[AfrICANN-discuss] FW: Issue 491: Life in Africas slow lane Congo Telecom and SOCATEL defend their international voice monopolies, diaspora callers ask why?

Anne-Rachel Inne anne-rachel.inne at icann.org
Fri Feb 12 19:12:05 SAST 2010

From: Russell Southwood [mailto:englishlist at balancingact-africa.com]
Sent: Friday, February 12, 2010 2:33 PM
To: Anne-Rachel Inne
Subject: Issue 491: Life in Africas slow lane Congo Telecom and SOCATEL defend their international voice monopolies, diaspora callers ask why?


Issue no 491
12th Feb 2010


Top Story


Telecoms News


Internet News


Computer News


On the Money




Life in Africa's slow lane - Congo Telecom and SOCATEL defend their international voice monopolies, diaspora callers ask why?

Two of Africa's least effective Government incumbent telcos - Congo Télécom (Congo-Brazzaville) and SOCATEL (Central African Republic) are using international monopoly gateways run by international companies. The Governments claims they are cutting down on fraud but the cost of incoming international calling has gone. The costs of calling out are also amongst the highest in Africa. Members of the diaspora from Congo-Brazzaville have already started to protest. Russell Southwood investigates.

In this issue


telecoms news
Nigeria's NCC Steps Into content provides dispute with mobile companies over access and revenue shares
Lack of Power Hampers Rural Mobile Uptake in Kenya
Tanzania: Zantel Records Growth despite economic downturn
Ethiopia: France Telecom wins bid to reform Ethiopia Telecom

Internet NEWS
West Africa: Main One Submarine Cable Project Inches Near Completion
Fresh Storm Brews Over Uganda's National Fibre Optic Cable Project
South Africa: MTN to Match Competitors in Fast Broadband Offering
Computer news
Cash-Strapped IT Body to oversee Two New Projects in Uganda
HIT, Software Development Firm Sign Deal in Zimbabwe
SADC to Start Regional Stock Trading Soon
On the Money
Wireless Roll-Out Delays in South Africa See Jasco Profit Dip 28 Percent
Helios Towers Nigeria secures extra IFC funding
Qtel eyes Iraqi, Algerian markets
South Africa: FNB confirms PayPal talks
Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage
Web and Mobile Data News
People, Events, Jobs and Opportunities, Contracts


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Life in Africa's slow lane - Congo Telecom and SOCATEL defend their international voice monopolies, diaspora callers ask why?

Two of Africa's least effective Government incumbent telcos - Congo Télécom (Congo-Brazzaville) and SOCATEL (Central African Republic) are using international monopoly gateways run by international companies. The Governments claims they are cutting down on fraud but the cost of incoming international calling has gone. The costs of calling out are also amongst the highest in Africa. Members of the diaspora from Congo-Brazzaville have already started to protest. Russell Southwood investigates.

On Thursday 4 February the Minister of Post and Telecommunications proudly announced that it had tracked down "a mafia" that had been operating a call diversion operation, robbing the company of international call income.

According to the Inspector of Post and Telecommunications, Julien Epola, the scam was clearly carried out with inside help from those running the company's digital lines but monitoring equipment looking at international calls had spotted them. According to a report in Les dépêches de Brazaville the monitoring equipment had been installed in the central exchange at Ouenzé by "un sujet étranger non encore identifié" (a foreigner not identified) in August. According to the Minister of Post and Telecommunications Thierry Moungalla it has enabled the country to save 12 billion Fcfa a year (approximately US$24 million).

The gateway has been installed by the Global Voice Group which has an interesting business model. In monopoly countries, it simply takes over all of the international traffic. In addition, it offers monitoring services of the kind described above. But it also encourages African Governments to impose a tax on incoming calls to pay for these services. In more liberalised countries, it insists that all calls go through its gateway for monitoring purposes.

The result? The Congo-B Internet site Mwida reports that many of its readers in France are asking why providers which used to offer a pre-paid calling card for 90 minutes at 6.50 euros has now cut the amount of calling time to 30 minutes for the same price, a staggering 66% cut in minutes offered. When asked, one operator said it was caused by the Ministry of Communications putting a tax on calls. To read the full article (in French) click here<http://lists.balancingact-africa.com/t/6779/239012/992/0/>:

The same problem exists for those calling out of the country. Calls from Congo-Brazzaville fall into the most expensive group across the continent. It is 850 FCFAs a minute (US$1.74) to a mobile in Europe and the USA and 800 FCFAs (US$1.64) to a fixed line for the same destinations.

But having this single anti-competitive service with an unfair tax (that is almost certainly illegal under international law) seems relatively simple compared to the situation in Central African Republic where no less than three companies claim to be offering this service. After a brief period of liberalisation of the gateway, this service was given by the country's Government owned incumbent SOCATEL to Telsoft International, which paid 1.5 billion FCFAs for the privilege.

But the D-G of Socatel then decided to give the contract for the service to an Israeli company called Daniel Investment. The service was agreed and the equipment installed at a cost of 750 FCFAs but nothing happened. Under the contract SOCATEL was supposed to pay back to Daniel Investment 375 million FCFAs. You won't be surprised to hear that this never happened either.

Subsequently the Chef of the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications negotiated a contract with Global Voice who has put its equipment in the Ministry of Communications, according to a report in Le Confident. In other words, there is very little separation between Government and its telco. Three contracts over a relatively short period of time? What on earth can be happening? Those familiar with the old ways of Africa can join up the dots. Is it incompetence or is there some other explanation we're not seeing?

Meanwhile, SOCATEL, a company that has no filed accounts since 2005, has reported debts of 13 billion FCFAs (US$26.6 million).

This is the old Africa of life in the slow lane, where those in power give out "rent-seeking" concessions that add nothing to the economic development of their countries. Neither of these incumbents has either the investment or the expertise to run a telephone company and their finances are so closely co-mingled with those of the Government as to be indistinguishable. It is rather frightening thought that the World Bank sponsored Central African Backbone project might well end up being partly operated by SOCATEL. There surely has to be a better way.....

Two corrections

The story in issue 490 titled " Ghana's Communications Minister stops mast building unilaterally despite Committee  to address the issues" should have made clear (as the article did) that it is the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology (MEST) that has stopped mast building, not the Ministry of Communications.

