Issue no 583 2nd December 2011

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Top story

  • At the presentation of Vodacom’s interim results for the six months ending 30 September 2011, Pieter Uys, Vodacom Group CEO commented on South Africa’s good data revenue performance adding that “the growth rate of smartphone data traffic is ten times higher than that of dongles and other modems”. There is no doubt that South Africa leads the way regarding mobile data service penetration and revenue but is it an isolated case or the early sign of a trend that will sooner rather that later spread across other countries in sub-Sahara Africa.  Isabelle Gross looks at mobile data revenue in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana and concludes that behind all the well orchestrated PR work around the launch of 3G data services, current data revenue are very small.

    Whichever mobile operator you look at in South Africa, their figures show a strong growth in mobile data revenue. Between March and September 2011, Vodacom South Africa recorded an increase of 29.4% in data revenue and generated nearly US$450 million revenue over that six month period. MTN South Africa has generated close to US$250 million in data revenue during the first half of 2011. While absolute figures are interesting, they are pretty useless when it comes to comparing data revenue across several mobile operators in different African countries. Data ARPU (data revenue/total mobile subscriber base) is a much better indicator for a comparison purpose. In South Africa, both Vodacom and MTN register a data ARPU above US$2 (US$2.59 for Vodacom SA and US$2.07 for MTN SA). On this comparison basis, how are mobile data services performing in Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana? In Kenya, Safaricom’s data ARPU is currently US$0.32. while in Nigeria, MTN’s data ARPU stands at US$0.21. The latter operator registers a data ARPU of US$0.11 in Ghana. MTN’s data ARPU in South Africa is ten times what it is in Nigeria and that says a lot about the low level of mobile data service penetration in Nigeria. The figures for Ghana and Kenya are not more encouraging even if Safaricom’s CEO could argue with reasons that his data ARPU is three times higher than that of MTN’s operation in Ghana.

    When it comes to compare data ARPU versus total ARPU, South Africa is well ahead again. For Vodacom SA, data ARPU represents now 15.2% of its total ARPU while for MTN SA it accounts for 10.4%. In Kenya, Safaricom’s data ARPU represents 6.4% of its total ARPU. In Nigeria and Ghana, MTN’s data ARPU accounts respectively for 2.1% and 1.6% of its total ARPU. Kenya is the second best after South Africa but Safaricom’s data ARPU versus total ARPU is still 10 points behind that of Vodacom SA. MTN Ghana’s data ARPU versus total ARPU is ten times lower than that of Vodacom in South Africa. If MTN’s Ghana data ARPU versus total ARPU were to double every year, it will still take more then three years to reach the current level of Vodacom in South Africa.

    While these figures show that mobile data service revenue still account for very little in African mobile operators overall revenue (except for South Africa), they also raise serious doubts on how well the strategy of using mobile data revenue as way to hedge overall revenue from falling voice revenue (this is currently what mobile operators in developed countries are betting on) will work for African mobile operators. As of September 30th 2011, Safaricom’s voice revenue over the last six month stood at US$356.6 million down by US$26.6 million compared to the same period a year earlier. Data revenue was US$34.8 million up by US$9.3 million when compared to the same period a year earlier. Safaricom’s SMS revenue were slightly down (-0.4%) but the revenue from M-Pesa, its mobile money service was up by US$29.9 million from US$59.8 million to US$89.2 million. It is clear from the above figures that mobile data revenue only, was not enough to cover for the loss of voice revenue for Safaricom. It is more that the revenue Safaricom got from its M-Pesa service covered for the loss of voice revenue.

    Most African mobile operators have a long way to go before generating any serious revenue from mobile data services and further, in the short term, this doesn’t give them much leverage to play when it comes to compensate for falling voice revenue.



    On the Balancing Act You Tube Channel this week a Nigeria 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 its strategy in Africa

    Marc Rennard EVP Orange AMEA, on the challenges it is facing on the continent

    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

  • Vodacom Tanzania plans to spend about Sh150 billion in the next year in expanding and upgrading its network infrastructure in the country.

    The additional capital investment is expected to consolidate network services through introducing new technologies to address customers’ need for voice and internet services. Vodacom’s new managing director Rene Meza told a group of editors last week that the firm also plans to improve its data services in order to make its Internet services more affordable.

    “We will also focus on putting the power of the internet in people’s hands by providing affordable internet services throughout the country and also upgrading our state of the art 3G network,” he said.

