Issue no 527 22nd October 2010

top story

  • Namibia’s regulatory position is like stepping back ten years if you’re more used to the competitive rough and tumble in Africa’s more developed markets. The historic incumbent Telecom Namibia still has some monopoly privileges and the new incumbent, Government-owned mobile operator MTC is in danger of behaving in much the same way. Sadly the country has closed its regulator with a view to opening a new one. However, this has meant all things regulatory have gone into a holding pattern. Russell Southwood looks at the key market barriers that are holding things back.

    Historic incumbent Telecom Namibia has an infrastructure monopoly and although the power utility NamPower has fibre assets, it has only recently tendered them: MTC (which may build a link to South Africa), Telecom Namibia and some ISPs are all interested in the capacity.

    Telecom Namibia invested in what was then Africa’s only real international cable, SAT3 but didn’t invest enough to get a landing station. This is something it has regretted ever since because for many years South Africa’s incumbent Telkom South Africa would over-charge it for transit to the SAT3 landing station in South Africa.

    But now if you want to get fibre access to South Africa to Telkom South Africa’s SAT3 landing station, you have no choice but to use Telecom Namibia. According to one of its customers:”The route this side of the border is 45% more expensive than what Telkom South Africa offers (in a competitive environment) on a distance basis on the other side of the border.” Telecom Namibia also has a deal with Neotel (in which it is a shareholder) for Seacom bandwidth, further limiting alternative competitive offers.

    The new WACS cable will arrive in Q2, 2011 but there are understandable concerns in the market that Telecom Namibia will be the monopoly owner of the only international landing station with no other independent competitive route to South Africa being available. If MTC opened up a route, it would simply be a second Government company offering an alternative and one run by a management that is probably the least price competitive on the continent. In other African countries joint public-private partnerships are being set up to ensure equitable access to the landing station and fair, cost-oriented pricing but there is not even a discussion about this in Namibia.

    Pricing has not been set and Telecom Namibia’s formal response to its customers is “it’s too early to say”. But well-informed industry sources say US$ 1,686 per mbps has been discussed. Currently customers are paying US$2,248, about three-quarters of the current satellite equivalent. Both prices seem very high when compared to the kind of wholesale prices available across the border in the more competitive South Africa.

    Inevitably this has a knock-one effect to retail pricing strategy for the Internet. One aggrieved customer told us:“At a retail level, we’re paying US$15-20 per mbps. It’s immoral and they should be sent to hell for it”.

    Telecom Namibia is owned by NPTH, a state holding company that also holds the Post Office, the new mobile incumbent MTC and a properties division for all three companies. The CEO of Telecom Namibia is the Chair of MPTH. Whilst most acknowledge that there has yet been no practical example of a conflict of interest, it is undoubtedly as one person told us “a fundamentally incestuous” way of running the different companies. There are no currently plans to privatise Telecom Namibia. It has international shareholdings in Multitel in Angola and Neotel in South Africa but looks likely it might pull out of the former.

    Both policy and regulation in the sector seem to be in a holding pattern for as one industry insider told us: “The biggest problem is the Namibia Communications Commission (NCC), which is supposed to be changed to the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN). There’s very few staff left from NCC and not enough are qualified.” There were only 7 staff when NCC ceased to operated. There has been no sign yet of the Gazetted announcement promised in early October to give life to the body.

    A good example of the impact of the regulatory holding pattern is number portability. NCC wanted number portability (which might open up competition in the mobile market) but whether this goes ahead, it will now wait for CRAN to “get its feet under the desk”. The new Chair of CRAN is Lazarus Jacobs, a businessman, co-owner of the Windhoek Observer and a pioneering stand-up comedian (No jokes, please.)

    In terms of the mobile market, there are three players: Telecom Namibia (with its Switch product); Leo and MTC. Switch (a CDMA 2000 product) was an attempt by Telecom Namibia to act as a spoiler to Leo’s entrance into the market. There was subsequently an argument as to whether the service should be limited to the towns only and in the end there was a trade-off in which it got permission to have national coverage in exchange for there being more than one international gateway. It says it currently has 200,000 subscribers. However, Switch is likely to be closed down and Telecom Namibia will go into GSM.

    This makes Leo, which was launched 3.5 years ago, the main challenger. It was set up by local investors including NamPower and Old Mutual with a Norwegian management contractor. Eventually 100% of its shares were bought by what was then Orascom’s Telecel subsidiary. By all accounts, it has the cheapest network to call on but has not made much of dent on MTC, which had many years as sole operator in which to entrench itself. Leo started to offer 3G in Windhoek a couple of months ago and has recently launched Blackberry handsets.

    MTC is the largest mobile player and is 66% owned by the Government through NPTH and 34% by Portugal Telecom, which provides strategic management and key personnel. It is offering iPhones (which it did before South Africa) and iPads but does not have a Blackberry offer. It has 85% of voice business and probably 60% of all markets by value, enough for it to be considered as having significant market power. There is an agreement between CRAN and the Competition Commission on addressing issues of this kind either jointly or by CRAN alone but action will depend on CRAN getting its teeth into the barriers that affect the market.

    None of the mobile operators operate m-money services like M-Pesa but Mobipay was recently launched. The Bank of Namibia gave Mobicash Payment Solutions authorisation to operate a mobile payment system where clients pay for goods, as well as transfer money, using money that is virtually stored on their cellphones.

    The absence of number portability makes it hard for the challenger to peel off new subscribers from the incumbent mobile operator:”People don’t shift their number easily,” was the refrain from all sides. Leo does dual SIM card Samsung handsets (in which unusually, both SIMS are active and you don’t have to switch manually) in an effort to overcome this problem.

    In terms of the Internet, there are probably around 120,000 subscribers and MTC has 3G subscribers in the low tens of thousands. By all accounts, it is a relatively slow-moving and conservative market. There are no signs of triple play offers and no e-commerce worth speaking of.

    Telecom Namibia’s iWay subsidiary is the largest market player with 60% of the market and it launched ADSL two years ago. The key players are: MTN Business or corporate customers (formerly Verizon/UUNet);  ITN (locally owned) and Africa Online (Telkom South Africa) which is completing its merger with MWeb.

