Issue no 550 15th April 2011

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Top story

  • The speed with which Facebook has taken off on the African continent in the countries that are a bell-weather for early take-up has been impressive. Twitter is trotting behind but with much smaller number but it’s only a matter of time. MXit has impressive up-take in South Africa. What has been missed in this social media explosion is the significance of moving pictures through things like You Tube and Vimeo. Russell Southwood argues that this surge will happen on mobiles and is not far around the corner.

    Alexa.com does web site rankings by use for 14 African countries. The listing below shows the ranking of You Tube in those countries:

    Egypt               3
    Algeria             3
    Tunisia             3
    Mauritius          4
    South Africa      4
    Uganda            5
    Tanzania           5
    Congo-B           5
    Kenya               5
    Senegal            5
    Nigeria              6
    Ghana               6
    Cote d’Ivoire      6
    Madagascar       8

    The incredible thing about these rankings is that a high level of use is clearly there well before the bandwidth exists to deliver it properly. I’m sitting here writing this in Accra and all of the videos I looked at were buffering after 30 seconds to a minute.

    The young are clearly the main users and it is one indication of its popularity that a university in Ghana has to stop its students using in work hours, otherwise it simply swamps all the other things the students need and want to do. Yes, the University will get more bandwidth but it takes time and prices have not come down. It’s still at the ‘have somewhere bandwidth but pay the same’ stage.

    Video content from and about Africa is very patchy. There’s a lot of certain kinds of genres (movies, music) but nothing on many other topics. Some examples give some idea of the take-up by number of views. Obviously not all these views come from the continent but based on our own experience (see below) more come from the continent than might be imagined by the more skeptical:

    Nigerian music
    Timaya/Platinum Boy             707,234
    Ono 2 Sexy/Jusustina            401,778
    I go chop Yo Dollar                151,326
    (spoof by Nigerian comic)   
    Highlife from Ghana
    (music by Tumi Ebow Ansa)    64,092

    One recurring channel with high viewership is VIOAfrica which focuses on Nigerian music. Interestingly, the video clip phenomenon has already spawned a beta site called metv. It is “a content aggregation platform that allows the distribution of professionally made film content from the African continent on the internet. As storytelling goes, Africa is well known for its wealth and depth of this great tradition. metv africa bridges the gap between the storytellers and the listeners (viewers) in a web 2.0 way”. Now all it has to do is get the content…and as ever, that’s the difficult part.

    Further along in this respect is Africanfilms.tv that will launch its site in June 2011 with 500 films that are being distributed on a non-exclusive basis using VoD. And then all they will have to do is attract the users…These observations are not meant badly but it will take time for someone to hit it right with something more than just a hobby site.

    (It’s worth saying that this content is not only found on You Tube but also on Vimeo, which describes itself as a “respectful community of creative people who are passionate about the videos they make.”

    At a more specialist level, advertising clips – particularly funny ones - are making their way on to You Tube in increasing numbers. A Tigo Networks ad simply titled Ghana Funny Ad got 36,355 views and at a more modest level the Vodafone Ghana – The chase ad got 1,136 views. Media companies like the Standard and the Nation in Kenya that already have a well developed web presence have found it easy to transfer news clips on to their site using You Tube. These are also available relatively cheaply to mobile users via Safaricom.

    At an extremely specialist level, it has been interesting to watch the growth of our own Balancing Act Web TV Channel. In six months it has gone from nothing to around 2,000 views per month, well over 60% of which are coming from the continent. In a year’s time, the most watched videos (which is about 10% of them) will get 500-1,000 views each. Our total community of users is just over 10,000 because we deal with specialist topics.

    It is incredibly easy making reasonably competent face-to-camera interview clips. It’s not television but it only takes one person, a small tripod and a camera that costs around US$300. (We are currently mourning the announced closure of Flip by Cisco). The cameras are also very light and can be easily slipped into a briefcase or even a pocket.

    The continent has an extremely small press because in many countries people prefer to listen to the radio or watch television. If that general statement is true, then it is doubly or triply true for the 18-35 age group who are driving this kind of use. An advertising executive told me:”My girlfriend has given up buying a newspaper. She just looks at the headlines on her mobile. And she’s always got the news before me…” And it doesn’t take much imagination to see that headline clips and breaking news clips will be popular.

    So how does this steady flow of video viewing (which will become a raging torrent once more bandwidth is in place) get on the mobile phone? Well, the easy answer is via the Internet and while smart phone numbers are still mainly in the hundreds of thousands, they could easily go over 25% of the user base in some countries. Once one of a group of friends is showing a funny or rude video, do you think those other friends won’t go home wanting a similar type of phone? At the right price, streamed or downloaded vide content will be a driver of smartphone take-up.

    But getting a business model out of all that free stuff streaming over handsets must give the network planners sleepless nights. Sure, you can turn it off or shape it out of existence but it’s coming like a freight train so it will be hard to hold off.

    The joint venture between MTN and DStv has been to make a Pay TV bouquet available via DVB-H handsets and deliver it over its own special network for a monthly subscription. You have to admire DStv for taking the plunge well before anyone one else but the early results are underwhelming. Subscribers are in the low thousands to low tens of thousands. The cost and availability of DVB-H handsets is a big hurdle to overcome for most potential users. Most people are not buying a handset to get mobile TV access: there’s a dreadful chicken and egg dilemma there.

    The other route that is not really talked about is people buying cheap Chinese handsets that can receive analogue Free-To-Air TV transmissions. We have reports from a wide number of countries of people watching TV on tro-tros or matatus as they crawl through the ever-present traffic snarl-ups that infect every African city.

    As ever, the answer to the ‘what is the business model?’ question is predictable but nonetheless requires getting right. It can be one of three things or some hybrid of them:

    -    A subscription model based on pre-paid scratch cards and Internet access.
    -    VOD paid again in pre-paid blocks of credits and each item cheap enough to make the user not hesitate.
    -    Sponsorship where a single advertiser gets to put its logo and colours all over the channel because it will impress the young demographic that they have their finger on the pulse.

     


    Now available on Balancing Act’s Web TV channel

    Enrico Chiesa, africafilms.tv on delivering African films using VoD

    SteveSong, Founder of Village Telco talks about: how the Mesh Potato came to be invented; how Wi-Fi Mesh works; the functions and capabilities of the device; and where the Mesh Potato is being used:

    Herman Chinery-Hesse, CEO, the Soft tribe on creating Africa's eBay and payment systems

    Mauritius: Viv Padayatchy, CEO, Cybernaptics on a PC and mobile app for logistics companies

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

    To look at past telecoms videos, click on:

telecoms

  • The Executive Vice Chairman of the telecom regulatory authority, the Nigerian Communications Commission, (NCC) Dr Eugene Juawah in Lagos said that the Commission may issue more licenses if existing telecoms operators are not competing enough to bring down price.

