Issue no 536 7th January 2011

top story

  • 2011 is the year that broadband will finally come into its own for Africa’s long-starved Internet users. Operators will need to have a complete mind-shift if they are to come out on top of the new market and it offers interesting opportunities for insurgent challengers. Russell Southwood looks at what operators will need to do to succeed in a changing market.

    In almost every country connected to an international fibre connection in Africa in 2010, the speed of the connection increased and prices fell. Our own personal experiences from travelling extensively across the continent confirm what we know from the data that comes to us from other sources. Ookla’s latest Net Index statistics which shows which ISPs in South Africa give the best broadband speeds gives the clearest sense of this shift. According to the results from 184,442 Speedtest.net tests between 14 November 2010 and 13 December 2010, Cell C is the best service provider with an average download speed of 4.62 Mbps. Web Africa is second with 2.81 Mbps and Telkom third with 2.54 Mbps. Mybroadband.co.za has published a table with the top ISPs. To access it click here  2-4 mbps download speeds? Who would have believed that five years ago?

    Almost as interestingly, Main One has been running a test site offering free, high capacity bandwidth in the Palms Shopping Mall in Lagos’ Lekki district which is operational until 9 January. According to a blog by Olunyi Ajao who went to try it:” I was more excited with the potential speed, than it being a freebie. You see, Main One is a submarine cable system that carries gigabytes of data from Europe to West Africa and so, I expected their connectivity (without going through MTN or another ISPs that use them) to be an extreme experience. In plain English, Main One is an ISP’s ISP. So, I went to the mall with very high expectations”.

    “The speed met my expectations. I commenced downloading all the stuff I had always differed…. I was able to download content at a steady speed of 2 MB/s (with two other downloads in progress) on Main One’s wi-fi but the maximum (unsteady) speed I can get downloading via MTN’s 3.5G service is about 0.48 MB/s”.

    “Just to be triple sure, I initiated a video call to a friend in Malaysia via Skype. Though we could not talk much due to the noise around me, he confirmed the video was very smooth. Youtube videos (including HD versions) streamed smoothly for me today”.

    His main irritation?:”My Blackberry and (later) my Nokia 5800 XM could not detect MainOne’s wi-fi signal. Consequently, I could not experience the broadband on my smartphones. I was initially able to download some a podcast on the 5800 XM but that started failing after I upgraded the Operating System on the smartphone.The connection went off every hour or there about, and I had to always reconnect via my browser. I reckon this was their lame method of enforcing their “2 hour limit”.

    Nevertheless, he concluded “the speed was worth the trouble”. And his not too startling conclusion?:”The ISPs necessarily need to invest in better last mile technologies or improve their existing networks so consumers can enjoy the real broadband that is possible via MainOne. I know of Mobitel‘s 4G and Swift‘s WiMax but both have limited coverage”. For the full blog click here

    So now the moment has arrived for broadband Internet in Africa, all operators need to get focused on selling it to individual consumers. For if they don’t, there will be an awful lot of unsold international bandwidth on their balance sheets for years to come.

    Currently, there are three broad types of operators who are in this market: firstly, Africa’s traditional independent ISPs who have lived largely on corporate subscribers and a small number of wealthy individual; the mobile operators who have come in and expanded the market with mobile Internet; and alternative insurgent challengers like Wananchi with its Zuku brand. The African consumer broadband market is still just being born so no-one has yet got a full grip on the market. Consumers are fickle and go where price and bandwidth seem most advantageous.

    In the interests of creating a strong and vibrant African broadband consumer market, here are our seven tips on making this market work:

    1. Be honest and straightforward

    When it’s not price wars (which are easy to understand), Africa’s operators seem to offer a baffling array of different tactical marketing offers. Using the techniques pioneered in selling voice, mobile operators offer their customers short-term, tactical financial advantage. The result? Customers game the system about as thoroughly as consumers anywhere in the world. If it’s cheaper at 3pm in the morning, they’ll be awake and using it. Privately, most operators will admit that this is no way to change their market share but seem obsessed by the monthly percentage changes tactical marketing brings.

    Operators have also sought to “slice-and-dice” the sale of their bandwidth capacity in so many different ways that it’s hard to know what you’re buying. How many Internet consumers know what a 4 Mb download capacity means? How do you know what you’re getting during a hour’s worth of Internet? What does unlimited subject to a “fair use” clause actually mean? Cyber-café and WiFi hot-spot operators continue to dilute bandwidth even though a great deal more is available at cheaper prices: old habits die hard. Take your profit while you can seems to be the unspoken mantra.

    The operator that is consistently honest and straightforward has every chance of winning this game. If you say to your customers, you have two choices, price and bandwidth speed: which do you want? For those budget customers, set a much higher provisioning (2 mbps as a minimum) but clearly indicate that this speed may be considerably less during busy periods. For those who need higher speeds, charge more and give them a demonstrably better service (perhaps 8 mbps as a minimum). Set up bandwidth speed comparison tests internally first and then allow your customers to use them. Use the information gathered to drive out bottlenecks at the national and local level.

    For the alternative insurgent challenger, there’s the perfect opportunity to arrive as “Honest John” amongst those who seem to speak less than straightforwardly. The challenger can be clear about what it’s offering and that it’s seeking to get all of its customers the best deal possible.

    2. Service – Making things work

    The mass broadband market in Africa needs to work on a “plug-and-play” basis. The household consumer needs to be able to open the box, plug in a limited number of cables and then follow the on-screen prompts to get things working. Household broadband needs to be cheap, well-supported and reliable equipment so that CPE costs are kept as low as possible.

    When things do go wrong, companies need to have service back-up that can deal quickly and efficiently with complaints. Companies need to analyse where breakdowns and other complaints occur and figure out ways of dealing with them as quickly as possible. They need to encourage user forums where customers can compare notes and find ways of overcoming some of the issues themselves.

    Two contradictory things are in play: firstly, in order to deliver the best broadband service at the cheapest price, it has to “get-up-and-go” at the cheapest possibly cost; secondly, consumers will become more demanding as speeds and performance increase. On the second, the absence of bandwidth suddenly seems like a “life-and-death” issue, not some minor irritation to be taken with the usual African patience when almost anything doesn’t work. So how to resolve these contradictory pressures? Educate users to pay for service contracts. At the bottom end, the amount charged will be very small but at the top end it will be much larger and contain time-based response clauses. Within this framework, be absolutely rigorous about providing friendly and response service.

    3. Branding, character and use

    When they took off, African mobile operators were selling aspiration. If you had a phone, you were somebody. Back then, it was all new but now there’s not an African city that doesn’t have billboards showing desirable young models smirking their way through conversations on mobile phones. With the introduction of mobile Internet, these same aspirational images have been simply transferred over. Can you tell the difference between the images used? OK, so the colours and the name are different but what else?

    Africa’s broadband Internet brands desperately need some “character”, something that will mark them out and make their customers smile and remember them. They need to be able to convey a different version of the aspiration message. There won’t be necessarily the same level of Internet users so the aspiration message has to be more finely honed.

    All the soft, aspirational branding constructs have to translate into “uses”. 99% of potential African broadband customers will not care about the technical attributes of the service, only what it can do for them. The young professional will want to put his social life together on Facebook. The parent will want to know that he or she can get education materials that will help their children in school. Grandmas will want to know how to access family photos on Flikr and use Skype to talk to their children. The taxi driver will want access to maps showing street locations, and so on. Too little broadband marketing translates into both selling these uses and identifying new uses to sell.

    4. Encouraging maximum use by offering maximum capacity

    The African operator that thinks it’s really smart starts by offering a broadband service at the highest price it can get away with and then slowly cascades the price down to a much level. The problem with this approach is that it fails to grasp that the overall market objective must be to create the largest possible “critical mass” of Internet users as quickly as possible.

