Issue no 541 11th February 2011

top story

  • The number of green mobile base stations deployed in Africa remains small. It represents a mere 3.1% of the total number of deployments worldwide (9,558). This news comes amid headlines last week on oil prices soaring to their highest level for two years as the value of Brent crude broke the US$101 a barrel mark for the first time since October 2008.

    A large number of African mobile base stations require two sets of generators and in some cases up to three months supply of costly fuel in their tanks. More remote base stations may require fuelling by boat and hand-cart and in the larger markets, operators run large fleets of oil tankers to keep base stations supplied.

    Isabelle Gross, the author of the report published by Balancing Act called “Energy for Cellular Base Stations in Africa: the quick fix approach and the long term perspective to saving energy” says that “ mobile operators shouldn’t take the lack of technical expertise for an excuse to do nothing. African mobile operators have to shift focus onto the cost side of the business that they are running. Energy expenditures are among the top items on their list”. Gross makes the point that “voice ARPU will carry on decreasing due to reducing prices on voice calls and the acquisition of new customers with much lower disposable income”. This will put more pressure on mobile operators’ revenue. In Ghana for example voice ARPU went down from US$17 in 2006 to US$7 in 2010. In Kenya and Uganda the ongoing price war on voice calls has already impacted mobile operators’ revenue. MTN’s CEO, Themba Khumalo conceded that increased competition has impacted on the company's overall revenue in Uganda. In less than a year, the price of a call dropped from an average of sh11 per second to just sh3 – nearly 4 times less.

    When it comes to saving on the energy bills, there is not an “out of the box” solution for African mobile operators but it can be done. The best approach is to first look at how to run existing base stations more efficiently. In other words, the “quick fix” which consists of tweaking various elements of the base station to realise operational savings without incurring additional capital outlay. The cooling system is obviously a good starting point because it represents as much as 35% of the total electricity consumption of the base station. This proportion can increase to 50% if there are fewer transmitters in use. Mobile operators like Vodacom, Orange or MTN have started to experiment with “free cooling system” technology in conjunction or not for example with introducing higher operating temperature in the base station.

    While the report describes in details the various approaches implemented by mobile operators to run their base stations more efficiently, it also looks at the renewable energy solutions that are currently available on the market for mobile operators to further reduce their energy bill. There is a growing choice of green solutions available (solar energy, wind power, bio-fuel powered base station, hydrogen fuel cells) but they all require a substantial initial capital investment.

    The report defines the business case for rolling out “green” base stations and gives example of African mobile operators that have started to implement renewable energy projects to power their base stations. The report establishes that “at the low end in terms of capital investment first comes a combination of solar energy power combined to a diesel battery hybrid powering system. Operating costs like diesel are reduced but not totally eliminated. At the high end in terms of capital investment comes a combination of wind and solar power system backed by batteries which provides the maximum reduction in operating costs”.

    The 45 pages report “Energy for Cellular Base Stations in Africa: the quick fix approach and the long term perspective to saving energy” ends with a directory that has useful details on companies offering services and products to improve the energy efficiency of a base station or solution to roll renewable energy powered base station. It will come very handy to whoever will look into energy saving solutions.

    According to the report’s author, “the “quick fixes” will help reduce operating costs but only to a certain point. Further reduction in operating costs will require some capital investment because it implies purchasing more energy efficient equipment or switching to renewable energy power solutions. Ultimately the financial decision lies with the mobile operator and depends on its capital investment strategy and its positioning in the market in the long term. For some mobile operators, “going green” means more than just reducing the energy bill or decreasing their carbon footprint. It has the potential to provide strong branding – a new way to differentiate them from the competition.

    Further details on the report are available here:

    News announcement: New clips this week on Balancing Act’s new Web TV Channel

    Do not miss our Web TV Channel which highlights recent interviews with top telecoms personalities. There are interviews in both English and French:

    Funke Opeke,
    CEO, Main One on sales, national blockages and extending the cable
    click here:

    Nigeria: IPnx’s Ejovi Aror talks about price falls and national blockages
    click here:

    Clips from Mobile Web West Africa in Lagos:

    Stefan Magdalinski, General Manager, Sub-Saharan Africa, MIH talks about its investment strategy
    click here:

    Ayo Alli, Business Development Consultant for Goal.com talks about its massive growth in West Africa
    click here:

    Akinde Aludamola, Team Leader, ConnectNigeria talks about search website:
    click here:

    NOTE:

    If you want to receive daily news tweets from around the continent, please follow us on Twitter:

    In English: @BalancingActAfr
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telecoms

  • The much-anticipated rollout plan by Excellentcom (T) Limited, a new mobile phone company, has stalled. The firm, trading as Hits Tanzania, risks being wound up and has already laid off about 80 workers, out of the 140 it had employed, while more than 20 had left to pursue other interests after the company failed to take off this year as it had planned earlier.

    Huawei Technologies of China, which had entered into a contract to provide mobile phone network infrastructure technologies to Hits, has filed a petition at the High Court's main registry seeking to wind up the company. The bone of contention is failure by Hits to pay Huawei its dues after the latter had performed 10 per cent of its assignment of rolling out the mobile phone network countrywide.