    The lecture was organized by the Nigerian-Swedish Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with the Nigerian Communications Commission. Juway who spoke at an international communications lecture on the 'Telecommunications Business in Nigeria: How far?'said the Commission would not apply administrate fiat to force down telecom price down , adding that competition will ordinarily bring down price.

    "When the new management took over in NCC, the issue of price was in our mind . We carried out a survey on telecom pricing in similar countries and are concentrating on west African sub-region and also taking into consideration some of the countries in South East Asia. What we found is that Nigeria was on the average," he said, adding " It showed actually that Nigeria is doing fairly well considering some of the peculiar circumstances in our environment. What we feel is that price will come down by competitive force.

    "At the moment, we are relying on competitive force to bring down price but where it fails, we will license more providers so that there will be more competition in the market to bring down price.

    "With only about 400,000 lines in 2001, with a dismal 0.4 teledensity, the number of active lines by end of January 2011 stood at 89.8 Million lines, resulting in an impressive teledensity of 64.16" he said.

  • Tigo Rwanda the country's second largest telecom operator by market share, has been offered a license to operate mobile money transfer services. The company said on Wednesday that the National Bank of Rwanda had offered the Millicom International Cellular-owned firm a license to provide a payment service called Tigo Cash. The technology allows users to send cash to a third party via the SMS.

    Once it launches the operator will be the second in the country to offer the most booming service in the telecom sector in the region, after MTN Rwanda. MTN launched its transfer service in February 2010 and counts about 260,000 subscribers. MTN says it has shifted more than $22 million since February 2010 and is now targeting 300,000 subscribers by the end of this year.

  • Mobile phone operators, Safaricom and Airtel have opened a new battle front but this time over Mobile Number Portability, less than a fortnight after it was launched. The rivals who last year engaged in a cut throat price war are now accusing each other of sabotage and use of under hand tactics to prevent subscribers from moving across the networks.

    Last week, they both dispatched media statements leveling charges at each other which eventually forced the Communication Commission of Kenya to intervene. Airtel Managing Director, Rene Meza alleged use of anti-competition tactics to block customers coming to the network, "How do you explain several complaints received from customers who have opted to move their number to Airtel from Safaricom being unable to receive calls from Safaricom numbers for several days, while they are able to communicate on all platforms on the Airtel network with the same number?"

    Safaricom on the other hand raised alarm the competition was making deliberate delays in processing applications by subscribers porting into its network. It also accused Airtel, which has been on an advertising blitz, of mis-informing subscribers and changing the standard porting application form.

    Safaricom's Director of Corporate Affairs Nzioka Waita said, "For instance, the procedure listed on one of its websites advises customers to send the SMS "Hama" or "Port" without first visiting its retail outlet or having the implication of porting explained".Another accusation by Airtel is that Safaricom was deliberately declining to de-activate its old sim cards. "This means the customer has not completely moved to his network of choice but is still held captive by Safaricom, an act that is anti patriotic and gross abuse of dominance by Safaricom clearly designed to beat efforts of the Government to fully liberalize the sector," Meza said. But in its defense, Safaricom said it had received several requests to "cool off" (port back) from customers that have ported or are in the process of porting to Airtel.

    In a bid to find a solution to the issue, CCK called a meeting of the legal, process and technical working groups yesterday afternoon. The regulator will also meet with the CEOs of the mobile phone companies today.

  • The Government through the registrar of companies has instituted insolvency proceedings in commercial courts against Rwandatel which is shrouded in controversy, officials said. Registrar General, Louise Kanyonga, told Business Times that the decision seeks to liquidate the operator after audited reports found out that the company is technically insolvent with a lot of liabilities.

    "We were in receipt of their audited financial statements for the financial year2009/2010 in which the auditing firm concluded that the company was technically insolvent. Basing on the powers given to the Registrar General by the Insolvency law to institute insolvency proceedings, an application was made to the commercial court in Nyarugenge this morning (Monday April, 11)," Kanyonga said.

    If court rules in favour of government, it means that Rwandatel will be shutdown permanently, denting its existing slim chances to remain in business. The regulator recently revoked Rwandatel's cell phone operating licence but its fixed telephony and Internet services-which are covered by a different licence-are still operational.

    The process is now entirely before the courts and they shall make a final decision on Rwandatel's future, Kanyonga said.

    The Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, John Rwangombwa, said liquidation is the only solution to protect government from investing in an insolvent company. The Ministry is keenly watching the process and will act when a decision is made.

    "Based on the reports they (the registrar) got from RURA... Rwandatel's liabilities were far bigger than their assets; we are waiting to see what that means in terms of the value of that company, in terms of the operations of that company; going forward whether it is still viable as a business," he said.

    The Rwandan government has taken custody of all Libyan-owned businesses in the country including Laico Hotel. Government owns 40 and 20 percent shares in Laico Hotel and Rwandatel respectively. The minister said that depending on the outcome of the court proceedings, they will have to know how to freeze the assets.

internet

  • The governments of Brazil, China, Russia, India and South Africa  have agreed to support a new, R3bn undersea cable that will connect Brazil with South Africa  and Angola, and provide the region with onward connectivity to the US and Asia.

    The South Atlantic Express (SAex) cable system, which will have an initial design capacity of 12,8Tbit/s, will connect SA and Angola to Fortaleza in Brazil, from where it will provide onward links to other countries in the Americas, including the US. SAex’s backers have signed a memorandum of understanding to connect to the 22 000km-long GlobeNet system between South America and North America.

    The new cable will provide the shortest route to the US, the world’s Internet hub. This is important for reducing network latency. Until now, most South African  Internet traffic has been routed via Europe, and then across the north Atlantic.

    The project, which is the brainchild of black-owned and black-led eFive Telecoms, led by CEO Lawrence Mulaudzi, looks set to be funded through a combination of debt and equity by the Bank of China and South Africa’s Industrial Development Corp. Bank of China is said to be keen to provide at least 60% of the required funding.

    Leaders of Brazil, China, Russia, India and South Africa — the so-called Brics countries — agreed at a summit this week to give the project their backing. The Brics nations won’t invest directly in the system’s construction. South Africa was recently admitted as a member of this club of powerful emerging economies.

