Issue no 518 20th August 2010

top story

  • Global Voice Group - An Apology

    In an article entitled; "Life in Africa's Slow Lane- Congo Telecom and Socatel Defend Their International Voice Monopolies, Disapora Callers Ask Why?" published in 491, readers of Balancing Act's News Update might have believed we were alleging Global Voice Group assisted in the commission of fraud by a group we described as "a mafia," adopts anti-competitive practices by taking over all the international phone traffic in Congo and encourages African Governments to impose taxes on incoming calls. We would like to make it clear that it was not our intention to suggest this. We accept that these allegations are false and apologize to Global Voice Data Group for any misunderstandings which may have arisen and any damage our publication may have caused.

     

    Africa’s mobile market will go open access – it’s not if but when and how it all work out

    In the shiny, gadget-obsessed developed world, the centre of gravity has shifted in the mobile market. It’s no longer the handset vendors and carriers who are calling the shots but companies like Apple and Google who developing phones, operating systems and a developer ecosystem. Suddenly it’s what software apps the mobile device can run and its ease of use dominating the conversation, not what price plan or what operator will allow you to browse in its content “walled garden”. Russell Southwood looks at what implications this will have for operators in Africa and how they will need to learn to live with open access.

    The major driver for the changes in the developed world has been the roll-out of smartphones that have computing capabilities. The success of Google’s Android OS and Apple’s iPhone OS have changed the balance of power. Now the discussion is about which companies will get these phones not about which carriers will choose.

    One example illustrates how the perception of who “owns” the customer has changed. Vodafone made the mistake of trying to preload apps for its 360 content product with an Android upgrade and had to go into reverse on it almost as quickly as it did it. Smartphone users are smart people and won’t accept things being foisted on them.

    The prize for the carriers who have let go of their market power to have these smartphones is that these users make big use of data. So if the carrier can keep up with provisioning its network, then it has some chance of holding or growing its ARPUs in circumstances where ARPUs might otherwise go downhill. The percentage market share of smartphones is still relatively low but the value of their customers is disproportionately high.

    Before this change, operators would say that they could not open up their networks to new devices and content because they needed to make sure everything worked properly and that content did not reflect badly on their brand values. Practical things like handset certification programmes made this seem hard to argue with. Indeed when the iPhone came out, various mobile company executives said rather patronisingly that Apple didn’t really know how to design handsets and if it had been left to them they would have done it differently. The problem is that operators are like soap powders: they all wash whiter but few really change the way users can do things.

    So how will this shift of power play out in Africa? The more affluent African users have already opted for smartphones. Blackberries and iPhones are seen almost wherever you go on the continent and doubtless Android phones will follow. Given the current level of smartphone use in key African markets, it is not hard to predict that they will gain 3-5% of the market over the next 3 years. A dozen Chinese handset vendors we spoke to in March this year we’re saying that they would offer US$100 smartphone handsets and the point of Android is that you don’t pay a licence fee to use.

    Although this market share is tiny, it is the market segment that will generate a disproportionate amount of income. In many ways, these phones will be like a social x-ray as their use will probably be mapped against the currently rather indistinct contours of the rising African middle class.

    But the waves made by what these African smartphone users can do with their phone will spill over into the aspirations of the mid-range phone users. They may not have the cash to afford smartphones but they will want some of that functionality. If all their friends in Nairobi are organising their life on Facebook or MXit on their smartphones and laptops, they won’t want to be left out. If the latest hilarious You Tube clip is making the rounds in Dakar or Lagos, they will want to see what everyone else is watching. So there has to be a race to provide smartphone like functionalities and content at lower and lower price points.

    So where does this leave Africa’s mobile operators? Their marketing spend dominates the physical landscape and media of most African countries. Their sponsorship of events and TV programmes seeks to persuade users that they like the same things as their users: reality shows, football and music.

    But the mindspace hold on their users is not always that strong. Users stay with carriers that have dominant market share because they don’t want to have to change their number. It’s far easier to buy additional SIM cards to take advantages of all those tactical marketing offers that seem to substitute for developing long-term loyalty. But for the rest, there’s a constant restless churn as a significant number of users “game” their way through the tactical marketing offer maze.

    The underlying problem for operators is that there is actually very little difference between them. Network coverage? Yes, but most people’s calling pattern is actually mainly local so you judge on your home patch. Quality of service? Take this test. Make a call using three different operators and ask a blindfolded person whether they can tell which operator is which on the basis of quality of service. Customer service? The customer service managers we have spoken to rather shyly confess that all is not as it should be. You might say the same for all the mobile operators’ new data service once they have matched each other’s offers and networks.

    So you have a product that is largely indistinguishable from your competitor except for ….yes, you guessed it: handset functionality (what the user can do) and content and services. Although Africa has become a big global market, it would be hard to argue that it has much influence over handset specification. So that leaves content and services.

    Africa’s mobile operators are at many levels in their management decision-making – from the most elevated CEO down to the lowliest line manager – dominated by engineers. Of course, there are exceptions to this generalisation but the overall impact of this configuration is that these individuals are good at addressing “hardware” issues (keeping the network running, installing the upgrade) rather than “soft” issues like content and services. You can count the number of interesting, Africa-specific content and service applications on one hand. No-one at any level of seniority is actually focused on getting the defining content and apps. Who’s currently negotiating with Apple to get the iTunes store to Africa?

    The big mobile operators don’t really know how to do content and there’s not much sign of them going out and learning what they don’t know. So into this gap have come the global content brands like Facebook and You Tube, all of which feature in the top ten of most used websites for African countries that Alexa analyses. But where, oh where are the local versions of these brands that have appeared in other developing markets like India and Brazil?

    Worse still, the mobile operators have been greed in the revenue splits they give for SMS services and thus have not really given away enough to encourage a nascent content ecosystem. You have to give something away in order to get something back.

