Issue no 560 24th June 2011

top story

  • Right at the bottom of the pyramid are phone users who can’t afford the minimum cost for a SIM to share in someone else’s phone. Movirtu has produced a cloud-based, login account which will enable anyone who has access to a GSM phone to share it but still retain their own number. Russell Southwood spoke to the CEO and founder, Nigel Waller about the potential market for this low-cost telephony product.

    Nigel Waller used to work in telecoms back-end infrastructure and during this time, an African operator asked him how it would be possible to deliver a phone service more cheaply in rural areas: just getting a SIM card to someone costs the operator around US$7 in markets without high taxes. He was driving on a snowy road in Moscow when the idea came to him: why not make the mobile service for the user based on a login like e-mail and then they could share phones?

    The product was being tested in 2010 and started being deployed as a pilot with several operators in Africa. Two weeks ago it went live with Airtel Madagascar. But as Waller told us:”We’d like to see it rolled out across all the Airtel territories”. To back its expansion it raised US$5.5 million from London-based TLcom Capital at the end of last year.

    The product has two markets: low-income individuals who want access to a phone without buying a handset or a SIM card and agents who will be able to offer access to phones and individual accounts to use them.  It costs as a little as US20 cents to deliver the service set-up compared to anything between US$14-21 to deliver a SIM card.

    The account details are stored in the operator’s hub and each individual user on the platform gets to store contacts and can have a service which forwards missed calls to another phone for when they are not logged in. It also contains a gateway that will allow them to use m-money services like M-Pesa. For the wealthier users in this low-end user group, there is a product called ManyMe with which the user can get several different numbers on the same basis. It currently works on any GSM handset but not CDMA, although they may extend to it in the future.

    According to Waller:”We need the involvement of grassroots NGOs. In one country we’re working with an organisation that needs to reach 500,000 farmers and only 1 in 5 has a phone. The NGO wants to communicate with this group, including doing surveys and sending out pricing information.” The 400,000 without a phone can in many instances share with the 100,000 who do have a phone.

    The product is aimed at those who are earning US$1-2 a day. At the upper end of this range, the user will often save for six months to buy a branded handset and from Movirtu’s research, it’s clear they understand and want to have a warranty. In this range, Waller reckons as much as 40% of the market will be interested in the product:”We’re pragmatic and know that in the short-term the take up is likely to be in the hundreds of thousands and we’re working hard with the local local marketing people to explain how it works.”

    “It’s clear from our research that those who share phones – either with family or friends – are paying up to a 50% premium (when they pay the phone owner) for air time. With our platform, the owner of the phone gets an airtime incentive to lend the phone. There’s also a huge gender and geography disparity: 70% in this segment without a phone are women and 80% are in rural areas.”

    “People feel a lack of dignity (when they have to borrow a phone) and there’s no privacy because the phone owner can see who they’ve called. So we’re trying to ease the ecosystem and offer a solution that meets their needs. All you need to log in is a 4-digit pin code.”

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube Channel:

    Nigel Waller, CEO and founder of Movirtu on the Cloud Phone and low-income and rural users.

    One of Nigeria’s leading TV producers, Obi Asika, CEO, Storm360 (who made Big Brother) on music TV, format programmes and the potential for music and TV content delivered over mobile.

    Damian Cook, CEO, e-Tourism Frontiers on: the growth of online transations in the African tourism market; the growing interest of international Online Travel Agents; and the use of social media and User Generated Content to market yourself. Did you know the gorillas of Uganda have Facebook pages?

    A clip that has been barely watched but should provide food for thought for anyone thinking about getting network out to rural areas.

    To get breaking news, up-to-the-minute views and rumours circulating in the business, follow us on Twitter: BalancingActAfr

telecoms

  • SA’s telecommunications industry regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa), will outline the first steps it intends taking to unbundle Telkom’s local loop at a briefing at its offices in Sandton this Wednesday.

    Icasa will take the wraps off its delayed “local-loop unbundling discussion document”. The document, which will be published in the Government Gazette, is meant to outline the authority’s “initial views on the process to be followed to unbundle the fixed-line local loop and to invite public participation and comment”.

    The document was meant to be published at the beginning of the month, but was postponed so that “finer details” could be finalised.

    Local-loop unbundling is a regulatory intervention to provide Telkom’s rivals with access to its so-called “last mile” of copper cable infrastructure connecting homes and businesses to its telephone exchanges. It’s seen as an important step in reducing fixed-line broadband costs.

    Telkom Group CEO Nombulelo Moholi warned last week that unbundling posed a “major risk” to the company. She said the risk from unbundling came from “not knowing” what would be unbundled.

    “There is a vacuum in the definitions and regulations around what will be unbundled, and at what price. Also, at what cost, and from what point in the network [it will happen],” she told investors at the presentation of the group’s annual results.

    Communications minister Roy Padayachie has set a deadline of November 2011 for the local loop to be unbundled.

    TechCentral
  • Hassan Nonni, a middle aged man believed to be the mastermind behind illegal termination of international telephone traffic in the country has been sentenced to five years imprisonment by an Accra Fast Track High Court.

    The termination of international telephone traffic is a fraudulent practice by which international calls are masked to appear as local ones, thereby denying the country and the service providers’ large amounts of revenue.

    Nonni was being held for providing electronic communication service without licence and knowingly obstructing, interfering with sending, transmission, delivery and reception of communication.

    The court presided over by Mr Justice Bright Mensah sentenced him to five years on each count. However, the sentences are to run concurrently with effect from the day of his arrest. Nonni earlier on pleaded not guilty but when the case was called on Tuesday changed his plea to guilty.

    This was after an expert from the National Communication Authority (NCA) had testified. Following the rising incidence of fraud in inbound telephone traffic to Ghana, the Government mandated the NCA to intensify its fraud watch activities over the telecommunication operators.

