Issue no 473 25th September 2009

top story

  • Nigerian-owned Mainstreet Technologies said this week that it is on schedule to be operational by June 2010 and that the building of landing stations has started in Ghana, Nigeria and Portugal. Also there will be three other landing station points in Africa with landing station partners to be announced in 2010. Russell Southwood spoke this week to Main One’s Commercial Director Bernard Logan.

    In a classic fog of unreliable information, the much-delayed Globacom-owned Glo One cable announced in early September that it had landed in Lagos. However, what this means is less than clear as one report spoke of the ship leaving Lagos for Accra. The Glo One cable will definitely land in Accra and Lagos but the press announcement spoke of it having 14 branching units to serve other West African countries and a potential phase 2 to South Africa. But it has to be said that there is precious little sign of Glo One appearing in some of those 14 countries.

    The telcoms industry in Nigeria has rather given up on Glo One as we are told it is not yet able to provide prices to its potential customers although judging by its retail behaviour in the mobile market, it will seek to offer the cheapest bandwidth in the market.

    Meanwhile Main One seems to be making steady progress to becoming the second competitive cable in West Africa by June 2010. According to its Commercial Director Bernard Logan, it is “80% through production” of the fibre, has “started its first lay in Ghana” and is building three landing stations in Ghana, Nigeria and Portugal.

    It will land in Tenerife, Morocco, Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire by making agreements with landing parties: these will be announced in 2010. It will be interesting to see which landing parties are announced for somewhere like Senegal: there are only two options – Sonatel and Expresso – and the former is already a partner in the France Telecom competitor cable ACE.

    Although the market for international fibre is going to be very competitive with four new cables (Glo One, Main One, WACS and ACE), Main One is already contemplating upgrading its starting capacity from 30 gbps in June 2010. It has an overall potential capacity of 2 tbps. It has attracted “tier one customers” who are already invested in other cables:”We have customers who’ve already bought who will also buy on other cables. They don’t want to put all their resources into one system. They’ve already seen the net effect of dealing with SAT3”.

    So what will the price be? This answer to this question rather depends on how many cables there are in the market but it is safe to assume that there will be four by 2011. According to Logan, capacity will initially be “20% of today’s rates” based on today’s rates being around US$5 million for an STM1.

    “By 2011, prices will have come down again because there will clearly be more competition. However, WACS and ACE are consortium cables (primarily designed to serve their members) and the Glo One cable is self-feeding for Globacom. In both cases, their idea of price will be very different from ours as an independent cable.” But by 2011 he expects further price falls:”There will be further falls of 50% a year and I fully expect that. Fibre markets around the world work on that basis.”

    In terms of getting the bandwidth in and out of the continent, Main One has an alliance with Tata for European connections onward from their Portugal landing station and other strategic relationships for further afield. But unlike Seacom which has partners to deliver to POPs inland at the same price as at the landing station, Main One will rely on its customers to get the capacity to the inland countries. However, it is constructing an inland route between Accra and Lagos with a partner to create a redundant ring and one side-effect will be the delivery of its bandwidth to Togo and Benin.

    “Our plan was always much simpler than Seacom’s. We wanted to reach the landing stations and we’re always expecting to maintain ourselves as a wholesaler. It will be better for the landlocked countries to build routes to get to the landing stations.”

    Bernard Logan has been involved in 12 fibre cables in the last 20 years. His previous job was for TWA , a cable linking Pakistan to the UAE.

    Correction: In issue 472, we said that Africonnect had 900 customers and it should have been 2,000. Also it charges US$50-150 for a 512 kbps connection on a 12:1 contention ratio.

telecoms

  • Tigo, the new national telecom operator with its parent company based in Luxembourg, has renewed its commitment to launch its operation in Rwanda by the end of this year.

    Tigo Rwanda's Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Alex Kamara, told The New Times in an exclusive interview, last week that the telecom company which rolled out an investment package of about Rwf50 billion for its operations in Rwanda, is still committed to what was submitted during the negotiation for the licence last year.

    "I can't tell you the exact time but what I can say is that we have been working extremely hard ever since we arrived. We are going to launch before the end of this year; that is our goal," Kamara said."There is no deviation from the expectations that were set. Our strategies are focused on the service delivery and what we intend to bring.What I can tell you so far is that the whole project has cost in excess of $100 million."

    Tigo is a brand of Millicom International Cellular, a multi-national telecommunications company with operations in 13 countries including 3 in Central America, 3 in South America and 7 in Africa. As a brand in Africa, Tigo has been operational since 2006.

    New Vision

  • The Zimbabwe Chronicle reports that eight companies have been granted licences to operate international VoIP telephony services. Therefore Zimbabwe joins the small but growing number of African countries that are licensing VoIP service providers.

    Gideon Magodo of the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) told the newspaper that the regulator had received applications from eleven organisations seeking Internet Access Provider Class A licences (allowing data, internet and VoIP services), including six new applications and five wishing to upgrade from Class B (data and internet only) to Class A concessions.

    Magodo said POTRAZ had granted new licences to Aquiva, Dandemutande and Taurai Zimbabwe while it had agreed to upgrade licences held by state-run incumbent telco TelOne (which owns ISP ComOne), data network operator Africom, ISP Ecoweb (owned by cellco Econet Wireless), Powertel, the telecoms wing of the state electricity utility, and ISP Telecontract.

