Issue no 581 18th November 2011

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Top story

  • While oil prices have not yet reached the peak levels witnessed in the summer of 2008, their steady growth with the OPEC basket price of an oil barrel passing the US$100 mark in February 2011, should ring an alarm bell among African mobile operators. Their dependency on diesel to fuel their base stations remains very high but very few of them have make any serious efforts to tackle these critical issues. Isabelle Gross looks at what the short and long terms options are for African mobile operators when it comes to saving on the energy bill that they are currently running.

    No later than last September, the Kenyan newspaper Business Daily reported that Bob Collymore, the CEO of Safaricom “said that the cost of running diesel-driven base stations rose by 27% since January, especially in areas with no electricity and in western Kenya where frequent power outages mean the stations must run on diesel for up to four hours a day”. He also acknowledged that the raising operating costs will need to be addressed and a way to do so will be to increase calling rates.

    Charging more customers is one approach but it has numerous pitfalls. A price increase can result in lower call volumes and therefore the overall revenue will not go up. Most African mobile subscribers don’t have deep pockets and they remain much more price sensitive than their counterparts in developed countries. Increasing prices is a sure way to drive them to look more carefully at what the competitors have on offer.

    Faced with falling voice ARPU and hypothetical additional data revenue, African mobile operators have to pay more attention on the cost side of the business that they are running. Energy expenditures should be among the top items on their list as oil prices have gone up again. When it comes to saving on the energy bills, there is not an “out of the box” solution but it can be done.

    The best approach is to first look at how to run existing base stations more efficiently. In other words, the “quick fix” which consists of tweaking various elements of the base station to realise operational savings without incurring additional capital outlay.

    The cooling system is obviously a good starting point because it represents as much as 35% of the total electricity consumption of the base station. This proportion can increase to 50% if there are fewer transmitters in use. According to a case study carried out by Axiata, a large Asian telecommunication company, the energy saving in using an inverted air conditioning versus a traditional air conditioning system is between 14% and 22%
    depending on the temperature settings (13.8% at 25°C and 21.9% at 30°C).

    In a typical setting the pay-back time is about two years. In Africa for example, mobile operators like Vodacom, Orange or MTN have started to experiment with “free cooling system” technology in conjunction (or not) with introducing higher operating temperature in the base station.

    Beside free cooling, inverted air conditioners or higher operating temperatures, smarter ways of cooling have already been developed to reduce energy consumption. One
    option is to extract the heat directly from the source rather than attempting to cool
    the whole cabin.

    Equipment manufacturer Ericsson has for example conducted trials in Indonesia that show significantly lower energy consumption can be achieved through the use of heat exchangers for the shelters and separate cooling compartments for the battery back-up. The energy used for cooling the sites can be reduced by up to 60%.

    Energy efficient base stations offer interesting savings without requiring a big capital layout but then why are there still so few in Africa when a large number of BTS are running on diesel 24/7?

    Further reduction in OPEX will require some capital investments because it implies
    purchasing more energy efficient equipment or switching to renewable energy
    power solutions. Green options range from the use of solar energy, wind
    power to hydrogen fuel cell, biomass, biofuel, etc. Solar and wind remain the most
    prominent green technologies used to power base stations in off-grid locations.

    When looking at the business case to implement renewable energy solutions to power
    base stations, three main factors need to be looked at. There is the price of oil, the BTS load and the renewable energy technology to be implemented. Let’s look at the first factor in more details.

    When oil prices are depressed, the pay-back time will be longer – a couple of years more for most renewable energy projects. When oil prices are high, the return on investment will take less time. When diesel price was at its peak in July 2008, mobile operators’ fuel costs were nearly 3 times higher than at the beginning of 2007 with the result of spiralling operating costs (OPEX) for African mobile operators. Shouldn’t the latter comparison start ringing an alarm bell in African mobile operators’ head?