    A sign saying “mobile is media” should be attached to the foreheads of senior managers to remind them. According to a national survey carried out in Ghana for Audiencescapes, 16% of the sample had got news and information in the last week using SMS compared to 18% from newspapers. A similar pattern recurs wherever market research surveys are carried out. But only Vodacom in South Africa has really made any attempt to think about mobiles as media and sell advertising on this medium.

    The African mobile operators that will be successful in this open access mobile world will be those that seek to offer content and services seamlessly across a wide range of devices. Everything has to synch with everything. The majority of users are not techno-savvy , they just want it to do things they like doing. The content and services provided are the things that will provide the character of the product offer. Relationships with old media like television and the successful programmes that people love will help build this.

    But above all mobile operators have to decide whether they are in the content business or not. If they aren’t, they need to develop relationships with companies and people who will do the work of building developer ecosystems and put enough of the revenue share into this work to ensure they get the most interesting content and apps. Making things happen can build success as much as doing everything yourself.

    If the mobile operator says “yes” it wants to be involved in content, it has to understand what that means. The core demographic for content is 18-24 years old. Do you understand what this group is about? At the Digital Africa Summit in March, two different African fathers confessed that they found that their daughters challenged in ways that they would never have spoken to their parents. Welcome to tomorrow’s Africa.

    Success in this kind of content is all about taking risks with a cheekiness and irreverence that makes people laugh. How does this square with a buttoned-down corporate approach that needs three people to sign things off? The success of old media like Kiss FM in Kenya was based precisely on pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable and thumbing its nose at convention. Is that how you see yourself as a mobile operator? It is more the attitude of a Richard Branson Virgin challenger company than that of the low-risk taking public company.

    In the open access mobile world, it will no longer be acceptable to insist on completely different standards for the implementation of apps. Interconnection of content and apps will ensure maximum use: everyone wants to socialise with everyone. So welcome to the world of open access mobile….

telecoms

  • Phuthuma Nhleko, group president and CEO of MTN, has not completely given up on the idea of concluding another big acquisition. “Though we realise there are far fewer opportunities out there, we cannot afford to be inactive because the terrain is changing all the time,” Nhleko told analysts at the group’s interim results presentation in Johannesburg on Thursday. “We will continue to look for opportunities,” he said.

    However, he said if another deal wasn’t concluded, shareholders could expect to benefit from improved cash flows. MTN has held several discussions with other operators in recent years. However, talks with Egypt’s Orascom, and with India’s Reliance Communications and Bharti Airtel, hadn’t resulted in corporate action.

    The group on Wednesday declared a maiden interim dividend of R1.51/share. In the past, MTN has only declared dividends on an annual basis. “That is the formula and unless something absolutely radical happens, that’s what we intend to do,” Nhleko said.

    He said MTN is benefiting from big investments in network infrastructure in its major territories in recent years. “The bulk of growth has been organic, notwithstanding some [mergers and acquisitions] we have undertaken,” Nhleko say

    Tech Central
  • Safaricom, Kenya’s largest cellco by subscribers, has been vindicated in its battle against stringent new regulations introduced by the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK). After Safaricom threatened the regulator with legal action, Information Minister Samuel Poghisio hired UK consultancy firm Frontier Economics to review the country’s new competition rules. According to documents viewed by Business Daily, Frontier Economics found key aspects of the contested rules to be out of line with international best practices, and recommended that they be revised or struck out altogether.

    Citing the European Commission’s telecom sector competition rules – which stipulate that a player must have at least 40% to 50% of market control to be declared dominant, rather than the 25% figure used in Kenya, which is also the figure used in Senegal. However, whether the figure is either of these numbers makes no practical difference as Safaricom controls 81.5% of the Kenyan wireless market.

    Frontier Economics have also suggested that the CCK cut the 90 days notice clause regarding new tariffs to 30 days, reducing the chance of Safaricom being upstaged by its smaller rivals. In addition, Frontier Economics suggests that the CCK should lose the power to adjust tariffs independently, recommending that the watchdog should advise the operator about proposed changes without being specific about the mooted tariffs.

    Business Daily
  • Malawi-based start-up cellular operator G-Mobile has announced that it will invest USD150 million in the next three years to become a realistic contender in the country’s GSM market. CEO Peter Davies also told reporters that the South African-backed company had already injected USD25 million into the network, which is expected to be commercially launched by the end of the year. On 20 May 2010 G-Mobile, registered as Global Advanced Integrated Networks (GAIN), was given 30 days to pay a USD6.9 million fine issued by regulator MACRA for failing to deploy its wireless network. However, the cellco took the matter to the High Court in Mzuzu and gained an injunction against the penalty until a judicial review could be carried out.

    On 12 July Justice Lovemore Chikopa upheld the injunction and set 23 August 2010 as the date for the matter to be heard in court. G-Mobile has partnered Telkom Management Services of South Africa to help it plan and deploy a network and is using ZTE of China as an equipment supplier. Davies claimed that the newcomer aims to raise the level of quality in Malawi’s mobile services sector as well as bringing down the cost of calls in the country.

    Telegeography
  • Cell C can continue using its controversial new trademark, which includes a design that resembles the copyright symbol. There’s even a “reasonable possibility” it will be successful in registering “Cell ©” as a trademark, despite the fact that various applications it made in December 2009 were “provisionally declined” this month by the Registrar of Trademarks.

    This is the view of Don MacRobert, one of the country’s leading intellectual property and trademarks lawyers, who says the cellular operator can continue using the branding despite the registrar’s decision, which was handed down on 2 August, just two days before Cell C unveiled its new branding.

    The company’s rebranding forms part of a bigger strategy to re-invent itself in the market. It’s building a 3G mobile network and restructuring its operations in an effort to sign up more profitable customers and to grow market share.