    As a result, a joint anti-fraud task force was set up by the NCA, in conjunction with the telecommunication operators, to track down people involved in fraudulent by-pass of international calls and that culminated in the arrest of the accused.

    In November 2010, Nonni was arrested at his hideout at Achimota, a suburb in Accra.
    He is a Ghanaian who has been resident in Italy for the past 23 years and holds an Italian passport. In his possession at the time of his arrest were sophisticated gadgets used in his illicit enterprise.

    Experts identified them as a Cisco Router and three pieces of Telles IGate equipment, which uses four megawatts user Internet account, each with 16 slot cards. Also in Nonni’s possession were 3,869 SIM cards, mainly from Vodafone and Zain now Airtel.

    Each of the SIM cards is capable of generating approximately $40 and estimated that his operations had led to the loss of millions of dollars to telecommunication operators and government.

    Nonni told the Police that he received international voice traffic from customers all over the world which he routed into Ghana through his SIM Box system before terminating the calls to the appropriate recipients on the platforms of the local telecommunication companies.

    He alleged that he started the SIM Box business in September 2010 and ended in the first week of October 2010, adding, however, that “hand-written records at his operation centre indicated that the suspect was actively in business even as of November 9, 2010”.

    GNA
  • Hassan Nonni, a middle aged man believed to be the mastermind behind illegal termination of international telephone traffic in the country has been sentenced to five years imprisonment by an Accra Fast Track High Court.

    The termination of international telephone traffic is a fraudulent practice by which international calls are masked to appear as local ones, thereby denying the country and the service providers’ large amounts of revenue.

    Nonni was being held for providing electronic communication service without licence and knowingly obstructing, interfering with sending, transmission, delivery and reception of communication.

    The court presided over by Mr Justice Bright Mensah sentenced him to five years on each count. However, the sentences are to run concurrently with effect from the day of his arrest. Nonni earlier on pleaded not guilty but when the case was called on Tuesday changed his plea to guilty.

    This was after an expert from the National Communication Authority (NCA) had testified. Following the rising incidence of fraud in inbound telephone traffic to Ghana, the Government mandated the NCA to intensify its fraud watch activities over the telecommunication operators.

    As a result, a joint anti-fraud task force was set up by the NCA, in conjunction with the telecommunication operators, to track down people involved in fraudulent by-pass of international calls and that culminated in the arrest of the accused.

    In November 2010, Nonni was arrested at his hideout at Achimota, a suburb in Accra.
    He is a Ghanaian who has been resident in Italy for the past 23 years and holds an Italian passport. In his possession at the time of his arrest were sophisticated gadgets used in his illicit enterprise.

    Experts identified them as a Cisco Router and three pieces of Telles IGate equipment, which uses four megawatts user Internet account, each with 16 slot cards. Also in Nonni’s possession were 3,869 SIM cards, mainly from Vodafone and Zain now Airtel.

    Each of the SIM cards is capable of generating approximately $40 and estimated that his operations had led to the loss of millions of dollars to telecommunication operators and government.

    Nonni told the Police that he received international voice traffic from customers all over the world which he routed into Ghana through his SIM Box system before terminating the calls to the appropriate recipients on the platforms of the local telecommunication companies.

    He alleged that he started the SIM Box business in September 2010 and ended in the first week of October 2010, adding, however, that “hand-written records at his operation centre indicated that the suspect was actively in business even as of November 9, 2010”.

    GNA
  • Econet Wireless Zimbabwe has clashed with regulator Potraz (Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe) after it emerged that some of its subscribers and workers were using Blackberry services without prior licensing.

    Potraz noted that some Econet workers were using the service on social sites such as Facebook, Skype and Twitter and has had to intervene to stop them.

    Both sides have opted to employ diplomacy on the matter — with Potraz deputy director-general Mr Alfred Marisa saying: "We have had to intervene here and there," and Econet commenting that the regulator takes steps that may be necessary at various stages of developing a product.

    This paper, however, is reliably informed that Econet Wireless Zimbabwe has been banned from using the service until it is licensed. Late last year Econet Wireless Zimbabwe engaged Canadian firm Research in Motion (RIM), the manufacturers of BlackBerry devices, for the deployment of Blackberry services in the country.

    Blackberry devices and services' unique selling point, which has made them popular to business executive and corporates, is that they provide a secure form of communication, particularly through the corporate e-mail service, that is unreadable unless one possesses the encryption key.

    Marisa said "they had not regularised" the use of the Blackberry services to Econet Wireless Zimbabwe as they were still considering the service.

    "Potraz has the prerogative to approve any new telecommunication service that is introduced in the country and that includes Blackberry services which must get prior approval by the authority before their commercial launch for public consumption.

    "The authority is still considering Econet's request to introduce Blackberry services in the market. He said that those that were using it for "testing purposes" were breaking the law as the service is still to be approved.

    "First of all, the authority never issued Econet Wireless Zimbabwe with a Blackberry testing licence, secondly we do not have such a licence in our statutes," he said. Econet Wireless Zimbabwe said they were not aware of anyone who has been using Blackberry in the market, whether a subscriber or an employee.

    Ranga Mberi, Econet's corporate communications manager, said "as previously stated, Blackberry is one of several value-added services that Econet has considered as part of a continuing process of investigating opportunities and developing innovations for the market.

    "These processes happen to be under the guidance of the regulatory authorities, who take steps that may be necessary at various stages of developing a product. We are unable to comment on specific stages at this time. However, we continue to engage the regulator, as per custom, to ensure full compliance at all times."

    Mberi would not be drawn into revealing what necessary steps Potraz had taken at what stages of the development of the product. Econet, with a local subscriber base that is inching towards the five million mark, is considered as a suitable partner for RIM, which is attracted by bigger networks.

