Issue no 519 27th 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.

     

    Google in Liberia – an overnight stay, or the start of a long-term relationship?

    Google's interest in Africa is nothing new. During the past three years, the Internet giant has opened local offices in many African countries, including South Africa, Kenya, Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria. Last week in the Liberian capital Monrovia, a team from the firm held a workshop called “Internet Camp Liberia”. It goes without saying that this group of experts received a warm welcome, although some might ask why Google is interested in what is one of the poorest countries in Africa, with a poor Internet penetration rate and an international connectivity that for the moment relies 100% on satellite? Isabelle Gross, who attended the workshop, explains the relationship between the ICT laggard and the firm at the forefront of Internet-driven applications.

    Last Thursday, a group of Internet specialists from Google gathered at Monrovia City Hall to organise a two-day workshop entitled Internet Camp Liberia. The atmosphere was very welcoming, with an audience mainly consisting of students, ICT specialists, and NGO representatives. Given that more than 90% of participants were male, it is worth asking why there were there so few women? Is it that the fairer sex have a general lack of interest in such things, or rather that more Liberian men have more day-to-day contact with ICT, and have therefore been bitten by the technology bug more quickly?

    Workshop participants were also very young, with a majority of people under the age of thirty. Faced with an audience that showed interest in particular services and products, the dynamic Google team proved itself very flexible in respect of the subjects covered during the two days. It was also clear that both attendees and organisers expected to gain something from the experience, in that Google seemed anxious to better understand its audience and their needs.

    According to the workshop programme, Google's core mission is “to organise all the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. In this spirit, (it) will provide training on localised and global tools to spur economic development and entrepreneur opportunities for educators, businesses, and NGOs in Liberia”. However laudable this objective may be, it is clear that Google's broader purpose in Liberia to promote its range of applications, including its email service Gmail, and its online atlas, Google Maps. During Google's presentation of Gmail, the audience asked many questions about how the service works – something which is hardly surprising given that the vast majority of Liberian Internet surfers are more used to the email accounts offered by Google's competitor Yahoo!

    Although the Google presenters at the workshop gave a lot of information about Google Maps and demonstrated how to use the application, at present its functionality as in terms of Liberia is rather limited. The map of the national road network, for instance, only contains some of the roads that actually exist in Liberia. My own personal experience also demonstrates that Google's map of Monrovia only corresponds very roughly with what one finds on the ground. While attempting to find my way across the nation's capital on foot for the first time with a printout, I had to cope with many inconsistencies and errors relating to street names, and the locations of monuments or useful buildings such as embassies or banks.

    However, thanks to the Liberia Institute of Statistic and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS), Google will soon put its house in order in terms of the national road network. The road system shown on this new map is a lot denser than that in the version that is currently online. Google is also encouraging Government departments such as the Health and Education ministries to make public the national networks of hospitals and schools, since this information will allow Google to make its maps more useful. The future will see Google Maps become a genuinely collaborative project, with each user able to submit information and photos that will enrich the whole experience of using the tool.

    Unlike many other IT firms, which seem to simply present their products and services to their African audience and then pack their bags, Google has organised an interactive workshop dedicated to the commercial opportunities that the Internet can open up. The audience was invited to reflect on the subject and to formulate ideas for economically viable local development projects based on the Internet. Ideas put forward included domain name registration, Internet access for research and communication, and a phone directory service. The audience was divided into small workgroups and asked to calculate the potential turnover that could be generated by each of these activities. Estimates put forward by participants put the weekly turnover generated per person at anywhere between 40 and 750 US dollars, with an average of around 313 dollars per week. We will obviously have to wait a while before the Internet makes billionaires out of tech-savvy Liberian citizens!

    If Google really wants to make its mark in Liberia, it will first need to build a long-term strategic presence to serve as a sound foundation for its activities in the country. The two civil wars not only destroyed Liberia's infrastructure, including its telephone network, but also deprived a whole generation of regular access to basic education. Plainly the ability to surf the Internet is conditional on knowing how to read and write. And even literate Liberian web-surfers can be put off by hopelessly slow connection speeds. For instance, it is impossible to watch videos online if they constantly freeze because buffering is so slow. It will only be in mid-2012 that the submarine cable ACE (Africa Coast to Europe) will finally bring Liberia the fibre optic connection speeds that it so desperately needs.

internet

  • MultiChoice announced last week that three additional ISPs would be able to serve content from the DStv On Demand service. DStv On Demand allows DStv Premium subscribers in South Africa to view series, sport and movies on their computer over their Internet connection. MultiChoice recommends at minimum, an uncapped 512 kbps ADSL connection on the On Demand website.

    In the statement MultiChoice said that each ISP would communicate when the service would become available to their customers. Clayton Timcke, Group Marketing Manager for Vox Telecom, said that they aren't able to provide an accurate date for when the service would be live on Vox's network but added, “We are working with DStv to get it up as soon as possible.”

    Regardt van de Vyver, Managing Director of Neology, explained that they have been peering with MWEB since December last year when they implemented an open peering policy with all JINX members. DStv On Demand uses an authentication mechanism that they first need to integrate. “We expect that such services will go online during the next two to three weeks,” van de Vyver said.

