Issue no 483 4th December 2009

top story

  • With Africa’s mobile markets becoming increasingly crowded for operators and the mobile players planting their big feet on the Internet space, there’s not much room left for new entrants. That is unless you look differently at African markets and start to search for profitable niches rather than mass markets. Russell Southwood talked to Access Communications CEO Faizal Okhai about the niche he wants to occupy in Malawi.

    Access Communications is currently rolling out its CDMA 2000 EVDO Rev A network (which will operate on 800 mghz) in 4 cities in Malawi: Blantyre, Lilongwe, Muzuzu and Zomba. By the end of this month the capital will be covered and the others by April 2010.

    The network will have an overall capacity capable of taking 35,000 subscribers: 14,000 each in Blantyre and Lilongwe with rest split equally between Muzuzu and Zomba. This is what Faizal Okhai describes as phase one with phase two starting in July next year, which will take capacity up to 70,000 subscribers.

    Its operator licence is for fixed voice and data and is geographically limited to the cities identified above. However, it can, for example, operate within a 40 kms radius of Blantyre. The licence cost was US$100,000 plus 2% of gross turnover and a commitment to contribute to the Universal Access Fund (being set up by an Act of Parliament) which is likely to cost another US$100,000.

    EVDO Rev A provides 3G data which has a theoretical download speed of 3.1 mbps but within 2-5 kms of a base station can still deliver 2-2.2 mbps.

    So how will it do its pricing? Okhai is understandably cagy as its launch is some months away:”We haven’t released general plans to the market but the incumbent seems really worried. To meet the requirements of our business plan we need rates that are higher than the fixed line incumbent.”

    But the obvious question is why would a user buy a service that had a higher price in markets that are dominated by price as the deciding factor? Okhai is pitching service and quality:”There are issues around speed of supply for incumbent fixed lines. What we’re offering is ‘double play’ (voice and data) with SMS services.”

    “Thus far competitor data services have been very expensive because of the cost of CPE equipment, usually US$400-500. With our service, the CPE is bundled depending on the contract you take.” Also in a market with very complicated calling plans, Access Communications wants to create a more transparent and simple way of charging its customers:”We will be offering a very simplified tariff plan.

    Most new entrants take a pop at the incumbent and the mobile competitors by offering much cheaper international voice calling. Access Communications again is playing it cautiously:”At the moment, we will not rock the boat too much. We’re trying to establish two international links. We will have one on VSAT and we have entered into an MOU with TDM who we will have to build a physical link to”.

    “It wants a minimum of an STM1 so we’re co-operating with a local mobile operator and they’ll take half that capacity and we’ll take the other half. We’ll also be sharing tower sites and backhaul links with them. We’ll be lighting up two fibre optic cores between Lilongwe and Blantyre giving us 2.5 gbps over the link. This has been done in partnership with the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM).”

    Okha says that growth will build slowly so that he will be happy with 20,000 subscribers in the first year while the company irons out any teething problems:”Quality of Service is a massive distinguishing factor so we have to move carefully in terms of customer numbers. We have not got the resources to take on the country’s major players so we’ll take it slowly, build up the customer base and build our reputation for quality.”

    “The licence process was delayed by two years and in the meantime the incumbent has done a lot of work on its network and it’s been difficult to raise finance and funding in the current climate. But the business model will work on a relatively small number of subscribers and the high speed data will be a significant differentiator.”

    The three investor groupings are all local with Okhai’s family company making an investment: the family company also owns Internet Malawi. The Chair of the company is Justice Richard Banda.

    The CDMA 2000 challengers on the continent have tended to be incumbents because vendor Huawei’s selling strategy has been targeted at them. Therefore the product has competed with failing fixed lines and in many cases done very well. However, in Kenya where Popote and Flashcom both attacked in a very competitive market numbers have remained relatively small. Furthermore, their data download speeds have not always kept up in a fast developing market.

    The big attraction is that with a low cost CPE and EVDO Rev A it will be able to offer potentially attractive data offers and it is very noticeable that wherever CDMA 2000 has been used, data revenues always exceed voice by some margin. This one may yet run and run…

telecoms

  • A new data operator has vowed to not only challenge TelOne, but also join the war for the hearts and minds of subscribers in Zimbabwe. Chemist Siziba, the Broadlands Networks chairman, is a man with a dream: to ensure that everyone is connected to the network.

    Broadlands was last year issued with a Public Data Communication Services (PDS) licence by the Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (POTRAZ).

    The licence allows the company to provide data and voice (both mobile and fixed phone services). Effectively this means that Broadlands will be the fourth mobile operator and the second fixed operator.

    Broadlands will also rub shoulders with a number of established internet service providers as the licence also allows it to venture into the market that is starved of the service. Yet despite the competition, Broadlands believes the targeted market is its trump card. "This is a must application of technology for the poorest of the poor and the charges are less," said Siziba who used to own Cosmos Cellular, a marketing agent for NetOne.

    "We think we are different. Whether they will compete, we believe we want to set the standards," he said. "The standard is that it must be a mass broadband operator. We want to change the whole dimension to provide broadband to the masses and they will afford it."