The story in issue 487 titled Regulator penalises leading mobile companies for QoS issues by shortening licence period: It was the Government, not the regulator that was responsible for this action.

Reader's Feedback

On " Ghana's Communications Minister stops mast building unilaterally despite Committee  to address the issues" in Issue 490.

Mast sharing will happen, now that the easy money is gone for the operators and they have to squeeze every cost down to make money.

Just this week Tigo signed a deal to essentially transfer all their masts to Helios Towers Ghana in exchange for equity in Helios.  This means that Helios can now farm out Tigo's mast space to any of the other operators.

Check out Legon Hill.  The Tower at great hall has been obscured by a forest of masts.  And the university administration stood by and let it happen.

As for the buga-buga style, that's all we know.  Persuasion is out of the question - we have to show where power lies.

Name and address supplied






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Nigeria's NCC Steps Into content provides dispute with mobile companies over access and revenue shares

Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria Telecommunications Commission (NCC) Engineer Ernest Ndukwe has said that the commission was determined to resolve the lingering differences between service providers and GSM operators in the country's telecom industry.

He said this in Abuja at the Public Inquiry organised by the NCC on the proposed guidelines on the Common and Premium short code operation in Nigeria.

President of the Wireless Application Service Providers Association of Nigeria (WASPAN) Goke Akingboro said network operators were fond of denying content providers who constitute membership of WASPAN, access to their network.

He said in other climates, value added service which include common and short premium codes was a multi-billion dollar business but that current practice of network operators leave much to be desired.

Adegbe Ogbe, another content provider said that network operators were skewing revenue sharing formula (75%/25% ratio) against the service providers. He also complained of delay in payments of entitlement by the network providers.

The NCC boss said: "We will look into the revenue sharing formula because we at NCC are given to encouraging small firms to grow so as to provide the needed competition. We will also look into delays in payment by the network operators." He said the event was meant to look into the proposed guidelines on Common and Premium Short Code Operation in Nigeria.

Short codes are special telephone numbers shorter than the full telephone numbers that can be used to address SMS and MMS messages from mobile phones or fixed lines. They are widely used for value added services such as television voting, ordering ring tones, charity donations among others.

"The guidelines are proposed to provide a framework for operation of common short codes, licensing of content aggregators and protection against misuse, that meet international standards", Ndukwe said.

Included in the proposed guidelines are the provisions that text messages sent by consumers must be saved by the network providers for a minimum of six months for security and regulatory reasons, not to be used to pass obscene messages while the service providers are to ensure the numbers are used solely for the purpose for which they are meant.

Network operators present at the inquiry maintained that sharing formulas between them and service provider is a business decision which should not be the concern of the NCC. They also complained of the six months minimum period the messages sent should be saved to be too long.
(Source: Daily Trust)

Lack of Power Hampers Rural Mobile Uptake in Kenya

Lack of power is to blame for the slow expansion of the mobile phone network in rural areas, Safaricom chief executive, Michael Joseph, said on Monday, adding that although the firm was committed to expanding its network coverage in these areas, the exercise had been expensive.

"We are yet to fully penetrate the Kenyan market because of challenges such as lack of power," he said when he opened a new customer service centre in Nanyuki town worth Sh27 million.

However, Joseph, whose company holds 80 per cent of market share with a subscriber base of over 15.3 million, noted that total penetration of the Kenyan market is still in early stages of development. He added that his company is planning to open more outlets by the end of the month to bring quality services closer to the people.

Opening of the Nanyuki retail centre brings to eight the number of such units already unveiled by the firm across the country in the current financial year. By April this year when its financial year ends, Safaricom will have spent some Sh373 million in the retail expansion project. Fourteen new retail centres will have been opened, bringing the total to 32.

"I am delighted by the opening of the Nanyuki retail centre. This unit will help us better serve our growing customer base in this region, in an aesthetically appealing and ambient atmosphere. Backed by our trained staff, we are bringing Safaricom closer to our customers." The Nanyuki centre features an airy design bench-marked against international standards.

It allows subscribers to view new devices available at specially-designed "demo bars" and experience them to make informed choices about the devices on sale. The unit will serve the needs of Safaricom's PrePay and PostPay customers.
(Source: Daily National)

Tanzania: Zantel Records Growth despite economic downturn

Zantel has experienced potential growth in the past 12 months despite the economic downturn. This growth is attributed to an aggressive expansion programme embarked 18 months ago which saw the mobile company investing in network expansion and increased national coverage.

Zantel enjoys one of the largest coverage footprints in Tanzania. The past 18 months has seen more than USD 140m invested to improve quality and coverage of the network. Its main investor Etisala has increased its investment in Zantel over the past 18 months.

This has provided the fuel for the growth for Zantel. It is now enjoying economies of scale as a result of improved access to affordable and modern technology Etisalat's over 95 milion subscriber base in both Africa, Middle East and Asia.

According to Norman Moyo, new Chief Commercial Officer, Etisalat group has confidence in the Tanzanian economy. The increased investment has translated into improved quality of services for Zantel customers which has seen its subscriber base rocketing from 900 thousand to 1.4 million in the past 3 months.

In an exclusive interview with the new Chief Commercial Officer, Norman Moyo, he pointed out t that Zantel's will be focusing on improving customer value, new innovative products and services into the market.

He highlighted that there is a still a lot of Tanzanians who still need mobile and internet services and that focus should move to address underserved communities instead of fighting over a small shrinking market.

Norman Moyo is part of the new leadership introduced to spearhead the turnaround of Zantel. The 36 year old Chief Commercial Officer comes with a wealth of experience managing major telecommunications turnarounds.

He was part of the team that transformed the telecommunications landscape in Zambia as Marketing Director for Celtel Zambia and Chief Marketing Officer of Celtel Nigeria which saw Celtel Nigeria growing to a strong number 2 market leader growing customers from 4.5 million to 17 million customers in 30 months. He started his telecommunication with Econet Zimbabwe in 1998 and before joining Zantel he was working as Group Marketing Director for Zain group in Bahrain.
(Source: Tanzania Daily News)

Ethiopia: France Telecom wins bid to reform Ethiopia Telecom

France Telecom has been selected to manage ETC, the Government-owned telco incumbent, a government official has disclosed. ETC attracted many foreign companies when it floated a bid, a few months ago, inviting firms to undertake its management in a revenue sharing agreement. However, only the three companies remained for the final selection process, according to the source.