    Regulations dictate that licensees must be at least 51% Zimbabwean-owned. The watchdog announced earlier this week that it would now place a moratorium on issuing VoIP licences because the sector was ‘saturated.’

    Until the recent licensing, companies were restricted to providing domestic IP-based services whilst international VoIP calls were not permitted, although it was previously reported that Africom was allowed to offer the service for corporate customers. Furthermore, it was reported that POTRAZ had approved an international calling card service from Econet which used an IP platform.

    Telegeography

  • Portuguese telecommunications operator Oni announced it plans to set up a local company in Angola in the first quarter of 2010 and is looking at moving into the Brazilian market by acquiring a telecommunications sector company.

    “We are considering having a local operation to provide services to large companies in Angola. I expect that it will be launched in the first quarter of 2010, with projects for integration of telecommunications services and equipment,” the chief executive of Oni, Xavier Rodriguez-Martín told Lusa.

    The CEO explained that of his customers in Portugal, 100 also operated in Angola, and thus the operator had felt the need to accompany them in that market.

    Macauhub

  • Players in the telecommunications sector are pleading for more time to respond to new guidelines on tariff reviews published by the industry regulator last week. The regulator, Communications Commission of Kenya, gave its licencees seven days to respond to the new regulations before they become binding, reducing the window from the traditional two months.

    Among the new guidelines are requirements by industry operators to be submitting to the CCK any intended change of their tariffs for approval. This will involve both promotional and in other tariffs.

    "The purpose and objective of these regulations is to monitor and control the manner in which tariffs, promotion, or special offers are imposed on consumers so as to promote fair competition and encourage the provision of affordable services," read part of the guidelines.

    The regulations were published on the CCK website following the enactment of the Kenya Communication Amendment Bill 2009. Joshua Chepkwony, the chairman of Telecommunication Network Operators Forum (TNOF), said that the regulations were critical to the industry and members needed to peruse them individually before coming up with an industry position.

    "We are not against the contents but we have to go through them to assess their impact," said Chepkwony. The forum is expected to issue a statement today. Previously, the operators were not required to notify CCK before doing any tariff adjustments but only filed their new tariffs.

    In the new tariff requirement, operators intending to ran a promotion will be required to notify the regulator 30 days before rolling out such a promotion or offer. On adjustment of tariff, the operators will be required to inform the commission in writing 60 days before the adjustments.

    During this period, CCK may approve or reject the proposed tariff adjustment. Before approval, CCK will put a Gazette notice on the intended adjustment of the tariffs. The guidelines also outline how CCK will levy the operators, the Universal Service Access Fund, and how the regulator will manage it.

    Previously, the telecommunication operators were concerned about the manner in which CCK said is was going to manage the fund. The operators will be required to pay one per cent of their annual gross revenue to CCK to cater for the fund.

    Business Daily

  • - South Africa’s Parliament has asked consumers and businesses who are exasperated by the high cost of cellphone calls to express their anger in writing. Public comments are being invited by Parliament's portfolio committee on communications, ahead of a showdown with cellular operators next month. The committee wants customers to comment on its plan to force operators to reduce the high cost of telecommunications, and particularly to comment on the interconnection fees they pay for making cross-networks calls. Comments from the public can be sent to nskaka@parliament.gov.za by October 2.

    - Bloomberg reports that I-Tel Uganda will launch its CDMA-based mobile network in 38 towns across the country and plans to invest USD150 million over the next three years to expand its network. I-Tel will also offer fixed line telephony, data and research services, Augustus Caesar Mulenga, the firm’s Chief Executive Officer, told reporters. ‘Our investment will depend on conditions in the market. We may progressively invest up to USD150 million in three years if the conditions are favourable,’ he said.

    - Workers of the troubled national carrier, Nitel, and its GSM arm, Mtel, have threatened to disrupt operations of the company over their 13 months unpaid salary arrears, lamenting that they are finding it difficult to cope with the economic situation in the country. So yet more mayhem for those who use its SAT3 landing station…

    - Countries from across the African continent will join together in national pavilions to address the overarching theme of bridging the digital divide at ITU Telecom World 2009 in Geneva, from 5-9 October. Pavilions representing Burundi, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and the Africa Lusophone countries will unite a broad range of organisations from the non-profit, private and R&D sectors with the common goal of reasserting their commitment to information and communications technology (ICT) and digital development.

    - Only 13% of Botswana’s pre-paid mobile phone users have registered their SIM cards, despite the deadline of 31 December 2009 fast approaching, writes local newspaper the Sunday Standard, citing the Botswana Telecommunications Agency’s (BTA’s) public relations officer Twoba Koontse. According to Koontse, only 267,113 pre-paid cell phone subscribers have registered since the BTA made the process mandatory from 15 September 2008.

    ­ Uganda's politicians have voted down a proposal to scrap a sales tax on mobile phones following concerns from the government that it needs the revenues the taxes generate. Phone dealers have long argued for the tax to be scrapped, citing increased levels of grey imports and smuggling from the neighbouring countries. The concerns were heightened when neighbouring Kenya lowered its taxes on mobile phone handsets earlier this year.

internet

  • Through the newly set up National Information Technology Authority-Uganda (NITA-U), government plans to outsource management of both the national backbone infrastructure (NBI) and the E-Government Infrastructure (EGI) to a private manager.