    Vodacom Tanzania has invested about Sh1 trillion since it started operations in Tanzania in 2000. It has 10 million subscribers and about eight million M-PESA registered subscribers.

    “M-Pesa expansion across the country will remain one of Vodacom primary focuses going forward as an enabler to change and improve people’s lives in Tanzania. We reach a large section of the population in both urban and rural settings as we provide services with innovation, at affordable cost and quality solutions," said Rene.

  • Zain Sudan has spent $60 million splitting its operations in two following the succession of South Sudan, but has yet to agree a license fee with the newly independent country, the telecoms operator's chief executive said on Tuesday.

    South Sudan seceded from the north in July, the culmination of a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war.

    The fledgling country now has its own international dialing code, 211, which spurred Zain Sudan, a unit of Kuwait's Zain, to split its operations.

    "Our network is completely separated and we are running both the old numbers and the new numbers so that we don't deprive our customers of being disconnected until they make a full switch," Elfatih Erwa, Zain Sudan chief executive, told Reuters."There were very big technical challenges."

    Zain Sudan will spend $280 million improving its infrastructure in the north in 2012, while the operator's capital expenditure in the south is likely to be between $60 million and $80 million. Zain Sudan has 12.7 million mobile subscribers, up from 10.7 million at the end of March. The firm has continued operations in South Sudan despite no agreement over a licence fee.

  • MTN Nigeria has decried the interconnect debt of N10 billion owed it by private telephone operators (PTOs) and Nigeria Telecommunications Limited (Nitel) and its mobile subsidiary , Mobile Telecommunications Limited (MTel) which has not been paid since 2002.

    A top official of MTN who did not want is name disclosed stated that Nitel owed MTN N5 billion of the total amount. He said that "Several operators however failed to make timely payment of their interconnect obligations in breach of a contractual and regulatory provisions."

    He said the interconnect exchange operators licenced by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in 2004 to reduce the debts has however failed to make any meaningful impact as the debts still remained. Many of the private telephone operators are indebted to the major mobile operators like MTN, Glo, Airtel, Etisalat, Visafone and Starcomms.

    In another development, global credit card company, Visa and 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 said the service would 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. According to MTN and Visa, the product has been designed to meet the needs of the unbanked and under-banked.

    Chief Executive Officer of Fundamo, Hannes van Rensburg, said: "In the past, issuing Visa cards to unbanked customers has been a challenge because the availability of Visa services has been limited. But now, this brings the Visa service together with the already well-established ecosystem of the MTN Mobile Money platform."

    Group Chief Commercial Officer,MTN, Christian De Faria, said while it has always been somewhat of a struggle for consumers to find a merchant that would accept a mobile wallet payment, the partnership with Visa means MTN Mobile Money customers can take advantage of Visa's global interoperability.

  • A bill seeking to make it compulsory for all service providers of Global System of Mobile Telecommunications (GSM) divest certain percentages of their shares to Nigerians will soon be presented for legislation in the House of Representatives, Chairman, House Committee on Capital Market and Institutions, Rep Herman Hembe (PDP, Benue) has said.

    Speaking to newsmen at the National Assembly yesterday, Hembe said that it was incumbent on them to pass legislative reforms that would encourage designated sectors to list on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).

    "Telecom operators in Nigeria must get listed on the bourse of the NSE. This sector with a starting market of less than a million in 2000 now caters for over 90 million users and they make huge profits from Nigeria and are mostly not listed on our markets," the lawmaker said.

    "MTN for instance got a license in 2001 for the sum of $285 million mostly financed by Nigerian banks. But between January and June of same year, MTN repatriated some $5 billion as profits from Nigerian operation and the Nigerian MTN group accounts for 25 percent of the headline revenues of the MTN group listed on the bourse," he said.

    According to the committee, a preliminary extrapolated figure indicated that MTN, Glo, Airtel and Etisalat have about N6.76 trillion in terms of market capitalisation with MTN N2.4 trillion, Airtel N1.55 trillion, Glo N1.70 trillion and Etisalat has N1.1 trillion by second quota of 2012. "If they are listed what they will bring will surpass the present market capitalisation," the legislators argued.

    Other sectors the law will cover, according to Hembe, include oil and gas, digital satellite television service providers such as DSTV Multichoice, among others.

