Issue no 563 15th July 2011

top story

  • There has hardly been a week without headlines on mobile apps in the last six months (see further in the newsletter, the announcement of Zantel launching an apps store in Tanzania). The launch of the Apple apps store in July 2008 has undoubtedly been a turning point in what is today considered as a sector that generates at the global level US$ billion of annual revenues through apps downloads. Consultancy and research company, Balancing Act, has just released a new report entitled “Mobile apps for Africa: Strategies to make sense of free and paid apps” which analyses the nascent apps ecosystem in Africa while providing an analytical framework allowing African mobile operators or other stakeholders to decide on what strategy to adopt regarding mobile apps.

    The 131 pages report “Mobile apps for Africa: Strategies to make sense of free and paid apps” contains 15 illustrated boxes, 26 tables, 39 charts and 2 maps. It is divided into three distinctive parts: Part 1: The users, the device and the usage; Part 2: The developers and the content; Part 3: Distribution platforms and distribution strategies.

    According to Isabelle Gross, the author of the report, there is sufficient evidence to indicate that smartphones will take a significant market share in Africa too. Usage surveys show that African mobile users are carrying out more and more “non-voice” activities on their phone. The rate of smartphone penetration in South Africa for example is promising and more African countries will follow on its path as smartphones prices will come down in the next two years.

    The handsets pyramid which currently is made up of over 80% basic phones in some African countries will be shifting in the next years and the changes will be top-down with a larger representation of smartphones and feature-rich phones. The report provides smartphone penetration forecasts for different markets. At present, Nokia’s handsets remain African’s favourite mobile phones but as the adoption of smartphones gathers pace, it will lose it leadership in favour of other OEMs. BlackBerry is currently the favourite brand among young South Africans.

    African countries with a large subscriber base and a growing smartphone penetration rate present the best opportunities for mobile apps. Smartphones drive the consumption of mobile apps and as more African mobile users will have a smartphone in their pocket in the near future, the case of providing them with content is getting more compelling for local developers.

    The report finds that African mobile apps developers are usually young graduates. In terms of gender, male developers outpace female developers. However, there are no figures on their number per country but estimates suggest a couple of hundred in small African countries and two or three thousand in large African countries. The African “developers’ ecosystem” remains fragmented but there is a growing number of initiatives that try to bring in more structure as well as funding to support interesting projects and talented developers. The report provides further insights on what type of mobile apps are more likely to make money in Africa as well as recommendations for African developers on how to optimise the revenue that they can expect to be making from the various apps stores that are available today to them. For local developers it is all about knowing what mobile users want and what are the best ways to get it to them.

    The revenues generated by the main international apps stores are tantalising for mobile operators and most of them across the world still have to decide if they want to become a mere “dump” pipe channelling all the content to their mobile subscribers’ handsets or decide to step in and start to supply content to their subscribers in order to get a share of this revenue. African mobile operators and in particular those one that have launched 3G services, are facing precisely this dilemma.

    The report provides an overview of the “distribution platforms ecosystem” and evaluates how disruptive the international apps stores have been so far for African mobile operators. Several African mobile operators are looking at launching their own apps store but so far only Orange Tunisie and Tunisiana have officially announced the launch of their apps store. Safaricom in Kenya and MTN in South Africa are rumoured to be thinking about launching their own apps store. The report further looks at how the growth of the international apps stores will affect Africa and what is changing in the apps ecosystem that could benefit Africa.

    A set of 8 recommendations are also provided to help mobile operators to identify what to look for when planning to launch an apps store. They are based on early lessons from emerging countries mobile operators that have launched apps stores. The report concludes by a detailed business case on launching an apps store in an African country and forecast revenue from paid applications, data revenue from apps downloads and revenue from advertising and in-apps purchases.

    More details are available here:

    or contact igross@balancingact-africa.com


    Video clips that might interest you on Balancing Act’s Web TV channel

    IsisNyong'o, MD Africa, InMobi on mobile advertising in Africa

    En francais: Karim Sy, Jokko Labs, Dakar

    Arthur Goldstuck, CEO, WorldWideWorx on the mobile Internet in South Africa

    Mikul Shah, Managng Director, Eat Out
    on expanding into East Africa

    David Afugani, Chief Marketing Officer, RLG
    on its Made in Ghana mobile handsets

    Francis Ebuehi, Country Manager, Dealfish West Africa on the its online classifieds site

telecoms

  • In its first response to the local loop unbundling (LLU) document published by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) last month, Telkom has shown it is reluctant to fast-track the unbundling process.

    Telkom says LLU has proven costly and complicated, even for Europeans, and that the process is far more intricate than its detractors would have consumers believe.

    Telkom’s group executive for regulatory affairs, Andrew Barendse, says developed world approaches to LLU are being used as a guideline for SA, but that this is inappropriate as SA’s telecommunications industry is comparatively immature. Rather, SA should look for policy lessons from Brazil, China, Indian and Russia (the so-called Bric nations), he says.

    Barendse says consumers and competitors alike must bear in mind what he calls “the three Cs” when discussing LLU. He says research into other, similar markets that have undergone LLU shows the process to be complex, costly and, in the case of SA, potentially counterproductive.