    Through Seacom — the cable system along Africa’s east coast — SAex will provide onward connectivity to India, and then to other Asian countries, including China, using various cables in South-East Asia. SAex will extend around SA’s coastline to Mtunzini on KwaZulu-Natal’s north coast.

    Planning for the system, which is expected to be available for commercial use in June 2013, is at an advanced stage. eFive Telecoms has appointed UK consultancy Datawave to formulate the business case. Datawave is due to present its findings by the end of this month.

    eFive is also in talks with FibreCo, a venture between Cell C, Dimension Data’s Internet Solutions and Andile Ngcaba’s Convergence Partners, for access to national fibre in South Africa.

    FibreCo CEO Arif Hussain says the plan is to bring capacity landed by SAex to South African cities and to provide an alternative route for traffic to Seacom’s landing station at Mtunzini on the KwaZulu-Natal north coast.

    Alcatel-Lucent Shanghai Bell Co, a joint venture between the government of China and France’s Alcatel-Lucent, will build the cable. The project’s construction and maintenance agreement should be signed next month, with a marine survey to follow not long thereafter.

    SAex will consist of four fibre pairs, each capable of carrying 3,2Tbit/s of data using 40Gbit/s wavelength technology. Two fibre pairs — with a combined design capacity of 6,4Tbit/s — will be extended to SA from an undersea branching unit, with another two fibre pairs likely to be extended to Angola.

    Assuming that cable goes ahead in that configuration, it will be the highest-capacity cable to serve the SA market. Alternative systems under construction — the West African Cable System (Wacs) and the Africa Coast to Europe (Ace) project — have design capacities of 5,1Tbit/s each. Ace and Wacs will run along Africa’s west coast, from SA to Europe.

  • Competition among firms seeking to brand Africa on the Internet has heightened over the past few months. Africa Top Level Domains Organisation (AfTLD) is the latest entrant into the fray seeking to implement the continent's top level internet domain .africa.

    AfTLD, a group of African top level domain operators has placed their bid after DotAfrica.org and DotConnectAfrica (DCA) which expressed interest in the domain in 2009.

    The African domain operators association said in a press release recently that it plans to apply to ICANN, the US-based non-profit organisation which overseas operations of the internet globally, for the .africa top level domain, adding that it plans to seek a mandate from the Africa Union Commission to form a company to manage its bid at a domain operators' meeting in Ghana this month.

    "We are not just interested in .africa, but also .afrique, as at least 50 per cent of Africa speaks French. We also intend to have an internationalised version of .africa as we have a huge Arabic-Africa population, but will first start with ".africa," said Vika Mpisane, AfTLD's chair and general manager of South Africa's .za country code top level domain (ccTLD).

    AfTLD, formed in December 2002, joins the .africa campaign almost one year after the other two contenders --DotAfrica.org and DCA.

    "We launched our 'yes to .africa' campaign last year in Nairobi and announced the 2011 campaign in Tripoli, Libya in January. We will further campaign for .africa and any issues arising," said Sophia Bekele, DCA's executive director, adding that DCA is to meet with internet domain registry operators to discuss various options for the expression of interest and go over options for what is best for Africa.

    AfTLD has also announced its intention to have a "leading registry services provider" run its back-end operations, before it has developed capacity to run the registry from Africa.

    "AfTLD's proposal is not different from DCA's however much they want to impress. AfTLD's idea and tone show how embarrassing it is that such an organisation would wait till late in the evening to copy and paste everything from framework to text from DCA," writes Rono, a DCA volunteer.

    "It's only fair to call this sabotage. Everyone in the fraternity knows who AfTLD's affiliations and advisors are, however much they try to right a tainted past," notes the comment, adding that AfTLD's attempt is a "coup against DCA using Africa Union, who endorsed and mandated DCA for project .africa nine months ago."

    Even if it manages to ward off competition from the two contenders -- DCA and DotAfrica.org -- AfTLD, which has 24 ccTLD registry members, will have to work through challenges relating to stipulations put forward by ICANN on the continental domain.

    ICANN's draft applicant guidebook for new top level domain names, like .africa, estimates each stage of a straight forward application to take eight months while a highly complex application could take about 19 months.

    The draft applicant guidebook, which prohibits country names, like .Kenya or .Uganda, has very stringent rules for continental domains like .africa for which applicants like DCA, DotAfrica.org and now AfTLD are required to pay about $186,000 as application fees.

    The guidebook states: "In the case of application for a string (domain name) that represents a continent or UN region, documentation of support will be required from at least 60 per cent of the respective national governments in the region, and there may be no more than one written objection to the application from relevant governments and public authorities associated with the continent or the UN region."

    Sixty per cent documented support from Africa's 53 countries comes to about 33 countries.

    This may be the reason why the applicants are keen to get the endorsement of the AU Commission, which can essentially be translated as a blanket endorsement from all governments in the continent.

    "The 60 per cent requirement is not a challenge as DCA has already been endorsed by both the African Union which represents African governments and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa which works with African ministers," stated Bekele, whose endorsement letter, dated August 2009, is signed by Africa Union Commission chair Jean Ping.

    There are 21 generic top level domains including .com, .biz, .net, .org while the country code top level domains like .ke for Kenya, .ug for Uganda and .tz for Tanzania are 255.

    When it becomes effective, the launch of the ".africa" domain would see the continent join the European Union and Asia which have launched ".eu" and ".asia" respectively.

  • Recent developments in optical network technology, plus the extension of well-known Local Area Network (LAN)/( Wide Area Networks- WAN) architecture from the desktop to the neighbourhood and beyond, are allowing the deployment of very low-cost and high bandwidth optical networks for the carriage of internet traffic.

    It is these global developments like the National Backbone Infrastructure in Uganda that will gradually permit schools, municipal authorities, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and corporate organizations to deploy and manage their own high speed optical network en masse instead of relying on the service-based offers from traditional carriers like large telecoms or cable firms.

    With the growth of the internet into a global network of networks. It is obvious that the Internet is a central infrastructure supporting the global information economy. In Africa at present, majority of economies are striving to improve broadband provision as a National Policy/Economic Strategy.

    Fibre optical cables have much greater bandwidth than metal cables for they carry or have immense capacity to carry data in comparison to metallic cables. A single fibre can carry over 600,000 plus voice circuits compared to a telephone line pair which can carry 2 voice circuits.