    The two firms signed a $180 million (Sh216 billion) contract in June 2008 under which Huawei was required to build Excellentcom's mobile phone network to enable it to cover the whole country within 13 months.

    The advent of the global financial and economic crisis in 2008 stalled Hits' plans to roll out a mobile network. The company managed to rollout out just an estimated 10 per cent of the intended network. Excellentcom (T) Limited chief executive officer (CEO) David Charles confirmed to The Citizen on Tuesday (January 25) that the company has shifted much of its attention to the case.

    "Our plans were well on course and we still believe we will achieve our goal of kicking off during the first months of this year," Charles said. But he declined to go into details over how much money the company is owed by Huawei because the issue was in the courts of law. But he claimed that the company has invested about $50 million since it started operations in the country.

    The 80 workers laid off last month were all paid their dues, according to Charles. 20 others were shifted to the firm's operations in Equatorial Guinea while 14 have been retained. He said, however, that the company would look into other alternatives to roll out its services, noting however that the process would depend on the judge's decision.

    "It should however, not be translated to mean that we have been idle...We have injected some $50 million into the country's telecom sector since we started operations," Mwinyi said in August.

    The Citizen
  • The number of mobile phone subscribers in Kenya has grown to 22 million people, according to the Communications Commission of Kenya quarterly report for September 2010. The rise, attributed to price wars that pushed calling rates down, is the highest in the past three quarters. In June last year, Kenya had 20.1 million subscribers.

    Analysts said subscriber numbers will continue to shoot up in coming months but will soon stagnate. "There is an increasing number of people in possession of multiple sim cards, but a number are likely to drop them and retain one," said Eric Musau, an analyst with African Alliance Kenya Securities.

    The biggest player, Safaricom, however, lost part of its market share to rivals who were charging lower tariffs, dropping to 75.9 per cent from the previous quarter's 80.7 per cent.
    Airtel, which has been reducing its rates over the past few months and now ranks among the cheapest calling and messaging tariffs in Kenya, saw its market share rise by 4.4 per cent -- the highest gain across the market over the review period.

    Telkom Orange's market share also rose by 1.3 per cent while the tariff wars hived 0.7 per cent off Essar Telecom, which operates the Yu network. Subscribers spent a total of 6.63 billion minutes in making calls against 6.05 billion in the previous quarter.

    This is on the back of low tariffs that service providers introduced and availability of phones. Analysts predict Safaricom will continue losing its market share and could reach as low as 71 per cent by next month, although the listed firm will still remain the leader in data provision.

    "Safaricom contributes half of the data in the industry and can ride on its past investments," said Musau. In the long run, Safaricom is expected to benefit from its present settings including WiMAX protocol to provide fixed and mobile Internet access.
    "Other players might not lose on voice but will be restrained on data provision, which is expensive to upgrade," added Musau.

    During the quarter under review, the total number of broadband subscriptions rose to 84,726 from 18,626 in the previous quarter, representing 0.97 per cent of the total Internet subscriptions.

    Total Internet subscriptions saw Safaricom secure first place at 92.18 per cent with 2,977,584 subscribers while rivals Airtel Kenya Ltd and Telkom Orange followed at 149,053 and 77,668 subscribers, garnering 4.61 and 2.4 per cent respectively. Other operators secured less than 1 per cent each according to CCK reports.

    As the mobile subscriber numbers shot up, the period under review saw the fixed lines subscribers decline by 2.7 per cent from 234,522 to 228,391 lines. Fixed wireless service providers on the other hand recorded a 37.2 per cent decline from 225,592 in the previous period to 141,580.

  • The strong growth of mobile payment services in the country has led to the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the services' joint supervision by the Bank of Tanzania (BoT) and Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA).

    BoT has, in its maiden Financial Stability Report, attributed the sharp increase in the number of subscribers to the mobile payments mainly to limited access to formal banking services, especially in rural areas. "... in this regard, the mobile payment provides an avenue for linking bank account holders to the unbanked population," the central bank says in its 33- page report, which the bank's governor, Professor Benno Ndulu, launched in Dar es Salaam over the weekend.

    According to provisional data, as of June 30, 2010, the number of mobile phone subscribers stood at 18.5 million, with 9.2 million of them registered for mobile payment services. Mobile payment schemes involve not only funds transfers but also payment for retail goods and services.

    Mobile payment services are specifically used to top-up mobile phone credits, airtime transfers between mobile phones and corporate bill payments - water and electricity, for instance.

    Four mobile network operators - Vodacom, Airtel, Tigo and Zantel - are currently offering the mobile payment services. The service provision however requires that the phone companies partner with commercial banks.

    "The existing arrangement creates gaps in the regulatory framework because two regulators - BoT and TCRA - each with a limited scope of coverage, oversee the mobile payment services," the report says, noting that the signed MoU provides a mechanism for regulatory and supervisory coordination between the two regulators.

    While the central bank regulates the financial transactions, the TCRA focuses on the communication infrastructure. Industry analysts say that the significant growth in the usage of mobile phones offers great opportunity to extend financial and other services to millions of those in the unbanked community.

