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FG approves Digital Literacy Council

ITRealms : The Federal Government (FG) has approved the establishment of a Digital Literacy Council of Nigeria (DLCN), reports ITRealms...

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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Workshop success to add value to diplomacy


Remmy Nweke in Malta


A ten-day workshop on Diplomacy and Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) began Tuesday in Malta with the Director of Multilateral Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Valletta, Malta, Mr. Giovanni Miceli, declaring that the success of the seminar would add value to diplomatic engagements globally.

This workshop would be followed immediately with a three-day international conference with the theme, ‘Internet Governance: The Way Forward’ also to be held at Coastline Hotel, Malta.

The programme focuses on a broad spectrum of issues, including the work of diplomats in today’s world, new topics on diplomatic agendas and the use of information and communications technology (ICT) tools for diplomatic activities.

Participants were drawn from practicing diplomats, civil servants, and others who work in international relations, wishing to refresh or expand their knowledge under the guidance of experienced practitioners and academics as well as students of diplomacy or international relations wishing to study topics not offered through their university programmes or diplomatic academies in addition to Journalists, Non-Government Organisation’s (NGO) staff, international organization’s staff, translators, business people and others who work with diplomats interested in improving their understanding of diplomacy-related topics.

Welcoming participants to the event, Mr. Miceli in his address to
the occasion said that the success of the workshop would not only contribute to participants’ personal upliftment in their chosen careers, but would also add value to the building of global diplomatic emancipation and growth.


He enjoined participants to make good use of the period of the seminar while expressing Maltese gratitude to the organizers of the event, Diplo Foundation in collaboration with University of Malta, which he noted was heavily supported by the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Also speaking, Educational Programme Director at Diplo, Ms Hannah Slavik noted that the programme has online as its base, would be deliberating on introduction to post graduate diploma in contemporary diplomacy and textus learning, language and diplomacy, information management and time management.

She equally said that media skills and negotiation, diplomatic reporting, diplomatic protocol, and verbal communication would form part of the workshop topics.

The seminar heralds the beginning of Postgraduate Diploma in Contemporary Diplomacy (PGD) organized by Diplo Foundation and accredited by the University of Malta through its Faculty of Arts.

The workshop consists of a ten-day introductory workshop in Malta and participation in five online courses, each lasting ten weeks for selected participants from Libya, Bosnia and Herzegovian, Nigeria, Romania, Malawi, Peru, Samoa, Namibia, Bahamas, Burkina Faso, Barbados and Malta.

Whereas the conference on Internet Governance: The Way Forward comes up from Feburary 10 through 12, as the result of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) which held in Tunis last December and demanded the establishment of an Internet Governance Forum (IGF).

The decision taken by parties at the WSIS last December, indicated according to organizers, what the forum should do and who should be involved especially through multi-stakeholder approach.

However, the organisers noted that there remains to be seen how the forum will be evolve, hence the conference aims to provide an initial mapping, through addressing questions such as how it could be structured appropriately to involve various stakeholders covering a wide range of issues.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

CIPACO sponsors Nweke to IG conference

Centre for International ICT Policies, Central and West Africa (CIPACO) has announced the sponsorship of a senior reporter with Daily Champion, Mr. Remmy Nweke, to an international seminar on Information and Communication Technology, Diplomacy and Internet Governance (IG).

The seminar holding in Malta is organized by Diplo Foundation with offices in Malta and Switzerland, comes in a 10-day workshop on 'ICT and Contemporary Diplomacy' as well as a three-day conference on ‘Internet Governance: The Way Forward’.

The workshop organized in collaboration with the University of Malta is to prepare selected diplomats and stakeholders on the use of ICT tools at this era, lasting between January 31 and February 9.

While the international conference on IG; The Way Forward, is expected to proffer the next step for the Internet Governance, which takes place from February 10 through 12, this year.

The sponsorship would afford Mr. Nweke, who also edits ITREALMS Online, http://itrealms.blogspot.com; an insight into the use of ICT and contemporary diplomacy and report back to through his medium.

The Senegalese-based CIPACO is an initiative of Panos Institute West Africa (PIWA), headquartered in London and established to strengthen the capacity of African stakeholders for a more effective participation in international ICT decision-making processes.