    Cybersmart customers will also be able to access DStv on demand. Laurie Fialkov, MD of Cybersmart, says he doesn't “imagine it would be more than a month or so before [they] can get the service to work properly.” There are some other consumer ISPs that provision their services through Neology and Vox - DStv customers using these ISPs will also be able to access On Demand.

    Timcke says that Vox hopes to offer DStv On Demand to their ADSL customers across the whole group, including @lantic. Neology is the technology partner of IPINX and van de Vyver says that any ISP that has purchased IPC services from them would be able to access DStv On Demand when the integration is complete. “It should be made clear that only services provided via their respective IPC links or leased circuits would qualify as DStv On Demand has specific quality of service requirements,” van de Vyver said.

    Van de Vyver was able to confirm that customers using SAINET, SADV and Apolix Internet Services would be among those able to access DStv On Demand.

    Van de Vyver said that providers that peer with each other cause a certain level of network resilience since a connection could be obtained via both a peering and transit link. “It also typically further reduces latency as providers are normally keen on building out capacity to peering locations due to the perceived savings in bandwidth charges,” van de Vyver said.

    Other benefits include lower costs for local bandwidth, which allowed providers like Sainet to launch their “split-billing” packages earlier this year with local bandwidth coming in at under R10 per GB.

    The real issue with peering, said van de Vyver, is the situation where parties aren't at a particular peering location, or prefer to only peer privately. “One would hope that the DSTV Online service is wielded as a tool to encourage those unwilling peers to take a more open peering stance,” van de Vyver said. “We obviously hope to see more open peers at JINX and other peering locations.”

  • Phae3 Telecom’s CEO Stanley Jegede was out last week promoting the use of aerial fibre optic routes as both cheaper and more reliable than their terrestrial equivalent.

    He stated that with the current challenges facing the deployment and use of underground optic fiber cables especially Right of Way issues, persistent vandalism and ecological problems, aerial optic fiber systems offer some form of immunity against these problems.

    "We all know that putting cables underground is one of the most difficult challenges that telecom firms face today especially with companies often being held to ransom by communities and other people over right of way. Besides erosion that sometimes leaves underground cables exposed, there has been persistent vandalism and theft of underground cables all over the country, which often cuts off communications and could take a bit of time to identify and repair. These are some problems that aerial system quickly helps operators to overcome" he said.

    Jegede, whose firm runs the region's few aerial optic fiber network, added that given the country and indeed the West African region was still a developing one, road construction and building of other infrastructure would be very frequent, leading to underground cables often being cut. The situation, according to him, highlights the need for a backup network, adding that this is where the Phase3 aerial optic fiber network comes in especially as high-tension networks power often have dedicated routes by law.

    He said, "In Nigeria today all the operators including those that have their own transmission networks have embraced Pphase3's aerial optic services especially after they have seen the advantages that it offers them. We believe that even for those that may already have excess capacity, aerial optic fibre provides a very reliable backup and alternative. This is also in addition to the fact that there are certain areas of coverage of the Phase3 aerial optic fibre system which other terrestrial network are not designed to reach currently due to the countries road and highway network".

    Besides, Jegede noted that most optic fiber cables follow the same predictable route, meaning that they are all likely to be affected at the same time in the event of anything catastrophic happening; such as fire, road construction and vandalism. This, he added, clearly defines an obvious need for a reliable alternative to the underground fiber that is used by operators.

    He noted further that besides providing the best quality, aerial optic fiber provides many advantages over underground cables in the transmission business. Among them, he said, were the ease and speed of deployment, stating that aerial optic fiber is one backhaul means that can be quickly expanded to un-served and undeserved locations unlike underground optic fibre.

  • State-owned telecommunications infrastructure provider Broadband Infraco has used its latest annual report to criticise a decision not to grant it a service licence under the Electronic Communications Act.

    It says the decision, taken by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) and backed by communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda, undermines financially its investment in a new undersea cable system.

    “Broadband Infraco has assessed the impact of not being awarded the [service] licence and we wish to report that the most significant impact is in the area of ensuring connectivity services for the projects of national interest in accordance with the remaining element of the Broadband Infraco mandate,” it says in its 2010 annual report.

    “This impact will be most severe from a financial perspective in the context of the business plan for Broadband Infraco’s investment in the international submarine cable project,” it says.

    Infraco is one of four principal investors in the West African Cable System (Wacs), a new, high-capacity submarine cable being built between Cape Town and London. Wacs is expected to be ready for service in about 12 months.

    The company is worried that without a service licence — it has been granted only an infrastructure licence — it won’t be able to provide connectivity to science projects like the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), a multibillion-rand radio telescope project for which SA is bidding against Australia.

    Infraco is already bidding to provide communications infrastructure for the Karoo Array Telescope/Meerkat project, which forms part of the initial phase of the SKA’s construction.

    But Infraco’s lack of a service licence isn’t the only challenge it’s facing. Chairman Andrew Mthembu and CEO Dave Smith admit in the annual report that the company’s raison d’être has been undermined by a sharp reduction in national bandwidth prices in the past year.

    Wholesale national long-distance prices fell 73% in the past year, they say, with international bandwidth falling by 60% since Infraco’s inception.

    “International network capacity by way of submarine cables connecting SA to Europe and the East has also increased dramatically during the past year and will continue to do so in the near future with the additional of two new cable systems on the east and west of the African continent.”