    Richard Majoor, a legal representative from Telkom says LLU might lead to “suboptimal network performance. The process is complex — it’s not merely a handover of infrastructure, but it requires product management.”

    Majoor reiterates Barendse’s suggestion that LLU might prove counterproductive and may not result in reduced costs for consumers as many pundits claim.

    Telkom’s executive for economic regulation, Izaak Coetzee, says consumers and competitors must realise that line rental represents a loss for the company and that Telkom offers line rental below cost and cross-subsidises the shortfall via call traffic.

    Coetzee says the financial impact of LLU on access providers depends on the type of LLU, the degree of cost recovery allowed and the level at which wholesale prices are set. Icasa needs to specify these variables if Telkom is to calculate accurately whether or not unbundling will benefit consumers.

    He also says that there is a misconception that as the copper network is already built no further investment is required. The cost of maintaining the ageing copper network shouldn’t be underestimated and needs to be factored into LLU discussions, he adds.
    Thamsanqa Kekana, Telkom’s senior legal advisor for regulatory affairs, says “Icasa claims to know more about the business of LLU than the operator”. He says Icasa claims LLU will increase broad-based penetration because Telkom’s network is underutilised, but that this is not necessarily the case.

    Kekana says Telkom wants Icasa to conduct a regulatory impact assessment before imposing either LLU, or any other regulations. He adds that SA’s low fixed-line penetration rates could result in LLU having an adverse impact on jobs and future investment in network infrastructure.

    “There are alternatives to LLU and Telkom is committed to work with government to achieve universal broadband access,” says Kekana. 

    TechCentral
  • Two giants in the telecommunication industry in the country had their main offices in Kumasi closed down by the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly (KMA) for non-payment of taxes.

    The companies, Mobile Telecommunications Network (MTN) and Millicom Ghana Limited, operators of Tigo, had their offices located at Nyiaeso, Kumasi, locked up in the early hours of Tuesday, with the padlocks bearing the KMA seals.

    According to the Public Relations Officer (PRO) to the Mayor of Kumasi, Mr. Clement Kegeri, the two telecommunication giants owed a total of GH ¢626.011 for the period 2009 to date, as property taxes on their masts erected within the Kumasi Metropolis.

    He gave the breakdown as MTN GH ¢300,177 and Tigo GH ¢325,894. Mr. Kegeri said persistent attempts by the KMA to get the companies to honour their obligations had proved futile, as the companies were skeptical over the right of the KMA to collect property taxes from them.

    Acting on the Local Government Act 642, section 34, according to Mr. Kegeri, the KMA had no any other option than to close down the offices, saying until the last drop of the final cedi on the debt is paid, the KMA would not open the offices.

    He said section 34 of the Local Government Act empowers the assemblies to charge fees and rates on properties within their localities, saying the same law also enjoins them to issue permits on properties before construction, and also charge fees and taxes on them.

    He, therefore, rubbished the claims by these telecommunication companies that the KMA could not charge them property taxes.

    The PRO further disclosed that the fee fixing resolution of the assembly had been gazetted by Parliament, and for that matter, their fees and rates were legitimate.

    He told journalists that the KMA, since 2009, had embarked on education on the need for companies and other property owners to honour their tax obligations, adding, "Sometime ago, this same exercise affected some radio stations in the metropolis."

    At the time pressmen were sent to the premises of MTN and TiGo, a few staff and customers were seen standing outside.

    On seeing the journalists, vehicles belonging to these companies hurriedly drove away from the premises to avoid the lens of cameras which were there to take photographs of the closed offices.

  • Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA) insists that mobile phone users in the country will hit six million next year even as latest statics depict a decline in mobile penetration rate.

    According to the most recent statistics from RURA, the mobile penetration rate was 36.3 per cent in March this year but slid to 34.4 per cent in April before rising slightly to 36 per cent in May.

    The decline in mobile penetration rate, according to industry experts, is one of the effects of RURA's decision to revoke Rwandatel's mobile license.

    The RURA report indicates the combined active subscribers dropped by 46,824 users from 3,777,090 million in March to 3,730,226 users in May with April recording only 3,589,057 users.

    MTN remains the leading operator with 2,638,838 subscribers in March, 2,727,135 in April and 2,764,201 in May compared to Tigo's 742,861 subscribers in March, 861,922 in April and 966,065 by end of May.

    Despite the negative trend, RURA says it will not scale-down its ambitious target, saying they are still firm on to attaining their target.

    The regulator's Director General, Regis Gatarayiha, told Business Time that there was a drop after Rwandatel's mobile license was cancelled in March.

    "A month later, subscribers migrated to either operator (TIGO or MTN). We assume the missing figures were holding more than one SIM card of different operators then after they decided to stick to one operator," he explained.

    Gatarayiha noted the ambitious six million is difficult to meet with two operators but he remains upbeat about the heightened competition.

    "With three telecoms, we had anticipated each to attain two million users by 2012," he added.

    In January, the country had recorded a healthy growth in cell phone users with the country's three telecom operators adding some 1.2 million subscribers only in 2010.

