its key markets as a significant factor in the fall. Mobilink, Orascom’s Pakistani GSM unit, reported a 21.4% drop in revenue in the six-month period to USD529 million; by comparison, in the unit’s local currency, revenues only fell by 1.8%. Algeria’s Djezzy also posted a decline in revenue of 4.7% to USD941 million, while in local currency the cellco actually saw revenues increase by 6.7%. Revenue from Orascom’s GSM units totalled USD2.31 billion in 1H 2009, down 2.8% from USD2.37 a year earlier. Consolidated earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) for the six-month period fell 5.3% year-on-year to USD1.13 billion, while net profit slumped 30% compared to the same period in 2008 to USD213.9 million.

    Orascom reported subscriber growth for all of its GSM operations except those in Pakistan; Mobilink saw a 9% decline in its customer base to 29.1 million, although this was up almost a million from end-March 2009. The group’s total GSM subscriber base rose 8.7% y-o-y to reach 84.1 million at end-June 2009.

    Commenting on the results, Naguib Sawiris, chairman and CEO of Orascom, said: ‘The first half of 2009 was characterised by a weak first quarter followed by a stronger Q2; nevertheless the economic environment in which we are operating is still challenging and we see only timid signals of economic growth returning. In this context we are satisfied that our performance to date this year is in line with our forecasts, which predict a slower growth than in the same period of 2008.’

    Telegeography

  • MTN Group reports net income rose to 7.63 billion rand during the six months through June, from 6.24 billion rand a year earlier.

    MTN says group subscriber numbers were up 14% to 103,2 million from December 2008, and revenue up 24,2% to R57,3 billion from June 2008. Headline EPS was up 22,5% to 415,5c from June 2008, adjusted Headline EPS down 10,9% to 363,8c from June 2008.

    The phone company says group performance for the six months ended 30 June 2009 was satisfactory considering the economic downturn which affected markets worldwide. But the results have been worsened by the negative impact of functional currency losses of R2,8 billion on shareholder loans, receivables and cash.

    The Group's mobile subscriber base passed the 100 million milestone during the reported period to reach 103,2 million subscribers at 30 June 2009. This is a 14% increase since 31 December 2008. Subscribers have increased by 39% since 30 June 2008.

    MTN Group revenues increased by 24,2% to R57,3 billion (30 June 2008: R46,1 billion), largely driven by the strong growth in subscribers since 30 June 2008.

    Business Daily

  • Kenyan listed giant mobile communications company Safaricom held it debut annual general meeting (AGM) last week, resolving to consolidate its shares.

    The 800,000-plus shareholder company will be looking into the possibility of merging some of its shares in efforts aimed at increasing the share price at Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE).

    The move will also see a reduction in the number of the company’s shares in circulation. Safaricom shares currently valued at $KShs3.75 each have not broken even past the KShs5 they were offered at during a highly publicized IPO last year.

    Safaricom Chief Executive Officer, Michael Joseph told shareholders on Wednesday the company was looking at hiring financial advisors to guide the company on how to consolidate the approximately 40 billion shares in circulation.

    “We’ve requested the board to allow us go out and get proposals from different advisors as to what is the best way to handle it,”he said.

    “We will then come to the board with the proposals but it will take some time and we obviously have to tread very carefully because it could be a costly exercise,” he further added. Joseph said that should they opt for a share consolidation, the formula would be worked out later, after the board had looked at the proposals.

    Share consolidation is an exercise whereby the shares of existing shareholders are combined.

    For instance, in a 10 to 1 consolidation, 10,000 shares become 1,000 shares.

    At the company’s first annual general meeting since its listing at Nairobi Stock Exchange, Mr Joseph explained to about 3,200 shareholders present that the huge number of shares in the market means that the dividend payout has to be split among all shareholders which greatly reduces the amount per share.

    The company has a shareholder base of 830,000 who will each get KShs0.10 for each share held.