    Unlike voice, where everyone wants to have access, selling broadband Internet is a much harder sell. It relies on getting the mass of current users (the young, educated) to persuade others (the old, educated; staff like child-minders and drivers) to use it as a primary means of communication.

    The strongest way to promote the largest “critical mass” is not by dealing it out in “penny packets” but by offering the maximum available capacity at prices that will encourage young and old to do the kind of things on the Internet that people do the world over: things like social media (Facebook, Facebook and Facebook), Twitter and You Tube are giving some idea of where things can go. If there were 1.7 million Nigerian Facebook users in August 2010, imagine how many more there will be in a year’s time.

    5. Expanding the potential market

    SMS is really just e-mail in budget clothes, the only difference is the character count and the ease of tee-ing up the browser. SMS-to-e-mail workarounds from companies like ForgetMeNot Africa show the potential for transition to full e-mail. And those that currently use SMS with some facility are all potentially on an upward escalator to a wider range of Internet services.

    If you imagine the current handset market as a pyramid, the broad base of the pyramid is made up of extremely basic handsets with very little functionality. At the top of the pyramid is a tiny sharp point representing smartphones and the next band down is feature-rich phones. In most markets, these will be barely 5% of the overall market.

    To expand the potential market, you need to expand the number of devices that can handle interesting Internet applications. You need to be offering ever-cheaper smartphones with the prize going to the first to offer one for US$50. You need to offer even cheaper feature-rich phones (with a i-Phone-style interface from someone like Snaptu) to the less well-off at below this price point. In this way, the existing basic phones in the market will shrink and the number of customers with Internet access will increase.

    6. Building the device pyramid

    The mobile is Africa’s tech device of choice and the one that reaches the maximum number of customers. But building an African broadband market requires operators to understand another pyramid.

    This second pyramid is about all the tech devices an African broadband consumer might own. The broad base of this pyramid is composed of feature-rich phones, followed further up by smart-phones. Then there are net-books, followed by tablets (like iPad) and at the top of the pyramid lap-tops and PCs.

    The challenge with this device ownership pyramid is the same as for the handset pyramid. Mobile phones that can access the Internet are a great thing but they have their limitations. Therefore how do you get all those people who might have access to a PC at work and/or have a feature rich phone to get some sort of wider PC usability? (The main barrier to greater use is size and use of keyboard functions but there are other issues.) Somewhere around the netbook/tablet area is a device that long-term may cost between US$75-100 that will broaden this part of the pyramid and give PC-like abilities to a much wider number of broadband users.

    For the ambition must be to create a world in which there is the ability to do things using broadband almost wherever you are: the bar, the home, the hotel and the school.

    7. Spreading everyday usage

    The lesson of the success of Facebook is obvious in hindsight. The average African professional organizing his or her social life on a Friday afternoon is the “human equivalent of Facebook”. So the insight is really a very obvious one for operators. They need to introduce apps and services that drive everyday use. These might come from elsewhere but in time there will be local variants. In places like India and Brazil, the local variants stamped out their own ground by not being in English. Watch for local variants and see whether they can be marketed successfully to create new, local social media.

    Think about the insights from something like M-Pesa, again so clear in hindsight but not when they were struggling to gain traction. It took something that was a major barrier (carrying and pay most things in cash) and challenged engrained habits. So look at other potential areas. What about finding your way round Africa’s cities? How many times have I witnessed the giving of directions that are of the “go past the third flower seller on the right” variety? Of course, there’s Google but how many people will use it? So somewhere between the “human Google” (phoning a friend or fellow taxi driver) and Google sits a much simpler app to help people find where they’re going.

    Operators need to keep coming up with ways to weave the Internet into everyday use so that it becomes as natural as….well, picking up your mobile to make a call.

    For more insights on the new Internet market, go to Balancing Act’s Web TV channel:click here

    Clips include:

    * Jessica Verrilli on Twitter’s African strategy.
    * Sean d’Arcy, Opera Software on the use of its mobile browser in Africa.
    * Reg Sawrt, Fundamo on M-Money Services
    * Herman Heunis on social networking with MXit
    * Jeremy George, COO, ForgetMeNot Africa on its SMS to e-mail service.

    There are 49 clips in both English and French that contain news and information that does not appear in our e-letter or on our web site.

telecoms

  • One person’s gain is another person’s loss. The lively price war amongst mobile operators in Nigeria has proved good news for consumers but is threatening to put a number of airtime resellers and call centre operators out of business.

    Checks by The Leadership’s reporter showed that many of the call centre operators and resellers have found their business has been badly affected, especially when Airtel lowered its tariffs by half allowing its customers to make calls across networks for only 20 kobo per second or N12 naira per minute.

    With the current trend, the traders lament that their sales had dropped by over 50 per cent, while saying that if the situation is not checked, most of them would soon close shop owing to losses.

    Michael Oyetade, a telephone operator in Ikeja told The Leadership that unlike in the past when subscribers preferred to come to them in order to make long calls, the reverse was the case throughout the holiday periods. He said it has even been more frustrating that the low tariffs have significantly extended the time consumers take before they are back to the shop for a top-up, thereby cutting trading volumes by large margins.

    Another dealer Bola said his usual customers are just not "topping up" as frequently as they used to, because any amount of airtime they buy now lasts longer than it used to. Ordinarily, mobile phone operators may have expected consumers to make longer calls or increase their spending on airtime after the tariff cuts, but, on the contrary, dealers say there are no signs of increased spending.

    A subscriber with Airtel, Johnson Babatunde told The Leadership’s reporter that he had the best Christmas and New Year holidays so far as the tariff slash afforded him the opportunity of calling as many more people. While subscribers of Airtel and Etisalat could now make calls for N12 and N15 per minute, business centers still charge their customers N20 per minute.

    Clearly, subscribers have never had it so good, but they would do well to spare a thought for struggling airtime traders. Meanwhile, there are whispers that the reduction in the tariff might not last long. Messages being sent to subscribers of Airtel showed that the reduction might end at the end of this month.

    In another development, industry experts say that people should not forget the fact that the rate slash promo by Airtel was just a ploy to win back many of its subscribers who seem to have lost confidence in the networks especially on account of its continued name changing.

    Leadership
  • The communications regulator stands firm by its November 2011 deadline for local loop unbundling (LLU). In the meantime Telkom continues to drag its feet and produce arguments designed to slow the process of introduction which even ICASA argues may take many years.

    However, the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) maintains the regulatory process for ensuring the LLU implementation will unfold during the course of 2011, through a full public consultation process, to iron out any “uncertainty”. The last mile, or local loop, is the copper or wireless link between the end-user and Telkom's network, and is currently owned by Telkom.

    The rationale behind LLU is to foster competition and reduce telecommunications costs by eliminating large investments by competitors to build their own infrastructure for last mile connectivity.

    Telkom, a key player in the process, argues that a number of regulatory issues need to be clarified before the unbundling can get under way. However, ICASA says it is aware of the issues raised by the incumbent and remains confident of the November deadline. The operator's main concern lies in the lack of clarification as to whether the local loop can be considered an essential facility.

    “Notwithstanding that the Electronic Communications (EC) Act includes local loops in the indicative list of potential essential facilities, it is arguable whether the local loop is indeed an essential facility,” argues the operator.

    “Specifically, the EC Act states an essential facility 'cannot feasibly be substituted' and it is Telkom's contention that a wireless local loop these days is more than a substitute for both voice and broadband communications,” argues Telkom. But ICASA says it is well aware of the ramifications around the definition of essential facilities vis-à-vis LLU and will address the issue in due course, in line with the set time frame.

    “What, however, is critical, from the point of view of the authority, is to ensure access to the LLU is facilitated. In any event, the local loop, as a facility, is already legally obliged under chapter eight of the EC Act.”

