Issue no 474 2nd October 2009

top story

  • Those promoting Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) in Africa (and Balancing Act was one of them) made several broad arguments. They would enable cost savings as a larger proportion of traffic is exchanged using local rather than international bandwidth; They would improve access speeds for users and cut down delays in downloading through reducing latency. They would create revenue opportunities because they allow easier hosting of local domains and improved access speeds make certain types of applications possible. Thirteen years after the first IXP was launched in Johannesburg a research report has been published assessing their impact.

    The purpose of this research entitled “Impact of IXPs – A review of the experiences of Ghana, Kenya and South Africa” commissioned by OSI was to look at the evidence for these three different kinds of impact outlined above. Crucially, whether the cost-savings IXPs may or may not have made helped local ISPs to pass on price changes to the end-user.

    The proportion of local traffic going via a local IXP in Africa varies from 10-60%, depending on the scale of the market involved and the level of development in that market. Therefore three African countries were selected that fell at different points of development along this spectrum.

    The researchers looked at a combination of the following as measures of impact: the price to end-users and the views of operators on price reductions; changes in access speeds; whether local content, hosting and applications had grown; and other external which may have had an effect. The core of the report is three case studies covering Ghana, Kenya and South Africa.

    The conclusions drawn from the three country case studies were as follows:

    * Even where the proportion of local traffic going via the IXP was high, as in the case of South Africa with 60% in 2008, operators claimed that savings made in bandwidth costs were insignificant. However, in this case, the cost savings did benefit Tier 2 ISPs who only had to pay to connect to one point (the IXP) rather than to several other providers. Where the Internet sector has been divided, as in Ghana, it has not been possible to gain the full cost advantages of a unified, single IXP.

    * The original cost saving arguments for IXPs were predicated on there being a substantial difference between local, national and international wholesale charges. Since IXPs have been introduced, reductions in SAT3 bandwidth prices mean that in some cases national bandwidth costs may be the same or more than international bandwidth costs on a distance basis: for example, in Nigeria, it is cheaper to send traffic from Lagos to Sessimbra in Portugal than it is to send the equivalent amount of traffic from Lagos to Abuja. With the arrival of even cheaper fibre capacity in 2009 and 2010, this closing of prices will be a challenge for IXPs wanting to attract local traffic. But just as international prices have come down, so local and national prices will have to come into line with them. For IXPs to remain cost-effective, ISPs will need to press for lower national bandwidth charges.

    • Since the retail cost of Internet subscription charges (and cyber-café access costs) in Ghana and Kenya has fallen since the introduction of IXPs, it could be argued that whatever cost reductions IXPs made for ISPs, they were passed on to subscribers or users. But since these reductions were also made by ISPs that were not IXP members as well, it is unlikely that they were as a result of savings from IXPs. In South Africa, dial-up charges have changed little over the past ten years and DSL charges have fallen since their introduction in 2003, well after the introduction of JINX. Again this makes it unlikely that any cost savings were connected with the existence of an IXP. Ghanaian and South African providers argue that cost savings were passed on to end users in the form of improved quality of service. But it is clear that cost savings from the IXP process were not passed on to end users except as part of the wider process of competition between operators.

    • Whilst IXPs may have resulted in cost savings for the end user, the most significant factors have been: the ending of the international traffic monopoly (in Kenya), increased levels of competition and dramatic reductions in international bandwidth costs. For example in South Africa, international bandwidth as a percentage of total costs fell from 60% in 2003 to 45% in 2008. However, there is a direct link between IXP participants, their ISP associations and the bringing about of the factors listed above. For example in Ghana, GISPA has been instrumental in getting a special, low-cost deal on SAT3 bandwidth and in Kenya, TESPOK was at the forefront of the liberalisation process.

    • Access speeds appear to have improved but it is difficult to separate the impact of improved national and international links from the speed advantage delivered by the IXP. Furthermore, as international bandwidth has come down in price, end users have had access to faster download speeds.

    • Whilst the volume of traffic going through IXPs in Kenya and South Africa has increased dramatically, even these increased volumes have to a large extent been overshadowed by increases in international bandwidth. Indeed local traffic has fallen as a proportion of overall traffic in South Africa. There is no traffic measurement at the Ghana IXPs so it is not possible to say what has happened either in terms of the proportion of local traffic or the overall growth of traffic at the IXPs.

    • Likewise the growth in local content and its use by end users has been eclipsed by a much wider interest in international content. As international fibre has become cheaper, it has been easier for operators to supply Internet users more cheaply. As a result, the number of people using the Internet has gone up. Although local content has grown in all three countries, the majority of use (particularly web mail access) remains international. For example, Facebook and You Tube are amongst the top ten sites accessed in African countries analysed by Alexa.com. However, this growth in Internet use has also benefited a small number of local sites. IXPs have supported the introduction of new local services and applications: for example in Kenya, the implementation of online tax reporting by the Kenya Revenue Authority and the availability of freeware hosted by the University of Nairobi.

    The Impact of IXPs – A review of the experiences of Ghana, Kenya and South Africa was written by Charles Amega-Selorm, Muriuki Mureithi, Dobek Pater and Russell Southwood. If you would like a free copy of the report, please send an e-mail with IXP report as the header and we’ll send one to you.

telecoms

  • Talks to create the world's third- biggest cellphone group through a $24bn tie-up between MTN and India's Bharti Airtel collapsed last week. The South African Government is again meddling in the telecommunications sector and has caused the downfall of a deal that could have strengthened the company finances. It leaves MTN with the prospect of financing future expansion out of the rather limited local capital markets.