    Mthembu and Smith warn that the combination of much lower prices and the potential for a large oversupply of international capacity has an “important bearing on the financial sustainability of all telecoms operators” and that the “risk exposure is even more significant for newer operators that have not yet established their presence in the market”.

    Tech Central
  • * MTN South Africa has announced plans to build a 3G network in the 900MHz band, TechCentral reports. MTN expects significant growth in demand for broadband services outside of South Africa’s main cities over the next few years. By utilising the 900MHz bandwidth, MTN hopes to provide wider coverage with fewer base stations, reducing costs.  MTN South Africa reports that it has concluded a detailed UMTS-900 test, involving 20 base stations in the Limpopo province, and has ascertained that the technology delivers a 30% increase in coverage compared to 3G delivered at 2.1GHz. MTN’s 3G network currently covers 48% of South Africa, but the imminent deployment is expected to expand coverage dramatically. The deployment will be done on a region-by-region basis, beginning in the communities closest to the cities, ‘rather than those that are completely in the hinterland’

    * Accra — Ghana has been ranked number one in Africa for internet speed, thanks to Vodafone Ghana's launch of its 4MB speed capacity, which is West Africa's fastest consumer internet cafes broadband package. With the introduction of the high speed broadband services last year, Vodafone has single handedly pushed Ghana's internet speed rankings to number one in Africa, a move of 14 places up the ladder.

    * Dar Es Salaam — Zantel has launched new prepaid internet packages and bundles to suit the needs and usage of all its customers. This is in line with Zantel's promise to add more value to its internet packages by offering high speed internet connectivity at the best rates available in the market. The new internet packages on Z Connect have increased capacity from 200MB to 250MB for the same cost. In addition to increasing capacity the packages are now available on a daily, weekly and monthly subscription thereby giving the customer more affordable choices.

    * Uganda Record blogger Timothy Kalyegira has been arrested by the police and accused of sedition. The reason? he published an article in The Uganda Record hinting darkly at the possibility that it could be the Uganda government, not the Somali militant group Al-Shabaab, that was behind the July 11 World Cup Finals night terrorist bombs in Kampala that killed nearly 80 people. He is not the first blogger to be arrested. In January 2009 Malecela Peter Lusinge, a Tanzanian-British citizen was arrested when he visited the country for publishing a doctored photo of Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete in a compromising sexual situation.

computing

  • ESET NOD32 Antivirus, a global security software distribution company is confident about its prospects in the Zimbabwean market and has pledged to support the country's efforts to develop the security software sector.

    Speaking after visiting its partner in Zimbabwe, Integrated Digital Security Solutions (IDSS), Steve Flynn, a top ESET official for the Southern Africa region said prospects about market growth in Zimbabwe were bright. "We are confident about the security software market in Zimbabwe and we remain committed to providing the best-of-breed security software," he said.

    "Our local partner has performed extremely well. ESET Zimbabwe has surpassed our expectations. We never thought we could spread our wings at such a rate. We pride ourselves on offering only the best products to our customers here in Zimbabwe through our local partner IDSS."

    ESET Southern Africa represented by Flynn and channel manager in charge of partners and sub distributors Brandon Bester visited IDSS, a leading Nod32 Antivirus supplier in Zimbabwe to familiarise themselves with the operations in the country.

    Speaking on their new partnership, Onias Ndebele, the IDSS director said his company is proud about the strong portfolio of best-of-breed security software products it is giving its clients in the country.

    Local exclusive ESET Sub-distributor, IDSS supplies and supports the whole range of ESET security products that include ESET NOD32 Antivirus and ESET Smart Security.

    The Herald
  • Makerere University and Digimation UK have entered a partnership under which has been mandated to conduct digital animation courses in the faculty of computing and information technology. The partnership agreement was signed recently by Josephine Nabukenya, the faculty's dean and Dilip Amdekar, a director at Digimation UK, during a brief function held at Protea Hotel in Kampala.

    Animation involves the technique of using computers to ease communication through generating moving pictures. The art, for example, may involve the creation of one image at a time which can be edited into a continuous sequence of other images. This innovative technology is widely used in blending creativity within the systems of industries like film, television, writing, publishing, dance, drama, fashion, marketing and the media.

    Delivering his speech as the guest of honour, Patrick Bitature, the chairman of the Uganda Investment Authority, said the introduction of professional animation technology in East Africa presents the region with a rare opportunity of advancing the state of technology in communication.

    "Blending animation within communication has done wonders for South Africa and Nigeria, it's impressive that we shall have it here soon, " Bitature said. "We cannot consider developing the country's information communication technology industry as an option because it has a direct bearing on the progress of all the sectors of the economy," he added.

    After the signing, Professor Venancious Baryamureba, the university vice-chancellor, said, "This is a significant step towards the nation's realisation of the dream of creating a workforce which measures up to the technological requirements of the modern global employment industry."

    Baryamureba added that the information technology faculty had produced brilliant and highly competitive graduates at both domestic and international fronts, and the integration of animation courses was a significant added advantage as the university seeks to consolidate itself among the best in the world.

    Baryamureba said the animation course would bridge the communication gaps in the country's young film industry as well as the usage of images in advertising, a key component in delivering information during the marketing process. Amdekar said the courses target students from East Africa but Makerere University would serve as a focal point for the entire region's students.