    According to MacRobert, the trademarks Cell C has applied for are shown in various forms, but are dominated by the world “Cell” and the copyright symbol. In some instances, the “©” is shown in a larger size compared to the word “Cell”; in others, there’s a duplication of the symbol.

    The registrar has not set out its reasons for the provisional rejection of Cell C’s application, but MacRobert says the company’s continued use of the new branding “would seem to be in order”.

    “The company will also be able to argue the matter before the registrar to try to gain acceptance for the new forms of the mark,” he says. “The refusal by the registrar probably came as something of a surprise to the applicant.”

    He says the rejection of the new trademark application is probably not because there were earlier conflicting trademark registrations, as these were already registered in word form. Rather, it’s more likely to be related to the incorporation of the “©” symbol.

    In order to be registered under the Trade Marks Act, a trademark needs to satisfy various “registrability tests”, MacRobert says. It must be capable of distinguishing between the goods or services for which the application has been made from the goods or services of another entity. This is unlikely to be the problem.

    The application more likely falls foul of section 10 of the act, which states that certain trademarks cannot be registered, including marks which consist exclusively of a sign or indication which may serve in the trade to designate certain characteristics of goods or services, or which consists exclusively of a sign or an indication which has become customary in the bona fide and established practices of the trade.

    It appears “more than likely” that Cell C’s application was provisionally rejected, in terms trademark regulations, because it contains “certain words and symbols that can’t be registered”.

    “Subject to the provisions of any other law, the registrar may refuse to accept any application upon which certain symbols or words appear, including the words ‘patent’ or ‘registered trademark’ (when this is not the case) or, more particularly, certain symbols such as ‘®’ and ‘©’ or similar combinations which may be construed to import a reference to registration.”

    MacRobert says the act clearly prohibits the registration of trademarks that incorporate the © symbol. But the registrar’s rejection should not prove insurmountable for Cell C, he says. “In the first instance, it appears the company has already started using this new ‘Cell ©’ trademark. So, use has actually commenced.” MacRobert says the matter needs to be dealt with more fully by the Trade Marks Office.

    “Cell C’s attorneys can attend hearings with the registrar and argue against the provisional rejection. They may contend, as Cell C’s CEO [Lars Reichelt] has already stated in public, that there is no significance in the composite ‘Cell ©’ trademark when taken as a whole resembling the copyright symbol on its own,” he says.
    “They may state that the Cell C mark has become widely known through extensive use and that this slight variation by the incorporation of the ‘©’ symbol can in no way be construed as a reference to registration of any sorts, but rather an expanded use of their trademark.”

    Tech Central
  • Telecel has introduced online and mobile registration to comply with the POTRAZ SIM card registration directive issued months ago.

    The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) directed all mobile operators to register their subscribers by August 31. Last month, POTRAZ issued a statement in the press, advising all subscribers to register their lines or risk disconnection.

    For the web registration, you will intuitively head towww.telecel.co.zw right? Well, hold a bit there. Telecel Zim took that site down(their only presence on the internet) some 5 months ago. A special purpose website has been created for the web registration. It’s www.telecelregistration.com. The website has instructions to get you started.

    The mobile registration system Telecel has introduced is similar to the one subscribers use when making a balance enquiry. To register, a subscriber dials *176#. This opens up an interactive platform, guiding the subscriber through the process of registering the mobile phone’s SIM card. According to Telecel, the whole process should last about a minute.

    Subscribers can also register through free SMSes but Telecel’s not recommending this method, apparently because it is very cumbersome. It involves text messages going back and forth between the subscriber and Telecel. To start the subscriber sends a text message with the word ‘START’ to 23150. The Telecel system responds with a name request SMS and when sent it acknowledges via SMS requesting more info. And on and on until you’re done. Cumbersome yes!

    The web and mobile registration will surely make it convenient for Telecel subscribers to comply with the state requirements. A Telecel spokesperson rightly says “When registration has been made as easy as this, there is no reason why people should not start registering immediately”.

  • * Neotel today announced the launch of its NeoIntellect, a web-based communications management system hosted in Neotel’s data centre at the company’s Midrand campus. NeoIntellect is pre-integrated with multiple telephony service providers to enable organisations to reduce and more effectively manage their communications spend by tracking communications usage across the board.

    * Shuttleworth Foundation Telecommucations Fellow Steve Song has put together hardware and basic software on a local VOIP service he calls "Mesh Potato" which basically combines a small Wireless mesh product built in China with Unix commands to allow local communities to run their own phone systems.
    The first of its kind has been setup in Orange Farm, and a second is being built in downtown Johannesburg. He explained that the concept was to allow low cost communication to offset the problem Africans experience with their telecoms costs.
    The system features a 400 meter throw which allows the users in a small community to remain connected, and to build low cost communication into a broader grid.
    Funded by Shuttleworth, the project has seen interest from Ugandan and Kenyan investors.

    *A new body has been set up to protect the interests of mobile phone users in Uganda. A report from AllAfrica says that the Mobile Telephone Watchdog will help guard consumers against bad practice by the country’s cellular operators. Uganda’s wireless sector was home to more than 4.4 million subscribers at the end of June 2010. MTN Uganda controls around 46% of the market, with Zain Uganda claiming around 19%, and Uganda Telecom and Warid Telecom accounting for approximately 16% each. The remaining 3% is split between Orange Uganda and I-Tel.

internet

  • As part of its efforts to further enhance internet service from IZAP and 1X, Starcomms has subscribed to Main One undersea cable linking Nigeria and the whole of West Africa to Europe. The new development will pave the way for additional transformation in Internet access and reliable voice service from Starcomms.

    The company's subscription to the undersea cable built by Main One Cable Company in partnership with U.S. firm Tyco makes it the first CDMA operator to have access to the facility.