    The charges are modest. One pays US$120 and gets a phone, which one can use for the whole year. The phone connects to anywhere in the world where there is a fixed line, according to Siziba. He is confident they will cover the whole country. "There is no blade of grass that we will not cover in January." Data was rolled out in September and so far they have signed up 50,000 subscribers.

    But why the delay in giving people the good news? "We were under the radar until we had sufficient strength to supply the people and sufficient subscriber base to fight off competition," he said. Siziba says at least US$20 million had been injected into the project. He said the Zimbabwe project was financed from money obtained from similar operations in seven other African countries -- South Africa; Botswana; Namibia, Malawi, Gabon, Zambia and Democratic Republic of Congo.

    Negotiations are underway to buy out an operator in Tanzania, he said adding that the operations are controlled at one network operation centre. The centre is based in South Africa but will relocate to Zimbabwe. Siziba said voice would be launched in January. He says they will print 10 million sim cards that will be sold "for next to nothing". The idea is that "everyone has a phone (sim card) in the wallet looking for a docking station", according to Siziba. There will be at least 20,000 points of sale.

    The Standard

  • Sierra Leone’s regulator, NATCOM has ended its second consumer parliament in Makeni, a forum which brought together operators and consumers to discuss issues that affect the telecom industry in the country and the way forward.

    NATCOM's chairman, Siray Timbo said consumers must be treated with utmost respect by operators, adding, "There is lack of communication between the consumers and the operators." The ultimate goal of the institution, according to him, was to get a regulatory balance which was acceptable by the consumers, operators and others.

    "The commission has recorded several achievements among which are, the establishment of six zonal offices and the formation of cyber crime," he said.

    Timbo noted that it was the utmost responsibility of the commission to ensure that operators give out correct information to consumers about their services.

    A member of the parliamentary oversight committee on information and communication, Hon. Victoria K. Sesay said the idea of a consumer parliament by NATCOM was timely and important. She said there was need to lay more emphasis on consumer satisfaction, as it was the backbone of success for operators in the industry.

    "We will welcome any idea that puts emphasis on consumer satisfaction. We are well aware of the provision in the telecom's Act," she said. Deputy minister of information and communications, Saidata Sesay said such a forum was important as it gives consumers the opportunity to ask relevant questions to the operators on issues that affect them. She admonished operators to continue to work in the interest of providing quality telecommunication services to the people.

    Concord Times

  • Portuguese company Zon Multimédia has set up a partnership with Isabel dos Santos, businesswoman and daughter of Angola’s president, in which the Portuguese company has a 30 percent stake, according to Portuguese newspaper Correio da Manhã.

    The paper added that the partnership was preparing to launch a telecommunications operator that would operate in a similar way to Zon Multimédia’s business in Portugal – cable, satellite, voice and Internet.

    A source from the Portuguese company told the paper that, as Zon is considered to be a communications group, “we could not have more than a 30 percent stake in the new company.”

    The source contacted by the newspaper said that the new partnership was now waiting for licenses to be granted by the Angolan authorities and added that Isabel dos Santos taking a stake in Zon Multimédia was another possibility that was being considered.

    According to the company website, Zon TV Cabo is the biggest Portuguese “triple play” (TV, Internet and telephone) operator and is also the pay TV market leader in Portugal and one of the biggest operators in Europe, with over 1.6 million customers.

    Isabel dos Santos is already a minority shareholder in Angola’s only private mobile operator, Unitel.

    macauhub

  • MPs asked top government officials who received 450 BlackBerry phones during the Commonwealth summit to return them to the ICT ministry. The Public Accounts Committee asked the ICT ministry permanent secretary, Dr Jimmy Saamanya, to retrieve the gadgets from ministers, permanent secretaries and commissioners.

    "All government officials who received Chogm Blackberry phones must return them within seven days," committee chairperson Nandala Mafabi (FDC, Budadiri West) said. "These were government assets given to individuals for their personal benefit. It's ridiculous that some of these people didn't even do any Chogm work yet they took BlackBerry phones."

    In October 2007, the government contracted Celtel and UTL to provide BlackBerry services - a wireless solution that offers a sleek, stylish and compact all-in-one mobile phone solution, with the benefit of integrated email, SMS, diary, contacts, instant messaging and Internet browsing.

    Celtel Uganda (Now Zain) supplied 254 Blackberry phones at a cost of $102,000 (about Shs200 million). The rest were supplied by UTL at a cost not yet disclosed to the committee. MPs say there were no clear guidelines on who should have received the phones and now want them returned to the ministry in charge for proper allocation.

    The committee also heard that a number of computers, laptops, computer tables and printers supplied for the 8th Women's Affairs Ministers Meeting, an advance meeting of the Chogm summit, have remained missing. Of the 33 computers worth Shs103.4 million, 10 and their accessories were signed for by the women's meeting on condition that they would be returned but they never made their way back.

    The Director Information Technology, Godfrey Kibuuka, Ambrose Ruyooka, the commissioner and Dr David Turahi, the chairperson of the contracts committee, were questioned over reports that they mishandled the procurement of Chogm computers. "We want CID to investigate this computer deal because we have information that these people forged accountability," Mr Mafabi said.

