Issue no 487 15th January 2010

top story

  • In an unexpected move, Niger’s regulator ARM has shortened the licence period for two of the country’s pan-continental mobile operators over Quality of Service (Qos) issues. QoS may become a battleground issue across the continent this year as regulators realise they have the power to insist that agreed standards are met and things improve. For operators, getting network capacity in harmony with demand is full of headaches. Russell Southwood feels their pain.

    Last week Niger’s regulator Autorite de Regulation Multisectorielle (ARM announced that it had reduced the length of two mobile operators' licences in a row over quality of service, according to a Reuters report. The culprits are two of West Africa’s leading mobile operators, Zain and Moov (owned by Etisalat).

    The 15-year concession awarded to Kuwait-based telecoms firm Zain in 2000 was reduced by five years, according to ARM, until a return to the stated levels of service quality is achieved. Meanwhile, a 15-year licence awarded to Moov, the brand name of West African company Atlantique Telecom, also in 2000, has been cut by three years.

    ARM is one of francophone West Africa’s most effective regulators and it has worked hard to liberalise Niger’s telecoms market over the last three years. The tactic of shortening the licence concession period is an interesting one. For although the operator’s do not have to pay a cent, they risk seeing their asset being devalued if they do not address the QoS issues.

    Other regulators who have addressed QoS issues over the last three years include Senegal’s ARTP, Ghana’s NCA and Nigeria’s NCC. In both Nigeria and Senegal, quality of service (particularly network congestion and outages) has been a national debate. Some have been more successful in calling operators to order, whilst others have talked tough but made little impact.

    Contrast Nigeria where NCC lead a very public campaign to improve quality followed by fines with Ghana where NCA talked tough about fines but never followed through. In the case of the latter, talking to operators behind closed doors has had little impact on the country’s chronic congestion, particularly on the MTN network.

    Five years ago a senior manager of a mobile operator explained to me how investment tended to follow increases in customers rather than the other way round. Whilst things have undoubtedly changed since that point, 2010 is a tight year for raising CAPEX. MTN’s promotion aimed at encouraging users to make less use of congested cell sites was innovative but is no substitute for having enough capacity.

    But if only it was as simple as spending enough money to put in capacity to meet peak voice demand. With operators now seeking to become Internet operators with 3G and all the other acronyms above it, they are taking narrow pipe networks that were never designed for data and trying to retrofit them to deliver. Globally mobile operators both want to encourage data use to combat falling ARPUs but ration it so that their underpowered networks are not overwhelmed.

    African mobile operators are not so different but they have adopted different strategies. Operators like Safaricom and MTN have sought to separate out their data flows by creating separate Wi-MAX networks for data. The solution being discussed in Europe is femtocells where the equivalent of a mini-base station is put in the user’s house. However, another relatively costly CPE is likely to play less well in cash-tight African markets.

    So here’s the dilemma for the mobile operators: do they really want to become both voice and data operators, offering bandwidth heavy applications like Triple Play? Or is data just a tactical side-bet they’ve been forced into to stay ahead? Many of the major operators are building large fibre networks in their major markets which mirror their competitors’ investments. Not everyone can be a winner out of this game if national backbone charges come down under pressure from new low international fibre charges which arrived in East Africa in 2009 and will come to West Africa this year.

    Whilst 3G modems are undoubtedly better than many of Africa’s over-contended Wi-Fi hot-spots, Africa’s mobile operators have yet to prove that they can create reliable Internet access with good QoS. Without this guarantee, mobile Internet runs the risk of becoming the substitute alternative rather than the service of choice. Unfortunately, with honourable exceptions, Africa’s mobile operators have yet to demonstrate that they can deliver increasingly improving services for both voice and data.

    Correction: Issue 486: Former Rwandatel CEO Wanted Over Missing Funds

  • On Tuesday December 22 2009, The New Times published an article entitled “Former Rwandatel CEO wanted over missing funds”. The article was written by Ignatius SSUNA and Eugene MUTARA and claimed that Rwandatel, Rwanda National Police and Interpol are all tight lipped about this case.

    The Management of Rwandatel SA would like to refute these baseless claims alleging that the company has presented a case to court against Mr. Kariningufu regarding an amount of money that has gone missing.

    Rwandatel SA would like to bring to your attention and to your readers that while it is factual that Mr. Kariningufu Patrick is no longer an employee of Lap Green, neither Lap Green nor its Rwandan telecom company, Rwandatel SA, of which he was first Chief Technical Officer and later Chief Executive Officer for years has brought any case against him in the courts of law in Rwanda or beyond. Management has not given any details “of the case” simply because there is no case.

