Issue no 580 11th November 2011

top story

  • Africa’s annual gabba-gabba fest AfricaCom took place this week with the organisers claiming that visitor numbers were up yet again. Vendors from almost every corner of the globe were there with heavy representation from both India and China. Russell Southwood tries to separate the signal from the noise.

    AfricaCom has become exhausting but necessary meeting place for many of the different parts of the telecoms industry, having expanded from its original GSM Africa footprint. This year it went off in search of even more territory with the addition of Enterprise ICT and Africast streams, the latter for broadcasters. The whole process has steady momentum which means that if you gather the equivalent of a small town together, your chances of meeting people will increase.

    No account of an event of this size will ever capture everything that happens and many of the stories below in the news sections are drawn from announcements at the events, including the winners of the awards event. (note to Orange: You have much to shout about so don’t enter every category multiple times.)

    Some of the key threads that we saw emerging at the event were as follows:

    * International bandwidth growing again: After a period when people were going, we’ve got all this bandwidth what are we going to do with, international fibre sales are on the move again. According to Chris Wood, CEO, WIOCC it has almost completely sold its initial 30 GB allocation and will upgrade to 160 GB which he thinks will sell through in 2 years. The drivers for all this growth? Mobile Internet and WiMAX coverage.

    ACE had a stand for the first time but whilst the project makes steady progress, it has not yet funded its South Africa leg. This is perhaps not surprising given the fact that WACS has all major telcos signed up. WIOCC has also signed an agreement with WACS to give it a west coast redundancy route.

    * The steady growth of national and cross-border terrestrial but price and access still issues: You still meet people who tell you that it might be true that Africa has all this international bandwidth but there’s still no routes from the landing station. Clearly there’s a perception lag operating. Chris Wood, WIOCC told us that its consortium members now have 50,000 kms of cross-border fibre with lower cost transit prices.

    Liquid Telecom’s network stretches north. There are gaps everywhere between these clusters of networks and some blank spaces (as Eric Osiakwan of Ghana Connect pointed out in his presentation) but the task of addressing this is far less daunting. Those endless maps with coloured lines that were “meat and drink” of conferences like this for several years are now a reality. Pricing remains an issue at both national, cross-border and local levels. Holding back the development of things like data centres and cloud computing, the latter being something of a buzz word at the event. Two telcos this week – Vodacom SA and Orange Kenya – have plans to get it beyond the “blah-blah” phase. One operator was saying that international bandwidth was now 20-40% of total delivery cost with national bandwidth making up 60-80%.

    * Satellite operators seem to have weathered the fibre storm: Satellite operators and resellers were remarkably chipper this year compared to last year. SkyVision’s new CEO Doron Ben Sira said revenues were holding steady and that it had moved from drawing most of its revenues from 4-5 countries and was equivalent amounts of revenues across 20 countries. Operators have seen their IP trunking business disappear and the number of remote base stations is falling rather than growing but they have got out and found new customers. “All the world and its aunt” are getting into the broadcast business where prices remain rock solid: how about some competitive offers?

    SkyVision is offering fibre in West Africa but sees it as “niche play” where it can use fibre to create a package of connectivity with good overall margins. C-band capacity availability is low, not helped by the antenna of the New Dawn satellite not opening. Jonathan Osler of Intelsat says he dreams that one morning he will wake up and it’s happened but he says it’s unlikely.

    On the near horizon, Kevin Viret of Yahsat says it will launch its new products early next year and says both pricing and sales channel approach “will shake the market up.” Further into the future 03B is still looking at a 2013 launch date with prices (depending on volume) between US$500-750 per meg. It has changed its business model slightly to offer slightly sub 100 MB offers asymmetrically. However, the idea that it will be good for redundancy purposes looks less and less compelling as the volume of fibre being shifted keeps ramping up.

    * Mobile content gets more and more interesting: Google’s Think Mobile event on Monday was pitching the growth of smartphones in the South African market, which is probably right. But the “ground-moving” moment seems to be happening with the much more numerous feature-phone part of the handset pyramid.

    We met Australia’s biNU mobile who have a feature phone content platform that has over 2 million users globally. It’s a low bandwidth optimized cloud-based service and it offers an extremely interesting content offer including books from the Guttenberg Project. It is getting user numbers in the hundreds of thousands and these are undoubtedly the early birds on the horizon.

    Comparing notes on mobile content in India and Africa with Arvind Rao, CEO of OnMobile was fascinating. He is part of what seems like a wave of Indian vendors who have followed Airtel into the market. He says that his sales in Africa are ahead of where he expected at this point. He told us that one big trend in India was independent musicians using mobile as a means of distribution. He also said that Indian music labels three years ago had something like 5% of their revenues from online but now they had 40-50% and of that proportion 80% was coming from mobile. Furthermore with the rise of independent music distribution and increased digital sales, the negotiating power of the labels had decreased, allowing sensible royalty deals to be done.

    At the higher end there’s a steady trickle of people offering VOD content. One of these companies Logiways offers a satellite-based, smart set top box service (costing US$200) that can serve movies. The box is controlled by the operator and can download a whole set of new movies on a monthly basis and stream them to consumers. Kenyan Fibre-To-The-Home operator Jamii Telecom told us that amongst its first small number of subscribers, 65% use their new bandwidth for downloads.

    On the content front, the Nation Media Group has had 84 million views on its You Tube channel over 3 years. Given that serious income from online advertising on platforms like these starts at around 1 million views, the content moment is finally coming into view. Or another example, Young Africa Live on the Vodacom platform in South Africa has 586,000 unique views. Mobile is well and truly media but current media owners have yet to wake up to this new dawning reality.

    * Mobile payment – when will the interconnect moment arrive? When mobile operators first started, operators didn’t connect to each other because they believed that people would prefer their service and in this fashion it would attract greater numbers. And then someone agreed to interconnect and the networking effect kicked in and the rest is history. M-money is going through a similar cycle but below the radar there are a number of operators that are not completely happy with their proprietary, on-net solution.