    Fibre optic cables are not prone or susceptible to interference and conduct no electricity.
    This means ground faults are not an issue. They can be run through storm trains, the sea etc. with no effect. They however can be susceptible to damage via negligent incision.
    Fibre optic cables are thinner and tighter than metal wire cables. Fibre optic data is transmitted digitally through zeros and ones; the natural form for computer data transmission rather than analogically. There is a possibility that almost all future communication will employ fibre optics. These cables have a long life expectancy of 20-50 years.

    The fibre optic technology deployed in National Backbones is fundamental in enabling the provision of broadband services that run key huge economies like Malaysia, Mauritius, Singapore and USA among others. Gradually most economies in Africa including Uganda and the regional economies of Kenya, Tanzania Burundi Rwanda and Southern Sudan will have National backbones linked to international gateways- Courtesy of the new fibre Optics network technology.

    Benefits that the government will create with an efficiently utilized National Backbone Infrastructure include improved services and convenience to citizens, improved productivity.

  • The US government has designated north Sudan as one of the countries which impose restrictions on access to the internet and monitor e-mail communication. In its 21 country reports on human rights practices, the U.S department of state singled out Sudan as one of the countries where human rights abuses were "especially serious," recounting details of numerous human rights violations committed nationwide by the country's government.

    It also said that the country's national telecommunication cooperation, which is mandated to oversee internet content, blocked some websites which are deemed offensive to public morality, including regular blocking of the video-sharing website Youtube during April's elections and the Sudan vote monitor website.

    The report also accused the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), the country's official security authority, of reading e-mail messages between private citizens.

    But Sudan's foreign ministry rejected the report saying that Washington is the one violating the rights of the Sudanese people by blocking access to advance telecommunication technologies and access to some information on the web.

    The ministry's spokesperson Khalid Moussa noted statements by former U.S. special envoy Scott Gration in which he criticized the sanctions as excessive. He stressed that even Sudanese opposition use Facebook for mobilizing demonstrations without restrictions by the government or any other party.

    Last year the U.S administration eased internet sanctions on Sudan which is still under comprehensive U.S economic sanctions in connection to allegations of sponsoring terrorism and the atrocities committed in the western region of Darfur.

    US technology firms are now be allowed to export online services such as instant messaging and social networks. In 2009 software giant Microsoft barred users in five countries, including Iran, Cuba and Sudan, from using instant messaging services. People trying to use the service received an error message.

computing

  • As Wi-Fi usage records impressive growth in developed countries with restaurants, train stations, and public places continuing being high-growth areas, Kenya is struggling to play catch-up.

    Wi-Fi, the technology that allows wireless networking of computers, laptops and other gadgets, has changed the way workers in countries like USA and Singapore communicate in offices, allowing employees to use hotspots freely in office spaces or even work from neighbouring buildings without requiring wire connections.

    In airports around the world, Wi-Fi has transformed the dreary layover experience into an opportunity to connect with the world, allowing travellers who have laptops or smart phones to freely access the Internet.

    Wi-Fi hotspots, as they are commonly referred to, have continued their march into nearly every venue you can think of - including one of the most unusual access points to be found atop Mount Everest.

    Almost every gadget manufactured these days comes off the production line Wi-Fi ready, with research house IDC predicting there will be over 15 billion intelligent, connected devices in the next four years.

    But if you have ever engaged in a quest to find a working Internet hotspot in Nairobi then you will know that it is nothing short of an odyssey of near Homer-like proportions.

    In the over four years since Wi-Fi was first commercialised in Nairobi, the technology is yet to find its stride amongst users who want to access free or near-free data services at hotspots- puzzling given Nairobians penchant for free things.

    The romantised image conjured by figures lovingly bent over portable devices as they slurp coffee in swanky restaurants none withstanding, the Nairobi Wi-Fi experience is not for the faint-hearted.

    You will need to bring along some patience as an additional accessory for your laptop if you want to take advantage of the hotspots at Prestige Plaza along Ngong Road, where a plethora of Wi-Fi connections are available, but all must be coerced to work.

    Once you do get on board, you are likely to compete for bandwidth with anyone else who harbours the same hopes of getting online while on the move. If there are more than two of you, it may be time to throw in the towel.

    V stands for vexation at the Village Market, where pages load at snail's pace, and once they arrive, they proceed to obnoxiously stare at you as you repeatedly hit the refresh button in the hopes of getting some movement out of them. In their quieter hours, the connections at Nairobi Java house outlets outside the city can be bearable, as is the experience at the select Dormans outlets in the city.

    You need only see the large numbers of hunched surfers in Art Café at Nairobi's Westgate to know that the connections are live and ready to do your bidding. At the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, the connection is said to be better, unfortunately, it has never worked while I have been at the facility.

    The Wi-Fi experience in Nairobi remains as fitful as the connections at the public spots where it exists. The good news is that several companies are tapping into this technology in order to improve connectivity options for a mobile workforce.

  • He left Tanzania in 1965 at the age of 18 and headed to Russia to pursue a degree course in telecommunications engineering. This was to lead to a Master of Science and a doctorate degree in the same field by 1980. After graduation he held various executive positions in a number of globally renowned technology institutions.

    Meet Raymond Rugemalira, a man of many hats. He is currently on a different mission angled on a field that rides on his principal technology related profession. For the past five years, Dr Rugemalira, a Tanzanian national, has been making visits from his home in the US to East Africa in search of a technology solution that will aid farmers make the best out of their investments.

    "My parents and family members are farmers. It has not been pleasing to see how they get exploited by unscrupulous middlemen," he says while answering to the source of motivation behind his new-found career path.

    His last position in employment was associate professor at Azusa Pacific University in southern California in the US. Before then he had worked at the Telecommunications Research Centre in Finland, a research scientist at Helsinki University of Technology and at IBM where he worked as a senior development scientist for two years.

    Now, by employing his talent in technology, Dr Rugemalira is among the 14 winners of a competition sponsored by USAid and Western Union through the African Diaspora Market Place held in January last year. The competition attracted 738 competitors each submitting their creative development idea.

    Dr Rugemalira submitted his invention Uza Mazao (Swahili for sale produce) software that enable farmers and farm produce buyers to meet in a virtual market. Being a winner meant that he gets Sh8.3 million ($100,000) as prize money to deploy his idea but on condition that he contributes an equal amount to the investment. "The prize had to be topped up with an equal amount viewed as 'sweat equity' from the winner," he says.

    His presence in Kenya and the rest of the East African countries is to promote Uza Mazao, a product of E&M Capital Corporation, a company he began while still employed as an associate professor in 2005.