    Telkom also argued against the lack of clarification around how the authority would conduct and conclude a market review process for LLU. But ICASA explains it will explore the relevance to LLU of section 67 of the EC Act, in terms of significant market power and related numbers.

    While ICASA has renewed its commitment to ironing out the necessary regulations before November, senior Frost & Sullivan analyst Vitalis Ozianyi remains sceptical of the actual implementation of the regulations this year.

    Ozianyi maintains that, despite the issues raised by Telkom, it is possible the regulations concerning LLU will be in place this year still.

    However, he questions whether the regulations will have the necessary clarification to begin the implementation of LLU this year.

    ICASA councillor Thabo Makhakhe explains that, while the authority is committed to having resolved the regulatory issues, and the possible publication of LLU regulation before November, the actual unbundling process will take time.

    Makhakhe would not indicate how long the implementation would take, but stated it is a complicated process. He pointed to the 10-year period it took British Telecom to unbundle its local loop.

    ITWeb
  • The physical laying of the optic fibre cable, which includes civil works, laying of ducts and installation of the fibre is complete. This was revealed yesterday by Patrick Nyirishema,the Deputy Director of Rwanda Development Board (RDB) in charge of Information Technology, during an interview.

    "The work that has been completed also includes cross-border fibre installation at the Uganda and Tanzania borders," he said, adding that RDB's target was to complete this by December 31, which they did.

    The infrastructure will boost access to various broadband services including fast tracking government initiatives like e-Governance, e-Banking, e-Learning, e-Health, and other applications.

    Nyirishema stressed that, the installation of equipment in institutions that are directly connected to the optic fibre is ongoing and the entire network will be fully operational and commissioned by April this year.

    He noted that Kigali Metropolitan Network is operational where 72 government institutions have already been activated on the network and more will soon be added.

    The New Times
  • The article below is a statement from Ghana’s Ministry of Communications in response to the Dakar Declaration by francophone telecoms operators seeking to resist use of international call monitoring and the accompanying taxation.

    “The attention of the Ministry of Communications has been drawn to a statement issued by the West African Telecommunications Conference of telecom operators held in Dakar on 25th November 2010 concerning ‘government imposed taxes on incoming international traffic’. The statement was published in the Monday, December 13, 2010 edition of the Business and Financial Times, and lately it is being serialized in some of the national dailies.

    The conference sponsored and organized by France Telecom, was attended by Vodafone and some operators in an ostensible attempt to frustrate the regulation of the activities of the telecom operators in the wake of the increasing popularity of the success of anti-fraud activities being undertaken by the National Regulatory authorities.

    Indeed, the Declaration of the ITU Study Group 3 Regional Group for Africa meeting in Dakar held in March 2010 took notice of the unique network by multinational telecoms groups and called for special and indispensable steps to be taken by the African Regulatory Authorities to protect the interests of their states to guarantee the revenue optimization and its equitable distribution.

    The recommendations of the ITU Study Group-3 meeting, signed by the Regulators, acknowledged the necessity to set up “common platforms for the exchange of information in real time on the flow of traffic. This technological update is all the more important because it will serve to collect fees from the various players and to fight fraud – which is a scourge of the telecommunications sector – efficiently”.

    In the rush to discredit the exercise by Regulatory Authorities in Africa to establish mechanisms to protect the markets from dumping and anti-competitive practices and raise revenue for development, the Telecom Operators in their Statement made serious misrepresentations, for which reason it is necessary to throw more light on the international telecom operations.

    To begin with, the Ministry is satisfied that the regulation of the communications sector in Ghana is conducted in an open and transparent manner and this is in consonance with the transparent and democratic credentials of the Better Ghana Agenda of the Government.

    It is the existence of Ghana’s enabling legislation and the generous incentives provided by Government that have largely contributed to continual growth of the sector and which has attracted such global players as MTN (50% market share); Tigo (23%); Vodafone (15%); Bharti Airtel (10%); and Espresso (2%).

    The France Telecom-engineered conference has made an assumption that the tax on international traffic runs counter to the decision of the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference of 1998 that requires settlement fees to be cost based. This statement demonstrates a clear misunderstanding of the ITU. The protocols of a Plenipotentiary Conference also reserve the right of individual countries to set aside the provisions of the Conference where these conflict with sovereign interests of the particular country.

    Furthermore, there is a reference to a communiqué of a meeting of ICT Ministers in Bamako on 29th July 2010. This actually refers to a meeting of the UEMOA member countries. This is a francophone grouping that Ghana does not belong to.

    It is also strange that the discussion on the tax failed to recognize that the European countries (e.g. France, Spain, Hungary, and Portugal) have also instituted general telecommunications taxes to be managed by the Telecoms Regulators. In the last year for instance, special taxes have been introduced by European countries as a way to increase tax revenue in periods of large public deficits. Most relevant examples are:

    In France, Law 2009-259, of 5 March 2009, imposed on French telecom operators with revenue of more than 5 million euros a special tax of 0.9% of their total revenue from subscribers minus VAT for the financing of public broadcasting. The total amount expected to be raised is around €400 million a year.

    In Spain Law 8/2009 of 28 August 2009 imposed a special tax; Hungary instituted a special ‘crisis tax’ of 6.5% of gross revenue by the Act of Parliament in October 2010. Portugal has also made public a draft bill instituting a tax on total internet access revenue of 1.5% to finance local cinema production.

    Aside from these special taxes, the European countries also impose: General Telecom tax, Numbering tax; Spectrum tax; and Land occupation tax on operators for occupation of land for the deployment of their networks.

    It is pertinent to mention that during the ITU Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR) involving stakeholders from Government, telecom operators, equipment manufacturers, civil society, etc, held in Dakar on 9-10 November 2010, the Industry Leaders Forum that was held as a side-event of the GSR introduced the same issue of taxation on international telephone traffic and it was made clear that developing countries consider taxation as a vital source for revenue for, and should therefore be respected.

    With regard to the assertion that the tax increases the retail prices, it is pertinent to note that in Ghana, Act 786 specifically provides in section 1.3 that ‘a network operator shall not charge its customers for its services because of the minimum rate for international incoming electronic communication traffic’. It is therefore incumbent on the telecom operators to comply and ensure that no increase in retail prices will be made on account of the observance of the minimum rate for international incoming traffic to affect subscribers/consumers.

    The Ministry also wants to respectfully report that contrary to the charge that the tax will cause a reduction in incoming international traffic accompanied by a reduction in revenues and diminished fiscal receipts, the Ghana experience has witnessed significant increases in traffic through the legal international gateways bringing along buoyant revenues that some of the honest operators have attested to.

    Since the inception of the fraud watch exercise by the National Communications Authority, the numbers of fraud lines detected and reported to the Telecom Operators, on two-hourly periods, for immediate disconnection have averaged 918 fraud lines per month. A summary of the by-pass lines are presented as follows:  

    We are happy that the Anti-Fraud Task Force of the NCA that includes representation from the telecom operators together with the Security Services has so far made significant arrests of illegal terminators confiscating nearly 8,000 SIM cards of  Vodafone and Airtel. This has already reflected in the reduced figures for Vodafone and Airtel in November and December respectively.

    In addition to the detection of the fraud numbers, we also have as evidence of the fraud activities, the recent equipment seized by the National Security, which include:

    1 Cisco router 1800 series SN: FHK1243F4BM
    8 GSM Gateways: Each GSM Gateway processes 8 cards (each card can hold 4 simcards), 1 SVC port, 3 FE port, 1 COM port and 1 VGA port. GSM Gateway Manufacturer Type SN

    The equipment specifications are:
    1. HypermediaHG4040E6P90319
    2. HypermediaHG200020102
    3. HypermediaHG4032E6P90259
    4. HypermediaHG4032E6P90150
    5. HypermediaHG4040E6P90028
    6. HypermediaHG2000V20028
    7. HypermediaHG4040E6P90319EXT
    8. HypermediaHG4032E6P90470
    9. Antenna Combiner manufactured by Hypermedia which has 8 ports to connect each processing card of GSM GW and 2 ports to connect the antenna.