    The move to find a private manager is aimed at providing an efficient service to the users of both in government and the private sector, according to Godfrey Kiirya, the principal information scientist at the Ministry of Information Communication Technology (MOICT).

    He said that the first phase of laying the country's optic fibre cable has been completed and it covers the major towns of Jinja in eastern Uganda, Entebbe south of Kampala and Bombo which is to the north of Kampala.

    He said the second phase, which is scheduled for implementation this financial year will involve laying 1,543 kilometers of optic fibre cable that will link the major towns of Jinja, Bugiri, Busia, Tororo and Mbale in eastern Uganda. The other cable will be laid to link Luwero, Nakasongora and Masindi in central region and will extend to Gulu in the north. This will be followed by laying a cable from Masaka in the south to Mbarara, Ntungamo, Kabale to Katuna in southwestern Uganda.

    "The project also includes building a network operating centre with modern Internet Exchange Points in the major towns," Kiirya told The East African Business Week in an interview last week.

    He said the project will roll out a voice and video network across government offices and agencies. "We will also procure Internet services centrally through the use of the Common Internet Gateway that will be based at the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC)," he said.

    "We shall have back up equipment to be installed in government departments to ensure downtime delivery of government services and expand the network to other 16 towns among others," he said.

    The third phase will cover 408 kilometres linking the towns of Kumi, Soroti and Lira in the north east and the towns Mbarara, Bushenyi to Kasese in western Uganda. "We have been directed by Members of Parliament on the ICT committee to identify the fourth phase that will cover the West Nile region in north western Uganda and Karamoja in the north east of Uganda.

    Implementation of the three phases has been enabled by a loan from the Export and Import Bank of China worth $106.7 million. "So we are still looking for funds to implement the fourth phase," he said.

    East African Business Week

  • Investigators from the Financial Intelligence Unit, have revealed that inordinate hours taken by Tanzania Revenue Authority personnel to clear tax payments made through electronic transfers, allowed a syndicate to siphon out billions of shillings remitted by state corporations.

    The investigators have confirmed that it took four to six hours for tax payments made through TRA.Com to be authenticated by tax body's officials from the Information and Technology Department.

    Sources close to the investigation into the disappearance of reportedly between $5 and $77 million (Sh6.5 billion and Sh100 billion), after it was paid through the new electronic money transfer system, and also confided to The Citizen that some TRA employees were not well versed with the new system.

    Both the minister for Finance and Economic Affairs, Mustafa Mkulo, and the Bank of Tanzania governor, Prof Benno Ndulu, have been separately quoted in the media saying only $5 million has been lost to an international cyber syndicate.

    But first media reports revealing the theft, however, quoting sources inside TRA, claimed up to $77 million may have been stolen. "We have also learnt that other officials were simply lazy or delayed to verify the payments and as a result allowed hackers to steal the funds," a source close to the team investigating the saga who requested for anonymity said.

    The theft took advantage of the newly established Tanzania Interbank Settlement System (TISS). Our sources also revealed that the investigations have so far established that the same system was used to swindle Barclays Bank Tanzania Limited of Sh1.4 billion last November, is the same one that crooks used to hack into the TRA system. But collusion with TRA insiders had not been entirely ruled out.

    A source said TRA had not adequately prepared its workers to use the Tanzania Interbank Settlement System which was introduced by BoT recently to hasten cheque clearance in excess of Sh10 million.

    "We have established that the Government would be losing a lot of money if this system is not well managed, because in this global world, there are IT technician who are advanced than our own and pounce at any little loophole,"the source said in an exclusive interview last Friday.

    The source said after interrogating officials from public entities that have been involved in the scandal, they have reason to believe insiders in the same parastatals played a apart as other companies that used TRA.Com, have not been affected.

    The syndicate was suspected to have recruited senior and middle level staff at TRA, various banks, the Tanzania Telecommunication Company Limited (TTCL) and the Tanzania Electric Supply Company (Tanesco), and siphoned off the money between March and August when TISS was introduced.

    "Our concern with TRA is for the fraudsters to log onto their system using a special code known to them and which would access billion of shillings through TRA.com," the source said. Efforts to reach TRA Commissioner General Harry Kitilya for comment were yesterday futile.

    Finance and Economic Affairs minister Mustafa Mkulo, separately said he would not issue any statement as it could interfere with the ongoing invstigation. "The issue is now under investigation, I would not comment on it until the investigation is completed and findings brought to my table," he said.

    According to the Bank of Tanzania, TISS is advantageous in that it offers same day settlement as opposed to the cheque system which can take up to seven days for cheques to be cleared.

    In addition, TISS is supposed to be more secure due to the fact that authentication is done prior to a payment being issued, while cheques are authenticated after the payments have been effected.

    According to the central bank, the introduction of TISS has also led to efficiency in the collection of tax by TRA, as all tax payments of a value of Sh5 million ($4,000) and above, are now remitted through TISS.

    The Citizen

  • Neotel last week launched an uncapped 2 Mbps WiMAX service aimed at the small and medium sized business market. The service provides both uplink and downlink speeds of 2 Mbps (symmetrical) and aims to compete with business ADSL services from service providers like Internet Solutions.