    Among other projects that the company has undertaken since its inception is designing the national fibre optic network backbone for Rwanda and a Real Time pandemic monitor, a health software that is used to evaluate disease burden. "Uza Mazao has been developed from Real Time crop monitor that existed together with Real Time pandemic monitor," says Dr Rugemalira.

    Aimed at creating a meeting point for buyers and sellers, the software requires that users are subscribed so that they can send requests for sale or purchase to the operator who in turn ensures that they are connected.

    Subscription to the service is free and can be done from a computer or mobile phone.
    However, users will have to part with Sh10 when making requests once the service is fully operational. From September last year to date, he has registered 3,000 farmers in Kenya who include both individuals and groups. They are mainly drawn from Meru, Narok, Murang'a and Limuru dealing with a range of produce that include maize, wheat, mangoes and bananas and poultry products.

    "I thought it wise to start by registering farmers. It would be frustrating to have buyers in a market without sellers. With the farmers ready I will be able to approach the buyers," he says.

    Already, talks are underway with local supermarket chains and hotels who he says have tentatively agreed to try the product.

    Locally, agriculture experts have often raised concerns over the marketing systems available for locally produced agricultural commodities. While some view the marketing structures as being beneficial to large-scale farmers who have the capacity to attract reliable marketing outlets, others say that such systems have led to low incomes for small-scale farmers.

    Similar to the software developed by Dr Rugemalira is a system by the Kenya Agricultural Commodities Exchange that enables farmers and potential buyers to subscribe and get information regarding the price of produce on a daily basis.

  • The need to outsource the aspect of technology management to Systems Integrators (SI), to enable organisations concentrate on core businesses has been stressed by Computer Warehouse Group (CWG), a foremost System Integrator in the country.

    General Manager, DCC Networks, the communication arm of CWG, Oladipo Raji, who spoke in Lagos at the recent re-introduction of Gamatronic Modular Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS), threw the challenge to organisations that still combine technology management with their core businesses that ride on technology platforms.

    According to him, "what most organisations do is to manage so many things including the technology aspect of their business, coupled with the management of their core business. CWG is a system integrator and it will be wise for organisations to outsource the aspect of technology management to Systems integrators like CWG who has competent staff and professional partners who provide technology support from time to time."

    What we do is to evaluate solutions, implement it and in most cases finance it for the customer. We are on the right track. There is no time lag between the introduction of new technology and its adoption in Nigeria and we as System Integrator, is ready to support our clients with latest technology that will add value to business, Raji said.

    Addressing the issue of technology development in Nigeria , Raji explained that current indices show that Nigeria is abreast with modern technology, as a result of research and development being carried out by Systems Integrators from time to time on new and workable technologies.

    CWG, he said, "has several tested international partners for technology application implementation and support," adding that with the internet capacity that Nigeria already had, more technologies would be put in place and with the capacities from MainOne, Glo One and the expected WACS, it means more bandwidth capacity and more opportunity for Nigerians to create and adopt newer technologies.

    Raji further explained that today's IT solution providers have moved from the era of parallel technology to the era of managed solution in order to provide better services to technology consumers, targeted at increasing efficiency and productivity.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Foreign investors exchanged a block of 625, 000 Econet shares valued at US$3,1 million on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange on Tuesday, in a special bargain deal, one of the biggest concluded this year. The transaction, executed by Interfin Securities at US480c, raised the day's total value of trades by 111,45 percent to US$3,9 million.

    Foreign inflows and outflows soared 165,37 percent and 334,02 percent to US$3,5 million and US$3,1 million respectively. The Econet share is the most liquid on the local bourse and has continued to attract foreign investors. The mobile company has 167 million shares in issue and an additional 79 million Class A shares, which belong to founding shareholders. With a value of just above US$800 million, it is one of the biggest companies on the ZSE in terms of capitalisation as well as revenue.

    Econet's business profile remains the most intriguing on the local market as the company continues to grow.

    The industrial index subsequently closed in the positive on Tuesday after putting on 0,13 percent to 158,46 points.

  • Sentech says its national broadband network will cost between R1.1bn and R1.2bn over the next three years, leaving the company short of R250m in financing to build the infrastructure.

    The state-owned company has set aside R814m over the medium-term framework period (the next three years) to bring Internet access to schools, clinics and underserviced rural and municipal areas.

    CEO Setumo Mohapi says schools and clinics have long been neglected by the private sector. “We have so many children across the country that have never even seen the Internet,” he says. “How can we release them into the broader economy without that access?”

    He says the private sector has mostly neglected to provide Internet access in rural areas because they struggle to recuperate capital expenditure. “We need government intervention that says we don’t need to recover the capital investment, but only make sure that operational expenditure is sustainable,” Mohapi says.

    The network will give school pupils and rural doctors the access they need and allow the private sector to lease the infrastructure for their own services without incurring the full capital costs normally associated with such deployments.

    “We can only afford to do this project if government agrees to intervene. But if we don’t do anything about our broadband penetration, we will continue to fall behind the rest of Africa and our people will not be uplifted,” says Mohapi.

    Sentech has come under fire over its decision to provide broadband services given that its first foray into the space was a total failure. The company pulled the plug on its MyWireless business in 2009 after demonstrating it was incapable of running a retail consumer-facing business.

    However, Sentech chairman Logan Naidoo says this project will not face the same problems as MyWireless because Sentech is not rolling out a retail consumer service. “This project will be aimed at completing government projects and bringing access where the market has failed,” he says.

    Sentech wants to provide services at the lowest possible cost to underserviced areas. Low wholesale costs should encourage other providers to use the infrastructure to build their own services in those areas.

    Sentech wants to use the money it has already been granted by government — R500m plus interest — to begin building the network, which will probably use WiMax technology.

    The government of Kenya has set aside Sh980 million to equip 1,050 schools countrywide with computers. Education secretary George Godia said the government has identified five schools per constituency to start the programme.

  • GSMA, the umbrella body for mobile operators worldwide has challenged Nigerian government to support broadband rollout and penetration across the country, insisting that broadband capabilities could generate over N862 billion of GDP growth by 2015 if fully supported by government.

    Addressing the press in Lagos last week through online web conference, Special Government Advisor for GSMA, Ross Bateson outlined the findings of a new independent study by analyst firm Analysys Mason and called on government to as a matter of urgency, unlock the 2.6 GHz spectrum to support the high demand for mobile broadband in urban areas; release the digital dividend spectrum to deliver broadband services to rural areas; and reduce the 35 per cent tax level faced by Nigerian mobile operators, a tax which he says double the global average.