    The Blackberry Internet Service's (BIS's) main selling point is its use of RIM's proprietary push technology to Blackberry devices over cellular carriers. In essence, BIS retrieves e-mail from mail servers by polling a POP3 (Post Office Protocol version 3) server. POP3 is an Internet standard protocol used to retrieve e-mail from a remote server to a local client. RIM, based in Ontario, Canada, runs the exchange servers for its business-friendly Blackberry mobile devices and all its exchange servers are in Canada.

    If one sends an e-mail from a Blackberry smart phone, the e-mail goes through as a heavily encrypted signal to exchange servers in Canada and is then sent encrypted to the recipient.

    This encryption is difficult to break without the right encryption keys and hence the Blackberry smart-phone has a reputation of being secure for communication. It is widely believed that RIM has struck deals with countries such as India, Russia and China, who are sensitive to issues over corporate or industrial espionage.

    Countries in the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are extremely sensitive over fears of terrorist threats securely communicated over the device.

    Earlier last week Marisa defended the country's licensing framework and described it as "conducive for operators" despite claims that it was holding back expansion plans by players.

    Bulawayo24.com
  • Concerned Nigerians and families of contractors who claimed to have done jobs for MTN Communications Nigeria Limited, gathered at Folomo roundabout, Awolowo Way, Ikoyi, Lagos, by the Corporate Headquaters of MTN to protest alleged refusal to pay for the services rendered to telecommunications giant.

    Besides the alleged unpaid debts, the protesters said over 3,000 Nigerians stand the risk of losing their jobs and that many Small and Medium Enterprises, SMEs, engaged by the GSM provider, as contractors, will equally close down soon if government and other relevant agencies do not intervene urgently.

    The protesters who chanted war songs and displayed anti-MTN placards, called on President Goodluck Jonathan, the National Assembly, NASS, National Communications Commission, NCC, organised labour among others to call MTN to order.

    Efforts to get the response of MTN were unsuccessful security men at MTN's gate claimed they were under strict order not to allow in Journalists. Already, one of the affected contractors, Private Networks Nigeria, PNN, limited has petitioned NASS, NCC, among others, to prevail on MTN to pay it and other local contractors for various services to enable them pay their employees, meet their responsibilities to their families and remain in business.

    In the petition by its Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Alhaji Abdulrahman Abiola-Odunowo, it urged members of NASS and NCC, to save SMEs in Nigeria from perceived MTN's strangulation policies as the telecommunications firm's refusal to pay local contractors for services rendered to it under contractual obligations was crippling their operations.

    Alhaji Abiola-Odunowo in the petition, claimed MTN refused to pay PNN N923mllion for services rendered to it. According to the petition, "on February 8, 2008, the PNN entered into a Site Integrated Maintenance, SIM, contract with MTN for the management and maintenance of MTN's base stations in the Northern parts of the country, totaling about 1,000 sites.

    PNN says it became the largest and one of the best SIMs contractors of MTN, soon after its engagement, receiving several awards in the industry, owing to its ability to deliver on contractual obligations and services. According to PNN MTN felt uncomfortable with PNN's growth, set out to ruin the mutual relationship.

    MTN decided to challenge the credibility of invoices submitted by PNN on the basis of wrong site classifications. As a result, it asked PNN to reverse the invoices pending the outcome of a proposed Joint Audit, JA, by both companies. PNN agreed to the proposed JA, hoping its balance would be paid immediately after JA's findings.

    When the JA established that PNN invoices were genuine, PNN resubmitted a variation invoice in the sum of N452million, which it lost as at September 2010, to MTN, as agreed prior to the JA.

    Rather than pay the said amount, MTN became unfriendly and eventually, refused to pay for any of the services rendered by PNN before, during and after the JA. Consequently, in a move that was totally against the terms and conditions of the contractual agreement it signed with PNN, MTN demanded that PNN return all sites under its management without paying for what it owed."

    "Having tried all avenues to get MTN to pay, without any result, PNN finally decided to institute arbitration proceedings against MTN, an action, which MTN agreed to and both parties selected and agreed on Akinsanya, as Sole Arbitrator. The Arbitrator however, in her final award delivered on the 20th April, 2011, ordered that the respondent (MTN), pay the sum of N115 Million to claimant (PNN), the respondent should also pay interest at the rate of 21% per annum from 1st day of June 2010 till the final liquidation of both the sum of N115Million and accrued interest.

    The claimant says it is entitled to a refund of the sum of N100,030,411 and the interest thereon as this sum had been admitted by the respondent as being due to the claimant. All fund representing excess diesel supplied to the respondent must be paid the claimant. (A simple calculation revealed what exactly is due to the claimant.

    The arbitrator directed that the respondent and the claimant should calculate the excess diesel that was consumed). The claimant's calculation of N907 million was also sent to MTN. However, in spite of the Arbitration award, MTN has refused to pay a kobo to PNN. And it is understood that MTN is making attempts to appeal the arbitration judgment in an attempt to nullify it."

    The petitioner explained that its decision to "call on the Federal Government, the National Assembly and NCC to prevail on MTN to obey the nation's laws and contractual obligations signed with Small Enterprises by paying them for services rendered to it, is to rescue Small Businesses in the country from strangulation. PNN believes the actions of MTN over the years have had adverse effects on the majority of small companies.

    Vanguard
  • - Telkom Kenya is to send home more employees as the company restructures and prepares to drop some of the technologies it is using. The 400 employees are in departments whose services will soon be declared redundant as the telecom operator adopts new operational systems to enable it compete effectively.

