Issue no 522 17th September 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.

     

    SMS message ban in Mozambique raises difficulties operators and Government will have to deal with

    The banning of SMS messaging in Mozambique is but one of several signs that both SMS and the Internet are changing the way media creates a national conversation in African countries. Governments can police SMS and the Internet by closing it down but this is a “nuclear” option that cannot be kept in place (except in Ethiopia) for any length of time. Mobile companies are not used to thinking of themselves as media operators and are vulnerable to having their businesses squeezed by Government if they prove unco-operative. Russell Southwood looks at this emerging brave new world.

    During the food price riots in Mozambique, both mobile phone operators in Mozambique, M-Cel and Vodacom, bowed to pressure and suspended their text messaging services but then said that they had not done so, according to Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique (AIM).

    As from 6 September people who used pre-paid M-Cel and Vodacom cards found it was impossible to send text messages. Since the Maputo riots of 1-2 September had been mobilized via text messages, it was immediately suspected that the government had ordered the companies to halt the text message service.

    But when Transport and Communications Minister Paulo Zucula was asked about the matter, he denied giving any such order. "I'm the minister in charge of communications, and I have no knowledge of any instruction to suspend the messaging services", he told reporters. Both M-Cel and Vodacom assured AIM that the interruption to the messaging service was entirely due to technical problems.

    On Friday night, interviewed by the independent television station TIM, Fernando Lima, chairperson of the media company Mediacoop, which publishes the weekly paper "Savana" and the daily newsheet "Mediafax", displayed a copy of the letter which the regulatory body, the INCM had sent to the two operators. Text messaging now seems to have returned to normal.

    In the post-election violence in Kenya in 2008, the Government considered closing down the SMS messaging system that was being used to send hate messages. Safaricom CEO Michael Joseph has said in a subsequent interview mobile phone providers convinced The Government to pass up this idea, and instead allow the providers to send out messages of peace and calm, which Safaricom did to all nine million of its customers. It was also reported that a list of more than 1,700 contacts of individuals who created or forwarded SMS messages to incite ethnic violence had been compiled and was awaiting action by Government.

    However, the Government did ban broadcasting and this gave coverage by Kenya’s bloggers a new prominence as one of the few ways left open to discover what happening. It also gave birth to Ushahidi which helped track and map violent incidents in the country.

    The worst occasion of this kind of banning SMS was the Ethiopian Government after the contested elections in 2005. The ban remained in force for two years. In Ethiopia, the opposition party Kinijit was particularly effective at using text messaging to mobilise its supporters and get them to the polling booths. Then, when the election result was announced the government took fright, contested what had happened and then moved quickly to shut down the SMS service to ensure the opposition party couldn’t use it again. With no acknowledgement of why it had been banned, subscribers simply received the following message announcing its re-opening: "[Wishing] you [a] happy Ethiopian Millennium. And now the SMS service is launched."

    SMS is a media channel but there are almost no ground rules governing either access to it by content providers or under what circumstances it can be closed down. Mobile operators can be pressured by Government to shut the service and have to take the income hit from that decision: their rights are not protected in any way. You can hardly sue the Government or the regulator for loss of trade if they are the hand that gives you your licence to do business.

    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. In other words, the mobile is becoming almost as important as newspapers as a channel through which citizens get certain types of information. But there are no ground rules governing who can use it and why or the rules that exist don’t make sense. So for example Econet had to withdraw a service it was proving to Zimbabwe’s MDC as it was claimed that it was broadcasting when it was not licensed to do so. It was operating an information service for its activists using a service provided by Kubutana.com

    In an interview in June when the banning took place, Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe Chief Executive Obert Muganyura said MDC-T's toll-free audio service was illegal under the Broadcasting Services Act. "According to the law, broadcasts that are provided through cellular systems require a licence from BAZ. There are services that have been offered by some institutions, including MDC-T, where the public can dial and receive audio programmes. "These services are classified under the Broadcasting Services Act and once anyone decides to provide such services, the network providers must follow procedures of licensing for consideration," he said. So how is the Internet different from SMS except Government fears the larger user base of the latter more?

    Finally, as the world turns, there was a report this week in the DRC newspaper Le Potentiel saying that sales of newspapers were being undercut by piracy (photocopying of issues) and by people using the Internet to access daily news. Shabani Keni, a vendor of the newspaper  told its reporter: "Le Potentiel has serious difficulties in selling their wares. This is because it is on the web. It's not bad to put a newspaper on the Internet. Globalization means it has to happen. But the output of the newspaper Le Potentiel (on the Internet) should be limited in order not to blunt the desire of readers (to buy it).” Online business model, anyone?