    According to the study, only 6 per cent of all Nigerians currently have access to broadband services, and 74 per cent of those do so through mobile broadband. There is little fixed broadband connectivity outside of Lagos, and even in Nigerian cities, most cyber cafés now connect to the internet using wireless services. The report of the study revealed that mass-market broadband availability will only be possible using mobile technologies, and it highlights the steps that government must take to promote mobile broadband growth.

    According to Bateson, "It is essential that the Nigerian government acts quickly to support mobile broadband expansion, as failure to do so could hinder the country's social and economic growth. Not only could the country realise as much as N862 billion of incremental Gross Domestic Products (GDP), but people of all ages and livelihoods will benefit from the vast amount of information and opportunities mobile broadband can unlock."

    The study found that mobile broadband could potentially contribute more than 1 per cent of GDP or 1.7 per cent of non-oil GDP in 2015 and would facilitate much needed diversification of the economy. According to the report, government support for mobile broadband services could help deliver significant advantages to the wider wireless ecosystem and the way in which other sectors use the internet.

    Some of the benefits of mobile broadband as outlined by the report, shows that 55 per cent annual growth would be seen from the online retail industry, growing from N4.5 billion in 2010 to N44.9 billion in 2015; the financial services industry's benefit from broadband would grow by 95 per cent, as a result of mobile access to bank accounts and money transfer services, from N0.6 billion in 2010 to N16.8 billion in 2015; the use of the internet and mobile to deliver of social services, including healthcare and education, would generate growth of 70 per cent, from N2.2 billion to N30.3 billion in 2015; and the overall corporate market, especially agriculture and utilities, would experience a 55 per cent annual growth rate through the provision of services online, from N3.6 billion in 2010 to N32.1 billion in 2015.

    The study further revealed that wider availability of mobile broadband could also vastly improve overall industrial productivity through improvements in business processes. A 73 per cent annual increase in the working population with access to mobile broadband, reaching 5.2 million users by 2015, will deliver an additional N140 billion to the Nigerian economy each year, the study revealed

    Bateson said "Mobile is the most cost-effective way of delivering broadband services in Nigeria. Nigeria already has advanced mobile networks, such as Glo's recently launched LTE network, and has experienced significant take-up of HSPA mobile broadband. The laying of submarine data cables between Lagos and Europe has provided much of the international backhaul needed, but mobile is vital in providing 'last mile' connectivity to consumers, especially in rural areas. However, without proper spectrum allocation in line with internationally harmonised band plans and broader government support, it will not be possible to realise the full potential of mobile broadband."

    The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting nearly 800 of the world's mobile operators and more than 200 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem. GSMA is focused on innovating, incubating and creating new opportunities for its membership and driving the growth of the mobile industry.

  • AccessKenya shares climbed above the initial public offering price of Sh10 per share, helped by a sustained one-week rally that saw the stock gain 47 per cent after touching an historic low.

    Analysts said the surge to Sh10.35 on Friday was driven by increased demand as speculators sought to make capital gains on the counter after it sunk to an unprecedented low of Sh7.05 on March 30.

    The telecommunication company's stock jumped by the maximum allowable limit of 10 per cent in Wednesday's trading at the Nairobi Stock Exchange.

    Counter oversold

    "It is speculative trading. Probably the market feels that the counter has been oversold and has hit bottom," said Mr Samuel Gichohi, a senior research analyst at NIC Securities.

    AccessKenya has seen increased investor demand moving 1.39 million shares over the past four days.

    "I think investors are viewing it as a cheap share which has been trading at a discount so there has been increased demand," said Mr Robert Munuku, an analyst at Drummond Investment Bank.

    He said factors such as increased competition and costs from dollar denominated loans which resulted in a profit warning and subsequent decline in earnings had put its fundamentals and outlook into question.

    NIC Securities in a research note said increased competition in the data sector by mobile operators such as Safaricom and Orange which have aggressively been marketing their cheaper internet services has eaten into the firm's revenues.

    AccessKenya announced a Sh7.9 million after tax loss last year compared to Sh148 million profits in 2009.

    It attributed the drop to increased administrative expenses and foreign exchange losses on the repayment of dollar denominated loans

    According to the company's full year results, administrative expenses shot up by 31 per cent to Sh1.02 billion in 2010 from Sh781 million in 2009 while turnover declined by 17 per cent to Sh1.7 billion from Sh2.1 billion over the same period of time.

    The company's internet and IT services posted reduced sales while the internet services segment posted a loss after tax of Sh12 million for the year.

    IT services which recorded Sh4 million in profits after tax saw its sales drop 66 per cent to Sh152 million while internet services sales dropped by a marginal four per cent to Sh1.55 billion.

    But even with reduced revenues the company managed to increase its corporate clients from 3,100 to 3,900 customers, while residential clients grew to 4,500 from 3,000 according to NIC Securities in their research note.

    Access Kenya also posted a Sh43 million net foreign exchange loss up from Sh3.5 million the previous year while its financing costs increased more than 10 times to Sh92 million last year from Sh8.7 million in 2009.

    The massive drop in profits was anticipated by the market after the company posted a 55 per cent decline in half year profits after tax to Sh40 million in the first six months of 2010 compared to Sh89 million recorded within the same period, a move that started a steady decline in the share price.

    The company's stock was trading at between Sh18 and Sh20 at the time

    In December - when the stock had declined to below Sh15 - the company issued a profit warning.

    In February this year, the stock price fell below its Sh10 initial public offer price, hitting the historic Sh7.05 low at the end of March.

    The company's management is however optimistic about the future of the company and is banking on the big, unexploited internet market and investment in fibre optics to grow its revenues.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Vodacom unveiled their 2GB + 2GB mobile data bundles on Sunday, 10 April 2011, offering subscribers up to 4GB of monthly data & a 7.2Mbps modem for R149 per month on a twelve month contract.This offer from Vodacom directly rivals Cell C’s 2GB contract promotion which also offers subscribers 2GB of mobile data and a 7.2Mbps ‘white’ Cell C dongle for R149 per month.

    -Rwanda's telecom sector has started to feel the setbacks of Rwandatel's exit as a third mobile phone operator, with Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA) saying it might not hit its six million mobile subscriber target by 2012.

    -Airtel Zambia has spent US$4,200 in the freedom fiesta mid draw promotion that it hopes will contribute to subscriber growth.