    - SEACOM has signed a Master Services Agreement with Telecomunicações de Moçambique (TDM), the leading telecommunications service provider in Mozambique. This agreement gives SEACOM and its customers access to the largest and most distributed fibre optic network in Mozambique as well as a diverse route into Zimbabwe and additional border presence into Malawi and South Africa

internet

  • A new WiMAX-based network operator is aiming to launch in Zimbabwe as early as this month under the name ‘Spiritage’, writes The Africa Report. The start-up’s CEO Zachary Wazara claims that interconnection agreements with other operators are in the process of being finalised by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) before the company can launch a ‘mobile’ data/voice service based on ‘4G and WiMAX base stations’ following an investment of USD25 million.

    The 100% domestically-owned venture was issued with an Internet Access Provider (IPA) licence (‘class A’, which allows VoIP telephony) in May by POTRAZ and reportedly aims to offer mobile voice telephony and SMS in addition to broadband data services. Spiritage also claims that 500,000 people accessed its network in a pilot phase, and it now intends to launch wireless internet dongles and ‘mobile handsets which do not carry SIM cards, but are GSM compatible.’ ‘We are targeting to make broadband cheaper and easily accessible to more people,’ declared Wazara.

    Spiritage is the owner of Valley Technologies, the IAP class A licence holder, allowing it to build and operate public data and internet access networks, and provide VoIP services. Valley is reportedly rolling out a network in Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare and Gweru, with a number of WiMAX base stations in the region of 150 or more. Other IAP licensees reportedly working on launching mobile WiMAX and VoIP services in the coming months include Aquiva, Utande (Telerix), Telco, Zellco and others. Interconnection is thought to be the main sticking point in their efforts to launch commercial voice/data networks.

    Telegeography
  • Internet service provider MWeb has launched a cloud-based file-hosting service called Store-It that allows users to store and access files online. It’s offering 5GB of online storage space.

    Available as a value-add to MWeb customers, Store-It is an alternative solution to using hardware such as flash drives or external hard drives to store and save files. Users can access it from any connected device.

    The 5GB storage allocation will allow users to securely store documents such as their wills, copies of their ID documents as well as almost 100 000 photographs or more than 1 200 MP3 files, says Nathier Kasu, head of digital at MWeb. Data is stored locally, allowing for faster and more efficient retrieval times than offshore based solutions, he says.

    The 5GB Store-It product will be offered free to MWeb customers, with 45GB and 95GB upgrade options retailing at R70 and R140 respectively.

    TechCentral
  • 117% traffic growth - the fastest in Namibia, the fastest-growing Facebook fan page in Namibia, in the top five biggest local websites in Namibia within 3 months.
    This was the performance of iNamibia.co.na in Q1 of this year after the 15 January launch. The strong growth has continued into Q2 with iNamibia now being the third biggest site in Namibia already.

    iNamibia's aim is simple. Create a world-class online portal for Namibia; make information and access to all kinds of information easier, concise and cool. iNamibia is a central aggregation point or portal where every Namibian or any other visitor interested in the country and its people and the events that make waves there can find what they want.

    Anything from the latest breaking news to listening to the latest release by their favourite Namibian artists. We are creating the one digital destination where every Namibian should go daily.

    It claims it is a site “by Namibians for Namibians about Namibia”; its editorial angle is fresh, fun but accurate - and it claims a very diversified audience in terms of demographics.

    Peter Mietzner, the editorial powerhouse behind iNamibia's success states: We are really blown away by the uptake and success. The best reward is when we get those emails, letters and pats on the back from our readers who compliment us on our initiative.

    When asked how this growth is possible with a small really team and limited budget, Johan Nel, CEO and founder of Umuntu Media, the holding company for iNamibia, just smiled and said: "It's actually easy and great fun doing it. There are three main pillars to this and when your focus on those and ensure they are spot-on, you start seeing results.

    Umuntu Media is an entrepreneurial start-up founded and funded by Johan Nel and eVentures Africa Fund (eVA Fund).Umuntu Media has reserved numerous other icountry portals across Africa and will be rolling them out during 2011. For instance, www.izambia.co.zm is also live already and showing exactly the same brilliant growth as its sister iNamibia.

    Biz Community
  • - In Liberia, mobile operator Lonestar/MTN has launched a mobile broadband service labeled “iConnect”. The service is based on WiMAX technology.

    - Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame has featured among the 2011 top influential users of Twitter. According to the influential Foreign Policy (FP) - a global magazine of politics and economics - President Kagame, in the category of politicians and diplomats, is ranked alongside Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, the Secretary General of NAT0, Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Carl Bildt the Swedish foreign minister. President Kagame, who has more than 17,000 followers on his Twitter page, frequently uses the platform to interact with ordinary people, journalists and responds to questions raised about the country and various global issues.

    - Telecom equipment firm Huawei has launched a new wireless modem into the Kenyan market. The Huawei E5 is a centre of personal connection device and the ideal mobile broadband solution for business people wanting high-speed wireless connectivity, anytime and anywhere. The E5 wireless modem will be retailing at Safaricom shops for Sh10, 516.

    - Zimbabwean state-owned cellular network operator NetOne has begun an advertising campaign for its upcoming mobile broadband internet services, following indications earlier this year that the company was aiming to catch up rivals’ progress in the mobile broadband market. Mobile market leader by subscribers Econet Wireless offers commercial 3G mobile as well as WiMAX-based wireless broadband services while Telecel Zimbabwe currently provides a pilot 3G service.

computing

  • By the time the just concluded Nigerian Information Technology Exhibition, (NITEX) was drawing to a close last week in Lagos, there were worries among local computer assemblers following growing dominance by foreign PCs brands in the market.

    Currently, there is heightening tendency to reject the locally made PCs in favour of the foreign brand as HP and the rest of the offshore brands have remained the toast of many Nigerians.

    In the last decade, for instance, more than seven PC makers, including UNITEC, Pragmatic, Balogtek, Brian Systems, Zinox and Omatek and the more recently Geniac and Veda have arrived on the scene but only Zinox, Omatek, Beta and Brian Computers survived the competitive market.