    According to the Chief Executive Officer of Starcomms, Maher Qubain, the subscription to Main One Cable would be a boost to Starcomms' current achievement in the area of fast, reliable and affordable internet services delivery as well as voice clarity across the country.

    Qubain stated that considering the potential of the undersea cable, a new window of opportunity has been opened for Starcomms to introduce enhanced services that will not only increase speed but add value to the life of its customers saying that with Starcomms connection to the cable, its customers can also expect more speedy downloads and unmatched voice call capacity.

    One of its new services is the Afritalk voice services, a non-intrusive and enhanced voice-chat service through which Starcomms customers can chat and make lots of friends across Nigeria. The fact that the mobile number of the person chatting is not revealed to other chat members has endeared it to a lot of customers too.

    Specifically too, the connection of Starcomms network to Main One Undersea Fibre Optic cable would have a remarkable positive impart on the recent introduction of interstandard international roaming on CDMA to GSM by Starcomms. What this means is that customers of Starcomms will enjoy more efficient and quality voice and data services on their Starcomms phones.

    The Main One Cable hook up by Starcomms is also expected to benefit parts of the country that are soon to enjoy the Starcomms super-fast broadband internet services, Izap as well as its Ix data services that covers everywhere it has network coverage, which extends to 22 states, 28 cities and 100 towns.

    Another of Starcomms value added services that customers are expected to benefit from in the Main One Cable services is the StarTrack, a location based service designed to assist Starcomms customers to know the specific whereabouts of their loved ones as well as make it possible for friends and lovers to track each other.

  • Three months from today, Internet Service Providers, Africa Online and Afsat Communications are to operate as a single entity in most African markets including Uganda. The Monitor’s Walter Wafula spoke to Ken Mwai, the general manager of Afsat in Uganda to find out why.

    Q: What is pushing the Afsat and Africa Online merger in Africa?

    Africa Online was acquired sometime in 2007- 8 by Telkom South Group. That is a telecom provider operating outside South Africa. Similarly, Afsat Communications whose parent company was Mweb Africa was acquired by the Telkom Group in 2009.
    With those two acquisitions, the Telkom board decided that it would be advantageous to it, to merge the operations of the two companies in the various countries we operate in. That is really the main core of the integration process.

    Q: What are the advantages that the board is looking at?

    They are looking at economies of scale, being able to rationalise the operations of the two businesses in the respective areas of operations in order to reduce the costs of operation. For instance, they have two separate entities operating in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and Namibia. In Ghana they have an Afsat distributor and Africa Online.

    We are offering similar services on different platforms. Afsat offers data and internet connectivity on VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) services while Africa Online has a more terrestrial outlook through Wimax (Wireless). Naturally, a combination of these will give us a bigger platform of technology on which we can offer our services to the market.

    Q: So, Telkom now has similar services under common licenses, doesn't it call for a change?

    Currently, both Africa Online and Afsat have the Public Infrastructure Provider (networks) and Public Service Provider (for both voice and data) licenses and a couple of other authorisations. What will happen, according to the communication law of the land, is we will do away with one set of two common ones. This is because one Group cannot have two sets of common licenses in most markets we operate in.

    Q: Have you made up your minds about which set to give up?

    Not yet. Those are some of the issues that the board is looking at. There are quite a number of options that are being discussed at the Telkom board level.

    Q: When does Telkom hope to complete the merger?

    The process was meant to be complete by the end of last month. It has taken a little longer than we thought it would. But I believe within the next three months, we should have completed the technical and legal issues and received formal approval.

    Q: Mergers often give birth to new brands. Do you foresee a new or uniform brand?

    Yes we shall rebrand but at that point in time, I cannot disclose it. We have made notifications to the regulator (Uganda Communications Commission) regarding the changes and we are still in the legal process. We have tentatively told them that this is what we intend to do. Our shareholders are still discussing quite a number of technical and legal issues. Once the discussions are complete, we will officially communicate the Uganda position on the way forward with regard to rebranding.

    Q: What is the current market share of the two separate entities and where do you think the merger will place you?

    I don't have exact figures, maybe the regulator could help. But the combined entity has between 700 and 800 clients both retail and corporate. If we were taken as a combined entity, we would be between the 10% and 15%. I believe the merger will give us a fairly strong footing in the market.

    Q: How is the price war in the data and internet market by the large telecoms affecting your market share?

    Obviously it is affecting us. VSAT has always been considered to be a fairly expensive service. We tried to mitigate that by being responsive to our clients needs and diversifying our source of capacity. We are currently connected to two submarine fibre optic cables; Seacom and TEAMs. These have significantly brought the price of bandwidth down but only for high capacity bandwidth. We also plan to buy into the EASSy through our parent company which has a stake in it.

    Q: If you are already connected to two cables, what difference will EASSy make?

    You have probably heard that internet reliability from the fibres has been dodgy since they came in. So, you have to build in some back-up to improve the reliability of service. And based on what I have heard about the pricing for their services, we expect further price reductions in bandwidth costs. And this will translate into passing on that price benefit to our customers.

    The Monitor
  • MTN last week released its interim results for the six months ended 30 June 2010, showing subscriber growth across many of its operations. MTN CEO Phuthuma Nhleko also discussed infrastructure and data highlights for the company’s local operations, saying that 140 2G and 108 3G base stations were added over the last six months. 

    Nhleko added that MTN South Africa currently has 99% 2G population coverage and 48% 3G population coverage.  MTN is however not applying the breaks just yet.  The company is planning to pick up its rollout in the second half of the year, and is also pushing forward with its fibre network deployment.

    According to the MTN CEO 440km on their Durban to Johannesburg route - which forms part of the joint MTN/Neotel/Vodacom national fibre network – has been trenched.  The company’s Gauteng fibre network’s northern ring and southern ring were also completed.