    Mobile subscribers had clocked 3.6 million by January from 2.4 million in January 2010.

    Tigo Rwanda's Marketing Manager, Nina-Claudia Ndabaneze attributed the TIGO's growth to a combination of coverage expansion and product rollout all over the country, including new service centres leading to new user on its network.

    RURA figures indicate that MTN's subscriber base has only increased by 4.7 percent since March.

    In last year's budget, the government removed Value Added Tax (VAT) on mobile handsets and import duty on SIM cards to increase penetration of telecommunication services to the lower segments of the population. This decision aimed at boosting the country's mobile penetration rate.

    The New Times
  • Namibia has moved up in the ranking of most affordable mobile prepaid prices in Africa and currently offers the eighth cheapest price on the continent.

    Data released yesterday by Dr Christopher Stork of Research ICT Africa show Namibia's drastic jump from 22nd place in March to the top ten following MTC's recent price drop.

    An MTC subscriber in Namibia currently pays US$2,81 locally for a Low User Basket of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2006 definition), Stork said. This equates to 46 minutes and 33 SMSes in a month.

    Three months ago, the same basket in Namibia cost US$7,76.

    MTC Namibia recently launched a campaign where calls across networks cost 38 Namibian cents, including 100 free SMSes a day subject to recharging.

    "This reduces prices from N$1,50 per minute for Tango Per Second to 38 Namibia cents for example - a 75 per cent drop," Stork said.

    At the top of the African rankings currently is Egypt with US$1,54. Uganda is in tenth spot, charging US$2,94 for the OECD Low User Basket. South Africa is 40th on the ladder.

    The Namibian
  • - Telkom Kenya will send home 400 employees this month in the latest round of restructuring to trim its payroll and increase efficiency. The telecommunications operator and the Communication Workers Union of Kenya (COWU-K) have agreed on the formula to implement the layoff.

    - A campaign to vilify and tarnish the image of Finance Minister Tendai Biti has escalated, with the police now demanding that mobile phone operator Econet hand over his call register. Reports suggest a covert operation by the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), which is trying to smear Biti and several other MDC leaders with stories of alleged affairs.

    - Airtel Nigeria has appealed to the Federal Government through the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to "include telecommunications equipment in the list of national infrastructure protected by law" in order to safeguard investments and ensure quality service to subscribers.

    - Somaliland-based telecoms operator Telesom has unveiled a third-generation network in the autonomous region. The 3G technology will offer advanced mobile broadband services to not only Telesom consumers but also to the business community in Somaliland. Telesom was founded in Hargeisa, Somaliland in 2001.

    - Zain Sudan, a subsidiary of Kuwaiti telecoms group Zain, is in talks with South Sudan to acquire a mobile licence to operate in the newly independent country.

    - The Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) has invited bidders to supply it with an intelligent network monitoring system. The system will help the regulator monitor traffic, quality of service, and enforce compliance to its standards. Information on network usage and quality will also allow the UCC to make informed decisions and plans for the sector more effectively.

internet

  • Phase3 Telecom has entered into a pact with French INEO Energie Du Export for the expansion of communications network coverage from Benin Republic to Togo.

    According to Chief Executive Officer, Phase3 Telecom, Mr. Stanley Jegede this development is a fulfilment of his company's expansion plan for the sub-region through its West Africa One transmission network to cover all countries in the zone.

    Jegede explained that West Africa One network is an aerial optic fibre transmission system, which tends to run from Nigeria to different countries in West Africa providing physical telecommunications infrastructure link across countries.

    He also said that the network has been heavily supported by the West Africa Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (WATRA), described it as a massive boost towards its programme of providing affordable and reliable telecommunications link in the West Africa sub-region.

    Jegede said the decision to award the contract to INEO Energie Du Export was based on the track record of the firm in the area of optic fibre installation.

    "INEO Energie is the global leader when it comes to installation of power line infrastructure. We went through a very tedious process before We eventually settling for them. We are quite happy to have chosen them to help fulfil our efforts of providing the West Africa region with a robust telecommunications infrastructure that is second to none," he said.

    Jegede emphasised that the firm would continue to provide very high quality optic fibre connection running on electricity power transmission lines and will offer subscribers the latest technologies in the industry.

    "We have already showed the benefits of aerial optic fibre in Nigeria and its effectiveness in helping to ensure high quality communications services to customers. This is the sort of experience that we want to take across all of West Africa," he said.

    Jegede, whose firm runs the region's only aerial optic fiber network, added that given that Nigeria and indeed the West African region was still a developing, road construction and building of other infrastructure would be very frequent, leading to underground cables often being cut.

    As said by him, this situation highlights the need for a network that would not easily be affected by such developments, stressing that this is where the Phase3 aerial optic fiber network comes in especially as electricity power transmission networks often have dedicated routes by law.

    Jegede further said that with this would afford many operators to embrace aerial optic fiber use, as it provides a huge relief for them whenever the underground optic fibers fail.

    "In Nigeria today all the operators including those that have their own transmission networks have embraced Phase3's aerial optic services especially after they have seen the advantages that it offers them. We believe that even for those that may already have excess capacity, aerial optic fibre provides a very reliable backup and alternative," he said.