    According to Neotel the service is a best-effort broadband service similar to ADSL without any service level agreements (SLAs). While the service is uncapped, it carries a ‘fair-usage’ limit of 35 GB per month. It is understood that the service will be throttled to a lower speed if the usage per account is significantly higher than the fair-usage limit.

    The Neotel WiMAX service is available in three flavors: a month-to-month option, a 12 month contract and a 24 month contract. With the month-to-month option the service is priced at R 4,500 excluding VAT, and carries a once-off installation and CPE cost of R 5,000. The price decreases to R 3,500 per month (excluding VAT) when a 12 month contract is signed, and these subscribers will also not have to pay any installation or CPE fees.

    The 24-month contract service costs R 3,050 per month (excluding VAT) and subscribers will also not be charged installation and WiMAX CPE costs. At R 3,477 per month (VAT inclusive) the service will attract some businesses looking for an uncapped solution with high uplink speeds, but the 35 GB fair usage policy may be a concern to some high-usage clients.

    According to Neotel CEO Ajay Pandey initial feedback from commercial clients has been very positive, and the company is confident that their WiMAX offerings will go a long way to serve the needs of the high-end consumer and business market.

    Neotel currently has around 70 WiMAX towers, mainly situated in the Gauteng region. Pandey pointed out that they have a small WiMAX footprint in Cape Town, but that over 90% of the WiMAX sites are currently in Gauteng.

    Mybroadband

  • - South Africa's Sumbandila Satellite finally blasted off into space at the speed of lightning into the earth's orbit on 17th September. The blast-off was accompanied by rousing applause and delight by keen South Africans who had traveled to Baikonur, Kazakhstan to witness the event.

    - Nigeria’s CDMA operator, Multi-Links Telkom has launched its data services in Lagos metropolis. The service has been deployed in places such areas like Victoria Island, Apapa, Festac, Surulere, Ikeja, Ogba, and Ilupeju.

    - Zimbabwe’s Government is working towards improving Information Communication Technology to enhance the country's visibility on the global map.

    ICT Minister Nelson Chamisa, at a pre-launch of "this is nyanga.com", a campaign programme meant to market Nyanga as a preferable tourist destination, said lack of visibility was affecting meaningful inflows of tourists into the country. "We need to make sure Zimbabwe is connected and we are dealing with these issues," said Minister Chamisa.

    - Vizada Networks, an independent satellite communications provider, and VT iDirect, a company of VT Systems Inc last week announced that Vizada Networks has purchased an iDirect Series 15000 Universal Satellite Hub. Vizada plans to launch a next-generation broadband IP service that will provide affordable Internet access across Africa and the Middle East, as well as support Vizada Networks’ corporate customers operating in these regions.

    - Mauritius Telecom , which has already connected to the South Africa Far East fibre-optic cable system to increase its international connectivity, has revealed its intention to lay a second cable, the company’s chief executive officer Sarat Lallah said last Friday. The investment for the Lower Indian Ocean Network (LION) fibre-optic cable is being supported by a consortium made up of Orange Madagascar, MT and France Telecom, Lallah said. It is anticipated that the cable will become operational by 2010.

computing

  • IBM and Canonical are introducing a new, flexible personal computing software package for netbooks and other thin client devices to help businesses in Africa bridge the digital divide by leapfrogging traditional PCs and proprietary software. This is the first cloud- and premise-based Linux netbook software package offered by IBM and Canonical, the companies announced today.

    As part of IBM's Smart Work Initiative, the new package targets the rising popularity of low-cost netbooks to make IBM's industrial-strength software affordable to new, mass audiences in Africa. Businesses that could not afford traditional PCs for all employees can now use any type of device and low-cost software to enable all workers to work smarter anywhere using a variety of devices, regardless of the level of communications infrastructure.

    The companies said the software is now available across Africa and is being piloted for other emerging and growth markets worldwide. The solution includes open standards-based email, word processing, spreadsheets, unified communication, social networking and other software for any laptop, netbook, or a variety of mobile devices.

    It runs on Canonical's Ubuntu Linux operating system, and provides the option to deliver collaboration through the Web in a cloud service model. This software bundle can also be extended to virtualized workspaces using VERDE from Virtual Bridges, which is available locally through business partners and voice-based collaboration pilots through IBM Research. IBM estimates that it delivers up to 50 percent savings per seat versus a Microsoft-based desktop.

    "Businesses in emerging markets are looking to gain the freedom and flexibility afforded by open standards," said Bob Picciano, General Manager, IBM Lotus Software. "The IBM Client for Smart Work builds on the movement toward open standards and Web-based personal computing by giving people the power to work smarter, regardless of device."

    The company said the IBM smart client package can help African governments deliver open standards using Open Document Format (ODF), saying that the reduction of personal computing costs may enable governments to transfer information technology expenditures to fund mission-critical initiatives such as crisis management, education and health care.

    "Starting with Africa, we see that this smart client package can help realize our vision of eliminating barriers to computer access for emerging markets," said Mark Shuttleworth, founder, Canonical. "Our IBM partnership brings together the strengths of collaboration to help our customers work smarter using this new approach."