  • Minister of Communications, Haruna Iddrisu last week issued a 24-hour ultimatum to defrauding telecommunication service providers to pay up fines slapped on them by the National Communications Authority (NCA), or risk losing their operating licenses.

    The five telecom service providers were fined a total of GH¢ 1.2m for providing poor telecom services to consumers in the 24million people country. NCA, the regulator of Ghana's telecom industry also ordered them to, with immediate effect, improve the quality of services to consumers.

    However, the Business Chronicle has learnt that it is only Tigo that has fully paid the fine of GH ¢ 100,000 slapped on it by the NCA. Airtel had paid GH ¢ 150,000 out of its GH¢ 350, 000 fine. MTN had paid GH¢ 50,000 out of GH¢300,000. Vodafone and Expresso were yet to pay their fines.

    The vocal and affable Communication's Minister told telecom industry players, regulators and other stakeholders at the launch of the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications in Accra that: "Government will no longer tolerate poor telecom services".

    Mr. Iddrisu, therefore, called on telecom service providers as a matter of urgency to have standard care for subscribers, saying "Ghanaians desire better".

    Touching on the recent SIM box fraud which was masterminded by British and Indian nationals, the sector Minister said Ghana and the telecom operators lost millions of Ghana Cedis.

    Iddrisu was quick to add that many of the policies the government is putting in place were targeted at particular challenges which aim at addressing the concerns of the telecom operators and the subscribers. According to him, we are setting up a committee to address the arbitrarily charges by the various Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs).

    Iddrisu also suggested to telecom operators in Ghana to set up customer complaint units to enhance the relationship between them and customers.

    The Vice President, H.E John Dramani Mahama, who performed the launch, noted that the telecom industry has catapulted the development of other sectors of Ghanaian economy, saying "Ghana has a vibrant telecom industry in West Africa". He observed that currently, the industry was dominated by 90% of voice and 10% of data and urged operators to enhance the development of the industry.

    The Paramount Chief of the Akyem Traditional Area, Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin, who chaired the function, called on telecom service providers to extend their services to all communities of the country. As the operators are here to maximum profits, he entreated them to provide quality services to their subscribers dotted across the country.

    The Chairman of the Governing Council of the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications, Philip Sowah, who is also the Chief Executive Officer of Airtel Ghana, said the mission of the chamber is:

    "To be the platform that delivers and sustain productive relations between telecom operators and their stakeholders, while maintaining fair and strong competition that yields world class services".

    The objectives of the chamber, according to Sowah include guiding and influencing policy formulation in the telecom industry, promote and protect the common interests of operators, and support research and development in telecom in the country.

    Reiterating the contributions of telecom service providers in Ghana, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications, Kwaku Sakyi Addo hinted that: "Nearly 40% of mobile operators' revenue go into the Ghanaian government coffers".

    The renowned broadcast journalist added that telecom service providers, operating in Ghana since the 1990s, had invested over $5billion into the Ghanaian economy, while the operators employ more than 1.5 million people directly and indirectly.

internet

  • Internet users are set to enjoy cheaper rates as Internet Service Providers (ISPs) promised to slash interconnectivity fees during the first half of next year, a move that underlines the growing competition.

    Rwanda has the highest internet charges in the East African region even after the landing of undersea fibre optic cables. Sam Nkusi, the Executive Chairman of Altech Stream Rwanda, told The New Times, that Rwanda needed an affordable pricing and true broadband, predicting that subscription fees would go down in first quarter of 2012.

    "Prices have slightly gone down of late but they are still high compared to the rest of the region. What we want is to have them go down as those in Tanzania or Kenya," Nkusi noted.

    According to Nkusi, the current internet charges range from US$300 (Rwf178,800) a Megabyte per second (Mbps) to US$700 (Rwf417,200) Mbps depending on the capacity that the client opts for.He added that as a landlocked country, internet connection in Rwanda is mostly affected by the fibre cable cuts between Kenya and Uganda. "Vandalism along the way has made most ISPs to connect to more than one cable which is costly," he said. Altech Stream Rwanda is connected to both SEACOM and EASSy submarine cables.

    MTN's Marketing Operations Manager, Robert Rwakabogo explained that the current competition is expected to usher in cheaper broadband access. "On seeing new players on the market, Altech Streams, New Altel, Broadband Systems Corporation (BSC) all connected to the same undersea cables, definitely we have to scale down the subscription fees in order to compete on the market," Rwakabogo said.