    The Nigerians have set the pace by saying platforms must operate with the banks which has meant a slightly more open process of platforms getting to market. Platforms like Paga in Nigeria and Mobipay in Tanzania (still just 100,000 subscribers) may currently be small in user numbers but may suddenly they may become flavor of the month. The issue for operators is that M-Money is not a highly profitable business but as with everything mobile, they do it because some else started doing it.

    Larger players are taking an interest. POS operator Verifone has bought into New Zealand’s Mobilis and is offering an m-wallet platform that has Near Field Communications on its “road map”. The current barrier to retail shopping in places like Nakumatt with say M-Pesa in Kenya is that the check-out staff and customers can’t be bothered to go through the slower process of paying this way. Cash is still faster but imagine a swipe and pay system. It’s a ways off but it’s coming…


    On the Balancing Act You Tube Channel this week a Nigeria special:

    Adebayo Oyewole
    , Hd Marketing & Strategy, Main One on its new IP products

    Uchechi Chuta on Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's use of social media

    Olalekan Olude, Head of Sales, Jobberman.com on the growth of this jobs website

    Azuka Ndulewe
    , Chief Marketing Officer, Helios Towers Nigeria on the business case for shared towers

    Ojaye Idoko, CEO, Layer3 on the barriers to broadband expansion in Nigeria

    Want up-to-the-minute breaking news? Balancing Act's Twitter feed provides a combination of breaking news for telecoms, Internet and broadcast in Africa, direct tweets from countries visited and access to the occasional rumours circulating. You can follow us on: @BalancingActAfr

telecoms

  • The AfricaCom Awards winners were announced this week (9 November), with MTN, SEACOM, Main One, Orange, Helios Towers, Ericsson, Huawei, Gateway Communications, SkyVision and SafariCom winning awards. MTN South Africa scooped two awards – best network improvement for their LTE trial network and the best marketing campaign for its MTN Zone re-launch. It’s a shame that network improvement does not yet seem to have hit Ghana (see story on NCA fines below).

    SEACOM and Main One were awarded “Best Pan African Initiative”. Main One and SEACOM announced in May 2011 that they had interconnected their west and east African cable systems to launch capacity services from PoP to PoP, from a STM-1 level and above.

    This partnership extends the Main One and SEACOM networks to create a system that offers connection between any SEACOM and Main One PoPs all around Africa.

    The 2011 AfricaCom Awards winners are:

        * MTN South Africa – Best Network Improvement (for their LTE pilot test) and Best Marketing Campaign (MTN Zone)
        * Orange – Best New Service
        * Helios Towers Africa – Best Cost Efficiency Initiative
        * Ericsson – Rural Telecoms Award
        * Huawei Technologies – Best Backhaul Solution
        * Gateway Communications – Customer Service Excellence
        * SkyVision – Satellite Service Provider of the Year
        * SafariCom – Best ICT Solution Provider for Enterprise Markets, Changing Lives Award
        * Seacom/Main One – Best Pan-African Initiative

    MyBroadband
  • Following a quality of service report released by the Kenyan Communication Commission, Telkom Kenya has criticized the scope and methodology used within the report. The CCK 2010/2011 Quality of Service (QoS) report, released last week, revealed that Telkom Kenya failed to meet half of the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). The report ranked them as the poorest network in the country in regards to the terms of service. They may be right but it’s a hard position to take where you end up arguing with the referee.

    According to Telkom Kenya, a different audit benchmarked on international standards and carried out by France Telecom Group rated the company as having one of the best GSM networks among its African subsidiaries.

    Telkom Kenya’s CEO, Mickael Ghossein, released a statement saying “[Telkom Kenya] have queried the scope and methodology on which the report is based, with a view to correlating it to our own independent evaluation of our networks based on the same parameters.”

    The company has also said that an assessment they had carried out in June showed its Call Completion Rate was 96.8 percent, against the 90 percent minimum set by the CCK. Their Call Success Rate also scored at 98 percent against the 90 percent minimum. The QoS report however, rated Telkom Kenya’s Call Completion rate at 38.50 percent, and its Call Completion Rate at 41.36 percent. The company has also said that its investments on the network were not appreciated by the regulator.

    “The results come as a surprise to us considering 2011 marked the successful upgrade and improvement of the Orange mobile network in preparation of our 3G rollout,” Ghossein added.

    The CCK has previously been criticized by Safaricom, which strongly opposed last year’s report. Safaricom raised questions on the credibility of the audit process. Since then however, their score has improved and the company has accepted this year’s findings.

    ITNews Africa
  • Ghana’s telecoms regulator the National Communications Authority (NCA) has imposed fines totaling GHC1.2 million (USD751,990) on five domestic mobile network operators – MTN, Vodafone, Airtel, Expresso and Tigo – for delivering poor services to end users.

    The penalties, which cover the third quarter of this year, are part of measures introduced by the NCA to improve overall quality of services and ensure end users have value for money. Airtel was fined the most – GHC350,000 – after it experienced high levels of network congestion (particularly in Tamale, Sekondi-Takoradi and the Upper East and West, and Greater Accra regions), while MTN and Expresso were each fined GHC300,000. Vodafone was fined GHC150,000 and Tigo received the lowest fine of GHC100,000, the NCA said.

    Telegeography
  • The department of communications is moving to wrest control over management of SA’s scarce radio frequency spectrum from industry regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa), a reading of the Electronic Communications Amendment Bill, published last week, shows.

    The bill gives power to the minister of communications, rather than Icasa, to determine how spectrum — some of which is in high demand from telecommunications operators — will be divided up.

    Operators are unhappy at the slow pace at which Icasa is licensing access to new spectrum, especially in the 2,6GHz and 3,5GHz bands that can be used for next-generation mobile broadband networks, and this may have prompted government to attempt to usurp some of the authority’s powers in this regard.

    In terms of the new bill, which must still be approved by parliament, the minister of communications — currently Dina Pule — will be responsible for coordination and approval of any radio frequency spectrum plans applicable to SA.