    With this new package, businesses can cultivate new suppliers and partners over the Web through IBM's LotusLive.com, which will allow them to expand service to new customers beyond their local area. Through virtualisation of this collaboration software, they can exponentially increase their computing and collaboration power without additional infrastructure costs.

    A network of local service providers such as Inkululeko and ZSL Inc. is expected to extend the IBM Client locally throughout Africa to government, educational institutions and businesses. In addition to local service providers, IBM will also work with leading universities such as Makerere university and academic consortiums to bring this new computing model down to individuals in the employment or attendance of learning institutions.

    "Software is an important enabler of the service industry," said Professor Venansius Barya Baryamureeba, Dean, Faculty of Computing and IT, Makerere University, Uganda. "However most of the good software is unaffordable by most of the users in developing countries, hence most users in developing countries have resorted to pirated software and free software. But most free software packages can be a nightmare of setup woes, training costs, and processes that just don't fit your organization. The hope lies in affordable software that is as good as proprietary software, which benefits from economies of scales as a result of targeting a mass market."

    According to AIB Research, netbook computer sales are expected to quadruple from 35 million in 2009 to 139 million by 2013. AIB Research predicts that Linux will outgrow Windows on netbooks by 2012. More than 30 percent of netbooks are sold with Linux, which reduces their cost substantially below the typical retail cost of personal computers running Windows XP.

    afrol News

  • ‘ Beep!’ In the pharmacy department of many IICD-supported Tanzanian hospitals in the Mwanza region, this sound has become very familiar. Pharmacists are warned by a computer system that some medication in stock is about to expire or that new supplies of a certain medicine have to be ordered.

    Thanks to the digital approach, the risk of actually handing out expired medication is greatly reduced. For medicine such as nitroglycerin, insulin and some liquid antibiotics, it is vital that they do not expire. For other medicines the problem is not as acute, but their effectiveness will still weaken after a while.

    In addition to the expiration tracking, the computer system also keeps track of what medicine goes in or out. Because of this, pharmacists always have an accurate number of medicines left and can be warned long in advance if new supplies need to be ordered. For doctors it is also useful because they are now also constantly aware of how much medicine is still left and can indicate if necessary if they need more.

    The expiration and stock warning system is part of a Hospital Management Information System called AfyaPro, that enables health workers to digitalise their administration. Examples of administration that are digitalised are patient files and financial data. By entering this information in a computerised system rather than writing it on paper, the risk of losing files is much smaller. It is also practical because it takes less time to send files to other hospitals or governmental institutions.

    IICD.org

  • The Software Freedom Day 2009 was marked in Accra with a call on businesses to deploy open source software products in their operations to become competitive. Dr Richard Boateng, Director of Research at the International Centre for Information Technology Development Southern University in the USA, said businesses have much to gain not only in adopting software free of charge but also being able to shape and localise them to solve peculiar problems.

    Established in 2004, Software Freedom Day (SFD) is an annual worldwide celebration of free and open-source software. It is a public education effort, not only to celebrate the virtues of free/open-source software, but also to encourage its use, to the benefit of the public.

    Dr Boateng said open source software is cheaper, especially, to start-up businesses.

    He said a major advantage of open source software was the ease with which individuals and organisations could modify them to deal with unusual problems that arise from time to time. However, he said, organisations seeking to use open source software must be selective and choose only those that best meet the demands of their operations.

    Dr Boateng said the best way was for organisations to go for open source software that was being used by majority of the people to enable them to get support at the time of need. Ms Silvia Aimasso, Project Coordinator, Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa, said open source software provided developing countries the possibility of developing local capacity and helping to reduce imports and piracy.

    It is in this connection the FOSSFA was working to promote the use of open software model in African development and to support its integration in national policies.

    To be able to encourage more people to use open software, Ms Aimasso said FOSSFA and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa had launched a three-year advocacy project to increase awareness and use of FOSS in West Africa at all levels, including academia, educational institutions, the media, non-governmental organisations, businesses and governments.

    GNA

  • - The Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) is set to embark on an ambitious project of electronic clearing and forwarding, which would eventually stop people, who have no business at the ports from loitering and causing nuisance.

    - IBM has opened an Africa Innovation Center in Cape Town to foster the development of information technology and business skills and to expand its customer and business partner ecosystem in the region. The center will help local businesses develop and deploy new technologies that support key digital infrastructure opportunities in government, banking, insurance, retail, and travel and transportation industries.

    - Teraco Data Environments, the first vendor and carrier neutral data centre in South Africa has hosted a high profile event for senior UK executives operating in the telecommunications and IT business sectors. “This event affirmed European interest in the South African economy and ICT industry,” says Tim Parsonson, group chief executive of Teraco. “We hosted this event to bring together UK-based executives that are looking for new options for their own growth with new partners that can provide better, more cost effective services.”

    - Junior Achievement and HP announced that Nigerian team “Black Diamond Incorporated” from Dowen College, Lagos are winners of the HP Responsible Business Ideas Competition in Africa for 2009. This competition awards student teams for business ideas that best combine business practice with social and environmental responsibility and attracted entries from across Africa.

    - Ubuntu's next release will be called Lucid Lynx, a name that reflects the determination of the developers, says Mark Shuttleworth. Lucid Lynx, or Ubuntu 10.04, desktop would still be based on the Gnome 2 desktop environment and that the release following Lucid Lynx would use the Gnome 3.0 desktop.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Kenya's highly competitive telecoms sector will continue to attract continued investment, but will experience a slump for now with players facing sluggish growth and revenue drops in the voice segment, a new report reveals.