    With such evidence, is it not helpful for the NCA to establish how the fraudsters have been buying the large quantities of SIM cards and Scratch Cards and how some of these get to be registered by the telecom operators who continue to provide services for the use of the routers? Should it also not be possible to identify who the fraudsters buy the international traffic from so as to alert the telecom operators and prevent them from sending Ghana traffic through the unauthorized routes?

    For the first time in Ghana, the National Communications Authority is now in a position to assess the volumes of international incoming telephone traffic; this is the result of the implementation of the Gateway management exercise, and the improvement of its capacity to verify the authenticity of the Call Data Records being submitted by the operators.

    The Ministry will continue to support and encourage the National Communications Authority to pursue its ‘Call busting’ activities and help protect the Ghana telecoms market from the dumping effects of the illegal activities within the sector.

    Government of Ghana is committed to the implementation of the exercise and the compliance with the national laws will not be compromised.

    We believe that the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications, with full understanding of these circumstances, will not have rushed to endorse the Statement which for all intents and purposes will want to keep the retail margin in the USA and Europe between 50 cents and $1.50 while paying 10 cents on the average to the African carriers.

  • -The New Generation consortium has missed the deadline given it to pay for the Nigerian incumbent Nitel and its mobile subsidiary.

    - The Tanzania Regulatory Communications Authority (TRCA) has lowered mobile voice interconnection ceiling charges from USD0.0749 to USD0.0732, effective from January 2011, reports Tanzania Daily News. Although only a relatively minor reduction, it is hoped that the lowering of wholesale charges will translate to further decreases to retail off-net mobile call charges. The cost-based interconnection rates are set to glide to USD0.0716 in January 2012. The implementation started in January 2008 when the rate was USD0.0783.

    - Nigeria’s Second National Operator, Globacom, is putting final touches to the much-anticipated rollout of its mobile business in Ghana.

    - Telecom Namibia has announced that it is set to launch an innovative text message service, which for the first time in Namibia will deliver a range of key classified business information using SMS platforms across a multiple of mobile networks in Namibia. The service offers classified directory information searches for business and service types.

    - MTN Ghana has launched the Mobile Money Bill Payment service to facilitate payment of electricity and DStv bills for subscribers of the MTN Mobile Money. Introduced in July 2009 MTN Mobile Money has 1.8 million subscribers in Ghana.

    - Telecommunication services will soon be available in most parts of  Tanzania including those regarded to be remote and unprofitable. The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Communication, Science and Technology, Dr Florence Turuka, said the move would be possible following of the establishment of the Universal Communication Access Fund (UCAF) in collaboration with telecom firms.

    - Cellular network operator Telecel Zimbabwe has launched a mobile banking service enabling customers to use their handsets to make money transactions at partner banks, supermarkets or post offices. Users will be able to set up virtual bank accounts to withdraw, deposit, transfer and send money, make online purchases and make balance enquiries.

    - In Kenya, unregistered SIM cards will be deactivated in January when the Cabinet is expected to approve legislation that backs the process, according to Information permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo.

    - In Ethiopia, the Federal Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (FEAC) charged 15 individuals with running illegal international phone calling businesses, on December 21, 2010, after investigating them for the past three months.

    - Investment in The Gambia's telecommunication sector has decelerated in 2009, as indicated by the latest report of the sector's regulatory body. The latest annual report of The Gambia Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA) states that total annual investment in the telecommunication sector was equivalent to D699.3 million in 2009 compared to the 2008 figures of D874 million.

internet

  • The African Network Information Centre's (AfriNIC's) resource certification service is now readily available, according to the Regional Internet Registry (RIR) for Africa.
    It explains that this is a number resource organisation initiative to improve long-term Internet routing stability.

    “From 1 January 2011, members requesting IP [Internet Protocol] addresses or AS [Autonomous System] numbers will have the option of being issued a 'resource certificate',” says AfriNIC.

    It adds that the resource certificate is digital verification that the resource has been officially assigned by AfriNIC.

    The RIR also says the resource certification will automate the process of Internet routing in a reliable, transparent way. Certification allows network operators to verify that IP addresses don't belong to another network, since routing problems occur when two networks claim the same set of addresses.

    “This will help prevent the type of mis-announcement that resulted in the global YouTube outage in 2008, following a routing error by Pakistan Telecom. The vast majority of 'mis-announcements' are accidental, known as route leaking, but can still have a significant impact on global Internet traffic.”

    Pakistan Telecom made an error with BGP (Border Gateway Protocol), which is used to configure routers for Internet traffic, according to media reports.The Pakistan government had ordered ISPs to block YouTube, but Pakistan Telecom misconfigured the block, making YouTube inaccessible to users worldwide.

    The mistake would have been avoidable if the operator had a digital certificate. This would have alerted it that it did not control IP addresses belonging to Google. ISPs would then not have followed the routing instructions, explains AfriNIC.

    As Internet penetration increases in the African region, routing errors could have a much greater impact on the network, according to AfriNIC chief executive Adiel Akplogan. “Resource certification will reduce these risks and help ensure a safe and secure Internet for all.”

    In an interview with ITWeb, Akplogan said Africa's Internet penetration is at around 5-6%, but – compared to where it was in 2000 – there has been huge progress, with as much as 1,000% growth in some places.

    “We are still lagging behind, but catching up very fast. Internet is becoming an important tool in the life of everyone – whether in a developing country or not, so it's becoming vital for social and economical development.”

    AfriNIC says resource certification is a system based on globally accepted and well-known Public Key Infrastructure principles and all of the RIRs have committed to deploying certification in their region.

    ITWeb
  • Wireless broadband provider, Swift Networks Limited, has announced its WiMAX broadband service has gone live after a three month trial. Over the pilot test run of the service, the company says it has conducted “successful rigorous testing” of its WiMAX broadband network and backend systems which its sees as a major game changer in the Internet market. Its initial coverage area encompasses an estimated 10 million people.

    Swift’s COO, Chuma Okoye says:“A business can now use one reliable broadband connection to support the needs of all of its staff, and depending on the size of its building, create a WiFi cloud sufficient for the whole users without the need of an external router. This business will also get clear voice, fax, web and e-mail hosting, as well as customized hosted PABX services from SWIFT at an affordable price. The itinerant boss will have the option of a nomadic 4G modem with which he can access the corporate network or the internet while outside the office and this will be on the same bill as the office”, says Okoye.

    He adds that, “parents can now access the internet, corporate files, company networks and VPNs from home, while supervising the kids’ homework or online games, over the multiple user SWIFT 4G broadband hub at the house. The family can also get a fixed telephone service on which it can make and receive calls at affordable rates”

    He said the possibilities of the new service will also enable “a university student can now get a really high speed internet to meet those project submission deadlines and chill out later with streaming of the latest music videos or movies, whether at home or on campus.”

    Swift plans roadshows for prospective customers to adding that, “people will be able to test drive our services at these demo centres and be able to compare it with what else is available in the market. In fact, we will encourage them to bring along their 3G and EVDO modems to compare with ours and experience the difference. Our services will be available for purchase at either these demonstration centres, online via our website, at any of our offices or accredited retail outlets”.

  • A group of cyber-activists have shut down Zimbabwe government websites in retaliation for Grace Mugabe's legal action against the Standard newspaper. The government is the latest target of cyber attacks by supporters of the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, which in recent weeks revealed that Grace Mugabe and other top ZANU PF officials were involved in illegal diamond trading. The story has been widely reported on but Grace Mugabe vented her anger on the Standard, suing the newspaper for defamation.