    Furthermore, the bill proposes the creation of a national radio frequency management committee to advise the minister on spectrum issues. The bill says this committee should consist of representatives from “relevant government departments identified by the minister and one or more representatives of the authority”.

    Mike Silber, Head of Legal and Commercial Affairs at fibre operator Liquid Telecom and a former regulatory adviser at the Internet Service Providers’ Association, says Icasa has “inefficiencies around spectrum allocation and management” and this is a “major concern and one that’s worth raising”. However, he warns that assuming the ministry or government department will somehow do better is “laughable”.

    Approached for comment, the big telecoms operators say only that they are still studying the bill and will comment later. But one industry source, speaking on condition of anonymity because he has to work with government and Icasa, says the bill amounts to the “same old story” of a “power struggle” between the department of communications and Icasa.

    The source says the proposed amendments “don’t sound like a particularly good thing” because, when it comes to issues surrounding spectrum, “you need independence” and “introducing political considerations slows the process”.

    Tracy Cohen, Chief Corporate Services Officer at Neotel, says government is responsible for the development of national policy on electronic communications matters and the law requires that Icasa “is independent in the implementation of government policy”.

    The law does not require that the Icasa is “vested with policy making”, though when it comes to actual implementation the divide is often blurred, Cohen says. She says Neotel will consider the amendment bill and will make detailed comments through the public consultation process, adding that the company supports any initiative to ensure that “critical competition-enhancing processes are effectively implemented”.

    Already, some industry players have expressed concern that the bill will result in further delays in allocating new spectrum. However, Cohen says given that the change is only likely to come to pass in six or 12 months’ time, it does not follow that a change will necessarily slow the process in which Icasa is already engaged.

    “Neotel is of the view that if the department and Icasa were to enable a spectrum secondary trading market, which was previously considered but not implemented in regulation, this would greatly assist in addressing many of the bottlenecks in spectrum efficiency,” she says.

    Tech Central
  • The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) will be laying charges against the Democratic Alliance (DA) for “trying to kill copper thieves”. The federation says it will report deputy Cape Town mayor Alderman Ian Neilson's plans to electrocute copper cable thieves to the Public Service Commission and the Human Rights Commission.

    “Cosatu will also lay charges at the police station about the DA's intention to do grievous bodily harm, through the policy of the City of Cape Town.”

    Nielsen, during a radio interview, confirmed that the city leaves on electricity for streetlights during the day, in some areas, to deter thieves from stealing the copper.

    “This clearly is with the intent to electrocute the thieves. There has, however, been no notice sent out telling people that the electricity will be live with current. During the day, people generally expect the electricity to be off, and so people, including kids, try to steel copper to get money,” says Cosatu.

    It explains that this is not an attempt to justify theft, but to caution against the intention to try and kill copper thieves by leaving the current on.

    ITWeb
  • The GSMA today announced that Africa is now the world's second largest mobile market by connections after Asia, and the fastest growing mobile market in the world. According to the new GSMA Africa Mobile Observatory 2011 report, Africa achieved this milestone as mobile penetration reached 649 million connections in Q4 2011 (having first exceeded 50 per cent mobile penetration in 2010). Over the past five years, the number of subscribers across Africa has grown by almost 20 per cent each year and will reach more than 735 million by the end of 2012.

    Ninety-six per cent of subscriptions are pre-paid with voice services currently dominating, although uptake of data services is increasing steadily. There are currently six live HSPA+ networks across Africa, with a seventh deployment planned in the near future. By 2015, next-generation LTE networks are predicted to reach 500,000 connections in Kenya, 1.1 million connections in Nigeria and 2.5 million connections in South Africa.

    The mobile ecosystem in Africa currently generates approximately US$56 billion or 3.5 per cent of total GDP, with mobile operators alone contributing US$49 billion. In recent studies by the World Bank and others, it was shown that there is a direct relationship between mobile penetration and GDP. In developing countries, for every 10 per cent increase in mobile penetration there is a 0.81 per cent point increase in a country's GDP. The mobile industry contributes US$15 billion in government revenues and is a significant contributor to employment in Africa. In 2010 alone, approximately 5.4 million people were employed directly and indirectly in the mobile ecosystem.

    However, the Observatory reveals that huge untapped potential remains. 36 per cent of Africans within the 25 largest African mobile markets currently have no access to mobile services. Projections indicate that reaching 100 per cent mobile penetration could add over $35 billion in aggregate GDP - an increase of 2 per cent - but only if governments and operators work together to bring mobile communication to the entire African population.

    "The mobile industry in Africa is booming and a catalyst for immense growth, but there is scope for far greater development," said Peter Lyons, Director of Spectrum Policy, Africa and Middle East, GSMA. "To take full advantage of its potential, African countries need to both allocate more spectrum for the provision of Mobile Broadband services, as well as introduce tax cuts for the industry. By doing so, they will increase consumption of mobile services, thereby boosting their economic and social development."

    African countries have currently allocated considerably less spectrum to mobile services than Europe, the Americas and Asia, which is inhibiting connectivity to large swathes of rural Africa. Sufficient spectrum should be provided for Mobile Broadband services through 3G HSPA and LTE technologies, to enable the mobile industry to 'connect the unconnected' and continue to act as a catalyst for growth.

    Cellular News
  • Ugandan Telecom companies have recently addressed several key issues they face in penetrating the rural mobile market and providing reliable and affordable services. Among the issues are two major problems; vandalism and high operating costs.

    Uganda’s population is 87 percent rural, and so spread out that the per-unit cost f delivering communication services relatively high. The high illiteracy rate and the people’s inability to create an economic benefit through mass communication means that there are few businesses willing to invest in Uganda. As a result of this and inadequate infrastructure, almost all booster stations and masts must be run on diesel generators, further bolstering the cost.