  • State-owned broadband provider Libya Telecom & Technology (LTT) has confirmed that it has launched Libya’s third mobile phone network, under the brand name LibyaPhone Mobile. Although no precise rollout details have been confirmed by the operator, it claims that its network has capacity for around 100,000 customers during the first phase of its operations. Further, LibyaPhone Mobile has pledged to extend coverage to areas under-served by fellow state-owned cellcos Libyana and Al Madar Telecomm Company. LTT claims that LibyaPhone Mobile will offer both 2G and 3G connectivity.

    Although speculation regarding the launch of a third mobile phone operator in Libya has been rife for some time, in July 2010 it was confirmed that UAE’s Etisalat and Turkcell of Turkey had both been overlooked for a new LYD1 billion (USD825 million) concession. The General Telecommunication Authority (GTA) had previously launched an international tender for a combined fixed and mobile licence in February 2009, although its final decision was severely delayed, and no clear reasons were given for the lack of progress, merely that the international telcos were ‘unsuitable’.

    According to TeleGeography, state-owned Libya Telecom & Technology (LTT) is the country's dominant ISP and also acts as a moderator for the internet sector. The operator launched a commercial WiMAX network – operating in the 2.5GHz band – under the ‘LibyaMax’ banner in February 2009. Services have subsequently been expanded to over 25 locations, predominantly along the coast, covering around 65% of the population.

    Telegeography
  • The Mauritanian regulator, the ARE, has issued on January 23rd a call for interest for the provision of a monitoring system for international inbound voice calls. For our readers who are following this issue, click here to read the call (in French only)

    Portuguese newspaper Diario Economico reports that Portugal Telecom-backed CV Movel is bidding for a 3G licence in Cape Verde. An official source from Portugal Telecom told the paper that the bid on the tender was submitted on 31 January, but declined to disclose the value of the planned investments in the island nation. Portugal Telecom has a 40% stake in CV Movel. Other bidders taking part in the 3G auction are T+ and Cabo TLC de Sao Vicente. Cape Verde's telecommunications regulator ANAC will announce the result of the tender in March.

    Brymedia, the third place bid winner in the privatisation of the Nitel and its mobile arm, Mtel, has offered $600m for a 75 per cent stake of NITEL. According to local newspaper This Day, Brymedia whose Chief Executive Officer is Adrian Wood, has the money to pay and will complete the full payment for Nitel in less than three months, if given the go ahead.

    Chief Executive Officer of Green Network Sierra Leone has announced that the company will launch commercial services in April this year. Glo is scheduled to launch in Ghana in June 2011.

    The SIM card registration process driven by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has formally begun with the signing, yesterday, of a Memorandum of Understanding between the commission and seven firms, which are to do the exercise on behalf of the government. The seven contracting partners which will handle the registration process in different parts of the country are: SW Global, PNN, JKK, DATAGROUPIT, EAGLE/CBC and E-Kenneth/SageMetrics.

    Telkom South Africa is again planning to offer employees voluntary retrenchment and early retirement packages in a bid to cut costs. The telecommunications company offered severance to managerial staff last year. In notes accompanying its interim results for the six months to September 2010, Telkom said 186 people opted to take a package at the time.

internet

  • Peak mobile broadband speeds are reaching tens of Mbps, but Vodacom CEO says that they will focus on giving everyone at least 1Mbps Mobile broadband technologies in South Africa are already supporting peak speeds of up to 42Mbps, with developments poised to push the 100Mbps limit in the near future.

    These innovations in the cellular environment get techies excited, but Vodacom CEO Pieter Uys said that the focus should not be on producing high peak speeds in only selected areas, but rather to provide every South African with a 1Mbps broadband connection.

    Uys said that Vodacom has a strong focus on providing ubiquitous 1Mbps broadband access throughout the country, where subscribers can be assured of a good Internet experience wherever they are (both indoors and outdoors).

    Uys added that innovations in radio network capacity and speeds (like 42Mbps HSPA+) will help a great deal not only to increase the average throughput of users, but also to serve more users in the same area. He said that Vodacom currently has 9 million Internet users, but only around 2 million data bundle subscribers (which is a fair indication of broadband users on the network).

    Vodacom is focused on doubling the number of broadband users on their network in the next two to three years while also ensuring that all of their current 9 million Internet users get the best Internet experience possible on the Vodacom network.

    The Vodacom CEO said that continued network investments and cheaper smartphones and mobile computing devices like tablets will play a crucial role in making the Internet more accessible in South Africa and bringing broadband to the masses.

    He said that Vodacom aims to bring a quality Android smartphone to the market this year which will cost around R500, putting it within reach of most working class South Africans.

    Uys further highlighted the educational benefits of affordable mobile computing devices like Android smartphones, tablets and book readers, explaining that textbook distribution, online lessons and even interactive tutorials are all possible through these devices.

    However, Uys believes that the country needs the buy in from all sectors, including government, telecoms operators and the IT industry, to use technology to boost education and through this address the social ills in our society.

    When it comes to spectrum allocation - a vital ingredient in rolling out wireless broadband networks - Uys said that it is important that the regulator (ICASA) follow guidelines that ensure that this valuable resource is handed to companies that will make the most of it.

    “Spectrum should be taken away from companies which don’t use it and handed to operators who are willing to invest in networks [and] roll out services to the South African population,” said Uys.