Announcing this development, Project Coordinator at CIPACO, Mr. Ken Lohento, said he has the “pleasure to inform that we (CIPACO) have selected you to receive the grant to participate in international ICT policy events”.

The grant, worth $2500 is believed by CIPACO to facilitate his participation at the event, which is a following up to WSIS-05, hence the organization is interested for its benefit to the stakeholders.

The conference on Internet Governance is the first to be organised after the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) late last year.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Pay $100, get DSTv for life

Features of the week:

The need to meet up with societal class has forced some Nigerians to device a means of receiving Digital Satellite Television (DSTv) offering, just for a $100, reports Remmy Nweke.

WITH the increasing cost of acquiring Digital Satellite Television (DSTv) services occasioned by the current feud over the exclusivity of some key channels in the Pay Television industry, some smart Nigerians have devised means of initiating people into the ‘elite club’ of those who enjoy Direct-To-Home (DTH) access by simply paying N14,000, approximated $100 for unlimited subscription.

From apprentice to DSTv techi

When he came to Lagos in late 1990s, on completion of his post-primary education, Ejim Onye, had no idea of what is Digital Satellite Television (DSTv) looks like, but after spending about six years on apprenticeship, he passed out with some technical knowledge of how to fix some brands of television sets among other electronics.

Top on this list is connecting interested people on to the DSTv with locally sourced apparatus, to begin receiving DSTv services at their homes without subscription, in fact, it is for life, for less than N14,000.

His modus oparandi

According to him, the formular is that the client must have a modern digital television set, pay the above amount from where he would buy Video Home System (VHS) video machine, a pole depending on residence, original cable and antenna and video machine, then you would have an option of choosing from 15 foreign channels.

He named some of these channels to include the popular, Cable News Network (CNN), Sky Sports/SkyNews and TV, EuroSports, Discovery, Channel O, MTV Base, Network, Movies 42, Dream TV, Home TV, Love AM among others.

Noteworthy here is that CNN for instance, has been on top of controversy list of exclusives to some DSTv service providers in the country.

Ejim Onye is not alone in this business, though he has a workshop where he sales fairly used electronic TV sets at the Olodi-Apapa axis of Lagos State, many in the business seem to be operating under cover in the areas like Ijesha, Agege, Lagos Island, Oshodi as well as Okokomiko.

These areas are dominated by low income earners who would like to belong to the high-class in the society left for their economic state, hence some of them have chosen to be patronizing these kinds of ‘unlicensed’ operators of DSTV whether wittingly or unwittingly.

Even as subscribers of legal Pay TV provider in places like Ajao Estate are turning to these technicians for what someone called ‘Life DSTv subscription’.

But what matters to most of the users accosted in the cause of investigating this story is that they have been neglected for a long time and simply want to belong and also know what is happening around the world, especially through the Cable News Network (CNN).

Direct-To-Home (DTH)

Satellite television is television service delivered by way of communications satellites, as compared to conventional terrestrial television and cable television. In many areas of the world satellite television services supplement older terrestrial signals, providing a wider range of channels and services, including subscription-only services.

DTH platforms as at January 2004 was recording broadcast of over 7200 channels with over 60 million subscribers globally, according to DTH World Summit on Satellite TV platforms and channels held in Paris.

670,000 out of the 7 million TV homes in South Africa were reported to be receiving DTV transmissions - MultiChoice’s DSTv direct-to-home satellite service, according to the ICASA as quoted in the ‘Digital Dilemmas for South African TV,’ co-authored by Messrs Chris Armstong and Richard Collins.

Three main forms of digital television according Messrs Armstrong and Collins exist, namely the satellite, wireless/cable and digital terrestrial television (DTT).

Whereas DTH could be said to be strictly based on satellite, the wired systems which sends digital TV content to users through phone lines, broadband Internet connections, or by the cables hitherto used to deliver analogue TV.

Most recent evolution in the DTV family is DTT, which entails sending digital signals wireless via terrestrial, an earth-based transmitter towers.

DTT is pronounced in markets where there is less extensive cable-TV infrastructure, mostly within the European Union (EU).