    Anonymous, an international group of hackers, has since said on its website that it was targeting Mugabe and his regime "who have outlawed the free press and threaten to sue anyone publishing WikiLeaks." The Zimbabwean government website has been unavailable since last week, while the finance ministry website displayed a message saying it was under maintenance.

    Grace Mugabe filed a defamation suit against the Standard for US$15 million late last year for publishing details released by WikiLeaks claiming she had gained "tremendous profits" from the trade in illicit diamonds. The article quotes a US embassy cable that claimed she was one of elite Zimbabweans making "several hundred thousand dollars a month" from the sale of illegal stones mined in the controversial Chiadzwa region.

    Attorney General Johannes Tomana has meanwhile formed a commission to investigate the WikiLeaks cables, to bring charges of treason against anyone found to be colluding with "aggressive" foreign governments. Commentators have said that this is a thinly veiled attempt to target Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai ahead of elections this year, because of the Western support for him revealed in the leaked US cables.

    SW Radio Africa
  • The first ever online business fair that will enable local and international customers and investors to transact business across the computer, the phone and other Internet enabled devices, begins from March 2 to 16, 2011 in Ghana.

    Christened Ghana Sales Fair and developed by Web and Soft Limited, a local software company, the fair expects to host over four million Ghanaian customers and more than 700 million international participants through electronic campaigns on major websites and search engines including Google company and Cable Network News (CNN).

    Launching its official website name, www.ghanasalesfair.com, for the March fair on Tuesday in Accra, Mr Philip Gamey, the Chief Executive Officer of Web and Soft, said the mission was to enable businesses to deliver the best business to customers on their terms.

    Only registered businesses in Ghana will be allowed to feature on the website, where they will have their products and services exhibited with their prices.

    Customers anywhere and at anytime, he said, could “join the fair with their lap tops, cell phones, or their iPads. We found opportunities to deploy exhibitions to the web and make it available to local and international customers and investors at any place and anytime and make them very, very simple to use.”

    GNA
  • - MTN Rwanda has announced that its data/internet capacity will increase by 22.4% early next year when it carries out its scheduled connection to the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy). Once connected to the fibre-optic cable, it will increase its broadband capacity to 355Mbps from 200Mbps.

    - The replacement work of the NIGCOMSAT has reached an advanced stage, with the major performance requirement tests already accomplished. The project is very much on course for the delivery date of last quarter of 2011.

    - Ookla’s latest Net Index statistics shows which ISPs in South Africa give the best broadband speeds. According to the results from 184,442 Speedtest.net tests between 14 November 2010 and 13 December 2010, Cell C is the best service provider with an average download speed of 4.62 Mbps. Web Africa is second with 2.81 Mbps and Telkom third with 2.54 Mbps. Mybroadband.co.za has published a table with the top ISPs. To access it click here

    - According to Ugandan regulator UCC, by the end of June 2010, total international bandwidth stood at 5,025 mbps compared to 3640 mbps at the end of March, an increase of more than three folds since the beginning of the year. By June 2010, Seacom remained the dominant provider accounting for more than three quarters of international bandwidth with the remaining capacity provided by TEAMS and satellite providers.

    - Telkom announced that it has reached an ADSL subscriber base of 731,500, up from 699,368 in September 2010. In a press statement Telkom confirmed that it has met its self imposed target of achieving an ADSL penetration of 15 percent to 20 percent of fixed access lines by 2010/2011 – a target set in 2007 when the company had 375,198 ADSL subscribers.

    - The first new African undersea cable to be commissioned in over a year will connect the Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and ultimately Africa's international fibre backbone. The Seychelles East Africa System (SEAS) will span over 1 900km, offering international connectivity to the islands.

    - Much revered Rwandan traditional crafts can now be obtained online after a UK-based company launched a website where clients can purchase a range of products which can then be sent to them from wherever they are around the world. The crafts are sold on the company's website here  which was launched on 11 November 2010. Crafts are posted out to customers worldwide after being purchased online.

computing

  • The National Information Development Agency NITDA and the Nigeria Communication Satellite limited NIGCOMSAT were the only two government IT parastatals allocated funds in the 2011 budget proposal of President Goodluck Jonathan. Once again, the Information Technology sector is embedded inside the Ministry of Science and Technology.

    The two sectors had however come with noticeable differences in figures when compared to allocations received from the nation's purse in the previous year with NITDA dropping by almost 31 million from N363,842,768m received in 2010 to N333,669,409m in the proposed 2011 budget.

    NIGCOMSAT on the other hand more than doubled it's allocation from last year. A total of N2,103,749,624b has been proposed for the agency, more than 50% it's previous allocation of N997,823,148m. Even though the 2011 budget proposal has not yet been approved, it is already being kicked in at certain quarters which alleged claim it is a 'budget of consumption'. Like virtually every other sector in the country, the Information Technology sector had it's own fair share of rough knocks and back pats in the previous year.

    At various IT engagements and assessment dinners, held at the tail end of the year, experts and observers who had keenly monitored the sector's activities had voted a "quite satisfactory" on the sector, but then, they unanimously agree that the challenges to be confronted in 2011 remain as gigantic as ever; a robust budget on IT may probably not be out of line.

    But this has not quenched the thirst of stakeholders and industry practitioners pushing for an IT ministry. They have repeatedly said that the development of IT in the country will not be easily achieved should the sector remain buried in some other ministry.

    Beginning from middle of last year, there had been a torrent of announcements on the sector, covering policy plans, amendments and blueprints from government through her relevant IT agencies to possibly harmonise these IT agencies into one body or 'ministry' but unfolding events had led to fears from stakeholders and infact, leaders of professional associations with claims that the usual bureaucratic bottlenecks that continually stifle government policy implementation may yet again come alive and hold the sector down. With this recent budget proposal, it is creation of the much-touted IT ministry may not be coming anytime soon.

    The president of the Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria CPN Ibrahim Tizhe at the Nigeria Computer Society merit awards night held just before the end of last year had said: "The Presidency had taken a bold step earlier in September by setting up a committee to harmonise and draw up a roadmap to the governing of IT in Nigeria. A major recommendation had been for the harmonisation of all IT agencies in the country. Major stakeholders were involved and high-reaching decisions had been made, documented and reported back but that nothing has been heard of it till today is a matter of great concern not only to those of us who were represented but to the whole IT economy in the country.

    However, unconfirmed sources have it that some of those in power are not favourable to the recommendations for fear of losing their strangleholds on some of the parastatals. Again, we must be bold to point out that the nation's interest should not be sacrificed at the stead of self interest. Personal interest should not becloud our interest from the future of Nigerians."

    Experts and observers who have reacted to Tizhe's comments insist that except these 'faceless' elements that continually leave clogs into the wheels of development in the sector are removed; then 2011 and this proposed IT ministry may yet again run a full circle without the sector moving an inch forward.

    Vanguard
  • Beside investing in bonds and shares, the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange (DSE) is set to introduce a number of new products in a move to bolster the bourse and attract more actors.

    DSE Finance and Administration Manager Mshindo Ibrahim told The Guardian in an interview this week that securities mortgage services product, central depository system (CDS SMS) services and provision of data vending services are among the new products lined up to start early next year.

    This is a new system that would operate like NMB mobile services to allow customers to transfer money from one account to another, make purchases of airtime top-up vouchers and power (LUKU) and check account balance.

    Explaining the Central Depository System, he said this is a new computer system designed to keep all investor’s data at DSE and help them access information directly through their phones of any movement in their CDS account free of charge.

    Under the programme all shareholders and investors will access their accounts by purchasing and selling shares anywhere, monitor the movement of share prices as well as get information on dividend payments, he said.

    “DSE has introduced this strategy so that we can help shareholders access information more easily instead of coming physically to the DSE. The other reason is to attract people to see what we offer so that they can purchase shares,” he said.