    Telecom Namibia supplies ADSL wholesale to ISPs but it took one ISP 15 months to get a reseller agreement and obviously it needs to forced to offer wholesale and retail in an equitable way to all players in the market. ITN and Africa Online offer Wi-MAX services.

    Although small in population terms, Namibia has a buoyant economy and a great deal more potential than is currently being realised. Perhaps the arrival of CRAN will help take off the artificially imposed brakes but don’t hold your breath.

    Service improvements for readers:

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    Business Summit Netherlands-Africa on 3 November 2010

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telecoms

  • Under a hail of criticism, the Mozambican government has withdrawn its proposal for a new tax on users of mobile phones. On Tuesday, the Minister of Transport and Communications, Paulo Zucula, told reporters that it was not the clients of the mobile phone companies, but the operators themselves, the publicly-owned M-Cel and the local subsidiary of the South African company Vodacom, who were expected to contribute to the new Transport and Communications Development Fund.

    He thus contradicted a clause in a government decree of 15 September which stated that every client of M-Cel and Vodacom who has a contract with the companies would pay 30 meticais (83 US cents) a month to the fund, while subscribers who use the pre-paid cards would pay five meticais a month. The sums raised by such a tax are far from negligible - they could amount to around 35 million meticais a month.

    But now this clause in the decree has been amended. According to Zucula, the new wording is that Vodacom and M-Cel "may contribute" to the fund - which makes it sound as if it is not a tax at all, but a voluntary contribution.

    Zucula said the version of the decree as published in the official gazette, the "Boletim da Republica" was a mistake - it had been sent to the printers before it had been corrected and approved by the Council of Ministers, he claimed. The version published suffered from "drafting problems".

    Yet it took the government almost five weeks to correct these "drafting problems". And it only did so after strong criticism in the Mozambican media, and after the two operators had pointed out the huge difficulties involved in collecting such a tax (for instance, people using the pre-paid cards sometimes have nothing at all in their accounts - so how could the companies deduct five meticais a month from them?).

    Zucula added that the decree does not impose anything on the mobile phone operators, but seeks their "collaboration". This does have one merit - it means the decree is no longer unconstitutional. Ordering all mobile phone subscribers to pay a fixed sum every month would be a new tax, and under the Mozambican constitution only the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, and not the government, can create new taxes.

    Since the government s now talking only of a voluntary contribution, constitutional issues are not raised. But it is also most unlikely that either Vodacom or M-Cel will agree to pay this "contribution" - both companies are facing unexpected costs from the government order that the sim cards of all mobile phone subscribers must be registered by 15 November. These unbudgeted costs will hit their finances seriously, and they are unlikely to be in any condition to pay further millions of meticais a month to a government fund.

    Sadly, another case of an African Government over-taxing the duck that lays the golden eggs.

    AIM
  • Incumbent Djibouti Telecom and Telecom Italia Sparkle, the international wholesale arm of Telecom Italia, last week announced their top-tier IP Point of Presence (POP) is now available in the capital, Djibouti City. The new POP has been established for the development of IP services in East and South Africa.

    The pair hope to use the new link to provide cost effective, high quality and secure global IP connectivity to TLC operators, ISPs and service providers that are connected to Djibouti through existing and upcoming cable systems such as SMW3, EASSy, Seacom, EIG, and other bilateral infrastructure.

    Commenting on the launch of the IP POP, Djibouti Telecom managing director M Abdourahman Mohamed Hassan said: ‘With the deployment of a new generation of submarine cable systems in East Africa, the IP node/exchange will play a significant role in the region by offering reliable and robust solution[s] to support the increasing demand for international service from Eastern and Southern Africa.’

    Telegeography
  • The long-awaited regulations that will determine wholesale call termination rates in South Africa are ready and will be published next Friday. That’s the word from Icasa spokesman Jubie Matlou, who says he is not in a position to provide details of any planned price cuts ahead of publication of the regulations.

    Wholesale call termination rates are the fees operators charge one another to carry calls on their networks. The big incumbent operators have been accused of keeping the rates high as an anticompetitive tool to keep new competitors from emerging.

    Though Icasa isn’t yet providing details of what’s in the new regulations, it’s understood the authority has acceded to a request from the country’s cellular network operators to delay the first cut in termination rates until next year.

    Vodacom, MTN and Cell C agreed to a voluntary cut in peak-time interconnection rates in March this year. They reduced the rate from R1.25 a minute to 89c a minute. Icasa had proposed cutting the rate again this year, to 65c a minute, but the operators cautioned that two big cuts in one year would prove damaging to them.

    It’s also expected that the regulations will reveal that Icasa has backed away from initial plans for aggressive cuts to fixed-line termination rates. Telkom complained bitterly at recent Icasa hearings that a proposal to slash fixed-line rates to 10c a minute by July 2012 was not based on a careful interrogation of the company’s costs and was “unsustainable”. The operator met with Icasa officials on 28 July to lobby its case.

    Icasa had proposed reducing fixed-line termination rates to 15c a minute in July 2010, and to 12c a minute in July 2011 and doing away with a distinction in rates for local and national calls.
     

    TechCentral
  • In the drive to combat falling ARPUs, mobile operators are now targeting packages at SMEs. Zain Nigeria has launched Mybusiness, a new package that is specially designed to enhance the efficiency and productivity of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) across the country.

    The new value adding offering recently introduced into the market in Lagos by Zain, is expected to help business owners irrespective of their location within Nigeria take full control of the cost of phone calls by their company while also giving them the opportunity to enjoy a wide range of value added services.

    The Zain Mybusiness package is offered to businesses identified as SMEs with staff strength of between 1-50 employees. The package is sold with two lines (master line and associate line) and pre-provisioned on the service class with enough credit included to cover the first month minimum commitment fee of all the lines.

    Additional lines can be added to the group if required. The master line or business owner's name can have as many as 49 associate lines attached to it while minimum number of lines in a group is two.