Mr. Dish, specialist in dish and digital offerings also said that MultiChoice has made great strides since pioneering the advent of digital satellite television in Africa, even as it’s DStv now consists of 108 local and international channels, 53 video; 48 audio and seven data brought to subscribers in the comfort of their homes 24 hours a day in South Africa.

Genesis

Initially, history has it that satellite television signal was relayed from Europe to the Telstar satellite over North America in 1962 with the first geosynchronous communication satellite, Syncom 2 launched a year after.

The world’s first commercial communication satellite, called Early Bird, was launched into synchronous orbit on April 6, 1965 whereas the first national network of satellite television, called Orbita, created in Soviet Union in 1967, based on the principle of using the highly-elliptical Molniya satellite for re-broadcasting and delivering of TV signal to ground downlink stations.

The first domestic North American satellite to carry television was Canada’s geostationary Anik 1, which was launched in 1973 and by 1974, ATS-6, the world’s first experimental educational and Direct Broadcast Satellite, was launched. Two years later, the first Soviet geostationary satellite to carry Direct-To-Home television, called Ekran, was launched.

MultiChoice is the satellite for both South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa in this regard.

Low income precipitate patronage

Contacted, the immediate past marketing manager at Trumpet Internet Television (TiTv), a DSTv service provider, Mr. Will Ekanem, said that some of these connections break out intentionally by switching over intermittently to other stations with or without the owner applying the remote, which means, there is something, wrong, somewhere.

The wrangling in the industry is also giving this kind of grey market longevity, because if there is one voice, this could be handled collectively.

Although those patronizing such services, he said, are low income earners, he attributed the patronage in the first place to economic gap in the society, which is now forcing low income earners to show off as belonging to the high class of DSTv users.

Emphasising that if the income of an average wage earner increases in the country, the affected persons would definitely go for the real channels by subscription to the conventional DSTv providers of their choice.

Beyond quality programme

Reacting to this in a chat with correspondent recently, Public Relations Officer at MultiChoice Nigeria, Mr. Segun Fayose, said that what is most important to the consumers remain the choice and quality of the TV programmes they want to watch.

“This all-important content is, after all, the reason people watch television,” he declared, stressing that Pay TV has been rightly hailed as the ‘choice revolution’ but the multi-channel television industry was initially viewed with deep skepticism due to the lack of understanding around the value of ‘choice’ and the consumer’s appetite for it.

Explaining that there is much more involved in providing good quality content and a range of programmes to watch than just buying it from the many content producers, or rights owners, as they are known in the industry.

The idea of ‘roadside’ content providers like Onye, he said, does not work in the sense that it does not give the kind of quality of services consumers’ require, although it’s a reality that has come to live with us.

DSTv, a necessity

Public Relations Manager at Frontage Satellite Television (FSTv), Mr. Kola Johnson, told ITREALMS Online recently that DSTv is a necessity rather than a luxury as believed in certain quarters.

He also said that in economies like Nigeria where average citizen cannot afford three square meals a day let alone pay for television subscription, “PayTelevision operators’ owe it a duty to ensure that they make whatever sacrifice they could to uplift Nigerian society in access to information through reduction in subscription fee.”

At present

Presently, Pay Television operators in the country charge between N18,000 to N45,000 for installation and initial subscription after which consumers pay between N6,000 to N9,000 monthly, depending also on number of channels available to them.

The truth remains that as long as discordant tunes pervade, and coupled with the economic disparity, ‘roadside’ content providers like Onye, would continue to thrive, because people must dare the digital divide.

Before then, the nation needs to harness these smart brains to boost its technical know-how.

Microsoft commends NCC, presents computers

Nigeria Copyright Commission (NCC) has been commended by the software giant, Microsoft Nigeria on its efforts at combating the nuisance of piracy and protection of intellectual property in the country.

This is coming as the Microsoft presented some Personal Computers (PCs) to the commission to boost its operations.

Microsoft License Compliance Manager, for West, East and Central Africa (WECA), Mr Abednego Hlatshwayo, made this commendation during the presentation of PCs to the commission in Abuja.

He said that the gesture was to boost and appreciate the commission’s drive against piracy and protection of intellectual property in the society.