    He said in future those accessing information via the system would be required to pay a fee to DSE to enable it to raise income for its activities. Ibrahim said the DSE was currently negotiating with the service provider on how to implement the programme.
    He said the bourse has already trained qualified IT experts to supervise the system.
    On the provision of data vending services, he said data vendors will access information in the DSE database at a fee.

    The Guardian
  • Nothing tells of the tribulations of a Kenyan dairy farmer better than a visit to Isaac Kimani’s mixed farm at Limuru on the outskirts of Nairobi.  For the 22 years that Kimani has been running his establishment, everything has almost favourably changed — milk prices, productivity of his Friesian cows and demand for milk. But like other farmers in Kenya who supply their milk to co-operative societies,  Kimani has had to grapple with a two-pronged problem.

    Rarely is the ardent member of the Limuru Dairy Farmers Co-operative Society Limited (Limuru Dairy) paid on time and when he is, the returns are wrongly calculated and or the quantity of milk under-measured — at least going by his complaint.  Kimani’s not-so-good experience mirrors a sting that continues to hurt Kenya’s multi-billion shilling dairy industry.

    Information on the industry’s productivity has been scanty and inaccurate, a challenge that has left stakeholders unable to effectively deal with regular fluctuations in milk prices. The use of outdated manual systems at the co-operatives has led to errors, while rounding off of figures of milk deliveries downwards has resulted in reduced returns for farmers.

    But Kimani and other farmers are beginning to brace for better times, thanks to the rollout of the Dairy Information Management System (e-dairy), a multi-million project meant to enhance the competitiveness and efficiency of the dairy sector through the use of ICT. E-dairy, which was launched early this month, is a computer-generated management software designed to monitor the movement of raw milk from suppliers to processing plants in real time.

    After signing up with their respective cooperatives to get input and sales data of their supplies, farmers will have an account of the quantity and quality of the milk they have supplied reflected in the e-dairy portal; hence, traceability is assured for quality assessment.  Industry players said that in addition to improving farmers’ earnings, the system is also expected to increase export of dairy products from the country.

    Data shows that the dairy industry accounts for 14 and 3.5 per cent of agricultural output and total gross domestic product respectively, and provides income to over 800,000 small scale farmers, generating an estimated 365,000 jobs.

    The volume of milk produced increased from 2.8 billion litres in 2002 to 5.2 billion litres last year, while intake by processors increased from 143.5 to 402 million litres over the same period.

    The Kenya Dairy Board (KDB) in conjunction with Agritrace Kenya Limited see the figures improving in future, with the roll out of the e-dairy system being pilot-tested at Limuru Dairy and Kamahia Farmers Cooperative Society milk collection centres.

    “One of the major impediments to the export of dairy products has been the requirement for animal and product traceability. With the traceability function within the e-dairy system, dairy exports will increase,” said Machira Gichohi, managing director at KDB.

    Officials at Limuru Dairy see an end to constant rows with farmers as the project is rolled out countrywide early next year.

    “The system is accurate. Nothing is getting lost and this has resulted in an increase in our income because we get paid according to the number of kilos of milk we supply,” Kimani told Business Daily.

    The farmers have also seen a reduction in the number of days it takes to get paid as the processing and reconciliation of milk returns is now more efficient, faster and accurate.

    “Processing of payments used to take 30 days after the end of the month, but now we receive payments after about 12 days after month end. We are now able to plan for our expenses better. We want our money paid faster,” he said. “I cannot say that the project has not been beneficial, and they (implementers) seem to be doing it on schedule. First they trained farmers, then they trained staff at the dairy, then digital scales were brought and we also got new dairy cards. I think they are implementing the project well,” he added.

    Business Daily
  • - Mobile operator Tigo Rwanda has entered into a partnership with the Ministry of Education to roll out Internet access in primary schools under the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project. ‘The partnership was included in the 2008 Tigo licence bidding deal to support the country's development and OLPC was among them. The coordinator of OLPC, Nkubito Bakuramutsa, said that the project has so far distributed 55,000 laptops in 108 schools, and the distribution will continue next year.

    - SAB, a French company has partnered with Tanzanian firm ERP Software Technologies to market its products for banks and credit establishments.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • The local capital market may halt Bharti Airtel’s plans to delist Zain Zambia Plc from the local Lusaka Stock Exchange (LuSE), according to sources close to the transaction.
    And the Lusaka Stock Exchange (LuSE) has confirmed that the delisting of Zain Zambia Plc which trades as Celtel BV would impact on the development of the local capital market.

    About 2,000 shareholders, owning three per cent of Zain Zambia rejected an offer of K710 kwacha a share that Bharti Airtel offered them during the mandatory offer.
    According to the sources, the capital market might reject the offer to protect the interest of the “minorities who turned down the offer.”

    “It’s not automatic that when you make an application to delist it is accepted immediately. You have to satisfy the provisions of the listing rules and also the companies Act and, that is what we are looking at now,” the sources said. “There is a lot going on at the level of stock market but its not automatic that when you reach more than 90 per cent, then you have to delist.”

    Bharti Airtel last month applied to Securities and Exchange Commission on its plans to delist from the LuSE after increasing its stake to 97 per cent from 78.9 per cent following the mandatory offer done in compliance with local listing rules.

    And LuSE said the Zain Zambia’s impending delisting would impact negative on the development and growth of the local bourse. Trading in Zain Zambia’s shares was suspended on August 2010 after Bharti Airtel bought Zain’s African assets from Kuwait’s MTC.

    “It’s sad because we will now have 19 companies instead of 20 companies…when ideally we should be going to 21,” stated LuSE. “It’s not something that we welcome but technically we have arrived at this point because of what has happened.”

    The Zambia Post
  • Neotel is busy with a process which may see many employees losing their jobs, but the company is not saying anything concrete It is well known that Neotel is not profitable and is struggling in various areas, and if the latest information received by MyBroadband is correct, the company is set to start retrenching staff soon.

    According to one MyBroadband member there are massive retrenchments in the pipeline at Neotel. After more than three failed restructuring projects, continuous bad service and failure to gain significant market share, Neotel is about to embark on massive retrenchments,” this poster said.

    According to the member, Neotel calls it ‘dismissals’ and he is not particularly impressed with what he calls ‘hard working employees’ suffering from ‘poor management and leadership.’ One senior Neotel employee said that the company is currently busy with a ‘realignment and restructuring process’ which may include retrenchment of some employees.

    Neotel was contacted for official comment, but the company did not respond to questions about its plans and what caused the need to potentially fire staff. After repeated requests for information Neotel did send MyBroadband a statement which reads:

    “Neotel is in the process of evaluating its business strategy, operational performance, efficiency and competitiveness with a view to ensuring that long-term sustainability is achieved.”

    “The Executive Committee and the Board are working to ensure that Neotel is sufficiently geared to meet the challenges brought on by the highly competitive market place in which it operates.”

    “As a consequence, the company is considering realignment and restructuring options in order to achieve optimal growth, operational efficiency and improved service delivery to customers

    MyBroadband
  • The Commercial Court has become the latest battleground for telecommunication firms a few months after the industry witnessed major price wars in the race for customers. Daily Monitor has established that Airtel and MTN Uganda have dragged Uganda Telecom Limited to court after it failed to pay about Shs18 billion in interconnection fees. Utl has accumulated the bill over the last two years, after it allegedly failed to pay its rivals for enabling its subscribers to make calls to and from other networks.

    Airtel (formerly Zain) and Utl agreed to pay between Shs95 and Shs151 per call to each other's network according to the interconnection agreement signed in 2000. Utl's failure to settle the bills could make it impossible for its subscribers to either call or receive calls from subscribers on Airtel and MTN.

    In a suit filed at the Commercial Court on December 16, 2010, Airtel demands Shs3.76 billion of Shs5 billion in interconnection fees from Uganda Telecom. This is in addition to interest rate of 11 per cent per annum of the amount due, and costs of the suit. Airtel is also demanding from Utl Shs1.3 billion and Shs45.5 million, in two separate cases involving the use of its equipment.