    For more details on the short and long term options available to mobile operators engaging in better managing their diesel bill, please see Balancing Act’s report entitled “Energy for Cellular Base Stations in Africa: the quick fix approach and the long term perspective to saving energy” published in February 2011.


    On the Balancing Act You Tube Channel this week an AfricaCom special:

    Nadeem, Juma, CEO, Mobipay
    on m-payments and social media in Tanzania

    Scott Bain, Director of Sales, Range Networks on Open BTS and low cost BTS for Africa

    Doron Ben Sira, CEO, SkyVision on changes in the satellite market in Africa

    Arvind Rao, CEO, OnMobile on comparisons between African and Indian mobile content

    Gour Lentell, CEO, biNu on this new feature phone platform taking off in Africa

    Jonathan Osler, Managing Director – Africa, Intelsat
    on satellite market trends on the continent

    Christoph Limmer, Senior Director – Africa, SES on its strategy for the continent

    Marc Rennard EVP Orange AMEA on the pressures faced by its operations in Africa

    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

  • MAMA - Mobiles Against Malaria - is a community building effort in one of the very poor outskirts of the Malian capital Bamako, Yirimadjo. Dutch agency IICD wants to help a local association Muso Ladamunen combat the main diseases malaria and diarrhea in the neighbourhood via the integration of mobiles phones in the work of voluntary Community Health Workers, writes Francois Laureys, IICD.

    Approximately 60 women, most mothers who live in Yirimadjo, have organized themselves to pay regular visits to families in the different neighbourhoods of Yirimadjo. This allows them to take stock of the living conditions of these households, and to identify potential women and children at risk (pregnant women, young-borns etc.). They sensitize women about their rights, distribute mosquito nets to families in need, take rapid tests on malaria if they detect people who suffer from the fever, and facilitate access to the local Health Centre when necessary. In the past three years, these Health Workers have saved hundreds of lives, and the number of consultations at the Health Centre has tripled.

    Last summer, when I visited them in Bamako, they were distributing 22.000 mosquito nets to identified target families in Yirimadjo. The ‘captain’ of the Health workers, Mah Cissé, also told me that they are still struggling with the correct and timely identification of target families, and she asked me if we could help them to integrate an element of mobile phones in their work. This would allow the Health workers to send household data directly to a database and to geo-localize more exactly which areas of Yirimadjo are more at risk. Additionally, the mobile phones would also be used to send alerts and reminders about consultation visits to the Health workers in the neighbourhoods.

    We are now finalizing the project design of ‘MAMA – Mobiles Against Malaria in Mali’ , and we hope to be able to start with the mobile phones in december. If successful, this pilot could be extended to many other communities in Mali (and beyond). Both Muso Ladamunen and IICD have invested money in the project, and ‘De Parade’  (a dutch theatre festival) has raised an additional 6,083 euros, for which we are very grateful. But we still can use a little more help to get it really going.

    So have a look at the pages, where you can find a description, photos and updates of the project. You can support in different ways – just by leaving a comment or tips on the pages, by sending this link to others, by putting a link on your blog or webpage, by tweeting, or by donating a little amount via the Donate button. You can also read more about the other activities of Muso Ladamunen by clicking on this link:  or on the blog Antimoustic.

  • 8ta has empowered their subscribers by enhancing their free self-service portal with the ability to purchase airtime and data bundles online via credit card.

    According to Telkom Mobile Managing Executive, Amith Maharaj, this enhancement will facilitate online purchase of airtime and data bundles as and when subscribers need it, even when their airtime is depleted.

    This functionality will improve the user experience for Prepaid and Hybrid (Saver) subscribers. 8ta subscribers need to register online and complete the SMS verification process on 8ta’s website here:

    Logged in subscribers will not be charged to do the following:

    * Review airtime balance

    * Redeem vouchers for airtime

    * Convert airtime to data bundles

    * Review data bundles balances and expiry dates

    * Credit Card top up using 3D secure technology

    The portal is safe as 8ta has chosen 3-D secure as a key comfort factor for subscribers when disclosing their credit card details online. The 3-D secure system simply enables credit card holders to add a password over and above the usual credit card expiry and CVV three digit numbers. The platform caters for locally issued VISA and Mastercard users.