Mr. Hlatshwayo noted that the PCs were bought over as evidence of pirated Microsoft software from resellers and reinstalled with original Microsoft software under the Federal Government Enterprise Agreement with Microsoft.

He explained that the PCs were loaded with Microsoft Windows Operating System and also urged resellers of the fake software to stop the piracy, stressing that the donation to NCC is a step forward in the fight against piracy in the country.

Director General of NCC, Mr. Adebambo Adewopo, while receiving the set of PCs said that the gesture from Microsoft would not only beef-up the infrastructure of NCC, but would also aid it in providing services to other areas of the industry such as music and movie sectors as well as in the fight against Software Piracy.

He therefore described the Microsoft initiative as a model for Public Private Partnership (PPP) that worthy of emulation.

“Microsoft donation will boost our operations and beef-up our infrastructure in the combat against piracy and intellectual infringement beyond the software industry, it is worthy of emulation by other players in the private sector” he asserted.

He further noted that the gains of the five-year operation of Microsoft in Nigeria are already visible in terms of the volume of investment gains and support in the fight against piracy.

The DG also called for continued collaboration between Microsoft and NCC for a sustainable partnership and assured that the NCC would remain steadfast in the pursuit of its duty and mandate, which is “to protect right owners.

Xiti rates Firefox fifth

Internet browser based on open source, the Mozilla Firefox, has recorded a market share of more than 20 per cent in Europe, according to the latest figures released by French web metrics firm, XiTi.

Web browser is an application, which enable Internet users to access the world wide web, while open source is in relation with non-payment of royalty on or before usage unlike Microsoft Internet Explorer among others.

XiTi said the rating was based on a sample of 32.5m website visits, noted that Finland has the highest proportion of Firefox users, followed by Slovenia and Germany.

It found that the open-source browser is used by 38, 36 and 30 per cent of users in these countries, respectively.

According to United Kingdom-based ZDNet reports, UK has one of the lowest proportions of Firefox users in Europe, which accounts for only 11 per cent of website visits there.

The 20-per cent overall figure for Europe is an average calculated from the figures obtained for each European country, according to XiTi.

But XiTi’s figures should probably be taken with a grain of salt, as Firefox usage tends to be highest over the weekend, according to Mozilla Europe.

The Firefox browser is less used during the week, as enterprises are more conservative when it comes to using a newer browser.

Glo subscribers receive cars in PH

Another set of winners in the Glo second anniversary Double Slam promotion in the Port Harcourt region were last weekend presented with their brand new car prizes.
A 30-year-old businessman at Aba Road, Port Harcourt, with Glo number 0805 7109028, Mr. Ifeanyi Walter, was presented with a brand new Kia Rio, while George Somnia Abio, a 35-year-old computer system analyst, who resides at Agip Estate, Port Harcourt , drove home a Volks Wagen Polo.
ITREALMS Online recalls that these cars were won at the second draw held for the region late last year.
The first set of car winners in the region were Miss Oghomwen Ogberoen, a 27-year-old Benin-based textile seller, Pastor Jeremiah Monweya of Asaba, Delta State, Eze Victor, a cosmetics dealer in Abuja and Aifesehi Efomo Joy, a Benin-based hairdresser, had earlier been presented with their cars.
They went home with a Mercedes Benz E240, a Kia Sorento Jeep, a Kia Rio and a Honda City, in that order.
Globacom’s Port Harcourt Regional Manager, Kunle Oyeyemi, said the promotion underscored operator’s commitment to continue to improve the quality of lives of its subscribers and Nigerians as a whole.
With the presentation, he stated, the company had fulfilled its pledge to give out six brand new cars to subscribers in the Port Harcourt region as part of the N350 million worth of prizes comprising six houses and 36 brand new cars in the Double Slam promo.
"We restate our acknowledgement of the goodwill and tremendous support we have enjoyed from Nigerians these past two years. The Double Slam promo is meant to thank our subscribers for their patronage".
Stressing that Glo’s commitment to world class telecommunication services and to improving the quality of life of Nigerians remains unwavering, even as this was why the network pioneered per second billing and led the crashing of cost of SIM packs and call tariffs.
Presentation of cars in the Lagos, Abuja and Kano and Enugu regions were being held, with Enugu coming up on January 26.
Also speaking to newsmen after receiving his prize Messrs Ifeanyi Walter and George Abio, said they did not believe the promotion was real. It was only after the car keys were handed over to them that it dawned on them that they were not dreaming.
"This is the biggest surprise of my life. I never imagined this kind of thing will come my way. I don’t just know how to thank Glo," Walter declared.
The special guest of honour at the event, Chief Colin Dixon, Chairman of Jarus Engineering Maritime Limited, commended Globacom for the unprecedented reward package.
"Business life has been revolutionized by GSM, particularly by Globacom. Your huge effort to empower Nigerians is highly commendable", he noted. He also praised the company for its support for the Super Eagles which he said led to its victory over the Black Stars of Ghana in the on-going Nations Cup championships.

