PEOPLE AT ACT 2004

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* On theme of the conference, partnership: Conference Sean Moroney, AITEC gave an example of how they can go wrong. Conference sponsor Intel had said it would provide a conference bag which he had assumed would be a briefcase-style bag. In fact Intel sent what he quite reasonably described as a “plastic shopping bag”.

* Michael Blair of GS Telecom’s presentation was studded with interesting pieces of market intelligence. He pointed out the disparities in SAT3 fibre pricing. He said SAT3 had had two physical breaks this year, one involving a ship’s anchor the other a trawler but is now protected against this kind of mishap. There is now a back-up 170km fibre cable to Cotonou in Benin and that country is only is only using 3 of its 20 STMIs. Togo is also connected into Cotonou by fibre.

An E1 costs $50,000 a month in Nigeria, Ghana and Benin but costs $225,000 in Angola and Cameroon and $300,000 in South Africa. The disparity cannot be solely accounted for by the greater distances involved. His corporate networks have connected Accra to Takoradi, Tema and Kumasi in Ghana and customers in North Mozambique send by satellite to Maputo and then go by fibre into South Africa. It is achieving a 750 second latency on data from North Ghana that travels up to London and back to Accra. But dealing with monopoly incumbent providers on SAT3 fibre is a problem:”Nitel restricts the use of SAT3. It won’t give us another E1 unless we use their facilities and who would want to do that?” In answer to a question from Bill Hearmon of Dynacom, he said that the actual cost of delivering a minute was around 1 cent.

* The Mauritian Minister of Industry and Financial Services who opened the conference said that the newly opened Cyber-Tower, one of the jewels in the crown for the Mauritian national ICT strategy, already had 13 operators in it and would be 75% full by the end of the year. The Government is also using generous tax incentives to attract call centres and back office opportunities.

* Apparently Kenya Telkom MD John Waweru wanted to lay off 6,000 of his (CHECK NO considerable workforce) but the Government has been unwilling to provide the severance funding needed. Pity the poor man for as he himself says he could run the company with just 2,000 employees. Also illegal, internal call diversion remains a big problem despite it being stopped when the management was changed.

* Martin Jarrold of the Global VSAT Forum launched its report, Open and Closed Skies: satellite access in Africa. It looked at three countries – Nigeria, Tanzania and Algeria – concluding that the liberal regulatory of Nigeria was the most successful of the case studies in opening access to bandwidth and lowering prices. It was particularly important to have a clear legal separation between Government and regulator. It makes three key recommendations: streamlining licensing by allowing blanket licensing for several country licences; keeping the levels of licensing fees realistic; and speeding up equipment certification (with improved type approvals for low-cost internet equipment).

* Yves Desmet of VoIP equipment manufacturer Verso Technologies said that the portability of numbers using VoIP posed considerable commercial and regulatory challenges. If you take your Nigerian number to London, how does the company know what to charge.