    During the talks, there had been speculation that the merger would bring up to R60bn into South Africa, which would have strengthened the country's current account and the rand. Bharti and MTN revived merger talks in May, a year after previous talks broke down over who would control a merged entity that would have become an emerging- markets giant with more than 200-million customers in India, Africa and the Middle East.

    The groups were working on a deal amounting to about $24bn in cash and stock, in which Bharti would get 49% of MTN and MTN and its shareholders would take a 36% stake in Bharti, with a full merger the long-term goal.

    Trade in MTN shares was suspended on the JSE at R122.15 at the request of its management last week just before the announcement that the talks had collapsed. Trading was expected to resume today. The merger talks had been extended twice, and the last deadline expired last week.

    Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said MTN had advised him that both companies "mutually decided" to terminate discussions, as they "were not able to conclude all outstanding matters to enable the transaction to proceed". Gordhan said the South African government was supportive of local companies growing and diversifying offshore, and the structuring of such deals was best left to the companies.

    "When companies structure their relationships outside the current exchange-control regulatory framework they require the approval of the minister of finance ... this was the case of the proposed MTN Bharti merger." He said the finance ministries of SA and India were committed to laying the basis for the "development of mutually beneficial mechanisms for such mergers".

    Last week, Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda said MTN should remain a domestic company. "It would be sad if we saw this entity move into the hands and management of foreign nationals," he said. The Government had approached the Indian authorities to consider a dual-listed entity, a structure Indian laws did not now allow.

    Business Day

  • Egypt is to invite bids for two licences for "triple-play" cable, telephone and Internet services which it expects to generate $1 billion in new investments within five years, the communications minister said this week.

    The addition of triple-play operators would increase competition in Egypt's telecoms inndustry and could open the way to breaking state-owned Telecom Egypt's fixed-line monopoly in the most populous Arab country.

    "This (tender) announcement will be issued formally tomorrow in the newspapers and will invite two players, two consortiums from local and international players, to invest in integrated triple play and in the future maybe quadruple-play telecommunication services," Minister Tarek Kamel said.

    "Our expectation is that this will attract within the next five years $1 billion of investments," he told a conference in Cairo. Amr Badawi, head of Egypt's National Telecoms Regulatory Authority, told al-Arabiya television that the operators would be limited to working in Egypt's rapidly expanding new residential compounds in suburbs and satellite cities.

    Kamel said operators would work in areas of 50 to 5,000 household units. He did not say if this would expand in future. Bids would be due in January and the operators would start work in the second half of 2010. Egypt would not ask for a significant upfront payment but would want the operators to share 8 percent of their revenue with the government.

    The move will inject further competition into the telecoms market, where Telecom Egypt (TE) has already faced significant challenges from three mobile phone operators: Mobinil, Vodafone Egypt and Etisalat.

    Egypt's telecom regulator said a year ago it had decided to postpone an already-delayed auction for a second fixed-line licence for a year, citing global market woes. It has yet to announce when it will resume that process.

    The new triple play operators are likely to have to work with Telecom Egypt's existing infrastructure and the limited scope of the project, at least at first, could still leave Telecom Egypt's monopoly generally intact.

    Reuters

  • The first fully Ugandan-owned telecom firm, i-Telecom, has launched its services. Operating on code 076, i-Telecom, worth an initial investment of $30m, becomes the sixth operator after Zain, MTN, Orange, Warid and utl.

    The new firm will provide both voice and data services on the CDMA channel platform. Augustus Mulenga, the chief executive officer, said they did a pre-launch on December 6, 2008 where the firm gave out 1,000 phones to potential clients. "Because of the statements from the customers in the last 11 months, who say the phones are working, that is why we are launching today," said Mulenga.

    Brochures from the company indicated that local call rates would range from sh150 to sh250 for peak and off peak hours while international calls will cost sh350. Mulenga said he conceived the idea of a telecom company in 2006. The firm was granted a licence from Uganda Communications Commission in 2007.

    "By December last year, there was a signal and we had five sites. We then started the roll-out programme in the western districts of Rukungiri, Ntungamo and Mbarara."

    New Vision

  • The impact of the Central Bank of Nigeria's banking reforms has started taking its toll as the Federal Government agency saddled with the sale of government interests in businesses in Nigeria, Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, has found that buyers of some of the companies it has sold cannot raise the money to effect payment .

    Disclosing this in Lagos at a session with journalists, the Director-General of the BPE, Dr. Christopher Anyanwu said that because of the crisis in the banking sector, the prefer and reserve bidders for Skypower Aviation Handling Company, SAHCOL have both failed to pay for the company because they could not raise funds from the banks to meet the payment deadline.

    In the case of Nitel Dr. Anyanwu said that 13 applications were received at the deadline for receipt of Expressions of Interest from prospective investors for the acquisition of at least 75 per cent equity in Nigerian Telecommunications Limited, NITEL. The companies are Etisalat Nigeria (EMTS); Omen International Limited (BVI); Summit Group; MTI Consortium; Finetek.Com/Ericsson Consortium; MTNL Limited, India; and Globalcom Ltd. Others are MTN Nigeria Communications Limited; Anas Network Services Limited; Telefonica Consortium; Metro PCS Communications Inc; Brymedia (W.A) Limited; and Galaxy Backbone Pic.However, an additional application was received from Conau Limited.