telecoms

  • Incoming Telkom Mobile is entering the mobile market swinging, not only taking on MTN, but now also Vodacom and Cell C in its fight for an asymmetrical interconnect rate of 93c per minute.
    Last week, it was revealed that Telkom and MTN were at loggerheads over Telkom's proposed rate of 93c per minute, with MTN insisting on maintaining its standard rate of 89c. The Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) has intervened in the matter, which will be heard at the end of this month.
    But the fight doesn't stop there, as Telkom prepares to take on the rest of the mobile industry as well. Telkom this morning confirmed it is in similar disputes with mobile operators Vodacom and Cell C, and would likely follow a similar course of action as that undertaken with MTN.
    The fixed-line operator maintains its actions are justified if it is to ensure a competitive offering in the market. “The terms proposed by Telkom include a reasonable mobile termination rate (MTR) that reflects Telkom's mobile network cost as a new entrant to the mobile market. Telkom needs a reasonable MTR in order to be able to compete in the South African mobile space and offer subscribers attractive retail rates,” says the company.
    Telkom has committed to having its mobile offering fully operational before the end of the year. However, the time required to resolve Telkom's dispute with the mobile operators will likely extend into next year, as the authority need only submit its ruling 90 days after the hearings.
    So far, only MTN's case has been scheduled for 30 September. Telkom's dispute with Cell C and Vodacom has not yet been heard by ICASA, and a date not yet been set. Nonetheless, the Telkom is still confident it will be in a position to unveil its mobile service this year as it has in the interim entered into interconnect agreements with the mobile operators.
    If ICASA has not yet ruled by the time Telkom Mobile starts operating, the interim agreement of a symmetrical 89c per minute will come it to play. However, Telkom is clear this is subject to ICASA's ruling and may change if the ruling is favourable to Telkom.

    ITWeb
  • Liberia’s Tax Court has ruled that raffle draws constitute gambling in a case filed against the GSM company Cellcom for allegedly failing to remit 30% of the total amount in its 2009 raffle draws that totaled US299, 850.09. Cellcom, court documents reveal that it contends that its raffle draws were mere sales promotions and not gambling as the Government claimed.
    Court documents further reveal that the Ministry of Justice and the mobile company have been locked in legal wrangles over the issue, with the mobile company insisting that riffle draws do not constitute gambling from which proceeds must be taxed.
    Cellcom defined gambling, court documents say, as 'swaggering of money or something of material value on an event with uncertain outcome with the primary intent of winning additional money or material goods." The court disagreed, and the two parties were expected to hold a pre-trial conference Monday.
    Sources say the outcome of the case will set a precedent in the government's tax collection crusade in which many big names are said to be on the list.

    New Democrat
  • Private equity investor Musa Capital is investing about $30m in Malawi's third cellphone operator, G-Mobile, and is eyeing similar investments in other African countries, including South Africa. Fifteen-year-old Musa Capital has been snapping up cellphone network licences and opportunities for the distribution of airtime in Africa.
    Musa Capital owns 50% of Johannesburg's Beryl Telecoms, which owns the majority stake in G-Mobile, the new Malawian operator that plans to launch before the end of the year. The company will compete with Zain, which was bought by India's Bharti Airtel earlier this year.
    The founder and executive director of Musa Capital, William Jimerson, said last week that Malawi's cellphone penetration is about 45% and there is an opportunity for G-Mobile to gain a 10%-12% market share.
    "We believe there are areas where our competitors are not strong and that will be an opportunity for G-Mobile. In Malawi, there exists a very real need for a cellular network operator that provides excellent service," Jimerson said.
    G-Mobile has also roped in a subsidiary of Telkom , known as Telkom Managed Services, to manage the business. "The company's goal is to establish a high-quality service to distinguish it from competitors," said G-Mobile CEO Peter Davies.
    The G-Mobile funding comes from Musa Capital's second fund, which has R575m for investment in sectors like telecommunications, property, finance and retail. Its first fund contained $40m, all of which was invested in the same sectors. Over the past 18 months, Musa Capital has closed 11 investments in five sectors covering nine countries.
    In the telecommunications industry, Jimerson said Musa Capital has a presence in Zimbabwe and Burundi, where it distributes airtime. It has shares in Sonatel, Senegal's fixed-line operator, and in Uganda it has partnered with local companies to invest in MTN Uganda. The company is eyeing similar opportunities in other countries, including Mozambique.
    "The telecommunications sector is a natural fit for us as the background of the three founding members of Musa Capital is in that area," he said.
    In South Africa, Jimerson said the opportunity will be in telecommunications infrastructure sharing and also in value-added services. "We will probably look at SA when we open our third fund," he said.

    Business Day
  • The Republic of Congo now has a fourth mobile network operator following reports that Equateur Telecom Congo, a subsidiary of Bahrain-based Bintel, has commenced commercial services. According to Cellular News, the cellco will offer services under the ‘Azur Congo’ banner, with coverage initially limited to Brazzaville and Pointe Noire, although it expects to expand to other cities shortly following launch.
    Commenting on the launch, Stephane Beuvelet, general manager of Azur Congo, said: ‘We have received overwhelming customer response for Azur during the soft launch and trial phase of service, and are pleased to open up full commercial services to all customers in Brazzaville and Point Noire ... In less than nine months since being awarded [its] licence, Azur will be providing full commercial service to customers in record time, through rapid network deployment and including a full commercial infrastructure.’

Azur Congo is also the first of Congo’s cellcos to adopt and implement the new national nine digit numbering scheme, which allows customers to retain their existing numbers with the 01 prefix on the Azur network.

Equateur Telecom Congo was awarded Congo’s fourth mobile concession in December 2009, announcing in March 2010 that it would open pre-registration for its services in July 2010. Those that registered during the promotional period were given the option of choosing their own number, while their accounts were also credited with XAF1,000 (USD1.93) and ten SMS messages. Minister of Telecommunications, Thierry Moungalla, subsequently made the first successful call on the Azur network in July 2010.