    Mobile data accounts for the biggest percentage of MTN's internet users with more than 495,000 subscribers compared to 1,000 subscribers on fixed internet. Rwakabogo said with connection to undersea cables like TEAMS, which runs from Kenya through Uganda as well as EASSy from Tanzania, the operator has a capacity of 5-STM1s. MTN charges Rwf21,000 on modems per month from Rwf35,000 a few months ago and Rwf1,000 per day.

    The government has invested billions of Francs in fibre optic networks and waived duty on imported electronics with the hope of lowering internet costs, as a way of transforming the country into an ICT hub by 2020.

    Broadband Systems Corporation (BSC) charges the highest internet rates in the country.
    "The current fees end in January and after that we are introducing a new price range," Manzi Rwaka, the Senior Accounts Manager of BSC said.

    BSC charges between Rwf1,080,000 per 1 Mbps and 5Mbps at Rwf4,212,000 on internet bandwidth. On Wibro service, the firm charges between Rwf20,000 and Rwf30,000 on a monthly subscription exclusive of a modem.

    In Kenya, the largest telecom provider Safaricom charges between Ksh1.25 (Rwf8.2) to Ksh2 (Rwf13.1) per megabyte.

  • More than 11,000 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have benefited from an initiative by Google, Equity Bank and Safaricom to create own websites at no fee.

    Designing a simple website costs between Sh15, 000 and Sh20, 000 excluding the cost of managing it. But under the initiative, the enterprises have access to a template for free and customised for their use.

    Dubbed 'Getting Kenya Businesses Online', the initiative is expected to transform the Kenyan SME landscape, a sector expected to become a key driver for growth by making it quick, easy and free for businesses to register online presence at a time the Internet traffic is getting busier every year.

    "The response shows enthusiasm the local businesses have to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Internet," said Olga Arara-Kimani, the Google Kenya country manager.

    She said the power of the Internet will help the SMEs to grow their businesses and give them access to the global village. The initiative has attracted new partners such as Barclays Bank, who see the platform as the right avenue of widening the SMEs' portfolio.

    Njambi Kiritu from Impact by Design is among the many business people that benefited from the initiative. "The Kenyan public is already online, searching for information. Information about my business is now readily available to them on www.impact-by-design.com. I have reached over 90 new customers and increased revenue tenfold since 2008."

    She says the easy access to the tools made it easy for her to set up a website and reduce the number of trips she makes in search of clients.

  • Dar es Salaam. A financial consultancy firm has said East African organisations lag behind peers in the continent in information security breach preparedness due to lack of awareness creation and training to employees on security matters. The 2011 East Africa Security Study Report compiled by Deloitte East Africa revealed organisations in the region responded to problems as they happened rather than working to prevent them from happening.

    The Report was conducted on firms in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda across diverse industries.The increased usage of the Internet after the launch of the fibre optic undersea cable has also brought in more security threats.

    Experts say that more than 30,000 new Internet security threats are detected daily, a trend that has increased drastically since 2007, when less than 20 threats were being detected. Mr Makatiani, Deloitte’s manager Enterprise Risk Services, noted that entities faced challenges with the demands for corporate IT environments through outsourcing and technologies like cloud computing.

    He emphasized that although technology solutions were the most important piece in the security puzzle, failure to train people in physical as well as technical security left organisations vulnerable.He said those who leave workstations logged on or share passwords invited vulnerabilities.

  • Multinational media company Naspers released its interim results for the six months to 30 September on Tuesday. They show subsidiary MultiChoice has enjoyed far slower growth than in 2010 but the group’s Internet interests are expanding rapidly and accounting for much of its growth.

    Consolidated revenues were up 17%. Though its largely offshore Internet businesses grew during the period, subscriber growth at MultiChoice, which owns DStv and M-Net, slowed after a flurry of activity in 2010 driven by the soccer World Cup.

    The media group says its print media business has experienced strain on account of the economic downturn, but it managed to maintain market share.

    Core headline earnings grew by only 8% during the period and the company attributes this to the new platforms and businesses it launched during the period and the expenses those incurred.

    Consolidated revenues were R18,5bn, with most of the growth coming from the Internet businesses that saw revenues increase by 50%.

