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- Cisco's service provider director Mark Baptiste says the recent announcement by communications minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri regarding the legalisation of voice over IP (VOIP) leaves a lot of issues without context. Baptiste was speaking this morning on the first day of the Cisco Networkers Africa 2005 conference at Sun City.

He said although there is a lot of hype around the fact that the telecommunications sector is being liberalised, issues such as carrier pre-selection and number portability have not been clarified. This, he said, could result in VANS not providing certain services that come with VOIP because of the lack of clarity regarding legalities. However, he added that voice would become another value-added service from service providers and VANS alike. “Cisco has for some time been preaching VOIP and the fact that it can be implemented simplistically; however, its support and maintenance require specialised skills,” said Baptiste.

The company's service provider systems engineer, Zaid Dick, explained that although VOIP will bring significant cost savings, the traditional telecommunications infrastructures will be around for a long time yet. “Although cost will always be factor when it comes to the new services that will come with VOIP, the quality of the services such as voice and video streaming will also be a major driver in the same regard.” He said the quality of service provision would also be a differentiator between different service providers, and added that there will be a lot of opportunity for companies to provide business voice services.

Craig Zeeman, Cisco service provider account manager, commented that VOIP will bring a reduction in cost and complexity, in that companies will be given one platform from which to perform video, fax, voice and other tasks, but will only pay one bill. He noted that VOIP would also provide for better management of voice calls, either by corporates or externally by a designated PST. “One thing companies should bear in mind is that they have to move beyond merely providing their clients with access, but must also provide them with bundled services.” On the installation side, he admitted there would only be an initial cost saving.

- The MTN Group will perform a reshuffle of positions within its African operations at the end of April, with the group's operations executive replacing the current CEO of MTN Cameroon as of 1 May. Campbell Utton has already served on the board of MTN Cameroon for several years, helping to increase the company's value-contribution to the group, and he will replace Ron Allard, whose contract expires at the end of April. “Campbell Utton joined MTN in 1999 and has had extensive involvement in the various MTN operations outside of SA,” says Phuthuma Nhleko, MTN Group CEO.

Nhleko says that today, MTN Cameroon is the fifth largest company in the country, and the leading telecommunications provider, servicing 779 000 subscribers.

On the move: Olaf Nielinger has joined Detecon International... Brunet François replaces Bernard Clive as DG of Orange Côte d'Ivoire.

Correction: It was Walda Roseman of CompassRose International who said that if you laid all the consultants in the world end to end they would all point in different directions at the Botswana liberalisation event. Apologies.