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 CyberschuulNews 355

"Africa can: Nigeria can"

 In some guise and from a plethora of ‘we can’ clichés, Kenneth Ugbechie, Executive Secretary of Africa Telecommunications Development Initiative in his address welcoming delegates to the recent summit on Africa Telecom Development held in Abuja, used the word ‘Africa can’ several times in making the case that based on a multitude of indices of telecom development, the African continent was indeed the place to watch.

 By concentrating solely on telecommunication indices, he did not explain them in the context of an overarching socio-political and economic environment such as the promising political stability in Ghana or indeed the ICT revolution which is a catalyst for growth and development in Rwanda. More than any other thing, Nigeria was his trump card.

Security (‘citizens, food and cyber’) was a major issue raised at the Summit but all attention shifted naturally, to the internet where there was consensus on the issue that Broadband internet access has become very serious and fuelling the possibility and danger of cyber terrorism, hunger and democracy on which delegates visited the prognosis for Nigeria, the test case.

 Broadband will not feed the nation but it would be required to support Raising Agricultural Income with Sustainable Environment, RAISE, which Minister for agriculture Dr Ruma said government has been championing. Many insisted that information technology is the tool which RAISE needs to make a deserving impact.

 Dr Shamsuddeen Usman, Minister of National Planning spoke on behalf of the Federal government. He threw down a ‘challenge’ to the regulator to make a reality the Federal Government’s ambition of achieving 100 telephones per 100 inhabitants by, wait for it, 2020. Delegates were aghast looking at one another with surprise. If that epitomised the ambition of government, it was no surprise it drew a frosty reception. Put another way, delegates were not impressed.

 It fell to Dr. Hamadoun Toure, Secretary General of the ITU to impress on the government and its representatives that its stipulated target was not exactly stretching given that its ambition is reasonably achievable by 2015 but with the added caveat – only if existing policy initiatives were sustained.

 The reality however is that the government had not sustained such policy if the past 24 months are anything to go by. There has been negligible progress in the way of policy direction and development in telecommunications. The only noticeable initiative in recent times was in relation to the independence of regulation under which the operating act guaranteed and which the government recently curtailed.

Experts say Cyber warfare is real for the future

If the premonition that the next ‘world war’ (customarily a war amongst developed nations rather than the whole world) actually becomes a reality, then the need for a cyber rapid response force may become a necessity rather than some utopian idea

Last week in Abuja, Prof Nii Quaynor Chairman of the Ghanaian company, Network Computer Systems, and recipient of the renowned Jon Postel Service Award said prospects of a future warfare in cyberspace is real and what is required to contain it are global cooperation, collaboration and coordination. CNN also reported about the same time that in Washington, an independent research group predicts that cyber warfare will accompany future military conflicts and it is recommending international action to confront its impact.

Nii Quaynor, speaking at the Africa Telecom Development Summit argued that technical response to combat cyber-terrorism is the simplest of all the problems posed by the issue. More complex are issues of user-education, the establishment and implementation of universal security techniques and laws, He said cyber miscreants may have been building their technical knowledge and skills, gaining leverage through automation and exploitation of network interconnections, easier access to infrastructure and becoming more skillful at circumventing detection.

Distinguished speakers who admonish governments for not strengthening the legal framework for cyber security include Prof Raymond Akwule, President of Digital Bridge Institute and Mr. Basil Udotai, an expert on internet crime.

It is a mergers’ jamboree!

Mergers are like buses. You wait for so long for one and three come at the same time. Having reported on a monster merger between mobile operators T-Mobile and Orange (see edition 354), there appears to be an avalanche. Here are ‘three of the best’ that have been ‘talk of the town’ since we last reported. All with varying levels of cleanliness in their bills of health and probability of fruition.

   Suspect: Microsoft and Yahoo

US anti-monopoly investigators have asked Microsoft and Yahoo for more details of their proposed online search partnership to challenge market leader, Google.
Neither company has revealed the nature of the request, but observers said it is likely to be around the impact the deal will have on the pricing of online advertising. Advertisers are hoping that a stronger competitor to Google will accelerate the fall in prices for search terms initiated by the downturn.
The request for more information leads logical minds to conclude there is a deepening of the investigation, but Yahoo said it did not expect closure of the deal to be delayed, according to the FT Both companies had declared they anticipated a lengthy review and said from the start that they did not expect the deal to close before the end of the year. This means Microsoft may have to put up a fight, as Oracle did to acquire PeopleSoft to boost competition with SAP.
European anti-monopoly authorities are not reviewing the proposed deal because Microsoft and Yahoo would have a combined share of only 10% of the European search advertising market.

   Yes: ST Telemedia and Eircom

ST Telemedia, the Singapore state-owned telecoms group is poised to make its first acquisition outside Asia after agreeing a deal to buy Eircom, the debt-laden Irish telecoms group. Eircom Holdings, the Irish company’s Australia-based parent, said on Monday it had recommended to shareholders then offer made by STT in June which gives the Irish group an equity valuation of about A$67m ($57m). This follows STT submitting a revised bid for Irish operator Eircom in August in which The Australian holding company Eircom Holdings (ERC) issued details on the offer of cash or shares in the new company, Under that proposal,. The ERC board said it was not recommending the offer to shareholders due to certain terms and conditions tied to the proposal, and as a result it will continue to negotiate with STT. The company still planned to go ahead with the capital return, pending a shareholders meeting which took place on 15 September.
With Eircom nearly €4bn in debt, having to cut 15 per cent of staff in the next two years as part of €130m of savings and facing its fifth change of ownership in the 10 years, since it was privatised by the Irish government, the acquisition deal puts a total enterprise value of €4.4bn ($6.4bn) on the Irish group.
The Singapore government has identified telecoms as a growth area and for the past decade has made investments into local Asian markets through its investment arm, Temasek Kerry Roxburgh, chairman of Eircom said it had been looking to maximise shareholder value for 18 months. “This process has resulted in the termination of the management arrangements with Babcock & Brown along with proposals to return surplus capital to Eircom shareholders,” he said.

   Definitely Maybe: Bharti Airtel and MTN

However a merger that is floundering is that one between MTN, of South Africa, and Bharti Airtel, of India two telecoms groups that aim to exploit markets in Africa and the Middle East. Back in May, Airtel, which runs cell-phone networks across India, and South Africa's MTN, the largest cell-phone operator in Africa, made a brief statement to shareholders on that they were hammering out a complex deal which would merge the companies. If successful, the deal would likely give Sunil Mittal control of a telecom behemoth that would have the third-largest number of subscribers in the world, after U.K.-based Vodafone and China Mobile, with annual revenues in excess of $20 billion.

After last year's merger talks between Bharti and MTN ended last summer, rival Indian mobile phone group Relliance started its own merger talks with MTN, but they also ultimately came to nothing. Of course there is always the issue of money. Even though in August, Bhatia Airtel successfully asked bankers to commit to a multi-billion dollar syndicated loan at short notice, merger talks were extended in what appears to be another twist in this long drawn takeover.