    Telegeography
  • * MTN Swaziland is reported to be in a testing phase of developing a commercial 3G mobile network following a month-long pilot of four UMTS base stations. The South African-owned cellco was granted a temporary 3G licence to cover several events including the Common Market for Eastern & Southern Africa (COMESA) summit in the country in late August. The permit was valid from 16 August to 15 September, with 3G services offered to post-paid MTN customers only. MTN Swaziland’s existing commercial network is equipped with 2.5G EDGE technology, which it has deployed in the Mbabane Manzini corridor and other selected areas around the country.
    * Standard & Poor's Ratings Services said last week that it has placed its 'B-' long-term corporate credit rating on South Africa-based mobile telecommunications operator Cell C on CreditWatch with positive implications.“At the same time, we placed the 'B' rating on the €400 million fixed-rate senior secured notes on CreditWatch with developing implications. The recovery rating on this debt is unchanged at '2', indicating our expectation of substantial (70%-90%) recovery in the event of a payment default,” said Standard & Poor's in a press statement.“We are also placing the 'CCC' rating on the $270 million senior subordinated notes on CreditWatch with positive implications. The recovery rating on these notes is unchanged at '6', indicating our expectation of negligible (0%-10%) recovery in the event of a payment default.”The CreditWatch placement reflects the potential positive effect that the partial refinancing of the €400 million senior secured bonds maturing in 2012, through a long-dated new credit facility, would have on the rating of Cell C.“We understand that a maximum of €240 million could be tendered only, as Cell C's main creditor, Saudi Oger Ltd., the owner of Oger Telecom Ltd., Cell C's main shareholder, is required to retain at least €160 million of the notes. We also understand that Cell C will continue to pay coupons for the bonds held by Saudi Oger.”
    * MTN Group Ltd said data revenue from its South African network jumped 60 percent in the first six months of this year as faster third-generation technology let users consume more online content. “It’s an insatiable beast,” Karel Pienaar, MTN South Africa’s managing director, said in an interview with Bloomberg News last week.

  • 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.

internet

  • The Nigerian Communications Commission said it will up its investment levels in the Internet Exchange of Nigeria in order to help the organisation keep local internet traffic within the country, the Punch reported.

    NCC Executive Chairman Eugene Juwah said the key roles being played by IXPN were critical to Nigeria's emancipation in the global internet arena. IXPN, which commenced operations with initial funding from the commission, was formed to interconnect all internet service providers, private telecoms operators, and higher institutions in Nigeria.

    The NCC boss also advised the board and management of the company to ensure it entrenched an attractive business proposition and good corporate governance that would attract the participation of all the key operators in the industry, and ensure delivery on its mandate.

    The New Times
  • Newtec has announced that Ghana-based triple-play solutions provider K-Net is using Newtec’s Sat3Play to extend the reach of broadband services throughout West Africa. K-NET’s Sat3Play infrastructure provides the platform for service providers to offer a full range of broadband applications via satellite, including Internet access, security, VOIP, IP VPN and VSAT. 
     With a Sat3Play hub in Accra and terminals located throughout the region, K-Net’s service provider clients can deliver services to business and consumer customers. Applications include enterprise connectivity, GSM backhauling, digital signage, consumer broadband access with triple-play, and on-the-move access for mobile customers. 
     Sat3Play’s low-cost and easy-to-install terminal enables the end-users throughout West Africa to access broadband regardless of their location, whether for individual home and office applications, SME networks, or larger-scale vertical applications, such as SCADA, POS and ATM. Sat3Play thus provides K-Net’s clients and their customers with the basis for a truly viable business model anywhere in the region, complementing the terrestrial infrastructure. 
     “A key benefit of the technology is that it makes broadband service provision possible at a realistic investment level, and with low operational costs,” says Richard Hlomador, founder and CEO of K-Net. “User terminals are easy to set up, and the Ka-band migration capability makes the platform future-proof and very versatile in terms of satellite use.” 
     The new low-cost, Ka-band-ready Sat3Play terminal includes Newtec’s 4CPM modulation and coding scheme, which substantially increases the speed and bandwidth efficiency of the return link. This makes Sat3Play a good fit for both the consumer and enterprise market. Sat3Play can be combined with VoIP and Direct-to-Home television services, and supports a large variety of professional applications such as for the maritime, energy, transport and security markets. The terminals can be set up quickly and easily using Newtec’s Point & Play self-installation capability. 
     Sat3play is operated by K-Net under the brand name fast2net. The major countries of coverage are Senegal, Gambia, Mali, Niger, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Cameroun and Central African Republic. 

    The Standard
  • Zimbabwean ISP, Africom on Friday unveiled its mobile broadband platform after investing US$30 million into the project in a development that would improve the country's mobile penetration.
    The development follows the deregulation of the telecommunications sector last year after the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) said licenced operators with the infrastructure can do both data and voice in a bid to improve the country's teledensity
    It will compete with mobile players, Econet, Net One and Telecel who have of late been struggling to offer quality service to subscribers. Kwanayi Kashangura, Africom Founder and Chief Executive Officer told Standardbusiness the company is not competing directly with mobile operators but "we are enhancing the service".
    Kashangura said mobile operators were offering other services which Africom had and the converged licence meant that it could now participate in voice, data, internet and other services. "Mobile operators are now offering internet services on their platforms and we said we need to offer a full bouquet of communication services," the Africom founder said.
    With its existing infrastructure, there is a capacity of three million subscribers. He said the services had been tested for over two months, he said. Nelson Chamisa, Information and Communication Technology Minister said government stands for competition of various service providers "and our duty is to provide an enabling environment so that there is improvement in the quality of service.
    "In government we say seek ye first the kingdom of connectivity and the rest will follow in communication," he said. He said government's vision was that before the end of the year people "must be connected". Government has identified ICTs as the fuel for economic growth. In the 2010 national budget Finance Minister Tendai Biti allocated US$5 million through the Vote of Credit aimed at establishing a fibre optic link between Harare and Mutare and Harare to Beitbridge.