    The Monitor

  • - The 1.97 Tbps ACE submarine cable system, which will stretch from France to South Africa, welcomes new members. Six new telecommunication operators joined the ACE consortium recently, namely Etisalat Nigeria, Expresso Telecom Group (Mauritania, Senegal), Globalink (Sierra Leone), Mauritius Telecom, Office Congolais de Poste et Télécommunication (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Sierratel (Sierra Leone). In addition, Baharicom Development Company Ltd., supported by the NEPAD’s (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) eAfrica Commission of the African Union, joined ACE as a major partner in October 2009, to jointly build the ACE system.

    - In Nigeria, the Federal High Court sitting in Kaduna presided over by Hon. Justice M. L. Shuaibu has ordered a Telecommunication Company, Helios Towers, to dismantle and remove its mast located in residential premises in Kaduna, installed without conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment as required by law. The Judgment was sequel to an action brought against Helios Towers and the Kaduna State Environmental Protection Authority (KEPA) by the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA).

    - KDDI-owned Telehouse is establishing its carrier neutral facilities in South Africa through a strategic partnership with local vendor neutral company, Teraco. KDDI, which is the world’s 10th largest carrier is headquartered in Tokyo and is a Global 300 company. Telehouse’s expansion into South Africa is the first entry by a major Japanese telco into Africa and the move demonstrates growing Asian interest in the region.

    - European mobile giant Vodafone is targeting South African-based multinational businesses through its Global Enterprise division. Despite already owning Vodacom Business, Vodafone's newly-opened African division will not compete directly, but rather take advantage of the access the local company has. Vodafone Global Enterprise CEO Nick Jeffery says the division works as a layer over the top of all its operations, and it will do the same with Vodacom.

    - Egyptian telecommunications infrastructure firm, Mobiserve, has opened an office in Kenya as it seeks to expand its operations throughout Africa. The ten-year-old company intends to use its Kenyan office to serve the region as it capitalizes on the fastest growing industry on the continent. Mobiserve offers maintenance and other technical services to both satellite mobile communication service providers making his firm a one-stop service player in both sub-sectors.

internet

  • Multimedia company, Wananchi Group, moved to slash the cost of its internet offering by half, saying it was keen to cash in on its investment in fibre optic technology as it passed on savings to its customers.

    Even as it lowered prices, the company announced that it was launching a new data product dubbed Zuku Biz that will target the small business segment, becoming the latest in a string of ICT companies who have realigned their offerings to suit the growing SME sector.

    "We want to distribute the huge amounts of bandwidth that we have at this moment. Our strategic investment in fibre is paying off as our Internet customers on our product will now enjoy cheaper pricing as a result of the arrival. At the same time, we are now able to broaden our product offering by starting Zuku Biz, which is designed to cater to the needs of our commercial clients," said Suhayl Esmailjee, Wananchi chief operating officer.

    The company said its price cut on products offered on its Wimax platform were an attempt to reduce the entry barrier for new Internet consumers, and formed the first part of a strategy geared at diversifying its business.

    The development has seen the firm drop its price for its entry level product, a 256kbps connection from Sh2,999 to Sh1,499, while the cost of its most expensive connection on a 1Mbps connection has dropped from Sh9,999 to Sh4,499 (US$57.51).

    "While we have reduced the price for our Internet options, we have maintained the speeds which are still within the competitive range in comparison to other companies," said Esmailjee.

    Internet firms have been caught in the crosshairs of vigorous debate over the price of Internet connectivity in the country. Consumers widely anticipated that the cost of communication would drop significantly once the country switched from the more expensive satellite connectivity to fibre links, the first of which arrived in the country in June. But while some players have increased the amount of bandwidth their customers can access on their networks, few have implemented price reductions.

    Analysts attribute this to the fact that many companies are yet to transfer all of their capacity to fibre links, and still rely on satellite for back-up, which is among the factors that have kept pricing high. However, it is expected that most will have fully shifted to fibre by the end of next year.

    Wananchi said it was on track to complete a fibre optic network within Nairobi that will provide triple play services -- a combination of voice, internet and television services linked to homes using a single cable -- by April next year.

    This will see the company roll out a high capacity fibre network to deliver connectivity to a target 200 buildings within the CBD and over 100,000 homes in urban areas around the country.

    To achieve its goal, the company will rely on a Sh2 billion war-chest that it has built up over the last few years to place an extensive 2,000km countrywide fibre network that it will use to offer services on Zuku.

    Zuku is a triple play service that offers a bouquet including pay television, broadband Internet, and voice under a single brand, and hopes to become one of the region's major players in the corporate connectivity market through SimbaNet operating in Kenya and Tanzania.

    Wananchi's corporate division, SimbaNet, is a leading provider of VSAT services to major corporations, governments and NGOs in Kenya and Tanzania.

    Business Daily

  • Speedtest.net wants to become the premier destination for Internet users to test their download speed in South Africa. The Speedtest.net website has a very user friendly interface and sports a multitude of testing servers across the globe – including Cape Town and Johannesburg.