    Emphasising that this is in addition to the fact that there are certain areas of coverage of the Phase3 aerial optic fibre system which other terrestrial network are not designed to reach currently due to the countries road and highway network.

    Daily Champion
  • President Mwai Kibaki launched  last Friday a key website making Kenya the first country in sub Saharan Africa to offer loads of government data to its citizens.

    The government has released several large datasets, including the national census and statistics on government spending at national and county level to enhance transparency in governance and access to information.

    The data presented in user-friendly format is now available online via an open data portal.

    In an interview with Nation, Dr Ndemo said the website will be one of the first and largest government data portals in sub-Saharan Africa.

    "With the open data portal, such obstacles will be a thing of the past. Information is power and we are aiming to empower citizens by enhancing their access to usable data that was not accessible easily to the public," said Ministry of Information Permanent Secretary, Dr Bitange Ndemo.

    "For the first time, Kenyans will have information about their community at their fingertips allowing them to make informed decisions at a personal level--currently most decisions people make are not scientific since they are not based on data yet data is available but inaccessible," he added.

    The PS said the portal is part of an initiative of pushing local content to the Internet and to offer over 70,000 Kenyans who graduate from Kenyan colleges annually to manipulate the data for beneficial use.

    "By creating a knowledge society, you create a knowledge economy...we do not want to lag behind as we watch other countries releasing data to their people for profitable use...we have not even scratched the surface in terms of data, we are working on data centres, which was our last piece of infrastructure development," he said.

    The information on the portal is from published government data available from the ministries of Finance, Planning, Local Government, Health, Education and the Kenya National Bureaus of Statistics.

    According to Dr Ndemo, much of this information is also available at the World Bank and the United Nations thus it beats logic why it has not been openly availed to citizens.

    Dr Ndemo said globally, governments are adopting the concept of open data to reap benefits of a more informed citizenry.

    This, he said, would deter public servants and politicians from vices such as fraud that thrive in situations where secrecy and monopoly of information abounds.

    Dr Ndemo said data users will be able to create maps and other visualizations and directly download underlying data for their own uses.

    "Data is not information until it is converted to make sense to users...that is what we have done at the portal," Dr Nemo said.

    This has never happened before and it welcomes an era of openness where the citizen will be empowered to put leaders to account in the use and distribution of public resources.

    For instance it will now be near impossible to misuse public funds since all records pertaining spending shall be available online for citizens to scrutinise and ascertain if 'what is on the paper tallies with what is on the ground'.

    For decades, it has been the practice of some unscrupulous government officials to misuse public funds and misinform that the money has been spent to implement 'non-existent' projects.

    With the open data portal, constituents will track monies assigned on projects and point out discrepancies between expenditure reports and reality at the grassroot.

    Dr Ndemo said the Ministry of Information and Communications will give grants to support the development of innovative high-impact web and mobile applications to ensure useful and relevant applications are built.

    Through the Kenya ICT Board, the Ministry will make a Call for Proposals for ideas on how to use government data.

    The Call for Proposals is open from July 8 - August 8; the best proposals will receive $50,000 each (for companies) and $10,000 (for teams and individuals). At least 30 grants will be awarded in 2011.

    The portal is managed by the Kenya ICT Board in partnership with the World Bank and Socrata, a US-based developer and provider of Open Data Services that enable federal, state, and local governments to improve the reach, usability and social utility of their public information assets.

  • Internet users provided a list of service stations in SA that had fuel supply on Thursday. The page called #gotpetrol was started on popular social networking site Twitter by Andy Parks.

    The names of services stations with fuel, the street name and city were being tweeted since early morning hours. “Total garage William Nicol JHB near Sandton drive,” wrote Sarah Theron. “Just filled up at Caltex next to Bryanston Shopping Centre (just off Grosvenor). Looks like they only had 93 Unleaded,” said another, Jon Hoehler.

    Tweets were streaming through quickly from various parts of the country. Some users gave their views on the strike by fuel workers, while others cracked jokes about it. “Did u know jhb has a petrol station almost every 2kms … they missing one important thing wait I know FUEL,” tweeted Brenz2011.

    “The strikes have barely started and people already struggling to get petrol. Wonder how long this will last? Anyway, it spells chaos,” wrote Marynamoore.

    Earlier, the Fuel Retailers Association said at least 150 service stations in Gauteng and 50 in KwaZulu-Natal were without fuel by the close of business on Wednesday.

    Chief executive Reggie Sibiya said the strike had crippled the country and was “bleeding businesses”.

    Automobile Association spokesman Gary Ronald said the Twitter feed was useful and well thought out. He said fuel shortages were more widespread than initially anticipated, and spread faster than previous years.

    “I think what has happened now is that the contingency plans by the refineries have not worked as well as they thought they would.”

    This year, motorists listened to the warnings ahead of the strike and had rushed to top up their tanks for the weeks ahead, said Ronald. “If a lot of people did that, the demand of fuel would have increased and supply decreased, and now there is not enough supply available for everybody. This accelerated the shortages. But some stations had refuelled overnight.”