    "Following receipt of the proposals, an evaluation committee has been constituted whose mandate is to independently assess the submissions of each consortium in line with the advertisement and the pre-qualification criteria. The consortia that are pre-qualified for the next stage are expected to pay a non-refundable fee of $25,000 for bidding documents and execute the confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement.

    "The Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC as part of the evaluation of the prospective bidders, is expected to conduct a lit and proper' test on each bidding consortium to participate in the bidding exercise.

    He said that in the advertisement, prospective investors were invited to apply to acquire either at least 75 per cent equity in the entire Nitel conglomerate or a stake in one or several of its components, namely, SAT-3; domestic fixed line telephony; national fibre-optic transmission backbone; CDMA network; MTel (GSM). Preference would be given to bidders who desire to acquire Nitel fixed lines, - transmission backbone, Mtel and SAT-3 components together while those bidding separately for MTel must be ready to make necessary investments to detach MTel from the NITEL networks.

    The Bureau has so far received $25,000 for the bidding documents from eight prospective bidders, who have also executed the Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure Agreement with the Bureau

    The Data Room for due diligence opened on the 23rd of September and those that have been pre-qualified were given their unique codes to access the virtual data room. Bidding and other transaction documents (including the Information Memoranda and Requests for Proposal) will be given to those that have paid the $25,000 and executed the Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure Agreement," he stated.

    Vanguard

  • - Nigeria’s Bureau of Public Enterprise BPE has extended the deadline for the submission of technical and financial bids in the privatisation process of incumbent NITEL. The new deadline has been set to 26th of October.

    - Kenyan operators have been given until 19 November to analyse and comment on new regulations covering licensing, frequency allocation, universal access and tariff regulation, which are awaiting implementation, local daily The Standard reports. Meanwhile, following a directive issued by Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the CCK has initiated a review into mobile interconnection rates, which will run until March 2010.

    - Former vice-president, Enoch Kavindele has lost a bid to run a fourth cellular mobile phone company in Zambia after the Supreme Court overturned the earlier judgment and ruled in favour of Communications Authority of Zambia (CAZ). Supreme Court judge Marvin Mwanamwambwa allowed all the four grounds of appeal advanced by CAZ in its appeal following the earlier judgment passed in the Lusaka High Court against it.

    - Police Force Headquarters in Abuja, have concluded arrangements to acquire portable electronic devices that intelligently gather and rapidly intercept phone calls from kidnappers. The device will track down within minutes, the very spot from where suspicious telephone calls are made. The equipment has been bought from Israel.

internet

  • Three weeks after setting off from Lagos, the cable laying ship for Glo 1 has berthed in Accra. It is not clear whether it will now sail on to Dakar or whether that piece of the cable is being completed by a second ship.

    The company is still claiming that it will land in countries other than Ghana and Nigeria but has steered clear of announcing exactly where. The 640 gigabyte cable with optimum capacity of 2.5 terabyte will also be made available to other telecom operators.

    However, Globacom Group Executive Director, Paddy Adenuga helpfully explained to assembled journalists that a project of this kind usually between two to two and a half years to complete without explaining why the company put the project on hold in the middle of building it.

    This Day

  • The Kenyan Government has accused TEAMS shareholders of colluding to fix internet connectivity prices. Information and Communication PS Bitange Ndemo said the shareholders are making a massive 2,000 per cent from selling their capacity before the cable officially goes live. The shareholders have said that they will first have to recoup their investment before lowering the Internet connectivity prices.

    He said the shareholders should be selling internet connection at about $200 per Megabyte (MB) but the companies have held the price at about $4,000 just below the current price of satellite. "When we were initially setting up TEAMs the issue of recouping investments after it had gone live did not feature," Dr Ndemo said.

    Some shareholders have confirmed that they are already using the signal, but charging at prices of satellite. "The shareholders are entitled to pre-sell their capacity although the cable has not yet been handed over to TEAMS for commercial operations," said Teams chairman, Michael Joseph. He said the official launch will be announced on Thursday.

    Teams undersea fibre optic cable landed on June 12 and has been since undergoing testing. The initial testing report was released on August 21. Dr Ndemo says some of the shareholders are sabotaging the government's bid to increase Internet access in Kenya by delaying the launch.

    In the cable, the Government of Kenya has a 20 per cent stake, Safaricom Limited 22.5 per cent and Telkom Kenya Limited 22.5 per cent. Others include Essar Telecom Kenya Ltd, Kenya Data Networks Ltd, Wananchi Telecoms, Access Kenya and Jamii Telecommunications Ltd. The investors say meaningful price reductions will take up to three years. Dr Bitange says the government may be forced to step in and regulate internet connectivity charges if the prices will not come down significantly in the next one month.

    Daily Nation

  • A new telecommunications company, Broadmax Holdings, a joint venture between Angel Wireless from Lebanon and Blantyre International Telecommunication Investments Limited, has entered the local market with an investment of about $25 million (approximately K3.5 billion).

    Broadmax Holdings, which registered with the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) last year, is set to employ more than 200 people, according to its chief executive officer and vice-president Chris Kanyuka.

    “The company is set to bring in wireless broadband internet last mile services and WiMax technology, the first in Malawi,” he said on Tuesday. Kanyuka said WiMax, the acronym for worldwide interoperability for microwave access, has the potential to replace a number of existing telecommunication infrastructures with a radius of six miles from the base station.