    This increased investment in infrastructure bodes well for MTN’s increased focus on data services.  The company has shown a 49% increase in data usage since December 2009, and with increased smartphone and broadband penetration this trend is likely to continue.

    Nhleko further indicated that MTN – which has already signed a roaming agreement with Telkom Mobile – will look at more infrastructure sharing as the market share stabilizes in the mobile environment.

    MyBroadband
  • * South African ISP MWeb has announced that its long-rumoured 10Mbps uncapped ADSL products will finally be available in September. The company has explained that the delay is down to incumbent Telkom’s hesitant upgrades of MWeb’s IPC platform – the bandwidth that connects MWEB customers to Telkom’s last-mile network. Although 4Mbps ADSL subscribers in certain areas have already been upgraded to 10Mbps, users in cities such as Pretoria, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth are only reporting speeds in the region of 6Mbps.

    * Gogga accuses Vodacom of anti-competitive behavior and cutting off their services for ‘performing too well’; Vodacom says Gogga simply did not pay their bills.
    Gogga Tracking Solutions (GTS), well known for its Gogga Connect mobile internet offerings, is battling Vodacom over what it feels is anti-competitive behavior.
    GTS lodged a complaint against Vodacom Service Provider (VSP) in February alleging abuse of dominance by Vodacom. In April it emerged that Gogga would ask the Competition Tribunal to order Vodacom to sell it data at 19 cents per megabyte as this was the same price that Vodacom charged the general public.

computing

  • Nigeria’s Federal Government has approved the establishment of a Computer Crime Prosecution Unit (CCPU) for the prosecution of those involved in cyber crime related offences. A statement from the Chief Press Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Ambrose Mommoh, disclosed this last Wednesday in Abuja.

    It stated that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, who gave the approval, said cyber crimes could not be successfully prosecuted without developing the necessary structure and capacity in that area.

    "Nigeria needs to have a robust cyber security and cyber crime prevention and prosecution structure to be able to drive issues related to the crime.

    "The CCPU which will be under the Public Prosecution Unit of the Ministry will also harmonise into appropriate policies and legislation the various efforts so far made by some sectors like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the telecoms and banking sectors in addressing the issue," Adoke reportedly said.

    The statement said "officers to man the unit are to begin immediate training in basic cyber prosecutors' courses and electronic evidence handling among others while other modalities for the effective take-off of the unit are being worked out".

  • Teachers in public schools can now buy laptops loaded with the current syllabus and training material following a public/private partnership initiative which aims at integrating e-learning in the education system.

    The partnership is between Safaricom, Equity bank, Microsoft, Intel, Kenya Literature Bureau (KLB) and Kenya Institute of Education (KIE) and the Teachers Service Commission targeting about 240,000 teachers.

    The bank will provide loans for the laptops bundled with internet usage through Safaricom centres after which the devices will be loaded with KIE syllabuses for both primary and secondary education provided by Microsoft.

    "Cost has been a major challenge in fully adopting use of ICT. With the fibre optic cable the inaccessible cost of internet has been addressed and this partnerships will address the cost of accessing the devices necessary for promoting use of ICT in education," said Michael Joseph, the Safaricom Chief Executive Officer.

    According to Dr James Mwangi, Equity Bank CEO, the institution has set aside Sh13 billion to be advanced to teachers for the purpose.

  • The practice of keeping students records manually at Kyambogo University has ended. This follows the invention of E-Campus software that will see all the activities on the institution carried out online.

    The software will also help weed out lazy lecturers, since it can monitor their teaching, marking, awarding of marks as well as research and publications. Joshua Muzaaya, one of the five electrical and electronic engineering students who wrote the software, says it will enable lecturers keep the students' information online a safer.

    "The software will keep all the records of students from the time they join the institution until they leave," says Muzaaya, adding that students' transcripts can now be immediately printed as soon as results are approved. "Students will also be receiving messages on their mobile phones informing them whether the lecturer has marked and entered their marks onto the system or not and if all their results have been released. In the past, lecturers used to lose students marks and later ask them to take their scripts, of which they don't have. We think, this will not happen anymore," he added. However, a lecturer cannot change the marks of the student entered on the system unless he or she contacts the head of departments and both of them log on the system.

    "Retakes will be awarded automatically to the student who fails to reach the pass mark," he says. The system will also see lecturers interact with students and their fellow lecturers online thereby improving on the service delivery. The students will also have smart card identity cards, which will contain all the information regarding their education. The new identity cards will also see students borrow books from the library, and enable the administration to know whether the student has paid fees or not.

    "The smart card will also help the security personnel in keeping the security of the institution," says Phelemon Wenganga, the smart card developer. However, he said smart card technology is very expensive to adopt although it holds a lot of important information just like a flash disk. The new system among others will help in managing human resources, library systems, administration and finance. The projects supervisor, John Okuonzi said he and the students came up with the E-Campus concept to promote efficiency in service delivery at the institution.

    "We knew that the university had problems especially in the area of communication and felt that the problem can be solved by ourselves," says Okuonzi. The head department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Prof Augustine Rugyema said, the department spent approximately Shs3m to develop all the university systems."This University needed a system that will manage students' records because they are increasing each year and with manual system of record keeping a lot of students' information may be lost," said Prof Rugyema.

    The university Vice Chancellor Prof Ndiege Omollo promised the students that he will ensure that the whole project is fully completed. Other students who participated in the design include Shamsu Zziwa, Hudson Kisitu and Patrick Ssenyonga. George Kinyera Apuke, who is not a student worked as a webmaster. The project took a period of six months to complete.