MTN, a South African based telecoms company represented in 21 markets in Africa and the Middle East, and Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL), an Indian state-owned telecommunication company, lost the final bid to the French firm.

Negotiations between France Telecom and ETC are still ongoing, but the former is expected to sign the deal and take over the management of the latter within three months, according to the official.

Ethiopia's move to hand over the management of ETC to a foreign company has been described by many local politicians as a first step towards liberalisation. The Ethiopian government's monopoly of, and refusal to liberalise, the telecoms sector was widely criticized by many of its foreign partners, including the IMF.

According to the terms of the deal, the French firm will introduce new schemes to reform the state run telecom's core operations, ranging from service provision to infrastructural maintenance. France telecom is also expected to earn the ETC huge revenues by creating new markets.

ETC is currently embarking on a massive 1.5 billion dollar expansion of all of its telecom services. Improvements include; the offer of various local and international language choices; a 997 information service; building a fibre optic network in order to create an efficient internet connection for the nation, 90 percent of which should be covered by the increasingly popular 3G CDMA phones.

France Telecom will not be responsible for the on-going Chinese ZTE-run projects, which involves the development of Ethiopia's nationwide network to cover 14 major cities, the source said.
(Source: Afrik.com)


telecoms briefs

- South African regulator ICASA has given the green light to cellular operators to cut interconnect rates by 36c from next month, which it says will benefit consumers. This week, MTN, Cell C and Vodacom agreed independently with each other to voluntarily cut the peak interconnect rate from R1.25 to 89c. The off-peak cost remains at 77c. The agreements were filed with ICASA on Tuesday and, late last night, it approved the revised proposal.

- Kenya's Permanent Secretary of Information Bitange Ndemo has hinted that the government may be considering a reduction in the cost of 3G licences, following sustained pressure from operators. Ndemo has again raised expectations for a reduction, telling a local radio station: 'We will do everything possible to ensure that we have created the necessary competitive environment, even if it means that we revise the cost to reasonable levels. If we decide that we are lowering, we would have some mechanisms to ensure that Safaricom does not lose its money.' Ndemo added that a final decision should be made in the next three weeks.

- The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) said that it would open financial bids for the privatisation of Nigerian Telecommunications Plc (NITEL) and its mobile arm, M-tel, on February 16, 2010. Six out of 14 pre-qualified consortia that submitted bids for the acquisition of 75% stake in Nitel have been shortlisted by the Bureau of Pubic Enterprises (BPE). They are: Brymedia (WA) Ltd; AF21/ Spectrum Consortium; MTN Nigeria Communication Ltd; Globacom Nigeria Ltd; Omen International Ltd (BVI); and New Generation Telecommunications Ltd  (formerly Telefonica Consortium).

- Orange Tunisia has announced that its 3G network has carried its first call. According to IT website Tekiano the official technical inauguration of the network meets the new operator's obligation to have the network up and running within six months of obtaining its licence last August. The full commercial launch of the mobile network is expected in April.

- According to local newspaper, the Nigerian Compass, Singapore Telecommunications is eyeing acquisitions in Asia and the fast-growing markets of Africa and the Middle East to boost growth after it reported quarterly earnings in line with estimates. CEO Chua Sock Koong said the telco will not close its eyes to the fertile telecoms landscape of emerging markets. The company earns about three-quarters of its core earnings from outside Singapore. "Our focus remains in Asia. That's unchanged. We are also looking at some adjacent markets including Africa and the Middle East,"Koong said while speaking about the likelihood of acquisitions to shore up earnings and operations.




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West Africa: Main One Submarine Cable Project Inches Near Completion

The Main One Cable Company has announced the commencement of the final laying of its high capacity fibre optic cable from Seixal, Portugal, through the coast of West Africa to Ghana, and Nigeria.

The cable, which goes live in June 2010, is bringing the much-expected international capacity into a region whose explosive growth in tele-density in recent years has been blighted by sub-optimal global connectivity.
Click to learn more...

"We are pleased to achieve this major milestone within project timeline," said Fola Adeola, Chairman of Main One Cable Company. "We remain focused on delivering the project on schedule." Main One, in November 2009, successfully completed the installation of the shore ends of the cable in Lagos, Nigeria, Accra, Ghana, and Seixal, Portugal.

The commencement of the end-to-end laying of the full stretch of the fiber optic from Portugal, signposts the final stages of the ambitious project. "Now that the 7,000 kilometre trunk of the cable is being installed, we are pleased that our efforts over the last 18 months are coming to fruition," said Funke Opeke, Main One CEO.

The Main One Cable Company is wholly owned by African investors - African Finance Corporation, Nigeria; Pan African Infrastructure Development Fund, South Africa; FBN Capital, Nigeria; Skye Bank, Nigeria and Main Street Technologies, Nigeria, which is the project sponsor.

In addition to the submarine operations, Main One is building two landing stations in Accra and Lagos which will be complete next month. Equipment installation and end-to-end testing of the cable system will then follow, prior to service launch in June.

Main One will provide open access to 1.92 Terabits per second of capacity to the West African region at prices less than 50 percent of current wholesale capacity prices.

The international capacity that Main One is bringing into the West African sub-region will consolidate the explosive growth of telecommunications in the sub-region in recent years. In addition to providing a major boost to Internet access, Main One will help to considerably minimise the difficulties of switching traffic between African countries and eliminate the inconveniences and added costs of first routing traffic to Europe.
(Source: The Ghanaian Chronicle)

Fresh Storm Brews Over Uganda's National Fibre Optic Cable Project

The government has ditched technical safeguards for proper construction and functioning of the multi-billion national optic fibre backbone infrastructure, according to a report in the Daily Monitor.

Our investigations show that the original October 2006 turnkey contract between the government and Huawei Technologies Ltd, a Chinese Company, has already been altered three times, the latest being on August 18, 2009 under which some crucial provisions on quality standards have been removed.

Key requirements dropped include pre-shipment inspection to certify quality of cables and other materials in countries of origin and a provision to inter the fibre cables in ducts conveyed through trenches at least 1.5 metres deep from road surface. Officials have okayed a trench depth of between 0.8-1 metre.