    Detailing the company’s roll-out plan, Kanyuka said they will first start with Blantyre and surrounding areas in mid October before moving to the Central Region in November and the Northern Region in January 2010. The company is expected to roll-out to the rest of the country in June 2010.

    Nation Online

  • - Internet firm UUNET Kenya has completed its internal migration from satellite powered data solutions to the Seacom undersea cable. It has also doubled the bandwidth capacity of all its customers. According to Managing director Tom Omariba "we have given our customers double capacity at the current price. However, we will review our pricing once Teams and Eassy cables come on board”.

    - South African state-owned telecommunications operator Broadband Infraco is said to be on the verge of being awarded the licenses it needs to begin operating. Reports indicate that it is still facing objections from Internet service providers concerned that the company will stray from its commitment to only provide wholesale telecommunications services and compete in the retail sector as well.

    - Of 6,000 computer users surveyed by Algerian firms Med&Com and Ideatic, more than 90% confessed to "not being able to get by without going online 'at least once a day'". Most users reported spending two hours on average in front of their monitors.

    The study, which polled "internauts" on ADSL, mobile internet, online advertising and e-commerce, estimates that 4.5 million people (12.8% of the Algerian population) use the internet.

computing

  • Both the banks and school administration are not willing to take up risks in a move to facilitate parents purchase computers under the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project. The Ministry of Education is in talks with Rwanda Development Bank (BRD) that had agreed to finance about 2,000 parents.

    Richard Niyonkuru the OLPC coordinator in the Ministry of Education, said that many parents do not have collaterals to access the loans and the banks wanted schools to take up the responsibility and follow up the parents to pay up "This is a challenge because the move would help us (OLPC) increase the ratio of children with access to the laptop but the ministry is in discussion with BRD to facilitate this," Niyonkuru said.

    OLPC was launched to guarantee every Rwandan primary school student has access to Information and Communication Technology (ICT). One of the excuses given by the school administrators is that parents have failed to meet their pledges.

    Currently, through the Ministry of Education, computers are distributed in different schools and used only during school hours. Niyonkuru said that so far 8,000 laptops have been distributed in 18 schools most of which are located in Kigali. Only six are outside Kigali.

    With the new shipment of 100,000 laptops government targets 300 schools at least 10 schools in every district. Government set aside $20m for the project (OLPC) and the delivery schedule of 100,000 is to end in February next year and distribution to end by May.

    The New Times

  • Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda on Tuesday expressed concern at the low number of university students taking Information Communication Technology (ICT) courses.

    "The low percentage of learners matriculating with mathematics and physical science subjects at higher grade limits the number of students taking university ICT courses," the minister said.

    He said research showed that ICT related skills curricula for first degrees at higher institutions found that universities recorded a decline in the number of students enrolling for ICT related degrees since 2002, and hence a decline in the number qualifying students since 2005.

    Nyanda further added that South Africa does not compare well with other countries in terms of ICT skills availability.

    "Research regarding the underlying reasons, and measurements related to them, show that South Africa scores poorly in terms of youth interest in science, quality of mathematics and science education, government prioritization of ICT and the extent of staff training. "This results in ICT skills not being readily available for industry," the minister said.

    The reason for the low number of students taking ICT courses, he said, could partly be attributed to the lack of information on employment opportunities and the perception that ICT courses are difficult. He said, therefore, recruitment campaigns and a concerted attempt to distribute reliable information about ICT careers and courses were crucial to dispel these perceptions.

    E-skills are essential in empowering individuals so that they can participate fully as citizens of the Information Society and take advantage of all the opportunities before them such as employment and wealth creation.

    The minister was speaking at the 2009 ICT Career Expo which seeks to create awareness about career opportunities within the ICT sector and to profile ICT related youth development programmes within the Department of Communications.

    It also seeks to facilitate an opportunity for students to interact with experienced industry professionals and also afford them an opportunity to do site visits to government and corporate ICT facilities.

    The ICT Career Expo is an initiative by the Ministry of Communications in collaboration with Telkom, Further Education and Training Colleges and other stakeholders in the private sector.

    Bua News

  • As the drumbeat for the development and use of locally generated African Internet content gets louder, a Ugandan developer has created a search engine that indexes all available local content.

    Reinier Battenberg, the brains behind the search engine, says it is limited to searching Web sites hosted in Uganda. The search engine can be found at http://search.mountbatten.net.

    "It lets you search Uganda-based Web sites. People say there is no local content but we have indexed all Ugandan Web pages," Battenberg said. "There are just over 100,000 pages and that is quite substantial. So the argument that there is no local content is not entirely true."

    Battenberg, who is also the director of Mountbatten Ltd., a local Web hosting and site-development provider, says the ability for local hosting in Africa is underestimated and a lot of Internet users are not aware of local content.

    "It could be your local lawyer, accountant, dentist -- all these people need Web sites and if they are targeting audiences in Uganda, there is no reason for them to host their Web sites outside the country," Battenberg said.

    Battenberg says hosting a site within the country comes with various advantages -- including faster site downloading and cheaper prices. However, he says many ISPs (Internet service providers) don't encourage local hosting because their networks are not configured well.

    The trigger for Battenberg's search engine, he said, was a copy of Wikipedia he was hosting locally. The copy was static -- it could not be searched. "So I decided to make it searchable and after it finally worked, I was like, 'Why don't we do the entire Ugandan Internet,'" he said.