    The Standard
  • * MTN has followed in the footsteps of Cell C to boost the coverage of their mobile broadband offerings Bloomberg last week announced that MTN will use some of its 900 megahertz spectrum for 3G services.  The lower frequency, MTN typically uses 2100 MHz for its 3G network in South Africa, makes wider coverage possible using less sites.The use of 900 MHz for 3G is however nothing new for MTN.  Earlier this year MTN Ghana announced that it had concluded successful trials of the first 900 MHz UMTS network in Africa.MTN worked with Ericsson on their 900 MHz 3G network in Ghana, and found that the lower frequency means that they can create country-wide mobile broadband coverage far more cost effectively.

    * Cell C today unveiled its 4Gs network in Bloemfontein, the second of 10 South African cities expected to get connected to the high-speed HSPA+ network.
    * Zimbabwe ISP ZOL launched a new magazine last week on the sidelines of the ICT Africa 2010. The magazine is run online as a blog at www.zolife.co.zw and also has a free offline paper magazine to be issued six times a year.

computing

  • Fresh facts have emerged on how China-based computer manufacturer, Haier, US-based Avant Technology and Nigerian-owned Zinox Computers were shortlisted for the supply of 132,000 units of Direct Digital Data Capture (DDC) machines for the voter registration.
    The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has sent requests for quotations (RFQs) to the three shortlisted firms, and THISDAY can confirm that the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), otherwise known as the Due Process Office, will take a final decision on the award of the contracts today.
    The decision will be communicated to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) for onward transmission to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for approval at next week's council meeting.
    INEC, which had earlier sent an RFQ to Lenovo, a Beijing, China-based original equipment manufacturer, recommended Haier for the supply of the bulk of the equipment based on the company's track record with the United Nations.
    THISDAY learnt that INEC had made contact with foreign embassies in Nigeria seeking advice on how to procure the equipment in record time because of the urgency associated with the preparations for the 2011 general election.
    INEC got in touch with the UN procurement system because of the organisation's global experience in conducting elections, especially in difficult circumstances.
    Haier, one of China's Top 100 IT companies, specialises in technology research, manufacture industry, trading and financial services. Its Thermocool refrigerators and freezers are produced under licence in Nigeria by PZ.
    The track record of Haier is said to have impressed INEC, which also discovered that the Chinese company has the capacity to produce all the DDC machines it requires for voter registration.
    INEC is said to have been swayed by the ability of the company to meet the deadline because it could be too risky to entrust the project to a contractor who may not be able to deliver in record time.
    However, in asking Haier to quote for 90,000 units and Avant 20,000 units, INEC also asked Zinox to quote for 22,000 units because of the agitation for local content in the contracts.
    Although only 120,000 units would be needed for the registration, INEC has made plans for 132,000 in the event of breakdowns and redundancy.
    In another development, INEC Chairman Prof. Attahiru Jega yesterday raised hopes that the commission could use the Modified Open Ballot System in the conduct of the 2011 general election.
    However, he said that the extant law in the statute book is the Open Secret Ballot System.
    Jega, who spoke when a delegation of the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) led by Pastor Tunde Bakare visited him, said: "The legal framework on the mode of election currently provided for is what is called the open secret ballot system. You are calling for a Modified Open Ballot System; we go and look at it.
    "If there is call for it within the legal framework, and we do the cost benefit analysis and we weigh all the pros and cons and it turns out to be the best, certainly, we will give it the consideration it deserves."
    MOBS allows accreditation of voters and voting to take place at the same time nationwide, with the votes counted and scores announced on the spot.
    But the current system allows voters to vote at various times before 1pm and they are to disperse immediately after voting without waiting for the announcement of the results.
    On the funding of election monitors, Jega said that the commission would no longer fund the activities of the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that monitor the elections.
    He promised to help the election monitors in areas of logistics, but categorically said: "Don't expect INEC to pay your bills, we cannot foot their bills."
    Jega said a mechanism had been put in place to check the activities of the staff of the commission that are corrupt.
    According to him, there are in-built checks and balances, and any member of staff caught in the act would "face the music".
    He said that the era of the Resident Electoral Commissioners and Electoral Officers of the commission conniving is a thing of the past. Earlier, Bakare had brought to the attention of the commission a six-point case to be addressed to checkmate rigging.
    The six issues are: the Modified Open Ballot System, connivance of election monitors and observers with the state governments to rig the election, management of security personnel during election, connivance of resident electoral commissioners and electoral officers to rig election.