    “If your credit card is not already 3-D verified, the 8ta portal will securely verify the 3-D secure password online. The normal credit card process can then be completed, even with no airtime on the account, as the credit card application is zero rated,” says Maharaj.

    Over time the portal will be enhanced, based on subscriber feedback, market benchmarks and other developments in self-service technology.

    To date 8ta has enabled automatic redirection of all data users when their data bundle is depleted. This key network ability enables subscribers to be in control of their communication spend with 8ta.

    8ta subscribers can now further manage their airtime and data costs both on contract and prepaid products through the self-service portal.

  • Three new phones with deep Facebook integration and dedicated ‘F’ key available in Africa and Europe from Q4 2011 – offering the widest portfolio of affordable phones with deep Facebook functionality launched by an operator to date  Orange is bringing simple, affordable, social phones for under €100 to a broader range of customers in more than 15 countries*

     The new range includes the Alcatel One Touch 908F Android smartphone, one of the most affordable Android smartphones available, exclusive to Orange

    Orange will exclusively launch three new affordable phones with deep Facebook integration across Africa and Europe from Q4 2011, creating a swift, simple, cost effective social experience for more of Orange’s customers than ever before. 

    With access to the widest range of phones with Facebook built-in under €100, including the new Alcatel One Touch 908F Android smartphone, Orange customers can choose the phone best suited to their needs. Facebook’s social capabilities run through every feature of these phones, from the camera to contacts with the dedicated ‘F’ key allowing instant uploading and interaction. Orange customers can also purchase these handsets with affordable bundles and tariffs that include unlimited Facebook access without extra data charges. 

     “The rise of the smartphone and the explosion of social networks have completely changed how people keep in touch and share content. Until now many consumers across Africa and Europe have not had access to a phone that offers deep Facebook integration at an affordable price,” said Yves Maitre, Senior Vice President of Mobile Multimedia and Devices, Orange. “We feel strongly that it is Orange’s role to enable customers to enjoy a digitally rich, connected life and this and future work with Facebook and Alcatel One Touch will allow us to open up mobile social media access to even more of our customers.”

    “Orange and Facebook have a common goal of providing mobile social access to people throughout Europe and Africa,” said Henri Moissinac, Head of Mobile Business at Facebook. “These phones and our ongoing collaboration with Orange will offer an opportunity for people to easily connect and share with their friends on Facebook anytime, anywhere and, for some, experience the mobile web for the first time.”

  • Telecom Egypt (TE) has announced its plans to expand broadband and mobile-phone services after third-quarter profit dropped due to a decrease in subscribers.

    TE runs the nation’s fixed-line telephone monopoly. The company plans to begin operating a new undersea cable by the end of the year to increase capacity for data services, and is also in the process of negotiating a virtual mobile network operator license which they hope to acquire during the first quarter of 2012.

    TE is also currently negotiating with Egypt’s telecommunications regulator t acquire a license that would allow it to use the networks of other mobile-phone companies to provide services, according to TE’s Chief Financial Officer Hassan Helmy.

    The company also owns almost half of Vodafone Egypt Telecommunications Co., which is the biggest mobile-network operator in terms of users in Egypt.“In the medium and long-term, the dynamics of the local market are very attractive,” Helmy said. “We’re counting on the young population of this country.”

    The company reported a 21 percent drop in net income from last year, read a statement on TE’s website. Fixed line subscription also dropped to 8.6 million users, from 9.4 million last year.

    “The wider economic malaise is placing pressure on household incomes in Egypt,” Chairman Akil Beshir said in the statement today. “As predicated last quarter, there has been an impact on Telecom Egypt’s overall total number of active subscribers.”

internet

  • The Internet Service Providers’ Association of SA (ISPA) has created infrastructure in the form of its Cape Town and Johannesburg Internet Exchanges (CINX and JINX) to help local consumers enjoy better performance from the Internet at a more affordable cost.