    The search engine, which started as a weekend hobby, has taken him a few months to create over the weekends. "Using the free Internet crawler Nutch, I developed the search engine," Battenberg said.

    Mountbatten's core business is building intelligent Web sites for any type of customer and providing local hosting services and training. "We also foster discussion by raising a few issues on topical ICT matters and that helps create awareness of ICT's potential," Battenberg said.

    Computerworld

  • - In Uganda, the Ministry of Education and Sports is to spend Shs 6billion on digitizing the O level science and mathematics syllabi. Humphrey Mukooyo, the coordinator of the project, says the money will be used to buy copies of the digitized syllabus, computers, projectors and screens as well as installing solar power in some rural schools.

    - Galaxy Backbone, which has the official mandate to build and operate a single nation-wide IT infrastructure platform to provide network services to all federal government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) in Nigeria will also provide the needed ICT infrastructure to ensure efficient and effective implementation of the newly introduced integrated personnel payroll and the e-payment system.

    http://www.ubuntu.com/testing/karmic/beta

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • The Federal Government at the weekend slammed a cancellation order on a deal approved by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to impose a mandatory monthly fee on all mobile phone lines to be paid by network operators to privately-owned Netvisa GSM Secured Limited, a company licensed to offer Central Equipment Identity Registry (CEIR) in the country.

    Technology Times checks revealed exclusively that the cancellation order is the key resolution of a closed door meeting held on Friday in Abuja by the Ministry of Information and Communications.

    The Ministry had earlier imposed a three-week suspension order on the Netvisa’s anti-theft scheme in the wake of public outcry against the 40kobo monthly price tag placed on the service which GSM mobile operators had insisted can be offered cost-free for the benefit of subscribers in the country.

    Last Friday, Minister of Information and Communications, Dora Akunyili met with senior officials of NCC led by the agency’s EVC/CEO, Ernest Ndukwe at a closed door session that also was also attended by representatives of mobile phone companies, Netvisa officials and other stakeholders where the landmark decision was handed down to the telecoms regulator.

    Akunyili told attendees at the meeting that though the anti-theft scheme is laudable she subsequently issued a final directive that both operators and subscribers cannot be shouldered the additional burden of payment for the service. NCC was directed to fund the cost of offering the service by Netvisa.

    The Minister’s cancellation is another major blow for the regulator coming after President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who cited lack of transparency, cancelled a process through which NCC had sold 2.3GHz frequency spectrum to three companies Multi-Links, Mobitel Limited and Spectranet.

    In a bid to conduct fresh auctions of the licences, it was learnt at the weekend that NCC has set up an internal Committee made up of officials of the regulatory agency to among others work out modalities for fresh sale as directed by President Yar’Adua. The team has since set to work in what is yet seen as indications that a fresh run of the 2.3 GHz frequency spectrum sale may be on the horizon.

    Meanwhile, to assuage the protest against the paid option adopted for the Netvisa anti-theft scheme, Akunyili had directed that NCC should be responsible for payment to Netvisa, a decision hoped to relieve operators and subscribers of the need to pay for the CEIR service.

    Technology Times learnt that details of the resolution of the meeting will soon be announced while all parties expect that the necessary “paper works” would soon follow to various stakeholders, particularly operators that have hitherto signed a two-year interconnect agreement with Netvisa to connect to the CEIR service.

    Ahead of last Friday’s meeting, Akunyili had initially slammed a suspension order on the Netvisa scheme when public outcry trailed the signing of interconnectivity pact between Netvisa and two of the biggest mobile phone, MTN Nigeria and Zain Nigeria.

    Operators had limited their interconnect deal with Netvisa to two years after they were granted comfort by NCC that the regulator would pay for the service during that time frame. But operators continued to be concerned that the subscribers may be asked to pay the monthly bill for the service estimated to gulp over N300million based on current subscriber number officially pegged at over 65million subscriber lines.

    Market watchers reckon that last Friday’s decision may now see NCC returning to the drawing board to work out a payment plan for Netvisa, which would now pick its cheques from the regulator rather than operators connecting to its CEIR, the service expected to enable phone users block their handsets in the event of theft.

    Ahead of the weekend meeting that cancelled the payment plan for Netvisa, the Minister had told Technology Times in an exclusive interview that the Ministry, in consideration of overriding public interest, has issued a directive to NCC that the anti-theft scheme be suspended for three weeks to review the positions of all stakeholders including the regulator, service provider, mobile operators and the community of mobile phone users in the country.

    According to her, the Ministry held a meeting with NCC leadership Monday in the wake of overwhelming feedback from operators and members of the public who have complained that NCC ignored offers by operators that the paid service could have been offered free of charge to Nigerian mobile phone users by operators.

    According to the Minister, “it was on TV that I saw the kick-starting of the programme by NCC and Netvisa”, noting that even though the programme was laudable against the background of rampant theft of mobile phones in the country, there was need to review the position of stakeholders who have complained about the service being offered as a mandatory paid service, “when operators have said that it could be offered free.”

    The Minister also said that stakeholders have also informed the Ministry that the mobile phone blacklisting service can be offered free by international bodies like the International Telecommunications Agency (ITU), the UN specialised agency supervising the global telecoms industry; the GSM Association, the global pressure group of GSM operators among others.