    This Day
  • Nigeria-based ICT firm Voix Networks Limited has partnered with First Bank to introduce reliable Point of Sale (POS) terminals in Nigeria.
    The partnership will enable First Bank to deploy its POS terminal over Voix Networks' extensive fixed-line infrastructure in commercial premises such as markets, shopping malls and hotels.
    The deal marks Nigeria's move to offer a reliable infrastructure to facilitate e-commerce in an environment where millions of dollars circulate in the economy on a daily basis.
    Nigeria's robust mobile telecommunications market has put the development of a reliable fixed-line broadband network in the back burner. The lack of such a network means services such as POS terminals for credit card transaction are inadequate and outdated.
    POS have revolutionized payment collection for merchants and purchasing for customers in many parts of the world. However, to operate effectively they require a stable fixed-line network.
    Voix Networks took advantage of the existing gap to deploy a much needed fixed-line broadband infrastructure that can provide stable, high speed, high quality and low cost connectivity.
    'The world economy, given technological advancements, is fast becoming one global market. Nigeria, the economic nerve centre of the Africa continent, cannot afford to lag behind,' says Emeka Onyeama, managing director of Voix Networks.
    Voix Networks has also successfully launched high speed internet to homes and offices via ADSL modems that deliver voice and data on a single transmission cable. 'We are the first company in Nigeria to deploy an extensive broadband via DSLAMS/ADSL and are seriously marketing the services,' says Onyeama.
    The company is currently looking for financial partners and investors to maximize its strategic advantage and aims to raise up to $50-million to support client take-up on its current network and to begin the 2nd and 3rd stages of network deployment to extend its coverage nationwide.
    'This expansion will require substantial investment in fibre optic and copper cable in addition to more multiplexers to convert to last mile copper. There will also be substantial investment in more dslAM/Adsl modem units that drive internet connectivity over the fibre and copper. Furthermore, procurement of additional bandwidth to cover for the growing subscriber base is essential,' says Onyeama.

    TradeInvest
  • The Interactive Intelligence contact centre solution, implemented by ATIO, is providing effective support to East Africa's largest bank as it shifts its customer contact centre in-house.
     
    At the end of 2009, Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) implemented its first in-house contact centre. The decision has allowed the bank to take control of in-bound and out-bound customer interactions with surprising ease.
    KCB is the largest commercial banking group in East Africa, with an asset base of over $2.5 billion and over 200 branches.  As a large-scale, widespread organisation, the bank required a highly scalable solution and an implementation process that wouldn't impact negatively on existing operations.
     
    “The big challenge for us was to get a solution in place that was fully integrated and that met our need for work flow optimisation. We particularly wanted to avoid managing and attempting to integrate disparate hardware elements, and multiple servers,” says Jimmy Masinde, Head of Contact Centre at KCB.
    KCB went through an extensive vendor selection process to establish the right technology for its 66 seat contact centre. Nineteen initial vendor proposals were received, which were then cut down to a short-list of five. From this list the bank decided to implement the world leading Interactive Intelligence solution, provided by specialist South African ICT company, ATIO.
     
    The Interactive Intelligence CIC contact centre solution with its full multi-media capability was deployed with modules such as Unified Messaging, Interaction Recorder, Interaction Dialler for outbound campaigns and Interaction Optimiser (with workforce optimiser and scheduler) included.
     
    “The key elements in the decision were integration and ease of use,” says Masinde. “The Interactive Intelligence system won in both these areas.  It is also very scalable and can therefore cater for growth. We can add seats to the contact centre in a very simple and quick process, which is important.”
     
    The KCB contact centre now services in-bound and out-bound calls for all the bank's customers – including those living in Sudan, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
     
    “We've got over 200 branches, so when it comes to in-bound calls, customer service and education is obviously very important,” says Masinde.  “Equally, out-bound marketing, sales and debt management calls are a big part of the centre as well.”
     
    After nearly a year of operation, the Interactive Intelligence solution has proved to be exactly the right fit for KCB. 

“We're very happy. The stability of the system combined with its scalability was exactly what we were looking for - it caters to our immediate and future needs,” adds Masinde. “The support offered by both Interactive Intelligence and ATIO has been fantastic as well, so we've enjoyed a lot of value from our investment.”

  • * BizDataSoft Solutions, LLC, a USA-based business technology and software consulting company that started operations in The Gambia in 2010, on Monday, 30th August 2010 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, signed a 5-year-partnership and exclusive representation agreement with three companies; namely Bajrai International Trade, Saleh Bashraheel Establishment for Trading, all in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; and Huda International & Hudatech Computer Solutions in India.

    * The Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) is to organize a workshop titled 'e-government applications and solutions' for principal officers in all the local governments areas in the northern part of Nigeria.The three-day workshop, scheduled for September 27, 28 and 29, at 9am daily, is to take place at Merit House, Maitama Abuja.

     * A computer expert, Chief Leo Stan Ekeh, has urged the Federal Government to give one laptop to every serving National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member and repentant militant on October 1, 2010.

    * The Niger State government said yesterday that it would spend N71.9 million to train civil servants in computer education.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • MTN South Africa last week showed off a ‘green’ base station near Upington, which is based on environmentally-friendly technology that will make it easier for the network to reach rural areas with wireless broadband services.

    The green base stations form part of a massive investment that MTN SA is making in network infrastructure.
    The operator has pumped R18bn into its South African network over the past two years, with an increasing focus on rolling out infrastructure in rural areas. The operator has earmarked another R4bn – R5bn for infrastructure investment in
 the next year.

    The capital  investment the operator has made over the past two years covers both rural network rollouts and the addition of  transmission capacity to its network, says MTN SA MD Karel Pienaar. TechCentral last month broke the news that MTN SA plans to build a third-generation (3G) mobile network to 
offer wireless broadband services to consumers in outlying areas.