    ISPA has run JINX since 1996 and the Cape Town Internet Exchange (CINX) since 2009. The organisation is currently selecting the company that will host the Durban Internet Exchange, DINX. This infrastructure has an enormous positive impact on the consumer’s Internet experience, although most South African Internet users are unaware of its existence.

    Said Marc Furman, co-chair at ISPA: “The ISPA INXs have provided massive benefit to service providers, network operators and consumers over the years. They keep Internet traffic within the country, which results in faster response times between ISPs and reduces the congestion on international links.

    “By connecting to these exchanges, network operators are also able to keep their costs down, which in turn enables them to provide their services to end-users at a lower cost. The growth we have experienced over the years across these exchange points has been staggering.”

    One principle that ISPA has embraced since 2009 is that the exchanges should be open for non-members as well as members to streamline the exchange of traffic to the benefit of the entire industry. As such, even incumbent network operators are allowed to peer using the INX infrastructure.

    The exchanges also give members a great deal of freedom in choosing who they peer with and how they do so. Although ISPA operates high speed switches at each exchange, INX users are not obliged to connect using the public switch fabric. They may run private links between their equipment at the exchange instead of using the ISPA switch.

    “We take a hands-off approach to how ISPs and operators exchange traffic at each exchange. Most participants peer freely with everyone else connected to that INX but they are not obliged to do so. Some of the participants choose to only exchange traffic with a limited number of other parties,” said Furman.

    Furman noted that the INX infrastructures in Johannesburg and Cape Town have enjoyed runaway growth in the past few years.  More than 30 ISPs now connect to JINX and exchange more than 2.5 Gbps of traffic at JINX during peak times. CINX today handles more than 500 Mbps of traffic from 16 peering ISPs during peak times. With a sharp rise in mobile data usage and rapid growth in voice-over-IP traffic, traffic volumes at the exchanges will continue to grow sharply in the months to come.

  • Labaran Maku, the Nigerian Minister of Information, has expressed concern over the increase in the number of social media in the country. Maku made the observation on Tuesday in Benin City during the meeting of members of the Nigeria Union of Journalist (NUJ) Constitutional Review Committee.

    Represented by Kingsley Osadolor, a legal practitioner, Maku said the rise of social media in the country was a phenomenon that needed to be addressed as part of the constitutional amendment or in the nearest future.

    He said the revolution that was taking place in Egypt, Syria, Libya and other Arab states was as a result of the reports dished out by the social media. Maku warned that the increase in the number social media might result in some traditional journalists losing their jobs.
    ``What business should the social media have with the NUJ? That is an important phenomenon that needs to be considered,'' he said.

    The minister noted that the constitutional review was coming at time when the Freedom of Information Act was operational. He said the FOI Act was not a substitute for ``crucial investigative journalism'', adding that its aim was to aid the journalist to get access to information.

    Maku noted that there were procedures and rules guiding the use of the FOI Act, and urged media practitioners to be acquainted with them in order not to get negative responses. ``It is useful and pertinent to know the sources of information that are available to the journalists so that they can tap into those areas,'' he said.

    `` The FOI Act is not a substitute for investigative journalism; it must not reduce us into lazy journalists because there are several journalists waiting for information to do their stories,'' he said.

    In his address, Emeka Wogu, the Minister of Labour and Productivity, expressed appreciation to the Nigerian Press for its role in promoting peace and highlighting government policies.

    Wogu, who was represented by Tommy Okon, his Special Assistant on Media, said the constitution of any organisation, group and association, ``is an indication of how healthy the body is in terms of its operations''.

    He said that as the watchdog of the society, it was expected that the NUJ constitutional amendment would address the salient issues affecting journalists and the profession.