    Leadership
  • - Somali Islamist group al-Shabab has ordered mobile phone companies to stop their popular money transfer services, saying they are "unIslamic". Mobile phone banking was introduced in the northern Somaliland region in 2009 and has now spread across the country. Al-Shabab and its allies control much of southern Somalia and one mobile phone company official said he had "no option but to obey" the order. Despite years of conflict, Somalia's telecommunications sector is thriving. Mobile phones are a common sight in the capital, Mogadishu, and three companies currently offer mobile phone banking. But the al-Qaeda-linked group has given them three months to stop.

    - Telecel Zimbabwe has been awarded the 2010 Frost & Sullivan Award for Market Penetration Leadership within the Southern African Development Community. The rapid growth in its subscriber base and market share has given it a unique position within the Sadc region where no other operator has been able to change its market position over the last year. At the end of June last year, Telecel Zimbabwe had 260, 000 subscribers. By the end of the first quarter of this year the number of Telecel subscribers had shot up to 1,090,000.

    - Mozambique's two mobile phone operators, mCel and Vodacom Mozambique, have reportedly entered into negotiations with the Mozambique Post Office to use its facilities to assist with the ongoing statutory registration of pre-paid SIM cards. In an interview with Maputo daily newspaper Noticias, Luis Rigo, chairperson of the Post Office board confirmed that his company has been approached by both operators for the use of its services; Post Offices exist in most of the country's 128 districts. However, although the Post Office has a far larger network than either mCel or Vodacom, it is not present in every district, and not all of its branches are equipped to carry out the government-endorsed registration process.

    - Telecommunication firms in Tanzania have been urged to increase investments in networking infrastructure in order to expand their coverage to the rural areas instead of concentrating on urban areas. Private Secretary Dr Patrick Makungu stressed that telecom firms need to expand their services to people in rural and remote areas at affordable prices. The PS acknowledged the fast growth of the telecommunication sub-sector in the country, saying the government would continue promoting investors and business friendly environment in the country.

internet

  • Econet revealed today that the network cost about a US$100 million to build, and currently covers the country’s major cities. The data network is based on UMTS (3G), GPRS and WiMax technologies, and is linked together by a fibre optic transmission system, with satellite back-up.

    Econet Wireless CEO, Douglas Mboweni, said today that Econet Broadband was the most ambitious project undertaken by the mobile operator since its launch on 10 July 1998. He added that broadband would play a pivotal role in the reconstruction of Zimbabwe’s economy.

    Three broadband packages were unveiled today; an “On The Go” package for customers on the move using internet capable handsets and laptops, an “@WORK” package for business users and an “@HOME” package for the home user surfing for leisure, school and light business.

    Econet first introduced mobile internet services back in September last year but suspended selling the service to new subscribers just after a month citing an overwhelming response. Then, customers were promised new subscriptions would be resumed ‘soon’. Customers have been waiting for the resumption until today.

    Whether the one year wait was worth it or not will be answered in the next several days. The prices, which are on the steep end, suggest already that the service will probably not be affordable to a lot of Zimbabweans. The wait might be worth it in terms of quality of service but we haven’t tested that yet so we really can’t say much there.

    Techzim
  • The Rwanda government optic fibre cable has been linked to the Indian Ocean submarine cables via Uganda , through Kenya and Tanzania , government officials announced last week.

    By Press time, about 80% of the 2500 km long fibre optic cable ring had been laid, John Gara, CEO , Rwanda Development Board revealed. The cable, that landed at Gatuna , Rwanda - Uganda border and Rusomo , Tanzania -Rwanda border is part of government's strategy to buffer the country incase of any link shocks.

    The government does not want a repeat of the effects of the July twin bomb blasts that hit Kampala damaging fibre optic cables. Rwanda suffered shortage of bandwidth supply when the fibre optic cable in Kampala was damaged forcing Internet service providers to hire satellite bandwidth to beef up supply.

    When completed, Rwanda will have a huge broadband density compared to other East African countries. This means Rwandans will enjoy faster and cheaper telecom services. "With a backbone cable around the country, there is going to be a substantive decrease in telecom services, costs to between 40- 50 %," officials at RDB estimate.

    The Rwanda cable will connect over 230 institutions in all 30 districts and all the 9 Rwandan borders with the main cities. Gara earlier told the press, "Already 50 public institutions are connected and using fibre optic. While 300 people in Kigali are testing the Kigali Wireless Broadband (Wibro)", adding, "Construction has currently reached all Rwandan borders."

  • Safaricom has set in motion plans to acquire more Internet firms as it races to reduce its reliance on the voice market. The firm has seen the bedrock of its business -- voice traffic that accounts for nearly 80 per cent of its revenues -- shaken by price wars, and is now looking at data to maintain profitability.

    In the acquisitions, Safaricom seeks to gain access of crucial wireless Internet frequencies at a time when the industry is faced with a shortage. "We are actively scouting for more WiMax frequencies in order to underpin our leadership in this area. Acquisition of existing operators has become a favoured strategy as there have been challenges getting these independently," said Michael Joseph, the CEO of Safaricom.

    "When we identify any other acquisition target, we shall disclose as required of us and in a tone and manner befitting our status as a listed company," added Joseph.
    The announcement comes days after the firm received regulatory approvals to buy two data operators -- Instaconnect and IGO Wireless, a WiMax operator.

    This brings to three the number of WiMax operators under its belt after it acquired One Communication and Packet Stream Data Networks. But Joseph said Safaricom's WiMax frequencies were not adequate to support its wireless internet and data strategy to penetrate the lucrative corporate internet market that has remained in the hands of Telkom Kenya, Access Kenya, and Kenya Data Networks.

    Industry regulator Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) said it had licensed 18 companies to hold WiMax frequencies, including the three that have been acquired by Safaricom. Other firms that posses the bulk of these frequencies are Kenya Data Networks, Wananchi Online, UUNET and AccessKenya. Analysts say that these firms are unlikely to appear on Safaricom's radar.