Another contributory factor that might suggest a merger is unlikely at least for the time being could be logistics. The ‘Financial Times’ citing unidentified bankers reported that Pretoria said it would never allow South Africa’s “strategic corporations” to be domiciled offshore. Those in the know said both parties reached a preliminary accord worth $24billion. This may result in a net inflow of $6.3billion. That may be why Pretoria is digging in its heel.Another sticky point according to market economists is that the South African Reserve Bank is likely to absorb most of the money. The South African Rand had drawn sharp rise in support and anticipation of the deal back in May. There is the possibility that once the deal is closed, it weaken fairly quickly as long term positions taken back in May will be reversed

With only two weeks to go before talks are due to expire on September 30, we wait with bated breadth

A Phoenix Rises: Rwanda Leading Africa in ICT Revolution (Part 2)

Point is: good governance along with blue sky thinking and a ‘can do’ mentality are changing real lives and how Rwanda is a beacon for other developing economies around the world to emulate.

Access for all citizens is what underpins Rwanda's ICT policy. But the government is matching this aspiration with tangible and comprehensive investment. Like the availability of the Rwf4.5 billion WiBro technology will give users uninterrupted access to high speed wireless internet using an access card at a reasonable price from any part of the city. This will in turn give rise to "mobile offices" for people whose work duties will no longer be confined to an office block thus also meaning more home offices and increase in the internet user base. There are also results matching policy, aspiration and investment as reports confirm that Kigali City will go wireless by the end of October.

There is also the Rwf5 million National Data Centre (NDC). With its construction already commenced, the centre will synchronize public information and allows authorized access to different beneficiaries from both public and private sector institutions in need of data storage facilities. The national ID project system will be one of the major beneficiaries of this one stop shop for data services. "The data centre will serve as a central data storage facility but also provide access to applications used by government institutions such as unified communications and travel approval," said Didier Nkurikiyimfura, of the NDC.

Also like most other places there is still a substantial rural-urban gap, with the majority of mobile phone, landline and internet access concentrated in Rwanda's capital Kigali and surrounding areas. But with 1 billion dollar investment in 2006, the government embarked on a program to building nationwide tele-centres with Internet and telephone access points, allowing for increased connectivity and mobility in rural areas. Simultaneously a related "village phone" endeavor undertaken by Nokia and the Grameen Foundation USA in 2006 sought to bring affordable mobile communications access to rural villages in Rwanda, as well as the creation of over 3,000 related small businesses throughout the country in the next three years.

Following the decimation of human capital due to the troubles in 1994, there is also a positive story for citizens of war-torn Rwanda. Twenty-five recently demobilised soldiers, for example, were awarded one-year hardware maintenance and software development certificates in 2006 by the Washington DC-based Development Gateway Foundation. "The aim of the training was to help demobilised soldiers get jobs as technical consultants in ICT. Some have started partnering with computer hardware and maintenance companies," Jerome Gasana, project manager of the Regional ICT Training Centre (RITC) in Kigali told IPS.

All of the above have immeasurably improved Rwanda socio-politically and economically. Rwanda was chosen as the geographical headquarters of the new East African Submarine Cable project - a mammoth fibre optic venture designed to bring telecommunications to rural villages from Sudan to South Africa along East Africa's coast. The Economist magazine recently reported that Rwanda is well on its way to achieving its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as a result of its ICT-based poverty reduction strategies.

Manzi Bakuramutsa, Rwanda’s Ambassador to the UN said, "The government will facilitate the laying down of the infrastructure and hopes that the project can be transferred to the private sector."
That might have consequences but we say ‘hear, hear’, nevertheless because slowly the dream of becoming a knowledge-based economy and the projected vision of having more users who can access internet is imminent. As a result, by the year 2020, - the once imaginary dreams of development through ICT are much closer to a reality.

‘Bayo Ligali quits Zain Nigeria 

Zain in Nigeria, has announced that Mr. Adebayo Ligali its CEO for 3 years has moved on to pursue other interests and handed over to Alain Sainte-Marie, who, before his appointment, headed the Gabon operation of the Zain Group.  Zain in Nigeria is the most traded among Nigeria’s mobile operators having changed name 5 times for reasons of acquisition of major interest in it by different interests at different times.

Ndukwe Kalu, may the Good Lord welcome you home,
Segun Olugbile <>

I received this sad news with great shock! My most recent meeting with him was during the House of Rep Public Hearing on Cybercrime legislation. My sympathy and condolence go to his immediate family, close business associates and ICT industry in general.

We have lost such a promising and brilliant Nigerian whose contribution to the motherland will be positively judged by providence. Honestly, he fought for a good cause. He is so patriotic and loyal to this nation as demonstrated in his pioneering contribution to NIRA.

Our country leaders must have a rethink on the success of this nation. Kalu has contributed immeasurably within and beyond his capacity toward ensuring online visibility and presence of our nation within the cyberspace. One thing I surely know, Kalu has left behind a sustainable Nigeria domain legacy that will impact this generation and the generation to come. He left behind a strong footprint in our generation that cannot be easily eroded by every wind of unstable government policies.

Kalu is bigger, better and must be celebrated more than our corrupt leaders at the corridors of powers and parastatals who deserved nothing more than a curse. But we plead with Almighty God to continually forgive our leaders for mismanaging and misleading this nation or what else can we say.

Kalu, you have come, you have seen, and honestly you have fought a good fight and conquered! Adieu Engr. Kalu Ndukwe. May the Good Lord welcome you home.

CyberschuulNews 354

"Africa’s good story is telecommunications" says ITU Secretary-General.

Dr. Hamadoun Toure, Secretary General of the International Telecommunications Union, ITU, reviewed the past ten years of telecommunications development in Africa and concluded that the continent has got a good story to report. He said this in a keynote address in Abuja. He reeled out very encouraging data of performance in telecommunications and used them to show that Nigeria has been a true leader in this economic sector. Specifically, although South Africa accounted for 75% of Africa’s mobile telephone lines in year 2000, the figure reduced to 20% in 2008 with a very high portion of available lines (about 25% really) being accounted for by Nigeria. He argued that Nigerian government’s projection of teledensity of 100 telephone lines per 100 inhabitants by year 2020 is achievable by 2015 if the current tempo of development and vibrant telecommunication policy initiatives in the country are sustained.

Multichoice latches on Intelsat 20 due for launch in 2012

South Africa’s Multichoice, renown for its Direct to Home television services is reported to have reserved space in Intelsat’s IS-20 which is scheduled for launch in first quarter of 2012. The IS-20 satellite, which will also replace the Intelsat 10 satellite, will provide services to Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and India. The satellite's Ku-band payload is specifically designed to provide enterprise network and DTH services into Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Enter, Internet access in cars

KIA Motors of South Korea recently announced that it will, 3 years from now, launch cars that are equipped with internet access. It will work in synergy with Intel’s WiBro a name in internet services provision for vehicles.

Spotify launches on mobile phones

Spotify - The Swedish music streaming service that allows music to be browsed by specified categories as well as direct searches with instant listening and almost no buffering delay, has expanded its service to mobiles.