    ``I want to use this medium to thank the media for their positive role in promoting industrial peace and harmony in the country,'' Wogu said.

computing

  • A selected aggregation of Individual Information Technology Spend Plans for Ministry, Department and Agencies (MDAs) have revealed that N4.5billion will be spent on data centres in the coming year even though the Federal Government has an IT agency that is positioned to deploy and deliver these services at a lower costs and higher standards, the Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson has said.

    Mrs. Johnson, who spoke in Abuja at the 5TH public sector ICT infrastructure forum & the public presentation of ISO/IEC 27001:2005 certification by Galaxy Backbone plc, said there are still too many instances of individual MDAs deploying ICT infrastructure that is better deployed through a more effective pooling of financial and human resources.

    She said in the light of technological developments like cloud computing and the constraints the financial and economic crisis has placed on governments, countries all over the world are promoting the concept of shared IT services because of the immense cost savings, efficiency and capabilities it has been proven to deliver. She said Nigerian MDAs have refused to key in into this.

    The minister, who said one of the mandates of the Ministry of Communication Technology is to drive transparency in governance and improve the quality of public service delivery, lamented that needless IT spending being embarked upon by most government agencies and parastatals.

    She said: "There are still too many instances of individual MDAs deploying ICT infrastructure that is better deployed through a more effective pooling of financial and human resources. A selected aggregation of individual IT Spend plans for MDAs have revealed that N4.5bn will be spent on data centres in the coming year despite the fact that we have within Government an IT organization that is positioned to deploy and deliver these services at a lower costs and to higher standards evidenced in the achievement that Galaxy Backbone is celebrating today."

  • Listed SA IT company Gijima has formed a partnership with US company MobileIron as it ups its focus on the consumerisation of IT in business. Founded in 2007 and based in California, MobileIron provides mobile device management and security to large corporations.

    Gijima says the partnership will give it the capability to provide enterprise mobile device management and security solutions to its clients. It comes just a week after the company signed a systems integrator agreement with Apple, whose products such as the iPhone and iPad are being increasingly used in corporate environments.

    MobileIron designs solutions that allow companies to integrate smartphones and tablets with company networks. It offers solutions for devices running Apple’s iOS, Research in Motion’s BlackBerry OS, Microsoft’s Windows Phone and Windows Mobile, Symbian and Google’s Android mobile operating systems.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Algeria is in talks with Vimpelcom aimed at resolving a tug of war over the Russian telecoms group's mobile phone unit Djezzy and efforts to find a resolution could now speed up, according to Algeria's finance minister, Karim Djoudi.

    Vimpelcom hoped to acquire Djezzy as part of a planned $6 billion acquisition of Wind Telecom, parent of Djezzy's owner Orascom Telecom. But Djezzy's status was left unclear after Algeria said it wanted to take the business over itself.

    Djoudi's comments were the strongest hint yet that a resolution could be close after more than a year of deadlock over Djezzy, which had been the most lucrative part of Orascom Telecom's business.

    Asked about Djezzy, Djoudi said: "Things are taking place normally. I have had a meeting with a Vimpelcom representative at his request. Unfortunately, I cannot give you details because we are in talks."

    He said a valuation of Djezzy, a crucial step in determining the unit's future, was proceeding. "It is possible that things will go fast," Djoudi said. "There is a willingness on the other side to make things go fast."

    It remains unclear what shape a deal on Djezzy could take. There has been some speculation that the Algerian government could acquire a 51 percent stake and allow Vimpelcom to hold the remaining equity and be the operator.

    Before the Vimpelcom deal, Orascom Telecom was forced to agree to talks on Djezzy's nationalisation after it was hit with millions of dollars in back-tax demands from Algeria and prevented from moving the unit's cash abroad.

    Talks about the nationalisation had been stalled because of a dispute between the Algerian government and Djezzy's owners about how the unit is to be valued, and how much access the owners would provide to Djezzy's balance sheet.

    Djoudi suggested that issue had now been resolved. "We have opened the data room which gives us access to all ... (Djezzy's) details," he said.