    The money was accumulated between 2008 and last year according to the claim in court. "The defendant (Utl) has neglected, failed or otherwise refused to pay balance... as a result of which the plaintiff has suffered great loss and damages," reads a suit filed by Lex Uganda Advocates on behalf of Airtel Uganda. "The Plaintiff (Airtel) avers that the defendant's non-payment of the balance above amounts to breach of the Interconnection Agreement, and the Settlement Agreement," the lawyers add.

    Daily Monitor has also established that MTN is demanding over Shs14.7 billion in interconnection fees accumulated between September 2008 and November 2009. A suit filed by MTN's lawyers on its behalf indicates that Utl has only paid about Shs3.5 billion of the total claim and has refused to pay Shs3.45 billion arguing that it was not a result of the domestic traffic which attracts interconnection fees but was international traffic with Sudan. Utl said the calls were terminated to the network in South Sudan. But the two are sister companies with Utl owning majority shares.

    MTN has threatened to stop interconnection calls to Utl if the latter does not pay up by Friday. But Airtel which has just taken its case against Utl to the Commercial Court, also said ending calls between the two networks could be considered.

    "The worst case scenario is for us to end interconnection with them. But of course that would be a disservice to the customers. However, it's up to the court to determine the repercussions," Mr Joseph Kanyamunyu the public relations manager at Airtel said in an interview with Daily Monitor on Tuesday. By yesterday, Utl had neither paid MTN nor Airtel the money due.

    The Monitor
  • The government has been urged to reduce the Value Added Tax (VAT) in mobile phones operations to enable subscribers to afford smart phones services as one way of boosting economic growth.

    This was said in Dar es Salaam yesterday by Nokia General Manager in east and southern Africa Dorothy Ooko at the launch of the Nokia Messaging Service (NMS) alongside the Nokia C3, a new, handset which she said is set to positively change the way people interact on mobile phones.

    “The new messaging service offering brings mobile messaging and social networking into the hands of more people, at affordable prices,” she said.

    Ooko said that Nokia, in collaboration with other mobile phones manufactures, has been lobbying the government to see the possibility of reducing or even of removing VAT to mobile devices so that they can be affordable to everyone.

    “It’s not easy, but we are still trying to convince the government to think of removing VAT on mobile phones. Mobile phones are not luxury goods, it’s a must to everyone at every home and village,” Ooko said, adding “due to the VAT, mobile phones are not affordable to some people.”

    She said VAT charged on mobile phone devices has been killing business in Tanzania making businesspersons run to neighbouring countries such as Kenya and Rwanda to purchase handsets.

    “We can’t give up easily, we will try harder and see because we believe that smart phones are the ones that can bring growth to any economy since most of the people need them for business purposes,” she added.

    The Guardian
  • - Maroc Telecom and Gabon’s government signed, on 23 December 2010, an amendment to the share purchase agreement of 2007 under which the Moroccan telco bought 51% of Gabon Telecom, thus bringing to a conclusion the acquisition process, Global Arab Network reports, according to MAP. The agreement marks the finalisation of closing-related operations, notably the financial restructuring of the business, the fulfilment of various legal preconditions, the implementation of a redundancy plan, responsibility for which was assumed by the Gabonese government, as well as the payment of various reciprocal debts, Maroc Telecom said in a press release. Under this agreement, Maroc Telecom paid to the Gabonese state the balance amounting to EUR34.7 million of the purchase price, in addition to the initial payment of EUR26.3 million, for a total of EUR61 million.

    - Safaricom, Kenya's leading mobile communications operator, will invest Ksh10 billion ($125 million) in sprucing up its network. The move follows recent reports by the industry regulator, Communication Commission of Kenya, detailing sub-standard services by three of the four licensed operators in the country. Safaricom and Telkom Orange were ranked bottom. Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Claire Ruto told The EastAfrican that the company had acknowledged the need to improve its network quality with the intention of "delivering a superior communication experience to our customers."

    - In South Africa, listed computer distributor Mustek could be de-listed from the JSE by the middle of the year, if a proposed buyout by a consortium is successful. In December, Mustek told shareholders a consortium led by its CEO and founder, David Kan, as well as the Trinitas Private Equity Fund, had put a non-binding offer on the table to buy out shareholders for R5.55.

    - The competition among telecommunications service providers in Uganda has led to a fall in the inflation rate to 4%, the lowest in three years.  According to the National Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), telecommunication prices this year fell by 46%.

    - Libya's two state-owned mobile networks, Al Madar and Libyana will be listed on the local stock exchange by the end of April, Libya's chairman of the privatisation and investment board said. "We are working on it with Al Madar and Libyana. Probably about two to five percent, that is the maximum that will be floated," Gamal Al-Lamushe told Reuters.

    - Israel-based ECI Telecom has entered Uganda, with plans to use it as a launch pad for further investment in the region.

Digital Content

  • Subscribers of major West African mobile service provider, Globacom, can now watch DStv programmes on their mobile phones as the company rolls out the DStvMobile service on Glo for subscribers who have DVB-H enabled handsets.

    Globacom’s  Head of Value Added Services, Samson Isa said that  Glo subscribers who sign up to DStvMobile on Glo will enjoy a wide range of programming from news channels such as CNN to entertainment and movie channels such as Africa Magic,  Magic World, Africa Magic Yoruba, Africa Magic Hausa, Channel O, Sound city, Cartoon Network, TBN, Super Sport 7, Super Sport 9, Super Sport Blitz and NTA Plus. Subscribers to the service will also enjoy super fast Internet access.

    “The High Speed Internet  Service on the package is connected to the GLO 1 Cable”, Isa disclosed, adding that this gives the subscriber a robust and seamless viewing experience. He explained that DStvMobile from Glo comes with Nokia 5330, one month free High Speed Internet bundle and free DStvMobile subscription until 31 March, 2011. The handset can be used to make and receive calls and for internet browsing.

    Isa said Mobile TV is the silver lining in the home entertainment and information industry providing a variety of top-quality content. He said that traffic congestion which translates to long hours of commuting with attendant boredom has made the DStvMobile a necessary product in the Nigerian market.  “ Very busy executives resident in urban and suburban centres, who have very long commuting time and also travel regularly for business purposes do not want to miss out on anything that is happening, be it news, entertainment or sports,” he said.

    The service is available, to start with, in 10 Nigerian cities including Lagos, Ibadan, Benin, Asaba, Onitsha, Enugu, Aba, Port Harcourt, Abuja and Kaduna.

    Nairaland
  • Reporters Without Borders condemns the reinforcement of online censorship amid a wave of protests and rioting in Tunisia that began two weeks when a young man set himself on fire outside a police station in the provincial town of Sidi Bouzid.

    "Online social networks have played a key role in transmitting news and information about the situation in Sidi Bouzid and other regions while the government-controlled traditional media have mostly ignored the story," Reporters Without Borders said. "The international media took some time to get interested in the subject but then found themselves barred from the sensitive areas.

    "Sensitive social and political topics were already heavily censored on the Internet but the authorities, who are clearly disturbed by this wave of unrest, have responded by trying to impose even tighter and faster controls over the online flow of information about it. However, in the Internet era, it is becoming impossible to prevent coverage of events of this scale and censorship has perverse effects. All sorts of rumours circulate in the absence of reliable information. We urge the authorities to back off and to stop filtering websites and stop intimidating netizens and bloggers."

    Access to the pages of foreign media websites with coverage of the current unrest is blocked inside Tunisia. They include reports posted online by France 24  and Le Nouvel Observateur.