    The company’s chief technology officer Sameer Dave said at the time that the company is planning to “refarm” a portion of its 900MHz 
spectrum for the network for wireless broadband. This spectrum is traditionally used by local mobile operators for second-generation 
(2G) services — mainly voice — while operators usually use 2.1GHz
 spectrum for 3G.

    Pienaar showcased the first phase of the rollout of the new rural network last week with the unveiling of one of the company’s 21 green base-stations in Riemvasmaak, 120km from Upington. The base station runs on solar and wind power because Eskom could not
provide electricity in the area.

    Up until now, the lack of electrical power in remote areas made it costly and difficult for operators to roll out network infrastructure, says Pienaar.
 But solar and wind power has matured to a stage that it is now a viable alternative to diesel-powered generators. While the capital costs for these green base stations are higher, they deliver far lower operational costs.

    The pan-African operator spends more than $100m/year on diesel for its operations across the continent. Diesel accounts for 6% of MTN 
Nigeria’s operational expenditure. Pienaar says the new rural base stations are already using the refarmed 900MHz spectrum for wireless broadband access. However, he says the base stations also provide voice and other services on the traditional 3G 2.1HGz spectrum.
    MTN hopes in the near future to roll out similar infrastructure in other targeted areas that currently have no 3G data connectivity, Pienaar adds.

    MTN’s data services currently cover close to 50% of South Africa’s geographical area. “Wireless broadband is the most effective mechanism 
to bring data services to rural South Africa. It makes both economic
and business sense,” says Pienaar.

    “We believe much of our future data market will come from these previously under-serviced areas that are desperate for the full end-to-end connectivity services that MTN can provide.”

    TechCentral
  • Internet Solutions (IS) and Symantec have partnered to build a multimillion rand data centre in Johannesburg that will provide hosted data security services across Africa. The companies have declined to disclose the value of the investment. But the new data centre is essentially a replica of Symantec’s own data centres in other parts of the world, says Symantec’s VP for hosted services in the EMEA region, Jesper Frederiksen.
    The market for security as a service is opening up in South Africa and Africa, he adds. There is a high rate of adoption of software as a service among SA companies and integrating security into those solutions is becoming imperative, says Frederiksen.

    Symantec hosted security solutions that will be made available to IS clients through the data centre include Symantec’s MessageLabs Hosted Email AntiSpam and AntiVirus, MessageLabs Hosted Email Encryption, and MessageLabs Hosted Email Archiving. The portfolio of products will be available in early 2011.

    Symantec will be recruiting channel partners, including Symantec resellers, to resell the hosted products to clients across Africa, says Symantec’s regional director for Africa, Gordon Love.

    IS innovation and technology manager, Hayden Lamberti, says the partnership will strengthen IS’s existing hosted services business. The service provider will be able to provide Symantec with access to IS customers in SA and other African countries where the software vendor already operates, as well as extend its reach into territories where it is not yet active.

    Tech Central
  • Diversified information, communication and technology product and service provider Pinnacle Technology last week reported improvements in its revenue and headline earnings per share for the year to June, citing organic growth as a reason. Revenue rose 11.8% from R2.83bn to R3.17bn, primarily due to organic growth at two of its subsidiaries, WorkGroup and Pinnacle Africa.
    Fully diluted headline earnings per share were up 37.6% from 59.1c to 81.3c . This was despite the group's gross profit percentage having been reduced from 15.5% to 15.1% through WorkGroup's better than average growth and the loss of RentNet's high-margin business having diluted the increased gross profit contribution made by Pinnacle Africa.
    Regarding prospects for the next financial year, the company said market sentiment is largely positive, with market indicators having reported improved earnings and jobs data. Regarding its own strategies, improved risk management and reporting strategies should contribute to a global platform for sustained, stable growth, the company said.
    "The group will, however, continue to focus on cost containment to reduce pressure on revenue generation. Working capital management and cash generation will continue to enjoy attention as the group aims to further improve its balance sheet and corresponding ratings," it said.
    Operating expenses as a percentage of revenue fell from 9.6% in the previous financial year to 8.6%. Included in operating expenses was a R13m charge for bad debts. This came after a record number of business failures during the year.
    Cash and cash equivalents increased by 14% from R163,65m to R187m. A dividend of 16c per share for the year under review has been proposed, an increase of 33.3% from the previous year's 12c a share. Corporate activity during the year saw Pinnacle establish Moyahabo Digital Solutions, in which it has a 51% interest. It also increased its equity holding in DataNet by 9.9%.
    CEO Arnold Fourie said he hopes to have Competition Commission approval to buy out infrastructure distributor Axiz by month-end. The group announced in July that it was buying Axiz for R170.9m. Fourie said once the deal gets the go-ahead, the group plans to start work on another value-adding deal.