  • The new Tunisian government has set up a national holding company to handle its stakes in the country's two mobile networks, Tunisiana and Orange.

    The CDC (Caisse des Dépôts et Consignation) will be headed by Tunisia's Minister of Finance, Jalloul Ayed. An independent subcommittee has also been assigned to monitor corruption, approve the general policies of the funds and evaluate the investments.

    The CDC manages 25% of Tunisiana, 51% of Orange and the Zitouna bank, which were seized from the former ruling family and are now subsidiaries of the national holding.

  • Zenith Bank (Ghana) Limited in collaboration with Google Ghana has introduced a new product unto the Ghanaian market dubbed Z.com in an effort to give its customers the opportunity to position their businesses to enable them access the global market. Z.com is a business solution opportunity tailored to suit the needs of the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Ghana.

    In a statement copied to GNA on Friday, the product would afford SMEs the opportunity to globally advertise their businesses thereby increasing top of mind awareness and ultimately their turnover.

    Z.com, which is another product innovation from Zenith Bank Ghana, rides along the Bank’s quest to make available flexible business strategies to SMEs in Ghana.

    According to Daniel Asiedu Chief Executive Officer of Zenith Bank Ghana, the bank would continue to introduce innovative products and services onto the Ghanaian banking industry.

    “This is in line with its vision of being the reference point in the provision of prompt, flawless and innovation products in the Ghanaian industry”, the statement read.

    The product would be formally launched at a business fair where key stakeholders, policy makers as well as entrepreneurs in the SMEs sector would be brought together to experience at first hand the benefits of e-commerce.

    The official launch of Z.com would take place on Thursday November 24, 2011 at the Accra International Conference Center.

    In a related development, Mr. Henry Oroh, a senior management staff from the parent company Zenith Bank Plc has been appointed to complement the bank’s marketing efforts in Ghana.

  • The fact that the new card will be linked to the user's phone will significantly enhance the security features, says Fundamo CEO Hannes van Rensburg.
    Global credit card company Visa and Africa's largest cellular operator, MTN, have partnered to introduce a new Visa prepaid account mobile service as an extension of MTN Mobile Money in developing countries.

    The product is a result of Visa's recent acquisition of local mobile money platform Fundamo, which has now been integrated with Visa's global payment network, VisaNet.

    Together with MTN Mobile Money, the new service will allow consumers to get a special Visa card which will be linked to their Mobile Money account, and which essentially has the same payment functionality as a bank card.

    Visa says the service will allow users to extend their mobile money payment functionality by allowing them to send money to each other, send and receive international remittances, withdraw funds from a Visa ATM and make purchases at merchants or online.

  • This week, an estimated 180 000 EasyPay customers will receive an e-mail that offers money-back rewards on all their transactions as part of the company’s strategy to restore its credibility and regain customers’ confidence after its site was hit by credit-card fraud two months ago.

    EasyPay will also carry the full liability of any fraudulent transactions, said Serge Belamant, the CEO of Net1, the holding company of EasyPay. He said he has confidence in the site’s newly built security features.

    EasyPay has one of SA’s largest third-party payment systems. It allows consumers to use their credit cards to pay their bills, including Telkom, the municipality and traffic fines, either through its website or at pay points in shops such as Pick n Pay.

    It also allows consumers to buy airtime and prepaid electricity online and it was these purchases that were targeted in September by a crime syndicate. The criminals obtained a list of credit card numbers, which it used to buy airtime, electricity and prepaid gift cards.

    The reaction from Absa, which found that one in three transactions were fraudulent, was to prevent its cardholders from transacting on the site temporarily until EasyPay removed the high-risk products. Some banks continue to limit the number of EasyPay transactions they allow.

    Walter Volker, CEO of the Payment Association of SA, said EasyPay had nothing to do with the release of the credit card details. An investigation is underway to determine how the syndicate obtained the credit card details, which resulted in losses of millions of rands. It must still be determined which banks will carry the liability.