    This means that the company is likely to acquire smaller players who are not using their frequencies to full capacity. Already, the firm has created a new department -- Strategy and New Business Development -- whose brief includes scouring for buyout opportunities, mostly in the data market, which underlines its intention to grow the data business to help cushion the firm against value erosion in the cut-throat voice segment.

    Daily Nation
  • Sentech is reviving its telecommunications wireless business with the roll-out of a new network that will cost up to R2bn, with only 25% of that being funded by taxpayers. The state-owned signal distributor failed dismally in the broadband market with its MyWireless product, which cost millions of rands before it was cancelled.

    Sentech chairman Quraysh Patel said last week that the company set aside R500m two years ago for a broadband wireless network, but it failed to take off initially because of a poor business plan.

    The latest project is part of Sentech's new strategy that will see it exit struggling businesses such as Vivid, a satellite digital decoder that airs retail in-house radio stations and SABC stations in areas where there is no signal.

    Sentech will focus on providing network connectivity, including broadcasting signals.
    The new wireless network will be based on WiMAX technology, giving it wider coverage. The company already has the radio frequency spectrum needed for the technology. Patel said Sentech has the most "coveted licences" .

    Sentech's plan is to partner with provincial governments and municipalities, which would buy capacity and sell to consumers. The income will cover the rest of the R2bn, Patel said. He said the network roll-out will depend on the needs of the provinces, but the primary focus will be on underserved areas.

    Patel said the strategy is to reduce the cost of communications. "We want to bridge the digital divide. This requires low prices for consumers. The municipalities will have to guarantee certain price levels to consumers. I am confident that our plan will work. We are not going to retail, we are in the wholesale market targeting a specific market."

    Patel took over at Sentech in April to turn around the ailing entity. The new board was forced to intervene in its day-to-day operations and Sentech's financial position has since stabilised, with cash resources of R232m for the six months to September. Patel expects the company to be profitable at the end of its financial year, in March.

    Business Day
  • - Last week Africom officially unveiled its paid mobile broadband services through adverts in the press and an email sent today to subscribers using the services for the one month free bandwidth promotion. The email basically tells subscribers to pay by 23 October or get disconnected. Only the MiChoice package has been launched so far. The package offering is US $15 for 1GB data. In comparison to what the Zimbabwe telecoms giant, Econet, is charging for 1GB (US $98), Africom’s price is by far a preferable alternative.

    - State-owned Internet infrastructure provider Broadband Infraco will launch in the third week of November, offering wholesale access to its network. Infraco CEO Dave Smith says the company’s first phase has involved developing metropolitan access networks that the commercial Internet providers can use to bring services to their customers. Smith says that over the coming financial year the company will complete the last few pieces of its national network, meshing together some of the more popular routes.

    - Vodafone Ghana has so far set up ten ultra-modern retail shops across the country with the aim of reaching out to its customers with a one stop solution to their communication needs. The shops offer customers what is described as “a serene environment”, a broader selection of merchandise from the company's range of Mobile phones, BlackBerry phones, Broadband, Fixed Lines, Africa's fastest Internet cafes, as well as a cash desk for bill payments all in one location. This sets them apart from competition as the only operator that offers consumers, one place that they can get complete communication solution.

    - South Africa’s neglect of access networks for providing broadband connectivity has resulted in the country slipping in a world quality broadband ranking study conducted by Oxford University with US networking company Cisco. It’s the third study by the university, which shows South Africa ranked 42nd in the world and slipping almost 10 places in two years.

computing

  • President Goodluck Jonathan launched the University of Nigeria’s (UNN) N3.8 billion digital wireless infrastructure project during his visit to the university on last Thursday. The project is expected to provide international and local Internet bandwidth; optical fibre network and cabling; data centre and network operating centre as hub for management of the system and an ICT Resource Centre.

    Briefing journalists on the programmes lined up for the 50th Anniversary of UNN in Enugu yesterday, Vice Chancellor Professor Okolo said that the internet project would enable the introduction of a Global Classroom that replaces blackboards with white boards and other Internet-interfaced teaching tools, ensure international diversity from increasing numbers of international faculty and students, and enhance the reputation of the institution through higher numbers of PhDs and higher degrees awarded.

    The commissioning of the ICT Infrastructure Programme by the president is a highlight of the 50th anniversary celebration of the university on October 7, the VC said.

    According to Professor Okolo, the UNN ICT project would enable the institution further its internationalisation efforts to become a global centre of learning, adding that the project is "special" because "it is the first large-scale implementation in Africa of a university-specific Internet connectivity and ICT infrastructure to enable research and learning.

    "It is also the first time that Google Inc, the multinational public cloud computing, Internet search and advertising technologies corporation, is launching forth with its University Access Programme to support and promote e-learning in Africa," he said.

    The 50-year old institution runs diverse programmes in arts and sciences featuring 15 faculties, 105 departments, a college of medicine, postgraduate school, and 11 institutes/centres. It has a student body of 40, 000 in four campuses of Nsukka, Enugu, Ituku Ozalla, and Aba.

    Vanguard
  • Uganda's Parliament has passed into law the electronic transactions and electronic signature bills that will improve the regulations for security of electronic transactions and devices. Until now, Ugandans have been engaged in online transactions have been at the mercy of the other seller is something goes wrong. Also, the incidence of online fraud committed by Ugandans defrauding other unsuspecting Ugandans is on the rise and the new pieces of legislation be used to check that.

    The electronic transactions and electronic signatures bills provide legal regulations for the use of electronic signatures, and criminalize unauthorized access. "There is now going to be legal recognition for some of the things we already do electronically," James Wire, a technology consultant said. "People have been transacting on the mercy of the laws of other countries, but such transactions will now be recognized by the laws of Uganda."

    Wire said one can now sign a document electronically and it is recognized by the Uganda judicial system, which has not been the case. This he said will give especially foreign investors confidence to do things electronically in Uganda.

    Information and Communication Technology (ICT) State Minister, Alintuma Nsambu told Parliament the day before the laws were passed that advancements in information technology require a conducive and enabling environment for the users and beneficiaries.He said the national information and communication technology policies need revision following the adoption of information technology in consumer purchases, mass marketing, financial transactions and government services.