    Under a deal brokered by NCC between Netvisa and operators, mobile operators will directly remit the monthly fee to the CEIR operator and deduct same from their annual numbering fees paid into government coffers through NCC over the next two years, in the first phase.

    Additionally, Akunyili said that NCC did not receive approval of the Ministry to make Nigerian taxpayers bear the burden of cost for the service under which every mobile phone line will be billed 40kobo monthly following the regulator’s acceptance to have operators net off the cost from their annual numbering fee paid government.

    If you were the CEO of NCC, Ernest Ndukwe you might be a bit fed up with the Minister as this is the second time she has intervened in a major regulatory decision.

    Technology Times

  • Moroccan telecoms operator, Meditel is planning to float at least a quarter of its shares on the local stock exchange before the end of this year, local newspapers reported. The sale would be to institutional investors and is not expected to be a general retail floatation.

    Citing the Akhbar Alyoum newspaper, the Reuters news agency reported that the plans to float the company on the Casablanca bourse will be passed to the CDVM watchdog within the next few weeks for approval. The newspaper was citing unnamed sources at the FinanceCom group, which is the co-owner of the company.

    The state fund CDG and FinanceCom jointly brought Meditel stakes from Portugal Telecom and Telefonica earlier this month. Etisalat, Batelco and Orascom Telecom have been named as possible investors during the floatation.

    A recent report from Pyramid Research said that it expects the introduction of new investors will boost Meditel's already strong performance on the mobile side and a continued focus on the corporate segment on the fixed side.

    "Meditel's revenue will reach US$1.1 billion by 2014, from US$710 million in 2009; in order to deal with the increasing pressure, Maroc Telecom focused its efforts on high ARPS and business subscribers by introducing very competitive international calling rates and prepaid bundles," said Badii Kechiche, analyst at Pyramid Research and author of the report.

    Reuters

  • Nigeria’s second telecommunications carrier, Globacom, has denied that it is owing its distributors billions of naira and is treating them unfairly. Bode Opeseitan was speaking in response to questions by NEXT following a demonstration on Wednesday in front of the company’s headquarters by members of the Association of Telecom Distributors of Nigeria. One of the allegations is that the company sells at a lower price to dealers who are related to its management than it does to other dealers.

    Ayo Ojo, the president of the association, who led the protest had alleged in an interview with NEXT that, Globacom has ‘‘ cheated us of billions of money, that is why we are here. We were told to sell up to two million worth of recharge every month. We pay in the money to Globacom’s account before we collect the cards,” Ojo said, adding that the protest is the only way members of the association could draw the attention of the firm to their plight.

    Ojo said, “The issue is that most of the pins in the recharge cards do not work and we have paid for them. The consumer returns it to us, when Globacom is contacted to change the cards or refund their money, we are told to come back today, come back tomorrow.”

    According to him, this was not the practice with other service providers. “Other providers when their cards are spoilt, we inform them and they block the cards but Glo never blocks their cards when we inform them. Rather than listen to us constructively, they have turned deaf ears to us and are doing whatever they like. We have invested our resources and we want it back,” he said.

    The association also accused Globacom of breaching an agreement it earlier reached with the dealers, by sidelining the association and dealing with other private individuals related to Mike Adenuga, the chairman of the firm.

    Another dealer, who simply identified himself as Mr. Isaac, said, “We are dealers with Globacom set up. The agreement in the relationship was that we were told to go and get shops and we start buying from them. The problem now is that Globacom has sacked all the dealers and owes us huge sum of money. Glo would sell to us at a high price and will sell at a lower price to their relations and they will direct others to go and buy from them.”

    According to the dealers, the problem with Globacom started when the telecoms firm unilaterally terminated the agreements reached four months earlier with them, for which they were given appointment letters in 2003, and were told to set up Glo shops around the country. The paints used in painting the shops were sold to them by Globacom.

    But Mr. Opeseitan, insists, the company only has individual and not collective agreements with the dealers. He said, “In the letter of agreement reached with each of them, non-performing dealers will be de-listed. No agreement was reached with ATDON but individually, and letters of appointment, obligation and a minimum level was set for the dealers.”

    Mr. Opeseitan explained that Globacom has been fair to the dealers, based on their performances, adding that a price monitoring team scrutinises the operations of the dealers; if any is found to have flouted the ethics, (that person) will first be suspended and thereafter, de-listed. The initial agreement was that each dealer had a monthly target of N20 million which they had failed to meet.

    According to him, “The minimum level is N20 million since 2003 and none of the dealers have met this. Glo has been magnanimous with the dealers. They are not meeting the targets since 2003. “The bad card allegation is not correct, as serial numbers requited is to be reported to police and pin numbers used cannot be blocked,” he said.

    234Next

  • JSE listed Allied Technologies Limited (Altech) has announced the group’s interim results for the six months ended 31 August 2009. “I am particularly pleased with the strong performance that has been delivered by all of Altech’s operating companies. What is even more impressive is that we have increased our operating profit margin to 10%. This has resulted in a 17% increase in our profits. Altech East Africa is showing exceptional growth and already contributes 18% of the Altech group’s total operating profit, proving that it has been a very successful and sound investment. Altech East Africa, which perfectly complements our existing and successful group of companies, should contribute approximately 45% of Altech’s total profit over the next two to three years. It is definitely the growth engine for the Altech group,” said Altech CEO, Craig Venter.