Phones using Google's mobile operating system Android, and iPhone users, can access the firms four million tracks. The application will also allow users to save more than 3,000 songs to play while offline. Mobile users will have to pay a subscription charge to download and save music.

Spotify is viewed in the music industry as a rival to Apple's iTunes which currently dominates the digital music market, but also as a credible business model for an industry which has had difficulty adapting to the online world. This is thought to be one of the reasons Spotify was so keen to break into the mobile market as well as the subscription charge of which only about 2% currently pay with the rest using the firm's free streaming services.
Spotify, which launched in 2008, now has more than six million across Europe. It has not yet launched in the United States, but says it intends to do so by the end of the year.

T-Mobile and Orange in UK merger

The UK mobile phone landscape was irrevocably changed this week after exclusive merger talks were revealed between two telecoms groups, Deutsche Telekom - the owner of T-Mobile known to be considering an outright sale of the business, and France Telecom which owns Orange.
Timing must have been an integral part of the deal clencher for the monster merger coming at a time when Deutsche Telekom had been considering its options for its UK business where it holds a 15% share in the highly competitive market and struggling to win customers and for France Telecom seeking to strengthen its position in the UK market with 22% share without paying cash or taking on vastly more debt.

Orange and T-Mobile mobile phone giant said their deal - due to be signed by November - would "bring substantial benefits to UK customers", and promised expanded network coverage, better network quality and improved customer services but perhaps more importantly will see a business with sales of 9.4bn euros (£8.2bn; $13.5bn) with 28.4 million customers and holding about 37% of the mobile market it will be the UK's largest provider, overtaking Telefonica's O2 'Efficiencies' a.k.a cost savings always lurk in the motives behind these mergers. Integrating the businesses will cost between £600m and £800m. Orange has UK workforce of 12,500 while T-Mobile has 6,500. This bill would also include decommissioning mobile phone masts, cutting back the network of stores and streamlining other operations. Over time, savings should reach about £3.5bn, they added.

ICT does it bit for the environment

The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) EIATRACK, a subscription-based web service that tracks global environmental regulations, released the long-awaited Regulation for the Management of the Recycling and Disposal of Waste Electrical and Electronic Products, also known as China Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment or China WEEE has just been released for publication. EIATRACK subscribers received an alert back in March about the landmark regulatory development, with key facts and legal analysts’ preliminary observations concerning China WEEE – remarkable given the nature of public disclosure in China.

Premier Wen Jiabao signed China WEEE into law on February 25, 2009. It reflects the Chinese government’s highest-level step to date toward the development of a national regulatory program and addresses the nature of the "waste electrical and electronic product fund" as well as the responsibilities of manufacturers and other stakeholders with respect to this fund.
Enforcement is planned for January 1, 2011.

A Phoenix Rises: Rwanda Leading Africa in ICT Revolution (Part1)

Less than fifteen years after the genocide that destroyed much of Rwanda's human capital, infrastructure, and socio-economic fabric, the country is set to become sub-Saharan Africa's hub for information and communications technology (ICT).

The atrocity in 1994 meant Rwanda was faced with a shattered economy. It launched its "Vision 2020" strategy in 2000 in order to vigorously rebuild and reinvent the Rwandan economy focusing on agricultural, industrial, and social elements as well, Rwanda's lack of port access but the Rwandan government then shifted investment to a knowledge-based economy with ICT as its cornerstone with the objective of achieving middle-income economic status as well produce highly-skilled scientists and technicians through launching programmes in scientific research and education, technological innovation and telecommunications distribution by the year 2020.

As part of an ambitious government initiative to develop Rwanda's telecommunications infrastructure, the country's ICT sector - including mobile phone and fibre optic networks as well as PC and Internet access, the Government of Rwanda has committed itself to creating four five-year plans (2000-2020) to develop and expand all sectors of society through the use, and domestic development and production, of information and communication technologies (ICTs). The belief by the Rwandan government that that ICT for development will allow for a rapid developmental process that will propel Rwanda past industrialization and into an information rich society has become matched by investment from both international public and private sectors in recent years.

These efforts have been rewarded as Rwanda has benefited from ICT-based investments by lucrative international players such as Microsoft, Nokia, and Terracom and consequently named East Africa's number one ICT nation by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) which said the country's current ICT sector budget is on par with nations of the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a grouping of 30 rich nations, at 1.6 percent, far above the African average.

The Rwanda Development Gateway, a government-run portal for Rwanda's development sector, sees ICT as "a window of opportunity to leap-frog the industrialisation stage and transform the economy into information and knowledge-based economies" in order to effectively combat development challenges in the country while ushering in new economic and social opportunities.

Rwanda also boasts an Internet Exchange Point, ICT Park, National Computing Centre, and Telemedecine Network, which connects Rwandan hospitals and universities in an attempt to transform and expand health services to underserved areas. The government continues to supply and invest in technology at both the primary and university school levels, as over 1,200 primary schools are equipped with computers and at least 10 percent of Rwanda's secondary schools have wireless Internet.

The effort has yielded dividends. Donor governments are scrambling to get on Rwanda’s ICT bandwagon. In July, the British Department for International Development (DFID) announced it would launch a £700,000 project in conjunction with the Rwandan government and World Bank to "explore innovation in science and technology and economic growth" in the country.

Group mounts "Broadband for all" initiative in Nigeria 

A group of concerned ICT professionals under the name of Nigeria National Broadband Strategy Project Committee, is known to have planned a Forum to facilitate the development of a National Broadband Framework for Nigeria (BB4NG)  

Coordinator John Dada last week proposed a 9-point agenda which revolves around preparing a draft National Broadband Framework (for Nigeria) which can be presented for discussion at a stakeholders meeting scheduled for November in Abuja.

The Committee is known to have gone far in identifying key stakeholders whose input into making broadband internet access universally entrenched in Nigeria is critical for the purpose of the forum. Mr. Omo Oaiya who is anchoring the technical wing of the plans says the committee is anxious to review all available resources, infrastructure, human, and financial to tap into the widely know emerging initiatives such as SAT-3, Glo-1, MainOne cable, and also Nigeriasat1 which is said to be on its return to business in 2010.

Ndukwe Kalu, President NiRA, passes on

The Nigerian ICT industry was, during the week, struck with the bad story that it lost one of its best and most promising young men to the cold hands of death. Mr. Ndukwe Kalu, an engineer, suddenly dropped dead in his office. Mr Kalu was at the time of his passage incumbent President of the Nigeria Internet Registration Association, NiRA, and Managing Director of Amsco Telecoms Ltd.
He put in over ten years of industry development activism, playing different roles within committees and study groups especially on developmental issues of broadband internet access and universal service.

Africa Telecom review
A Phoenix Rises: Rwanda Leading Africa in ICT Revolution (Part1)

Less than fifteen years after the genocide that destroyed much of Rwanda's human capital, infrastructure, and socio-economic fabric, the country is set to become sub-Saharan Africa's hub for information and communications technology (ICT).