    The Johannesburg server is hosted by Altech Technology Concepts with adequate bandwidth to provide accurate results for local broadband services. The Cape Town server was however recently removed after complaints that inadequate bandwidth means that the results were not reliable.

    Telkom SA (SAIX) recently stepped up to host the Cape Town Speedtest.net server, providing sufficient bandwidth to ensure accurate results for the fastest broadband services in South Africa. The server is hosted in the Barack Street Core Edge site in the Cape Town central business district, connected via 1 Gigabit Ethernet to the Telkom core network.

    “Telkom, in its endeavour to consistently enhance customer experience believes that this facility will assist our field technicians with fault finding and testing of throughput on ADSL. In addition, this will also be useful to ADSL users,” Telkom said.

    Good news for local broadband users is that Telkom is also planning to host a Speedtest.net server in Gauteng. The company however warned that this may take some time as it has to be done in conjunction with the company providing statistics for Speedtest.net.

    MyBroadband

  • More than one third of websites in the West African country of Cameroon pose a security risk to surfers according to a new report by security expert McAfee. Web addresses for Cameroon end ".cm" - attracting careless web users who wrongly type ".com".

    Fraudsters take advantage of spelling mistakes and typing errors to set up false sites that may look similar to those the surfer intended to visit. But they can contain spyware, adware and malicious downloads instead. Last year's survey put Hong Kong (.hk) at the top of the riskiest domain names. However a clampdown on domain registration has made it safer in 2009.

    Riskiest Web Domains 2009

    1. Cameroon (.cm)

    2. People's Republic of China (.cn)

    3. Samoa (.ws)

    4. Philippines (.ph)

    5. Former Soviet Union (.su)

    Hong Kong Internet Registration Corporation Ltd, which supervises domain registration for .hk websites, said that asking for proof of identity was one measure which had led to a decline in suspicious applications.

    So instead, those wishing to exploit web surfers turned their attention to common typing errors. "The bad guys got good at exploiting bad typing skills," Shane Keats, senior research analyst at McAfee and co-author of the report, told BBC News.

    He added that when looking for a host country in which to set up a fraudulent domain, scammers tend to look for three things: "low cost, ease of registration and lack of regulation".

    McAfee surveyed 27 million websites for the report - of which 688,861 were sites hosted by Cameroon. 36.7% were found to be suspicious. The safest domains surveyed were Japan (.jp), Ireland (.ie) and Croatia (.hr).

    BBC

  • - Installation of the first cable landing station of East African Submarine System (EASSy) will commence this week in Mozambique, according to an announcement by the consortium’s largest investor The West Indian Ocean Cable Company (WIOCC). The twelve-telco strong consortium will roll out landing stations in nine African countries and provide high speed terrestrial connectivity to around a dozen landlocked nations. Cable laying is scheduled for completion in April 2010, with a ready-for-service date set for end-June.

    - Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) is set to enter into the telecoms market next year. "The fibre optic cable network will have a capacity of 48 fibres, and the company will utilise only 10 fibres for its operations, data and speech communications. This will leave a surplus capacity of 38 fibres which will be commercialized to generate additional revenue streams," said Joseph Njoroge, Managing Director, KPLC.

    - Vodafone Ghana has officially opened its first Internet Café at Cantonment in Accra. The Internet Cafe has Wifi hotspot and a seating capacity for 100 customers. The facility provides a world-class high speed internet services at a cost of GH¢2.5 per an hour, guaranteeing customers value for their money.

    - Despite the news that the implementation of local loop unbundling (LLU) legislation in South Africa is to be delayed until November 2011, broadband operator iBurst has continued with its plan to launch its first ADSL2+ service regardless, according to IT News Africa. The report, which cites company CEO Jannie van Zyl, reveals that the firm will instead use privately-owned copper infrastructure within multi-tenant environments such as gated communities, shopping centres and offices parks to cover the last-mile and reach subscribers.

    - A project of 100,000 high speed internet connections will be launched by January in Oran (432-km west of Algiers), said territorial director of the national telecommunications company Algerie Telecom (AT). "Thanks to a new technology we are going to improve the quality of the services provided for our subscribers in terms of connection speed," said Habib Remil. The project aims at meeting the increasing demand (about 12,000 ADSL lines), particularly in eastern Oran, namely in the localities of Bir El Djir, Gdyel, El Mohgoun and Ain El-Bia, in Es-Senia (south) and Misserghine (west), he added.

computing

  • An initiative by a mobile phone manufacturer, Samsung, and three non-governmental organisations to train youth from poor backgrounds in Nairobi in ICT and entrepreneurship is beginning to bear fruits.

    While some have landed employment others have opened businesses. Out of the 746 youths that the three local NGOs -- Africa Centre for Women Information and Communication Technology, and Informal Sector Business Institute -- have trained, 185 have either been linked to employers or have opened their own shops.

    The programme known as 'Samsung Real Dreams' trains in life skills, ICT and entrepreneurship. It also offers internship opportunities, job placement and business development services for up to 1,000 youth in Nairobi. Candidates of the project take courses in web design, multimedia, electronics, IT networking and salesmanship.

    Eligible applicants must be between 18 and 30 years old with a minimum of C (plain) in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exam and lacks fees to further learning. It is supported by a $2 million grant from Samsung Electronics and is implemented in partnership with International Youth Foundation and local organisations.