    Meanwhile, a 2006 government circular signed by the former Secretary of the Federation, Chief Ufot Ekaette had directed all federal agencies and ministries at the federal and state levels to with immediate effect patronise made in Nigeria software and locally assembled computers as a priority choice of applications for all their functions.

    But up till now, the ministries, according to Vanguard Hi-Tech findings are said to have flouted this directive and instead embraced foreign PCs brands software developers and foreign made computer products and services to the detriment of their local counterparts.

    Just last week at the NITEX exhibition that brought together exhibitors drawn from domain areas of hardware manufacturing, assembling and vendoring, software development and marketing, among others, local PCs manufacturers at the exhibition hall including Beta Computers, Zinox and Omatk noted without mincing words that except the present government penalizes ministries, departments and agencies for shunning made-in-Nigeria PCs, the country will remain consumers of foreign brands, a situation that will make the largest African country lose billions of naira in terms of capital flight.

    For many observers, the local PCs makers have good products to offer. But the onus, according to them is to improve their total market relevance before they could up sales and profit.

    The President of NCS, Professor Uwadia had told the IT industry in his message during the event that the local software and hardware vendors need to be given more attention by government and the private sector to survive the competitive market.

    The local vendors have good products and services that can compete in the international market with heir foreign counterparts, he said.

    "But there is need for the federal government of Nigeria to make strong policies that will help local OEMs grow. The local PCs manufacturers have been suffering as a result of poor patronage from both private and public sectors of the Nigeria economy.

    "Something has to be done. We cannot continue like this. Government should save the local industries otherwise Nigeria will not face the knowledge society" Biyi Farere, who work in Beta Computers told Vanguard Hi-Tech at the close of NITEX 2011.

    Mindful of the need to promote local PC assembly, the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo administration issued a directive that all MDAs (ministries, departments and agencies) must patronized local PC makers and consider foreign brands only if the local brands could not meet up with the requirements. But today, reverse is the case" he explained.

    Speaking further on poor patronage of made in Nigeria PCs, a representative of Omatek Computers at the NITEX exhibition hall who pleaded anonymity told Vanguard Hi-Tech that market for local OEMs is still shrinking.

    According to him, the government must enforce compliance to the patronage of local brands otherwise the local market will continue to suffer in favor of foreign brands.

    Vanguard
  • In a bid to ease the activities of the judicial sector in the country, courts will, from next month, be digitally interlinked. In an interview with The New Times, the president of the High Court, Johnston Busingye, said that an ICT program connecting 22 courts, including the Supreme Court, High Court, Commercial Courts and courts of higher instance, will soon be launched.

    "The ICT programme will transform the way we work. Probably by the end of next year, we will be receiving cases online, without people coming here to lodge their complaints," Busingye said.

    The new system, he said, will also be linked to the Ministry of Justice, Prosecution and Prisons Service to determine court calendars.

    This will be the first phase in the decentralisation of the system, which Busingye said will later be open to public to lodge their cases online.

    "The first phase will take about a year. We want to first see if we are producing to our maximum. We want to exhaust that area using various management techniques We are trying to be as paperless as we can, though we can not shift completely.

    "We invested in software that we think is going to totally revolutionise the working of courts. It will reduce movement, produce more accuracy, provide more information and reduce the number of stages a case goes through in terms of preparation," added Busingye. He explained that the judges will be reading the cases online contrary to the present system of physical files.

    "On the day of hearing, we will be having computers in courtrooms for both sides (judges and litigants). But by the time of launch, if we will not have acquired the computers, litigants will, for the time being, be using physical files. The judgments will also be put online," he stated.

    Once opened to the public, those seeking court services will file their cases from their homes, offices or internet cafes."That will take some time, but we are determined to get there. We want people to be coming here only on the hearing of their cases. We think this system will help reduce the number of people who go to courts to lodge their complaints."

    "We want to serve the people to the best of our ability and we are determined to do that to the best of our impartiality and integrity."

    The New Times
  • The Kenya Institute of Education has partnered with the private sector to promote use of ICT in schools, a move aimed at improving performance of learners. Under the partnership with Safaricom and Microsoft, teachers will receive training on ICT and schools will be supplied with computers, e-learning accessories and high speed internet connectivity. Some 210 teachers from all over Kenya were selected and trained to be ICT champions in their respective counties.

    The initiative makes it easy for public schools being funded under the Computer for Schools Economic Stimulus Programme to access e-learning resources. Under the programme, five secondary schools in each constituency will get Sh900, 000 each to buy computers and their softwares.

    Speaking during the launch of the programme at KIE yesterday, KIE Director Lydia Nzomo said the institute has already developed e-learning materials for form one and two as well as for primary school. "For teachers to be efficient and remain relevant, they need to be familiar with ICT as this will ensure they are not overtaken by learners in terms of technological advancement," said Nzomo. KIE will provide the content while Safaricom and Microsoft will provide computers and software respectively.

    Nairobi Star
  • - The University of The Gambia (UTG) in collaboration with the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation EU-ACP (CTA) Monday began a five-day training for staff of higher educational institutions and other partners on Web 2.0.

    - Nigeria’s Vice President Namadi Sambo says the Federal Government is planning to create a Ministry of Information Technology.

    - MTN Business’ Gallo Manor data centre has experienced numerous problems over the last few years, and its headaches continued with another outage today (23 June 2011). Numerous websites and Internet services were affected by the downtime because of the high number of services hosted in this data centre. The affected companies include iBurst, Hetzner and of course MTN Business itself.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Intel Capital on Thursday announced it has reached an agreement to invest US$5m in JSE-listed technology group Altech. It is the first investment in SA by Intel Capital, the investment arm of US semiconductor giant Intel.