The atrocity in 1994 meant Rwanda was faced with a shattered economy. It launched its "Vision 2020" strategy in 2000 in order to vigorously rebuild and reinvent the Rwandan economy focusing on agricultural, industrial, and social elements as well, Rwanda's lack of port access but the Rwandan government then shifted investment to a knowledge-based economy with ICT as its cornerstone with the objective of achieving middle-income economic status as well produce highly-skilled scientists and technicians through launching programmes in scientific research and education, technological innovation and telecommunications distribution by the year 2020.

As part of an ambitious government initiative to develop Rwanda's telecommunications infrastructure, the country's ICT sector - including mobile phone and fibre optic networks as well as PC and Internet access, the Government of Rwanda has committed itself to creating four five-year plans (2000-2020) to develop and expand all sectors of society through the use, and domestic development and production, of information and communication technologies (ICTs). The belief by the Rwandan government that that ICT for development will allow for a rapid developmental process that will propel Rwanda past industrialization and into an information rich society has become matched by investment from both international public and private sectors in recent years.

These efforts have been rewarded as Rwanda has benefited from ICT-based investments by lucrative international players such as Microsoft, Nokia, and Terracom and consequently named East Africa's number one ICT nation by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) which said the country's current ICT sector budget is on par with nations of the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a grouping of 30 rich nations, at 1.6 percent, far above the African average.

The Rwanda Development Gateway, a government-run portal for Rwanda's development sector, sees ICT as "a window of opportunity to leap-frog the industrialisation stage and transform the economy into information and knowledge-based economies" in order to effectively combat development challenges in the country while ushering in new economic and social opportunities.

Rwanda also boasts an Internet Exchange Point, ICT Park, National Computing Centre, and Telemedecine Network, which connects Rwandan hospitals and universities in an attempt to transform and expand health services to underserved areas. The government continues to supply and invest in technology at both the primary and university school levels, as over 1,200 primary schools are equipped with computers and at least 10 percent of Rwanda's secondary schools have wireless Internet.

The effort has yielded dividends. Donor governments are scrambling to get on Rwanda’s ICT bandwagon. In July, the British Department for International Development (DFID) announced it would launch a £700,000 project in conjunction with the Rwandan government and World Bank to "explore innovation in science and technology and economic growth" in the country.

CyberschuulNews 353

2.3 GHz verdict: It was Them not Us
titi omo-ettu

The image that President Barrack Obama may not be a happy man after all is etched in my consciousness. Something keeps telling me that the fellow would have wished that Nigeria lives up to reputation as the world’s most populous black country and worthy of the title, ‘centre of the world’ for all black people.

In this episode of ‘The West Wing’ that is playing in my mind, El Presidente has assembled his inner caucus of the ruling class and asked them ‘how can I tell the folks in Nigeria to shape up without causing unnecessary offence’. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton perks up to say ‘I do, Mr. President’ to which he responds, ‘Great, don’t tell me. I think you should go tell them in person’. And so came Hillary.

Suffice to say that she came at a time when listening and doing good was not a high point of those who are on the cockpit in these parts. One even went as far as telling her to mind her own business.
Or how do we explain it. Mrs. Clinton’s plane had barely left the tarmac at the airport when what clearly was an executive intervention in a purely judicial logjam was announced from the office of President Yar Adua.

For those of us in the awkward squad who argue and believe we should put the controversy surrounding the 2.3 GHz spectrum licenses behind us and face the future, there is yet an explanation to make so future generation does not ask us what the hell a whole lot of 140 million of us were doing when rule of law was being murdered.

The objective here is not to revisit the controversy all over but to appraise the validity of the decision both in law and practice so as to ensure that an inadequate framework is neither the template nor precedent to which current and future generations will have to adhere. It is vitally important in a participatory democracy that legislative and executive decisions are subject to scrutiny to avoid any potential ugly precedent before it sets in stone. It is what makes us citizens rather than mere bystanders in the democratic process.

For starters, it is going to be difficult for rational minds to agree to using the President's decision as a precedent for future if and whenever all facts present themselves again as they did in the 2.3Ghz instance. It is a failure of our democracy that our laws in this instance are not allowed rigorous scrutiny and intellectual dialysis.

In the ensuing ‘presentation-over-substance’ scenario, the commercial imperatives of using the story by the local media dictated that this very public spat was personalised and drawn out thus making it an issue of 'who' was right (which meant that the other was wrong) when the issue should have been of 'what' was right or what was wrong.

So what was wrong?

It was wrong for our system to create and perpetuate a climate in which the decision of a Commission be reduced to and regarded as the decision of a person. It makes an institutional failure a personal one and consequently remedy is thought of and applied in the context of personnel rather than of systems or institutions. That the person singled out for criticism is not the Chairman of the Commission (where ideally the buck stops) does not help but rather makes it messier.

It was wrong for a complaint to be fabricated as it eventually emerged from records and facts from AO3 Company’s strong rebuttal, which categorically stated that it did not participate in an auction and therefore could not have written a petition about a process it was not party to.
It was wrong that the advice given by the Federal Attorney General and Minister of Justice to Mr. President was allowed to leak to the press or blatantly published in the media to the effect that the minister’s (of Communications that is) intervention was impolite to the law.

With so much wrong, it is difficult to catalogue what was right in the whole milieu except the perfect opportunity for us to test our Communications Act within the purview of the executive. Unfortunately it is an opportunity we have missed.

We are in a nightmare, somebody wake us up.

Standout and be counted
OAU Alumni and the ICT Industry

Three generations of the Alumni of Obafemi Awolowo University, OAU, Ile-Ife, stood out to be counted in a recent event where those who were accomplished as front liners of the ICT industry came out for mentioning. The old University of Ife generation to which Cleopas Angaye, a professor and Director-General of NITDA, Ernest Ndukwe, a telecommunications engineer and EVC of NCC, Emmanuel Ekuwem, a physicist and President of ATCON, Florence Seriki, a chemical engineer and Chairman Omatek Holdings, and ‘Demola Aladekomo, an electronics engineer and chief executive of Chams Ltd as well as two subsequent generations of the OAU, one lead by Aaron Ukodie, renowned telecom/ICT journalist and the third lead by ‘Gbenga Sesan, pioneer Nigeria’s IT Ambassador were recognised in Lagos.

The Event also doubled as a launch for e-World, a new ICT monthly, published by Mr. Aaron Ukodie.

The event was witnessed by Michael Faborode, A professor of Agricultural engineering and current Vice-Chancellor of the University, himself an alumnus.

Professor Michael Faborode announced that the University will, at its next convocation, confer the Honourary Doctor of Technology on the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, Engr. Ernest Ndukwe.

"GLO-1" Lands in Lagos
Globacom's fibre that links Lagos through West African imprints to the UK landed in Lagos Saturday September 5, 2009. It is a solo effort of Nigeria's Globalcom Ltd which says it will enhance the delivery of broadband access at significantly reduced cost to consumers in Nigeria.