    -Nairobi — With  mobile number portability, mobile companies are positioning themselves for the market changing event with some dishing out generous offers that seem to be a subscriber-retention ploy.Promotions and offers have for years been used by providers to tip the scales towards their network, with subscribers being the overall beneficiaries.Some operators have turned to these enticing offers as a tool of choice to prevent a possible exodus to rival camps.Only recently Safaricom reduced their monthly internet subscription fee for BlackBerry subscribers by 50 per cent from the previous Sh2,000 to settle at Sh999.Airtel Kenya charges Sh5,000 for a similar service but they have not revised their charges.Telkom Kenya too has a post paid offering with the different plans ranging between Sh999 and Sh10,800 as does Airtel Kenya.However, these rival companies have not yet revised their rates on this products but Airtel Kenya, which is the 2nd major provider by subscriber numbers, has been vigorously drumming up the event by running advertisements in the press with apparent references to rival companies.With the Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) slipping in recent years, innovative methods of attracting a large pool of consumers to pay a fixed amount per month, up and above the ARPU, seems to be one of the ways to counter dwindling revenue from voice calls.The industry ARPU now stands at Sh362.20 compared to Sh425.85 in 2007 and Sh376.5 in 2008, according to the Communications Commission of Kenya.

Digital Content

  • Nairobi — Why go to church when you can carry it in your pocket? In the amazing world of technology, devotions, sermons, blessings, rosaries, Bibles, and numerous faith-based phone applications are now available at the tap of a button... or a screen.

    The latest fascinating application, perhaps, is "Confession", which was approved by the Vatican earlier this year. The application by Apple guides the users through the process of confession and allows them to keep track of their sins.

    You can meet Pope Benedict XVI on Facebook, see his pictures, and receive messages from him. You can also keep abreast of news events about the life of the Catholic Church through the Vatican's page on YouTube.

    And that is just a pinch of Church Online.

    For a long time people have been shopping online and finding partners and jobs, but now many are finding spiritual nourishment there as well.

    The wonderful worldwide web is gripping the Christian sphere like never before, and local churches have joined in the craze, too. Having a church website or a social networking site such as Facebook is now as common as having a church poster by the roadside.

    Churches are hoisting themselves online with the aim of publicising themselves, gathering masses, creating communities, and fostering disciples. Their web pages have an array of "faith boosters" ranging from live-stream sermons, discussions, devotions, inspirational words, Bible verses, and pastors' blogs.

    When Jesus commanded His disciples to "go and make disciples of all nations", did He have twittering vicars, Facebooking fathers, blogging bishops, and online fellowships in mind?

    Today, fast and furiously, Christians are attempting anything and everything to establish their presence in the growing digital world. But this is not a new phenomenon for the Church. Christians' love affair with technology has a long history.

    Jon Masso, a long-time missionary and currently deputy vice-chancellor of Daystar University, says: "The first major technological innovation was the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg, which led to the mass production of the Bible in different languages. For the first, time it was possible for Christians anywhere to read God's word in their own language."

    Now that the printing press has been overtaken by digital technology and everything has gone "e" (e-mail, e-books, e-zines, e-government), could it be time for e-God?

    Sam Gichuru, the founder of Nairobi-based Incubation Laboratory (Nailab) who describes himself as completely sold out on developing innovations in the ICT sector in Africa, says, "Religion is very much like most good businesses. It should have a social and economic impact, helping people break free of the shackles of poverty and attaining self-enlightenment".

    The ICT opportunities waiting for churches to exploit are enormous.

    "A church might have a small venue to accommodate people, but with ICT, they can scale up and reach people on a global scale. This also has the potential of ending the notion that religion is a one-day event for many people," says Mr Gichuru.

    Gichuru, who has a Bible as part of his Android application, says he is happy to find local churches that use live streams to reach those in the office, bluetooth technology to share the sermon after service, and mobile phones to provide counselling and prayers and daily doses of inspirational words. "A small dose a day keeps the devil away," he says.

    Evangelical Christians are doing all they can to be culturally relevant and share their faith. In this digital age where the culture of cyber-self is sweeping across the world, could the traditional churches be in danger of being replaced by complete online versions? Are we likely to see Christian online communities that never get to meet physically?

    Moses Kariuki, a congregant at the Free Pentecostal Church, Eastleigh and who is currently a missionary to Chad, says: "Books didn't replace the traditional church, and neither will e-technology. Instead, books helped the church to grow exponentially and made it more relevant and effective. So will electronic technology."

    Masso says the church is not a building. Biblically, the church is the ecclesia (Greek for "the called ones" -- the people of God, not the building of God).

    "Church", therefore, has almost always meant the coming together of people to worship and hear the word of God. Usually, this is accompanied by the concept of community.

    Mr Masso notes that other factors besides ICT have contributed to the degradation of the sense of community in the church.

  • KCB will rely on its mobile system to roll out agency banking services launched on Wednesday, deepening telecommunication companies' linkages with financial institutions in joint ventures to reach out to the unbanked population.

    The bank's chief executive officer, Mr Martin Oduor-Otieno, said agents will only require telephone handsets to accept deposits and make withdrawals for customers, in a system similar to that used by operators of mobile phone money transfer operators.

    KCB's approach to agency banking through the mobile phone has been used by Equity and Co-operative Banks that have rolled out similar services based on systems heavily borrowed from M-Pesa, the mobile money transfer service developed by Safaricom.

    The lender said it was targeting to recruit close to 5,000 agents "over the next few years", raising competition for the unbanked population currently estimated at nine million.

    Banks signed up 8,809 agents last year, according to data from the Central Bank of Kenya. This led the sector to increase the total customer deposits by about Sh600 million over a three-month period.

    Oduor-Otieno said KCB is seeking to recruit agents with already established businesses.
    We are targeting supermarkets, branches of large corporations, petrol stations and small businesses," he said.
    "Our agents will be connected to our agency banking platform through the mobile banking platform," he said.

    Among the conditions set out for prospective agents is their ability to make their own security arrangements while they can access bank loans to fund the agency business, subject to raising a minimum capital of Sh100,000.

    It will cost customers Sh20 for any cash deposits with the agent earning the full amount while withdrawals with costs Sh70 where the bank and the agent share it on a fifty-fifty basis.

    An agent offers the basic services just as a fully fledged bank branch including cash deposits and withdrawal, disbursement and repayment of loans, payment of salaries, pension, transfer of funds, and issuance of mini-bank statements, among others.

More

  • - Within a few weeks, the meetings of the Togo Cabinet may look like Apple conventions; only Faure Gnassingbe will lead instead of Steve Jobs. Indeed, each member of the government will soon have an iPad. Not a gimmick, but a part of the program initiated by Cina Lawson, the Minister for telecommunication, to accompany the gradual introduction of e-government in Togo.
     