    Belamant said the company had been unfairly targeted by the banks because it was not responsible for the breach. He said the high volume of traffic on the site — it does 4m to 5m transactions a month — made it attractive to fraudsters.

    EasyPay processes payments worth R120m/month, according to Belamant, and the new site is growing at a rate of 10%/month.

Digital Content

  • Many local firms have failed to get their strategies right in creating brand visibility and loyalty through social media, the latest industry survey has shown.

    However, many companies have invested heavily on Internet platforms with an aim of tapping the growing online audience.

    According to the TNS Digital Life Survey, 60 per cent of Kenyans on social media are resistant to brands and brand messages in their profiles, meaning that companies may not be getting returns on the investments they have made to reach the online community through the networks.

    "The race online has seen businesses across the world develop profiles on social networks such as Facebook and YouTube to speak to customers quickly and cheaply --but this study reveals that if these efforts are not carefully targeted, they are a wasted resource," says the report.

    The survey indicates that many firms have embraced the social media platform but without a clear strategy on who their target audiences are, leading to negative results.

    "Digital waste is the accumulation of thousands of brands rushing online without thinking who they want to talk to and why," said Matthew Froggatt, Chief Development Officer at TNS.

    "Many brands have recognised the vast potential of audiences available to them on social networks but they do not understand that these spaces belong to the consumer and their presence needs to be proportionate and justified."

    Mr Froggatt says although the online world presents massive opportunities for brands, only precisely tailored marketing strategies can realise this potential.

    The findings come at a time when the Kenyan social media space is full of content from local firms reaching out to users .But not all is lost as 54 per cent of online users interviewed in the survey admitted that social networks are a good place to learn about products.

    This implies that the use of social media to gain brand visibility and market penetration is not a misguided one. It only needs more direct strategies.

    These findings back concern expressed previously by social media analysts over the unplanned and disjointed online campaigns adopted by most firms in an effort to build their brand visibility.

    "Most businesses in Kenya enter social media but continue passing the same old messages as in traditional channels. Social media is more than just a platform to send your usual advertisement ; it has its own culture which means how people converse, the tone of the conversation, tone of channel (Facebook or Twitter),." says Mr Marvin Tumbo, social media specialist and CEO of Socialight Media, a company that provides social media solutions.

    Tumbo says failure by brands to understand how social media works is what causes conflicts between consumers and business online, with the major challenge coming in crafting the messages. Most firms have not come up with a specific messages for social media sites but are channelling messages created for the traditional media and which may not be appealing to this particular audience.

    The findings further state that users in fast growth markets like Brazil, Indonesia and Kenya are far more open to brands on social networks compared to developed markets like the US where brand tolerance in social media stood at nine per cent compared to 40 per cent in Kenya.

    This means that businesses targeting users in developing countries have a wider audience base, albeit one that must be used prudently. "Social media is not a bad tool for marketing. But it is the tact and targeting that many brands are getting wrong", says Mr Francis Waithaka, a social media analyst.

    "The first thing that brands must do is to listen and understand what customers want. Brands should do pull marketing and not push marketing. A great product and a good customer service will pull customers to your business."

    Waithaka further adds that it is essential for brands to work on their products and services well before going to social media to market them. "With a bad product or terrible customer service, no matter what marketing strategies you employ, it won't work", he says.

    In addition to this, disgruntled users have been known to tweet and post bad customer experiences to their friends and followers and this can go viral and end up being a crisis or an embarrassment to a brand.

    According to the survey, 62 per cent of Kenyan social media users trust comments people make online about brands while close to 30 per cent of users share their experience with brands in social media. In addition to this, 19 per cent of users write about brands to praise the service or goods while 10 per cent write to complain.

    "Most companies in Kenya have not thought through their social media engagement. There has been no strategy to their engagement and hence the high failure rate", says Mr Tumbo. "It's about time companies started having actual strategies and not me-too activities on social media."