Payments, which under the original contract, were made in block percentages after completion of agreed works have been revised to be cleared in phases per incremental works.

Under the latest amendment, Huawei Technologies has been allowed to use $715, 679 (Shs1.4b) to buy some 3,800 wooden poles on which to run onshore sections of the National Data Transmission Backbone and E-Government Infrastructure (NBI/EGI). This, industry experts say, would render the installations vulnerable to vandalism.

It has emerged that the ICT ministry has overturned a recommendation by its IT specialists - which Permanent Secretary Jimmy Saamanya had earlier endorsed - that the higher version, bigger-capacity G.655 96 core cable be used to network the country in subsequent phases of the project instead of G.652 24 core cables.

This followed information given to civil servants that the cost of the lower-capacity 24 core cable, which Huawei Technologies currently supplies at $3, 200 (Shs6m) per kilometer, has over the past couple of years tumbled on the world market on the backdrop of rapid technological innovations.

Daily Monitor understands that another Chinese Company, in May last year, notified the ICT Ministry that it could sell each kilometer-long 24 core cable cheaply at $1, 400 (Shs2.6m), enabling government to save $1, 800 (Shs3.4m) per unit. No decision was taken on the proposal.

In an interview on January 21, the pioneer ICT Minister Ham Mulira, whose team negotiated the first contract, said the lower 2009 price quotations for the 24-core fibre cable is because technology changes fast and overtime, earlier products turn cheaper.

"These are different generations of technology and since 2006 (when the turnkey contract was signed), prices have dropped," he said. He, however, would not say why a provision was not embedded in the original contract to accommodate the anticipated price fluctuations. Official records show that ICT ministry technocrats had warned that phase I cables were laid in shallow trenches (compromising its safety and lifespan); backfilling was incomplete and Mark Stones missing to identify routing of the infrastructure for protection.

Dan Alinage, the Uganda National Roads Authority spokesperson, has confirmed that at the very minimum, all utility/service providers laying underground infrastructure, should bore trenches 1.5 metres deep from the road, not ground, surface. "A bitumen road, done well, has a thickness of one metre. If underground cables are buried in a shallow way, they could be destroyed during maintenance of the road," he said, adding: "The trenches should be dug 15 metres from the middle of the road."

In an October 29, 2009 Internal Memo to PS Saamanya, a copy of which Daily Monitor has seen, Simon Peter Onyango, then head of the Project Implementation Unit, wrote: "The sections [of the cable] in the swamps have not been well entrenched. Secondly, the cable in these swamps is lying in water. This has a negative effect on the cable. Effort should be made to keep the cable out of water by laying in two concentric pipes."

This newspaper has learnt that some Ministry of ICT officials around September last year abruptly halted their technical staff from carrying out field surveys to ascertain the appropriate routing, in effect the actual cost, of the communication infrastructure under phase II to connect the countryside, except West Nile.

The decision has reportedly strained working relations between technocrats, who on the one hand feel sidelined/undermined and the decision-makers on the hand, emboldened by long service and experience.

When we tried to reach PS Saamanya to clarify on the emerging issues about the NBI/ENI, his secretary referred us to the Ministry spokesperson, Geoffrey David Kiirya, who advised us to e-mail the enquiries.

However when this newspaper telephoned him on January 13, a day after the e-mail was sent, Mr Kiirya said he had sought, but failed, to get responses from respective officers and "So, I have no comment".

Dr Mulira, now a presidential advisor on ICT, said in Thursday's interview that like "all projects", phase I of the NBI/ENI project constructed under his watch could have had "some flaws" but Uganda in the first place had no say in choosing the contractor, picked by the Chinese government; the project's financer. He, however, said he had confidence Huawei Technologies would do a clean job on the infrastructure to last 5-100 years.

"When a foreign government gives assistance of that kind, the sourcing of the contractor and procurements are not done locally here," Dr Mulira said, highlighting the handicaps of bilateral lending.He added: "The optic fibre cable is a benefit to the country in this digital age. It's something that should be welcomed and any mishaps will be dealt with [during maintenance] but these should not obscure the objectives of the project."

Information gleaned from ICT Ministry website says the project, whose phase II reportedly commenced discreetly in the wake of a parliamentary freeze, is to "put in place optic fibre infrastructure countrywide to enhance connectivity and transmission of data, voice and video communication".

The government, represented by Communications and Broadcasting Infrastructure chief, Godfrey Kibuuka and Fan Siyong, the country managing director of Huawei Technologies Company signed the original $127.9 million (Shs243b), inclusive of a $21.3 million (Shs40.5b) 'book entry' tax, for installation of the 2,122-kilometre NBI/ENI facility to boost local Internet capacity.

The idea being that local bandwidth for electronic communication will be expanded and access to Internet services made cheaper, faster and more efficient across the country. This way, government business could be conducted on line, saving time and costs. Other benefits would include real time on-line consultancy for things such as tele-medicine or auditing books of accounts of foreign multinational companies from the comfort of one's room here.
(Source: The Monitor)

South Africa: MTN to Match Competitors in Fast Broadband Offering

MTN has fallen into step with competitors Vodacom and Cell C by announcing that it would be rolling out HSPA+ broadband services at speeds of up to 21 megabits per second (MBps). MTN said HSPA+ would be "rolled out strategically countrywide".

But achieving the high connection speeds made possible by the technology would depend on "various conditions such as transmission, access device capability and the number of subscribers using the site at that particular time of day".

Cell C announced plans for an HSPA+ service last month, promising to become the first operator in SA to offer the technology by the end of this year. Vodacom followed last week by saying its HSPA+ service would be available in key areas during the Soccer World Cup.

MTN did not say when its HSPA+ technology would be operational, but said it had recently upgraded its broadband service to provide download speeds of 14,4MBps - double the previous level. It would not charge a premium for the higher access speeds.

However, WorldWideWorx MD Arthur Goldstuck said few customers would be able to take full advantage of the faster network speed. "The end user equipment is not yet ready for these speeds. "There's been tremendous disappointment with the roll-out of 7.2MBps speeds, with most people experiencing speeds of less than 1MBps," Goldstuck said.
(Source: Business Day)


Internet briefs

- The East Africa Submarine Cable System is set to land in Mtunzini, on the north coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal this weekend. This will be the only landing of the EASSy cable in South Africa and heralds the start of the final stage of the long process of planning, financing, designing and building this important African East Coast consortium cable system.