    The 70 000 fuel workers from the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood, and Allied Workers Union, the Allied Workers Union, and the General Industries Workers Union of SA downed tools on Monday, demanding a minimum salary of R6 000/month and a 40-hour working week.

    SAPA
  • - According to Business Daily, the Kenyan government is hoping to convince the country’s local authorities to invest in fibre-optic cables in an effort to reduce the exorbitant cost of broadband in the country. Acting on the directive of President Kibaki, information permanent secretary Dr Bitange Ndemo, indicated that consultations regarding the new plans will begin on 18 July. Ndemo commented: ‘The government is going to engage local authorities to invest in metro fibre cables and be paid on usage instead of charging the ISPs exorbitant fees’.

    - Telkom South Africa has announced that it is offering home and small business customers the opportunity to test its fixed line broadband with the announcement of a free three month trial promotion. This offer is not conditional to any contract subscriptions, pre- or post-trial period.

    - The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), the global body for professional accountants, would soon introduce online examinations in Nigeria in partnership with Summit Consulting Group.

computing

  • The centralised database system being put in place by the Nigerian Insurers Association (NIA) for the entire insurance industry in the country is scheduled to go live during the current quarter of the year. The centralised database will be a repository of all the insurance industry data.

    Chairman, Information Technology Committee of NIA, Olawale Adedokun, who made this known in the committee's report to members of the association in Lagos recently, informed that the system is currently undergoing pilot test run.

    The insurance industry had in the last quarter of 2010 set out to develop and implement a centralised database system, which will be repository of all insurance policies underwritten by the insurance companies.

    Adedokun stated that "the centralised database system has since been developed and currently undergoing pilot test run. It is expected to go live within the third quarter of year 2011."

    He added that the project team set up with the mandate to evolve a framework for the implementation of the database solution has been able to produce documentations among which are "user requirement definition, RFP, project charter and implementation plan".

    Apart from serving as authentic repository of the Nigerian insurance industry data, the system is also intended to provide mechanisms for the verification of Insurance Certificates issued or presented as evidence of insurance for Motor and Marine at the first instance and then other classes of insurance.

    Besides, it is expected that the solution will help in providing qualitative analysis of industry performance and serve as source of historical data for benchmarking, while also enabling the financial information of NIA members to be rendered electronically for ease of analysis.

    By the time the centralised insurance database solution becomes fully operational, it is expected that it will help in eradicating fake insurances, minimise multiple fraudulent claims and most importantly provide authentic, qualitative and comprehensive data on insurance for national policy formulation.

    In the same vein, it is anticipated that the system will provide easy verification of all policies issued, improve proper collection of taxes on compulsory insurance transactions, facilitate recovery of stolen vehicles, as well as enhance transparency and accountability among stakeholders thereby restoring confidence in the insuring public.

    Chairman of NIA, Mr. Olusola Ladipo-Ajayi, confirmed that the insurance companies were required to send the data of their underwritten policies to the association, and that such data would be stored in its central database.

    He said, "It is only the things that are input into the database that you can make reference to. So, all the companies are now busy updating their data and sending them to NIA so that we can feed them into the central database. Whenever you need to make reference to it, what will come out from the database will match what your policy holder is carrying."

    The NIA, however, pointed out that the association would not kick-start the new system until it has been able to get it right.

  • The government has set aside some $700,000 (about Sh1 billion) to assist small entrepreneurs that can develop software and services for the country's Information and Communication Technology (ICT) market.

    Under the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (Costech) a programme called Dar Teknohama Business Incubator, has been established with the aim to stimulate growth of technology-based start-up companies in the country.

    "The key focus is to help young people to turn their brilliant ideas into business. There are university students who have already developed software that can offer solutions to corporate companies," the progamme chief executive officer George Mulamula told The Citizen in Dar es Salaam.

    He was attending the Dar es Salaam version of BarCamp, a platform for open discussions about the current state of the ICT industry that brought together technology developers, start-up enthusiasts and entrepreneurs within and outside Tanzania.

    "We hope the industry has great potential to contribute to poverty reduction and wealth creation of individuals and the nation as a whole."

    According to Mr Mulamula, the programme helps emerging companies to gain access to mentorship, training, shared space, professional assistance as well as assisting the entrepreneurs with contacts of potential institutions that can provide them with capital for their venture.

    The programme is partly-funded by World Bank's Information for Development (InfoDev), the government and also by the private sector.

    "We are looking to start up with about 15 both physical and virtual companies and about 25 pre-incubator individuals for this year," he said.

    However, according to him, to start with, the focus would be on ICT companies with a turnover of between $20,000 and $60,000.

    Also, under the programme, the beneficiaries will be empowered on issues pertaining to intellectual property with the view to protecting their innovations.

    The Citizen
  • SA youth radio station YFM has launched YTV, a service that streams live video content of its studio. What sets the service apart is that the video feed is able to scale itself dynamically depending on the viewer’s bandwidth so there is no need for the visual feed to buffer.