    Themba Khumab, the MTN Uganda CEO said that while a large portion of their customers were rural based, vandalism of equipment remained a big challenge to the company. Khumab called for the government to put in place stringent vandalism laws against telecom equipment and materials. “Kenya did this a long time ago and the problem was solved. Why not here?” Khumalo asked.

    The UCC Executive Director Godfrey Mutabazi agreed, saying that the poor network is caused by several reasons, including the breakdown of infrastructure due to deliberate vandalism. “Any disruption at a single point triggers a series of failures over a wider area becacause of interconnection,” Mutabazi explained.

    According to the Warid Chief Commercial Officer, Shailendra Naidu, the operating costs are another barrier thwarting progress.“Each site costs the company $300,000 (about Shs 840m) or more and the costs keep on increasing,” Naidu said, adding that it will take time for telecoms to link all areas in the country to the network.

    “Our aim is to maintain quality to our customers and we can’t do that when we are operating beyond the input costs. That is why we increased our tariffs recently,” Naidu said, adding, “We are a young company but already we have many sites across the country and will continue expanding them until every part of Uganda is covered.”

    ITNews Africa
  • Mobile carriers worldwide are steadily upgrading to Long-Term Evolution (LTE) networks that support high-speed wireless services as an increasing number of consumers use tablet computers and Smartphones to access the internet. Due to Africa’s growing mobile phone market, an Ericsson executive believes the African market will have its first LTE (better known as 4G) network as early as 2012.

    Initially, the network would be unveiled in the larger urban centers where the demand for high speed internet access is constantly growing.

    “You will see the first networks going in 2012 already to a certain small degree,” said Lars Linden, head of Ericsson in sub-saharan Africa to Reuters. “It will surprise me if the big dragons such as MTN, Vodacom, (Bharti) Airtel and all these big brands, it will surprise me if they do not do anything,” Linden told Reuters.

    Africa’s poverty levels mean that many users remain lower end text and call users. There is however an increasingly tech-savvy market growing among the younger people in Africa, increasing the demand for data availability in the continent.

    African telecom giants MTN and Vodacom are already running trials in South Africa and Kenya’s Safaricom is also testing the technology.
    Furthermore, taxes imposed on the mobile industry in many African states should be reduced to drive an increase in mobile penetration, as well as, in many cases, ultimately increase the total tax intake for governments. The Kenyan government's abolition of the 16 per cent general sales tax on mobile handsets in 2009 has resulted in handset purchases increasing by more than 200 per cent. With mobile operators contributing a third more in taxes in 2011 than in 2009, mobile generated around 8 per cent of Kenya's GDP.

    Other regional success stories include Nigeria, which has the highest number of mobile subscriptions in Africa - over 93 million subscriptions, representing 16 per cent of the continent's total mobile subscriptions.

    South Africa, with its more developed infrastructure, leads the way in terms of broadband penetration: it has 6 per cent mobile broadband penetration, followed by Morocco as the next biggest market, with 2.8 per cent.

    Meanwhile Kenya is at the forefront of Mobile Money Transfers and m-banking, with 8.5 million users. For example, Safaricom in partnership with The Equity Bank in Kenya provides customers with an M-KESHO account allowing them to save money, buy insurance and arrange micro-finance loans.

    Lyons continued, "By working in partnership, mobile operators and African governments can continue the remarkable growth story of the African mobile industry. The benefits that mobile services have already brought to hundreds of millions of Africans can be extended to those who have yet to access communication technology. By so doing, the African continent can continue to bring not only communication services, but also banking, health and education to its people and drive an increase in the economic wealth and development of the region."

    ITNews Africa
  • The telecommunication sector is by far the fastest growing and most lucrative market in the Africa region. In countries like Sudan, where 50 percent of the population uses mobile phones, the importance of the industry to the economy is undeniable. 59% of Zimbabweans have access to mobile phones compared with only about 5% in 2005

    Mobile phones today encompass many different useful tools, such as an alarm, watch, calculator, computer, camera, radio, and even the traditional landline phone. As Adrian Hon, founder and chief of the online gaming company ‘six to start,’ noted in his travels through Sudan; “You are never out of sight of a mobile tower.”

    The widespread use of mobile phones is indicative of their usefulness and the critical role communication plays in Sudan. With so much of the population living in remote areas and under the poverty line, the question arises as to whether so much time and money should be spent by Sudan in increasing their mobile telecom capabilities.

    With the poverty backdrop, it is hard to judge whether or not the government should focus on other issues such as education or healthcare. The reality is that the growing telecom market is growing at an astounding rate, providing many jobs and an increasing flow of wealth in to the country, creating more and more possibilities for Sudan to improve the quality of life for the people in the country.

    “Needless to say, mobile internet is cheaper in Sudan than in the UK at around 1 SDG (20p) per day, but it’s still a fair outlay for locals,” Hon wrote in the telegraph. “If you want proper mobile broadband for a laptop, then it rises to 5 SDG (£1) per day – comparable with the UK but presumably worth it if you really must be online, especially if you share the connection.”

    The ever increasing rate of technological advancement is clearly demonstrated in third world countries like Sudan, where a decade ago such a thing as mobile phones and wireless roaming were virtually non-existent.

    Today, a wireless connection can be bought for almost any mobile device such as a laptop or Smartphone and provides virtually global connections. Children today are seen interacting with a plethora of different mass communication methods, such as Facebook, Twitter, cell phones and the like, while their parents had most likely never seen a phone in their youth.

    ITNews Africa
  • ANC Youth League (ANCYL) president Julius Malema is yet again at the centre of a social media explosion, as South Africans respond to the verdict of his disciplinary hearing.

    The ANC found Malema guilty of provoking divisions within the ruling party and of bringing the organisation into disrepute. The controversial leader has been suspended from the ANC for five years, and has been asked to step down as ANCYL president.

    The hashtags #Malema, #ANCYL and #ANC were all trending as soon as the announcement got under way.

    Here are some of the reactions from Twitter:

    @Jonathan_Witt: The Malema Verdict explained: Julius has a suspended sentence and now has been suspended but that suspension is suspended too.