    The Vodacom CEO appealed to ICASA to follow international standards in allocating spectrum, and further welcomed the idea of both giving some spectrum to large operators with national networks and to other players which will bring more competition to the market.

  • The Minister in the Office of the President in charge of ICT is set to appear before the Senate to explain how the government intends to manage and maintain the fibre-optic cable network. The decision to summon Ignace Gatare, was arrived at after Senator Wellars Gasamagera presented a paper to the House on the current status of ICT infrastructure in the country.

    "The government has spent $94m in laying 2,560-kilometre fibre optic cable across the country," said Gasamagera. The physical laying of the cable included civil works, laying of ducts and installation. "Now Kigali is connected to nine border-posts and all the country's 30 districts are networked." After full connection of the optic ring, the cable will link Rwanda to the Indian Ocean submarine cables via Uganda, through Kenya.

    It is assumed that with a backbone cable around the country, there is going to be a substantive decrease in the cost of telecom services, reductions estimated between 40- 50 %.

    "The Senate needs to know how government is going to manage and maintain the cable, how cyber criminality is going to be controlled and how much the government will benefit from this new technology," Gasamagera said. It is assumed that the cable will connect over 230 institutions in all 30 districts. Already 50 public institutions are connected and are using fibre optics.

    However, the Senate expressed deep concern on how the current ICT infrastructure will be replaced or upgraded and whether there is a joint plan between the government and private investors on how the cable will be managed.

    By press time, , Gatare was not available for comment while the RDB Deputy CEO-IT, Patrick Nyirishema, who oversees the project, said he had no time to talk to the press.

    Experts have indicated that, 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.

    The New Times
  • Lack of political willingness and weak management of country code top-level domains has led to slow implementation of DNS Security Extensions in Africa.

    Africa was expected to extensively implement DNSSEC because it had no legacy registry systems, the few operational registries were manual and it was expected that DNSSEC would be implemented after the automation process.

    DNSSEC provides a set of new extensions to the DNS, protecting the Internet from distributed denial of service attacks, DNS cache poisoning and sabotage. DNSSEC uses digital signatures allowing the users to determine whether the information has been altered in anyway.

    DNSSEC implementation formally began in July last year, at a ceremony known as "signing of the root zone." Root signing signaled the beginning of IPv6, DNSSEC implementation and use of internationalized domain names.

    "Of the 67 TLD zones that are signed today, only two African countries are listed (.NA and .SC); this is bad, but if we look at the state of our DNS (ccTLD) landscape in the region the situation is not that surprising -- there is still a lot to do to reinforce our ccTLD infrastructure with a proper management," said Adiel Akplogan, CEO of AfriNIC, the organization tasked with managing IP resources in the region.

    For DNSSEC to be implemented, countries argue that there must be demand, which is created by a vibrant e-commerce industry and online banking. This online vibrancy is missing in many African countries.

    "For DNSSEC deployment to be successful, demand must be created. The push for its implementation by end-users can only come if users are aware of what DNSSEC has to offer as far as security and resilience of internet is concerned," said Joe Kiragu, administrative manager at KENIC, the .Ke registry.

    The role of government in managing Internet resources has been subject to debate with some countries questioning the role of the U.S. government in Internet governance. So, many TLDs in the region have had to consult with governments before implementing any changes to the ccTLD registry.

    "We have to appreciate potential political ramifications; we will raise the matter with our government because the .ZA namespace is a national resource over which our government bears some custodianship," added Vika.

    The issue of training and raising awareness has been discussed before, with some arguing that political will is needed more than the training while others hold that the problem with the continent is lack of skills and that is why policy making and appreciation of e-commerce is yet to take root.

  • The Kigali Wireless Broadband (Wibro) technology is set go live, according to David Kanamugire, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of ICT in the President's Office. He told Business Times that the technology, which was developed by Korea Telecom, will become fully operational after the establishment of management structures as well as obtaining legal and regulatory approvals to allow its full operations as a telecoms entity.

    With an outlay of Rwf4.5 billion, he said, the Wibro together with the Kigali Metropolitan Network (KLN) seeks to increase access to affordable and reliable networking services to some 4 million Rwandans as well as availing market requirements of data, voice and video transmission.

    The Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir has called on his supporters to use Facebook in order to overcome groups that are opposed to his rule. Bashir made the call during his visit to North Kordofan state on Tuesday where he inaugurated a power plant.

computing

  • Innovators are lobbying to have the first option in developing software for government ministries, departments and parastatals, saying this would help the nascent segment grow while offering the public sector more customised solutions.

    With the government as the biggest buyer of software in Kenya, participants at an Institute of Economic Affairs pre-budget hearing said small tech firms have the capacity to develop software solutions that deepen checks and balances in government institutions.

    "The Ministry of Immigration and Registration of Persons, is a good candidate because its stock-in-trade is information about citizens and visitors to Kenya," said Seven Seas Technologies general manager Adam Nyaga.

    Kwame Owino of the Institute of Economic Affairs said a directive should be passed similar to that of purchase of furniture for government offices from local firms.

    ICT is one of the drivers of the economy with small and medium enterprise (SME) sector seen as one to boost Kenya to a middle-income country. Promoting local entrepreneurs would help the government get back its return on investment, Kamau Gachigi from the University of Nairobi's Science and Technology Park said. "These are the products of our education," he said.