    The two cyber laws provide tough penalties for offenders. Companies and individuals involved in cyber crime may be de-licensed and if charged in court risk serving up to three years in prison. However, the Computer Misuse Bill still remains before parliament. It is not yet clear why this particular piece of legislation was not passed.

    The purpose of these laws is to guide and regulate the ICT sector so as to create a level ground and condusive environment for doing business using electronic means. Examples include consumer purchases online, mass marketing, financial transactions, online information, entertainment and government services.

    Draft bills for the three were developed by the Uganda Law Reform Commission while another law; the Securities and Central Depositories Bill was developed by the Uganda Ministry of Finance. The five member states of the East African Community (EAC) are also coordinating efforts to harmonise and pass cyber crime laws that would be effective across the five countries. A common information security policy on cyber crime formulated by East African countries will serve as a foundation for new laws.

    When passed, the new laws will allow member countries to prosecute cyber criminals despite where the crime was committed within EAC region. However, progress has been slow in all the five countries but the fact Uganda has passed these laws should give traction to the process.

    Harmonizing cyber laws among the partner states (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda) will strengthen their regional integration and support the implementation of the e-government program initiated by the EAC secretariat in 2005.

  • The Ministry of Finance has taken another giant step to modernize its tax administration and revenue-generating schemes after officials formally launched the Ministry's Revenue Department website Friday (Oct. 15). The website (www.revenue.gov.lr) provides a one-stop-shop for information about the Revenue Department of the Ministry of Finance.

    Launching the website, Deputy Finance Minister for Revenue Elfrieda Stewart Tamba said with just one click, visitors will have at their disposal a wide range of information including customs clearance processes and procedures, requirements and procedures for Duty Free tax information and other tax education and procedures for the payment of all tax kinds. "You can also read the Revenue Code of 2000 and be informed on the legal basis for taxation as well as day-to-day operations of the Department of Revenue," she said.

    Minister Tamba also applauded the launch of the Integrated Tax Administration Services (ITAS), which will automate tax administration processes. The Deputy Minister said in the current modern age, Liberia cannot afford to stay behind, while other nations are transforming their ways of doing things.

    She said the revenue website will enable people (in and out of the country) quickly and easily get information about revenue and tax administrations without necessarily going to the Ministry of Finance.

    She described the two modern programs as a giant leap forward in transforming the Ministry of Finance, and hailed those who have worked to make the programs a success. ITAS or the Integrated Tax Administration System will automate Tax administration processes, according to officials.

    The program covers all aspects of tax administration including Tax payers' registration, declaration, processing, assessments, enforcement, penalties and interests calculations, audit, refunds and revenue accounting, among others, in one integrated system, Marc Kamel, Vice President of Tax Reform and Modernization of CRC Sogema, an international reform partner of the Ministry said. He said the program which is very effective is being used in several countries globally and about six countries in Africa.

    The system is user friendly, secured and will manage processes of tax administration in a single centralized system and database. The eTax module is designed to reduce the cost of compliance to tax payers and improve the level of services provided by the Revenue Department to taxpayers while enhancing communication between taxpayers and the Revenue Department, Kamel explained.

    "It is an integrated solution; it is a holistic and sustainable approach to generating revenue and will greatly helps Liberia," added Etienne Poulin, an executive of CRC Sogema.

    The Informer
  • - The race for Kenya's video conference market is on as infrastructure and software vendors position themselves to tap into the market with niche specific products, a move that is set to boost their uptake. Video conferencing enables companies and institutions to save on travel, accommodation, allowance costs, and time spent moving.More than six companies, including Kenya Data Networks, UUNET, Telkom Kenya, and Cisco, have unveiled the service that is gradually taking a foothold in Kenya.The latest is Information Convergence Technologies Ltd (ICT), a local ICT company that teamed up with an Indian firm this week to provide video conferencing facilities to institutions of higher learning dubbed Virtual Classroom Solution.VMukti connects learners with educators, allowing continuous interaction and feedback on bandwidth as low as 150kbps for Sh800 per site.Other applications use Sh360,000 per site for entry level and bandwidth costs.

    - The World Federation of Engineering Organisations (WFEO) in collaboration with the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), has commenced programmes aimed at training women in the use of Information and Communication Technology.44 female primary school teachers in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) were the first beneficiaries of the programme.

    - Luanda — The world producer of information technology products HP inaugurated a sales centre, in Luanda, to increase the level of excellence while attending their clients, in a partnership with company NCR. The competitive market is the reason for the installation of HP official shop in the national market.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Nigeria's robust mobile telecommunications market (GSM network) has obscured the urgent need for a fixed line broadband network that can provide stable, high speed, high quality and low cost connectivity.

    The lack of such a network means services such as 'Point of Sale' terminals for credit card transaction are barely operational and where they are found, they are running on unstable wireless technology. In addition to restricted services and poor quality, consumers are paying top rate call fees via the GSM networks that could be reduced by 60% if carried on both local and international fixed lines.

    Nigeria-based Voix Networks Limited, an information and communication technology products and services provider, is one company that is taking full advantage of the existing gap and aims to become the leading fixed line telecommunications operator in the country.

    In 2007, Voix Networks acquired a Private Network Lease (PNL) licence, which allowed it to deploy a network of fixed telephone lines in the capital city Abuja and the six neighbouring states. The 1st stage of the network, built at a cost $50-million, went live in May 2010. The network covers 125 sq kms of fibre optic around central Abuja and encompasses an initial target client market of 50,000 subscribers. The company's clients include: shop owners within major shopping malls, complexes and local markets, major hotels, private residences, security estates and compounds, as well as embassies.

    Voix Networks is now aggressively marketing the services and expects to have secured over 50,000 clients in the next 6 months.

    Investment opportunity
    Voix Networks is looking for financial partners and investors to maximize its strategic advantage. The company is seeking to raise up to $50-million in tranches over the next 12 months 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.

    Type of investment: Debt and equity finance options will be considered.