    We would like to recommend that going forward answers to all pertinent questions or clarifications surrounding any story be sought before any article is published. We would appreciate if all our media partners doing their research would contact Rwandatel officials or other competent authorities for comment before going out with such defamatory stories. We take this opportunity to recognize all members of the press corps who continue to respect the duties entrusted to them by the public and continue to go out of their way to establish the truth.

telecoms

  • Sierra Leone regulator NATCOM has imposed fines of US$50,000 each on two of the country's leading mobile phone operators for violating the Telecommunications Act of 2003. Africell Lintel Sierra Leone and Zain Sierra Leone were fined for their unannounced increase in the price of their recharge cards without first consulting with the Commission, which is solely responsible for regulating all GSM companies operating in the country.

    NATCOM's public affairs manager, Abdul Kuyateh told Concord Times last week that the two companies were in total violation of sections 52 and 53 of the Telecommunications Act. "Section 52 says GSM operators should notify the commission in writing before any increase is made, while 53 says the Commission should give approval," he explained.

    Kuyateh said letters of notification of NATCOM's decision have been officially handed over to the two GSM operators since Monday and that they have until January 18 to pay their respective fines. "If the two companies failed to pay their fines on January 18 which is the stipulated date, further action will definitely be taken against them in accordance with the Act," he said.

    The NATCOM public affairs manager maintained that Comium Sierra Leone was exempted because they agreed to reduce their tariff immediately after a meeting with the Minister of Information and Communication, NRA and other key stakeholders in the telecommunications industry.

    Concord

  • In the latest twist in the long-running saga over the ownership of Egyptian mobile network operator MobiNil, a court in Cairo has overturned a ruling by the Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority (EFSA) that had approved an offer from France Telecom (FT) of EGP245 (USD44.63) per share for all outstanding shares it does not hold. According to Reuters the Court’s decision was greeted by cheers and applause. FT’s offer was accepted by the financial regulator in December 2009, but the French company’s partner in the cellco, Orascom Telecom, swiftly appealed the decision, and after the initial appeal was rejected Orascom said it would take the matter to the courts.

    Commenting on this latest development Orascom’s chairman Naguib Sawiris said: ‘We are in our country, staying in it. We are not leaving... The ruling proves that the decision of the (regulatory) authority was incorrect. Our position is correct. The next step is from the regulator, not from us. We had no desire to sell in the first place.’ FT meanwhile issued a statement noting that it regretted the decision, while also saying that it would seek to have its most recent tender offer reinstated.

    Telegeography

  • The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) is to conduct a study on the use of Mobile Number Portability. This would enable the users to switch their operator without having to change their phone number. An officer from the UCC said that if such a system was adopted, it would increase competition in the market.

    "Every operator will strive to offer competitive tariff packages to attract as many subscribers as possible," he said. The study is expected to commence some time this year after selecting the contractor, he added.

    Mobile telephone number portability is used in countries like Bahrain, Hungary and Romania . A number of African countries are still carrying out studies on the system to gauge its applicability.

    New Vision

  • Gateway Communications and Longphone agreed to partner in the call termination market to the African continent. Longphone - a European carrier and VOIP call termination provider since 1997, with a specialisation in African destinations - selected Gateway as a strategic partner for its premium-quality call-termination service to Africa.

    Gateway Communications is a Pan-African leader in telecommunication services connecting over 583 million people in over 40 African countries. It owns and manages a private all-IP, next generation network and will help Longphone to extend its African footprint with direct access to more countries and operators across the continent.

    The agreement allows Longphone to benefit from Gateway’s voice connectivity offer as a serious boost to its already extensive continental network of direct routes. Gateway’s routes will be added to Longphone’s African rate offer, and will helping to improve both connectivity and profitability.

    Eytan Cohen, Longphone CEO, identified Gateway as “the most suitable partner to help Longphone intensify its call termination business into Africa. By providing us premium quality routing with suitable and long-lasting capacity, Gateway becomes a strategic contributor to our full-African-connectivity commitment.”

    Mike Van den Bergh, CEO of Gateway Wholesale & Carrier Services added, “These are fast-moving and exciting times for the African telecommunications sector. Gateway has more direct connections into Africa than any other operator and we are delighted to partner with Longphone to connect more consumers and businesses across the continent. “

  • - Zimbabwe’s government will only consider a second fixed telephone operator when the Supreme Court has decided on TeleAccess' appeal against cancellation of its licence by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe. TeleAccess was issued with an operator's licence back in 2003, but the indigenous firm could not roll out a second fixed telephone network because it was unable to find the capital to invest against a background of skyrocketing inflation.

    - Aggrieved workers Nitel returned to picket the Bureau of Public Enterprises' (BPE) office this week to press home their demand for payment of over 18 months salaries owed them. About one hundred of the workers who came from many states of the federation converged at the BPE office, staging a blockade to stop staff of the agency from accessing the office.

    - The Botswana Telecommunications Authority (BTA) has pushed back the deadline for the nation’s mobile subscribers to register their SIM cards, the Sunday Standard reports. Pre-paid customers of Botswana’s three wireless operators – Mascom Wireless, Orange Botswana and BTC Mobile (beMOBILE) – were originally given until 31 December 2009 to register their SIMs or face the disconnection of their service, but the deadline has since been extended to 31 January 2010. According to BTA spokesperson Aaron Nyelesi, 85% of mobile users have registered their details, 45% of which have not yet been processed by the system.