    The agreement, which remains subject to Altech shareholder approval, is intended to allow both Altech and Intel to explore possible areas of collaboration and to accelerate the adoption of broadband services in Africa.

    Altech CEO Craig Venter says the investment is evidence of new market opportunities that are emerging as large-scale broadband communications infrastructure becomes available in SA, West Africa and East Africa.

    “As demand for more services grows, we will see more investment in communications infrastructure and the resultant services that follow on top of that infrastructure, be it mobile, broadband or data,” says Venter.

    Arvind Sodhani, president of Intel Capital, says the company wants to stimulate economic activity in Africa. “We are actively seeking additional opportunities to invest in technology companies in emerging nations”.

    Subject to the approval of Altech’s shareholders, Intel Capital will invest a convertible loan amount of $5m. The loan will be convertible into Altech ordinary shares at any time between the first and third anniversaries of the effective date of the transaction.

    The conversion price will be determined upfront and will be based on Altech’s volume-weighted average price 30 days prior to the effective date of the transaction, plus a premium of 5%. 

    TechCentral
  • The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, says the $115 million syndicated loan for Vodafone Ghana came from Chinese, German, and African institutions.

    According to a press release issued by IFC on June 13, 2011, “The deal includes $82 million in syndicated, parallel loans from the Export-Import Bank of China, China Development Bank and DEG (Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH) and $33 million in what the IFC describes as B loans from Barclays, Ecobank, Rand Merchant Bank and Standard Bank.

    IFC acted as the lead arranger and will serve as the administrative agent for the project, the release said. The debt package, the release indicates was the IFC’s first syndication with the Export-Import Bank of China and China Development Bank.

    The Director of Syndicated Loans and Management at the IFC, Ritva Laukkanen, said, “The completion of IFC’s first syndication with Chinese financial institutions in Africa is an important milestone and we look forward to partnering on many more projects in the future.”

    IFC says in 2010, it provided Vodafone Ghana with a $100 million loan from its own account consisting of a $75 million senior loan and $25 million subordinated loan.

    Vodafone Ghana CEO, Kyle Whitehill was quoted by the release as saying “IFC has introduced us to new partners and sources of financing that will help us continue to expand our service offerings in Ghana. We look forward to IFC’s continuing support as we work to further the development of Ghana’s telecommunications infrastructure”.

    The loan is to help Vodafone Ghana enhance its telecommunications network, and spread the benefits of mobile phone and broadband services in Ghana, especially in rural areas.
    Over the last 10 years, the IFC says it has invested over $1.2 billion in 42 mobile phone projects spanning 15 countries in Africa.

  • Helios Investment Partners, the private equity fund that owns a quarter of Equity Bank's shares, is seeking to deepen its presence in Kenya by raking up its investments in the telecommunications and outdoor advertising sectors.

    Helios announced last week that it had raised Sh80 billion ($900 million) from investors, which analysts termed as one of the biggest amount of capital ever raised by an Africa-dedicated private equity fund.

    The money for Helios II fund came from endowment funds, foundations, corporate pension funds, sovereign wealth funds and development finance institutions in America, Europe, Asia and Africa. "We are looking to grow our footprint in Kenya through our investments in Continental Outdoor and Helios Towers Africa," said the firm in an e-mail statement.

    Helios also owns 8.5 per cent of Kenya's Flamingo Holdings, for which it paid Sh1 billion ($12.3 million) in 2004.

    A gradual decrease in political risk and a higher return relative to more mature markets in the West have made investors willing to put money in Africa.

    In December 2007 Helios completed the Sh16 billion ($178.7 million) acquisition of a 24.99 per cent interest in Equity Bank.

    The fund also acquired a stake in the fuel business through ShellHelios' partnership with Vitol, a leading global trader of oil, to buy Shell's retail operations in Africa, including in Kenya.

    Continental Outdoor is South African-based outdoor advertising agency which Helios bought for Sh13.17 billion in 2009.It operates in 14 African countries.

    Helios Towers Africa builds and operates telecommunications towers across Africa."We cannot give a specific breakdown, however we are looking to grow our footprint in Kenya," added the statement. Dan Awendo, chief executive of venture capital Investeq Capital says, the global financial crisis has changed foreign investors' perception of Africa. "After the global financial crisis everyone realised that there is really no safety net," said Awendo.

    Business Daily
  • The contractual wrangle between Namibian-based mobile operator, Trustco Mobile and Econet Wireless, has taken a new twist as the former has applied for an urgent interdict in Zimbabwe's courts against Econet Wireless.

    The interdict seeks to enforce Econet's compliance with its contractual obligations and to prohibit it from infringing in any way on Trustco Mobile's intellectual property rights, which are protected by Zimbabwean and international laws.

    The development has occurred after Econet recently severed its 18-month contract with the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) listed company, which provided a software platform for the delivery of messages on life cover status for subscribers.

    "Following the continuous delay by Econet of payment of the royalty fees to Trustco and more importantly, the insurance premium to FML (First Mutual Life), Trustco served Econet with a notice of default, pursuant to the terms of the agreement," said Trustco group managing director Quinton van Rooyen.

    "Upon receipt of the notice of default Econet unilaterally and immediately terminated the contract, severed Trustco and FML's access to the Trustco Mobile system, and denied that payment was outstanding to Trustco."

    He also said that as a result of the contractual wrangle, millions of people were sitting on large amounts of inactive life cover while customer details and status are not up to date.

    However, Econet, in an earlier statement, said it had set up a contingent fund, underwritten by FML to cover all policy holders who were entitled to the life cover.
    Rooyen said Econet owed Trustco US$4.8 million adding that the agreement between both operators stipulated that the contract could only be terminated upon giving six months notice to either side.