- According to a report on Internet connectivity worldwide, published by Akamai, a US company specializing in managing Internet, the best connection in Africa can be found in Morocco, with a connection speed of 3251 kilobits per second (Kbps). The report, compiled during the 3rd quarter of 2009, also states that the UK is the country with the fastest connection to Africa. Rabat (3251kbps), Tunis (2211 Kbps) and Casablanca (2030 Kbps) top the lists of the cities with the best connections on the African continent. Regarding Internet penetration, Rabat leads with 26%, succeeded by Casablanca (7.3%), while Midrand in South Africa comes third. In terms of average speed connections from 2Mbps upward, Morocco's Rabat also leads with 61%. Tunis rated 48% and Casablanca 33%.

- Internet connection speeds, which currently do not exceed 2 megabytes (MB), will reach 20 MB "from the end of next April" for 100,000 connections in the province of Constantine (431 km east of Algiers), the local Director of Algeria's telecommunications company "Algerie-Telecom" announced on Sunday. This "qualitative leap," said Mohamed Ouadi, is made possible through New Generation Network (NGN) equipment with a capacity of 100,000 connections granted to this eastern province in keeping with the renewal of the company's national network to achieve the "e-Algeria 2013" project.

- The Central Bank of Nigeria, the country's banking regulator, military institutions and scores of other government agencies have missed a 2009 year-end deadline to migrate their websites onto Nigeria's n.g, the nation's virtual equivalent of country border on the global Internet. The Federal Government last year issued a December 31, 2009 deadline to all ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) under government to comply with the directive, citing issues of national identity and security concerns.




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Cash-Strapped IT Body to oversee Two New Projects in Uganda

Cash-strapped National Information Technology Authority of Uganda (NITA-U) is to oversee the business process outsourcing and the district business information centres projects. Aggrey Awori, the information and communication technology minister, handed over the projects to Andrew Lutwama, the IT body acting executive director, at the ministry headquarters in Kampala last week.

While handing over the projects, Awori acknowledged that NITA-U was still cash-strapped as the Ministry of Finance was yet to allocate it adequate operational funds. The hand over of the two projects follows recommendations by the parliamentary committee on ICT.

Last month, NITA-U was also tasked to oversee the controversial national data transmission backbone infrastructure and e-government infrastructure project, which was started with a $106m Chinese loan.

The irony, however, is that while NITA-U takes on these huge projects, it is yet to recruit operational staff. Awori has since last year claimed that the ICT ministry had invited human resources consultants to assist in recruiting. The ministry blames the Ministry of Finance for not establishing a vote to fund the IT body operations.

"The handicap has been getting the funds," Awori said when asked why the authority had no operational staff. Dr. Pat Samaanya the permanent secretary, however, said, the ministry was mobilising the required resources.

On the projects, Awori said the ministry has developed a guiding strategy and model for the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, which is expected to spur job creation for Ugandan youths through IT enabled services. He added that the sector had been re-energised into forming an association, the Uganda BPO Association.

According to the ICT ministry website, BPO as the strategic use of a third-party services provider to perform activities traditionally handled by internal staff and resources to enable an organisation to focus more on their core businesses.

The most common examples of BPO are customer support services such as call centres, policy management like human resource, data process services such as payroll outsourcing and technical support services.

Lutwama, the IT Authority boss, said there are only 2.4 million people employed in the BPO sector globally. "This is a multi-billion dollar industry and we would like to tap into it. It is a goldmine and will reverse kyeyo trend," said Awori.

In neighbouring Kenya, the BPO market is estimated at an annual revenue of Ksh400m and has more than 31 players, according to a report on www.AllAfrica.com.

The report added that banks, telecom and insurance companies were the main clients for the BPO sector in Kenya. However, industry players blame the relatively slower uptake of outsourcing services among local companies on lack of awareness and distrust of BPO firms with their operations or data.

The report indicated that Kenya had a huge gap in higher level outsourcing services like financial analysis, data mining, engineering, research, development, insurance claims processing, architectural design, education, publishing, medical diagnostics and journalism.

The district business information centres project, which the IT body has also been tasked to oversee is being piloted in Kamwenge, Mityana, Busia, Lira, Iganga and Rukungiri districts.
(Source: The New Vision)

HIT, Software Development Firm Sign Deal in Zimbabwe

The Harare Institute of Technology and a local software development company have signed a Memorandum of Understanding for co-operation in diverse areas of Information and Communication Technology to bridge the ICT gap between the corporate sector and the rest of the world.

Afrosoft Holdings is one of the fastest growing software solutions development company in Zimbabwe. The agreement between HIT and Afrosoft will result in co-operation in the areas of research, training activities, technology development and application, mobile value added tax VAS integration, and E-commerce services.

Afrosoft Holdings group chief executive Engineer John Mberi said the two organisations though operating on different platforms shared the same view of transforming the nation in terms of technology.

"As Afrosoft we share the same vision with HIT, that of transforming Zimbabwe into a mobile base technology, integrating trade and payment system and common skills.

"The economy needs technology especially for the forthcoming Fifa World Cup soccer showcase in South Africa and all what is needed is for Zimbabweans to bridge the technological gap to suit the tourists we should host," said Eng Mberi.

HIT vice chancellor Engineer Quinton Kanhukamwe said that the mobile industry has not been fully exploited business wise. "Mobile phone penetration has grown substantially over the past few years. What has not happened is its full exploitation in industry and commerce in as far as e-business is concerned."
(Source: The Herarld)

SADC to Start Regional Stock Trading Soon

Investors are months away from being able to trade stocks across 10 securities exchanges in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) through a common technical interconnectivity platform - signalling the first significant step towards the integration of one of Africa's economic regions.

The Committee of Sadc Stock Exchanges (CoSSE), which starts a two-day meeting in Cape Town today, is expected to finalise the agreed hub-and-spoke exchange interconnectivity model.

Brokers have sought a vehicle to provide information on companies operating in the region, monitor their performance and explore opportunities for clients.

Geoff Rothschild, CoSSE chairman and the JSE's director of government and international affairs, said implementation would "expose our neighbours' business organisations to local and international investors".

"This hub will allow exchanges to connect to each other's platforms and ultimately allow investors to trade on all Sadc exchanges through their local brokerage."