    Kenyan companies have proved that they are globally competitive and if local firms can shine abroad, servicing the government should be child's play, said Samuel Nyumba, a consultant at Intrepid Data Systems.

    Virtual City won the million dollar top prize at the Nokia World and Developer Summit in London is September last year and the Ushahidi platform, a crisis reporting tool was recognised globally and used during the Haiti earthquake.

    Kenya's 470 public institutions, 46 ministries, 178 state corporations, 175 local authorities and 71 tertiary institutions offer an opportunities for SMEs. "We need locally customised solutions as opposed top off the shelf software," said Nyumba.

    Daily Nation
  • The Department of Labour (DOL) will not renew its contract with Siemens to deliver its IT systems. DOL acting director-general Sam Morotoba presented the current status of the contract to Parliament's labour portfolio committee last week. He said a letter of termination, with the intention not to renew the contract, was given to Siemens.

    The public private partnership (PPP) began in 2002 and, apart from escalating costs, was plagued by other irregularities and challenges. The DOL sought outside help in the form of a diagnostic analysis by audit firm KPMG.

    Siemens had subcontracted the delivery of its services and the department was not happy with this. KPMG found that since the department had not agreed to this, there was a contractor default, and the department should ask Siemens to rectify it. The report also found there was no feasibility study done, nor any agreement from the department on the use of a SAP platform.

    In addition, there was no reconciliation done by Siemens against the baseline in the contract for licences, and so the report said the department is not liable for additional costs with regard to licences.

    Despite the contractor default on Siemens' part, the KPMG report says a termination of the contract will prove too onerous. For this reason, it suggests a negotiated termination since the legal route will also be costly.

    There are areas where the DOL can implement penalties, like for the late commencement of services, says KPMG. “There is evidence of billing inconsistently with the intention of the contract,” says the report. It adds that the department must review invoices and reclaim these bills.

    There are about eight projects still in progress by Siemens, with the longest term one set to be completed in October.

    The department has a strategic plan towards achieving the completion of the PPP. Thus it has done a diagnostic review of the partnership and established an internal steering committee to manage the transition to a new IT delivery model.

    The development of a draft plan for the exit and transfer of the PPP is currently in consultation; a new ICT strategy is being developed by the State IT Agency (SITA); and the department will conduct a feasibility study on a new ICT delivery model once the strategy is completed.

    Morotoba also said there is a process under way to resource the current office of the CIO to manage closure and transition. The department secured the involvement and participation of National Treasury, SITA and the State Attorney to assist in resolving current PPP contract problems.

    SITA's contract manager was appointed to oversee the PPP's contractual matters and high-level engagement with Siemens is under way, according to Morotoba. The DOL adds that it is also implementing the recommendations of the KPMG report and is requesting an early contract termination for October this year.

    The department also says it has strengthened governance structures to oversee current IT projects. The management committee receives regular progress reports and provides guidance to the IT steering committee. Morotoba said there is an increased participation of business stakeholders at forums.

    The costs of the PPP increased and are expected to rise further despite the many challenges that plague the systems, according to a National Treasury review in November.

    The partnership had initially been costed at R1.2 billion, but has now risen to R1.3 billion. Morotoba said this increase is due to the increase in the consumer price index, services relating to the annual report, and an increase in end-user devices.

    He also said there were still 22 months of the contract left to run. The projected cost at the end of the contract in November next year is R1.9 billion. The reasons for establishing the PPP include the high turnover of IT staff in the public sector; difficulty in reaching IT objectives; the automation of services towards e-government initiatives; the department's need to improve its IT capacity and expertise; and the need to exploit international best practice.

    The deliverables comprised of data centre services, local area network services, IT help-desk, office productivity, customer satisfaction, end-user access, and the deployment of end-user devices, such as desktops, laptops and printers.

    Systems development included training services for new systems; the design, construction and implementation of new systems; and maintenance, support and enhancement. The treasury's review of the system found several flaws in the PPP, including that there was insufficient monitoring and contract management by the DOL.

    There was no consistent change management implemented by the department for integration of the business into the new IT environment, and delays were encountered in implementation of the improvement services due to inadequate detail of business processes.

    The treasury also found that a lack of contract understanding by DOL stakeholders resulted in contractual remedies not being utilised when Siemens' performance was inadequate. Siemens did not respond to ITWeb's queries by the time of publication.

    ITWeb
  • The R35m sale of 51% of disaster-recovery firm Continuity SA by JSE-listed outsourcing specialist the Dialogue Group, has been finalised. CoroCapital, the investment banking firm and subsidiary of Coronation, now owns a 49% stake, with the remaining 2% now in the hands of ContinuitySA staff and management.

    “Together with a well-funded equity partner, our solid financial standing puts us in a good position to grow the company both organically and through acquisitions over the coming years,” says Allen Smith, CEO of ContinuitySA. Dialogue walks away with not only the R35m, but also a special dividend of R2m.

    Dialogue faced a tough year in 2010. It principal subsidiary, Dialogue SA, was voluntarily liquidated. It also sold its 51% stake in call-centre recruitment business, Callforce.