    Econet Wireless public relations manager Ranga Mberi said that he was not in a position to comment on the development as it had legal implications. However, its chairman Tawanda Nyambira was recently quoted as saying Trustco had misled the investing public by announcing on the JSE that they had insured 1, 7 million customers, yet the figure stood at 1, 2 million.

    But Rooyen dismissed the claims as spurious saying the information disclosed to the JSE was in strict compliance with the bourse's regulations. He added that as at May 31 this year, 1.8 million subscribers had subscribed to the Ecolife package.

    "Similar information was disclosed by Econet to its shareholders and its analysts as is required by the disclosure regulations as both entities are public listed companies," said Rooyen.

    Since the inception of Ecolife in November last year, policy holders in FML increased from less than one hundred thousand to close to two million.

    Econet has during the last few weeks increased its holdings in Afre Corporation, the holding company of First Mutual Life, and now controls the contracted insurance underwriter.

    Trustco Mobile management said that contrary to media reports, they pleaded with Econet to fulfil its payment obligations under the agreement in order to continue providing free life insurance to qualified Ecolife subscribers.

    It said Econet and First Mutual Life reacted to the success of Ecolife by seeking an equity stake in Trustco Mobile in December 2010, an offer that Trustco Group Holdings subsequently turned down.

    The Standard
  • Telecommunications company AccessKenya has consolidated its two subsidiaries under one operating company in a move expected to cut operating costs and create a more effective management structure.

    AccessKenya is taking advantage of a Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) policy change introduced in 2009 that allowed telecommunication firms to hold a single license allowing for mobile telephony operations, internet services, and content distribution or broadcasting.

    "We used to hold separate licenses for our network and internet services but the unified license has enabled us to convert AccessKenya from a holding company into an operating company," said David Somen, the director of strategy and special projects.

    The two subsidiaries were Communications Solutions Limited and Broadband Access Limited. The corporate re-organisation has seen AccessKenya take up total assets worth Sh1.6 billion and total liabilities valued at Sh1.5 billion, leaving the firm with net assets of Sh174 million from the subsidiaries.

    The company, which made a loss for the first time last year since its listing in June 2007, said it is betting on curbing costs to return into the profit territory. AccessKenya has paid value added tax (VAT) of Sh170.1 million to effect the consolidation.

    The amount will be reclaimed gradually through tax deductions on a monthly basis. The integration of the subsidiaries is expected to boost operational efficiencies by having a single corporate entity, a move that will lead to marginal reduction of costs. Access IT, a standalone subsidiary of AccessKenya focused on computer services is also slated for integration next year.

    Communications Solutions Limited had the bigger net value at Sh296 million compared to Broadband Access Limited's Sh17 million. "We have re-negotiated the terms of our Kenya Shilling borrowing which in turn made it feasible for us to convert most of our total borrowings into Shillings thereby removing most of the forex loss suffered in 2010," Daniel Ndonye, the firm's chairman told shareholders.

    AccessKenya made a forex loss of Sh134.4 million last year, a fact that contributed significantly to the Sh7.9 million net loss recorded in the period. The firm also announced it had negotiated for lower prices from international and national internet wholesale firms, a move it says will protect its margins that have come under pressure from a vicious price war brought by more entrants into the data market, including mobile telephony firms.

    Last year, the firm recorded revenues of Sh1.7 billion, down from Sh2 billion the previous year, attributed to reduced average revenue per user.

    Business Daily
  • - FNB bank announced that it is seeing a rapid uptake of cellphone banking in Africa. The bank has recorded year on year growth of 376% in Zambia, 277% in Botswana; 204% in Namibia and 473% in Swaziland.

    - Kuwait's Zain has announced that it has received the final tranche of US$700 million from Bharti Airtel as part of the sale last year of Zain's African networks to the Indian company.

Digital Content

  • The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) has announced a project to build a common digital platform which will help streamline the identification of protected musical works across 11 West African countries including Ghana.

    The project will help creators from these countries to get paid for their work through a simplified and standardized rights registration system.

    US firm Google will be WIPO’s technology partner in developing this new web-based system, which builds upon WIPO Software for Collective Management of Copyright and Related Rights (WIPOCOS).

    According to a press release on June 8, 2011, WIPO Director General Francis Gurry who made the announcement during the third World Copyright Summit, organized by the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC) in Brussels, said WIPOCOS is to build more efficient copyright infrastructures in developing countries approved by WIPO member states as part of the Organization’s Development Agenda.

    “The current data management process for registering works is complicated…the improved WIPOCOS rights registry will streamline that process – it will store information online and make it accessible from each participating country,” said Mr. Gurry.

    This means that a right holder will only have to register a work once to have the information stored across the 11 countries, he indicated.

    “WIPOCOS will help collecting management organizations in the participating countries share information on the identification of works and relevant interested parties, making cross border licensing easier”, the organization said.

    Highlighting some of the benefits of the project, WIPO said, this will make it simpler to license music across the set of countries and will reduce costs for creators.

    “It will immediately benefit creators and rights holders, who will be more easily identified by people wanting to license their works– it will also help music licensing bodies, such as radio stations, streaming services and others, who want to include African music in their offerings.”

    Commenting, Carlo d’Asaro Biondo, Google Vice President for Southern Europe, Middle East and Africa said “Google has a history of working with public institutions like WIPO to build technology solutions; we will continue to build these partnerships to benefit creators, consumers and the public-at-large.”

    Apart from Ghana, the other countries involved in the current phase of the project are Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo.

  • Safaricom subscribers can now search for and reconnect with their loved ones using their mobile phone via an application provided by Ericsson and Refugees United. The system enables refugees to use mobile phones to register themselves, search for loved ones, and subsequently reconnect via an anonymous database.