    @GarethCliff: Now that Julius Malema has been suspended, who will frightened white people obsess about?

    @KoosKombuis: Rumour has it Malema might consider job as teaboy for the DA.

    ITWeb
  • - Zimbabwe's Econet Wireless has signed a contract with Astellia for a network performance monitoring service.

    - MTN Ghana has criticized building developers and government contractors for repeated damage to its fibre optic network. The company also expressed sympathies to the families of two riggers who were killed when an MTN tower collapsed during maintenance last week.

    - Vodacom has announced a partnership with Cisco and NIL to launch the first office in the cloud offering in South Africa. ‘Vodacom Office in the Cloud’ uses virtualization technology and hosted applications to bring enterprise class IT services to local business.

internet

  • Zimbabwean wireless broadband provider, uMAX has selected Alvarion's 4Motion solution to the roll-out a WiMAX network in its capital Harare, in the 2.5 GHz frequency.

    uMAX will be the first service provider to enable consumers and businesses access to such services in Zimbabwe.

    "uMAX is a fast-growing wireless broadband provider in an extremely dynamic market and our 4Motion solution will enable them to move forward and expand their customer base at an opportune time," said Eran Gorev, president and CEO of Alvarion.

    Cellular News
  • Mobile telecom provider Nokia Siemens Network has launched a new Facebook application in Nigeria that enables users to manage their fixed and mobile services in the country, which is aimed at improving customer service in the country, company officials said on Monday.

    Nokia said the new app gives customers the ability to check their balance, browse and purchase special offers from mobile companies. It also will give users the ability to subscribe to new services.

    The company said in a press release that users will also be given the opportunity to share their experiences across social networks, in an effort to increase transparency. They will also “get rewards for recommending services to friends.”

    “The beauty of the Facebook app is that it engages with people on their preferred social-networking site,” said Rick Centeno, the head of Business Support Systems at Nokia Siemens.

    “People spend more time on social networks than individual websites. With this Facebook app, Nokia Siemens Networks helps operators to connect with people in a familiar setting where they already spend their online time. It takes self-care to a new level,” he added.

    ITNews Africa
  • IS International's MD understands how tough Africa is, says IS MD Derek Wilcocks.
    Dimension Data subsidiary Internet Solutions (IS) aims to speed up its growth beyond SA's borders and has created IS International to facilitate the expansion.

    The new unit will provide additional support and investment to the group's existing operations in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Mozambique, it says in a statement.

    IS aims to establish further sales and operational presences in the “largely untapped markets” of Angola, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi as it aims to grow across the continent.

    The company will “augment its existing London office by opening new sales offices in North America and Australia, with offices to be opened in other selected countries over time,” it says.

    IS says these outlets will “work with wholesale and multinational clients that are eager to expand into Africa and need a globally experienced and reliable ICT partner on the ground”.

    The company says IS International will be created to take care of these initiatives. It will be led by Tony Walt, who will become MD of IS International from January 2012. He will report to IS MD Derek Wilcocks.

    Wilcocks says Walt has 15 years' of experience in helping the firm's clients in SA with communications needs. “Tony [Walt] understands that Africa is a tough market and needs sound, resilient IT solutions,” Wilcocks says.

    Walt's current responsibilities in SA will be divided between Costa Koutakis and Tony Koutakis, both of who have been with IS for more than 10 years. They will take up the positions of chief client officer and chief sales officer, respectively.

    The country managers of the group's existing operations in the UK, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and Mozambique will report directly to Walt in his new role as MD of IS International.

    ITWeb
  • “The explosion of broadband data usage in South Africa and internationally is creating an ever-growing set of coverage and capacity challenges that cannot be addressed effectively by any single technology,” Winston Smith, head of Alvarion in South Africa, is quoted in a press statement issued this week.

    Smith added that the same is true for all types of wireless broadband networks from tier 1 mobile carriers to wireless internet service providers, enterprises, governments and municipalities, and private network operators.

    “The subscriber numbers and uptake of broadband for wireless users is much higher than in cabled options in South Africa, and this trend is set to continue into 2012,” said Smith.

    “The solution to under-capacity is to employ multiple complementary technologies which can be optimised for various types of networks and applications.”

    Alvarion highlighted that, in line with this “multi-technology approach,” it recently signed a definitive agreement to acquire Wavion, a carrier-grade Wi-Fi provider.

    According to Alvarion, interference is one of the biggest challenges in deploying Wi-Fi, which is where Wavion comes in.

    Alvarion said that Wavion provides better coverage, higher capacity and interference immunity using smart antenna, beamforming and SDMA technologies.

    “Alvarion is fast-shifting from a focus on WiMAX-based RAN solutions to a multi-technology wireless broadband provider, and with the inclusion of Wavion in our offering, we will have Wi-Fi as the final component of a complete solution for our customers,” Smith said.

    MyBroadband
  • - Intelsat announced new contracts with customers utilizing Intelsat’s African video distribution satellite neighbourhoods and broadband capacity yesterday. According to a press release by the company, Intelsat’s history of providing a reliable communications infrastructure to Africa over the past 40 years has resulted in many firsts on the continent.

    - MTN has announced that they are planning to double its number of 3G base stations in South Africa and increase their broadband reach to at least 80% of the population in the next few years.

    - Safaricom has announced plans to build its own inland fibre optic network to get a larger share of the data market and reduce its reliance on the voice market that is faced with increased competition and shrinking margins. Well done, KDN.

computing

  • On Tuesday, Orange Kenya announced plans to increase its funding by mid next year in order to boost its data and cloud computing services in the country. The move comes as voice competition continues to rock the country and drop prices.

    The company said in a press release late on Tuesday that it would request additional funding from France Telecom, which owns a majority 51 percent share in the company, and the Kenyan government.

    Orange’s CEO Mickael Ghossein said that the company was also looking into local and international markets and financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for possible funding alternatives.

    He did not give an exact figure, but did confirm that it would include a $40 million investment for its 2012 budget, the same as this year. That is half of what it invested in the previous two years.