    Tech Central
  • The Introduction of Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System in 2007, otherwise called the E-payment has saved the Federal Government of Nigeria N12 billion, the Minister of Finance has said.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Companies in the business of providing infrastructure services for telecom firms will now have to be partly owned by Ghanaians.

    According to a new directive from the Ministry of Communications, Ghanaians must own at least one-third of telecoms providers. The directive which sets out conditions for the issuance of Class One Communications Infrastructure license by the National Communications Authority, also adds that one third of their sub-contracts must also be carried out by indigenous enterprises. This should mean that the players will have to satisfy the conditions before they can secure the license to operate.

    Communications Minister Haruna Iddrisu told Joy Business the move is another initiative to break the dominance of foreigners in the sector. “Regrettably we’ve already lost all the giant players to foreign players as a result of the huge investments or capital outlay that is required [in the industry],” he said.

    He said the directive was necessitated by the fact that “almost all the telecom operators are ceding the ownership and control of their cell-sites to other entities.”

    “We have a duty and a responsibility to create business opportunities for the Ghanaian people and we are not ashamed about that,” he added. He insists Ghanaian businesses, though very capable have not been given a fair chance.

    Joy Business
  • South African mobile operator Cell C has sold its 50% stake in Virgin Mobile South Africa for an undisclosed sum, the Virgin Group has confirmed. The deal will see co-owner Virgin Mobile raise its stake in the business to 55%, whilst Bahamas-based Calico Investments will acquire the remaining 45%. The transaction is subject to certain conditions, including approvals from the Competition Commission; it is expected to be finalised by April 2011. Cell C will continue to function as Virgin Mobile’s network partner, under an updated network services agreement. In August 2010 it was reported that Virgin Mobile was planning to launch its own mobile broadband service using Cell C’s new HSPA+ network.

    Steve Bailey, CEO of Virgin Mobile, commented: ‘Virgin Mobile has shown consistent high subscriber growth and has significantly increased its base of higher ARPU post-paid subscribers in South Africa over the last two years. It is time for us to capitalise on this growth and bring in an additional shareholder to invest in Virgin Mobile’s further expansion, which will enable us to deliver more exciting products and services to our valued customers. We also look forward to leveraging our updated network agreement with Cell C to provide improved performance to our customers’.

    Faisal Al Bannai, a director of Calico Investments, added: ‘Calico looks forward to working with Virgin Mobile to develop the business through the expansion of its offerings. Virgin Mobile has shown an ability to differentiate itself from the competition and, with our intended investment, there will now be even more potential to increase the range of quality products and services Virgin Mobile can offer going forward’. Virgin Mobile South Africa began life in 2006, as an equal joint venture between Cell C and Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. When the possibility of a stake sale was first mooted in July 2010 Virgin claimed to have 300,000 customers, of whom 90% were post-paid.

    Telegeography
  • Registered customers of mobile phone money transfer service, M-Pesa, can now withdraw cash in any currency from Visa branded automated teller machines (ATMs) anywhere in the world. They can also make purchases in accepted merchant outlets or shop online.

    This follows a partnership deal between Safaricom and I&M Bank under which the phone operator and the bank launched the first Visa branded card that can be loaded from a mobile phone through its M-Pesa money transfer service.

    "Users of this service will enjoy the convenience of online shopping as they can easily pay using the Pre-Paid Visa cards and also access their accounts via the internet," said I&M Bank chief executive officer Arun Mathur.

    Under the agreement, M-Pesa users will be able to transfer funds from their accounts to the PrePay Safari Card, which is an international Visa card co-branded with I&M Bank.

    "The PrePay Safari Card comes as a major boost in the push to broaden M-Pesa services from a money transfer service to a total mobile commerce solution," said Safaricom CEO, Bob Collymore, during the signing ceremony held at Safaricom House on Tuesday.

    The card can hold up to a maximum of Sh500,000 loaded through the M-Pesa paybill option. The balance can be refunded through I&M Bank branches without having to open an account there.

    "It can also be reloaded through M-Pesa in Kenya for a subscriber who has travelled internationally thus deepening its key propositions of convenience and accessibility," said Collymore of a money transfer service, which was launched four years ago and now has more than 13 million users and 23,000 agents.

    The partnership comes at a time when the Central Bank of Kenya latest statistics show that mobile money transfer service, which is viewed as holding the key to the future of e-commerce, is now the most widely used mode of financial transactions.

    According to the figures, in December last year, a daily average of 929,143 users transacted using mobile phones, dealing about Sh2.43 billion.

    In the same month, 558,808 Kenyans moved Sh3.1 billion through automated teller machines, while 34,709 used electronic fund transfers worth Sh1.1 billion. About 70,000 used cheques valued at Sh7 billion while 4,262 used the high value payment system - the real time gross settlement systems, transacting Sh64.9 billion.

    Daily Nation
  • Millicom International Cellular (MIC) has reported a drop in profit for the fourth quarter ended 31 December 2010, reflecting the absence of gains from discontinued operations included in results for the year-ago period. The Luxembourg-based telco said net profit declined to USD157.2 million from USD454.2 million in the same period of 2009, when the results included a gain of USD289 million from the disposal of non-core businesses in Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Sierra Leone. Revenues for the quarter grew 10% to USD1.07 billion, while operating profit rose to USD281.4 million from USD243.8 million. For the full year MIC's profit surged to USD1.65 billion, while revenues grew 16% to USD3.92 billion. Capital expenditure for 2010 totalled USD731 million; for the current year the company expects CAPEX to exceed USD800 million. The company added that it expects to dispose of its operation in Laos in 2011.