    Ms Patricia King'ori, the general manager, mobile division at Samsung East and Central Africa, says the initiative seeks to empower disadvantaged youth. "Unemployment is one of the key issues affecting young people in Kenya today, every year an estimated 500,000 young people enter job markets [and] only 25 per cent get employment in the formal sector," said King'ori.

    The NGOs collaborate with companies like the Ken-Tech Data, a local Business Process Outsourcing company, Kenya Data Networks, Mustek East Africa, NortWest Offshore among others, where the youth have got employment.

    King'ori, however, repeated a major concern that trainers and the industry join hands to produce personnel with the right skills. Tom Siambi of Africa Centre for Women Information and Communication Technology said the disadvantaged youth were facing many challenges, including company policies that restrict employment to university graduates.

    "The job market is more focused on performance education, which prefers those who have undergone university education, which further stretches the competition for the under privileged," said Siambi.

    Anne Ikiara, of NairoBits said her organisation has trained 550 youths out of which 47 have been employed and 133 have started their own businesses. To improve access to capital, she said they were planning to start a revolving fund for affordable credit.

    Business Daily

  • A growing number of companies are cutting back on IT spending as a proportion of their overall turnover, a study has revealed, raising concern that this will affect their performance in the future.

    A report compiled by software consultancy nFold and technology market research organisation World Wide Worx, found that only 39% of medium and large organisations in SA had budgeted to spend more than 1% of their turnover on IT.

    The last survey, carried out in 2005, found that 63% said they planned to spend more than 1%. Sandy Pullinger, MD of nFold, said last week that a contributing factor had been the recession. Companies had been monitoring their operational spending, leading to delays in software upgrades.

    "There has been a dramatic shift in corporate IT spending patterns," Pullinger said. "When we conducted the survey in 2005, only 19% of companies budgeted for IT spend on an ad hoc basis. This year 32% said they were."

    At least 35% of companies this year were also evaluating software spend on an ad hoc basis. "It is clear that software forms less of an upfront purchase priority today than four years ago, but that doesn't mean software has declined in importance .

    "We find that senior decision- makers in the organisation are more involved in large software purchasing decisions than ever before, with a quarter of companies reporting that financial decision makers now play a role... . Previously, financial executives played almost no key role."

    Pullinger said that companies could well find themselves paying for this decision in the future. "Software should be driving business value, which will not happen if it's being addressed on an ad hoc basis," she said.

    The survey also asked respondents which three IT trends would affect their company in the next three to five years.

    Business Day

  • Safaricom's corporate customers can now leave most of their day-to-day information technology (IT) systems management operations to the service provider. In a partnership deal signed between the company and solutions provider, Cisco on Wednesday, the latter will provide managed services to Safaricom, enabling it to offer companies a wider range of business services at an affordable cost.

    The managed services provider (MSP) will provide services such as desktop and security monitoring, patch management and remote data back-up as well as technical assistance to their clients.

    The services will be billed at a flat or near-fixed monthly fee, which will benefit clients by providing them with predictable IT support costs.

    "Customers will no longer have to worry about bandwidth needs, they will only pay for network service as Safaricom handles operations, allowing them huge savings," said Safaricom CEO Michael Joseph.

    Daily Nation

  • - In South Africa, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) will award the tender for its long-awaited smart ID card project within the current financial year. Following the cancellation of the project earlier this year, the DHA says it has requested National Treasury to restart the tender process. The department says, despite the delays, the smart card ID project is still one of its crucial plans. The DHA was mandated by Cabinet to replace the national identity document with a smart ID card.

    - IBM is increasing the support it provides to communications service providers (CSPs) in emerging markets. The US giant is opening new telecommunications development centres in China and Africa to provide training in advanced technical skills, specialised offerings and industry best practices for engineers and managers. The main Telecom Solutions Lab is located in Johannesburg, South Africa, but clients will also be able to access solution demonstrations from three additional satellite locations in Africa: Nairobi, Lagos and Cape Town.

    - Microsoft is clamping down on South African software counterfeiters as it is celebrating worldwide 'Consumer Action Day' across 70 countries. Locally the day is being marked locally by 'mystery shopper' visits to almost 400 computer dealers across the country, the launch of a 'clean dealer' certification and training for partners, and a series of 'knock and talk' visits to resellers who have been caught selling bogus software to unsuspecting consumers.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Belgacom’s International Carrier Services (ICS) division has extended its long standing partnership with pan-African carrier MTN, with the combination of the two firms ICS units and MTN’s acquisition of a stake in Belgacom ICS.

    From December 1, Belgacom (BICS) will begin integrating MTN’s international wholesale subsidiary and will act as the official contact for MTN’s carrier services globally. Belgacom will own 57.6 per cent of BICS’ shares, Swisscom will own 22.4 per cent and MTN 20 per cent.

    The move will give the new entity an even stronger foothold in the African market, where local telecoms operators have faced several challenges in 2009. The global economic downturn, a fiercely competitive landscape, and pressure to expand networks into rural areas have tested the mettle of the region’s carriers both big and small.