    He continued, “The results were underscored by various strategic acquisitions and alliances with emphasis particularly on the East African region. Annuity revenue remained a strong focus, increasing to 82%, previously 79%, of total revenue, and providing stability and exceptional profit for the group notwithstanding turbulent markets. Working capital management, stringent cost control and improved profit margins resulted in a strong balance sheet and impressive profitability.”

    “Although a number of acquisitions were made during the period, Altech’s balance sheet and cash position remain extremely desirable. We conserved cash during the high priced acquisitive boom and have in the past, and are now able in the future, to enter into transactions at much more favorable terms. This strategy has resulted in a competitive market advantage with our group growing to 30 operating entities,” said Venter.

    Transactions concluded during the period included the acquisition of the entire share capital of both Fleetcall, South Africa’s leading radio trunking network operator, and internet technology solutions and broad-based IT Company, Technology Concepts. Altech also concluded the purchase of 50% plus 1 share in NuPay, a transaction service provider and switching company.

    Altech increased its economic interest in Kenya Data Networks (KDN) from 51% to 60.8% by subscribing for additional non-voting ordinary shares and acquiring a minority shareholder’s voting ordinary shares. KDN is the leading data network infrastructure operator in Kenya, with a terrestrial fibre optic network spanning Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and soon Tanzania and the DRC. The terrestrial fibre network will link the undersea cables, which land in Mombassa, to the landlocked countries in East and Central Africa.

    “Altech was thrilled to increase its stake in KDN as it is our infrastructure pillar and the growth engine of the group. The additional USD39.5 million capital injection will be used to roll out the KDN network, further entrenching KDN as the key provider of broadband in East Africa,” said Venter.

    Two East African submarine cables, TEAMS and Seacom, will play a large strategic role at Altech. During the period, KDN acquired an 8.5% overall (10% of the Kenya share) stake in TEAMS, the submarine cable stretching from Kenya to the United Arab Emirates. Altech also entered into a strategic bandwidth alliance with Seacom, the submarine cable which links South and East African countries to their European and Asian counterparts. The alliance saw Altech procuring two STM-16s from Seacom for 20 years, with the option to upgrade, within three years, to double this capacity, to an STM-64. Seacom in turn, purchased significant bandwidth capacity on the Altech East Africa terrestrial backbone network owned by KDN.

    “The equity stake owned by KDN in TEAMS equates to an initial capacity of 10.2Gb per second. The addition of the 5Gb per second capacity purchased through the Seacom strategic alliance, results in Altech being one of the largest bandwidth suppliers on the continent. Significant bandwidth customers have already been secured with almost 70% of the Seacom capacity already on-sold. We expect the benefits of these transactions to bare fruit in the next six months and beyond,” said Venter.

  • - The African Development Bank Group (AfDB) and Main One Cable Company on Wednesday signed a loan agreement of $61 million towards the development of a submarine fiber optic cable connection along the West African coast. A statement from the bank said that, "With this investment, the Bank has further expanded its wide support for African ICT projects following investments in the East African "EASSy" submarine cable and the two satellites Rascom and New Dawn".

    - Econet Wireless Zimbabwe has concluded a US$200 million deal with ZTE of China and Ericsson of Sweden to supply and install equipment for the expansion of its network. Upon completion, the mobile phone operator is determined to push its subscriber capacity from the current three million to over 5 million subscribers.

    - A Los Angeles-based company Avasant is opening offices in Ghana as a result of President Obama’s visit to the country. The offices will be located in Accra. Avasant, which is ranked as the world’s top Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) advisory firm has signed a multi-year agreement with Ghana’s Ministry of Communications to promote IT Enabled Services (ITES) sector in the country, the company has said in a press release.

Digital Content

  • Helix Wind Corporation has announced that it is intending to have test sites for its novel wind power generators installed in the U.S. and West Africa by November 2009.

    The company will deliver its first test turbines to Eltek NSG in Nigeria in late October for installation at one of two identified test sites. Pending successful testing and subsequent rollout to several operators in the region including Zain and MTI, Helix's relationship with Eltek NSG could potentially mean several hundred sites over the next few years and eventual implementation in other African nations, and is the result of work performed by CP Pumps & Systems FZCO, Helix's distributor in Dubai.

    "There is a tremendous opportunity for Helix Wind in the cell tower markets in developing countries and remote applications," noted Ian Gardner, Helix Wind CEO. "Currently such towers are powered by diesel generators, which are bad for the environment and extremely expensive to operate. Anywhere the power grid is unreliable, expensive or simply non-existent, wind is an ideal renewable energy resource able to power these towers and reduce their operating cost. Helix Wind is excited to be entering the test phase of our solution for this promising new market."

    Cellular News

  • Zebrajobs.com and the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) are launching the first Africa-wide Virtual Job Fair on September 30th 2009, which will run for three consecutive months (Oct 1- Dec 31, 2009) on-demand. The Africa Virtual Job Fair (AVJF) is a dynamic opportunity for employers in the public and private sectors, organizations, and other hiring entities as well as job seekers ranging in experience from seasoned professionals to graduating students to use Internet-based recruitment and career advisory services for their employment needs. Attendees enjoy browsing employment opportunities, submitting resumes, event networking and even conducting an interview – all at no cost and in the comfort of their own home or office.