    The project is the pilot site for technology developed by Immedia. Developed over three years in conjunction with the University of Cape Town and the CSIR, the software is called Adaptive Real Time Internet Streaming Technology (Artist) and the company hopes it will help bridge the gap between bandwidth supply and content demand.

    Inmedia director Bevan Andries says the benefit of Artist in the radio environment is that it adds “eyes to ears, faces to voices and the visual to the audible”.

    The service is only available on Windows for now, but YFM music and digital manager Mervyn Sigamoney says the station hopes to take the technology onto mobile platforms via iOS and Android applications in coming months, as well as to Apple desktops and laptops.

    Andries says the adaptable bitrate aspect of the technology means it is ideally suited “to developing markets like ours where bitrates vary vastly between users”. He says the technology is also good for the global mobile device industry because data networks are becoming increasingly congested. “All networks are experiencing increased congestion, and products like this should help to ease that.”

    TechCentral
  • - South Africa's Centre for High Performance Computing is upgrading its capacity in computational power in support of the country's bid to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). This follows the recent agreement between Intel South Africa Corporation and the SKA South Africa Project to partner in evaluating the highest Intel technologies in processing the enormous data rates produced by radio telescopes.

    - The Liberian government has launched the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS). The IFMIS is a computerized budget management and accounting system that automates key aspects of budget preparation, execution, accounting, reporting and human resource management in ministries and agencies. It will initially be implemented in the Ministry of Finance and the Civil Service Agency. In the first phase, connectivity will also be provided to the Central Bank of Liberia and the General Auditing Commission for bank reconciliation and auditing purposes, respectively.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • MTN Group Ltd. (MTN), Zambia’s second- largest mobile phone operator, said it plans to spend an extra $40 million expanding its operations in Zambia this year.

    “This will be in addition to the $220 million we have spent” so far, said Farhad Khan, head of the company’s Zambian unit, in an interview today in the capital, Lusaka.

    The money will be spent on an improving capacity and coverage, expansion of so-called third-generation, or 3G, services, and its business continuity and disaster recovery program, the company said in a separate statement.

    MTN, based in Johannesburg, is expanding in Zambia and had 2.2 million subscribers in the southern African nation as of June 30, making it the largest mobile operator after Airtel Zambia, a unit of India’s Bharti Airtel Ltd. (BHARTI)

    The South African company currently has 3G equipment at about 120, or 20 percent, of its second-generation sites in Zambia, it said. “This will be a substantial focus for us going forward to ensure that this number is increased, hopefully to 220-plus by end-2012,” it said.

    Bloomberg
  • After 10 months of speculation, Vox Telecom has finally confirmed that it’s going private. Assuming it gets the necessary approvals, the company will delist from the JSE after receiving a R500m acquisition offer from a consortium comprising Lereko Metier Trustees and Investec Bank.

    And in a surprise development, former Internet Solutions CEO Angus MacRobert will be appointed as co-CEO of Vox Telecom, alongside Doug Reed, its current CEO, provided the acquisition and delisting go ahead, which seems likely.

    Vox shareholders are being offered 45c/share or one share in a special purpose vehicle created by the members of the bidding consortium for every 10 Vox shares held. They may also elect to accept a combination of these two options.

    The proposed deal carries the support of 40,1% of existing shareholders and 53,4% of shareholders entitled to vote (RMB, Mvelaphanda and the IDC) and an application will be made to the JSE to terminate the company’s listing on AltX.

    The offer represents a premium of 23% to the 30-day volume weighted average price of Vox Telecom’s ordinary shares. The total value of the deal is R499m.

    “The independent board of Vox Telecom has considered the terms of the offer, and based on the information currently available to it, is unanimous in its support for the proposed transaction, subject to receiving a favourable opinion from KPMG, the independent advisor to Vox,” the company says in a statement.

    “Vox’s goal of raising capital through its AltX listing has not materialised as expected, mainly due to a lack of institutional investor support for small cap firms,” the company says. “With recent regulatory announcements providing more certainty for the telecommunications sector, Vox has started adjusting its business strategy so that it can continue to provide clients with compelling products and services. Delivering on this strategy is best achieved in an unlisted environment where management can focus on the business without distraction, particularly as there is potential for pressure on short term profitability.”

    The deal must still get shareholder approval as well as a nod from the JSE, the SA Reserve Bank, the Takeover Regulation Panel and the competition authorities.

    TechCentral
  • Through all the North African uprisings and instability, Morocco has emerged as the most politically stable and therefore attractive market in North Africa for telecom investments, according to a new report from Pyramid Research.

    Morocco is expected to maintain a strong position when compared to other regional, Middle East and African, telecom markets. "Pyramid Research forecasts total revenue to increase by a 4.1% CAGR over the next five years, from a projected $4.47bn in 2010 to $5.47bn in 2015," indicates Hosn. "The mobile segment, comprised of voice and data, made up 71.6% of total revenue in 2010, a figure Pyramid Research expects to increase slightly over the forecast period, reaching 76.3% by 2015, thanks to tremendous growth in mobile broadband uptake and increased competition amongst the three mobile providers," he adds.