    Business Day
  • JSE-listed technology services business, EOH, has grown its market capitalisation to R1bn off the back of a  strong set of financial results. The company’s share price today climbed 2.4% to R12.80 at the time of writing, nudging its market cap just past the R1bn mark.
    In its latest numbers, EOH reported a 38% increase in revenue to almost R1.7bn and boosted profit before tax by 36.6% to R159.2m. Headline earnings per share and earnings per share grew by almost 30% each.
    Kaplan Equity Analysts MD Irnest Kaplan attributes the business’s success to a competent management team. He says that as a smaller company than competitors such as Business Connexion, EOH also has more scope to grow.
    Asher Bohbot, CEO of EOH, says the company has grown in a recessionary market by remaining agile. Kaplan says many listed IT companies see R1bn as the magic number since many fund managers don’t consider investing in businesses with market capitalisations below that level.
    EOH should be able to attract more interest from institutional investors now that it has passed this milestone. The company also increased its dividend by 20% from 30c to 36c for the year.

    Tech Central
  • * Cell C announced last week that it is offering to purchase for cash its outstanding €400,000,000 (85.8%) First Priority Senior Secured Notes due 2012.Cell C is also soliciting consents from the holders of Notes to amend the indenture governing the Notes.  Cell C’s tender offer and consent solicitation will expire on October 8, 2010.Cell C says it intends to fund an amount equal to the face amount of Notes tendered in the tender offer from the proceeds of a credit facility entered into with China Development Bank.The remaining amounts payable in connection with the tender offer and consent solicitation, including accrued interest on the Notes and related fees and expenses, will be funded from cash on hand.Cell C will consider the possibility of redeeming the 11% Senior Subordinated Notes due 2015 following the consummation of the tender offer and consent solicitation.  The timing of any such redemption has yet to be determined.This announcement is not an offer to purchase any Notes or a solicitation of an offer to sell any Notes,” Cell said in its press statement.

Digital Content

  • Prospective travellers with RwandAir in Rwanda and Burundi can now access the airline's flight schedule via short text messages sent directly to their mobile handsets.
    The service has been available since Wednesday last week with all telecom operators in Rwanda and Burundi, according to RwandAir's Corporate and Communications Manager Michael Otieno. "The service is for the convenience of a traveller. You just do it for checking the flight schedule," Mr. Otieno said Thursday in a telephone interview.
    To access the flight schedule on your mobile, a customer types the word RwandAir [space] destination and sends to either 123 on MTN Rwanda or 7333 on Tigo Rwanda when in Rwanda. Otieno said RwandAir wants to make the service available to other destinations where it flies.
    The service will be available in Uganda in two weeks time with all the telecom operators, he said. South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya will also follow in a month's time. Currently, when one buys a RwandAir ticket is also asked to provide a telephone number and email for future use.
    The airline plans to have a database of contacts of its customers and will be sending them text messages and emails about the flight schedules. RwandAir will also finalise its internet based booking engine by end of November to facilitate online booking.
    The airline is in talks with the operator of the online booking engine to create a possibility where customers could use their mobile phones to book flights, Otieno said. RwandAir serves all East African community capital cities with daily flights and it flies to Johannesburg, South Africa five times a week.
    The airline currently has a fleet of two Boeing 737-500, two Bombardier CRJ and a Dash 8 with two Boeing 737-800 joining the fleet in 2011.

  • Customers will soon be able to clear their goods at the port of Mombasa without using a single piece of paper. In an apparent move to put a stranglehold on middlemen and fight corruption at the port, the Cabinet Wednesday approved the total automation of the port.
    The National Single Window System at the Kenya Ports Authority, the computerised system that will transform the port into a paperless operation, is the latest in a series of moves to reduce corruption at the KPA and improve efficiency.
    Other measures that have been undertaken by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) include computerising the movement of cargo around the port and requiring clearing and forwarding agencies to get passwords to log into the KRA system to import and clear goods.
    Past reforms have tended to attract resistance from some groups. KRA said the system was aimed at stopping groups that have previously benefitted from a chaotic system at the port by evading tax.
    The new computer system will be owned by the government and will allow the submission and receipting of all trade and related documents. Automation of the port is among the decisions taken by the Cabinet, chaired by President Kibaki at State House Nairobi on Wednesday.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • * Lagos — In the spirit of the celebration of Nigeria's 50th independent anniversary, Etisalat Nigeria, one of the four GSM telecommunications companies in Nigeria, said it has slashed its call rates by half, to enable Nigerians have more opportunities to talk. Offering the new tariff proposition called easylife, Etisalat said subscribers on its Easy Starter and Easy Cliq, now have the opportunity of enjoying lower rates of 25 kobo per second to all networks in Nigeria, anytime of the day, effective from September 1, 2010.

     *Harare — Econet Wireless, Zimbabwe's largest mobile telecommunications firm, will from October 2 change its prefix number from 091 to 077, an official said on Tuesday.Corporate communications manager Rangarirai Mberi said the move was in compliance with standards set by global regulator, the International Telecommunications Union.The change affects only the first three numbers with the rest of the numbers remaining unchanged.

    * Nairobi — Safaricom has reduced charges for SMS. Under the new tariff plan dubbed Masaa ya SMS, the listed operator's 16 million-plus subscribers will be able to send text messages for as low as 20 cents each. This service will be enjoyed by the firm's PrePay and PostPay customers alike. The plan allows subscribers to send text messages within the Safaricom network at rates depending on what SMS bundle one selects. A bundle of 100 SMS will be available at Sh20, which denotes a unit price of 20 cents per message sent.Subscribers will be able to buy some 20 text messages for Sh10, translating into 50 cents per text message, while the last bundle, for Sh5, will afford one five SMS, meaning a unit price of Sh1 each.

    * MTN has launched its MTN Mobile Money service in Benin in association with Ecobank Benin.