    The Virtual Job Fair will offer many of the same benefits to employers and job-seekers as a physical job fair. Navigating around the virtual event is simple. Employers and job-seekers can access all areas of the Virtual Job Fair from any computer screen. The Virtual Job Fair will have multiple floors hosting a variety of employment opportunities and organizations. This state-of-the-art web-based tool makes it easy for job seekers and employers to connect virtually from all over the world.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Rwandatel, has restructured its prepaid billing tariffs for calls and Short Messages (SMS) across local networks. The new billing structure now includes per minute tariffs alongside per second rates that was rolled out when company switched to GSM technology. The company's Corporate Communications Manager, Cleophas Kabasiita said that the changes aim at offering clients with alternatives.

    - Splash Mobile Money Limited (”Splash”), a mobile payment system provider, and MoreMagic Solutions, a mobile transactions provider have announced the availability of Sierra Leone’s first mobile money transfer system, enabled by MoreMagic Solutions industry-leading MWallet platform. Splash customers in Sierra Leone can now send money using just the mobile phone, quickly, easily, cheaply and without any requirement to have a bank account.

    - Econet Telecom Lesotho (ETL) has partnered with ForgetMeNot Africa, a specialist in unified messaging for telecoms operators, to launch a two-way e-mail service across ETL’s entire wireless subscriber base. ForgetMeNot’s Message Optimiser will bring e-mail to rural and urban areas across Lesotho via any mobile phone, without the end user requiring internet access, or the need to upgrade their device or download a specific application.

    - MTN Nigeria has launched its HyConnect fixed line and internet service in Calabar, the regional capital of Cross River State, reports local news source Compass News. The service offers high speed internet via fibre-optic cables to both residential and SME customers.

    - Econet Wireless Zimbabwe has revealed that the ongoing network expansion work being carried out by ZTE of China and Sweden’s Ericsson will include the expansion of its 3G network to all major cities and tourist resorts. 3G is currently available in parts of the capital Harare.

More

  • - Rwandatel's Chief Executive Officer Patrick Kariningufu is set to be moved to another LAP Green operation. Hamidou Isiaka from Niger is set to take over as Rwandatel's new CEO.

    - MTN Swaziland board has appointed David Dlamini as the new chairman for the next two years.

  • 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.

    harpreet.sohanpal@clarionevents.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

  • * Amy Mahan Research Fellowship Program to Assess the Impact of Public Access to ICTs

    Up to 12 Research Fellowships will be awarded, each providing a grant of up to 22,000 € and specialized guidance to enable emerging scholars to carry out their own new and original study examining the impact of public access to information and communication technologies (ICT).

    Emerging developing country researchers from Africa, the Middle East, the Asia Pacific region and Latin America and the Caribbean are invited to apply for a Fellowship. They may submit their application and conduct their research in English, French, Portuguese or Spanish. The deadline for applying is Midnight Eastern Standard Time, 31 December 2009.

    http://www.upf.edu/amymahan

    * Lecturer in Information Systems and Development – University of Manchester

    The University of Manchester is seeking a lecturer to teach Master's modules on information systems and development; undertake research on information systems, ICTs and development; and contribute to development of a distance learning Master's programme.

    http://www.sed.manchester.ac.uk/idpm

    http://www.manchester.ac.uk/cdi

    The appointed candidate will be educated to at least Master's level with a track record of information systems teaching, research and publications, and with direct experience of information systems in developing economies. For those candidates who lack a sufficient research track record, appointment as a Teaching Fellow may be considered. Full details of the essential and desirable person specification requirements can be found in the further particulars.

    The appointment is for two years initially from 1 Jan 2010 or as soon as possible thereafter, with the likelihood of extension. Salary in the range £32,458-£35,469 per annum.

    Closing date for applications: 26 October 2009

    http://www.manchester.ac.uk/aboutus/jobs/academic/vacancy/index.htm?ref=...

  • * Ministry of Education and Nortis Cimecom - Morocco

    As part of a nationwide programme to modernise ICT capabilities in Moroccan schools, Nortis Cimecom, a VSAT operator and a longstanding partner of Eutelsat, has been selected by the Ministry for Education and the national telecommunications

    regulatory authority to deliver a satellite-based broadband service to schools beyond range of terrestrial networks. Using Eutelsat's satellite-based broadband solution , Nortis Cimecom has been selected to equip 25% of schools in the first phase of the national programme. The company is consequently now deploying D-STAR in 470 schools in towns and villages across Morocco.

    * South African Airlines and CyberSource – South Africa

    CyberSource Ltd., the U.K.-based subsidiary of CyberSource Corporation has announced an agreement in which South African Airlines (SAA) will use CyberSource solutions in its anti-fraud efforts. The airline has selected Decision Manager, CyberSource's global fraud management portal, as well as Performance Monitoring, a CyberSource managed risk service that provides fraud system analysis and monitoring services.

    * MNT and IMImobile – MEA

    The MTN Group has announced it has signed a major deal with IMImobile, an India-based software and managed services provider linked to 350 content providers worldwide. The two companies have teamed up in a move to address the growing demand for content in emerging markets. The partnership will entail providing MTN's 21 markets access to a repository of current and globally popular content through enhanced delivery platforms. Content categories will include music (with local and international flavour), sports, games, entertainment, news and much more. One of MTN's new content streams will be the 2010 FIFA World Cup(TM) of which the mobile operator has exclusive global mobile content rights. Accordingly, MTN will leverage its IMImobile partnership to deliver exclusive 2010 FIFA World Cup(TM) content on subscribers' handsets, including soccer match news, fixtures, match results as well as team and group profiles.

    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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