    "Through all the North African uprisings and instability, Morocco has emerged as the most politically stable and therefore attractive market in North Africa for investments," Hosn states. As the major players seem to have found their strategic partnerships, the smaller companies remain a deep well of possibilities and opportunities. The coming years will see strong growth in the three major players and with it will come evermore dependence from the smaller specialized service providers.

    "Whether it be VOIP providers, broadband Internet repackaging, or pay-TV installers, the smaller companies will be called to duty and therefore present a viable investment option for investors looking to capture a share of the projected $1.44bn data segment by 2015, or other promising indicators," he indicates.

    Cellular News
  • - Telecom Egypt, which has long sought its own mobile network service is aiming to launch an MVNO service by the end of this year, after talks to buy out Vodafone's 55% stake in Vodafone Egypt broke down last year.

    - Motorola Solutions has announced plans to start using Coltan supplied from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), but says that it has put in place procedures to ensure that supplies do not come from illegal suppliers.

Digital Content

  • Etisalat has partnered with smartphone company EMS to develop a new mobile application store for Blackberry customers. Launching initially in Tanzania where Etisalat operates under the name of Zantel, the move is a first for Sub Saharan Africa.

    The Zantel Blackberry app store will give customers access to a wide range of content including entertainment, games, Instant Messaging, social networking, news, weather and working tools such as word/ calendar.

    Mr. Essa Al Haddad, Group Chief Marketing Officer, Etisalat, said, "Zantel was well known in the Tanzanian for providing innovative products and services. Innovation is of prime importance when we select and develop strategic partnerships."

    "We will be encouraging young Tanzanian developers to design mobile applications that are exciting and engaging for our African customers. By sharing with them the latest in software development tools will can help grow local talent and provide new commercial opportunities for them," Al-Haddad added.

    Zantel Chief Commercial Officer, My Norman Moyo, said, "The Tanzanian and wider African market had a growing demand for BlackBerry applications. It's never been easier to develop applications for BlackBerry smartphones, and we look forward to seeing the rich catalogue of personal and business apps continue to grow."

    Mr. Babar Khan, EMS CEO, reinforced the partnership's potential to innovate and grow the Sub Saharan African market, and at the same time provide customers far greater choice and personal customization.

    Khan stated, "This will be a rich content experience for BlackBerry users. The portal will enable them browse for the apps and ringtones of their choice and download Tanzania-specific content such as the latest relevant news from trusted African publishers."

    Ame Info
  • A new study on mobile telephone use among East African youth shows that they spend billions of shillings monthly on airtime purchase. The three week study by Kenyan based research firm Consumer Insight that covered 3,600 youth aged between 7-24 years shows that their monthly mobile airtime expenditure stands at $70 million monthly (Sh 6.3 billion). This totals to Sh75.6 billion annually.

    East Africa's leading mobile telephone company Safaricom realised a turnover of Sh94 billion in 2010. According to the study, Kenyan youth top the list with a monthly expenditure of $38 million (Sh3.4 billion), followed by Uganda and Tanzania at $20 million (Sh1.8 billion) and $12 million (Sh1.1 billion) respectively.

    The study further reveals that whereas there were no significant numbers of mobile lines amongst the youth in the region few years ago, the situation is now completely different with 52 percent of all East African youth claiming to have active sim cards (94 percent of those have handsets).

    Sixty two percent of these youths have one sim card and 23 percent have 2 sim cards. Eighty Eight percent of East Africa youth aged 20-24 are active sim card owners, followed by youth aged 13-19 and 7-12 at 45 percent and 6 percent respectively. Kenyan youth are the most active sim card owners (64 percent), followed by Uganda and Tanzania youths at 53 percent and 41 percent respectively. In this category, male lead at 55 percent, followed by female at 50 percent.

    According to the study, the major barrier for unconnected youth from acquiring a mobile phone is parental or institutional restriction, although cost of handset is still a barrier at less than 20 percent.

    The study also revealed that slightly over a third (35 percent) of all the youth in East Africa are connected to the internet, with chatting being the most dominant activity. More than half (68 percent) are on social networks, 90 percent of which are on Facebook and 17 percent on twitter. Kenyan youths are the most connected (49 percent), followed by Tanzanian and Ugandan youths at 30 percent and 26 percent respectively.

    Nairobi Star

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Mobile phone operator, Essar Telecom has unveiled a new offer that allows its subscribers to make free on-net calls between 6am and 6pm, as the scramble for users intensifies in Kenya.

    - Airtel Tanzania Limited has extended its rural coverage by launching affordable communication services in Ruvuma Region in Tanzania.

    - Airtel Sierra Leone, the local mobile unit of Indian telecoms group Bharti Airtel, has expanded coverage of its wireless network to Sahn Malen in the Pujehun District in the south of Sierra Leone.

    - Orange Uganda has launched sub-Saharan Africa’s first HD voice service in Uganda. HD calls limit the interference of background sounds with noise reduction technology and eliminate the cracks and hisses.

    - Lars Reichelt, ex-CEO of Cell C  that the South African third mobile operator has covered over 60% of the South African population with their HSPA+ network.

    - Mobile web browser Opera has announced the launch of Opera 11.50 with language support for Swahili and Zulu.