    Business Monitor International's "Kenya Telecommunications report Q4" shows that all players in the sector recorded low subscription rates this year, signalling the fast-paced growth that has characterized the industry so far may be hitting a plateau.

    "The market as a whole actually lost 17,000 subscribers in number this quarter, but we expect to see more than 6 million new subscribers in 2009," BMI said in the report. The report details the three main challenges that the sector now faces as its heads towards maturity which include a reduction in the amount of subscriber additions, lower revenues and overcoming the dominance of market leader Safaricom.

    Growth in the sector has so far been driven by urban and peri-urban subscriber additions, but operators have recently started to turn their focus to rural areas and the youth as they seek more subscribers. With a total 16.7 million subscribers, BMI said the Kenyan market still had room to grow with penetration currently standing at just 43.5 per cent, but noted that subscribers were also leaving networks at a faster rate.

    The hardest hit player has been Zain who had to write down over 400,000 subscribers from its total subscriber base in the first half of the year. Zain Kenya, which now has 2.4 million subscribers, attributed the loss to a clean-up exercise which removed customers who had not generated revenue for the company in 90 days from its active subscriber base.

    "Based on our policy, we stop reporting customers who have only received SMS's or calls from another Zain line in the last 90 days since the revenue for them is zero as there is not interconnect revenue," said Rene Meza, Zain Kenya managing director.

    The report also reveals that the market leader, Safaricom was affected by the slow-down in net subscriber additions. "While Safaricom did get a positive result, it was pitifully small at only 60,000 net additions. These two things combined has meant that, even though the two smaller operators -- Essar's Yu and Telkom Kenya's Orange -- performed well relative to their size, the market overall lost subscribers."

    Telkom Kenya and Essar have 1.4 million and 600,000 subscribers respectively, which they have gained in less than a year since they started operations. On the revenue side, players in the market have recorded a reduction in their average revenue per user (ARPU) figures this year, as heightened competition brought down tariffs to all-time lows. Industry ARPUs have dropped from an average $8 to $6, which has taken a corresponding bite out of the profit margins of most operators.

    Business Daily

  • A-Link Technologies, a Chinese firm that assembles mobile phone handsets has been hit by low sales, attributed to external shocks of the global economic crisis on the Rwandan economy. Due to low demand for mobile handsets, officials said that the firm has laid-off half of its staff.

    Currently, the firm is employing 15 people as compared to the 30 that were originally employed at the Telecom House. "This year our sales have been very bad, every month we are operating with no profit. This has forced us to cut down our expenses by reducing the workers," Edward Yin, the Chief Executive Officer of A-Link Technologies told Business Times last week.

    "Comparing our sales with last year, the global financial crisis has had an impact because sales have been going down. Our partners in China were also affected though the situation is now improving," Yin said.

    With an initial investment of $0.5 million (Rwf283.7 million), Yin says his company is now producing less than 200 handsets daily as contrary to 200-300 handsets produced last year when it launched its operations.

    However, Yin also attributed the low sales to affordable phones on promotion availed by telecom operators. "It is difficult to compete with operators who can afford to sale the phones cheaply with an intention of having more subscribers. Our strategy is to bring in dual SIM phones at affordable prices to stay in business," he added.

    According to Yin, A-Link is expecting to receive the first batch of affordable dual SIM card phones next week, with the price ranging between Rwf19, 900 and Rwf80, 000 depending on the features installed on the phone. Yin also added that he has hopes that dual SIM phones would boost sales because it is expensive for people to make calls on different networks.

    'The dual SIM handsets will reduce the costs and help us to make profit," he said.

    The company has also started exporting handsets to Uganda through a sub-dealer. Since April the company has exported about 200 phones.

    Government in the 2009 /10 budget slashed the import duty on phone handsets to Zero percent from 18 percent. A-Link is an affiliate to China link Digital and Technology Company Limited, also a Chinese based electronics company.

    New Times

  • Two Kenyan broadband operators have announced that they have secured additional investment in their operations, funding future expansion of their respective networks. According to a report by news agency Reuters, South Africa-based firm Allied Technologies (Altech) announced that it was raising its economic stake in Kenya Data Networks (KDN) from 51% to 60.8%.

    Altech revealed that it would invest USD39.5 million in KDN’s fibre rollout, adding a further USD7.5 million to build a data centre in Nairobi, in conjunction with its co-shareholder in KDN, the Sameer Group. The group said the data centre would offer disaster recovery, virtual application hosting, data and application backup, and an ethical hacking centre and data archiving facility to clients in the areas that will be connected by undersea cables, such as SEACOM and TEAMS.

    Meanwhile, theafricareport.com reports that US-based private equity group Emerging Capital Partners (ECP) has invested USD25 million in Wananchi to expand its network infrastructure, funding an upgrade which will allow the operator to offer integrated digital pay-television, high speed internet and IP telephony services. ECP chief executive, Tom Gibian, said: ‘Following on the tremendous growth in African mobile penetration over the last ten years, we view broadband and related services as the next 'game changer' in African telecoms.’