    Customers in Africa increased by 23% year-on-year, bringing the total at the end of December to just below 15 million. The lower intake for the region as a whole compared to Q3 is partly due to mandatory customer registration processes in Ghana and Tanzania which give rise to greater volatility. This is best illustrated by the fact that the Tanzanian market contracted in Q4, probably as a consequence of lower multiple SIMs following mandatory registration.
     
    Revenues in Africa were up 5% year-on-year to $239 million, with local currency revenues up 12% following pricing pressure mainly in Ghana and Tanzania, with no elasticity yet at this stage. We also have limited capacity in Senegal as we are investing in capex only through the operation‟s own cash generation.  DRC and Tanzania continued to demonstrate the strongest local currency growth, recording year-on-year increases of 21% and 20% respectively.  In DRC, the regulator introduced high minimum tariffs for all operators in December, which we expect to cause a slow down in the rate of penetration growth.  VAS revenues increased by 41% in Africa year-on-year and now account for 10% of the region‟s recurring revenues.
     
    ARPU for the region was down 11% year-on-year in local currency.  We have seen increased pricing activity in Africa in recent months and in some markets we have adjusted our cross-net tariffs through headline price reductions or promotional activity in order to maintain affordability.  We will monitor closely whether elasticity will follow in the coming months. 
     
    EBITDA for Africa for Q4 10 reached $100 million, up 12% year-on-year. The EBITDA margin was 41.7%, up 2.4 percentage points over Q4 09. 
     
    Capex in Africa amounted to $120 million in Q4 and $278 million for the full year or 31% of revenues.  We expect capex in Africa to increase as a percentage of sales in 2011 as we invest in order to capitalize on the region‟s growth potential and to address the possible increase in traffic from lower tariffs.  We will also begin to invest in 3G in several major urban areas.

  • Following directives given to commercial banks by the Central Bank of Nigeria to effect electronic payment system in the country, MasterCard, an international electronic payment company, has entered into alliance with InterSwitch, aimed at providing a single payment card known as MasterCard-Verve.

    Plans are underway for government to sell its shares in MTN Rwanda by the end of this year, Business Times has learnt. The move is part of the government's broader strategy to divest from companies it owns shares in to facilitate development of capital markets and increase alternative sources of long-term capital for businesses.

Digital Content

  • Handset manufacturer, Nokia, is set to launch a bicycle- charger that will help people in rural areas to harness energy from bicycles to charge mobile phones. In an interview with Daily Monitor last week, Kenneth Oyolla, Nokia General Manager for East and Southern Africa said the innovation will give people who live in areas with no electricity freedom to use their phones without worrying about battery life. The innovation is based around the dynamo that a bicycle uses to empower its lighting system.

    The charger kit includes a charger, a bottle dynamo and a phone holder that is can be attached to any bicycle. When a rider pedals, the device rotates as the wheel spins and generates electrical energy, which is transmitted up a wire to a handlebar, which a phone plugs into.

    To begin charging, a cyclist needs to travel around 6 kilometres per hour and while charging time will vary depending on battery model, a 10 minutes journey at a speed of 6 kilometres per hour will give you 28 minutes of talk time while riding the same distance at 20kmph gives you 50 minutes of talk time.

    Therefore, the faster one rides, the more battery life they generate. The charger can be used to power any Nokia phone with a 2mm power jack. The rate of electricity penetration is still low standing at on only 11 per cent.

    The Monitor
  • Mobile application development in Kenya is gaining speed as players rush to tap into the vast pool of young tech entrepreneurs by offering training. Experts predict that mobile applications will be the next big thing in five years.

    Initiatives like mLab East Africa and several others by Nokia has seen Kenyans benefit from fully-sponsored trainings on creation of mobile apps and how best to launch them into the market, revealing a growing interest in the sector.

    Technology experts say the surge of investments into the mobile telephony sector is an indicator that the country is in step with the rest of the world in terms of software development as well as having the necessary pool of individuals to actualise it.

    "Kenya has a clear competitive advantage in the mobile application development space with hundreds of programmers skilled in making everything from USSD and SMS services to Android and iPhone apps", said Erik Hersman, director of operations at the non-profit Ushahidi.

    "It's such a big deal here that we're putting together a big event on June 14-15 called Pivot 25, where East Africa's top programmers and start-ups will vie for a position to pitch their new mobile apps and services to over 400 of the industry's leading experts and investors."

    iHub, a tech community in Nairobi, has integrated with four other technology-focused start-up incubators like itself across Africa with the aim of creating a web of connections, support, and mentorship that will help technology entrepreneurs link and share innovations.

    "Since the iHub concept has been so popular in Kenya, we are banding together with like-minded leaders of other labs and hubs around Africa to found AfriLabs, an association of African tech labs around the continent which will be the body that spreads this model across Africa", Hersman said.

    The mobile app industry offers a worldwide market for developers which Ken Mwenda, managing director of eMobilis, likens to a global mall where you upload your application and if people like and download it, you get paid.