Rothschild said serious investment was needed to upgrade technology for all the region's exchanges. Many had expressed willingness to do so but funding remained a problem.
(Source: Business Day)


Computer briefs

- The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) in partnership with Microsoft has identified music as a veritable tool to tackle the menace of cybercrime in Nigeria. The partnership has already begun to collaborate with some top young Nigerian artistes to pass anti-cybercrime messages to youths across the country. The first leg of the collaboration was unveiled recently in Abuja where a song entitled 'Maga No Need Pay' was presented to stakeholders and the general public.

- Ghana Telecom University College (GTUC), a science and technology-oriented university in the country and beyond, has introduced a new PhD programme in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Telecom Engineering this month, with 12 pioneering students.

- Microsoft Corporation, maker of the Windows Operating System officially released its Amharic version for Windows Vista on February 3, 2010, at a ceremony held at the Sheraton Addis in Ethiopia.

- The European Union (EU) Support to Reforming Institutions Programme (SRIP) has distributed Information Technology (IT) and office equipment worth 3.7 million euros (about N814 million) to six states of the Nigerian federation in its renewed commitment to effect reforms in the nation's public sector finances.




Back to top

Wireless Roll-Out Delays in South Africa See Jasco Profit Dip 28 Percent

Tight spending by African telecommunications firms contributed to a 28% year-on-year fall in profit to R11.2m for Jasco Electronics in the six months to December, it said last week. Jasco's telecommunications division, its second-largest contributor of revenue, was hit by "wireless roll-out delays in Africa and a further decline in expenditure on fixed-line networks", an interim results statement said.

The division saw its operating profit fall 26% to R17,9m, although it "maintained its position in the wireless arena in SA". Overall group revenue was R264m, a fall of 18% from the six months to December 2008.

But a financial year comparison showed an increase in revenue of 6%, as Jasco last year changed its year-end from February to June, meaning comparisons on this basis were with the six months to August 2008.

Jasco's security division had struggled, "after a very strong performance during the 12 months to February 2009".

"The effect of the recession was particularly felt during the last 10 months when the majority of anticipated projects were postponed indefinitely and the forward order book was negatively impacted."

But Jasco said that the division had shown a small profit for the period and its business model remained in place.

CEO Martin Lotz said the telecom and security divisions would remain "under pressure for the rest of the financial year", although he expected to see an improvement "in the next 12-18 months".

He hoped Jasco would be involved in Cell C's new R5bn broadband network, announced last month. "The wireless network in SA is mature now, but the penetration of voice and broadband in Africa is tremendously low. There's a lot of potential for expansion." The domestic products division fared relatively well, despite flat revenue growth. Its operating profit increased to R7.3m from R6.9m in the prior-year period.
(Source: Business Day)

Helios Towers Nigeria secures extra IFC funding

Helios Towers Nigeria (HTN) has secured an additional USD150 million in syndicated loans from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, to expand telecoms technologies in Nigeria, cellular-news reports. The loan extension forms part of an overall USD250 million initiative to improve access to telecoms nationwide.

The funds will be ploughed into expanding HTN's network of communications towers to 2,000 sites nationwide, increasing telecoms coverage to help mobile companies roll out services more economically, especially in rural areas. Operators will be able to outsource non-core activities and passive infrastructure, allowing them to focus on further developing their products and services. The earlier USD100 million investment was secured in September 2009.

Helios is now signing sharing deals across Africa (see letter below Top Story above).
(Source: Telegeography)

Qtel eyes Iraqi, Algerian markets

The onset of the global financial crisis was a blessing in disguise for the Qatar Telecommunications company (Qtel). Dr Nasser Marafih, Qtel CEO, said the global economic crisis had some positive impact on their business, one of which is the lowering of the licensing prices worldwide.

"The crisis has some positive impacts in the communication sector because the licensing price has become affordable... more realistic," said Marafih in an interview with an Arabic publication. The low licensing prices, Marafih said, has created and will create chances and opportunities for Qtel's "future acquisitions". "We now have control of 14 communication companies in 17 countries," he said.

The Qtel CEO said the company is looking into investing in the Iraqi and Algerian telecommunications markets because of the high business possibilities there. He said, however, that they have abandoned the African market because there are many telecommunications companies there already. Marafih said Qtel will concentrate more on mobile Internet services here in the future.
(Source: The Peninsula)

South Africa: FNB confirms PayPal talks

First National Bank (FNB) has broken its silence and admitted it is in discussions with PayPal, several days after a social networking site said the bank was set to launch the service in April. On Monday, ITWeb reported that Twitter was buzzing with news of the imminent launch on Sunday, but FNB refused to comment.

This afternoon, however, Virginia Magapatona, head of corporate communications at the bank, confirmed it is in discussions with PayPal and the South African Reserve Bank. She says further information will be released in "due course". National Treasury has not yet responded to an e-mailed request for comment sent to it on Monday morning.

The leak on Twitter seems to have come from someone who claims to be a supplier for the project, who Tweeted: "PayPal is launching in SA in April through FNB." An FNB executive confirmed the news through Twitter, saying: "Can anyone say 'cat out of bag'?", and "It's true - but I wasn't going to put a public launch date on it."

Banking laws require PayPal to either successfully apply for a banking licence in South Africa, or join forces with a local bank. A partnership would enable South Africans to be paid by international consumers through PayPal, without breaking foreign exchange laws.
(Source: ITWeb)


On the Money briefs

- The resignation of Kuwaiti-based Zain's chief executive, Mr Saad al-Barrak, has ignited rumours of the possible sale of Zain Africa operations. However, Zain said it has not received any offers for its African mobile networks, despite reports that it is in talks with three major international operators. "There are no current offers and the company will inform the bourse's administration about any new information that may come up regarding this issue," Zain said in a statement to Kuwait's stock exchange.

- Banque Populaire du Rwanda (BPR) says that it will soon unveil the Mobile Banking service. Ben Kalkman, the bank's CEO told Business Times that they are carrying out a feasibility study with experts from Netherlands' Rabobank. Rabobank holds 35 percent of equity in BPR while the former cooperative members own 65 percent.