    “With 40 billion shares, how do you pay a reasonable dividend?” he posed, adding that the dividend payout accounted for 40% of their pre-tax profit.

    During the meeting, a resolution that will see any shareholder who opts to have their dividend sent via their money transfer service M-Pesa was passed.

    However, should the investors wish to withdraw their money from M-Pesa, the commission charged on the service will still apply.

    “If the customer is expecting a dividend of KShs100 ($1.3) they will get a KShs100 in their account. It’s only when they want to withdraw that amount as cash that the commissions will apply,” he said adding that the fee is normally shared among them, the agents and the government.

    The company had made provisions for 25,000 guests but only about 13% of those showed up in the AGM which sought to break away from the tradition of giving freebies and transport. “We have set a precedent and we hope other companies will follow suit,” he said of the frugal organization of the AGM which enabled them to save about $4.6 million (KShs352 million). Safaricom is currently rated as the most profitable company in Eastern Africa.

    East African Business Week

  • Computer manufacturer and technology importer Mustek 's profit has taken a serious dive, with a loss of R67,8m caused by foreign exchange fluctuations bringing its figures down, the company announced yesterday.

    A review of its structure identified inefficiencies and duplications, and corrective action has begun to contain its costs. But it came too late to prevent a fall in net profit from R87,6m to R52,4m for the year to June , despite revenue rising a fraction to R3,48bn.

    Headline earnings per share of 48,6c were down from 76,3c. Mustek has declared a dividend of 10c a share.

    It holds R338,6m in cash and the cash being generated by the drive to reduce inventory levels will be used to cut its short-term borrowings.

    Another prudent step was to cancel plans for its Zinox division to list on the Nigerian stock market after it bought two Nigerian distribution companies, as the poor economic climate meant it was not in Mustek's best interests to go ahead, said CEO David Kan. He did not give any positive predictions, but highlighted key risks that may affect Mustek's future profitability -- including the erratic electricity supply, the skills shortage and fluctuations in the exchange rate.

    However, the trend for businesses not to replace ageing hardware could not be sustained indefinitely. That would see fresh sales coming through for its Mecer brand of computers.

    Business Day

  • - The Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) has said the selection of an equity partner for Zamtel will be through an open tender process and both local and foreign companies are free to participate. The Government intends to maintain 25 per cent shares in the company to provide an opportunity to control the company for Zambians. The equity partner which is supposed to be brought on board by January next year would be expected to inject US$200 million needed to re-capitalise the company.

    - MTN may be trying to realign market expectations around its possible tie up with Indian operator Bharti Airtel. Speaking at the company's interim results presentation this week, CEO Phuthuma Nhleko explained the initial proposed deal, published in a bourse communication earlier this year, may not be the shape of the deal, when or if an agreement is reached.

    - South African Web design and custom software specialist, Syncrony will acquire full control over the business operations of FourWays IT. Web hosting company FourWays IT has sold its entire operation to the company, in a deal that will result in a substantial increase in market share for Syncrony within the SA corporate Web design market.

More

  • - Former Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) councillor Mamodopi Mohlala, who currently heads up the Pension Funds Adjudicator, has been appointed as director-general of the Department of Communications in South Africa.

    - Nigeria’s CDMA operator, Starcomms has announced the appointment of Alhaji Tajudeen Dantata, the Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Dantata Organization Limited as its Board Director.

  • * Telecoms World Africa

    31 August - 4 September 2009, Cape Town international Convention Centre - Cape Town

    Telecoms World Africa is an established forum for the communications sector in Africa. The only one of its kind, this event provides a platform for key stakeholders to discover the opportunities for growth in Africa, and establish themselves as market leaders…

    http://www.terrapinn.com/2009/telecomza/

    * MOZAMBIQUE NATIONAL ICT CONGRESS

    17-18 September 2009, Centro Internacional de Conferencia Joaquim Chissano, Maputo

    www.aitecafrica.com

    * EAST AFRICAN FIBRE SUMMIT

    22-23 September 2009, Laico Regency Hotel, Nairobi

    www.aitecafrica.com

    * BROADBAND AFRICA SUMMIT

    28-29 September 2009, Dakar, Senegal

    Broadband Africa is the leading conference and exhibition for the entire broadband ecosystem in Africa. This must attend event will bring the industry together to define the future of both fixed and mobile broadband. The comprehensively researched agenda will cover the most topical and timely issues, and will serve as a platform for discussion and debate at the highest level.

