SEEN AND HEARD AT AFNOG 2004

Digital Content

Sign of the times: Nigerian Sunday Folayan of Skannet making a mammoth four-hour presentation on IP telephony. While explaining the sizes of different CODECs:"GSM uses 13K. We discovered that the mobile operators in Nigeria were using just 7K so every time you get a call you have to scream ‘can you hear me?’". At the heart of his presentation was description of the open source software Asterisk which acts as a telephone and VoIP gateway and an interactive voice response system. And all this can be achieved on a PC with a Pentium III and 400 mb of memory.

Sitting round the bar the night before we witnessed a dramatic demonstration of just how well it works using its soft phone (a software phone on a PC with a headset). Folayan called William Stucke’s South African mobile and the call came through crystal clear. Where did the call go to get just across the table? Via SAT3 to France, then to Israel, Nigeria, Israel, the United States, South Africa and then back to Senegal. And what you may be asking is what is the point of all this? Everyone keeps talking about IP telephony as if quality is still an issue but with software compensation for echo and jitter it seems easy to create "toll-quality" calling. With calls on POTS taking 64K and VoIP taking between 6.3K and 44.2K depending on the CODEC used, this surely has to be a no-brainer for anyone involved in voice.

Congratulations to the recently married Badru Ntege of Uganda’s One2Net…Africa Online’s Mark Tinka, formerly in Uganda is now working for the company in Swaziland…The newly elected ISPAN chair is Sam Adeleko (father of Fisayo). And did you know that Nii "Magic" Quaynor does conjuring tricks with five brass rings? A whole new business strategy for ISPs?

How much does it cost to be licensed as an ISP in DRC? USD150,000. As one ISP told us:"This is why the internet is expensive in the DRC and the country only has 6000 subscribers. This is stupidity." However this licence does include the right to sell VoIP calls. However with international calls from mobiles costing 40 cents a minute the usual market via cyber-cafes is much less developed. Apparently internet subscribers in rebel held areas get their connectivity from either Rwandan or Ugandan ISPs.