- Vodacom has offered shareholders with less than 100 shares the opportunity to sell them back to the company, at a profit. The move will tidy up Vodacom's share register and save costs on sending out circulars and other notices to these shareholders. Vodacom is offering R56.61 a share to buy back the stock. The company calculated this based on the volume weighted average traded price on the JSE over the 10 trading days from 25 January to 5 February, and added in a 5% premium. Its shares closed at R54.60 yesterday.



·         Telecoms, Rates, Offers And Coverage
·         Web and Mobile Data news
·         People
·         Events
·         Jobs and opportunities
·         Contracts

Back to top

Telecoms Rates, Offers and Coverage

- In Nigeria, CDMA operator, Starcomms Plc, has introduced tracking service for its subscribers in the country tagged 'StarTrack.' Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Starcomms, Maher Qubain, said that the location based services are deployed in most part of the world by many telecommunications companies to assist their subscribers identify the whereabouts of their friends, family and members among others.

- Zain Tanzania has launched the Zain Biashara Community, a business initiative geared towards empowering SMEs around the country. Working with the Business Development Gateway (BDG) under the auspices of the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF), East Africa Speakers Bureau (ESB) and the Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (TCCIA), Zain will offer eligibility to every SME that joins these business and investment entities to also join the Zain Biashara Community. By becoming a Zain Biashara Community member, every SME will benefit from communication support, funding to some programmes as well as bulk sms to database with various updates.

- The liberalisation of the Cape Verdean telecommunications sector in 2006 made it possible for the number of mobile phone subscribers to rise three-fold from 100,000 to around 300,000, a government source said. In the same period, he said, the total number of subscription television contracts had risen five-fold from 1,300 to around 7,000, whilst the number of Internet subscribers had doubled, rising from 7,000 to 15,000 users.

Web and Mobile Data News

MTN launches MTN Play in South Africa

MTN last week announced that they have launched their MTN Play portal, a content portal that will deliver the World Cup action on their mobile handsets.  "MTN Play is an interactive mobile access channel that will enable MTN customers in Africa and the Middle East to enjoy digital 2010 FIFA World Cup content - including near live match highlights," MTN said in a press statement.

"Digital content on mobile phones is a proven solution that works in emerging markets. Through MTN Play, we will enable mobile customers around the world who still do not have access to TV, as is the case in some of the African countries which ironically boast impressive mobile penetration levels, to experience the magic of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa via their handsets through watching video clips of their favourite teams, downloading their national anthems and following their teams' performance during the much-anticipated tournament," said Cambridge Mokanyane, MTN Group General Manager: FIFA 2010.

Mokanyane is pleased that MTN Play is being launched on the eve of Africa's first ever FIFA World Cup.  "MTN Play will have a significant impact on how MTN subscribers experience the 2010 FIFA World Cup. It will also be the first time that some of the markets will experience digital content on this scale.

Gary Trehair, MTN Group Senior Manager: Portals, added that one of the key differentiators of MTN Play is the availability of football content that is exclusive to MTN, thanks to exclusive mobile content rights that are part of MTN's sponsorship of 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa.

"While the 2010 FIFA World Cup is a great start, the portal will continue to grow from strength to strength offering MTN customers the best and widest range of local and international content in all our markets," says Trehair. The launch of MTN Play is a culmination of a partnership between MTN and IMIMobile, the India-based software and managed services provider.
(Source: Mybroadband)

Sierra Update Goes Online in March

By March this year, Sierra Update news magazine published by the Public Information Unit of the Sierra Leone High Commission in the United Kingdom, will go online.

This means millions of people including thousands of Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora would now be able to follow-up developments back home in Sierra Leone. The online edition of SIERRA Update will be published on a daily basis while the print edition of the magazine will be both on the newsstands and online immediately after its publication.

The latest second edition of the magazine features some of President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma's government's achievements over the last two years as well as detailed reports from the recent Trade and Investment conference in London.

Publisher Sorie Sudan Sesay, who is also Information Attaché at the London mission, believes not many positive developments about Sierra Leone have been showcased by the western media and that now is the time to take the news to the wider world.

"I am taking news about developments in Sierra Leone right at the door steps of Sierra Leoneans both at home and abroad - we are forcing them to know about us," he said.

Classified as one of the most organised and well structured news magazines Sierra Leone has ever published with international standards, the magazine was distributed to diplomatic missions in the United Kingdom and government agencies including of course, State House, the House of Parliament as well as the opposition Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) and the People's Democratic Movement (PMDC).
(Source: Concord Times)


- The managing director of Ghanaian mobile operator Kasapa Telecom, Bob Palitz, is stepping down from the role after nine years in office. In an interview with local press agency Joy Online, Palitz said he believed he had contributed his quota to the company and that it is time to move on. The resignation comes approximately 18 months after Kasapa was acquired by Dubai-based Expresso Telecoms.

- Zain has announced that the Board of Directors of Mobile Telecommunications Company KSC, 'Zain', has appointed Nabil Bin Salama as Chief Executive of the Group, effective Sunday, February 14, 2010. Bin Salama has a Bachelor of Electronic Engineering from the University of Dayton, Ohio, USA. During 2009, he served as Kuwait's Minister of Communication, Electricity and Water following many years in the public sector and formerly served as General Manager of a mobile operator in 1997.


24-25 February 2010, Kenya International Conference Centre, Nairobi, Kenya
Technology presents great opportunities for the financial sector to extend reach, improve service and reduce costs. However, in the drive to implement the very best that technology vendors have to offer, the focal point of the banking process is often forgotten - the customer.
AITEC Banking & Mobile Money COMESA 2010 will focus on the customer experience in relation to all technology implementation and services, challenging suppliers and bankers alike to evaluate their systems in the light of customer needs and preferences.
For further information on the conference visit AITEC's website<http://lists.balancingact-africa.com/t/6779/239012/904/0/>

9-11 March 2010, Munyonyo Resort, Lake Victoria, Kampala,Uganda
This year's 8th Annual Digital Africa Summit is set to be Africa's premier ICT business summit, creating more opportunities for learning, partnerships and business, with ICT's, telephony and broadband being globally recognized as a prerequisite for social and economic development the opportunity to engage positive change has never been greater.
Africa's ICT sector is the fastest growing globally with mobile and broadband penetration rates set to continue to rise and with lower cost high speed broadband now a reality companies must prepare and build solid foundations allowing them to take advantage of
the opportunities, that this exciting industry and continent has to offer. Thus, the
challenges to win in this new and dynamic environment are enormous making focus,
speed, cooperation and ongoing innovation imperative to its many members.
For further information visit