    "Makerere inspires a lot of confidence especially when it comes to computer-based facilities. The infrastructure offered by the faculty of computing will enable us administer the courses successfully," he said. According to Amdekar, Digimation's aim is to create graduates who are not only academically qualified but are also ready to be a part of the industry right from day one.

    "It is our aim to create graduates who can choose to excel in any aspect of the animation industry and to empower our students with advanced knowledge, sound business understanding and the appropriate accredited qualifications," he added. The two-year diploma course will tackle areas like pre-production, computer graphic design basics, advanced computer animation, character animation, post production and portfolio development. Amdekar said the lecturers would be flown in from countries with animation success stories like Europe and India.

    Currently, there are over 200,000 students studying animation courses in India. The courses begin next year with 350 students. Individuals are required to have the Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education, its equivalent or above. The curriculum has been designed by Digimation and accredited by the National Council for higher Education in the UK, in accordance with the current industry standards worldwide.

    Frequent guest lectures by industry professionals, active participation in industry events and an exciting blend of teaching and research will empower students to examine and analyse the complex medium of animation. Animation graduates are currently one of the world's most outsourced human capital.

    New Vision
  • There appears to be dawn of a new era in the Nigerian ICT sector as the Information Technology (Industry) Association of Nigeria, ITAN in collaboration with the Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) have formed an alliance to share information for the overall benefit of the industry and the Nigerian society.

    Speaking recently in Lagos during the signing ceremony, ITAN President, Dr Jimson Olufuye told newsmen that the general goal of the alliancewas to forge a seamless focus as advocacy groups to influence critical government policies at all levels with regards to the ICT industry with minimal discordance.

    Part of the objective of the alliance, according to Olufuye was to facilitate the need for governments to receive a common voice from advocates of the emerging ICT industry in Nigeria.

    Improved industry base for the ICT industry, fast-tracked public articulation and effectiveness, accelerated development of the sector due to synergy and coordination of efforts towards one goal capable of leading to development and creation ofd of business for members, promotion of critical industry confidence desirous for accelerated attainment of MDGs and the vision 20-2020, according to Olufuye are the objectives of the alliance.

    "What this MUO means is that each of the parties in the alliance will forward a copy of an input it has already made to government to the other parties for information only. The purpose is to enhance understanding and minimize discordance in the different input from which government base their decisions.

    "That is saying the independence and the right of content of opinion on input to governance are retained for every party involved in the alliance is so agreeable. The alliance is limited to ITAN and ATCON at take off in order to allow for any other willing association to know the scope before opting to be part of it," he said.

    Speaking on the scope and benefits of the alliance, the President of Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria, ATCON, Engr. Titi Omo-Etu said that the scope of the alliance is limited to each partner in the alliance sending a copy of any input it makes to any government on issues relating to the ICT industry development to send one copy to the other members of the alliance.

    "That is, any of the partners in the alliance is free to make its inputs any where and to any government and does not need to consult any other association before doing so.. It will normally be expected that the spirit in which this alliance is forged requires that in certain circumstances the association may just compare notes before the inputs are made. It will not be anything untoward if any association does not do so," he added.

    The Vanguard
  • * Dar Es Salaam: Techno Brain Limited Tanzania, has won the 2010 Microsoft Country Partner of the Year Award from Africa region.

    * Tanzania: Donors who want to access how their funds have been utilized have no need to go to the ministries headquarter as they can now access the information online. This will be possible following the establishment of a special database. It will contain data on donor funds, their flow and how they had been utilised. The overall objective of the database is to strengthen Government capacity to manage and coordinate development assistance effectively while at the same time it will enhance transparency and accountability by introducing broad access to a data repository on development assistance. The database also is expected to reduce duplication of effort and transaction costs associated with data collection and processing while he added that up to now a about 1200 projects have been entered into the AMP system with the help of the Development partners and the government who verified the data.

Digital Content

  • According to the Gauteng Gambling Board which has fought a long-running battle with online casinos, it is now illegal to gamble using digital products inside South Africa. That's after a North Gauteng High Court judgement on the jurisdiction of online gambling transactions in the country which was handed down on August 20th by Judge NB Tuchten.

    The effect of this decision means both Internet operators who offer online gambling to South African residents for gain, and a player or punter who takes part in online betting, are guilty of breaking the law.

    Furthermore, the ruling also makes Internet service providers accountable for the services and targets band and financial institutions that process the winners' payments and betting transactions.

    According to Gauteng Gambling Board head of legal services, Lucky Lukhwareni, online casinos are now up for prosecution. "That's why we approached the media to alert them of the judgement which makes online casino operations illegal, and if they continue we will have them arrested and fight for conviction."

    Those entities that advertise or facilitate the advertisement of online gambling including radio and television stations, print media, and outdoor advertising agencies will also face the law. The Gauteng Gambling Board says it will pursue any person or organisation which contravene the gambling legislation.

    Persons who are prosecuted and found guilty of breach or contravention of the gambling legislation could receive a fine of R10 million or ten years in jail or both.
    No-one was available to respond to the ruling at Piggs' Peak Online and an auto-reply machine repeatedly asked for the user's ID number.

    Business Day
  • Business Machines Tanzania Limited (BMTL) has launched three electronic devices which help to store data transactions in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday.

    The Director of BMTL, Ramakrishnan Kirubakaran, said that the machines will help the customers and the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) to monitor the transactions. "The machines will help in business efficiency management controls in areas of sales analysis and stock control system," he said.