    The Monitor
  • * Kigali — Umwalimu Sacco, a teachers' Credit and Savings Cooperative, is set to buy and distribute laptops to all their members across the country in a programme that is set to begin early next month. He said that the beneficiaries will receive the laptops on loan terms which they will repay within a period of five years.

    * Uganda’s Makerere University has invited more companies in the ICT sector to engage in viable business partnerships.The business relations will be aimed at improving the quality of high skilled information technology workers in the country besides generating new products and services, said Michael Niyitegeka, the head of corporate affairs at the Faculty of Computing and Informatics Technology, Makerere University.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Indian mobile operator, Bharti Airtel, said that its board had approved its acquisition of Telecom Seychelles in a deal valued at $62 million, in its bid to increase its presence in Africa.

    The Seychelles operator has a 57 per cent share of the market and offers 3G mobile and fixed telephone service, Bharti Airtel said in a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange. The company has been on a buying spree. Earlier this year, Bharti Airtel acquired Zain Africa in a $10.7 billion deal. Zain Africa had operations in 15 African countries.

    The financing of the Africa deal, the high cost of 3G licences in India, and a fierce tariff war in India's mobile services market, however, have cut into Bharti Airtel's profits due to higher interest payments.

    The company, which also announced its results for the quarter ended June 30, said its net profit fell 33 per cent to Indian Rupees 16.8 billion (US$362 million) during the quarter, largely on account of higher interest payments. Its interest expenses were Rupees 4 billion in the quarter, compared to interest income of Rupees 1.2 billion in the same quarter last year.

    The company had a net debt of Rupees 602 billion at the end of the quarter, which includes loans raised for the acquisition in Africa and for the 3G auction. The quarter also witnessed the adverse impact of the strengthening of the US dollar against the rupee and several African currencies, Bharti Airtel said.

    The company's revenue increased 17.4 per cent during the quarter, to Rupees 122 billion. The revenue figure includes revenues from the African operations for 23 days starting June 8. The company's results for the quarter are in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).

    Bharti Airtel has bagged licences to offer 3G in 13 service areas in India, and broadband wireless licences in 4 areas, which were acquired at a total cost of about Rupees 156 billion. The spectrum for these licences is scheduled to be allotted to operators by the government after September.

    The expansion of the company's existing network has been held up by new government rules that require service providers to obtain security clearance from the government for the import of equipment. Capital spending was restricted because of delays in security clearance for equipment imports, Bharti Airtel said.

    Chinese producers like Huawei and ZTE, which are a favourite with many Indian operators, said that orders placed to them have not been cleared by the government since February. But the government insisted that there was no ban on equipment from any specific country.

    Bharti Airtel had 177 million mobile subscribers at the end of the quarter. India is still the largest market for the company with 136.6 million mobile subscribers, while its African operations had 36.4 million subscribers. The company also has about 1.4 million subscribers in Sri Lanka. It also has a 70 per cent stake in Warid Telecom in Bangladesh which had over 2.5 million subscribers.

    Leadership
  • Internet service provider, AccessKenya has reported a 59 per cent drop in profit after tax, which the company attributes to price cuts and a weaker Kenyan shilling. The earnings after tax fell from Sh75.39 million last year to Sh30.65 million in the six months to end of June. According to a statement from AccessKenya, the business suffered a foreign exchange loss as a result of the marked depreciation of Kenya shilling in the last couple of months impacting on the firm's dollar liabilities, in particular to its long term dollar borrowing. Turnover went down from Sh1.06 billion to Sh876 million, when earnings per share fell to Sh0.15 from Sh0.37 a year earlier. The pretax profit fell from Sh89.6 million to Sh40.1 million in the six months to end of June, representing a 55 per cent drop. Going forward, the firm says the trading outlook remains positive in its three core business units and continues with its 'smart' rollout of network in areas of customer demand. AccessKenya runs a 140-kilometre metropolitan fibre optic cable covering Nairobi's Central Business District and other high-end residential areas, that cost Sh400 million. The company, a shareholder in the TEAMS submarine cable initiative, also leases more capacity from SEACOM.

    Daily Nation
  • South Africa-based MTN Group has unveiled its financial results for the six months ended 30 June 2010, announcing an 11.4% increase in aggregate users, to 129.2 million subscribers. MTN hailed the subscriber increase as a result of ‘a solid performance in all aspects of the business’. However, group revenue decreased by 2.2% to ZAR56.0 billion (USD7.7 billion) year-on-year, while earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) decreased by 1.1% to ZAR24.2 billion when compared to the same period one year earlier. MTN operates in three regions: South and East Africa, West and Central Africa and Middle East and North Africa. The South and East Africa unit was the only operation to report an increase in revenue for the period: ZAR20.56 billion up from ZAR19.40 billion one year earlier, an increase of 6.0%. By contrast, MTN’s West and Central African operation saw revenues decline from ZAR26.76 billion to ZAR24.72 billion year-on-year – a decrease of 7.6%. MTN’s Middle East and North Africa regional operation witnessed revenues decreasing from ZAR11.06 billion to ZAR10.66 billion for the same period, a decrease of 3.6%. The West and Central African operation reported having the largest subscriber share for the period ending 30 June 2010, with 59.36 million customers. In the Middle East and North Africa MTN reported 41.19 million subscribers, whilst the group’s South and East African operation controlled 28.66 million users as at 30 June. Group President and CEO Phuthuma Nhleko commented: ‘The MTN Group Limited delivered a sound operational performance for the six months ended 30 June 2010. This was the result of a solid performance in all aspects of the business, aided by high quality networks, robust and competitive distribution channels, attractive segmented product offerings and an increased focus on value added services’. * Orascom posts 2Q net loss on forex losses Egyptian telecoms group Orascom Telecom has revealed a net loss for the three-month period ended 30 June 2010 on the back of unrealised foreign exchange losses. In the second quarter of its 2010 fiscal year the company posted a net loss after minority interests of USD66.1 million, reporting that forex losses in the three-month period were USD120 million; by comparison, in the same period a year earlier Orascom posted a net profit of USD111.8 million. The Egyptian company also noted that impairment charges in Algeria and start-up losses attributed to its Canadian operations had both impacted on the bottom line. Revenues however fared better, with Orascom generating turnover of USD1.058 billion in 2Q10 compared with USD990.6 million a year earlier, a 7% year-on-year increase, although monthly average revenue per user (ARPU) continued to decline across all regions of operation. In the three-month period Orascom reported that global ARPU was USD5, down 16.7% y-o-y, with Lebanon-based Alfa ad Egyptian cellco MobiNil reporting the largest declines, of 25% and 22.9% respectively. In operational terms, Orascom saw subscriber growth at every one of its subsidiaries in the quarter, with the group’s total wireless customer base standing at 99.079 million at end-June 2010. Mobilink, Orascom’s Pakistani unit, remains its largest by subscribers, with the subsidiary adding just over 630,000 customers in the three months to 30 June 2010 to bring its total to 32.302 million. In its home country meanwhile MobiNil, which accounts for the second largest number of Orascom’s total customers, reported 26.147 million subscribers at the end of the first half of 2010, up just 0.1% y-o-y, with the slowing growth attributed to new regulations and the shortage of new numbers.