10-11 March 2010, Marrakech, Morocco
New technology represents a key driver for the evolution of the microfinance sector: its use could result in doubling the number of microentrepreneurs, beneficiaries of microfinance, to 300 million worldwide. Moreover, in Morocco the microfinance market already appears promising for providers of technology solutions attracted to the sector. In this context, PlaNet Finance is co-organising with the Banque Populaire Group and Sogeti the 2nd international conference on the theme "Which models are best placed to increase access to financial services for the unbanked?
For further information visit www.mfntsummit2010.com <http://lists.balancingact-africa.com/t/6779/239012/954/0/>

16-17 March 2010, Johannesburg's Emperors Palace, South Africa
The two-day information and communication technology (ICT) conference will host the industry's foremost global thought leaders as they present their pioneering visions of the future to more than 80 of the region's most influential ICT end users. For further information visit, please visit www.idc-cema.com/events/ciosou2010<http://lists.balancingact-africa.com/t/6779/239012/994/0/>

23-25 March 2010, Maputo, Mozambique
At a time when ICTs are defining the way the world lives and conducts business, it is important for African governments to evolve themselves to meet the demands of changing trends in order to deliver effective services and to improve the quality of life of their citizenry. This also requires the formation of Public Private Peoples Partnerships to be geared towards achieving developmental goals through the application of ICTs to governance (e-governance/e-government), electoral processes (e-democracy), food and nutrition (e-agriculture), health delivery (e-health/telemedicine), learning and capacity development (e-education) and trade (e-commerce), among others.
For further information on the conference visit the CTO's website

25-26 March 2010, Continental Hotel, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
The theme of the AGM have been chosen as it is being recognised that it has been more than two decades since the first ICT regulator was established in the region. We recognise the fact that regulation is essential to achieve the goals of the public policy and therefore better regulation is to be considered in SADC so as to improve the policymaking process.
As we drive towards greater competition, credibility and welfare of SADC citizens, we should recognise the critical need for high quality regulation and regulation that is only used whenever appropriate.
In this regard, the Secretariat in coordination the NetTel at Africa is coordinating a training workshop prior to the AGM on the "Southern Africa Impact Assessment Training Workshop II" This is a follow up workshop on the same theme that was held in Dares Salam Tanzania in September 2009. The workshop will be held from 22 to 24 March 2010 at Elephant Hills Continental Hotel.
For further information visit CRASA's website<http://lists.balancingact-africa.com/t/6779/239012/986/0/>

11-12 May 2010, Lagos, Nigeria
Technology presents great opportunities for the financial sector to extend reach, improve service and reduce costs. However, in the drive to implement the very best that technology vendors have to offer, the focal point of the banking process is often forgotten - the customer.
AITEC Banking & Mobile Money West Africa 2010 will therefore focus on the customer experience in relation to all technology implementation and services, challenging suppliers and bankers alike to evaluate their systems in the light of customer needs and preferences.
For further information on the conference visit AITEC's website<http://lists.balancingact-africa.com/t/6779/239012/943/0/>

23 May-4 June, 2010, Kigali, Rwanda
The African Network Operators' Group (AfNOG) and the African Network Information Centre (AfriNIC) are pleased to announce that the 11th AfNOG Meeting and the AfriNIC-12 Meeting which will be held in Kigali, Rwanda during May & June 2010. The jointly organised two-week events include the AfNOG Workshop on Network Technology (offering advanced training in a week-long hands-on workshop), several full-day Advanced Tutorials, a one-day AfNOG Meeting, and a two-day AfriNIC Meeting. In addition, several side meetings and workshops will be hosted in collaboration with other organizations. Further details are available at the AfNOG<http://lists.balancingact-africa.com/t/6779/239012/987/0/> and AfriNIC<http://lists.balancingact-africa.com/t/6779/239012/428/0/> websites.

Jobs and Opportunities

ICT Policy in Developing Countries workshop: call for presentations
The UK Development Studies Association's "Information, Technology and Development" study group will be holding a one-day workshop on Thursday 25 March 2010 on "ICT Policy in Developing Countries", hosted by the University of Manchester's Centre for Development Informatics.

If you would be interested in making a presentation at the workshop (written papers will be welcome but are not essential), please reply by WEDNESDAY 17 FEBRUARY, providing the following five items: a proposed presentation title; an abstract of 150-200 words summarising your presentation content; a 50-word biodata about yourself; an indication of whether or not you will be providing a written paper to support the presentation; and an indication of whether or not you are a member of the DSA.

The workshop will consider presentations about national or international policy on ICTs in developing countries.  This encompasses all components of ICT such as mobile, telecommunications, the IT sector, software sector, and so on.  It also encompasses issues such as ICT policy making, implementation, and impact.

Within-UK travel costs will be covered for presenters who are members of the Development Studies Association - http://www.devstud.org.uk.  There will be no cost for participation in the workshop which we anticipate will run from about 10.00am-5.30pm.  Presentations will be 20-25 minutes in length (additional time will be allowed for discussion).

If you have any questions about the workshop prior to making a response, do please contact us.

A copy of this call is available at: http://www.sed.manchester.ac.uk/research/cdi/newsandevents/<http://lists.balancingact-africa.com/t/6779/239012/995/0/>


Gamtel and Alcatel-Lucent - Gambia
Gambia's incumbent PSTN operator Gamtel has awarded a contract to Alcatel-Lucent to roll out a terrestrial fibre-optic transmission network under its 'Cross Gambia Project', reports Afrique en Ligue. A release from the telco's Banjul office said the joint venture project with Senegalese counterpart Sonatel will extend fibre links from Dakar through Kaolack, Karang, Barra, Banjul, Serrekunda, Yundum, Brikama to Seleti in Casamance to terminate on Sonatel's fibre network. The new infrastructure will provide an alternative route to the fibre link between Basse in Gambia and Velingara in Senegal, which was implemented in 1996. As well as eliminating the serious problem of disruption to bilateral international traffic whenever the older fibre is cut, the rollout will also increase Gamtel's international internet bandwidth. The telco said it spent EUR1.2 million (USD1.65 million) on the initial stage of the Cross Gambia Project in 2009.


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