    The devices are Electronic Tax Register (ETR), Electronic Fiscal Printer (EFP) and Electronic Signature Device (ESD).The prices of the devices have ranged from 1,200 to 2,500 US dollars depending on the size of the machine.

    Kirubakaran said that the devices have memory card which will enable all sensitive data like the totals of each tax category and total turn of each day are permanently stored. "The memory card is called Programmable, read only Memory (PROM) which is permanently fixed inside the devices," he said.

    He added that each ETR has unique serial number securely written in the fiscal memory and assigned to the owner of the cash register when one buys. During the launching, the company also presented the machines to the first three clients of different companies in the world.

    The clients were GNLD International, RSM Ashwir and Cotton Club. Countries in the world today have special laws hat make it obligatory for anyone who is selling goods or services to consumers to use cash registers that have special security which enable the authority to check in a reliable way the totals of tax that the retailer has to pay.

    The BMTL Client and General Manager of GNLD International, Daniel Mutiso, said that the devices will help the customers to have trust with the sellers. "If the customers are given the receipts they will have trust with the company and even the sellers, and give credibility," he said.

    He also urged customers to take the receipts because of the need to contribute to the government tax. BMTL has five branches in the country including Mwanza, Arusha, Mbeya, Iringa and Dar es Salaam.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Cell C has signed a €240m (R2.2bn) loan agreement with China Development Bank, according to a statement issued by a South African government delegation visiting China this week. The delegation is being led by President Jacob Zuma. The loan comes just months after Cell C shareholders agreed to restructure the mobile operator’s debt by converting billions of rand of debt into equity.

    Cell C is spending more than R5bn this year on building a new network and recently unveiled new corporate branding as it prepares to challenge bigger rivals MTN and Vodacom. A Cell C spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

    Tech Central
  • Telecoms company shares rose 94c on the news that its launching one of the countries biggest BEE offers called "MTN Zahkele" MTN says its Board has approved a proposed 8.1 billion rand broad-based black economic empowerment (BEE) transaction and employee share ownership plan by the requisite majority of votes at a general meeting.

    The group claims it is the largest empowerment transaction in the telecoms sector in South Africa to date. The transaction consists of up to 4% equity ownership in MTN, after its initial implementation was delayed due to "severe constraints in financial markets," it said.

    The BEE transaction has been called "MTN Zakhele" and will give MTN South Africa an additional effective black ownership of up to 29.1%, the group said. MTN said on Friday that the special resolutions would be lodged for registration with the Companies and Intellectual Property Registration Office in due course.

    The transaction is envisaged to run for a period lasting six years, the first three of which would be a lock-in period after which participants would be free to trade with other BEE investors. In addition to the MTN BEE Transaction, MTN said it would also issue approximately 0.1% of its issued ordinary share capital on a fully diluted basis to an employee share ownership plan (ESOP), for the benefit of eligible MTN employees.

    Business Daily
  • Broadband Infraco, the state-owned infrastructure provider that is expected to launch commercial services within the next few weeks, pumped R407m into its network in the 2010 financial year, up from R373m in 2009.

    The increase was mainly due to the cost of network operations, maintenance and repairs, the company says in its latest annual report.

    The higher spending pushed Infraco into the red, with it reporting a post-tax loss of R28.3m from a small profit in 2009. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation was a negative R9,7m, from R53,1m in the black previously.

    The company says the losses were significantly less than budgeted for and are to be expected from a fledgling telecommunications company.

    During the year, Infraco received R208m in funding from the department of public enterprises, down from R377m in 2009. This increased government’s cumulative equity funding contribution to R1.2bn since Infraco’s launch. Government directly holds 74% of Infraco’s equity, with the Industrial Development Corp (IDC) holding the remaining 26%. The IDC pumped R73m into Infraco in 2010, from R353m in 2009, bringing its total equity investment to R426m.

    Most of the money was used to fund network spending and other working capital requirements. The company says it will require about R145m in debt financing during the 2011 financial year to fund ongoing investment in national and international infrastructure.

    Meanwhile, Infraco has also used its 2010 annual report to provide details of its product strategy. It will offer national connectivity to licensed telecommunications operators at speeds of up to 10Gbit/s.

    It will provide operators with national connections at speeds of 155Mbit/s, 622Mbit/s, 2,5Gbit/s and 10Gbit/s. Ordinary consumers and businesses can’t buy services from Infraco, only operators. Government established Infraco as an alternative to Telkom in national backhaul services in an effort to bring down telecoms prices.

    Infraco will offer telecoms circuits on a leased basis, or provide an “indefeasible right of use” (IRU). The latter is equivalent to part ownership, or having unfettered access to a portion of cable for its operating lifetime (typically 10 years), it says.

    “The company expects to conclude a number of sales transactions as soon as the network commercialisation process has been completed,” it says in the annual report.
    Until now, Infraco has had only one customer, Neotel.

    In the past year, Infraco has expanded its optical transmission capacity by 75% to address growing demand from Neotel and to prepare for commercial launch.

    It has also connected South Africa to Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana by rolling out an additional 420km of fibre and building new long-distance repeater stations. It now connects to six neighbouring states.

    Infraco operates more than 12,000km of long-distance fibre and is constructing five point of presence around the country. It says these will give it improved access to the wholesale market at strategic points.