    Telegeography
  • * Reuters reports that Russia’s Vimpelcom and Naguib Sawiris are ‘close’ to signing a term sheet for the sale of the Egyptian tycoon’s holding company Weather Investments, which owns 50%-plus-one-share of Egyptian-based mobile group Orascom Telecom and 100% of Italian telco Wind Telecomunicazioni as well as controlling Greek operator Wind Hellas. The report, citing Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, said that Sawiris is looking at selling Weather to Vimpelcom with help from Lazard, Deutsche Bank and Citigroup. Vimpelcom declined to comment on the Il Sole 24 Ore report today whilst Orascom was not immediately available for comment.

     

    * Outgoing Telkom chief financial officer Peter Nelson has offloaded more of the shares he holds in the JSE-listed telecommunications group. Telkom announced late on Friday that Nelson had sold nearly 40,000 shares worth more than R1.3m. He sold the shares last Thursday.

     

Digital Content

  • An M-Pesa transaction has helped detectives solve the puzzle of a college student murdered three months ago. Twenty-year-old Jane Wairimu went missing on May 20, and her remains were found in a thicket at a farm in Kiserian, on the outskirts of Nairobi, last Saturday.

    Relatives and police had started by trying to contact Ms Wairimu through her cellphone, but her line was out of reach. Detectives then located her cellphone, having tracked its serial number, which was still in use, but with a different SIM card.

    A man who had been using it, later identified as the killer, sensed that police were on his tracks and discarded the phone and his SIM card. This threw police off-track until the detectives opted for M-Pesa.

    They sent Sh150 to the suspect's number and even though the SIM card had been discarded, a report message displayed the names of the person who had registered it.
    Using the information, the detectives got more details from the service provider and tracked down the suspect to his rural home in Manyatta, Embu District.

    He was arrested on Thursday last week and two days later he led the police to the crime scene at Nkarusa farm where the deceased's skeleton, clothes and handbag were found. Ms Wairimu's mother, Ms Susan Nyambura, said her daughter was going to apply for an ID at Ngong. "There was a traffic crackdown that day. She called me to say she was stranded," she told the Nation.

    The mother advised her to return home and she replied that she would walk back. She took a shortcut -- a lonely and dusty road traversing Nkarusa farm, where the suspect was employed to look after cattle.

    The suspect told police he spotted the girl in the farm and confessed to have raped, strangled, and then hit her head with a rock, to make sure she was dead. He approached his employer the following day and lied to him that his father had died. His employer released him, but he never came back until police arrested him.

    Daily Nation

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • * Tanzanian mobile services provider Zantel has announced the launch of a new uniform call rate plan to other networks, marking a new wave of competition in the cut throat domestic sector. The East African Business Week newspaper reports that Zantel’s offer called 'Twanga Kote Kote' (call anywhere) gives its subscribers freedom to make calls at any time to any network in Tanzania for only TZS1.99 (USD0.00133) per second, down from TZS5.50 per second previously - a 68% reduction. The operator’s move is likely to be followed by other market players, while Peter Saluwati, the Executive Director for the national regulator, the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA), welcomed the development, saying that lowering the across network charges was ‘good news’ for end users.

    * Kigali — Tigo Rwanda has attracted more mobile subscribers in the last three months, taking over Rwandatel's position as the second largest cellphone company, by subscriber base. Mobile subscribers have increased by 20.9 percent from March to June 2010 from 2,722,236 users to 3,293,891 overall. However, RURA figures also indicate that Tigo Rwanda claimed the bigger percentage of that market growth.
    The figures indicate that ,overall, teledensity now stands at 31.7 percent with MTN Rwanda claiming 22 percent, Tigo 5.3 percent and Rwandatel 4.4 percent.
    Teledensity refers to the number of telephone subscriptions per 100 people.
    Rwanda targets 6 million subscribers by 2012.

    * Interconnect tariff is the price a telephone company charges you when you call its customers from another network. The charge has been Sh4.21 but has now been reduced to Sh2.21. The new charges take effect on September 1.

    *South Africa-based MTN Group has unveiled its financial results for the six months ended 30 June 2010, announcing an 11.4% increase in aggregate users, to 129.2 million subscribers.

More

  • * Well-known and colourful Internet industry personality Justin Spratt has resigned from Dimension Data division Internet Solutions and will join Quirk eMarketing on 1 September. Spratt has been appointed as managing partner of the 80-person digital marketing agency, which was founded by Rob Stokes in 1999.