    And yet, forecasts from Informa Telecoms & Media show that mobile subscription growth in the region is still set to increase by 26.6 per cent year on year in 2009, with the total number of active subscriptions to exceed 473 million by the end of the year.

    This figure is projected to increase to approximately 800 million by 2014, by which time SIM penetration across the region should reach 70 per cent, the analyst predicts.

    Telecoms.com

  • Orascom Telecom (ORTE) announced that it has no intentions to sell Algerian subsidiary “Djezzy” in a comment on news circulated about Vivendi’s keenness on buying OT Djezzy. Orascom chairman, Naguib Sawiris asserted that no intention of leaving Algeria or selling its operator there to Vivendi.

    On the other hand, analysts attributed OT rejection to sell Djezzy to its significant contribution in parent revenues as it came in the first place among OT affiliates earning 33.6% of revenues over the last nine months. Pakistani Mobilink ranked second by 20.8 % while Mobinil came third by 18.4 %.

    It is worth mentioning that, Reuters has quoted that a member of Vivendi BOD, Mehdi Dazi, was in Algiers last Saturday to meet with local businessmen, notably Issad Rebrab, the head of Algerian group Cevital, which has a 3 % stake in Orascom Telecom Algeria, the paper said.

    Cevital could join forces with Vivendi to buy the unit, which serves more than 14 million mobile telephone customers in Algeria and had revenue of over $2 billion last year, it said. Vivendi could not be immediately reached for comment.

    Almasry Alyoum newspaper

  • Telecoms company the Huge Group has become smaller again after posting results showing a drop in revenue, the decimation of its operating profit and a plunge from a net profit into loss. Huge rang up a loss of R5,8m for the six months to August 31, down from a profit of R28,7m a year ago.

    This has been a dreadful year for the company, which had already suffered declining profits for its full financial year to February. That slide has continued, with interim figures showing a headline loss of 5,46c per share, after a previous profit of 26c. Revenue was down from R308m to R282m.

    Its woes peaked with a debacle over share trades made by CEO James Herbst and chairman Anton Potgieter, earning them both fines of R5m for flouting the JSE's listing rules. Those trades committed Huge to buy back shares in the future at 360c each, and involved stock that was originally owned by Herbst and Potgieter. The deal has cut its pretax earnings by R9.4m in impairment costs as its stock slumped. Another R10.2m may be lost in future exposures to those contracts.

    Moreover, the company's legal fees rose by R2m and its consulting and auditing fees climbed by another R1m for the period as its audit was "particularly complex as a result of the accounting treatment of certain transactions".

    The directors blame the poor performance of the group on lower sales for its business that resells cellphone airtime. The average revenue it earns from airtime each day is down by R75,000 to R1.8m. That cut R2m off its net profit. To rectify that, Huge has increased its focus on sales, expanded its products and services and appointed new managers in its Huge Telecom division.

    The seasonality of mobile network contracts reduced its connection incentive bonuses by R13m for the period, swiping R9,4m off its net profit. It also wrote off R11.5m in airtime revenue on unsold SIM cards. Those cards have now been allocated and should generate revenue in the future.

    The litany of problems that cut its revenue was compounded by an R11.6m rise in costs due to higher salary expenses. Huge Telecom had to invest in human capital to meet its aspirations of growth, the directors said, and they now consider the company well prepared for rapid expansion.

    On the operational front, integrating its acquisitions of TelePassport and CentraCell into Huge Telecom took far longer than expected and is directly blamed for the fall in revenue by diverting the managers' attention. Management declared themselves "quietly optimistic" about the prospects of the business.

    Business Day

  • French telecoms giant Orange has issued legal threats to Johannesburg public relations firm Orange Ink, demanding that it change its name and accusing it of copyright infringement.

    Orange, the cellular operator owned by France Telecom, accuses Orange Ink of unlawful conduct, and insists it stops using the name immediately, undertakes never to use the name Orange again, and abandons its internet address, orangeink.co.za.

    The PR firm was advised legal action against it would probably fail in court, but founder Lara Magnus said she could not afford R300,000 to fight a global group with deep pockets. Capitulating would cost up to R60,000 in rebranding the business.

    "We're a small company of 10 people. We don't have that kind of cash sitting around," she said. "It's absolutely ridiculous. I understand them wanting to protect their brand, but we are a PR agency. No one has ever rung me up and asked if we sell cellphones."

    The letters of demand were sent by trademarks specialist Adams & Adams for Orange Personal Communications Services of the UK, registered owner of the trademarks Orange and the orange square logo in SA. Orange Ink services infringed those trademark registrations, including in communications, it said, so "confusion or deception is likely".

    Orange operates in African countries including Botswana, Kenya and Mali. Its website does not list an office in SA, but it apparently opened one in Johannesburg a few weeks ago.

    Adams & Adams said similar action was being taken against other companies in SA. Johannesburg's phone book lists 14 firms under orange, but Orange-Tree and Purple Orange Marketing did not get threatening letters. Adams & Adams said Orange was spending "hundreds of millions of rands a year" to promote its business in SA. Orange Ink disputes that, asking for proof.