    Key services
    A fixed line broadband network offers clients a range of core and value-added services. Principally these include voice, data and video services such as standard telephone calls, fax services and e-commerce services such as Point of Sale (POS) terminals that allow merchants to take electronic payments for goods. They also allow a range of other demand services such as hosted call centres, enterprise solutions for businesses, banks and hotels and emergency response networks.

    Financial summary
    As a fully fledged operator of a fixed line broadband network, Voix enjoys strong long term revenue streams. In addition to an initial connection charge of $90 per line, average monthly revenue per user fees are expected to be at least N2000 ($15) per month for core services alone. This means that the current deployed network which has a 500,000 line capacity can generate annual revenues of over $100m from just these core services.

    Key management
    Emeka Onyeama, 43, is Voix Network's founder and majority shareholder. Emeka is a telecommunications engineer and is widely regarded as one of Nigeria's most experienced players in West Africa's telecommunications industry. Voix launched in the VOIP market in 2001 and quickly became one of the industry leaders. Emeka then identified the huge potential for a fixed line network and the lack of credible existing operators.

  • Communications group MTN says its Zakhele Offer to the Black public to subscribe for approximately R1,6 billion worth of shares was oversubscribed more than 1.7 times. The offer raised approximately R2.8 billion from more than 124,000 applicants from across South Africa. In an online statement, MTN says the majority of the applications were received in the last few days and the smooth running of the process bears testament to the South African Post Office collection process.

    More than 95% of applications received from individuals rather than groups of institutions. The goal of MTN was to create a truly broad-based empowerment transaction that would allow ordinary qualifying South Africans to become shareholders in MTN (through MTN Zakhele)," said MTN Group President and CEO, Phuthuma Nhleko.

    "The success of the MTN Zakhele Offer has been overwhelming and represents the first step by qualifying South Africans towards building their future with MTN Zakhele Shares," he said.

    Since the closing of the offer MTN has begun a process of reconciliation to ensure that due process is followed during the finalisation of all applications.

    MTN says where the full application cannot be met, the applicant will receive a refund of the relevant amount by electronic funds transfer back into the applicant's specified transactional bank account with interest calculated from the closing date of 14 October 2010, as soon as practicable after finalisation of the allocation process.

    If you're successful, MTN Zakhele will send all new shareholders a "welcome pack" that will contain a specific share allocation notice, as well as information relating to MTN Zakhele, rights and responsibilities as new shareholders, and other important administrative information.

    Business Day
  • Privately held telecommunications company iBurst is investing more than R100m in a fibre-optic communications network in Gauteng to help it better address the corporate market and grow its retail consumer subscriber base.

    The company is leasing capacity on Dark Fibre Africa’s network, creating a 25Gbit/s fibre ring linking its data centre in Gallo Manor, north of Johannesburg, to a backup facility it’s built in Midrand.

    It’s also leasing access to fibre — at speeds of 20Gbit/s — linking Sandton, Midrand and Johannesburg central business district with the West Rand and the East Rand. In total, it has access to more than 180km of fibre in the province.

    iBurst executive committee member Mike Brown, who heads up iBurst sister company Broadlink, says the deal gives the company access to one of the largest fibre networks in Gauteng. “This gives us ample capacity for scalability in the future to grow our broadband base,” Brown says. The network investment is being funded through operational cash flow and is not being financed through debt.

    iBurst technical director Sasan Parvin says the company is replacing much of its wireless backhaul network in Gauteng — it has used microwave exclusively until now — with fibre. This means many of its base stations will be connected using fibre rather than wirelessly.

    This, Parvin explains, will free up microwave spectrum, allowing iBurst to expand its coverage at the periphery of its existing access network. “We are planning to grow and expand the perimeter of the network,” he says.

    iBurst has “just shy of” 80,000 retail subscribers, and wants to grow this to about 100,000 now that it’s overcoming the high-profile problems it’s had with its billing system. The billing problems caused widespread dissatisfaction among its users, prompting some to cancel their contracts.

    The real growth, though, will come from the corporate market, where iBurst is hoping to provide fibre access directly into corporate premises. It has already signed contracts with two big companies — Momentum and Imperial Group — and Brown denies that the resignation over the past year of several senior iBurst Business staff to join new business Arc Telecoms has undermined its ability to serve the corporate market.

    Tech Central
  • Datatec’s plans to bolster its African operations suffered a setback on Friday when Mustek 's board rejected its R101m offer to buy Comztek Holdings. Mustek, which owns 41.84% of Comztek, said its board considered the offer and "unanimously resolved to reject" it. Last month, Datatec offered R97m for Comztek and last week added R4m after completing due diligence.

    Datatec planned to incorporate Comztek's operations in Africa into its technology distribution unit Weston SA's business to create a strategically significant player across the countries where both companies operate. Contributions from Datatec's Africa operations are minuscule and the group is aggressively looking for opportunities to bulk up its businesses.

    Comztek is a distributor of networking, security and other hardware and software products. It has offices in Zambia, Namibia and Kenya. It distributes products from vendors including 3Com, Adobe, Microsoft and Symantec, and supplies the products to retail outlets. Datatec said last weeky the offer had lapsed and it will not pursue it.

    Mustek MD Hein Engelbrecht said that Comztek was a strategic fit to Mustek's growth plans. "Comztek is the envy of many local companies. There are growth opportunities that it has identified and we believe that it is well positioned to take advantage of those new opportunities," he said. Engelbrecht expected demand for storage, security and network products to increase. He said Comztek will exploit opportunities in cloud computing, but no acquisitions had been planned.

    Comztek reported revenue of R394.9m for the year to June and profit after tax of R79.1m. Mustek's total revenue for the period was R3.,4bn. Last month it bought South African-based Biodata to grow its local networking, convergence and security distribution business.

    Datatec CEO Jens Montanana said last week Comztek's acquisition could "create regional leadership position for Westcon in Africa". However, it will continue pursuing acquisitions in Asia, Latin America and Africa. The company has been targeting acquisitions in emerging markets to enhance margins, facilitate consolidation in proven markets and to extend its geographical reach. It is interested in small to medium enterprises such as unified communications and software security.