Abuja to host Africa Telecommunications Development Summit

Secretary-General of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Dr Hamadoun Toure will on Thursday September 10, 2009 review the past ten years of telecommunications development in Africa when Nigeria hosts the world to the Africa Telecommunications Development Summit.
Theme of the summit is TELECOM IN THE SERVICE OF HUMANITY and it is being organised by the Africa Telecom Development Initiative in partnership with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), with the West Africa Telecommunications Regulators Assembly (WATRA) and Africa Business Round Table as collaborators. There will be three session papers on cyber security, food security and citizen security.
Venue: Congress Hall of Transcorp Hilton, Abuja at 10.00am.

"Ex Africa semper aliquid novi" (There's always something new coming out of Africa!)
London hosts the first BarCampAfrica UK event on Nov. 7, 2009. This Free event is expected to attract technologically inspired African Diaspora from diverse fields - entrepreneurs, technologist, charities, engineers, designers, bloggers and artists bound by their passion to bring about further development in Africa. Events, content and format will be driven by the participants who will have the opportunity to share ideas, collaborate and network with similarly minded people, or simply to express their interest in African development within the context of technology.

Intel boss sees light at the end of the tunnel

The PC industry emerging out of the recession, the boss of the world's biggest chipmaker has told the BBC. Paul Otellini, CEO of Intel said the industry was likely to sell as many computers in 2009 as it had in 2008.

"Considering the depth and breadth of the recession [that] is a pretty good result,"

Analysts had predicted a big fall in PC sales this year to mirroring the slump in the consumer electronics where prices fell by an unprecedented 30 per cent over the past year according to sales figures released by large retailers. Mr. Otellini said consumers were still buying them because they were now "indispensable". "If it breaks you don't wait for the end of the recession to replace it," he added.

In May the EU imposed a record fine of 1.06bn euros (£920m) on Intel, charging the firm with anti-competitive practices but last week Intel's shares rose sharply after the company told the market that its third quarter revenues would be higher than expected - the latest signal that the worst of the recession is over for the technology industry. On the imposition of the EU fine, he said he was confident that an EU fine for anti- competitive practices would be overturned because he said he believed the process was did not look at all the evidence and did not balance all the facts. In an interview including a Q&A with BBC News website readers, Mr. Otellini attacked EU regulators and said policy mistakes had contributed to the depth of the recession. He said the lesson learned from the recession was that the best technology still sells. "You can't take a break - recessionary or other - from deploying new technology. When recessions end, as we've seen, people want the latest technology - they don't want the technology that existed when the recession started two years ago," he said

Asked how he saw technology changing over the next 25 years, Mr. Otellini said computing would become far more personal. "Machines you carry with you will be cognisant of what your needs are and where you are. They will bring the information to you without you having to ask a search engine for it." He went on to say, ‘Intel was fundamental in establishing wi-fi. For wide area connectivity, Wimax is a very viable fourth-generation technology. It's proven, it's up and running in countries like Japan, the United States, Russia, parts of Europe. It's coming, I'm not sure when, city-by-city’He said the intention of provider Clearwire is to blanket all the major cities in the US by the end of 2010 with rival systems promoted by mobile phone companies gaining ground in the hunt for so-called 4G connectivity.

If India’s future is bright, then so should ours
Abi Bilesanmi

India is the world's largest democracy. We are the world largest black democracy. Since gaining independence 62 years ago, its economy has come a long way and it remains one of the fastest growing in the world. Since we gained independence almost 50 years ago, our economy once the largest in Africa, is in decline. Recent elections in India marked another milestone for the country, creating some economic and political stability after months of uncertainty. Elections in Nigeria is a different proposition exemplified by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who recently talking to an audience of activists in Abuja, drew a parallel between political corruption in Nigeria and George W Bush's contested election win in Florida in 2000. India's election was the largest in world history with 420 million voters, ours was 'business as usual' - tales of missing ballot boxes, inflated voter counts and even of voters being shot at polling stations.

Back in 1991 India embarked on a program of free market reforms, moving away from the Soviet-style, centrally planned economy. These reforms were led by the finance minister Manmohan Singh, well regarded for his pro business instincts, who subsequently became Prime Minister. His reforms have arguably led to the Indian economy quadrupling in size in the last 20 years.

India euphoric rise economically is a clear demonstration that there is link between democracy (of which elections is an integral part) and economic development. The Indian market has reacted positively to the outcome of the elections shooting up 17% triggering an automatic shutdown. This is largely because the government won with a larger than expected majority, giving them a strong voice over the other coalitions. This in turn should help them push through new policies quickly. Now that the euphoria has subsided it can revert back to focusing on India's future growth prospects.
India is now in a position to push forward the reforms India needs to keep its expansion plans on track. It can, at its own pace, increase the voting rights of foreign investors in banks, making these more attractive for overseas investors. Additionally, there are plans to privatise some of the state-run companies which should encourage them to streamline and improve efficiency - something we are unable to do successfully (see NITEL).

Like Nigeria, there is little doubt that India still requires significant domestic investment. Power, roads, ports, airports, housing (there is a supply shortfall of over 30 million homes) and urban infrastructure are massively undersupplied. But economic advancement has meant that the government can plan to spend $500 billion over the next five years on these areas which should be a key driver of growth. Our total GDP, according to 2007 figures, is a mere $127.95bn.

India is not immune to external events like the global credit crunch which initially led to a flight of foreign capital out of the country as investors became risk averse. However their banking system is arguably more robust. A cloud on the horizon could be the oil price as India is a huge importer of oil which is where Nigeria could possibly have the upper hand. But to mitigate any potential crisis, India has begun a charm offensive The Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, announced duty-free access to Indian markets for the world’s 50 “least developed countries”, 34 of which are in Africa, as part of a package of measures designed to highlight New Delhi's commitment to deepening relations with the continent. Inaugurating the first India-Africa Forum, a two-day summit in New Delhi in April this year he declared India’s intent to become “a close partner in Africa’s resurgence” and called for a “new architecture” in relations. The first step came with the signature of an Africa-India Framework for Co-operation and a “Delhi Declaration”.

There is a multitude of reasons we believe the future is so bright for India some demographic (60% of the population is of working age and this is likely to rise leading to greater productivity and less of a pension drain on public finances) others economic (currently, economic growth is predicted to be in the region of 5-6% and the flow of foreign investment is strengthening Indian rupee having depreciated 19% relative to the US dollar in 2008). The lesson we have to learn is that after under-performing most of Asia last year, the Indian market has leapt to life in recent months with the Bombay Sensex Index up 60% in the last six months (Source: Lipper, 9/12/08 to 9/06/09). Though this is not an indication of future performance but in the short term, the market looks fully valued with the long term growth story remains compelling. India's business climate is likely to improve rapidly and private investment should accelerate as a direct consequence of the election victory. It also provides a stable government for the next five years. This means reforms will be pushed through more smoothly and the implications for the stock market should be extremely positive.

This is a lesson we must learn and replicate. If it works for India, it surely can work for us.

Big tree, small axe
titi omo-ettu

With the warped entertainment content of the CBN’s act of last week, there is an overwhelming temptation to get carried away such that we forget to import whatever lessons it offers our industry.

The week's sacking of five CEOs for ‘winning’ banks produced a drought of news in the telecommunications sector. It suggested that ceteris paribus, events in our industry pale into insignificance due to the axe falling on the supremo’s of our banking industry. The guys who produce CyberschuulNews told us that unless we wrote an opinion column this week, there was no news for them to report or to analyse. Very true as I found out when week drew to an end.

Nothing inspires newshounds more than 'How hath the mighty fallen' especially when the 'mighty' in question belong to the class that readers love to hate. If as they say 'a week is a long time in politics', two months must therefore be eternity. Given that not quite two months ago the 'mighty' were collecting awards, buying jets for pastors and distributing religious tracts as part of bank product leaflets (talk about a conflict of interest), is it not a tad strange how jubilant we are about their fall from grace? Yet we all pretended to be ignorant of the fact the front (and middle) pages of our newspapers have been taken over by bank adverts while we were treated as if we actually pay to buy adverts rather than content in our newspapers.

If we must profit from all this, then we must quickly identify two lessons which the telecom industry can learn from the finance industry’s recent experience.

We should remind ourselves that if and when services providers merit sanction, they should be dealt with. Our laws must provide for those who evoke such sanctions to think of how the decision will affect the common consumers and to take action to mitigate their losses. Of course our experience is that many service providers had, on their own, folded up and closed shop. Many of them in recent memory - MTS of old, EMIS, Mobitel of old, to name but a few. In the ensuing wreckage, no one cared about what happened to the real stakeholders - the subscribers who had made investment in such networks. It is time our law thought in this direction. There is something for our legislature to keep in mind as they attempt to edit the existing Act.

The other is the treating awards and laurels like confetti at a wedding - conferred on everyone and anyone which, to be brutally frank, is somewhat suffocating. It is not as if we believe these awards or that they mean little more than businesses and organisations disingenuously ingratiating themselves with their sponsors. In this era of reciprocal back scratching among the undeserving, a modicum of modesty and a reality check is both required and necessary.

It is time we demanded an arrest of this culture of roguery, hate and moral indecency that is like a parasite feasting on the soul of our society.

CyberschuulNews 352

Privatisation of NITEL gets 60 days challenge

Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan was quoted to have told a team of civil servants constituted by government to manage NITEL from now on that they should produce a way out in 60 days by identifying a core investor. It is not entirely clear where the line is drawn between the new handlers of the insolvent First National Operators and The Bureau for Public Enterprises, BPE, the actual privatization managers.

NCC indicates a future date for new auction

Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC announced during the week that it is about to reassemble its apparatus to revisit the auction of 2.3Ghz slot of frequencies which recent process was cancelled by authority of President Yar’ Adua. Sounds like it would take a while for those who plan on the slot to roll out business.

Ghana stops licensing operators

Ghana’s Communications Minister, Haruna Iddrisu said during the week that in order to ensure that the integrity of the market is not compromised, the government has no intentions of adding a new telecom player to the six players in the Ghanaian market.

$10 laptop, training in mother tongue is India’s new dream

India’s minister of state for higher education, Mrs. D Purandareswari, told technology institutes in India recently that they should work to develop laptops that will cost not more than $10, for students. She dropped the challenge in her speech at e-India 2009 which began in Hyderabad last Tuesday.

She asserted she was not daydreaming when she quickly added "It is a challenge but we have the potential and the capacity to overcome challenges. Who would have thought Ratan Tata would develop a car for Rs 1 lakh?" The minister also reminded India’s scientists that they should know that power supply is a problem and in spite of it they should ensure that schools use laptops and bring technology closer to children.

She said ‘Some people have suggested that a laptop be provided to every student. The government needs to provide subsidy for laptops which cost $100-200, but given the huge challenges the country faces, it can't afford such huge subsidies’

Mrs. Purandareswari said developing content for children in their mother tongue would be another major challenge just as making teachers e-compliant also must be addressed. According to her "Many of our teachers are first generation graduates, who are scared of failing in front of a computer in a class room. They also fear that technology will replace them and there is a need to take them into confidence,"

EIB promotes R&D with EUR 250 million in various EU countries

The European Investment Bank has granted a EUR 250 million loan to Nokia Siemens Networks to promote R&D activity in Finland with for the next development of Radio Access Network technology.

The European Investment Bank is the EU's long-term financing institution with a mission to support through its activities the development of EU policies. Its modus operandi is borrowing its funds on the capital markets in order to finance projects that are in line with EU strategies. The bank's financing contributes primarily towards economic and social cohesion, environmental protection, as well as research and innovation. This last objective is a priority to which the EIB devoted EUR 12.4bn in 2008, of which EUR 7.1bn for R&D. The Bank supported such investment in most EU countries projects representing a commitment that has tripled over the past two years.

The loan is for investment in R&D to develop the hardware as well as the software platform for the implementation of Radio Access Network (RAN) technology for mobile communication systems. The project aims at developing technology which will allow mobile telecommunication operators to use a single Base Station platform for their second Generation (2G), third Generation (3G) and Long Term Evolution LTE networks (see Cyberschuulnews 351). The R&D activity under this project will take place in Finland, Poland, Germany and Italy.

The development of a multi-mode platform will allow the cost-efficient roll-out of mobile broadband telecommunication services. The move towards such a cost-efficient multi-mode platform (Single RAN) that can be used to provide existing services today and can also be easily upgraded to the next development of mobile telecommunication technologies - a necessity for mobile broadband operators. Multi-mode Radio Access Equipment is also a key requirement for developments in the field of mobile telecommunications, the so-called frequency re-farming. Frequency re-farming relates to the use of new technologies in GSM frequencies, such as UMTS today and LTE in the future. Regulatory framework in which this will be undertaken to allow this in the near future is being put together now.

In the five-year period 2004-2008, the European Investment Bank provided a total of EUR 3.6bn for projects in Finland. Industry and services, with 30% of EIB total lending in Finland over the last five years, mainly for the knowledge economy, and in particular research and development activities, accounted for the lion’s share of EIB activity in the period.

The bank's Vice-President Eva Srejber said: ‘The EIB attaches particular importance to the development of a knowledge-based economy in the Union, which assures the long-term growth of European economies. We are happy to assist such promising initiatives.'

Fighting Cybercrime and its causes

Following the Federal Ministry of Justice's invitation to stakeholders for consultation to consider accession and ratification of the International Convention on Cybercrime, adopted in 2001 by the Treaty of Budapest back in July, the need for a global framework to guide cross border enforcements; reciprocal technical exchanges; legal developments and spreading best practices in respect of all cybercrime issues around the world, has become even more imperative.

In the US, a serial hacker has been charged with carrying out the largest theft of credit card identities ever recorded, in a sophisticated scam in which he and accomplices allegedly stole at least 130m accounts from big retail companies.

Albert Gonzalez, 28, of Miami, who once worked with the US secret service, is accused of working with two unidentified Russian conspirators to hack into the databases of retail chains having studied checkout machines deployed by one of their victims, using that information to break into the company's computer systems and upload information on to servers set up in three locations in the US, as well as Latvia, Ukraine and the Netherlands His comprehensive 14-page indictment reveal that Gonzalez and his co-conspirators are said to have set up a sophisticated system for hacking into and downloading credit card numbers from retail chains. They then turned their focus to Fortune 500 companies, scouring corporate websites for security weaknesses using 'malware' — malicious software that attacks computer systems and systematically steals data, installing "sniffer" programmes that look for financial information.

Federal investigators and policy makers have become increasingly focused on identity theft as a criminal growth area culminating in President Barrack Obama recently creating the post of "cyber tsar" to combat threats to government and private computer networks. His appointee to the aforementioned post Melissa Hathaway, left the post a few weeks ago for 'personal reasons'(see CyberschuulNews 349)

Gonzalez is already being held in jail in New York, accused with others of stealing the credit identities of about 40 million people worldwide. He faces 20 years in prison if convicted of the latest charges.

Can the Digital economy lift us out of crisis?
Abi Bilesanmi

In Titi Omo-Ettu's lecture 'Politics and reality of telephone subscriber registration in emerging markets', he highlighted the success of mobile telephony from a socio-political and economic perspective, based on the subscription figures as well as being at the centre of the efficacy of the new social media as a news distribution tool and its usefulness as an agent of political change. He articulated challenges and made recommendation of a shift in cultural attitudes which elevate ICT to a level where it is perceived as a public good. In addition to the merits of improved accountability and governance, there is an overwhelming case for economic development.

If we still need to ask the question 'what is in this digital economy for us?' The answer is that the digital economy has tremendous potential to generate huge revenues across all sectors. The big challenge is to turn this advantage into sustainable growth and create new jobs. It is therefore incumbent on governments to show leadership by adopting coordinated policies that dismantle existing barriers to new services. They should seize the opportunity of a new generation of Nigerians who will soon be calling the shots in the African market place. These young people are intensive internet users and are also highly demanding consumers. To release the economic potential of this sector of the populace - the 'internet cafe natives', we must make access to ICT and digital content an easy and universal.

With Seacom international cable fully operational from July 2009, the fibre project due in 2010 and France Telecoms LION project that will connect various of the Indian Ocean islands to mainland East African countries, we see ample evidence that in that part of Africa the digital sector has made strong progress with more Africans now regularly using the internet, many of them via a high-speed connection making South and East Africa a true and emerging force in broadband internet. With the proliferation of mobile telephony and digital technology in parts of Africa, we can ill afford to be left behind. The digital economy can advance even further as a generation of "digitally savvy" young Nigerians becomes a strong market driver for growth and innovation. Building on the potential of the digital economy is essential for Africa's sustainable recovery from the economic crisis simply because of the scope for development. Today we need to ask the public what future strategy the governments should adopt to make the digital economy run at full speed.

Where is the link between the digital economy and economic advancement? People of working age are the most active internet users. They will regularly use advanced services to create and share online content almost on a daily basis. By extension they will have more advanced internet skills than the rest of the population. They will download or view online content like videos or music. And even if they begrudge paying for these services, many of them will do so compared to the rest of the population and many will pay more for offers of better service and quality. As a result, internet use will soar as these "digital natives" begin their professional lives, increasingly shaping and dominating market trends. As traditional business models stall, companies will have to offer services attractive to the next generation of users. It is therefore incumbent on legislators that they create the right conditions to facilitate access to new online content while also ensuring remuneration for the creators.

The Blueprint

Indonesia (a country of similar geographical size and population) embarked on a preparatory Assistance Project on Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for Human Development. This is a one-year project aimed at forming a broad-based national partnership, develop a national strategy for using ICT for human development, especially poverty reduction and convert the national strategy into future projects. The project is focusing on future initiatives that serve the poor directly with information required to improve their lives by most appropriate technology. Examples include the promotion of radio backed by strong information service in rural communities, farmer access to the Internet for national and international market information, and web-based eco-tourism promotion for remote villages. Its achievements include a national dialogue and strategy on ICT for human development and poverty reduction; a programme document to implement the strategy and short term pilot projects.

While those in the industry bemoan the nation's leadership on its snail's pace (or ignorance to be precise) in getting to grips with the revolution of ICT that appears to be passing the nation by, one is forced to make a comparative analysis with what is going on in another emerging market - Malaysia. In 1994, a National IT Council (NITC) was established. Though we have the National Information Technology Development Agency, the Malaysian equivalent is chaired by its President Mahathir and made up primarily of government ministers and a number of top company executives. This indicates the government is taking a lead on the objectives of enhancing the development and utilization of ICT as a strategic technology for national development. While in Nigeria it appears there is a power struggle between the government and players in the telecoms industry (e.g. the sale of NITEL or not), in Malaysia the telecoms industry acts as a think-tank at the highest level and advising the government on matters pertaining to the development of ICT.

This essay recommends that upcoming challenges for digital economy should be raised in a public consultation launched by a Commission as the first step towards a new ICT strategy which the Commission should aim to present within a reasonable timeframe within a context of establishing the role and potential of the digital economy for economic modernisation and in generating sustainable growth and jobs by delving into the potential benefits of developing high speed broadband Internet infrastructures and outline plans for best stimulating the demand side of digital economy.
What is the proof of the sustainability of a digital economy in the face of an economic downturn? Well there are several signs that the IT job market in the UK is beginning to improve, with fewer high profile, large scale lay-offs and more job market surveys producing reasons to be positive. Figures for the second quarter of the year, while still painful, show the number of IT jobs on offer is increasing and The Chartered Institute of Personnel and KPMG say in their quarterly report that IT vacancies are set to increase in the third quarter as IT is no longer seen in the majority of companies as a service that can be cut - it is recognised as a way to reduce costs and provide businesses with a competitive advantage.

There is an overwhelming sense that other emerging markets have stolen a march on the ICT/Digital revolution and it is 'catch up' time. The digital economy is here and here to stay. Ready or not

CyberschuulNews 351

Eviction: FCDA rattles Mtel

There was report during the week that the Federal Capital Development Authority, FCDA, forcibly evicted Mtel from its head office in Maitama, Abuja and gave it a respite only when the presidency intervened.

NITEL, Nigeria’s First National Operator and its Mobile subsidiary, Mtel have, over the years, suffered neglect and institutional indecision as government shows that it is confused on what to do with the companies.

nternet draught occasioned by economic downturn

While the telecommunications industry remains relentless in harnessing the power and opportunities of information technology in the face of a global economic downturn, the picture is not so rosy in other sectors. As the economic downturn continues to bite and businesses feel its teeth marks, they are moving to restrict when users can browse the Internet on their notebooks on their premises.

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that in New York, coffee outlets which hitherto offered free Wi-Fi but now feeling the icy grip of the economic downturn, had signs put up back in the spring of 2008 (when the crunch was most acute) warning that laptops are not allowed at certain hours unless the customer is eating as well as surfing or otherwise using their notebooks. Businesses owners, facing rising costs and falling revenue, argue they can no longer accommodate clients who take up the space and use electricity for hours on end while ordering little to nothing else.

No Free Lunch
Small independent coffee shops are plugging up their outlets to discourage surfers, and save electricity. In San Francisco, some shops are taking a similar but subtle approach with signs that ask laptop users to share tables; some put up a rule that does not allow notebook use during busy business hours on Fridays and Saturdays; others are making a more concerted effort to restrict or ban portables. This is likely to have an effect on notebooks and other ultra portables whose small designs lend them to being used at coffee shops and other public areas.

However larger coffee or bookstore chains such as Starbucks or Borders obviously enjoying economies of scale and which often or always charge for Wi-Fi hotspot access, are not imposing such restrictions on notebooks and their users.

While this does represent a death knell for wi-fi users, the new rules can be hard on professionals who do not have offices such as independent film directors and freelance journalists, used to interviewing people and networking in coffee shops. The proliferation of internet surfing while leisurely coffee-sipping which characterised the years, it is reported, may soon be distant memories.
Is this the end or the beginning of the end? Neither - we hope.

EU invests a fresh € 18 million in future ultra high-speed mobile internet

As of 1 January 2010, the European Union will invest € 18 million into research that will underpin next generation 4G mobile networks. The European Commission decided to start the process of funding research on Long Term Evolution (LTE) Advanced technology, that will offer mobile internet speeds up to a hundred times faster than current 3G networks.

LTE is a 4G wireless broadband technology developed by the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), an industry trade group. The technology is named "Long Term Evolution" because it represents the next step (4G) providing significantly increased peak data rates. Its specification boasts a potential for 100 Mbps downstream and 30 Mbps upstream, reduced latency, scalable bandwidth capacity, and backwards compatibility with existing GSM and UMTS technology. Future developments could yield peak throughput close to 300 Mbps.

The EU's investment represents a demonstration of its foresight that LTE will boost the capacities of network operators enabling them to provide faster mobile broadband to more users at lower prices and to less populated regions bridging "digital divide" between rural and urban areas, enabling mobile networks to benefit from the "digital dividend" and use the frequencies freed by the switchover from analogue to digital TV thus revolutionising Europe's mobile telecoms market. With the above listed benefits that LTE can deliver, it is becoming the industry's first choice for next generation mobile networks

Attesting the potential of LTE technology, Viviane Reding, the EU's Commissioner for Telecoms and Media said, "LTE technologies will turn mobile phones into powerful mobile computers. Millions of new users will get ultra high-speed internet access on their portable devices, wherever they are. This will create tremendous opportunities and plenty of space for growing the digital economy."

EU funding follows currently trials by mobile operators in Finland, Germany, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the UK and is expected to be commercially available in Sweden and Norway in the first half of 2010. . This led to the development of the first concept for a LTE-based network infrastructure.
Last month, the European Commission decided to invest in research on the enhanced version of LTE, aptly called LTE Advanced. In September, the Commission will start to negotiate the details with project consortia, including the flagship ARTIST4G that builds on the achievements of the (WINNER) projects and unites 4G industry and researchers from Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the UK. The new projects are expected to start in January 2010.

Leading mobile operators and manufacturers around the world such as Orange, TeliaSonera, T-Mobile, AT&T, NTT-DoCoMo, Verizon, Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia Siemens Networks have already committed to using the LTE standard. By 2013, operators worldwide are expected to invest nearly € 6 billion ($ 8.6 billion) in LTE equipment, according to market analysts.

Overall, between 2007 and 2013 the EU will invest more than €700 million into research on future networks, half of which will be allocated to wireless technologies contributing to development of 4G and beyond 4G networks.

Welcome to the Future. No sleepwalking
Abi Bilesanmi

Barely had we settled with the predominant role of information and communication technologies - the exchange of information and data as the basis of human development and rebalancing the distribution of power within societies and among nations, the game appears to have moved on. The current information revolution (IR) has morphed into new bodies of knowledge such as Megatronics Engineering, Bioinformatics, and Nano-technology.

As far back as 1994, Professor Leonard Adleman at the University of Southern California was looking at DNA computing, commonly called biomolecular computing then an emerging field that used DNA and biochemistry instead of silicon-based electronics. The original objective was to use biomolecules to beat electronic computers at solving large complex problems. Indeed there was skepticism about biomolecular computing surpassing electronic computers but 10 years later, researchers showed a DNA computer so small that roughly a trillion of them could fit into a microlitre (a millionth of a litre) and since then they have shown off new computational systems that make use of enzymes that naturally occur in a living cell.

Shapes of DNA have been used to enhance the production of circuits for next-generation computer chips. Researchers reporting in Nature Nanotechnology have now shown how to get engineered DNA to self-organise on silicon. The arrangement or ‘origami’ can be designed to serve as a scaffold for electronic components just six billionths of a metre apart. Making chips with components closer together leads to smaller devices and faster computers - about eight times better than the current industry produces.

DNA that had hitherto been used to do simple number crunching are now used to effectively solve classic logic conundrums with strands of DNA designed to give off a green light corresponding to "yes". In nanotechnology, researchers are already working on programs which bridge the gap between a computer programming language and DNA computing code. The talk is of computers that can diagnose and treat cancers autonomously. Using more sophisticated biochemistry, they are able to implement simple logic programs, which are more akin to the way people program electronic computers.

The purpose of highlighting these advancements in computer technology is that it serves a riposte to those who argue that regardless of the fact that the telecoms industry stands out as a beacon and a symbol of hope that at least something (or some thing) can work in Nigeria, despite operators, regulators, vendors and even network users all agree to the fact that Nigeria is a real market for the telecoms business and because we live in a country where years of savage military rule that has pillaged the country, we should place some sort of moratorium on development. Whilst there may be arguments in favour of this view, the technology industry (of which telecoms is an integral part) industry is one that uniquely lives or dies by results - results which are specific, measurable and visible. If these results in Nigeria are as described i.e. specific, measurable and visible, then we should them from the roof top with pride. We should encourage, amplify support for the industry and use it as a vehicle and a blueprint for other industries.

Besides we have no choice. Technology is like a conveyor belt better still a rolling juggernaut. If you can not keep up, you are fresh out of luck. You simply can not stop the wheels of innovation and progress or indeed jump off just because you can not cope with its speed neither can it nor should it wait for us to get our act together. I share the sentiments that our infrastructure, governance and economy do not indicate we are an emerging market in the broader sense but telecommunications has proved the exception to the norm and that is no small measure down to the dynamism and hard work of those in the industry.

The point is that when educating a smarter planet, its systems that may need schooling. From a telecoms perspective, it appears that the people are already signed up. Carping is not exactly what is needed right now because while we carp about what the fuss about third generation network is, in Europe the EU and operators are pouring money into fourth generation broadband technology which is a hundred times faster. We have got to shape up or ship out


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