     

    * Mr Guebre joins a group of seven men who have literally been given a key to the internet. Alongside Paul Kane of Great Britain, American Dan Kaminsky, Jiankang Yao from China, Bevil Wooding from Trinidad and Tobago, the Czech Ondrej Sury, and Norm Ritchie of Canada, Mr Guebre was recently appointed an internet gate-keeper.

     

  • * Well-known and colourful Internet industry personality Justin Spratt has resigned from Dimension Data division Internet Solutions and will join Quirk eMarketing on 1 September. Spratt has been appointed as managing partner of the 80-person digital marketing agency, which was founded by Rob Stokes in 1999.

     

    * Mr Guebre joins a group of seven men who have literally been given a key to the internet. Alongside Paul Kane of Great Britain, American Dan Kaminsky, Jiankang Yao from China, Bevil Wooding from Trinidad and Tobago, the Czech Ondrej Sury, and Norm Ritchie of Canada, Mr Guebre was recently appointed an internet gate-keeper.

     

  • *MOBIFEST 2010

    NIGERIA

    Nigeria’s first and largest mobile application event will be in Lagos less than two weeks and a key focus for this inaugural event is not surprisingly – Mobile applications in a leading market in Africa where mobile subscription level has surpassed the 50% mark and still counting. The event is targeted at the M-Generation which are upwardly mobile and are ready to go.

    The conference and exhibition will Cover mobile financial services,Mobile Insurance, entertainment, enterprise solutions, mobile govt,tracking services, Health,informational,who will showcase their latest mobile applications and solutions to a ready and willing segment.

    There will also be Showcase highlights sessions from leading sponsors and also connect young innovative developers in touch with industry experts and decision makers.

    More information: http://mobilemoneyafrica.com/mobifest2010

    Speaking and exhibition: emmanuel@mobilemoneyafrica.com

     

    *VOICE SA

    8th September 2010, Johannesburg SA

    VoiceSA, a free industry conference and networking event provides a platform for industry players to meet in the interest of ensuring a positive future for the SA telecoms industry. This event is for the SA telecoms industry and will address pertinent questions raised by the emergence of this telecoms landscape.

    The event will feature presentations by local and international industry experts, including:

    Douglas Reed (Vox Telecom)

    Steve Song (Shuttleworth Foundation)

    Wayne Speechly (IS)

    Rob Lith (Connection Telecom)

    Frederic Dickey (Sangoma)

    For further information, please visit the company website http://www.voicesa.co.za

     

    *AITEC EAST AFRICAN SUMMIT

    7-8 September-Nairobi,Kenya

    An ICT Conference and Exhibition in East Africa at The Kenyatta International Conference Centre to cover challenges with current routes,traffic diversion in the event of outagesimproving network resilience and route diversity.

    For further information visit AITEC website

    www.aitecafrica.com

    Contact: seanm@aitecafrica.com

    UK Tel: +44(0)1480-880774

    UK Fax: +44(0)1480-880765

    UK Mobile: +44(0)7973-499224

    Kenya Mobile: +254(0)721-845674

    Mozambique Mobile: +258-82-6181618

    Nigeria Mobile: +234(0)802-0571766

    SA Mobile: +27(0)724-577887

     

    *CAPACITY AFRICA 2010

    21-22 September 2010, Nairobi, Kenya

    The most comprehensive African wholesale telecoms conference bringing together local and regional fixed-line and mobile operators from across the continent

    For further information visit Capacity Media's website (http://www.capacitymedia.com/conferences-events.asp?id=66&cat=&subcat=&s...)

     

  • * ERP Consultant

    Marina in Gauteng

    Midrand

    R20 000 – R30 000

     

    Looking for a ERP Consultant for a Company based in Midrand, Gauteng

     

    • Must have at least two years experience as indicated in the prerequisites below, and also have their own means of transport.

    • Consultants need to show initiative in work, have good customer relationships and be self-driven to improve own skills.

     

    Responsibilities

     

    • Preparation and contribution to process design

    • Testing scenarios and end-user documentation.

    • They have to use and be familiar with design and implementation methodology.

     

    Prerequisites – ERP Consultants

     

    Must Have:

     

    • Two years experience using Microsoft Dynamics GP or Sage X3 or similar ERP products.

    • Certification in the ERP Product used.

    • Have an understanding of accounting principles.

    • Twelve months practical experience relevant to above certification.

    • Familiar with implementation methodologies.

     

    If you have the following experience and you are interested in this position, please send your updated CV’s to

    marina@1st.co.za

     

  •  

    South Africa: Siphiwe Nyanda company in contract chaos

     

    A company owned partly by communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda was given a R20m contract to investigate service delivery protests in Mpumalanga,City Press reported on Sunday.

     

    The contract was allegedly awarded to Abalozi Security Risk Advisory Services without following tender rules. A Nyanda family trust is alleged to have a 45% shareholding in Abalozi.

     

    The report implicates rivals of Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza as instigators and funders of the protests, that began in the province in February 2009.

     

    Mpumalanga co-operative governance department head David Mahlobo was quoted as saying the contract was awarded on an “emergency procurement” basis and met treasury rules allowing for departure from normal tender rules.

     

    According to unnamed government officials, the reasons for ignoring tender rules were only advanced when the co-operative governance department’s acting chief financial officer Goldrich Gardee, refused to make payments to Abalozi. Payment was only made after Gardee asked the department’s MEC Norman Mokoena to put the instruction in writing.

     

    Last week, public protector Thuli Madonsela found there was no conclusive evidence to substantiate the allegation that Nyanda was personally responsible for securing a R55m contract for Abalozi from Transnet Freight Rail, or that he used his position or relationship with the CEO of Transnet Freight Rail to do so.

Syndicate content