    Trademark attorneys Galgut & Galgut, for the PR firm, said it had used the name since 2003, and registered it in 2005. The period for objecting to registration under the Companies Act was long past. Orange was a common word used in 99 registered trademarks.

    Business Day

  • - Nigerian newspaper, Leadership, has reported that indications have emerged that the House of Representatives may have concluded arrangements to investigate the reasons behind the alleged sabotage in the sale of Nigeria Telecommunication Limited (NITEL) and its subsidiary, Mobile Telecommunication Limited (Mtel). This investigation is coming on the heels of the disclosure that the Federal Government had already committed N70 billion to settle staff liabilities in the bodies.

    - Zimbabwean newspaper ZimOnline reports that a 60% stake in the country’s state-owned incumbent telco TelOne is being targeted as a potential purchase target by its larger fixed line counterpart in South Africa, Telkom SA. TelOne spokesperson Collin Wilbesi confirmed the firm was negotiating with a foreign partner, but was not at liberty to identify them.

Digital Content

  • UK mobile phone experts are visiting Uganda to work with staff and students from Makere University, in order to improve mobile phone innovation in the developing world.

    Academics from Makerere University in Kampala have been working with counterparts at Sheffield Hallam University to improve teaching techniques over the design of mobile phones, ensuring that the next generation are equipped to benefit from the technology.

    After the Ugandan academics visited Sheffield in November, Professor Andy Dearden, E-Reader in Social Action at Sheffield Hallam, and Professor Ann Light have made the return trip to Kampala this week.

    The project will see students at Makerere working with academics at Sheffield Hallam to develop projects that will boost Ugandan knowledge of the mobile phone industry, where subscriber numbers have rocketed to 10million, almost a third of the population.

    Plans for a sustainable mobile phone innovation centre in Kampala where graduates can work with local and international businesses are also in the pipeline. The 18-month partnership, supported by a British Council grant, Education Partnerships in Africa, will improve teaching methods in mobile phone innovation and entrepreneurial skills.

    Dr Dearden, who has completed a similar project in rural India, said: "This is the first project undertaken between Makerere and Sheffield Hallam, and will see both of our reputations for excellence and innovation enhanced.

    "Courses that focus on user-centred products and designs are sparse in most of Africa despite the rapid rise in mobile phone technology and usership.

    "This project aims to address this project in Uganda and to develop a university to industry partnership model that can be used throughout sub-Saharan Africa."

    Cellular News

  • Jobberman is a Nigerian search job engine which recently launched in the competitive world of Nigerian job boards and job search engines. Jobberman has a clean, easy to browse interface which makes it distinct it from other job boards.

    Posting a job is easy, you just click a link at the top and you are done. Finding a job however on the search engine is more time consuming. You can sequentially traverse the listing until you find a particular result or you can search through tags, or use their search box.

    The number of listing on Jobberman are not that substantial but are enough to give it a chance to survive and actually grow in the formidable Nigerian cyberspace.

    According to Loy Okezie:”With almost 2000 jobs and over 500 companies listed on the Jobberman.com web site, just within 3 months of launch, the site is one of the job portals to watch in the African space.

    Time will tell what happens to Jobberman. In the meantime what I like most about them personally is their revenue model, which is actually unique. Again quoting Loy

    Jobberman.com also has a smart business model which includes Advertising (premium ad sales, ad network), Licensing (building SaaS portal for corporations) and Subscriptions (premium services for users like resume services, interview mockups, distribution of resumes to headhunting agencies, etc) These revenue models would be launched next year.

    As of yet not many African startups are making money outside of online advertising. If Jobberman actually launches a subscription model they would be one of the first companies to do so. Since Paypal and Google Checkout don’t work in Africa, they will have to design their very own ecommerce platform if what Loy reports is accurate. This would be done in, Nigeria. These guys will have some experiences convincing customers to trust them. That is going to be tough.

    TechMasai

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Nigeria’s telecommunications operator, Globacom has announced a new package which enables subscribers on its network to make unlimited intra-network calls by just paying N40 a day.

    - Orange Uganda and Apple will launch the iPhone 3GS in the country next month after the phone turned heads in the USA and UK. Orange is hoping to target the elite clientele, seeking more value for their money from their cellular phones.

    - Zimbabwe’s largest cellphone service provider, Econet Wireless, has launched a massive payphone project that will significantly lower the cost of communication for the low-income market. Through its Your Fone payphone brand, Econet will roll-out at least 25 000 units over the next six months.

    - Handset manufacturer Mi-Fone has produced - a first in mobile technology for Africa - an embedded SIM Mobile handset. This has been done in conjunction with an unnamed African GSM Operator. The Mi205e embedded SIM handset has a SIM card embedded at factory level, protecting the GSM Carriers from people unlocking the phone as well enabling cost savings on fancy and expensive SIM card packaging.

More

  • - Grameen Foundation has announced the appointment of Norman Buckham as regional CEO for Africa and David Edelstein as the new director of the Grameen Technology Center and vice president of technology programs.