    Ghossein also said Orange Kenya will review its international calling rates by mid-November “to cushion against the weak shilling and increased calling rates in other countries,” which has raised termination rates. Ghossein said the rates in India and Uganda “had risen, meaning termination rates for international calls had also increased. The UK, India, Tanzania and Uganda are among other destinations for which Orange Kenya will revise its rates.”

    ITNews Africa
  • The Minister of Telecommunications and Information Technologies, José Carvalho da Rocha, visited on Wednesday in Luanda the first Data Centre of the country, based in CTT ward.

    Funded by South Korea, the construction of the centre is estimated at USD 30 million and implanted in an area of 5000 square metres.

    The centre is aimed for processing and storage of data of the government.

    The minister said that its functioning will be assured in a first phase by 50 employees, among engineers and high school technicians.

    The official said that with this centre, the country will have greater benefits in terms of human and financial resources.

    ANGOP
  • - Rwanda - Musanze based Sonrise School has introduced a digital library in which Nooks, a hand-held digital reader, will make it possible to access books in digital content and it will cover the education curriculum and books in world libraries. The state of the art application will support the '21st century classroom' in which 300 computers will, this week, be availed to the new school computer centre.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • South Africa-based Vodacom Group has reported consolidated revenues of ZAR31.75 billion (USD3.99 billion) for the six months ended 30 September 2011, up 7.6% on the corresponding year-earlier period. Vodacom’s domestic unit, Vodacom South Africa, accounted for ZAR23.50 billion in sales (up 4.7% year-on-year), with the firm’s international operations accounting for ZAR4.39 billion (up 13.3% year-on-year). Group EBITDA for the period grew 7.6% to ZAR10.54 billion, whilst net profit climbed 2.8% to ZAR4.39 billion. Meanwhile, CAPEX for the six-month period increased 67.7%, to ZAR3.46 billion.

    In operational terms, Vodacom South Africa remains the firm’s largest unit by subscribers, with 28.91 million customers reported at the end of September, of which figure 23.47 million are pre-paid users. Elsewhere, Vodacom units in Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Lesotho all increased their subscriber bases in the three months ended 30 September. Tanzania grew its base to 10.27 million users, whilst Mozambique weighed in with 2.99 million customers and Democratic Republic of Congo contributed 4.78 million subscribers. Finally, Lesotho grew its mobile base to 944,000.

    Vodacom CEO Pieter Uys commented: ‘I am really pleased with what we’ve achieved in the first six months of trading as the new ‘red’ Vodacom. [This year saw Vodacom re-branded in line with the red and white colour scheme used by parent company Vodafone, which secured a controlling stake in Vodacom in May 2009.] In South Africa, increased promotional activity and reduced data prices were well received, driving significant gains in both usage and customer numbers. Our average effective price per minute fell 24% and we also implemented a 22% reduction in average data prices. We’ve invested just under ZAR3.5 billion on our networks, making tangible improvements to both coverage and stability. In the second half of the year we aim to capitalise on all the steps taken to improve the customer experience, and prove to our customers that the change in colour really is just the beginning’.

    Telegeography
  • JSE-listed IT services company Business Connexion (BCX) has turned in a poor set of financial results in its 2011 financial year to end-August. CEO Benjamin Mophatlane says the company has had a “tough year” and the results “haven’t met expectations”.

    Its technology and innovation divisions posted the most disappointing results. Mophatlane says the company’s recent acquisitions — of selected assets from IT company UCS and of the Canoa Group — have turned in “pleasing results”. UCS and Canoa Group contributed 11.4% of BCX’s revenue in the financial year.

    BCX’s “problem child”, according to Mophatlane, is its technology division. He says the main reason for the disappointing results are the global economic downturn and the fact that some vendors have begun “going straight to clients, particularly because of belt tightening” rather than through partners like BCX.

    He promises the company is taking “aggressive and corrective action to turn the [technology] division around”. BCX has replaced the division’s management and reassessed its business model. It is also exploring the option of reducing product brands to avoid “unnecessary and conflicting technologies”.

    For the year, BCX’s headline earnings per share collapsed from 47,6c in 2010 to 17,3c. The dividend also fell, from 23c/share to 14c, though the company did pay a special dividend of 40c during the period.

    Tech Central
  • South Africa’s Allied Technologies said Wednesday it is no longer in talks to acquire unlisted Kenyan IT firm Symphony, a deal that Reuters previously reported could be worth up to $60 million (Sh6 billion).

    Altech, a $742 million telecoms and IT firm, had been in talks to acquire Symphony and was nearing the end of its due diligence, Reuters reported last week, citing a person familiar with the matter.

    “Altech was in discussions with the Da Gama Rose Group, the 100 per cent shareholders in Symphony, an unlisted Kenyan IT firm. Altech has informed the Da Gama Rose Group that it will not progress with further discussions,” Altech said in a statement.

    The Da Gama Rose Group is led by prominent Kenyan businessman and lawyer Horatius da Gama Rose who enjoyed close links with the administration of the former President Moi.
    The firm did not give a reason why the talks had been dropped, but Altech was hoping the deal would augment its existing business — Kenya Data Networks — in a region where it has struggled.

    Altech is a diverse business whose operations include telecoms, electronics, and IT services while Symphony provides IT consulting and services including hardware, software and networking.

    Reuters
  • - Neotel, licensed more than five years ago as the first infrastructure competitor in fixed-line telecommunications to Telkom, has reached positive earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) or the first time.

Digital Content

  • The Wise Touch tablets are manufactured in China, but are locally branded and customised, with applications and content specifically for the local market. South African company, Wise Tablets, is soon to release a low-cost tablet developed and customised for the local market.

    The “Wise Touch 1” will be available in 7-inch and 9-inch formats, with capacitive multi-touch, running Android 2.3.

    The 9-inch tablet will retail for less than R3 500, while the 7-inch 3G tablet will cost less than R2 500, and the entry-level 7-inch WiFi tablet will go for less than R1 500.