    The iPad will allow each member of the government to submit documents from the Council of Ministers in electronic format, and will support work during the council meetings; a secure protocol will be established with the General Secretariat of the Government for electronic transmission of certain documents for the consideration of the Cabinet.

  • Ghana ICT and Telecom Summit
    28-29 April 2011, Ghana-India Kofi Annan ICT Centre Accra, Ghana

    The summit will bring together over 200 decision-makers from Ghanaian operators and international stakeholders with an interest in the market to share experiences, knowledge and ideas with a view to overcoming the industry challenges. The 2 day summit agenda will address all aspects of Ghanaian ICT & telecoms strategies for attracting investment, broadband connectivity for all, solutions to boost operator ROI, Regulatory challenges & opportunities, infrastructure development, VAS and local content for Ghanaians, subscriber acquisition and retention strategies, mobile banking, customer loyalty, future trends and more.
    For further information visit here:

    eLearning Africa 2011 - Spotlight on Youth, Skills and Employability
    25-27 May 2011, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

    The 6th event in the series of pan-African conferences and exhibitions will focus on Africa's youth. Africa has the highest percentage of young people anywhere in the world. How can it unlock the vast reservoir of talent? How can technology support education and training?
    For further information visit here:

    MMT Africa Conference and Expo
    10 - 13 May 2011, Nairobi, Kenya

    Some of Africa’s top mobile money transfer operators, financial institutions and high-tech innovators will gather for the annual MMT Africa conference and expo in Nairobi, Kenya which is still considered THE hub for mobile money transfer initiative and success.
    For more information visit here:

  • Senior Web Development Engineer
    Bluewater Staffing Solutions
    Cape Town, SA

    The client, who is at the international forefront of creating the next major computing platform, is looking for a Senior Web Development Engineer to join their world class team in Cape Town to and help solve a challenging set of problems in space, packed full of opportunities.  The ideal candidate is obsessive about creating the perfect user experience for millions of users. Creating the perfect user experience on the web requires a blend of technical knowledge, customer obsession and agility.  Our web systems need to be extremely responsive and highly-scalable.

    Min Requirements: 
    -          A bachelor's degree in CS or MIS
    -          At least a four year degree or diploma in Computer Science or Engineering
    -          Nuts and bolts understanding of the web including HTTP, HTML, CSS, Javascript
    -          Knowledge and appreciation of web standards
    -          Knowledge of one or more Javascript frameworks e.g. JQuery, YUI, Ext-JS
    -          Working knowledge of relational databases and back-end programming (C++, Java,          Python)
    -          Strong customer focus
    -          Between 2 and 5 years of practical experience building production web applications
    -          Demonstrated ability to achieve stretch goals
    -          Expertise in delivering high-quality, innovative applications
    -          Strong analytical skills with excellent problem solving abilities
    -          Strong desire to build, sense of ownership, urgency, and drive
    -          Excellent written communication and verbal agility are strong assets

    Job Description:

    -          Analysis and design of new features and interfaces for the web
    -          Optimizing current products to improve its performance and usability
    -          Support, troubleshooting and resolving of critical issues in production
    -          Working with a team, to achieve the ultimate user experience
    −    Analyzing application and user metrics to define our team strategy
      
    Salary:

    Highly competitive & market related (Negotiable)

  • Netone Cancels Decade- Long Contract wit Zellco

    MOBILE phone company NetOne has, with immediate effect, cancelled its decade-long contract with Zellco Cellular over non-remittance of some fees collected by the agent.

    Zellco was NetOne's agent contracted to sell some of its services for a fee. Although the amount owed could not be ascertained yesterday, sources familiar with the storm said Zellco was in "huge arrears".

    The cancellation of the contract could push Zellco out of business since it was largely sustained by the NetOne contract.

    Zellco chairman Mr Biggie Chitima confirmed the cancellation of the contract but refused to shed more light.

    "I cannot comment on that matter because it is now being handled by our lawyers," said Mr Chitima. He also professed ignorance of the circumstances leading to the contract's cancellation.

    A senior manager at Zellco said the company only learnt of the cancellation through messages sent to NetOne subscribers.

    "There were no procedures taken to inform us of its intention to terminate our contract," said the senior manager.

    "We were all surprised. To be honest with you, we only got to know about this through text messages (SMS)."

    The SMS read: "From 06/04/11, NetOne has cancelled Zellco's service contract. Customers will now pay their bills directly to NetOne. There will be no loss of service."

    Zellco and Firstel Cellular were the two remaining NetOne agents. In 2001, the mobile company terminated its contract with Cosmos Cellular after the latter failed to pay Z$200 million in service fees.

    An official with NetOne confirmed cancellation of the contract but declined to give details.

    Both Zellco and NetOne are battling to recover millions of dollars in unpaid phone bills from their post-paid customers.

    It is understood that NetOne is owed over US$30 million by more than 10 000 of its post-paid customers, most of them serviced by Zellco Cellular.

    The mobile service provider has over one million subscribers, with pre-paid customers making up the bulk.

    (Source:The Herald)

    Plessey and Dark Fibre Africa

    Dimension Data subsidiary Plessey has won a R20m contract to install and maintain 11 regeneration sites on Dark Fibre Africa’s fibre cable linking Empangeni on the KwaZulu-Natal north coast and Pretoria in Gauteng.

    Plessey chief operating officer Howard Earley says the sites will house equipment that will pick up any data on the fibre and rebroadcast it using a booster to make sure that data degradation doesn’t occur.

    “The fibre is more than 400km long. If you just pump data down the line, you will get a garbled mess out the other end. But the regeneration sites will basically boost the data so what you put in, you get out at the end,” he says.

    The sites will be hosted at Bronkhorstspruit, Middelburg, Hendrina, Ermelo, Panbult, Piet Retief, Paulpietersburg, Vryheid, Zulu Rock, Melmoth and Empangeni.

    Earley says Plessey will build the sites, install and maintain the equipment, and ensure that containers are air-conditioned and are properly secured.

    The cable system carries traffic from the Seacom submarine cable to Gauteng.

    Each site will have mains power, a back-up generator and battery back-up facilities, and the company says the sites should have 99,95% uptime.

    Plessey will monitor each site from its network operations centre in Midrand and will also station technicians along the route to carry out preventative maintenance and respond to any incidents.

    Earley says the company has a 15-year contract with Dark Fibre Africa to provide space and power within each of the 11 sites.