    Datatec's emerging markets segment - Africa, India and the Middle East - represents 7% of group revenue of R2.13bn in the six months to August. Last week, Datatec reported a 37% rise in first-half underlying earnings per share to 0.158c, helped by the strengthening recovery and robust top-line growth in the US, its largest market, and continued growth in emerging markets.

    Business Day
  • - Johannesburg — Vodacom said earnings per share and headline earnings per share for the six months to September will rise to between 285c and 307c.Vodacom said that earnings per share and headline earnings per share for the six months to September will rise to between 285c and 307c. This is a sizeable turnaround from earnings per share of 4c last year, following big losses at Gateway Communications.
    Vodacom took a large hit from an overpriced acquisition of Gateway last year. Its net profit tumbled 98% for the six months to R59m on revenue that was up almost 10% from R26bn to R28.6bn.The 700m acquisition of voice and data carrier Gateway was revalued to about half its original worth, incurring an impairment charge of R3.2bn. In the three moths to June, revenue from international operations including Lesotho, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania dropped 14.5% to R1.9bn. The international segment revenue was restated to include Gateway's R709m in the quarter. The company's total revenue for the three months to June was R14.4bn.
    Vodacom faces several regulatory issues including new interconnection rates that have already dragged down revenue. The reduction of the interconnection rates from R1.25 to 89c had a negative effect of about R393m on revenue in the quarter to June.
    Vodacom's share price yesterday gained 25c to close at R67.90.

    - Morocco's government has scrapped its proposed sale of an 8% stake in incumbent telco Maroc Telecom. The sale of Maroc Telecom was abandoned. It does not figure in the draft budget text for next year. The state had previously slated a sale of part of its 30% stake in the fixed line, mobile and broadband operator for sometime in 2011.

    - Dimension Data will suspend trade of its shares on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange on Tuesday. The suspension comes as the group prepares to be bought out by Japan’s Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) Corp for R24,4bn in cash.The deal was first announced in mid-July and the two groups have since received all the relevant regulatory approvals from around the world. Didata’s London listing will be business-as-usual until the group officially delists from both exchanges.

    - Nairobi — The growth of East Africa's financial sector is anchored on mobile commerce platforms that have witnessed demand from customers.According to Citibank CEO in-charge of Global Transaction Services Francesco Vanni d'Archirafi, the region needs, therefore, to invest in relevant technologies .This will help in leveraging customer needs that today transcends physical boundaries in Africa and across the globe."Digitisation of money and information is one of the most important trends for financial institutions," said Mr Vanni d'Archirafi. The deal will see Citi offer financial inter-mediation services to Bharti as well as collections and payment solutions to customers of Citi and Bharti through Zain's money transfer platform zap."As a bank we are still open to deal with more providers to scale up on this product," said Ade Ayeyemi Citibank Kenya managing director.

    - Botswana’s Public Enterprises Evaluation and Privatisation Agency (PEEPA) has said that an initial public offering (IPO) for fixed line incumbent Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) is likely to take place after the end of the operator’s financial year in March 2011. Local news source Mmegi Online reports that a 49% stake in BTC will be sold to investors and BTC employees, while the government will retain the remaining 51%.

Digital Content

  • Kano — The Kano territory of the Nigeria Postal Service (NIPOST) has introduced a new value-added service called Home delivery and VSAT services in major post offices in the state, with a view to adding value to the services rendered to their subscribers.

    Speaking to newsmen in Kano, the Area Postal Manager of Kano Territory, Malam Mohammed Yakubu Mahuta, said the service affords public the opportunity to receive mail items at their convenient locations.

    The manager also disclosed that ICT facility, VSAT, and computers were installed in the General Post office, Gyadi-Gyadi, Sabon Gari, BUK, Minjibir, Wudil and Gezawa post offices.

    According to Mahuta, the installation of the ICT facility was aimed at automating the post office operations toward accessing services like Track and Trace of EMS/Speed Post, parcels, registered letters, among others.

    Daily Trust
  • Justice administration within the Federal Capital Territory has assumed a new dimension as FCT Judiciary said last week that it had put in place plans to commence electronic-Court system from January 2011.

    The Chief Judge of FCT, Justice Lawal H. Gummi, who made this disclosure while commissioning a new high court and family court complex at Apo, a suburb in Abuja yesterday, said the system would make it possible for litigants outside the country to file and monitor the progress of their cases via the internet.

    Describing the e-court initiative as a novelty, Justice Gummi maintained that the system would further enhance justice delivery in the country, stressing that the computerized legal method was inline with international best practices. According to Gummi, "judges from 2011 will be assigned to hear cases filed electronically and also determine same through the e-court system."

    Under this system, which is already practiced in countries like Malaysia, litigants can institute their case even from outside the country, select their counsels online, monitor the progress of the case from inception to judgment and a certified true copy made available to them within 24 hours.

    "This is why we have commenced serious ICT-compliant training scheme for Judges, court registrars and clerks in the FCT judiciary in order to keep them abreast with what the online litigation method entails.

    "The automation and computerization of the court process will improve transparency and ensure proper documentation of cases because both audio and video recordings of court proceedings will be saved in digital formats and stored in hard disks" he added.

    The CJ further disclosed that I-pads, law pavilion software with decided Supreme Court cases, and configured laptops, were hitherto distributed to High court Judges, Magistrates, Area Court Judges and Heads of Departments in the FCT judiciary, adding that plans to install an e-library that is connected to the Library of Congress in the United States, was currently on the way.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Nairobi — Safaricom has cut its international calling rates by nearly 90 per cent in an effort to defend its market share after its rivals made similar reductions in a move that looks set to further pile pressure on its profitability. Kenya's largest mobile telephony operator reduced its international call tariffs to Sh3 a minute from Sh25 for calls headed to USA, China and India, putting it at par with rivals Zain, Orange and YU.

    - The number of mobile phone users in Ghana, has been predicted to reach 70% of the country's total population of about 23 million.

More

  • - Amith Maharaj, just 36 years old, has chosen to lead its new mobile network,8ta. He joined Telkom from Vodacom in 2008 to spearhead the traditionally fixed-line operator’s move into the mobile market.

    - Mamodupi Mohlala, the former director-general of communications, has been chosen by Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies to head the new National Consumer Commission.

    - Cell C CEO Lars Reichelt has used a full-page advertisement in Sunday’s City Press newspaper to apologise for “confusion I may have caused” with the company’s controversial “4Gs” branding.

  • Mobile Roaming World Summit
    25-27th October 2010, Hyatt Regency London, United Kingdom
    Maximising Roaming Revenues Through LTE, Data & Hubbing.
    This year we are delighted to bring you two days packed full of opportunities to learn, question and discuss the current burning issues of the  day. Join our regulation focus day to hear about the latest EU regulations and  what is still to come; learn from TeliaSonera's experiences about LTE  implementation; join your peers in working groups
    to discuss innovative tariff  restructuring; debate methods of improving QoS, including GSMA's Global Roaming  Quality Initiative; and discover ways to improve revenue assurance in  Syniverse's post-event workshop.
    Visit www.roamingconference.com or email ITMevents@informa.com for more
    information.  Furthermore we're offering FREE OPERATOR PASSES - email
    Mubenah.khan@informa.com for further information.

    North Africa COM
    26-27 October 2010, Cairo, Egypt
    The 5th annual North Africa Com is the ONLY event focused on the whole of North Africa. Incorporating 35+ speakers including  20 operators, attendees will learn from and network with the who's who of North African telecoms. Join 600+ telco professionals from around North Africa in the brand new, more central location The Semiramis Intercontinental - for 2 days of congress sessions & networking.  What 's more, you can view & try all the latest technologies and products at the 40+ stand exhibition located alongside the conference.  Attendance is FREE for all regional operators! For further information visit www.comworldseries.com/nafrica

    G- South Africa
    8-9 November 2010, Cape Town, South Africa
    Google is inviting Computer Science students, developers and entrepreneurs to G-South Africa. Some of  Google’s best engineers, product managers, business managers and leadership will  be speaking about Google’s open web and mobile technologies.
    For further information visit http://sitescontent.google.com/gsouthafrica/

    ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN 2010 - Learning for All
    1-3 December, Berlin, Germany
    Under the banner of Learning for All, ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN 2010 will dig deep into 4 themes that form the pillars of innovation: Learning Content, Learning About Learning, Learning Ecosystems and Learning Environments, which will contribute to successful learning outcomes in the three learning domains: Institutional Learning, Workplace Learning and Lifelong Learning.
    For further information visit www.online-educa.com

    2010 Euro-Africa Week on ICT Research & e-Infrastructures
    7-8 December 2010. 7-8, Helsinki, Finland
    The “3rd Euro-Africa Cooperation Forum on ICT Research” will be an event filled with discussions and debates, networking opportunities and knowledge sharing among key stakeholders in the field and policymakers coming from all over Europe and Africa. This Conference represents definitely a unique opportunity for all parties interested in the ICT domain to increase the visibility and impact of their activities, to network and expand their knowledge.
    For further information visit http://euroafrica-ict.org/2010/05/10/2010-euro-africa-week-on-ict-resear...

    ICT Finance Emerging Markets Global Summit 2010
    6-7th December 2010, London UK, BIS Conference Centre
    The ICT Finance Emerging Markets Global Summit 2010 takes place at a critical time of opportunity for the world’s growth markets. In joining forces, The Commonwealth Telecom Organisation and BroadGroup TMT Ventures, will launch this compelling content and networking rich platform uniquely connecting key players from government and operator organizations in emerging markets with investors, financiers and professional advisors.
For further info, please visit the event website: http://www.tmtfinance.com/cto/ict/Default.aspx or email events@cto.int.

    5th Africa Economic Forum 2011
    7-9 March 2011, Location Cape Town, South Africa Venue BMW Pavilion, V&A Waterfront
    Contact: babette@glopac.com http://www.petro21.com/events/?id=578
    Our 5th Africa Economic Forum 2011 (AEF-2011) in Cape Town at the BMW-Imax Theatre, with Africa Exhibition, over 7-9th March 2011, is a landmark Conference on Africa and significant business networking occasion for the top corporate players active in, across and involved with the development of the African continent - Cape-to-Cairo, with Governments and officials in key industries and state institutions.

    ICT For Development in Africa – Sustaining The Momentum, Extending The Reach
    23-26 March 2011, Ota, Nigeria
    The conference will initiate research and practice agenda where ICTs will aid the academia, organizations - public and private and non-governmental to improve socio-economic conditions and directly benefit the disadvantaged in some manner.
    For further information visit http://www.ictforafrica.org/

    eLearning Africa 2011 - Spotlight on Youth, Skills and Employability
    25-27 May 2011, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
    The 6th event in the series of pan-African conferences and exhibitions will focus on Africa's youth. Africa has the highest percentage of young people anywhere in the world. How can it unlock the vast reservoir of talent? How can technology support education and training?
    For further information visit www.elearning-africa.com

  • IT Systems Engineers - South Afrca
    A leading IT client is looking for a Systems Engineer to join their dynamic team. Education: CCNA and MCP or MCSE certification and solid experience in Novell.
    We need your CCNA and MCP or MCSE certification. A certificate in Project Management/experience in project management. As well Sound knowledge in compiling high level reports for publication and/or “Executive Summaries”.
    Having to following skills and knowledge will make you an excellent candidate: Proactive and independent worker, Focused critical thinker as opposed to analytical, Accuracy, Good knowledge of MS Word, MS Excel, MS Project and MS Visio.
    The purpose of this role is to own global as well as specifically assigned service areas in terms of support, administration, maintenance in context of Change, Configuration, Release, Availability, Capacity, Continuity, Incident and Problem management. You also need to be able to adapt to clients work culture. This position requires traveling to clients there for a valid driver’s license and your own transport is required.
    To apply please email your full CV to joanne@1st.co.za

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