    http://www.broadbandglobalsummit.com/africa/home/home

    * INFRASTRUCTURE PARTNERSHIPS FOR AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT – CONGO DRC

    6-8 October 2009, Grand Hotel, Kinshasa, Congo DRC

    The Infrastructure Partnerships for African Development (iPAD) DRC 2009 conference and exhibition is a platform for sound investment and collaboration in the reconstruction of the DRC - under one roof between governments, the public sector and business.

    iPAD DRC 2009 is a one-stop-shop for investigating investment opportunities in the DRC and the region, opening up a previously inaccessible but lucrative market.

    www.ipad-africa.com/drc

    MOBILE WEB AFRICA

    13-14 October 2009, Johannesburg, South Africa

    Coverage of one of the most important technological advances of the 21st century and the exceptionally interactive roundtable format promises to make Mobile Web Africa one of the leading events of 2009 in Africa.

    Attend Mobile Web Africa and help understand how the mobile web and mobile applications can contribute to the evolution of the continent.

    With capacity limited to just under 200, register your interest in attending this exclusive conference immediately. Join the unrivalled speaker faculty as well as a delegation with representation from the entire ecosystem.

    http://www.mobilewebafrica.com/

    * AITEC GHANA 2009

    22-24 October 2009, International Conference Centre, Accra

    www.aitecafrica.com

    MMT 09 - Mobile Money Transfer

    26-27 October2009, Dubai.

    MMT 09 is a 'must attend' event for anyone who is serious about remittances. Over 350 mobile network operators, microfinance institutions, money transfer networks, banks and technology providers will converge at MMT 09 to discuss the best ways to make money from mobile money transfer. Nowhere else in the world will you find so many MMT project leaders all gathered in one place.

    www.mobile-money-transfer.com

    ComBIT AFRICA

    2-4 November 2009, Lagoon Conference Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos

    AITEC has been commissioned to organise this leading annual ICT expo hosted by the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON). This year’s theme is “Setting the Pace for Africa’s ICT Transformation”

    www.aitecafrica.com

    OUTSOURCING & CONTACT CENTRES EAST AFRICA

    11-12 November 2009, Laico Regency Hotel, Nairobi

    Now in its fourth year, this is East Africa’s leading BPO conference, gathering international outsourcing companies and buyers of outsourced services with local service providers to explore partnerships and business opportunities.

    www.aitecafrica.com

    CUSTOMER SERVICE & CONTACT CENTRE WEST AFRICA

    24-25 November 2009, Oriental Hotel, Lagos

    www.aitecafrica.com

  • Alcatel Lucent 3g Optimisation Engineer – West Africa

    Alcatel Lucent 3G Optimisation Engineer is needed by a major client.You will have very good technical experience of 3G Optimisation working Alcatel Lucent equipment.The successful candidate will carry out 3G/2G neighbouring planning for all sites and will have knowledge of scrambling code definition and creation of RNO procedures.

    http://www.cellular-news.com/recruitment/list_job.php?uid=9113

  • Vodacom and Andrew – South Africa

    Andrew Solutions says that it has won a contract from South Africa's Vodacom to deploy indoor coverage in five of the 10 South African stadiums to be used for the 2010 World Cup. Andrew's multi-operator ION-M optical distributed antenna system supports current GSM 900/1800 and UMTS frequency bands as well as next generation LTE and WiMAX networks. The systems' basic architecture involves fiber optic and coaxial cables, master and remote units, and other subsystem products that receive and transmit signals from dedicated operator base stations to customer handhelds throughout the facility.

    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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