    The initiative is being launched today in Kenya, to mark the World Refugee Day and in support of the hundreds of thousands of people who have fled from conflict and disaster areas.

    The new mobile tool enables refugees to access Refugees United's mobile site - to view site click here, register in English, Kiswahili, Somali or Arabic, search for and subsequently reconnect with kin. Once registered, the information is stored in an anonymous database that is maintained by Refugees United.

    Safaricom CEO, Bob Collymore: "This is a great and innovative partnership for us. It not only expands the utility one can derive from being connected to the Safaricom network, but also provides a live example of the inclusiveness we seek in all our operations.

    Through this service, a very vulnerable segment of our society now has a real chance of being re-united with their loved ones. The service typifies the spirit of problem-solving innovation for societal good that has been the guiding philosophy for our business over the years."

    Daily Nation

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Vodacom-Mozambique, the local subsidiary of the South African mobile phone group Vodacom, on Thursday announced a 41 per cent cut in its tariffs. The basic cost for Vodacom mobile phone calls thus falls from 8.4 to five meticais a minute (at current exchange rates there are about 29.2 meticais to the US dollars). Vodacom-Mozambique Chief Executive Officer, Jose dos Santos, said this charge was valid at any time of day or night, and from a Vodacom number to any other Mozambican phone network, mobile or fixed.

    - Telkom South Africa new mobile operator, 8ta, has dropped a bomb on rivals Vodacom, MTN and Cell C, introducing a cut-rate broadband product offering 10GB of data a month for R199 on a 24-month contract. For an additional R100/month, users will have 20GB of bandwidth — 10GB plus an extra 10GB for use between midnight and 5am.

    - Zimbabwe based mobile network, Telecel has signed an agreement with money transfer service, TransferTo to enable people outside the country to transfer prepaid top-ups to phone accounts in Zimbabwe. Airtime transfers to Telecel Zimbabwe prepaid customers are available through multiple channels in key markets such as the UK, South Africa, Canada and USA.

More

  • - In a surprise development, JSE-listed telecommunications group MTN has announced it will not form a subsidiary board for its international operations — at least not yet. The group had planned to establish a separate board for its international operations, to be chaired by former CEO Phuthuma Nhleko, to manage its interests outside South Africa.

  • Telecoms World Africa
    27- 30 June 2011, International Convention Centre, Cape Town

    For more information please click here:

    Connected Home World Summit 2011
    28 - 29 June, Grand Connaught Rooms, London

    Deploying managed home services to drive loyalty, revenue & growth
    Informa Telecoms & Media announces details of the Connected Home World Summit. Sponsored by Motorola, Jungo, Lea and Twonky, the Connected Home World Summit aims to bring industry players together to listen to thought leadership, network with key players and increase Connected Home’s potential financial reward for all concerned.
    For a full list of speakers, to download the brochure and to register to attend, please click here:

    VAS Africa
    July 6 - July 7, 2011, Johannesburg

    For more information please click here:

    CDN World Summit
    26 - 28 October 2011
    Venue Hilton Hotel Paddington, London.

    The 3rd annual CDN World Summit promises to be the largest and most
    comprehensive CDN event ever. We are pleased to announce our partnership with BT Wholesale as the host operator and those already confirmed to the stellar line up which willinclude over 80 speakers.The full value chain is represented including content providers,broadcast operators, traditional and telco CDNs, represented by industry leaders such as; FilmFlex Movies, BT Wholesale and AT&T. For more information click here:

  • * IETF Fellowship Announcement (IETF 82 and 83)

    The Internet Society has announced that it is inviting applications for its latest Internet Society Fellowships to the IETF, part of its Next Generation Leaders (NGL) programme, click here to view site. The Fellowship programme allows engineers from developing countries to attend an Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) meeting.

    As you know, the IETF is the Internet's premier standards-making body, responsible for the development of protocols used in IP-based networks. IETF participants represent an international community of network designers, operators, vendors, and researchers involved in the technical operation of the Internet and the continuing evolution of Internet architecture.

    Fellowships will be awarded through a competitive application process. The Internet Society is currently accepting fellowship applications for the next two IETF meetings:

        * IETF 82, 13 - 18 Nov 2011, Taipei, TW
        * IETF 83, 25 - 30 March, Paris, FR

    For further information please click here:

    Fellowship applications for both IETF meetings are due by 15 July 2011.

    Please note that this fellowship is aimed at individuals from developing regions that possess a solid level of technical education and enough knowledge about concrete areas of IETF work to follow and benefit from the meeting¹s technical discussions.


  • * Airtel and Synchronica – Africa

    Bharti Airtel (‘Airtel’), a leading global telecommunications company with operations in 19 countries across Asia and Africa, has successfully deployed its mass-market mobile messaging service, based on Synchronica's Mobile Gateway infrastructure software, in 16 countries in Africa territories. The service, marketed as ‘airtel connect’, combines push email, synchronization, instant messaging and social networking in a single platform and is offered at an affordable, flat-rate, monthly charge.

    The group-wide launch is the culmination of a group-wide framework agreement between Airtel Africa and Synchronica.

    Airtel Ghana will be the first operator to launch ‘airtel connect’ which will offer a consumer-focused mobile messaging service which combines push email, synchronization, instant messaging and social networking in a single platform on a fixed monthly rental of GHC3 (US$1.99) for unlimited use, and will be available to any Airtel mobile customer, regardless of the type of mobile device they own.

    Airtel has embarked on a major print and radio advertising campaign to promote airtel connect. As an incentive, customers will be offered the chance to take advantage of a free 30-day trial.

    * Warid Telecom and Huawei - Uganda

    Warid Telecom has inked a deal with Chinese equipment supplier Huawei to upgrade and expand its network. The upgrade will double the network’s capacity increase coverage, and is expected to include the rollout of Warid’s first 3G network.

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