    Despite a decline in new MultiChoice subscribers when compared to the previous period, revenue at the pay-TV business increased by 14% to R11,6bn and trading profits rose by 8% by R3,4bn. Print revenues, meanwhile, managed revenue growth of 5%.

    Naspers says it is continuing to invest in MultiChoice and in upgrading its technology systems. In SA, specifically, MultiChoice added 209 000 subscribers, bringing the total to 3,7m households.

    Of the new subscribers, 142 000 came from the lower-priced Compact bouquet. Without offering specific figures, Naspers says its recent roll-out of pay-per-view video-on-demand product BoxOffice proved popular.

    In the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, MultiChoice’s subscriber base increased by 60 000 and now totals 1,5m homes. The lower-priced Compact and Family bouquets now account for 41% of the service’s subscriber base.

    During the period, Naspers also launched digital terrestrial services under the brand name GOtv in Zambia, Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria.

    Naspers expects overall revenue growth to continue to reflect the current trend when it releases its full-year results, but warns that the growth of profits is likely to be limited by ongoing reinvestment, something it hopes will drive long-term growth.

    The group’s share price was trading down about 1,7% at lunchtime on Tuesday.  —

computing

  • The laptops were destined for local leaders at the cell level, who needed to improve service delivery with the help of latest technologies. PAC heard that on November 16, 2009, the Ministry of Local Government through the Rwanda Public Procurement Authority contracted DIDADA Supply S.a.r.l, to supply the laptops within a period of 45 days.

    However, the laptops were delivered on February 23, 2010, almost - two months past the deadline - and as it turns out, they were fake. The total cost for the laptops was Rwf493.6million and according to the procurement officer of the Ministry, Phocas Kambali, an advance payment of Rwf 98.7 million was made.

    "Our ICT team had to verify each of the computers. At one point we also had to involve RDB-IT to assist in assessing the authenticity of the laptops," Kambali told PAC.
    The verification is said to last for a period of one year as each and every laptop had to be checked.

    "After realizing that the machines where fake, we canceled the tender. It was a counterfeit issue so we reported it to the police." Kambali added. The Ministry says that the HP laptops were not authorized by the manufacturer which raised suspicion but DIDADA claims that they have an HP license to distribute their products.

    However, PAC blamed the Ministry for not verifying DIDADA's HP license, prior to the purchase. MP, Jeanne d'Arc Uwimanimpaye went on to question the circumstances under which the ministry processed an advance payment to the distributor yet the credit line DIDADA Supply S.a.r.l had submitted as a credit security was expired.

    In his analysis, PAC chairperson, Juvenal Nkusi noted that there was poor contract management right from the beginning. Reacting to the development, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government, Cyrille Turatsinze said that the issue wasn't about contract management and that is why the Ministry had to file a case against the distributor.

    Before going to court, DIDADA Supply S.a.r.l wanted the issue to be solved through arbitration but when the Ministry of Local Government tabled the issue before the Ministry of Justice which provides government arbitrators, it was decided that the case be tabled before courts of laws.

    "Rwanda Bureau of Standards (RBS) and RDB confirmed that the laptops where not authentic and not licensed by HP. This was a good reason for us to go to Court," Turatsinze said.

    Concerns were also raised, regarding the storage of the laptops, which were put under the storage of MINALOC.

    "You say that the case is in court and the machines are in your stores, so what if the distributor wins the case and later claims that there were damages to the laptops when they are in your stores, how will you cover that loss?" MP Saidat Mukanoheri asked.

    PAC Chair, Nkusi, commended the Ministry for having filed the case to court and requested them to inform his committee of the court proceedings and ruling.

  • Local developer Wise Tablets, based in Centurion, has announced the imminent release of a new range of tablets that will cater specifically for the country's consumer and educational needs. The Wise Touch 1, a low-cost tablet designed especially with the average South African in mind, will be released on 1 December.

    It ships with an array of applications that have been developed and pre-loaded on behalf of around 115 South African brands, and also features numerous educational programs.

    A limited batch of tablets is expected in stores next month, while the tablet will be officially launched and distributed in February 2012. The economical 10-inch Wise Touch, which runs on Android version 2.2, will retail for R3 500 (US$429).

    The seven-inch 3G tablet will retail for R2 500 ($306) and the entry-level seven-inch wi-fi version will cost less than R1 500 ($184), according to reports. Both will come with Android version 2.3.

    The company has also recently added an eight-inch version, which is said to be a perfect size for handling, reading and web browsing. The price of this device has yet to be disclosed.

    All tablets have a capacitative touch screen, a standard 3.5mm earphone jack, and a mini HDMI and USB port. Although on-board memory is modest, it can be expanded up to 32GB with a micro-SD card.

    According to Wise Tablets MD Gian Shipton, the Wise Touch was developed to provide South Africans with a tablet that would allow them to shop at local retailers from their own homes.

    "Most South African companies have a good web presence but have not migrated to tablets. Now the Wise Touch gives them a platform to be active on the tablet," said Shipton. "These are brands people relate to."

    Though the tablets are manufactured in China - as is the Apple iPad - Shipton said they are made according to strict specifications and standards. Wise Touch applications fall into one of three categories, namely the Wise Shopping Mall, Wise Business Park and Wise Education Centre.

    The Wise Shopping Mall allows users to shop for groceries, take-aways, movies, toys and books, do their banking, and access newspapers and magazines. Shipton said that companies in developed countries and elsewhere in Africa are already expressing interest in the Wise Shopping Mall concept.

    The Wise Business Park caters for non-retail enterprises such as airlines, broadcasters, media houses, insurance companies, law firms, and property agents. For a company to be included on the list of applications, Shipton said they would have to be nationally recognised and own a well-known brand.

    Apart from the applications, which include the standard offerings for social media, multimedia and entertainment, Shipton has said that Wise Tablets' other drawcard is a full local support service. Walk-in repair centres will also be opening soon, while sortware updates will be freely available.

    Another tool added to the tablet is the omnibus communicator, a free application that allows companies to communicate with customers directly.

    The Wise Education Centre is designed for schools that could use the tablet as a teaching tool. Shipton mentioned that 50% of the Wise Touch strategy is to bring the tablet to the education sector. Wise Tablets have created a specific module that allows pupils to view documents, flash videos and load any other media.

    The company already has access to most of the public school syllabus and some university content, all of which will be provided to pupils and students for free.

    However, the content can only be used on the Wise Tablet because of encryption and digital rights management issues with content owners.

    Shipton said the company is working with the University of JohannesburgUniversity of Johannesburg, Wits University, the University of Pretoria and 40 private schools in distributing the tablets and its content.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • First National Bank (FNB) is to enhance its eWallet solution, which enables employers to pay salaries directly to their employees' mobile phones, by introducing features that enable users to pay money from their eWallet directly to a bank account, and even to pay their bills.

    FNB has had success with eWallet, with over R1-billion being transferred using the solution during the year between its launch in October 2009 and October this year. Encouraged by the success of eWallet in South Africa, FNB has since made the solution available in Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland.

    "Enabling South Africans to transfer money directly into a bank account or pay their bill without having to leave their homes is taking us closer to making banking truly accessible to the previously unbanked," added eWallet Solutions CEO Yolande van Wyk.

    "The beauty of eWallet is that the recipient doesn't need a bank account to be able to access the money sent to them," she said. "In addition to withdrawing cash, buying prepaid airtime or sending the money to another person, they can also pay their bills instantly and conveniently."

    eWallet has been shortlisted as a finalist for the Financial World Innovation Awards 2011 in the Innovation in the delivery of financial products - Multichannel and Mobile Banking.

  • A rumour went round this week that Digicel in consortium with other investors was going to buy Lap Green Networks. The rumour was later denied by the Libyan investment agency but is worth repeating as it gives an indication of interest as the country opens up to new investment. Irish businessman Denis O'Brien appears to have set his sights on Africa and is planning to bid for a majority stake in Libya's Lap Green Networks, the Irish Times reported.

    According to the daily, O'Brien's Digicel mobile group is part of a consortium proposing to pay USD 270 million for a majority stake in Lap Green, a company owned by a Libyan state investment fund with telecom holdings throughout Africa. There was no comment from Digicel but informed sources confirmed to Irish Times the company's involvement in the consortium. Centamon, a company controlled by British consultancy Levant Group, and Demco, a Greek investment company, reportedly bought 65 percent in Lap Green and asked Digicel to run the business. It is not clear what size of equity participation Digicel would have in the business. The deal is subject to approval from the UN Security Council and the European Union.

    A report in the Times newspaper cited documents that suggested the takeover agreement was signed on 8 August, just two weeks before the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime. It added that the deal had been given the green light by the National Transitional Council of Libya and would proceed. Lap Green was incorporated in February 2007 to invest in communications and technology. It started with a licence in Uganda and has since spread its operations into Rwanda, Niger, Ivory Coast, southern Sudan, Zambia, Togo, Sierra Leone and Chad.

  • Safaricom and Telkom Kenya’s infrastructure sharing plan could get a boost following an announcement by Nigerian telecommunication towers company IHS that it is seeking Sh18 billion ($200 million) to finance its expansion strategy.

    The Financial Times newspaper reported Monday that the mobile phone towers builder, which rents out its infrastructure, had appointed Citibank to raise the extra equity it needs to grow beyond Nigeria.

    IHS said it was targeting lease contracts with East African market telecommunication operators. The firm said it was eyeing Kenya, Uganda Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa in its new bid to increase footprint after a successful bid in Tanzania that saw it enter into a lease back contract with Tigo of Tanzania and Millicom of DRC.

    It comes at a time Safaricom and Telkom Kenya are negotiating tower sharing deal that will see the two firms hand over their current infrastructure to an independent operator in a cost-cutting move. “Voice penetration is about 60 per cent across Africa but real penetration is about 10-15 per cent less than that. So there will be a massive growth in voice traffic that will need building to ensure more capacity, while data use is almost non-existent and will grow rapidly,” CEO Issam Darwish was quoted saying by the FT.

    The firm, which is West Africa’s largest telecommunications infrastructure provider, wants to increase the number of mobile phone towers it owns to 2,000 next year from its current 850, according to the report. Some of the money will also be used to buy towers that are being sold by companies such as France Telecom in Uganda, the newspaper said.

    Darwish put the total value of the African tower market at around $50 billion and estimated that Africa requires another 50,000 masts for voice and traffic data. Nzioka Waita , Safaricom’s Corporate affairs manager, Monday told the Business Daily the two firms are still negotiating a deal that will see them ride on each other’s infrastructure and lower their recurring costs and capital expenditure. Safaricom and Telkom Kenya have 4,000 towers between them. “The talks are still on but I cannot divulge much details due to the non-confidentiality agreement between the two firms,” said Mr Waita.

    Regional mobile firms are turning to independent tower sharing companies to manage the facilities on their behalf in a bid to reduce capital and operational expenses in the competitive sector that has seen voice revenues shrink.

    Tigo of Tanzania and Millicom of Democratic Republic of Congo set the pace of tower sharing last year after they entered into a tower leaseback agreement with Helios Towers Africa, an equity funded mobile tower operator.

    Airtel on the other hand has outsourced its network management to Nokia Siemens and is said to be pursuing a similar strategy by Tigo and Millicom that may see it sell its towers to an independent company and then enter into a leaseback agreement with it.
    Safaricom and Telkom Kenya’s arrangement, however, differs with that of Tigo and Millicom in that they are bringing in their towers as equity to the firm rather than selling them to a third party as in the case of Tigo and Millicom.

    Helios bought the 1,180 telecoms towers from Tigo, the Tanzanian operation of South Africa’s Millicom International Cellular, in December 2010.

    Tigo Tanzania will receive $80 million in cash upfront and retain a significant minority interest in the company. Helios Towers has also bought 729 towers from Millicom in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Digital Content

  • The OXFAM/ISODEC mobile phone distribution initiative forms part of a maternal and child health care project known as the Top Project which is funded by OXFAM and implemented by ISODEC in collaboration with two Community Based Organizations (CBOs) and the Ghana Health Service. Four communities in the Upper East Region namely Gia and Naaga in the Kasena Nankana West District, and Sumbrungu and Zuarango in the Bolgatanga Municipality are benefiting from the project.

    The Top project aims at plugging some of the gaps in maternal health care delivery in the country in order to help reduce the high maternal mortality rate. At a project review meeting recently held in Bolgatanga it was refreshing to learn how the support and training of Community Health Committees (CHCs) and TBAs for rights-based advocacy and education help address some of the negative attitudes and cultural barriers which have hitherto hindered acceptability and access of orthodox health care services. The TBAs and CHCs took on critical issues such as taboos that prevented women and children from eating meat, the attitude of women not wanting to deliver at health facilities, the "Landlord is not in the house" factor, among other things.

    In a region where 80% of the people live in hard to reach rural communities, the role of TBAs and community health volunteers such as CHCs and mobiles remain crucial in ensuring that essential health services and education reach the people. And such efforts as the collaboration between OXFAM/ISODEC and the Ghana Health Service certainly inspire and make one to look into the future of health care delivery in the Upper East Region and the nation at large, particularly maternal and child health, with some optimism.

  • ICT hiccups remain among the biggest challenges as the East African Community (EAC) eyes a full-fledged trans-boundary business in utilising the common market protocol.

    At least customs officers at Mutukula border point with Uganda admit that the internet communication hitches were hindering the quick clearance of goods and other services at border checkpoints on either side of the two countries.

    The assistant commissioner of Trade in the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), Magela Stephen, said recently that the reported delays of vehicle clearance at the Mutukula border checkpoint were occasioned by poor clearance infrastructure and procedures that are bureaucratic in nature.

    Magela said the infrastructure were mainly characterised with network hiccups. He said the current system should be automated for facilitating fast clearance at designated one-stop centres.

    “It was anticipated that the reported delays in the clearance of goods would no longer be a major problem after the construction of the EA communication cable network that was doing well in a number of countries in the region,” he said.The URA clarification follows complaints levelled by Tanzania businessmen over the alleged delays during the clearance of vehicles and goods at the Mutukula border point.

    However, in a communiqué after a joint meeting between Tanzania and Uganda local communities at Mutukula recently, EAC authorities were also urged to address non-tariff barriers, the Citizen reports.

    The two sides agreed that there was a need for continued efforts toward enhanced cross border trade within the bloc with the priority being given to the establishment of border markets along Mutukula, Kikagati and Murongo borderlines.In a separate development, EAC officials said recently that the revenue collected by individual partner states have improved steadily since the launch of the customs union in 2005.

    According to the statistics availed recently at the Mutukula border community sensitisation meeting on the common market, Tanzania collected a total of $18,872 million against $13,217 by Uganda. Kenya tops the list with $36,704 million collections from the regional trade.

    According to the EAC officials, the revenue accrued was attained between 2005 and 2010 during which Burundi and Rwanda realised $1,826 million and $5,102 respectively.

  • NGOs will soon have the data capability that allows them to anticipate the climate changes taking place. The Group on Earth Observation is a global organisation that will allow data, collected by satellite, to be shared throughout the world.

    Another new initiative called the Applied Centre for Climate and Earth Systems Science, supported by the Department of Science and Technology, will ensure that South Africa
    becomes more able at generating knowledge on climate change matters.

    Department of Science and Technology, Minister Naledi Pandor explained that the department would be investing in young scientists because they are important and remain the key to the future.

    Minister Naledi Pandor added that it's not only about developing the technology but also about the required human resources who will carry out the studies that will give solutions to the future.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe has indicated that it is yet to assign spectrum for 4G technologies. This comes as some telecommunications and information communication technology (ICT) firms have claimed that they are introducing the technology into the country. Potraz deputy director-general Mr Alfred Marisa told the Herald Business that although ICT companies did not require any special licensing to provide 4G services, the regulator had not allocated any such spectrum as at present.

    - In commemorating the World AIDS Day, Tanzania Youth Alliance (TAYOA) in partnership with mobile operators in Tanzania are launching '15017 free SMS services', a set of services that allows users in the country to access health SMS information starting from December 1, 2011.

More

  • - Ghanaian information technology (IT) guru, Herman Chinery-Hesse is listed 62 among the top 100 global thinkers list published by the Foreign Policy magazine November 28, 2011. According to the magazine, Chinery-Hesse was listed for “bringing Africa into the mobile age.”

    -  Mobile handset manufacturer Nokia has downgraded its Kenya office from regional headquarter to a sales office and put it under South Africa in a review that saw the exit of its regional head Kenneth Oyolla.

  • Alcatel NMS Engineer, Location: Cameroon

    Posted date: Fri, 2nd Dec

    NMS Engineer – Cameroon

    Alcatel Lucent, NMS

    My client is a global provider of telecommunications equipment and network solutions are currently seeking an NMS Engineer with experience of Alcatel – Lucent equipment for a 3 month rolling contract based in West Africa. They offer a wide choice of products ranging from voice, data, multimedia and wireless broadband services.

    Keys Skills:

        * NMS Software Installation and Configuration
        * Network Integration and Node insertion into SDH rings
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    To discuss this opportunity in more detail please submit your application to alan_ngo@glotel.com