    Social networks, especially Facebook, which has around 2 million users in Tunisia, have been hit hard by the censorship. The government is not blocking access to all of Facebook, as it briefly tried to do in 2008, but it is pursuing a strategy of targeted blocking and intimidation of the bloggers and citizen journalists who are emerging as the main relays of news and information.

    According to the Assabilonline website, more than 100 Facebook pages about the unrest of the past few weeks are blocked in Tunisia. They include the Arabic-language Facebook group "Mr. President, Tunisians are setting themselves on fire", which already has more than 12,000 members.

    Here are two other examples of blocked Facebook pages: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Les-T... http://www.facebook.com/pages/lnthr...

    Facebook users cannot access the 'https' version of the site, which allows them to log on with a password securely. The Nawaat news website described this as part of a "Tunisian police campaign to hack into Facebook accounts," a way for the authorities to obtain activists' access codes and thereby infiltrate the citizen journalist networks that have sprung up around the events in Sidi Bouzid. 

    Many activists and bloggers have reported that their email and Facebook accounts have in hacked. In a post yesterday entitled "You can't Stop us from Writing", Lina Ben Mhenni voiced her outrage at discovering she had been the victim of one of these cyber-attacks and named Sofiene Chourabi and Azyz Amami as fellow victims.

    Several sources told Reporters Without Borders that for the past few days it has been impossible to upload photos and videos to Facebook from Tunisia. This is a new development in a country where the best-known video and photo-sharing sites such as Flickr and YouTube have been blocked for months. This is clear attempt to restrict the circulation of images about the protests and the methods used to disperse them.

    The censors are also taking an interest in the proxy software that people use to circumvent online censorship. Hotspot Shield, one of the sites that offer such software, has been particularly targeted in the past few days.

    Tunisia's lively blogosphere is helping Internet users to withstand the battle with "Ammar," the nickname for the country's censorship apparatus. The prevailing mood of defiance is evident in the slogan chanted by protesters and taken up by the blogger Anis on 30 December: "We aren't afraid anymore."

    Twitter pages about Sidi Bouzid were rendered inaccessible in Tunisia after the hashtag #sidibouzid spread like wildfire not only among Tunisians users but also netizens in neighbouring countries and throughout the world, testifying to the international solidarity movement that has arisen.

    Under the codename "Operation Tunisia," the activist hacker group Anonymous has launched a series of cyber-attacks on government websites, including the president's and prime minister's sites, to denounce the government's censorship of the Internet: http://www.anonnews.org/?p=press&am...

    Tunisia is on the Reporters Without Borders list of "Enemies of the Internet". The authorities claim that they normally only block access to pornographic and terrorist websites but in practice many opposition and news websites and sites with human rights content, including Tunisnews, Nawaat, PDPinfo.org, Tunisonline, Assabilonline, Reporters Without Borders and Al Jazeera, are rendered inaccessible.

    Meanwhile, Ammar Amroussia, who covered the recent events in Sidi Bouzid for the banned newspaper Al-Badil (http://www.albadil.org/) and participated in many solidarity protests in Gafsa (400 km south of the capital), condemning corruption and urging his compatriots to combat the "dictatorship," was arrested on 29 December and is being held in Gafsa prison.

    He is facing the possibility of more than 12 years in prison on a range of charges under articles 42, 44 and 49 of the press code, articles 121, 131, 132, 220-b, 315 and 316 of the criminal code and article 26 of a 1969 law about the "organization of public meetings, processions, exhibitions, demonstrations and gatherings."

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - The Angolan mobile phone company Unitel SA has extended its signal to three more districts, namely in the provinces of Uige, Huila and Cunene.

    - Bharti Airtel has signalled its intention to cut call rates further as it focuses at creating affordability to consumers. This means the price rivalry witnessed in Uganda's telecommunications sector in the last quarter of 2010 could stretch into 2011.

    - The number of mobile telephone service customers of Sao Tome telecoms company, Companhia Santomense de Telecomunicações (CST) now totals 100,000 giving the company a market penetration of 60 percent, its main shareholder Portugal Telecom said.
    Portugal Telecom (PT) also said that the 100,000 customers represented growth of 25 percent against 2009, a year in which the number of customers rose by 60 percent.
    CST plans to launch third generation services in the first quarter of 2012, when it connects to the ACE cable.

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  • - Ory Okolloh, co-Founder of the popular open-source platform Ushahidi, has decided to step down and join Google as their Policy Manager for Africa.

    - In South Africa, Public Service and Administration Minister Richard Baloyi is expected to announce Blake Mosley-Lefatola's appointment as SITA CEO by month-end.

    - MTN  has named Sifiso Dabengwa, currently group COO, to take Phuthuma Nhleko's place at the helm.

    - Vodacom has announced that Shameel Aziz Joosub, executive director of Vodacom Group and managing director of Vodacom SA will be taking up the post of CEO of Vodafone Spain as of 1 April 2011. A process has been initiated to identify Shameel’s replacement at Vodacom SA.

    - Michael Joseph, the former CEO of Safaricom, has been tapped to spearhead the expansion of M-Pesa to other African countries as part of a plan to have a seamless mobile money transfer service on the continent.

  • Mobile Web West Africa 2011
    2-3 Feb 2011, Eko Hotel & Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria
    Harnessing the potential of the internet and applications on mobile devices.
    The hugely successful Mobile Web series of events makes its debut in West Africa.  A superb speaker platform has been put together, a delegation with mobile ecosystem wide representation and like its predecessors the event will feature an Interactive Roundtable Seating Format.  Capacity is limited to 150 at the venue and therefore early registrations are encouraged.
    Contact: info@allamber.co.uk  or visit here for information on Africa's most innovative and progressive mobile focused conference.

    5th Africa Economic Forum 2011

    7-9 March 2011, Cape Town, South Africa Venue BMW Pavilion, V&A Waterfront
    Our 5th Africa Economic Forum 2011 (AEF-2011) in Cape Town at the BMW-Imax Theatre, with Africa Exhibition 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.
    Contact: babette@glopac.com or visit here

    Africa Telecom Forum
    17-19 March 2011, Marrakech, Morocco
    Organized in partnership with and the African Development Bank, this edition will mainly focus on regulation challenges and issues in North West and Central Africa. On the agenda, three days of debates to highlight the impact of the different regulatory approaches on the development of telecoms along with other crucial issues. The conference workshops, meanwhile, will focus on more practical issues like mobile payment and convergence. Be part of the event and join over 250 industry professionals from North, West and Central Africa. Balancing Act' subscribers will benefit from a 100 euros discount on the conference fees. Please call us for more info on +212 522 36 95 15 or / email on ywaqif@sp.ma. Programme and registration on:

    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 here

    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 here

  • Ericsson skilled Site Supervisors - Uganda
    - Manage and support the Authorized Service Providers (ASP) Teams during site installation.
    - Organize and coordinate the installation with the Project Manager, Customer and Authorized Service Provider.
    - Ensure that the Installation Technicians work is in accordance with Company procedures and with respect to customer’s directives.
    - Ensure that the installation process is followed and that correct methods, instructions, checklists, tools and reports are used.
    - Provisional site acceptance from the ASP or FSO personnel.
    - Reject wrong Installation execution
    - Act and report on bad performance by the ASP
    - Test and Integrate BTS and microwave equipment.
    - Assure that the customer approves and accept the Installation work.
    - Follow up on Quality Audit finding and outstanding item lists.
    For further information or to apply click here

  • Comviva and Western Union - Africa
    Comviva, a leader in providing mobile solutions beyond VAS, today announced that it has been certified to participate in Western Union’s (NYSE: WU) Mobile Vendor Program. The Comviva mobiquity™ platform can now support Western Union® services, enabling its clients to offer the option to send and/or receive money through Western Union's global money-transfer system. Comviva’s multi-award-winning mobiquity™ platform has been deployed globally in markets in Latin America, Asia and Africa in different bank-led and operator-led business models.

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