    - Mobile operator Moov Togo has resumed the provision of wireless services in the country after the suspension of its operations for four months, African news agency Pana Press reports. In August 2009 Atlantique Telecom, which manages Moov’s operations in Togo and five other countries in Africa, failed to renew its operating licence in the West African country. Under the terms of the new agreement, Moov will pay CFA25.75 billion over a period of twelve years, instead of the CFA20 billion previously required over a ten-year period. The company has reportedly already made a down payment of CFA11.75 billion, and will pay the remainder over the required time-span.

    - Operators will have no leeway when it comes to the handset subsidy code of conduct, says the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA). The regulator quietly published the code of conduct late last year, intended to govern the sale, lease, rental or subsidisation of equipment provided to subscribers by operators. Despite legal opinion to the contrary, ICASA says the operators will be tightly bound to the terms of the code.

    - Four bidders are now left in the race to buy out 75% of the Zambian government-owned telco, Zamtel. The Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) revealed that India's Bharat Sanchar Nigam; Libya's LAP Greencom or LAP Green Networks; Unitel, from Angola; and Altimo Holdings, of Russia, will enter into the second round of bidding for the telecoms operator.

    - The Internet Service Providers' Association of South Africa (ISPA) today called on South Africa’s telecoms regulator, ICASA, to confirm that it is on track to meet the November 2011 deadline for the unbundling of the local loop.

internet

  • In what is being considered a significant milestone for communications in the country, the number of South Africans to have access to the Internet has hit the five million mark. Research conducted by local analyst house World Wide Worx, in conjunction with Cisco, shows that local Internet penetration has increased to 10%.

    Speaking to ITWeb last week, research lead and World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck said this figure is a significant milestone in the development of the Internet in the country. He explained that, over the last year, there has been an acceleration in penetration, showing a 15% increase in the number of users with access to the Internet, from 4.6 million users to 5.3 million. “The good news is that we will continue to see strong growth in 2010, and we should reach the six million mark by the end of the year,” he adds.

    The penetration is calculated by the number of individuals who have access to the Internet – whether it is through work or connecting from their own home Internet providers. According to Goldstuck, there has also been a shift in the socioeconomic status of users getting their hands on access to the Internet. “The higher economic positions, between LSM 8 to 10, are almost saturated, and the new figures show the middle classes are now taking up Internet services,” he noted. However, he says there is still work to be done at the grassroots level. “People in the lower LSMs still don't know what the Internet is.”

    Despite one of the world's highest level of mobile penetration, most South Africans are still not using phones as a method of accessing the Internet. He explains that, while many phone owners use applications, like Mxit, that require Internet connectivity, it is not necessarily considered using a phone to access the Internet.

    SA's previously slow growth in Internet penetration has largely been thanks to extremely high costs of access, limiting growth to the wealthy, he noted. Goldstuck says new developments in local Internet technologies have had a hand in the rapid increase in Internet take-up in SA. “The Seacom undersea cable has had a dramatic indirect affect on the pricing of Internet access.”

    With local operators also laying fibre, there is likely to be another growth spurt. “In the coming year, operators will begin to leverage the combination of new undersea cable capacity and new fibre-optic networks to supply corporate clients and resellers with bigger, faster and more flexible capacity,” noted Goldstuck.

    He says almost every large player in the communications industry has realigned its business to take advantage of this “relentless change”. Growth in the lower socioeconomic reaches will also improve over the next few years, specifically with local broadband projects, like the recently announced Joburg Network Broadband Project, bringing access to rural communities, he adds.

    However, Goldstuck explains that these projects will need to shift away from the traditional price models that have been implemented by SA's Internet service providers. “Those project leaders will need to make Internet for the pockets of the people they are trying to sell to,” he notes.

    World Wide Worx will release the final Internet Access in SA 2010 report in March. It is expected to take an in-depth look at the impact of the undersea cables and the fibre networks being rolled out by all the operators around South Africa.

    ITWeb

  • Despite delays, Rwandatel's 900 Km fibre-optic cable is expected to land in Kigali by April this year. This was revealed by the company's Chief Technical Officer (CTO), Basilio Sadindi during an exclusive interview with the Business Times.

    The cable, which will be delivered by Green Future, had been slated to land in Kigali by January 2010. Sadindi said that Uganda Telecom (UTL)-a sister company of Rwandatel - was tasked to lay the cable from Kampala to Masaka. However, the cable was not yet fully connected by the December deadline.

    "Ducting the Fibre from the Katuna to Kigali is government's work. If it reaches Kigali, we shall only require six weeks to lay our own channel," Sadindi explained.

    In September, Rwandatel and UTL contracted Green Future to build the fibre connection to Seacom.

    After a full connection to the under sea cable, Rwandatel's Internet subscriber base is projected to increase by 10 percent in the first 12 months. Rwandatel's 2G, 3G and ADSL customers will access uninterrupted high speed connectivity with bandwidth provided by Seacom.

    Before connecting to Seacom, Rwandatel was using satellites for its Internet connectivity where it was paying $2,000 (Rwf1.1 million) for every Mbps. The cost has been trimmed down to $200 (Rwf112,950) for the same amount of bandwidth.

    The CTO explained that connection prices will drastically drop but he said that he can't cite when they will finally drop. Currently, Rwandatel relies on a microwave connection from Katuna boarder which officials say has been the reason for Internet cuts.

    Sadindi also explained that even after a full connection to the Seacom’s undersea cable, Rwandatel will not depend only on this connection. "We need to have redundancy of connection by other cables from Arusha and DRC because you can't afford to be disconnected because a Fibre has got a deflate. We will have to be connected to one satellite instead of two to guarantee a fully and uninterrupted connection," Sadindi explained.

    Speaking about the increase of internet customers, Sadindi said that he doesn't have a concrete percentage increase but he pointed out that the level of excitement will increase because the of the fast and uninterrupted connection. "With the excitement and fast connection, everyone would rush to use our internet connection leading to the internet subscriber base," He added.

    After signing a contract with Seacom connectivity last year, Rwandatel acquired 155 Mbps of capacity.

    The deal was expected to lower retail Internet charges but officials say this will be reflected after full connection to the under sea cable.

    The deal is also expected to help Rwandatel consolidate its position as Rwanda's leading Internet Service Provider.

    The New Times

  • In a landmark presentation at State House in Banjul last week, the Republic of China on Taiwan through its Ambassador in The Gambia, Dr Richard Shih presented a cheque for US$3 million to President Jammeh.

    The gesture is earmarked for the satellite project of the Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS). In a brief interview with reporters at State House shortly after the presentation, the Taiwanese chief diplomat in The Gambia noted that the gesture will be used to finance the GRTS satellite project. He used the opportunity to thank President Jammeh, his government and the people of the country for their strong and continuous support for Taiwan’s international participation in all areas.

    On the reaction of the president, he told the newsmen that the Gambian leader renewed his government’s continuous support for Taiwan at all times. It could be recalled that the GRTS satellite project was the brainchild of The Gambian leader, who is the minister of Communication, Information and Information Technology. The satellite project, which he inaugurated in 2009, is described as one of the best satellite systems in the sub-region.

    The Daily Observer

  • - Rwanda's leading telecom company by market share, MTN, has said that the company has deployed a technology called Aradial Authentication, Authorization, Accounting (AAA) that will provide wireless services in Kigali. MTN's Senior Marketing Executive, Yvonne Makolo, revealed that the operator has rolled out Wi-Fi services in Kigali but have not yet commercially launched but is still doing the final tests. "This will allow our customers to access wireless internet services using Wi-Fi enabled cellular phones and computers in most areas of Kigali," Makolo added.

    - The long-anticipated Joburg Broadband Network Project will begin with the laying of 900km of fibre that will bring connectivity to “all citizens of Johannesburg”. The company that will manage the network, BWired, was unveiled in Soweto. Speaking at the event, City of Johannesburg's (COJ) councillor Oupa Monareng said getting the project off the ground has been five years in the making, and will be used to develop the COJ into a world-class digital city.

    - The maker of eco-friendly shoes in Ethiopia – SoleRebels – has launched a new website to promote its stunning sustainable footwear worldwide. SoleRebels can be purchased directly on their website http://solerebelsfootwear.weebly.com/-

    products.html or other online stores such as Amazon (US), Endless, Veganline, etc. SoleRebels will also go on sale online in the UK and Japan on Amazon’s new footwear website www.javari.co.uk from next month (February).

    - The Arab Electronic Media Committee met Monday at the Arab League's headquarters in Cairo to examine the technical studies of an Arab media website. The meeting is part of the preparation of the 85th ordinary session of the Arab Media Commission, scheduled for 19 January, said Mohamed Khamlichi, Assistant Secretary General for Media and Communication at the Arab League. It will be followed by a meeting of the permanent panel of Arab media experts in charge of following up "the role of Arab media in the fight against terrorism," he added.

    http://www.itweb.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2810...

computing

  • Cabinet has approved the newly-crafted national information communication technology strategy plan and the ICT blueprint is expected be launched at the end of next month.

    Information Communication Technology Minister Nelson Chamisa said the plan would be formally presented to principals of the country's main political parties -- President Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputy Arthur Mutambara before it is unveiled to the public.

    "The plan has been approved by Cabinet and will run from now to 2015. It is either going to be launched at the end of this month or February when the principals are back," said Minister Chamisa.

    He said the plan would revolutionalise the local ICT facet and spur the growth momentum attained since the beginning of last year. The ICT plan, said Minister Chamisa, addresses issues of licencing, number portability, infrastructure, mobile phone security, digital security, e-governance, e-education and e-health as well as the overall growth trajectory for the ICT sector.

    In addition, the strategy plan provides for the establishment of an interministerial consultative body that would advise the ICT Minister. The decision to formulate a national ICT strategy plan followed the realisation that the country only had an ICT policy, which had been overtaken by events due to dynamism of ICTs.

    As such, there was need to review the ICT policy and also devise an implementation matrix to bridge the technology gap between Zimbabwe and other countries doing better in this regard. "We were very much behind other countries on the continent and the world, but we are certainly catching up to overtake them".

    Minister Chamisa said the objective was to ensure Zimbabwe does not only fully embrace ICT as a basic modern day technology, but becomes a hub of ICT software and hardware development.

    There has been notable progress in the country's ICT sector since the beginning of last year, the most notable progress having been the improved accessibility of a range of mobile phone and Internet service and the installation of related infrastructure.

    For instance, mobile phone service accessibility stood at 10 percent at the beginning of last year, but is now estimated at 24 percent. However, considerable challenges have been encountered in accessibility of fixed telecommunications where the sole provider of the services, Tel-One, has not been able to match demand.

    The Herald

  • The Education ministry is gearing up for a series of ICT investments aimed at strengthening ties between institutions. The latest segment of a digitisation programme within the sector has started with hopes that it will aid in faster dissemination of educational programmes countrywide, help ease teacher shortages, and enhance opportunities for harmonisation of education programmes.

    An advertisement in the local press yesterday indicated the Kenya Education Network Trust (KENET) was seeking to procure a network operation centre and related software to connect over 70 educational institutions in the country. "Connectivity has become very critical for institutions as they adopt online processing systems. The data centre will provide a centralised location where institutions can have their off-site backups and redundant systems situated," said the advertisement.

    The project is being funded by the Government, which in 2007 received financing from the World Bank for the Kenya Transparency and Communications Infrastructure Project (KTCIP), a comprehensive undertaking that seeks to employ technology in order to increase transparency and connectivity between government arms.

    "We hope to use ICT to ease teaching challenges where teacher shortages remain a problem. The ministry is exploring various intervention measures that will create the necessary conditions to access education more easily," said Education minister Sam Ongeri.

    KTCIP is being executed by the Kenya ICT Board under the Ministry of Information and Communications. In the last quarter, the ICT Board has awarded five high value contracts aimed at digitising various arms of government under KTCIP.

    Among them are the pre-digitisation support contract for the Judiciary, which was handed to the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology Enterprises (JKUATES) to cost Sh5.5 million, as well as a tender for the Supply of Bandwidth to the e-government network awarded to Telkom Kenya to cost Sh90 million.

    The Ministry of Information and Communication has benefited from three projects, a job entailing the installation and commissioning of a local area network at the Ministry of Information and Communication's Kenya News Agency handed to Forecast Electronic Systems to cost Sh12 million; supply of hardware to the same department to MIBM at Sh19 million and a Sh53 million ($716,000) contract handed by the same department to Kenya Data Networks.

    Upcoming projects include the supply, installation and commisioning of software and hardware, document scanning and digitisation services at the High Court registries, and the supply and installation of equipment, data capture and digitising of files at the Company Registry -- which form part of the ongoing reforms within the legal system.

    The latest project targets KENET, which is a national research and education network that promotes the use of ICT in teaching, learning and research in higher education institutions in Kenya.

    KENET aims to interconnect all the universities and tertiary and research institutions by setting up a cost effective and sustainable private network with high speed access to the global Internet.

    The development follows announcement of the expansion of a similar programme at the African Virtual University (AVU), which is leveraging a $7.5 million grant from the African Development Bank (AfDB) to launch new open distance and e-learning centres (ODeL) in 10 African countries over the next five months.

    Business Daily

  • Makerere University has embarked on a programme to decongest the university by opening regional centres across the country. Students from rural areas who want to join Makerere University will be able to attain certificates, diplomas, degrees and masters without being admitted at the main campus. They will access lectures via a video conference system at the five regional centres.

    The programme, which kicks off next month, follows an agreement signed on Monday between the university and telecommunication company, Uganda Telecom (utl), which will provide the communication infrastructure and computers.

    "This project will help bring Makerere University to the people," said the vice-chancellor, Prof. Venacious Baryamureeba. "People will no longer need to come to the main campus for education but will receive the same quality education nearer to them."

    He announced that the first two centres will be opened in Jinja and Fort Portal. "The next centre will be opened in eastern Uganda to cater for Kenyan students. The Kenyans will no longer need to travel to Kampala." utl managing director Abdul Basset Elazzabi said they would inject $23m (sh4.5b) into the five-year project.

    "We shall provide all the infrastructure and technical support needed to run the centres. We shall also provide 2,000 computers while Makerere will buy the Internet bandwidth," he noted.

    New Vision

  • - To ensure that products from senior high schools are equipped with requisite skills that will prepare them adequately for further academic work and possibly the job market, Information Communication Technology (ICT) will soon be introduced as an elective subject in Ghana’s senior high and technical schools, hopefully by 2011.

    - Rwanda’s National Data Centre (NDC) that will store all public and private sector data is set for April this year according to the Minister in charge of ICT in the President's office. According to the Minister Ignance Gatare the centre is targeted for end of April unless if other challenges are encountered in the course.

    - Microsoft's $250 million collaboration with HP is set to benefit about 10 000 channel distributors in South Africa. The deal, the largest to date in the companies' 25-year partnership, will also see some of the $250 million coming into SA in the form of marketing spend, skills development, and research and development investment.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Zinox Telecoms has taken over control of Enugu Coal-City Wifi project following a buyout of the Enugu State Government in a Joint Venture between the state and Zinox Telecoms at a cost of over N140 million. The buyout deal of 80 per cent share gives Zinox Telecoms the opportunity to connect the next 30 million unserved Nigerians in rural areas of the state to the Internet.

    With the acquisition, Zinox Telecoms is now solely responsible for the implementation of the Coalcity-Wifi in support of the vision of the Enugu State Government. Announcing the new deal, Chief Operating Officer of Zinox Telecoms, Theophilus Nweke, said: "At the moment the network has been demobilised to enable the management of Zinox Telecoms do a system -capacity and inventory audit and re-strategise on how best to run the network in a capital city with few major industries. We want to make sure that at the end of the day we do not totally compromise the social responsibility minded intentions with which we launched the partnership even though we have bought out the Enugu State Government."

    The network, he added, remained the fastest, clutter and stress free network in Enugu and that Zinox would upgrade the network systematically on the basis of supply and demand, and would generally ensure that the Coalcity Wifi offers the best platform to those living in the capital city.

    Nweke said he would have to resubmit a fresh proposal to the Board to enable her take decisions on how best to build a customer base that is not purely commercial driven as initially agreed with the state government, without compromising quality. "We are concerned more in providing poor families with global access at N10,000 per annum in order to facilitate Enugu as the knowledge hub of the South East."

    Zinox Telecoms, which pioneered super Wifi in Africa in support of her parent company, Zinox Technologies, had earlier entered a joint venture with Enugu State Government, but the partnership could not inject enough capital to meet with a sudden surge in the demand for connectivity in the city, a situation that led to a disagreement and Zinox offered to buy out the state government, which owned 80 per cent of the joint venture in order to have the flexibility to operate the network.

    Daily Independent

  • One of Uganda's home-grown business groups with a global presence is seeking access to venture into the competitive local telecommunications industry.

    The Mara Group which is behind the Kensington Luxury houses in Kampala, has applied for a licence to provide telecommunication services (voice and data), to Ugandans as Mara Telecoms Uganda Limited.

    According to a notice published in the local press on January 7, by the Uganda Communication Commission (UCC), the Mara Group, has applied for a telecommunication license to operate in Uganda. The commission has invited the public to comment on the Mara application for the next two weeks. "UCC shall grant a licence to the applicants," if, after the expiry of the period no comments have been made, the notice says.

    UCC which is the regulatory body of the communications industry usually seeks the opinions of people to either support or oppose the applications, with reasons to find out more information about the applicants.

    The Mara Group founded by British-born Ashish Thakkar, 29, the Managing Director, is a multi sector business including Information technology, real estate, financial services, hospitality, energy, packaging, retail and media, spanning four continents.

    In Uganda, the Group is behind business brands like Riley Media, Riley Packaging and Raps Uganda. On the international scene, it has built the landmark 36 floor Kensington Krystal in Dubai and owns other businesses in South Africa, Hong Kong, Kenya, the United Arab Emirates (Dubai) and the United Kingdom.

    Under the Mara Telecoms brand, the group, which is a spin off of local technology firm Raps Uganda Limited, has intentions to become a niche operator in the African market..., to provide fresh service to a population that desires freshness and thrives on image," says information on the firms website. The Group with global telecom partners is set to make its entry into the first growing telecom African market this year. Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania are the firm's initial focus. An official at Mara Telecom in Uganda who requested not to be named said; "now is not the right time" to comment on the company's business interests. "You will be the first to know at the right time," the source said.

    Uganda already has eight operational telecommunication service providers including, MTN Uganda, Warid Telecom, Orange, Zain Uganda, Uganda Telecom, Smile, TMP, and I-Telecom. However there are 60 licensed telecommunication operators with 33 of them owning the public service provider licence which the Mara Telecom is eyeing. Uganda now has over 10 million mobile and fixed mobile phone users, according to the UCC records.

    The Monitor

  • Africa's largest cellphone company, MTN, has been removed from UBS's list of top telecommunications stock picks due to concern about the effect of SIM card registration requirements in Nigeria.