    Tech Central
  • Vice President Namadi Sambo last weekreceived the report of the reactivated Presidential Task Force on NITEL/MTEL restructuring. Receiving the report at the State House, Abuja, the Vice President promised to forward the far-reaching recommendations to President Goodluck Jonathan for implementation.

    He said the Federal Government would work on the sale of the company and explore other revenue sources to address the problems enumerated by the Task Force.

    Sambo also commended the task force for a thorough job. The Chairman of the Task Force and Minister of Labour, Chief Chukwuemeka Wogu, said the issues of outstanding salaries and allowances owed NITEL/MTEL staff were addressed.

    He said from the three options open to the Task Force, it recommended the disengagement of all staff and re-engagement of few transition staff. "The Task Force recommends the disengagement of all current employees and immediate re-engagement of 445 transition staff from the 3,389, with a monthly wage bill of N115.5 million from the current N695 million.

    "The transition staff will remain to hand over to a new core investor while maintaining the existing security arrangements," he said. He urged government to immediately release the sum of N51.692 billion to execute the downsizing exercise.

    This Day
  • * The latest research by Unison Communications reveals that between 47% - 63% of government communication budgets are spent on cellphone communication. On average mobile rates are 50% more expensive than fixed line rates which leaves the South African taxpayer footing the bill for expensive mobile calls.

    * MTN, the biggest mobile operator in Ghana, has supported the celebration of the Oguaa Fetu Afahye (festival) to the tune of GH¢50,000, to make the celebration a unique one this year. The sponsorship comprises of T-shirts, vuvuzelas, footballs, jerseys, polo cups, and a cheque of GH¢5,000 to the Oguaa Traditional Council..

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • *Harare — Econet Wireless, Zimbabwe's largest mobile service provider, has become the first operator in the country to offer a comprehensive per second billing system across all networks. Econet's billing system will apply across all networks as well as international calls.

    * Raging price wars have brought over 500,000 new subscribers within the space of 90 days into the Rwanda's telecoms network which is actually a very refreshing outlook. Now as the levers of intense competition shifts to a higher gear, watchers are anticipating subscriptions to top out at 4 million up from the current 3 million by end this year. Tigo Rwanda, with barely 20 months of existence in the market has managed to get 500,000 subscribers much to the surprise of both MTN and Rwandatel.

    *Rwandatel announced a massive cut to Rwf 3 per minute for its prepaid customers along with Rwf 500 sim card loaded with Rwf 500 free credit. This kind of new pricing means that Rwandatel is effectively on the war path to at least regain its lost ground within the voice segment. Rwandatel also announced huge cuts on its 'akanyenyeri' phone from Rwf8,000 to Rwf5,000, which also comes with 250 complimentary minutes and 300 units of free SMS, making it the cheapest handset on the market.

    * Zain Nigeria, one of the mobile operators in the country has introduced free SMS lowered tariff for calls within and out of networks (off-Net and On-Net calls), free weekend calls and many other benefits for its customers.

    * Nairobi — Telecoms operator Safaricom on Tuesday unveiled a new tariff promotion that will see its subscribers call from as low as Sh2 per minute.
    Under the new scheme called Masaa Tariff, customers will be able to make calls within the network at between Sh2 and Sh4, depending on the value of their last top-up. Calls to other operators will cost between Sh3 and Sh5.

telecoms

  • As previewed in issue 514, Cape Verde’s regulator Agência Nacional das Comunicações (ANAC) is tendering the right to use frequency for three 3G operationsand for one 2G operation: all licences are national. The likely outcome will be that the two existing mobile operators will get a 3G licence and one new entrant (possibly Digicel) will enter the market. The three 3G licences will use 2x15MHz of paired spectrum in the bands 1920-1980MHz / 2110-2170 MHz and 5 MHz of unpaired spectrum in the 1900-1920 MHz band, for each one of the rights of frequency, and the allocation of one nationwide right of frequency use in the range reserved for GSM. The right of frequency use is ruled by the provisions of Legislative Decree n. º 7/2005 published on November 28; the Tender Regulation published in Series II of Official Gazette of the Republic n.º 28 of 14 July 2010; by the Tender Specifications (ToR) as well as other applicable legislation to the communications sector. Those wanting to apply for the full tender papers should write to: ANAC, MITT Building, Ponta Belém, PO Box 892, Praia, Cape Verde. Or the Specifications (ToR) may be purchased during all working days from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm in the ANAC Front Office, by paying the amount of CVE 200.000 (two hundred thousand Cape Verdean escudos) per copy. The deadline for submission of proposals is at 4:00 pm on December 7, 2010. For more information access the ANAC web site: www.anac.cv

  • Hits (the trading brand of Excellentcom Tanzania Ltd) will launch on Monday 30 August and is pitching itself as a converged operator offering voice, SMS and data services. However , it will primarily seek to get mobile subscribers in what is now a very crowded market.

    The Chairman of Excellentcom Tanzania Limited, Abdullah Mwinyi said that Hits Tanzania was now in the final stages to go live and the company will roll out a nationwide coverage by early next year.

    ExcellentCom CEO David Charles said that according to Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) 2010 March report, the cellular market in Tanzania has a penetration of over 40 per cent. He quoted another report that predicts that penetration will rise to 60% by 2012. He said that he would be looking for synergies and strategic partnerships with other operators over network infrastructure.

  • The Mozambican government is considering plans to partially privatise the state-owned cellco Mozambique Cellular (mCel), Radio Mozambique has reported. Hipolito Hamela, chairman of the state’s stake-holding company Instituto de Gestao das Participacoes do Estado (IGEPE), asserted that it aims to give priority to national investors. He commented: ‘We think partially selling mCel would be an opportunity to earn money for Mozambicans as shareholders with profitable companies. Our goal is to create strong national entrepreneurs - Mozambicans with money and capital. We can’t just sell non-profitable companies to Mozambicans, we also want to sell the profitable ones.’

    mCel, Mozambique’s largest cellco by subscribers, reported four million subscribers as at June 2010, representing a 71.9% market share. Rival Vodacom Mozambique is currently the only other mobile operator, and claimed 1.57 million subscribers at the same date. Three out of 22 interested parties have recently been shortlisted to become Mozambique’s third mobile phone operator. The three in question are TMN (the cellular unit of Portugal Telecom), UNI-Telecom (a joint venture between Angolan cellco Unitel and Mozambique’s Energy Capital) and a Vietnam-backed bidder named Movitel.

    Telegeography
  • In an aggressive statement, Zain have accused Safaricom of sabotage after their request for a capacity increase on the Safaricom-owned interconnect link – necessary as Zain experienced congestion following its tariff launch – was not accommodated overnight.

    On Monday, 16 August 2010, the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) ordered a reduction in interconnect charges from KES4.42 to KES2.21. Just a day later, Zain Kenya followed with the announcement of a more than 50% reduction in their tariffs, bring both on-net and off-net charges down to KES3, and text messages to KES1. These are presently the lowest tariffs in the market, and  not surprisingly subscribers responded enthusiastically.

    Twitter had it first: rumours that Safaricom had blocked calls and sms from Zain to its network. Not so, argued Safaricom CEO Michael Joseph: Zain’s network was simply congested after the launch of the new Zain tariff. In fact, Zain had contacted Safaricom staff at 7pm on Wednesday, asking for an increase of capacity on the interconnect link owned by Safaricom as their own link from Zain was at full capacity. Safaricom staff promised to initiate the necessary measures in the morning as they would have to clear this with their management first. Michael Joseph explained that he then personally received messages from Zain management at 10pm pushing for the capacity increase, and again reiterated his promise to address this in the morning.

    Zain, however, moved quickly to accuse Safaricom of sabotage in an aggressively worded press release, stating that they had written to CCK to demand that Safaricom be declared a dominant operator, and its alleged refusal to accommodate Zain’s request for capacity expansion be declared an abuse of dominance. And it is here where the explanation lies:

    Safaricom had been highly critical of the new tariff regulations that would declare the company a dominant operator, a status that effectively subjects the operator to price controls: A dominant operator is required to inform CCK of, and obtain clearance, of any tariff changes 90 days in advance. In the drafting process, Safaricom had raised their concerns with CCK that the regulations did not define what qualified as abuse and how it would be investigated. Despite reassurances from the CCK, this issue had not been addressed in the version finally gazetted.

    After sustained pressure, the implementation of these regulations has recently been suspended, and the CCK had agreed to a revision of the regulations by international experts. And this is what Zain’s push will aim at: to force the CCK to declare Safaricom a dominant operator and then enforce the regulations, i.e. Safaricom would only be able to Zain’s tariff changes after a quarter of a year at the earliest.

    It is curious that Zain should only request the capacity increase on the evening of the first day of the new tariff: As an experienced network operator, the company must have anticipated the congestion on their network following the announcement, and should have planned for this. Since the protocol governing such reciprocal capacity increase allows for up to seven days for the implementation – a fact that Zain are aware of since it is part of the contractual agreement between both companies -, it appears strange to attempt this with frantic evening calls and then claim that Safaricom were unwilling to move on the request.

    The knives are clearly out in the battle for market share. But alongside the general question of whether Bharti will be able to transfer their business model to Africa, their latest tariff reduction also raises the question again how sustainable such price wars are – how low can you go? To make tiny margins work, an operator needs numbers. Orange and Yu have spent extensively already on trying to create a footprint in the market. And with their mobile money service M-PESA, Safaricom have created a stickiness product for their subscribers.

    Safaricom is also a wildly profitable company, which enabled it to invest in infrastructure and other non-voice services, including most recently data services for broadcasters, creating additional revenues. The other three, in contrast, have struggled to gain market share. Zain may have found more financial oomph through the Bharti investment, but Essar’s Yu had initially reacted cautiously to the tariff reduction, and Orange have shown disappointing subscriber and financial data recently despite having won some government concessions after a lengthy dispute over ‘missing assets’ If anyone can sit this out, it’s Safaricom – but can the other two?

    Ratio
  • *South African telco Telkom has announced that it is looking to restart talks with US-based AT&T about its long-mooted African partnership, which has so far brought very little new business to South Africa. In April 2009 Telkom signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with AT&T that would allow the US firm's African clients to use Telkom's internet network when expanding or conducting business on the continent. In time, Telkom's network was due to be linked to AT&T's global network, boosting its business prospects further. It is thought that progress has been stunted by issues related to pricing and after-sales support.Acting CEO Jeffrey Hedberg told Reuters: ‘I am going to re-ignite discussions with AT&T. The partnership has not progressed to an extent we would like to date.’ Hedberg also confirmed that Telkom’s ZAR6 billion (USD800 million) plan to enter South Africa's mobile phone market by the end of 2010 is still on course, adding: ‘We are working very hard and remain committed to launch our mobile before year-end’.