    MD of Wise Tablets, Gian Shipton, says: “The problem with tablets available today is that all of them offer exactly the same thing; software markets”.

    “We found that most of the average South African consumers have a problem with the current high prices of the brand-named tablets, but apart from the pricing issue, it also relates to the fact that none of the tablets in the market, including the Apple iPad, present any form of local content.”

    Shipton says the content on the new tablets will be what sets them apart. “What makes the Wise Touch SA's first South African tablet is what's on the inside.”

    Apart from the regular Android apps, the tablets come preloaded with South African applications, developed specifically for the Wise Touch on behalf of local brands. The local content is categorised under the Wise Shopping Mall, Wise Business Park and Wise Education Centre.

    According to Wise, there are already over 115 “tenants” on board for the Mall and Business Park. While Wise doesn't yet want to release the names of the tenants, the company says they include major local retailers, banks, broadcasters, media houses, food outlets and airlines.

    “Within the Wise Shopping Mall you have a variety of shopping options available, just as you would have in a physical mall. Read a magazine or today's newspaper in the Magazine Store, order a take-away from your favourite restaurant in the Food Court, or do all of your shopping through the various Retail Stores,” says Shipton.

    Wise has its own team of full-time developers, as well as contract developers, who have been working on the project since the beginning of the year.

    “We have not only created apps, but a full back-end with billing and updates – similar to Apple and Android.”

    Speaking of the Wise Education Centre, the company says: “We have been inundated with many parties that have access to various pieces of education – from the public school syllabus to university departments and private schools.

    “We then get the education content provider to develop their content and provide it in a certain format, which our tablets use.” The company says it already has access to most of the public school syllabus and some university content.

    “This education content will be supplied almost free of charge to students, but is limited to being used on our tablets due to encryption and DRM (digital right management) issues with the content owners.

    “We are aiming to have most households of LSM7+ to have our tablets for education in their houses soon,” says Wise, adding that the main focus is a sponsorship programme with media partners that will sponsor devices with educational content for free for students.

    Wise Tablets says the size of the screen is of little influence to them. “We decided (although not finally) to have a 9-inch rather than 10-inch to avoid attracting negative patent wars from the larger players.

    “There is currently a fine line between design look and feel, and we want to steer clear of following them with design. Apart from that, we will actually also offer an 8-inch tablet next year,” says Wise.

    “Our Wise Touch 2 has already been placed on our roadmap and will actually include more hardware than even found in Apple and Samsung. At that stage, we might be seen as a serious competitor. We believe our content still is what makes us different, not the hardware.”

    The Wise Touch tablets are being manufactured in China. The company says that they are not a standard Chinese-boxed product, but made specifically to its specs and branding.

    “Our hardware partners own their own manufacturing chain, and thus we have development control over them,” says Wise.

    The company is expecting the first batch of tablets to arrive in December, but the official launch is planned for early next year.

    ITWeb
  • ZTE says that it has deployed a value-added platform solution (iVAS) in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, with Vodacom DRC.

    The iVAS system provides SMS services and aims to launch USSD services before the end of 2012. It has improved the Congo's short message service center capacity (SMSC) tenfold, relieving congestion and significantly improving service to approximately 5 million mobile users.

    The first phase of the project was completed in less than 90 days and included Smsc integration.

    "As a leading iVAS solutions provider, Zte has a deep understanding of the telecoms market in the Democratic Republic of Congo," said ZTE Senior Vice President Zhang Renjun. "Because of this, we were able to launch timely, low-cost, value-added technologies here."

    Cellular News
  • Mobile advertising agency, InMobi says that mobile impressions grew by 26% over the past quarter across the African continent.

    This means that Inmobi now serves 15.4 billion quarterly impressions, up from 12.2 billion in the previous quarter.

    Isis Nyong'o, Vice President and Managing Director InMobi Africa confirms that "This latest data shows a steady growth in the African mobile media space. As more people on the continent start to use web-enabled phones, these numbers are sure to increase".

    Key highlights of the Africa data include:

        * The Nigerian market remains the fastest growing market on the African continent, followed closely by South Africa.
        * Nokia still holds the majority of the share impressions despite 0.5% decrease in impression. The phone manufacturing giant now holds 61.1% impression share.
        * Nokia and Samsung combined make up 80% of the impressions in Africa.

    Cellular News
  • Search giant Google revealed South African smartphone statistics from survey results that were recently published online. Google recently unveiled the results of a new global survey on smartphone usage and mobile marketing, available freely online at a website called Our Mobile Planet.

    The survey, entitled “Global Mobile Research: The Smartphone User & The Mobile Marketer,” was conducted earlier this year.

    Google highlighted the following findings of the South African portion of the survey.

    The Typical Smartphone User: 18-34 Years Old, Well Educated and Working Full-Time

    The majority of smartphone users are between 18-34 years old, are well educated with full-time employment and earn an annual net income of more than R40,000. Many users are new to smartphones, with 64% saying it was their first smartphone device. Almost half of these new users had bought their device within the past 12 months.

    BlackBerry (44%) had the highest market share, followed by Nokia (27%).

    Consumers use their smartphones primarily at home, followed by work and then on-the-go. As important as a purse or a set of keys, 83% don’t leave the house without their smartphones. Users are driven by having information from the Internet at hand and having their smartphones to ‘kill time’ while out and about.

    Internet usage – especially browsing (56% of users) and e-mailing (57%) – is very important for smartphone users. Only every tenth user did not have cross-media usage habits: the majority of users indicated that they did something else while using their smartphones, like listening to music (62%), using the internet on another device (49%) or watching TV (49%).

    Internet Usage: High Frequency and Number of Daily Sessions

    The typical smartphone user accesses the web almost every day (63% mobile, 62% fixed) with several sessions on a given day – shorter sessions on mobile and longer ones on PC. Almost half expect to spend more time on mobile web via smartphones in the future. Users expect their web usage on PC to remain the same.