More

  • * Richard Snow has resigned from the Vodacom board and will be replaced by regional Vodafone CEO Nick Read.

    *Nokia is replacing its CEO, Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, with a top Microsoft executive, Stephen Elop, as the Finnish handset manufacturer seeks to make up for ground it has lost in recent years to rivals such as iPhone-maker Apple and BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion.

    * The head of Nokia Corp.'s mobile phones business, Anssi Vanjoki, has announced he is resigning from the company, just three days

    * MTN Ghana’s Chief Marketing Officer George Andah is going to work for Bharti Airtel, the new owners of Zain. Clement Ofori Asante will replace him.

  • *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...)


    *Unix System Administration Workshop For Eastern and Central Africa Women Engineers,

    11th - 15th  October, 2010 Nairobi, Kenya

Background
The African Network Operators Group (AfNOG ‚ http://www.afnog.org ) invites women engineers from Eastern and Central Africa to participate in an intensive Unix System Administration workshop.

Workshop goals and outline
Overall objective: After attending this track, students will be able to install, upgrade, secure and competently manage the Unix operating system on standard PC hardware, and use it to provide essential Internet services on a network. It is aimed at students who are technically competent but may have had little or no prior exposure to the Unix environment.

In addition they will be taught concepts such as:
#  Basic Internet Protocols and how they work
# Some basic Internet services and how they function, including DNS, Web, SSH and E-mail
# Designing installations for long-term scalability of services

Who should apply:
All Eastern and Central African women engineers, software developers and systems administrators with a desire to get Unix Administration skills.  Due to funding availability, priority will be given to applicants from the following countries:
Tanzania,  Kenya,  Uganda,  Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic, Gabon, Chad, Republic of the Congo, DR Congo and São Tomé and Príncipe

Prerequisites:
Experience in managing PCs and installing software (such as installing the 'Windows' operating system), but not necessarily Unix. Some prior Unix/Linux experience would be of great benefit.

Language
Language of instruction will be English.

Application procedure
Complete the application form attached and return it to:  afnogchix2010@afnog.org 
Please ensure that you submit your application in time and fully completed. Selections will be on a competitive basis. Only shortlisted applicants will be contacted.

Application deadline
The applications close on 30th August 2010. Applications received after this date will not be considered.

For more information:
Email: afnogchix2010@afnog.org

    *GOOGLE

    8-9 November 2010, Cape Town, South Africa
    Google is inviting Computer Science students, developers and entrepreneurs to G-South 
Africa, which will take place on November 8th and 9th in Cape Town. Some of 
Google’s best engineers, product managers, business managers and leadership will 
be speaking about Google’s open web and mobile technologies.

Day 1

    Focus on using Google developer tools to push the boundaries of web 
applications. Google engineers and web development leaders will guide you 
through a full day of in-depth sessions, including hands-on code labs dedicated 
to cutting edge web and mobile technologies. 

Day 2

    Chock-full of Google product demonstrations aimed at tech 
entrepreneurs and marketers. Our goal is to help spur innovation and business 
growth in South Africa and across the region. We want to inspire business to 
make the most of the web and mobile space!

“South Africa has an array of promising start-up as well as 
front-running developers who are organizing Android hackathons, leading search 
engine marketing companies, creating asset-tracking systems with maps, and 
taking advantage of open source web tools,” said Bridgette 
Sexton, Program Manager, Tech Outreach, Google Africa. 

Want to address the challenges and opportunities facing Africa: the exponential 
rise of mobile, the demand for local content, the lack of a ubiquitous form of 
payment, the constraints of bandwidth, the desire to export technology, and the 
will to innovate locally.  Our Google Africa team strongly believes that 
the solutions to these issues will be solved by the tech communities in Africa. 
Google’s G-Africa initiative is aimed at putting the tools to solve local and 
global needs into the right hands,” added Sexton. 

For 
more information and to register, check out the 
G-South 
Africa website.

Google 
Africa blog post at http://google-africa.blogspot.com/2010/09/growing-local-going-global-wit...

  • * C/C++ Developer
    Verna in Gauteng

    C/C++ Developer 
Salary R 700 000.00 – R 400 000.00 
Johannesburg and Pretoria Area

    A company based in Morning side Johannesburg is looking for specialising in the telecommunication sector is looking for a senior C/C++ developer. In addition the ideal candidate for the position will independently be able to interpret detailed functional specifications and develop software that functions exactly as specified on site.
    To qualify for this position you need to have a minimum of 5 years programming experience in C/C++ and a Bachelors degree in engineering, computer science. Knowledge of programming languages such as Perl, Java and SQL. Development is done in an Object Orientated environment and you need to have solid experience in this type of environment, having experience. You need to have experience in UNIX and LINUS and TCP/IP networking and GSM systems is a plus. Working knowledge of software version control systems such as subversion is required. 

To apply for this position please send your full CV to Verna Baloyi at job5@1st.co.za
    Please e-mail CV's to pwilliams@mweb.com

  • *Thermocool, Zinox and INEC - Nigeria
    Lagos — Refrigerator and home appliances manufacturer, Haier Thermocool Nigeria Limited, Zinox Computers, and a US-based ICT firm, Avant Technology, may have landed the contract to deliver 132,000 units of Direct Data Capture equipment that will be used by the Independent National Electoral Commission for the voter registration exercise scheduled to take place between November 1 and 14.

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