    His sentiments are echoed by Withaka. "No matter how good your product or service is, regardless of how brilliant the advertisements are, and regardless of the price you're charging, if your targeting is off, then your whole marketing campaign will be missing the mark. You'll waste a lot of cash, energy and time marketing to people who will never buy from you".

  • Telkom is involved in a multibillion-rand project to increase the throughput of fixed-line broadband to speeds of up to 40Mbit/s. The plans also include dramatically upping the speed of entry-level broadband services and introducing video-on-demand (VOD) products, possibly from international providers such as Hulu, Netflix and Nangu.

    In addition, the company is planning a trial using superfast fibre-optic cables from selected telephone exchanges, with the pilot project expected to kick off as early as 15 January 2012. Details about the fibre project remain sketchy, however.

    VDSL2 is theoretically capable of offering download speeds of up to 250Mbit/s over short lengths of copper (up to 500m) and up 50Mbit/s for distances of up to 1km.

    Telkom has invested millions of rand in recent years bringing fibre closer to its customers — in many areas, it has built fibre to its street-level distribution cabinets — to offer faster access speeds to consumers over its copper network.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Airtel Kenya will offer a 50% airtime bonus to customers topping up their prepay account via its own Airtel Money platform.

    - Chinese vendor ZTE has announced that it has installed an integrated value added platform solution (iVAS) in Kinshasa for Vodacom DRC. The iVAS system encompasses SMS services, and ZTE claims that the installation has increased Vodacom’s SMS management tenfold, improving service on the South African-owned telco’s network by reducing congestion.

    - The Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) has imposed a fine of US$225,000.00 on the Lonestar Communications Company for noncompliance with LTA’s Order  (LTA 0005-10-04-11)  which calls for both Lonestar and Cellcom to expand their interconnection trunks and have the expansion remain in place until otherwise ordered.

    - The SA Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has given the green light to SA Airways (SAA) to allow passengers on the airline’s flights to use their smartphones and other supported devices in “flight mode”, where the devices’ radio antennae are switched off.

    - Pan-African mobile operator MTN has announced a partnership with Singapore-based TransferTo, which allows MTN's customers with access to prepaid services to receive airtime transfers from the vast TransferTo international airtime transfer network around the world. TransferTo is a global airtime remittance hub that interconnects mobile operators' prepaid systems to deliver end to end cross-border top-up services.

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  • Ghana’s Expresso Telecom has replaced their Managing Director just months after the buyout of Kasapa Telecom Limited. Just before Kasapa was rebranded, the Managing Director Bob Palitz resigned and was replaced by Hisham Ayoub.

    Sources within Expresso have said that Ayoub has been replaced due to poor performance. The new Managing Director is Al-Ameer Ahmed Al-Ameer Yousef, who was quietly put in while his counterpart left. It is not yet confirmed in what capacity Ayoub will be serving within the company.

    Under Ayoub subscriptions fell from 400,000 to just over 200,000, despite many changes implemented by Ayoub.

    Ayoub had introduced the Clig moden, which is one of the most competitive modems on the market in terms of prices, speed and tariff. Sources say the new Managing Director is not doing much better, but they are optimistic.

    “It looks like Mr. Yousef is going to bring some positive change, but some of the old guys at Expresso have entrenched themselves into their positions through all kinds of means so I am not too sure if he will succeed,” the source said.

  • Customer Project Manager ParaCell

    Posted date: Fri, 18th Nov

    Location: Western Africa

    ParaCell is searching for a Customer Project Manager

    Requirements:

    · We are looking for recent Ericsson Experience

    • University degree within relevant area

    · Minimum 10 years working experience in Project Management

    · Strong Leadership skills at least 5/10 years in a leadership role

    • PMP certified (Or on the way to be certified within one year)

    • Adequate operations managerial experience

    • Have excellent documentation and presentation skills

    • Have excellent communication skills

    • Have good customer and sub-contractor relation skills

    Must have ability to work independently, International experience and closely with the end-Customer are other essential skills.

    Please apply with accompanying CV indicating your availability visit here: