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ATCON to fly ISP empowerment Agenda

Recently elected President of Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria, ATCON, Mr. Titi Omo-Ettu, told a select audience of young entrepreneurs in Lagos during the week that he would take the association through a path of 'inclusive communication' and 'empowerment of every subgroup therein' so that their businesses can prosper and they would serve their customers better.
 
He noted, in particular, that the Internet Service Provider sub-group which appeared to have been the most endangered sub-group in the industry has a good prospect of turning around their businesses if they restrategise and adopt the plans the Association has in stock.
 
According to him, the plans are yet to be endorsed by the Association’s Congress but when they eventually do, the association would re-empower its ISP sub-group by giving their sector-association (Internet Services Providers Association of Nigeria, ISPAN) a good platform of empowerment to network its resources and to enjoy regular training and knowledge transfer from renowned providers in other mature and emerging markets.
 
‘Look, gentlemen, with IP, tomorrow is the ISP’s day because yesterday’s 80%Voice/20%data will transform to 80%Data/20%voice tomorrow. And what does that tell us? It tells us it is the internet service providers’ world. But they, ISP's, have to learn new concepts of business and be ready to switch their thought very quickly. What does that is Training and who provides that is ATCON which in reality is the sanctuary the ISPs have avoided all along.’
Mr. Omo-Ettu said study groups have been set up to identify what things his association should be doing to improve service delivery and return on investment rather than the stereotype thinking that associations exist only to fight governments and themselves.


Online ebook Store: A new initiative from Google


 
Google has finalised plans and obtained all necessary approvals to launch its much awaited online e-book store. The site, named Google Editions, is touted to be the most serious competitor to Amazon.com, and is coming barely within months of Apple Inc launching a similar website, iBooks, to complement its sister site, iTunes, which presently dominates electronic music sales worldwide.
 
E-books have garnered increasing popularity in recent years with the exponential increase in storage capacity of mobile devices like smartphones and PDAs, as well as the launch of dedicated ebook readers, like Amazon.com’s Kindle, and other niche devices like the phenomenally selling iPad. Responding to the trend, many publishers are releasing e-book versions of their new and old book titles, this despite rising piracy concerns.
 
Google operates an already popular website called Google Books, which archives and distributes out-of-copyright books like literature and science classics. With the launch of Google Editions, popular and contemporary present day work will be available for token sale. Google has promised to launch the site with 500,000 book titles, accessible from any web-connected device.

BB4NG Group set to provide major Broadband Lead Document


 
There is report from Abuja, Nigeria, that a Broadband for Nigeria, BB4NG-group has completed preliminary work on a framework and implementation agenda program for an inroad document for Broadband access to Nigerians. The work which is at the instance of the Nigeria ICT Forum of Partnership Institutions, was initiated as an empowerment document which all stakeholders in Nigeria would be invited to make contribution to before it is delivered to Governments and their agencies in Nigeria.
 
Coordinator of the group, Dr Ibrahim Aminu, indicated that a Full Stakeholders Forum was being planned for end of June when more than 35 stakeholder groups would be represented at a study session to ratify the document. The major groups on the list include Government Institutions, Agencies and parastatals, the Universities and research centres, the organised private sector, civil society groups, the professions, trade associations and the political class. 

ICT Watch Network announces plan for lectures and recognitions

ICT Watch Network – a leading Nigerian television programme which relays on MITV and TVC has announce a plan  to assemble Africa’s Digital ‘who is who’ in Nigeria at a date to be confirmed. A major highlight of the initiative is the Africa Digital Awards & Lecture Series.
 
The lecture will focus on the pace of Africa’s digital growth in the last decade while the Awards are designed to recognise and honour experts, companies and individuals, who have excelled in ICT development endeavours.


ATCON elects new Exco

The Annual General meeting of the Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria, ATCON, ended with election of a 12 member Executive Committee with two years tenure. The President’s position went to Mr. Titi Omo-Ettu a Lagos based telecommunications engineer who is also Managing Consultant of Telecom Answers Associates. Other members of the committee are Engr. Gerry Ekesiani (Vice President1), Barrister Adewale Jones (Vice President2), Mr David Roberts (National Secretary); Mrs. Maurine Egbuna (Publicity Secretary); Mr Myke Ofili (Treasurer); Engr. Anthony Nwosu (Coordinator, Auxiliary Service Providers’ Sub-group); Mr Macdanielles Ighedosa (Coordinator, Enhanced Services Providers Sub-Group); Mr. Akinlabi Akinbo (Coordinator, Consultants Sub-Group); Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem (Immediate Past President); and Mr Ajibola Olude (Executive Secretary).
 

Local content: Discussion issue for barcamp Nigeria scheduled for UNILAG May 22, 2010


 A gathering of select technology professionals will hold at the university of Lagos on Saturday, May 22, 2010. They will come under the name of Barcamp Nigeria to bring young aspiring technology professionals, especially students together to promote technology advancement in Nigeria.
 
Theme of the discussion is Creating local content for Nigerian web market and Venue is the Centre for Information Technology and system, Unilag Lagos at 9.00am.
 
Scheduled to address the meeting are Simdul Shagaya, CEO of e-motion advertising and the founder of alarena.com; Chinenye Mba-Ozoukwo of eShekels and Titi Omo-Ettu, President Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria, ATCON.


 

 

 

Google to Launch Online ebook Store

Google has finalised plans and obtained all necessary approvals to launch its much awaited online e-book store. The site, named Google Editions, is touted to be the most serious competitor to Amazon.com, and is coming barely within months of Apple Inc launching a similar website, iBooks, to complement its sister site, iTunes, which presently dominates electronic music sales worldwide.

E-books have garnered increasing popularity in recent years with the exponential increase in storage capacity of mobile devices like smartphones and PDAs, as well as the launch of dedicated ebook readers, like Amazon.com’s Kindle, and other niche devices like the phenomenally selling iPad. Responding to the trend, many publishers are releasing e-book versions of their new and old book titles, this despite rising piracy concerns.

Google operates an already popular website called Google Books, which archives and distributes out-of-copyright books like literature and science classics. With the launch of Google Editions, popular and contemporary present day work will be available for token sale. Google has promised to launch the site with 500,000 book titles, accessible from any web-connected device.

 

 

‘Price-Cap’ coming as NCC restrategises on telephone tariff



Acting Executive Vice-chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, Engr Stephen Bello, indicated on Monday that a price cap pronouncement may be Commission’s next move in bringing telephone tariff to desirable level.



A price cap, according to him, is not new and it should not be misconstrued to mean the Commission intends to preside over a perpetual price control regime, but rather a means of establishing price ceiling beyond which no operator is allowed to go and beneath which is a band within which there will be an acceptable figure. This mechanism was used at the inception of GSM services in 2001 when call charges were pitched below N50 per minute. Subsequent market and regulatory interventions have since been driving rates per minute and per second which vary between various operators.



With Bello’s bodytalk, the Commission must have been perturbed that the interconnect rates announced early in the year might not have yielded the desired effect of driving prices down – at least not in the manner it expected. According to Bello, “we in NCC have developed a policy we refer to as price cap regulation where we give a price and the competition can make you to operate within this degree of freedom, but not beyond it”.

 

Ericsson optimistic despite slump in revenue

There is further evidence that the reverberations of the harsh conditions from 2009 are still being felt in the mobile telecoms market leaving network operators wary despite an increase in mobile data traffic in North America and Western Europe, driven by increased consumer usage of smartphones and other devices.

This week Swedish telecommunications equipment maker Ericsson reported a 9% fall in revenue over the first quarter 2009 to SEK45.1bn (£4.1bn) for the first quarter of 2010.

The twin effects of plummeting voice-related sales, such as 2G and tight industry component supplies have seen operating income down by 4%

Earlier job losses and greater efficiencies and continued increase in 3G sales improved gross margin to 39% from 36%, and cash flow turned positive year-on-year -2.9% to 2.3%.

Ericsson’s CEO Hans Vestberg was less apocalyptic than the figures saying sales for comparable units, adjusted for currency exchange rate effects and hedging dropped 16% year-on-year. On Ericsson’s recovery he sounded an optimistic note, ‘The work to regain profitability in our joint ventures is on track and (mobile phone maker) Sony Ericsson shows improved results year-on-year,’ he said.

He also said the industry forecasts that mobile data traffic will double annually over the next five years and such phenomenal growth had helped Ericsson to sign 16 managed services contracts during the quarter which was reflected in increased operator focus on network quality and efficiency.

Vestberg said Ericsson was strengthening its position in North America with the ‘important’ 4G/LTE agreement with AT&T. ‘With a clear roadmap for CDMA, customers show confidence in our broadened offering,’ he said.

 

MTN's stolen Blackberrys blacklisted

Blackberry owners who suffer from frequently interrupted or unavailable data and connection services may have unwittingly purchased stolen smartphones. MTN Spokesman, Wale Goodluck, announced that Research In Motion (RIM), makers of the Blackberry, have blacklisted over 4,000 Blackberry devices which were recently stolen from a shipment en route South Africa, some of which are now in the Nigerian market.

"Unfortunately, some of these blacklisted devices have found their way into Nigeria through what is known as the 'grey market', meaning through unauthorized sources. Worse still, a number of subscribers have unwittingly purchased some of the suspended phones. A couple of those affected have visited our Customer Assistance Centres to complain about loss of service on their Blackberry devices," Wale Goodluck said.

The mobile company forwarded the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number, of the complainants devices and received confirmation from Blackberry that the devices had been blacklisted, and  consequently were not supported by RIM, and would no longer function optimally on any network. Subscribers are consequently being advised to purchase their Blackberrys from authorized network dealer outlets only. “Please, do not buy MTN Blackberry devices from any other source, even if the said Blackberry devices clearly look new or are branded with MTN logo."

 

The United Nations disunited on Cybercrime treaty

The calls for international laws to cope with the growth in cross-border cybercrime as result of the growth in legitimate cross-border computing, such as cloud computing, has been dealt a blow with the United Nations rejecting a Russia-backed proposal for a treaty on cybercrime.

Talks at the 12th perennial UN Crime Congress in Salvador, Brazil, last week which pitched developing countries and the most advanced capitalist countries, led by the EU, US and Canada were unable to reconcile differences between them ended in a declared a compromise that at least left a window open for a global agreement.

The EU and US had refused to countenance a new treaty on cybercrime on the premise that the Budapest Convention on Cyber Crime which was  drafted by the Council of Europe in 2001 ratified by 46 countries remains in place and had worked relatively well for 10 years. Developments such as cloud computing had been the catalyst for the review of the Budapest Convention but the process and its ramifications are proving to be an impediment in carving out a solution.

A UN advisory committee would consider conducting a study of cybercrime, legislation and law enforcement in anticipation of bringing opposing countries closer together to forge a global agreement. It is the means rather than the end that is proving contentious.

The Budapest Convention had become the gold standard for countries drafting computer law giving police powers to access servers in other countries without the permission of the authorities, as long as the system owners sanction the access. But whilst many non-European were happy to ratify the treaty (indeed some already had), developing countries wanted a new treaty drafted by a global process.

Criminals can use different servers across borders making detection more difficult. The police want to be able to secure electronic evidence before they move on and subpoena service providers to hand it over.

The sticking point is how to walk the line between protecting people's data and over-zealous police interference when it is stored in another country by a cloud computing provider.

It appears this will rumble on long after talks in Salvador

 

 

Confusion trails Bharti-Zain acquisition deal 

 

The acquisition deal in which India’s Bharti has reportedly paid $9billion for Zain's African assets appears to be facing renewed problems in some key markets.

Two countries in Bharti’s stable - Congo, Gabon present different kinds of issues on top of which workers of Zain Nigeria are voicing their concerns to the government and the legislature by calling for a thorough examination of the fate of workers, retailers and local shareholders when the deal comes to a conclusion.  Nigerians fear that Bharti will cut jobs, supervise its operations with Indian expatriates where it is not doing so via remote IP resources and introduce impediments to the marketing process which could potentially destroy the investment of up to 100 major Nigerian retailers.

 

It is worth noting that Strive Masiyiwa’s challenge of the legality of the sale of Econet Wireless to VMobile and subsequent buyers is still pending in the courts both in Nigeria and in the Netherlands. This has profound ramifications as Zain Nigeria remains the prime asset of Zain Africa.

 

On April 13, TheNational, an Abu Dhabi based news journal reported that in the Republic of Congo, Thierry Moungalla, the Minister for Telecommunications, said the sale of Zain Congo was illegal and he would not approve the deal under the current conditions. Mr. Moungalla said his government had not been informed of the transfer of the mobile operator and cited an article in the country’s telecoms regulation in which an operator in breach of the law may be fined and has its license suspended or terminated. In Gabon, hostilities are more pronounced with the government reported to have disapproved outright, the sale of Zain Gabon because both operators failed to comply with the country’s telecoms regulations

 

 

While it is remains unclear how the major players will react to the latest acquisition what is clear is that this problem will not dissipate which is the reason why talks are on-going in  Abuja, London,  Brazzaville and Libreville.

 

 

 

Demand for IT services rises

Despite the perceived fragility in the recovery of the global economy, there is further evidence that IT sector is perhaps faring better than others. This week, Tata Consultancy Services reported a surge in demand for IT services resulting in net fourth quarter profit of $420m, up 9.7% on the previous quarter and 59.7% on the same period last year.

Figures revealed show revenues grew to $1,686m, up 3.07% from the third quarter and 17.61% year-on-year.

The news comes after Infosys Technologies, India's second largest software exporter, reported 8.7% year-on-year growth in profit following an upturn in demand for services in Europe.

For the full year, TCS net profit reached $1,450m, up 29.01%. Its operating profit reached $1,680m, up 18.02% and it took on an extra 16,668 IT professionals during the year.

Its CEO and Managing Director, Natarajan Chandrasekaran said ‘Strong volume growth of 17% during the year has rounded off an exceptional year for TCS. Our sales and execution machine is primed and we have laid a solid platform for growth’

Gartner - an information technology research and advisory firm - predicts a 5.3% growth in worldwide IT spending this year as businesses and consumers step up their spending on hardware.

 

Immigrants to fill UK IT skills gap

Immigration has traditionally taken centre stage in UK elections. But it appears that the rhetoric of immigrants ‘taking jobs’ from indigenes may have some truth in it as a study of human resources professionals reveal that IT staff from other countries are snapping up jobs in the UK but only because foreign workers are cost-effective and the British workforce does not have the required skills.

The study found that over half of respondents (51%) agree that foreign IT workers are employed in the UK because British workers do not have the skills companies want. This is up from 39% two years ago, suggesting the UK has fallen further behind the necessary IT skills levels necessary for businesses to compete globally.

The study, which was carried out by NatWest International Personal Banking (IPB), suggests unless this precarious skills gap in IT is plugged, it will be filled foreign workers.

Dave Isley, head of NatWest IPB, said, "Demand for IT is on the up, which might seem counter-intuitive in a recession. However, entrepreneurial activity and business start-ups can thrive in economic downturns, and almost all of these will require IT support of some sort. Also IT services are now such an integral part of modern business infrastructure that, whatever stage of the economic cycle, companies need to stay on top of IT as a basic hygiene factor."

 

 

African governments may be in a fix
over Bhartis’ acquisition of Zain



Anticipating the effects of offshore outsourcing, job layoffs, the decimation of retailers’ market and processes, remote maintenance of IP networks, and other affiliated problems associated with cash-for-share movement of ailing telecom companies, a number of African governments are now brainstorming on how to confront any such problems that may arise from Bharti’s imminent takeover of Zain's operations in Africa.


The experience of Zain in Nigeria, for example, has been one of a lack of continuity – an endless tale of change of ownership from Econet Wireless through, Vodacom, Celtel, Zain to whatever it may be called now. Such a lack of continuity is not without its own penalties for the local market.


Early indication reveals that Nigeria may not be one of those countries whose government is worrying over the impasse and indeed Zain Nigeria, it is reported, was pivotal in Bharti’s takeover, but it is by no means immune to the aforementioned problems.


Bharti, in a bid to reduce operating costs will, without doubt, outsource a chunk of its local operations to Indian companies and supervise the current Zain’s Ericcson Managed Services remotely leaving thousands of African workers out of work consequently compounding the socio-economic problems of these individuals, their families and wider communities.


Bharti is known to have pioneered low-cost telecoms in India and it boasts of its process capable of bringing down Zain's high cost base and win subscribers, and to get subscribers to talk more using lower tariffs. But what gives? Every government needs to examine that.


These issues will be the focus of attention of discussions sponsored by concerned African citizens to be held in London this week to examine the nature and implications of this recent acquisition.

 

Wimax speeds up 4G standard to meet user demand for bandwidth

Massive demand for radio-based 4G broadband has prompted the Wimax Forum to speed up the release of standards that will improve the throughput rate of Wimax networks by more than 50%.

The forum said the first products to support the standards are expected later this year and it was fast tracking profiling and certification plans for the next-generation Wimax Release 2, based on IEEE 802.16m, to prepare for product certification in late 2011.

Forum chairman Ron Resnick said Wimax is specially suited to providing fast, cheap network access in areas of low population density, but the new standards will also offer urban possibilities and there was "explosive growth" in global demand for 4G wireless broadband services, led by India. "Even without dramatic growth in average customer demand, successful expansion of the customer base can threaten network overload," he said

The forum is tracking 559 Wimax deployments in 147 countries that it estimates cover more than 620 million people revealing that some Wimax users are consuming 7-10 gigabits a month, it said.

The forum has certified more than 130 devices and 60 base stations for the 2.3GHz, 2.5GHz and 3.5GHz bands.

 

 

Next generation iPhone from Apple

 

Following the iPad going on sale last weekend, Apple this week introduced the next-generation iPhone OS 4. It will include more than 100 new user features among which the most important improvements is the addition of multitasking - which is the ability to switch between applications running simultaneously.

 

Responding to consumers and keeping up with their competitors, the feature has been reported to be at the top of iPhone users' wish lists and given the glitches that befallen other smartphones in recent times  Apple claims it has been added without degrading performance.

On the iPhone, users will be able to switch between running software from any application or the home screen by calling up a multitasking tray which will get access to seven multitasking services making it possible for an application to complete a task while another is running in the forefront and being able to switch off an application and then restore it to its previous state.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs, unveiling the OS 4 at a news conference held at the company's headquarters in California, said Apple plans to release the OS for the iPhone and iPod Touch in the next couple of months and for the iPad later in the year.

Apple also has added its iBooks software for reading digital books purchased and downloaded from the company's iBookstore.

 

Troubled times ahead for the UK IT industry 

As electioneering gathers pace in the UK following the announcement  this week of  May 6 as polling day, battle lines are drawn by political parties on government expenditure and it appears that IT spending will not be spared of the guillotine,

Sir Peter Gershon, former managing director of GEC Marconi and COO of BAe Systems, has told the Conservative Party it could save between £2bn and £4bn by stopping any new major spend on IT. This is grim news for the industry whose recovery from the recession remains fragile but is particularly embarrassing for Prime Minister Gordon Brown who as Chancellor of the Exchequer invited Peter Gershon to lead a major review of efficiency across the whole UK Public Sector in August 2003 with the task of investigating how the public sector could save money by cutting back office costs and getting better value.

He said in an interview with the Financial Times that stopping major new spending and cancelling poorly performing projects could save billions, although cancellation fees might eat up the first year's savings. He also said the public sector could make further savings by getting a better deal out of current contracts and suppliers.

There is another report from fellow ex GEC Marconi Director Martin Read who reported last year that, if the government followed his advice, it could reduce spending by £7bn a year. Read, a former chief at Logica - one of Europe's largest IT outsourcing and services -   like Gershon, was commissioned in 2008 by the current Chancellor, Alistair Darling, to produce a report on how to cut the government's back office and IT budget.

The IT industry in the UK should brace itself

 

 

Former Communications Minister passes on

 

Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, Nigeria’s Minister of Communication from 1993 to 1995 died during the Easter break in circumstances described as shock resulting from armed robbery attack.

Alhaji Rimi was a quintessential politician, known for bluntness and grassroot popularity especially in his home state, Kano.

He it was who in the early days of the Nigerian Communications Commission in 1994 sourced from NITEL the initial N50million with which NCC commenced operation.

 

… as does the 'father of computing'

Dr Henry Edward Roberts dubbed the ‘father of the personal computer’ who kick-started the careers of Microsoft founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen, has died at the age of 68.

Dr Roberts who invented the Altair 8800, a machine that sparked the home computer era and whose program known as Altair-Basic was the foundation of Microsoft's business. Gates and Allen contacted Dr Roberts after seeing the machine on the front cover of a magazine and offered to write software for it.

The Microsoft founders in a statement said ‘Ed was willing to take a chance on us - two young guys interested in computers long before they were commonplace - and we have always been grateful to him’ 

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak told technology website CNET that Dr Roberts had taken ‘a critically important step that led to everything we have today.’

Having set up Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) and struggling financially in the mid-1970's, Dr Roberts developed the Altair 8800 which attracted the attentions of Paul Allen and Bill Gates. The pair eventually moved to Albuquerque - the home of MITS - where they founded Micro-Soft, as it was then known, to develop their software

He died in hospital on 1 April after a long bout of pneumonia.

 

 

The iPad goes on sale in the US

The long-awaited iPad tablet computer finally went on sale in the US last weekend. The first generation model has wi-fi but not 3G connectivity is not yet available outside the US.

According to reports, queues for the new iPad were considerably smaller than the crowds which gathered for the launch of the iPhone in 2007 going somewhat to confirm the premonition that the market for a device between the smartphone and the laptop will be more difficult to fill.

The iPads purchased Saturday can access the Internet at wireless hotspots, and prices ranged between $499 and $699, depending on the amount of memory. Later this month, Apple will make available a version of the device that will access the Web at Wi-Fi hotspots The cheapest iPad that works on both Wi-Fi and 3G will cost $629

Despite rave reviews of the i-pad being a huge hit, enthusiasm is not unanimous with critics saying it' is an over-hyped, overpriced large touch screen that does less than a laptop.  Ian Fogg, an expert analyst at Forrester wrote in a blog post , ‘Apple has left too much in the hands of consumers to transfer and manage manually. One of those consumers Estefania Acquaviva, 13, a ‘bookworm’, said she could not wait to start downloading books on the iPad. She went on to say ‘You put together an iPhone, a laptop, an iPod, and a TV and a book, and you get the iPad - which is changing the future.’

 

Music no doubt to Apple’s ears

 

Industry Review (THE UK)
The Courts come to the Industry’s rescue again

It will appear that the ICT industry the world over is grateful for the intervention of the courts. ISPs, indexing services and other online service providers in the UK are breathing a collective sigh of relief following a High Court ruling this week that gave much-needed clarity to UK copyright law.

Despite the Parliamentary wrangling currently surrounding the contentious Digital Economy Bill, the High Court has effectively said that they will only be liable for 'authorising' infringement by their users if they fail to put in place some fairly basic safeguards. They are required to set their systems up in such a way that they are, to all intents and purposes, apparently sanctioning the infringements.

 Having examined each case on its merits, judges have found ambiguity in the law which leaves companies dangerously exposed, not knowing if their activities fall on right side of the law.

This is a particular problem in the ever-changing world of online services for which long-established copyright laws have largely been inadequate – until now.

Legal requirements that have emanated are clear and concise. They are not liable for infringements they do not know about, but should have a structure in place to let rights-holders alert them to unlawful material. Where they have been alerted, companies should operate 'notice and takedown' policies in a manner that  must be seen to be strong on intent and implementation.

Another important factor for the Court in determining liability will be where enabling copyright infringement appear to be the company's entire reason for being in business regardless of whether the company claimed to perform other functions. The acid test here will be if the company collected money from members who accessed copyright-infringing material.

This landmark case is the first time that a UK court has addressed these issues head-on, and it laid out, in clear terms,   how it would address the issue of liability for others' infringement.

Ofcom plans to slash UK Mobile rates

In a move that is sure to delight customers, the UK regulator Ofcom has laid out plans to slash the price charged by mobile network operators for connecting calls from other network operators from 4.3p to 0.5p per minute by 2015. The regulator also wants consumers to be able to change mobile operators within 24 hours, taking their numbers with them.

Ofcom, in proposals published this week, said the move which will see cost of landline calls to mobile phones cut was possible because of very large increases in data volumes (data traffic on mobile networks had risen 200% over the past year), which reduced the proportion of costs attributable to voice; a decline in the cost of network equipment; and the removal of the contribution by termination charges to the joint and common costs of the network.

Ofcom can realistically expect to feel the wrath of UK operators as the latter have a bit to contend with in the short term. First ly the cut in so-called mobile termination rates affecting billions of calls a year thus slashing mobile operators' income from connecting calls; secondly the prospect of mobile network operators facing  a potentially expensive auction for so-called 4G spectrum; and thirdly switch in underlying technologies from analogue time division multiplexing to digital Internet Protocol-based Long Term Evolution technology. But in the long term all should lower capital and operating costs to mobile operators.

The move from Ofcom comes in the wake of a 2009 European Commission directive to cut termination rates to reflect the actual cost of completing calls. It is aimed at introducing more flexibility via designing competitive call packages between landline and mobile operators as well as promoting competition for the benefit of consumers given the present regime ends in March 2011.

This is clearly good news for consumers. Long may it continue.

 

EDITORIAL
Our demand for 3 ‘e’s

Despite the ridiculous suggestion that Acting President Goodluck Jonathan has no business aspiring to the highest office after his 'cover duty' in May 2011, the issue really needs not arise once he gives a good account of himself. 

We hasten to advise the Acting President about the only 3-point agenda which Nigerians are interested in. We call them the 3 ‘e’s. - “electoral reform”, “electricity supply” and “‘e’ empowerment”. 

The first is simple to implement and needs not take all the 14 months he has to spend in office. Take a decision that the Uwais' Electoral Reform Proposal be implemented and ensure it is done with a human face. What is required is not time but courage. 

Electricity supply may take some time since the solution model is about 'throwing money at it', but a good courageous decision will start yielding result within 3 months if the decision is taken to truly and sincerely liberalize the energy industry, an Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC having been in place already. The emphasis is on ‘truly’ and ‘sincerely’, not that we have not been at this all along.  The solutions are no longer in lengthy study reports and big volumes of Exco memos and Documents. The telecommunications industry should be held up as the template the energy industry must replicate. 

The ‘e’ empowerment issue may admittedly be fairly strange. It is no big grammar. A funding support to broadband infrastructure at the backbone and primary distribution levels is the secret.  It will not strike the eyes in what the Communications Policy draft which the 25 man committee (25?!!! Oh boouugh) is just about to craft. Infact the document will mean nothing if broadband internet access does not come at its instant. 

The 3 ‘e’s do not require much time. They need courage and dare devil decision making. They have dared Mr. Acting President by saying he has no right to return to office. He too can dare them by doing what is right and getting out of the way for them.  

Nigerians will take care of the remaining. We know our people.

 

ICT industry raises hope in Jonathan
as Yar' Adua’s tenure is rated low 

Mr. Leo Stan Eke, an ICT marketing czar and entrepreneur rated the Yar’ Adua period of governance in Nigeria as a low time for the growth of information technology. He told a Lagos audience where a book on “e-knowledge -  Time is running out” written by Mr. Chris Uwaje,  that Obasanjo’s eight years of administration raised the  worth and attention paid to the technology application industry but things nose dived since Mr. Yar’ Adua took over. He hoped that Acting President Goodluck Jonathan would reverse the trend in the remaining time for the industry to pick up again.

 

Bharti fills its boots as Zain Nigeria may move on again

Having deliberated a few weeks ago who will not buy Zain Nig, we now know who will. On 30th March, Indian top mobile operator Bharti Airtel said it had sealed a 10.7-billion-dollar deal to buy Zain's African assets, ranking it among the world's top five cellular players.

The acquisition, ranked the second-largest foreign takeover in Indian corporate history, sees Bharti acquire Kuwait-based Zain’s African mobile services operations in 15 countries including Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania.

Having failed in two attempts to acquire South African mobile giant MTN, the acquisition is a dream come true for company chairman and founder Sunil Bharti Mittal  of gaining a foothold in Africa, one of the world's fastest  telephone markets.

In an emailed statement, the 52-year-old a billionaire tycoon called Africa "the continent of hope and opportunity", he said the agreement was ‘a landmark for the global telecom industry and a game changer for Bharti’ and the company "will be transformed into a truly global telecom company with operations across 18 countries, fulfilling our vision of building a world-class multinational," added.

It is perhaps the market’s potential given that phone ownership in the countries where Zain operates stands at just 32 out of every 100 compared with 51 in Bharti’s native India, coupled with Mittal’s entrepreneurial foresight which sees him look to expanding foreign revenues amid a savage price war at home are what lie behind this acquisition.

But Bharti can not expect this to be a cake walk. Analysts say, having signed the deal at Zain Africa BV's headquarters in Amsterdam, he will have to utiltise all his entrepreneurial chutzpah to turn around Zain's loss-making African operations but the Nigerian market – the fastest growing – offers encouragement though it has been losing subscribers to rivals.

Romal Shetty, telecommunications head at global consultancy KPMG’s India said Bharti will be entering ‘not just one market but 15 markets.’ He said ‘You can't play a single strategy for all of them,’ and Mittal has ‘a lot of work ahead.’

Analysts say the strategy here for Bharti - which pioneered low-cost telecoms in India - will be to bring down Zain's high cost base and win subscribers, and to get subscribers to talk more using lower tariffs.

More litigation worries for Apple

A Taiwanese Touchpad technologies company said this week it had filed a complaint with to the US International Trade Commission (ITC) urging it (US) to prevent the electronics giant from selling touchscreen products such as the iPhone, iPod much-anticipated touchscreen tablet computer, the new iPad.

Elan Microelectronics Corporation claimed Apple infringes on patents regarding touch-sensitive input devices with the ability to detect the simultaneous presence of two or more fingers. It says the patents are violated in the iPhone, iPod Touch, MacBook and Magic Mouse products as well as the iPad and is demanding the ITC bar Apple from importing the products into the United States, which are manufactured overseas, and prevent it from selling any of the products in the United States that it has already imported.

In a statement Elan said, ‘We have taken the step of filing the ITC complaint as a continuation of our efforts to enforce our patent rights against Apple's ongoing infringement.’

The ITC, it is reported, will decide whether it will institute an investigation within 30 days.

 

 

Industry Review
Innovation Centres: The Foundation and the Future of IT

 

With all the premonition and efforts and from the industry’s players, there is no stronger indication necessary action needs to be taken now to prepare a strong IT foundation for its sustainability and global competitiveness than the UK government’s recent announcement that Information and communications technologies will spearhead the its attempt to grab a significant share of tomorrow's global multi-billion-pound markets.  

 Internet technologies will be the key industry sector of the future as new opportunities emerge on a smarter planet. SMEs are uniquely positioned to seize them starting with smarter technology and a dynamic infrastructure that connects IT to all of the digital and physical assets in a business. Thousands of midsize companies are already building a more dynamic infrastructure to reflect this. 

The government was accepting a report from Hermann Hauser who has a proven track record having helped start Acorn Computers, the UK's most successful PC maker, in the 1980s and currently head of Amadeus Partners, a venture capital company who said economic capabilities need to translate its leads into market share or really big money something partially responsible for productivity gap between the US and the UK. He said the UK was "strong at the brainy end, not at the low-cost end" of the value chain.

He said the development of "clusters" was essential to his proposed strategy and the risk capital needed to launch world-beating companies could be very low. "For example, a software company doesn't require the capital investment that a silicon fabrication plant needs, and the margins can be much better," he said.

Accepting the Hauser Report on the current and future role of technology and innovation centres in the UK, business secretary Peter Mandelson said the government would support the development of a network of technology and innovation centres. He said “I am now determined that the UK builds a capability for the long term, through a more strategic and sustained approach to investing in these centres. Hauser is right that these centres need long term, predictable funding and I am committed to making that happen. I want to understand the UK's strengths, weaknesses and where there are gaps we need to invest in.”

Emerging markets and their governments need to take heed.

 

WEEKEND SATIRE
Home may be where the problem is
Aftermath of 2.3 GHz court verdict

by
titi omo-ettu
 

One of the engaging issues in the early days of deregulation in emerging telecom markets was serial litigation from operators, which had the potential to slow down growth, stifle competition and impede tariff reduction. It was Telecom Answers Associates, while presenting an industry study report to the new NCC management of the very early days of deregulation in Nigeria that  drew attention to what it called ‘over-litigation’ in several merging markets stressing the importance of addressing the matter right from the fundamentals. 

The issue became a popular talking point for the Commission and the consensus then was that for the survival of the emerging Nigerian telecom industry, a robust and professional Commission was imperative. The operating military decree of the time, according to legalists, left room for manouvre to grow a professional NCC for sustainability in the embryonic industry. The National Communications Act 2003 which emerged almost a decade later, duly lived up to the billing and it did not disappoint. 

There is no doubt that today the NCC met the vision of those founding fathers in that regard and even more. Several operators, especially the so-called ‘big players’ headed for the courts at the slightest opportunity to undermine the Commission’s attempt to achieve rollout out services from every Tom Dick and Harry that held a license. Fortunately every time they went to court, the Commission and industry emerged stronger. 

There was the particularly interesting case of a notable operator’s lawyer who found offence in then proposed Universal Service Provision FUND objective on the premise it would be ‘unfair to us that we contribute money only for others to spend it’.  You have got to hand it to these guys at least they keep things interesting. 

From all indication, the 2.3 GHz imbroglio has refused to go away. The latest news was that NCC pre-emptively issued MOBITEL license for to pick up as soon as the Abuja High Court ruled that its licence be released. Perhaps NCC was thinking ahead just in case an operator proceeded to court to argue that the judge had ‘erred in law’, and to request MOBITEL’s license remained withheld. 

A few days after MOBITEL received its license, THIS DAY newspaper reported on Thursday March 25 that the Federal Ministry of Information and Communications (we dare not say Minister since there was none at the time) went back to court on appeal to request that the judgment be set aside. 

In other words, the returning operator should not be allowed to come into the market. It calls into question whose interest the Federal Ministry of Information and Communications serves. On the face of it, legalism may just be the interest here but certainly not the interest of telephone users  for whose interest the ministry was supposed to be serving. 

Chief MKO Abiola of blessed memory once said ‘With friends like these, who needs enemies’ - if you get my drift.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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