  • INVESTING IN ICT IN EMERGIN MARKETS

    9-10 December 2009, London, UK

    With a world population of 6.7 billion people, 1.2 billion land line telephone lines and 4.0 billion mobile cellular subscribers, there is a need to bring new ICT investment into developing countries. This years CTO Conference on Investing in ICTs in Emerging Markets will help to bridge the gap by discussing future policy, regulation and business models to maximize opportunities for joint investments.

    The conference will be attended by an International delegation consisting of ministers, regulators, funding agencies, operators and infrastructure providers

    For further information on the conference visit the CTO’s website

    http://www.events.cto.int/Investing_in_ICT_09

    MOBILE PAYMENT, REMITTANCE AND M-COMMERCE AFRICA 2009

    9-10 Dec 2009, La Palm Royal Beach Hotel, Accra, Ghana

    This premier Summit brings in telecom operators, Mobile Virtual Network Operators, financial institutions and technology providers in the mobile payment & remittance space to look at the new opportunities in Africa, particularly West, Central and Southern Africa. Indeed, banks, including microfinance/microfinance institutions, together with the national telcos are tapping on new business opportunities in the African market by rolling out mobile financial services products.

    http://www.magenta-global.com.sg/MPRMC/

    TELECOMFINANCE 2010

    26th – 27th January 2010, Renaissance Chancery Court Hotel, London

    TelecomFinance 2010 will bring together the key individuals and companies that will shape the telecoms industry in what is set to be another challenging year ahead.

    After a subdued year of deal activity the panel sessions will explore the changing focus in global M&A, the hottest regions for deals and fresh ideas on operational efficiency and maximising new technologies.

    Don't miss this opportunity to network, share knowledge and do business with operators, financiers and dealmakers from across the global telecom finance community.

    www.telecomfinance.com/2010

    MOBILE WEB EAST AFRICA: Harnessing the potential of the internet and applications on mobile devices

    3rd & 4th February 2010, The Continental Hotel, Nairobi, Kenya

    Following the unrivalled success of Mobile Web Africa, the most progressive and innovative mobile focused event in Africa is now moving to East Africa. With contributions and support confirmed from a host of the leading individuals and organisations Mobile Web East Africa is promising to be a superb two day conference. If the evolution of one of the most important technological advances of the 21st century is of interest to you then attending this event, which features an interactive roundtable seating format, is a fantastic opportunity.

    www.mobileeastafrica.com

    AITEC BANKING & MOBILE MONEY COMESA

    24-25 February 2010, Kenya International Conference Centre, Nairobi, Kenya

    Technology presents great opportunities for the financial sector to extend reach, improve service and reduce costs. However, in the drive to implement the very best that technology vendors have to offer, the focal point of the banking process is often forgotten – the customer.

    AITEC Banking & Mobile Money COMESA 2010 will focus on the customer experience in relation to all technology implementation and services, challenging suppliers and bankers alike to evaluate their systems in the light of customer needs and preferences.

    http://www.aitecafrica.com/event/view/45

  • * Build a business park in The Gambia

    The Gambia Investment Promotion & Free Zone Agency (GIPFZA) is searching internationally for a company to develop and manage the Yundum Business Park, a designated free trade zone close to Banjul International Airport.

    The land was designated as a free trade zone and business park in order to provide firms with world class public infrastructure at the international airport and close to the city centre. The business park is 8.8 hectares but is part of a 160 hectare plot of land that has been earmarked for development.

    For more information contact:

    Yaya Kassama, Director Free Zones, GIPFZA

    ypkassama@gipfza.gm

    www.dexisonline.com/gambiabusinesspark

    * Implementation Manager - NSN Equipment – Sierra Leone

    The Implementation Manager’s position involves Implementation Management of WCDMA rollout as well as R4 and GPRS deployment.

    Requirements:

    - Technical Diploma or BsC engineering degree.

    - Previous Implementation Management experience in the deployment of Core projects and 3G deployment.

    - Hands on knowledge on NSN flexi WCDMA BTS's, RNC 2600 and Release 4 products.

    - English Language.

    Responsibilities:

    - Manage all the project level telecom implementation activities in a NSN customer project.

    - Provide Management and support of the TI subcontractors.

    - Ensure site implementation quality.

    - Plan and order subcontractor work.

    - Support PM to prepare / update roll-out schedule.

    - Follow up the time schedules and checking if the work is executed according to plan and escalations to project management as needed

    - Technical and site solution content support.

    For further information or to apply click visit Jobs off Borders website

    http://www.jobsoffborders.com/index.php?option=com_

    neorecruit&task=offer_view&id=143&Itemid=58

  • MTN and Motorola – Rwanda

    US telecoms equipment supplier Motorola has signed a three-year contract with MTN Rwanda to upgrade the cellco’s wireless network. Motorola will deploy its multi-vendor intelligent optimisation service (MVIOS) to optimise MTN Rwanda’s entire radio access network, enabling the firm to improve its customer service levels and efficiently manage its infrastructure.

    Al-Madar and Ericsson - Libya

    Ericsson is to provide Al-Madar Al-Jadid, Libya's leading mobile operator with a convergent charging and billing solution that will enable its mobile subscribers to enjoy benefits such as flexible tariffs and full control of costs, bonuses and rewards. Ericsson will also supply related systems integration services.

    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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