    Business Daily

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Nigeria’s mobile operator Globacom has launched its prepaid 3G plus internet services in Kaduna.

    Morocco’s third largest mobile operator Wana, which launched a GSM-based network in February 2010 under the Inwi brand, is celebrating signing up a total of 4.3 million cellular users by end-December, compared to the 600,000 CDMA-only mobile subscribers it served a year earlier. The operator claims that the rapid growth gave it a 13.5% market share by the end of 2010 against 2.4% twelve months previously. Wana, which also provides CDMA-based 3G mobile broadband services under the Inwi brand, and fixed-wireless telephony under the Bayn banner, has also retained its leading positions in terms of subscribers in the fixed line and 3G internet markets, claiming shares of 66.7% and 40.7% respectively, as confirmed by figures from the regulator, the ANRT.

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  • 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 For further information visit here:


    Cloud Computing World Forum Middle East & Africa
    9 March  2011, Grand Millennium Hotel, Dubai

    Taking place on the 9th March 2011, the Cloud Computing World Forum Middle East and Africa is a Free-to-attend event and will feature all of the key players within the Cloud Computing and SaaS market providing an introduction, discussion and look into the future for the ICT industry.
    This one day conference will provide the most complete and comprehensive platform for the global Cloud Computing and SaaS industry. Register Free today and get inspiration on how to address your latest issues with advice from real-life end-user case studies and practical examples.
    Show Highlights include:
    1 Day Conference on Cloud Computing and SaaS
    Featuring presentations on Cloud Computing, SaaS, Applications, IaaS, Virtualization and PaaS
    Keynote theatre featuring leading industry speakers
    More case studies than any other like event
    Learn from the key players offering leading products and services
    Pre-show online meeting planner
    Evening networking reception for all attendees
    For more information please visit here: or contact the Keynote team on +44 (0) 845 519 1230 or email info@keynoteworld.com.


    Broadband World Forum MEA
    14-15 March 2011, Dubai UAE

    Network, learn and do business with 750+ decision-makers from across the regional Broadband ecosystem to deliver you inspiration, insights and ideas that will further your regional business.The conference programme features 60+ visionary speakers presenting across keynote plenary sessions, 4 in-depth technology tracks and a Rural Coverage and Connectivity focus day.  Co-located to the conference is a 35+ stand technology exhibition showcasing some of the region’s latest cutting-edge broadband technologies, applications, solutions and services to hit the market.
    Limited FREE passes for operators and early booking discounts apply to all others.  Register with VIP code: BBM11BAA
    For further information visit here:

    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:


    Managed Services Growth Markets 2011
    4-5 April, Movenpick Jumeirah Beach, Dubai, UAE

    Now in its 4th year and attended by over 200 attendees in 2010, Informa Telecoms and Media’s Managed Services for Growth Markets event will take place on 4th - 5th April at the Moevenpick Jumeirah Beach, Dubai, UAE.With a proven track-record and repeat sponsorship from leading suppliers Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, NokiaSiemens Networks and Motorola, this event is truly established as the ultimate meeting-place for the Managed Services industry in the growth markets.A 50% discount for operators ensures a high percentage operator attendance.  Extended break times and additional social functions will guarantee a further enhancement to the already unique networking opportunities. Informa’s Managed Services for Growth Markets conference is the only established event in the region, proven to deliver an industry focussed agenda, the highest level speakers, superior networking opportunities, and top class delegates year on year.
For more 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:

  • InMobi, a mobile advertising firm, has appointed a Kenyan-born Isis Nyong'o as its vice president and managing director for Africa as it seeks to get a larger share of the continent's advertising pie ahead of rival Google.

    In Tunisia, the Industry and Technology Minister announced the following nominations in the communication technologies sector:
    Raouf Chkir : CEO of Tunisie Telecom
    Kamel Saadaoui : President of the National Telecommunications Authority (INT)
    Moez Chakchouk : CEO of the Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI)
    Samir Sidhom : Director General of the National Agency for Computer Security (ANSI)

    HP has announced the appointment of Graham Vorster as HP Networking Country Manager for HP South Africa, with immediate effect.

  • HR Manager’s job entails providing practical, consistent, and proactive support, direction and advice to other division managers on HR procedure, policy, best practice, employment rewards, benefits, and legislation to facilitate in achieving the objectives and targets of an organization. HR manager performs human resources management works relating to hiring, recruitment, training, compensation, promotion, termination, career development, or retirement. HR manager also develops, updates, and maintains personnel policies, policy manuals and employee handbook as required.
    For further information about the job or to apply click here

  • MTN and Radcom – East Africa
    Radcom, a provider of service assurance solutions, says that it has won a contract from South Africa based MTN for its Omni-Q Service Assurance solution to monitor one of MTN's mobile networks in East Africa.

    Safaricom and Alepo - Kenya

    Safaricom, East Africa’s largest mobile carrier, selected Alepo Technologies, Inc. to provide an integrated BSS/OSS solution for WiMAX and Wi-Fi, including Alepo’s award-winning 16e AAA Server and DHCP Server. The robust solution will allow Safaricom to extend more finely grained service offerings to customers while maintaining high network security and optimizing resources.

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