    UBS says it could lead to a sharp fall in revenue this year. UBS's concern is not surprising, given the effect SIM card registration in South Africa, which came into effect last year, has had on MTN, Vodacom and Cell C.

    MTN's share dropped as much as R1.99 to R109.11 last week after the move by UBS. According to Bloomberg, a close at this price would be the lowest since May 13.

    Bloomberg reported that UBS said that its analysts had removed the stock from its list "following the recent introduction of SIM card registration requirements in Nigeria, which we believe will lead to a sharp reduction in revenue growth for MTN this year and may incur additional costs relating to registration of subscribers and distribution".

    In its last quarterly update, issued in October, MTN said its customer base in South Africa had dipped mainly due to the new regulation requiring prepaid users to register personal details.

    Business Day

  • The outsourcing sector in Kenya will see exponential growth this year, players in the sector have said. Ms Peres Were, managing director Cascade Global, says landing of the fibre optic cables last year has provided the sector with capacity to provide mission-critical IT-enabled services (ITES) from Kenya.

    "In previous years, the business processing and outsourcing (BPO) sector in Kenya has suffered many challenges, because most serious international outsourcing companies were not willing to give the country a chance, unless we had fibre optic capacity," she says.

    However, since the cables landed last year, the sector has witnessed a lot of interest from top international companies that want to either outsource to Kenya or set-up call centres in the country.

    For instance, she says, Cascade Global has entered into a Strategic Alliance Partnership with a USA-based firm, a provider of data infrastructure, technology and outsourcing services. The firm, having seen the potential in Kenya with the fibre optic cable, will now be providing its hosted call centre technology to Kenyan call centres through Cascade Global, she adds.

    "Our partner is also currently acquiring three onshore call centres in USA, which have annual BPO projects worth $35 million, and looking at outsourcing some of these contracts to Kenya. The contracts will include areas of customer service, IT outsourcing, finance and accounting among others, to provide a blended solution of both onshore and offshore services," Ms Were says.

    Many Kenyan entrepreneurs hope that with the fibre optic cable in place, plus cheap labour, clear accents, and customer fatigue with Indian call centres, the country could hook into the burgeoning call centre and outsourcing industry, worth $130 billion worldwide.

    India still dominates the global BPO market at 55 per cent. In the five years to 2008, the country had a cumulative total of 241 foreign direct investment (FDI) projects in customer contact centres and shared services centres.

    Daily Nation

  • - Egyptian mobile operator MobiNil has denied recent claims that it is late in paying the January instalment for its 3G licence, Reuters reports. MobiNil CEO Hassan Kabbani said of the matter: ‘The payment is ready and we can do it at any time,’ while also noting that the payment would be made once spectrum and other information relating to the concession had been received by the cellco. Earlier this week local news sources had claimed that the mobile operator had fallen behind with its EGP750 million (USD138 million) payment, which was due on 1 January.

    - Vodacom's minority partner in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Friday, 8 January 2010, stepped up pressure on the group to recover fees of US$180m and said it was even prepared to have Vodacom Congo sold to another operator if attempts to find a solution failed. The latest salvo by Congolese Wireless Networks (CWN) chairman Alieu Conteh raises the prospect of another image bruising battle for Vodacom nearly six years after it burnt its fingers trying to enter the lucrative Nigerian market.

    - MTN has confirmed that the Head office of the West and Central Africa region is to be located in Ghana. The West and Central Africa (WECA) office comprises of 9 operating units including Nigeria, Benin, Cote D'Ivoire Liberia, Cameroon, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Congo Brazzaville and Ghana.

Digital Content

  • Maroc telecom has launched Mobicash, Morocco's first trials of mobile debit payment service. This first service of money transfer and payment by cell phone has been the object of an agreement signed between Morocco Telecom operators and Attijariwafa bank and the Central 'Banque Populaire'.

    MobiCash is a complete mobile payment platform that works immediately on every existing cell phone. Transactions are securely signed with NSDT (Near Sound Data Transfer), a technology that sends “cryptosounds” through the phone’s audio channel to enable contact-less mobile payment.

    This new service allows operators to provide their subscribers with variety of services and conduct, secure transactions such as deposit and withdrawal of money from Mobicash accounts in all Telecom agencies. It also provides bill payments, money transfers across Morocco as well as mobile banking and international remittances services.

    This could be an excellent option for companies that offer mass-market mobile applications and are looking for ways to easily accept payments. This service is open to customers of Maroc Telecom without having to hold a bank account and its activation takes place in Maroc Telecom agencies upon presentation of the national identity card.

    Through its innovative platform, people can now leave their cash behind and safely. However the question of how subscribers can be assured that their money will not be siphoned from their accounts has however, not been fully addressed and many people are still skeptical about the security of mobile commerce.

    Africa News

  • The president of Mozambique has signed into law revisions to its gambling legislation that legalise online gambling, along with new land measures to permit slot machines in non-casino areas and permission for casinos to be built anywhere in the country, the state news agency AIM in Maputo reports.