    * In efforts to unify its trading name across Africa, management of Bharti Airtel has began another rebranding spree that would see a four time name changed Zain called Bharti Airtel as from October 15, 2010.

    * JSE-listed Blue Label Telecoms has partnered with international security software provider Symantec to pilot its mobile phone security suite in SA.Blue Label to act as distributor of the product in SA. Earlier this month, the first SMS Trojan Horse was identified on Android. The Symantec software can prevent e-mail and SMS spam and is designed to protect against malicious attacks that use automated diallers to contact premium numbers. Users will be able to download a preconfigured version of the software and pay a monthly fee to use it. The current price is set at R14.95/month and Blue Label will take a percentage of the margin.

    * Nigeria — Three telecommunication base stations have been sealed in Ilorin, Kwara State by the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) over non-compliance with the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and audit report by the Federal Ministry of Environment. The telecommunication companies affected are MTN, Zain, starcomms. A mast base located on Police Road, GRA, Ilorin, belonging to MTN, another on Kontagora Road, opposite Taqwa College, belonging to Zain and that of Starcomms behind Tanke LEA Primary School, Tanke area of the state, were all sealed by the agency.

    * South Africa: MTN says that it will launch the new iPhone 4 in September

More

  • * The SABC board has moved to suspend CEO Solly Mokoetle, it emerged on Tuesday.

    * Mamodupi Mohlala, former director-general of South Africa’s Department of Communications looks set to be offered another job in Government as a result of the recent settlement of her case in the Labour Court.

    *Telkom’s chief financial officer, Peter Nelson, is stepping down from Telkom six weeks before his contract was due to expire.

    *Teraco has appointed Brendan Dysel as its facilities manager. Prior to Teraco, Dysel worked at Credit Suisse, an international financial services group, where he was the engineering manager. Before that, he was the data centre manager at data centre maintenance contractors, Elyo Services and Johnson Controls (for Morgan Stanley).

    * Sir Donald Maitland, Chair of the 1984 Maitland Commission (Worldwide Telecom Development), passed away in his sleep last Saturday night.

  • 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...)

  • *Business Consultant (EMEA)
    Parvana Strategic Sourcing (PTY) Ltd in Johannesburg

    Job Title: Business Consultant (EMEA)
    Job Type: Permanent
    Job ID: 999869
    City: Johannesburg
    Country: South Africa

    Description:

    Main Role:
    • As Business Consultant you will be involved in all aspects of the implementation lifecycle, from presales analysis, planning and orientation through to final acceptance testing.
    • Working closely with internal and external stakeholders you will be responsible for the definition of product solutions which meet the business needs and expectations of our clients.
    • The candidate should have good general knowledge of implementing OSS/BSS software systems at telecom operator’s premises.
    • Preference to those candidates who have prior experience in the international wholesale trading and routing (LCR) business with particular emphasis in the end-to-end process including data management, decision support, switch management, QoS monitoring and traffic management.
    • A basic understanding of the wholesale interconnection business is also required.

    Requirements:
    Education & Qualifications:
    • Relevant degree, diploma or certificate related to the role/industry.
    Technical Skills &Experience
    • The candidate should have demonstrable experience with:
    o Unix / Windows Operating System
    o SQL
    o Excel macros
    o Crystal Reports
    • The candidate must have good verbal and writing communication skills in English with an ability to converse with system users and administrators on the customer side, as well as Product Management and R&D.
    • The candidate should also be able to lead technical customer workshops.
    • The candidate must be willing to travel internationally

    To apply please visit http://parvana.smartsimple.co.za/Recruitment/rm_jobdetails.jsp?token=HAQ...

  • Blue Labels Telecom and Multi Links

    JSE-listed Blue Label Telecoms says a controversial contract signed with Telkom’s ailing Nigerian operation, Multi-Links, is being reviewed.

    Blue Label co-CEO Mark Levy says the contract has reached its annual review time, and the company is willing to make some concessions to help save the troubled Multi-Links.

    Multi-Links and Blue Label, through its subsidiary Africa Prepaid Services (APS), signed a 10-year contract in 2008 that gave Blue Label exclusive distribution rights for the Nigerian company.

    Multi-Links is in dire financial straits, and Telkom has blamed much of the trouble on contracts with APS and other service providers, including Helios Towers, which operates about half of the company’s base stations.

    Telkom acting CEO Jeffrey Hedberg, who was formerly CEO of Multi-Links, has warned that if the two contracts are not renegotiated, the Nigerian business may have to shut up shop.

    These contracts, together with the high cost of expatriate staff from SA, contribute between 75% and 80% of Multi-Links’s operating costs.

    Levy says Blue Label understands Multi-Links is not in a strong position. However, he says the renegotiation process is not a one-way street.

    He says Telkom needs to come to the table with a solid strategic plan before any deal can be struck. “Telkom can’t ask us to give up 100% of the margin and do nothing in return. We also need to have value out of the relationship,” says Levy.

    Blue Label also has distribution agreements with other operators in Nigeria, including Zain, Globacom, Etisalat and Starcomms.th the CEO of Transnet Freight Rail to do so.

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