    Telegeography

  • Neotel, the fixed-line operator set up in 2006 to compete with former monopoly Telkom , said last week it hoped to triple revenue this year as customer numbers rose quickly. Unlisted Neotel, which is controlled by India's Tata Group, said it was targeting R3bn in revenue for the year to the end of March next year , after so far collecting more than R2.,2bn, double the amount it reported last year.

    Neotel CE Ajay Pandey said the company had reached 30,000 customers and hoped to cover more than 50,000 customers before the end of the year. "What is important is that this milestone in terms of numbers signifies growth," Pandey said at a press conference. The numbers positioned Neotel ahead of smaller competitors, making it SA's second- largest fixed-line operator, he said.

    The group's aim was to get 15% of market share by the time it reached its fifth year of operation. Pandey said Neotel had invested more than R3.5bn in infrastructure. Its partnership with mobile operators Vodacom and MTN, which involved developing a 5,000km fibre optic network, was working well, he said.

    Neotel said it was a strong supporter of lower interconnection fees. Cellphone and telecoms operators charge R1.25 a minute in peak times as their interconnection fee, a charge to enable calls to be transmitted from each other's networks.

    Business Day

  • - The Commercial Court in Blantyre has ruled that Malawian cellco Global Advanced Integrated Networks (GAIN), which intends to operate under the G-Mobile banner, is allowed to engage Berlyl Capital and Telecoms to invest in its mobile network, reports Nation Online.

    - Mobile phone firms in Kenya nearly doubled their media spend in the first half of this year compared to the same period last year as the two new entrants intensified the battle for market share, industry data indicates. A report by research firm Synovate shows that in the first six months Safaricom, Orange and Yu increased their media spend, while Zain reduced the expenditure. The total media spend by the four companies for the period under review stood at Sh3,377 million compared to 1,733 million during the same period last year.

    - Malawian mobile operator Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM) has reported a 32% fall in profit for the six months ended 30 June 2009 to MWK448.6 million (USD3.25 million). The company attributed the decrease in net income to a shortage in foreign currency, which in turn hindered its investment plans.

Digital Content

  • The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) plans to launch online gorilla tracking. According to the authority it is due to a global demand for conservation tourism and promotion of primate tourism. Through the www.friendagorilla .org, gorilla lovers would have chance to befriend any of the seven habituated gorilla families at $1.

    Tourism state minister, Serapio Rukundo, said the campaign would "lift Uganda to its 1960s position as one of Africa's most popular tourism destinations." The website will have sections like Geo-Track, where one can track gorillas using actual global positioning system coordinates that the authority's gorilla trackers will be provided with regularly.

    Strategically placed cameras in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest will stream video footage of gorillas to audiences worldwide. This service which is set for launch on September 26, will also allow users to "befriend a gorilla" on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. Gorillas share 98.4% of their genetic material with human beings.

    Gorillas in Uganda are confined in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Park. There are about 340 mountain gorillas in the Bwindi Park of the remaining 720 mountain gorillas wordwide.

    Gorilla tourism raised $225m in Uganda last year, providing 37% of the country's national annual earnings from tourism, and more than half of the wildlife authority's internally generated revenue.

    The online tracking initiative hopes to add an additional $700,000 a year according to Moses Mapesa, the UWA executive director.

    However, apart from the Gorilla and the revenues it generated for Uganda last year, tourism stakeholders feel the whole package of the seven wonders should as well be strengthened and marketed to the rest of the world. They are; the Rwenzori Mountains, the Kazinga Channel at Queen Elizabeth National Park, the Kibale Forest-Chimpanzee Sanctuary, the Source of the Nile and the Mt. Elgon Caldera.

    New Vision

  • Amadeus Ghana and e-Tranzact Ghana Limited on Thursday launched a new online booking and payment for travellers and travel agents to make payments online, for travel reservations over a network.

    The partnership which started on September 4, 2009 is meant to ease the booking process for both travel agents and travellers, allowing them to make airline, hotel and car reservations in the comfort of their homes, schools and offices.

    Birger Bjornhof, Regional General Manager of Amadeus Ghana and Nigeria, said the terms of agreement allows both companies to complement and extend the ranges of services they currently provide to their customers in the Ghanaian market.

    Amadeus is the technology for providers, sellers and buyers of travel services. It provides distribution, IT and point of sale solutions to help its customers adapt, grow and succeed in the fast changing travel industry.

    eTranzact is also an electronic payment solutions platform that utilizes various channels to make and receive payment. In Ghana eTranzact currently partners five leading banks. Across Africa and the rest of the world, eTranzact is present in eight countries namely Ghana, Nigeria, England, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Cote d'Ivoire.

    He said Amadeus aims to provide the right solutions for every organization, saying that as a technology partner to the travel and tourism industry, "our clients vary in their scope of business as well as their capacity and requirements, it is imperative that we focus on their different needs and be innovative ".

    George Babafemi, Chief Operating Officer, for eTranzact Ghana, said airline-travel and tours had moved from simply checking the availability of seats to booking a seat, and that websites that could be accessed by travellers include www.expertravel.com.gh; www.jett.com.gh; www.sunlife.com.gh and www.afrowings.com.

    GNA

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - The South African mobile phone company Vodacom on Wednesday announced that its Mozambican subsidiary, Vodacom-Mocambique (VM), is cutting the price of calls for customers on contracts by 10 per cent.