    ­- Tigo Ghana lost nearly a million customers between February to June 2011, according to data from the National Communications Authority (NCA), as collected from the mobile networks. The data showed that Tigo's subscriber base dropped from 4.136 million in February to 3.223 million in June - a loss of 913,191 subscribers. Rival network Mtn gained just under 600,000 new customers, taking them to 8.967 million subscribers, while Vodafone gained 544,880 subscribers to take its base to 3.426 million. Expresso the only CDMA network in the country also lost 6,631 subscribers to end the period with 220,920 customers.

    - Ethiopia's monopoly mobile network, Ethio Telecom says that it has registered a remarkable increase in the number of mobile subscribers over the past weeks, and has now exceeded 10 million subscribers. The total customer base, including fixed line and internet subscribers now reaches 11.3 million.

More

  • ­Nigerian CDMA network operator, Starcomms has announced that its CEO/Managing Director, Maher Qubain is stepping down from the company. The company also named Logan Pather as Acting CEO and Managing Director. Logan joined Starcomms in February 2011 in the capacity of Chief Operating Officer.

    - Lars Reichelt, the CEO of South Africa’s mobile operator Cell Cfor the past two-and-a-half years has resigned for personal reasons. Cell C’s board has already begun the process of looking for a new CEO, its chairman Simon Duffy says. Duffy, who will step in as acting CEO with immediate effect until a replacement for Reichelt has been found.

  • Digital Migration and Spectrum Policy Summit
    30 July- 1 August 2011, Nairobi, Kenya

    Conference convened by the ATU
    Summary: Convener:ATU/Sponsor
    For more information visit here:

    Mobile Entertainment Africa
    23 -24 August, 2011, Cape Town, South Africa

    From the team behind the Mobile Web in Africa series of events comes Mobile Entertainment Africa. Aiming to create a fantastic annual event which showcases the very latest information relating to maximising the entertainment opportunities on handheld devices, both from within Africa and further afield. Ticket subsidies are available for mobile start-ups and developers. For more information on Mobile Entertainment Africa, including the latest news and updates, visit here:
    or send an email to info@allamber.co.uk. 

    Connecting Rural Communities Africa Forum
    24 - 26 August, 2011, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

    The Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation, in conjunction with the Tanzanian Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology and the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority will be holding the sixth annual Connecting Rural Communities Africa Forum in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on 24 – 26 August 2011. With a milieu of ICT organisations such as Ericsson and Helios Towers Nigeria, the event promises to be an engaging forum in identifying regulatory, technical, financial and social challenges in providing connectivity in Africa.
    For more information visit here:

    Nigeria Com
    September 20 - 21 September, 2011, Lagos, Nigeria

    For more information visit here:

    North Africa Com
    11 - 12 October, 2011, Tunis, Tunisia

    For more information visit here:

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

    The 3rd annual CDN World Summit promises to be the largest and most
    comprehensive CDN event ever.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 visit here:

    Africa Com
    November 9 - November 10, 2011, Cape Town, SA

    For more information visit here:

    World Telecom Summit 2011
    9–11 November, 2011, Singapore Marriott Hotel

    World Telecom Summit 2011 is the must-attend event of the year. Bringing together top level executives and key decision makers of preeminent telecommunications companies from around the world, this is the perfect opportunity to meet the who’s who of the telecommunications and mobile industry.  It is the summit that addresses the evolving needs of telecommunications and mobile community. Get up to date with the latest innovations and technological advancements in the industry and gain access to the minds of the movers and shakers of the industry.
    Take advantage of the Limited Early Bird Rates for Operator Pass!
    For more information please visit here:
    or contact Vivian at vivian.ho@olygen.com

  • Telcom Project Controller – South Africa
    Candidates of South African nationality preferred. Candidates should also have at least 5 years experience as a Project Controller in the Telecommunications industry (with a vendor/ operator in South Africa).

    SUMMARY
    Under general direction, responsible for the overall project management function, providing leadership, coordination and management activities; creates and maintains a uniform approach to project management and serve as a change agent for continuous improvement through improved/enhanced methodologies; applies project management knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques in supporting project leads and driving the development and application of project management methodology and culture.
    For further information or to apply click here:

  • Bharti Airtel and IBM - Africa
    India’s Bharti Airtel has inked its second large-scale deal with US-based vendor IBM in less than a year, with the operator announcing a ten-year deal under which IBM will provide IT solutions to Airtel employees across its 16 African subsidiaries. According to India’s Economic Times, Airtel has said that under the terms of the latest agreement between the two companies, IBM will provide services for its staff in both French and English, while also implementing and maintaining a standard operating environment, using state-of-the-art platforms, tools and management processes. Airtel expects the consolidation of its helpdesks to allow for increased cost savings and better efficiencies as the process for addressing IT operational issues is streamlined. No financial details of the deal have been disclosed. Commenting on the deal, Manoj Kohli, Bharti Airtel’s CEO (International), noted: ‘This agreement enables us to provide the best IT capabilities to our employees with a focus on making innovative mobile solutions available across Africa.’

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