    President Armando Guebuza signed the new law, which includes provisions cutting the minimum company investment required from $15 million to $8 million, this week.

    The move came as something of a surprise to the industry, as Mozambique's approach to Internet gambling has received nowhere near the attention that its larger and more influential neighbour South Africa has been given.

    The South Africans, who have a more sophisticated financial and technical infrastructure, have been researching the legalisation of online gambling and the development of an online gambling licensing jurisdiction for literally years (see previous InfoPowa reports), with the much-delayed project apparently bedevilled by political debate, fact-finding missions and generally slow official progress.

    Recentpoker.com

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Chinese vendor Huawei has announced that its UMTS900 solution has been successfully deployed in the MTN Ghana network. This represents the first time in Africa continent that UMTS has been successfully conducted for voice, video and data in the 900 MHz frequency band.

    - In Gambia, over 300 scholars and Imams from across the country Friday gathered at the conference room of Qcell to launch its newest product called "The Qcell Muslim phone". The Chief Executive Officer of QCell, Muhammed Jah, xplained that whichever country someone travels to with the Muslim phone, all that the person needs to do is to select the country and the phone will automatically reveal the prayers times of that particular country, and alert the person whenever it is time for prayers. He added that when the Muslim features are activated, even when the phone is off, it will automatically switch itself on and alert the person.

More

  • In Uganda, Zul Javaid is stepping down from his position as Chief Executive Officer of WARID Telecom after two years at the helm. Javaid, who leaves at the end of the month, says he will be joining a telecom company that operates in the Middle East and East Africa. "I can't say much now but I'm not joining Zain," he joked in a phone interview. In resigning, Javaid becomes the highest profile manager at WARID to leave since India's telecom giant, Essar, took over a 51% stake in the company about three months ago.

  • 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

    2010 EURO-AFRICA COOPERATION FORUM IN ICT RESEARCH

    3rd February 2010, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

    2010 Euro-Africa Cooperation Forum in ICT Research

    The event is being organised by the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) funded EUROAFRICA-ICT project and is supported by the African Union Commission Human Resources and Science and Technology (AUC-HRST) department and the European Commission.

    The forum will bring together sub-Saharan Africa and European organisations for an interactive and participative event whose objectives include:

    - Reflecting on progress made and lessons learnt on ICT research and development in Africa and its contribution to economic growth, improved quality of life and efficient service delivery;

    - Enhancing the development of Euro-Africa collaborative ICT research projects and identifying potential partners;

    - Networking with key stakeholders in the field (private/public);

    - Highlighting opportunities for African participation in FP7 projects and results from successful EU-African FP7 cooperation projects and EU-African public-private partnerships

    http://www.euroafrica-ict.org/forum2.php

    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

    4th ANNUAL E-GOV AFRICA FORUM 2010

    23-25 March 2010, Maputo, Mozambique

    At a time when ICTs are defining the way the world lives and conducts business, it is important for African governments to evolve themselves to meet the demands of changing trends in order to deliver effective services and to improve the quality of life of their citizenry. This also requires the formation of Public Private Peoples Partnerships to be geared towards achieving developmental goals through the application of ICTs to governance (e-governance/e-government), electoral processes (e-democracy), food and nutrition (e-agriculture), health delivery (e-health/telemedicine), learning and capacity development (e-education) and trade (e-commerce), among others.

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

    http://www.cto.int

    AITEC BANKING & MOBILE MONEY WEST AFRICA

    11-12 May 2010, Lagos, Nigeria

    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 West Africa 2010 will therefore 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.

    For further information on the conference visit AITEC’s website

    http://www.aitecafrica.com/event/view/46

  • * Google Africa is hiring

    Google South Africa is looking to strengthen its presence in South Africa and Africa

    Google is currently looking for new employees: Country Marketing Manager, an Account Strategist and an Agency Relationship Manager. The local Google office is strongly focused on advertising sales, and it is therefore not surprising that the company is looking to increase its sales capacity in South Africa.

    http://www.google.com/jobs/africa/index.html

    * Network Design/optimisation Engineer, Gsm/edge –Sudan

    Our client is actively seeking a Network Design/Optimisation Engineer for their African based operations, to provide design and performance activities on customer projects, as directed by Customer PMS.

    For further information on this job or to apply click on the following link

    http://www.cellular-news.com/recruitment/list_job.php?uid=11009

  • West African operator and Redknee Solutions

    Redknee Solutions Inc., a provider of mission-critical software and solutions for communications service providers, today announced that it has secured a contract with a West African wireless operator to deploy Redknee’s Turnkey Converged Billing (TCB) and Customer Care solution with Airtime Reseller. Redknee’s TCB solution will replace the service provider’s legacy billing system, enabling the operator to differentiate its service offerings and provide an enhanced subscriber experience. With this solution, the network service provider will be able to support advanced personalised services and payment methods, including voucherless top-ups for its predominantly prepaid mobile subscriber base.

    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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