    Search: High Frequency and Google the Most Utilised Search Engine
    Search engines are a significant part of browsing activity (61% mobile, 80% fixed). Only 12% never use local search and almost 92% mention further actions after looking up specific information, with 36% making a purchase. For the majority of users, Google is the number one search engine.

    Videos: Low Frequency, with YouTube Coming Out Tops

    Every second smartphone is used to watch videos, at least on a monthly base. YouTube (64% mobile, 83% fixed) is in first place, followed by Facebook (62% mobile, 57% fixed).

    Social Networking: High Frequency, with Facebook the Most Visited Site

    63% of smartphone users access social networks via their smartphones every day – 35% post personal updates daily. The most visited social network is Facebook (95% mobile & fixed).

    Mobile Advertising: Accepted on High Level with High Awareness

    15% of users have used a mobile coupon in a store. Almost 84% of users have noticed mobile advertising – mostly on search engines. Almost 70% have taken action after seeing a mobile ad.

    Mobile Commerce: Growing Shopping Channels Hindered by Security and Convenience

    28% of consumers use their smartphones for price comparisons or product information when shopping – the same amount have changed their minds about a purchase, as a result of retrieving information via a smartphone.

    A fourth of consumers use their smartphones when shopping physically and also shop directly via the device – 47% of them within the past month. Preference of a fixed PC and fears that a purchase might not be secure are the main barriers to mobile commerce. 30% anticipate a higher purchase rate via their smartphones within the next 12 months.

    MyBroadband

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Bharti Airtel has awarded a contract to Ericsson to upgrade an initial batch of 250 diesel powered base stations in Nigeria with E-site, a new "green" energy solution from Flexenclosure.

    - Rwanda: The Kigali Wireless Broadband (Wibro) technology is currently in the trial phase before it is fully operational, according to an official.

More

  • * Orange announces winners of the African Social Venture Prize

    Last June, Orange launched the African Social Venture Prize to support entrepreneurs and start-ups who use information and communication technologies (ICT) to meet the needs of African people.

    More than 600 candidates responded to the call for projects, which ran from June to September 2011, a sign of true entrepreneurial vitality on the African continent. Proposed projects spanned a variety of fields, including health, agriculture, education, financial services and e-commerce illustrating the potential of telecommunications in African development.

    The panel of judges, consisting of Orange specialists, the media and institutions that promote development, chose three prizewinners from among ten projects nominated, presented on the Orange African portal, StarAfrica.com.

    The awards ceremony was held yesterday in Cape Town, South Africa, during the AfricaCom Awards, an annual event that recognizes the most memorable innovations and performance of the telecommunications industry on the African continent.

    The winning projects were the following:

       1. The first prize went to the Nigerien project Horticultural Remote Irrigation system, which puts mobile technology in the hands of horticulturists, farmers and cooperatives for remote crop irrigation, allowing them to improve productivity while preserving water resources.
       2. AgaSha Business Network, which won the second prize, is a Ugandan start-up that uses the Internet to help small and medium African companies grow. Through its online business community, it facilitates interaction among economic players to boost market opportunities for small and medium businesses in Africa and abroad.
       3. Third place went to Kachile, a start-up in Côte d’Ivoire. With its e-commerce platform, it offers a way to “professionalize” cottage industries, which are well developed in Africa but lack visibility and market access.

    In addition to funding of up to 25,000 euros, Orange will provide support to the three projects for six months from its local subsidiaries and the strategic expertise of its venture capital subsidiary, Innovacom.

    The African Social Venture Prize demonstrates the Group’s willingness to contribute to the social and economic development of the countries in which it operates. In addition to supplying infrastructure and basic services, Orange is investing in deploying added-value services in key fields such as health, education, agriculture or financial services, and acts to promote entrepreneurship and innovation on the African continent.

  • * EAA 2012 Competition: African Developers Given a Global Stage

    Ericsson and Sony Ericsson partner to run competition for application developers in sub-Saharan Africa

    Ericsson LogoEricsson  in partnership with Sony Ericsson has announced plans to run a regional competition for application developers on the Android platform. The competition titled ‘Apps for Africa’ is to run under the aegis of the 2012 Ericsson Application Awards (EAA 2012) - an ongoing annual competition for application developers worldwide organized by Ericsson Research.

    The EAA 2012 awards themed ‘Apps for the Networked Society’, will run till May 2012, the competition provides a unique opportunity for developers to gain exposure within the telecommunications world and a chance to reach out to customers via Ericsson's distribution channels in addition to the opportunity to win the latest top of the range Sony Ericsson phones and €15,000 in prize money.

    Members of the winning teams in each region will each receive a Sony Ericsson Xperia phone, while teams in second place will receive Business Experience Packs (incl. Sony Ericsson MW600, office pro, McAfee, and a micro USB cable).

    Colin Williamson, Marketing Manager for Sony Ericsson said, “Our objective for Sony Ericsson is to be the preferred choice for Android devices and we’re thrilled that to help reach this objective we’re able to get under the skin of the very platform our handsets perform on by way of an Android Application competition.”

    The competition is open to students and to small and medium sized enterprises based in the region; it has been split into four sub competitions based on location as follows:

    ›        Southern Africa  for countries - Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Saint Helena, Swaziland, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe

    ›        Eastern Africa for countries - Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Comoros, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte, Réunion, Rwanda, Seychelles, United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda

    ›        Central Africa; Central Africa - Burkina Faso, Benin, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Côte D’ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Togo

    ›        Western Africa - Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone

    Interested developers in Southern Africa are required to register teams of two to four people online before February 01, 2012 and submit either a video of idea or an Android based application that addresses the theme and makes use of at least one Ericsson Labs API (e.g. Mobile Location or Text To Speech) before February 28th, 2012.

    The competition will be rolled-out across Sub Saharan Africa in November.  All application submissions will be automatically entered into the global competition - EAA 2012 - ‘Apps for the Networked Society’, for the chance to win the cash prize.
    To apply please visit here:

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