    - Handset manufacturer, Nokia is calling on the Kenyan government to crack on the counterfeit mobile phones in the country. General Manager for Nokia East and Southern Africa Gerard Brandjes, said counterfeit handsets and accessories were denying government revenue while offering unfair competition to genuine businesses.

    - Solar chargers are helping farmer cooperatives in Ghana use their mobile phones more effectively. Charging the battery can be done locally in a few hours, instead of a day trip to the nearest commercial charging shop. The solar chargers also provide a source of extra income: locals pay a small fee to have their mobiles charged.

    - Telkom Kenya CEO Mickael Ghossein has announced that the company has attracted over 1.38 million mobile customers in its first year in operation under the ‘Orange’ banner, and expects the number to rise to over two million by the end of 2009. According to its CEO, Mickael Ghossein, the telco is focusing investment on higher value services, such as its W-CDMA and broadband networks, claiming that Kenyan customers have little interest in price wars between service providers, but instead are concerned about quality of service.

    ­ Zain has announced an upgrade to its mobile banking service, Zap to enable customers to receive money from any bank account around the world and send money to any bank in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

    ­Econet Wireless Zimbabwe reports that it has been overwhelmed by demand for its new data services, and has virtually exhausted all its initial capacity. This has prompted its parent company to authorise a US$30 million roll-out to speed up the expansion of the 3G service countrywide. Chief Executive Officer Douglas Mboweni said the demand had completely surpassed all projections, which were based on take up in other countries around the world. Mboweni said the company had also been surprised by the number of people who have 3G and GPRS phones ready to be activated.

    ­ Nigerian regulator the NCC has released statistics for the second quarter of 2009, revealing that the total customer base stood at 66.42m at the end of June. Annual growth stood at 32.8%, the lowest rate for eight years, although with penetration edging towards 50% (Q2 09: 46.9%) such a slowdown is to be expected. Market leader MTN recorded the best figure for net additions for the fourth straight quarter, adding 1.43m to finish on 27.34m. This took its market share to 41.2%.

    ­ Egypt based mobile network operator, Etisalat Egypt recently deployed a video call based customer care facility from Genesys that the company says has lifted customer satisfaction levels have risen by 11 percent at a time when it has reduced cost per customer contact by two thirds.

    - Mobile phone companies in Ghana are joining the social networking site Facebook to do business, making it easier for their subscribers to update their status and post comments on the site by SMS. So far two mobile phone service providers in Ghana are on the platform. These are Zain and Tigo.

More

  • - The Board of Zain Nigeria said it appointed Alain Sainte-Marie as the new Chief Executive because the outgoing CEO Mr. Bayo Ligali has moved on to pursue other interests after a three-year stay as CEO of the telecommunications company.

  • 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.

    For more information visit the conference’s website

    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 or email: nicole.smith@spintelligent.com

    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

    ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN 2009

    2-4 December, Berlin, Germany

    Innovate, Share, Succeed – is the theme of OEB 2009. This year’s agenda will be about your learning innovations, your expertise and the great ideas that will lead your organisation, company or school to success.

    For the full programme visit the organiser’s website

    www.online-educa.com

  • * Invitation to Tender for Consultancy Services for the Development of a Cost Model and Pricing Framework for Telecommunication Services to Enhance Competition among Operators in Botswana

    The Botswana Telecommunications Authority (BTA) is inviting suitable qualified and experienced companies to provide consultancy services to enhance competition among operators in Botswana.

    To download the tender announcement click on the following link

    http://www.bta.org.bw/news/cost_tender.pdf

    * Franchise Editorial Bureau opportunity for MobileMoneyAfrica

    In our bold and ambitious plan to reach and report Mobile commerce from every country and municipal in Africa (Algeria to Zimbabwe), MMA is actively seeking Franchise Editorial Bureaus, across all the regions in Africa, to gather news, events, Conduct interviews, country / special focus reporting, advertorials across the following: Mobile Money / Payments, Technologies, Remittances, Migrant Economics and Micro Finance in Africa.

    The Regions: Southern Africa – Preferably, South Africa; North Africa; East Africa – Preferably, Kenya; West Africa – Nigeria and Ghana; French Speaking Africa on a single Bloc Basis.

    www.mobilemoneyafrica.com

  • * Suburban West Africa and Tata Communications - Nigeria

    Suburban West Africa has entered into partnership with Tata Communications Transformation Services (TCTS) India, for process transformation, next generation operational systems support (NG OSS) and network support services.

    * Mobitel and Alvarion - Nigeria

    Alvarion, a leading provider of WiMAX and wireless broadband solutions, has been chosen by Mobitel to provide 802.16e WiMAX services worth over $7 million for its under-served areas throughout the country. With the new partnership which allows the use of Alvarion's BreezeMAX solution in the 2.0 GHz, 2.2 GHz and 2.3 GHz frequency bands, Mobitel will begin to offer voice and high-bandwidth data services to thousands of residences and businesses nationwide. Mobitel says it will begin with the key cities of Lagos, Port-Harcourt, Warri and Abuja as start points. The initial rollout of the WiMAX network is planned for Q3 2009, with 20,000 subscribers expected on the network during initial launch.

    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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