‘The Year of IETF’ by ISOC

Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the Internet Society (ISOC) recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of the IETF, the world’s leading Internet standards development body, just as ISOC has declared this year, “The Year of the IETF”.

The IETF is a large open international community of network designers, operators, vendors, and researchers concerned with the evolution of the Internet architecture and the smooth operation of the Internet. Its principal task today is the development and publication of technical specifications and standards for basic Internet protocols and is open to any interested individual.

The first IETF meeting was held on the afternoon of January 16, 1986, in San Diego, California. As a community-driven activity the IETF went on to pioneer a unique, open process for standards development. Open to all, and based on principles such as “rough consensus and running code”, the IETF has enabled the development of standards that have supported every aspect of the Internet’s phenomenal growth.

IETF Chair, Brian Carpenter said that the group is unique, “Unlike other standards bodies, there is very little in the way of formal hierarchy and there are no membership requirements or fees. The IETF welcomes broad participation by anyone interested in the future technical evolution and stability of the Internet - and IETF standards are available to all, without charge.”

For the chairman of the Internet Architecture Board at IETF, Leslie Daiglethere, the body has reach global recognition of its achievements especially in support of the development of Internet technology. As the demands on the Internet increase, “the IETF clearly has a vital role to play in ensuring that Internet technologies continue to evolve in a coherent and coordinated manner.”

Internet Architecture Board provides architectural oversight of IETF activities.

While the President of the Internet Society (ISOC), Lynn St.Amour, descributed it thus; “The success of the IETF has largely been due to a pragmatic, consensus-based approach to technology standards development.” Stressing, “Many of the principles of coop January 19, 2006 ration and collaboration that were developed in the IETF are now being successfully applied in other global forums. ISOC is proud to be associated with the IETF - we value its members’ accomplishments over the last 20 years and look forward to celebrating these achievements over the course of 2006.”

ISOC has declared 2006 “The Year of the IETF” and will be running several activities during the year in celebration of the IETF’s 20th anniversary.

APC launches Data Center University

End-to-end global power solution provider, AmericanPower Conversion (APC), has launched Data CenterUniversity (DCU), an online educational institutionfor Information Technology (IT) professionals who areinvolved in building and operating server rooms anddata centres.

DCU, according to APC, includes both classroom andWeb-based courses with the initial launch offering 14foundational courses and six advanced courses in thesubject areas of data center design, build andoperations, just as courses are available online atwww.datacenteruniversity.com.

Officials of APC informed ITREALMS Online that allcourses focuses on vendor neutrality and do notpromote APC products, saying that focus on thecritical technologies and best practices are relevantto scaleable, modular data centre infrastructure.

Actual data centre executives, the firm said, withdecades of combined experience participated in thedevelopment of the courses.

This is in addition to individuals being able tocomplete most of the online, on-demand courses in lessthan one hour, even as DCU is an educational partnerof IEEE.

Country general manager, Africa at APC, Mr. CarlKleynhans, said that the firm's goal is to providedata centre professionals with training on real worldissues, not just theories.

"We expect that throughData Center University's continuing education courses,this institutions could help address the criticalshortage of qualified data centre professionals in theindustry," he said.

Stressing that DCU would provide individuals withstandardised training in the fundamental issues ofdata centre design, build and operations, as well asoffer them the knowledge and skills needed toeffectively manage real world issues in today'ssophisticated data centre.

IT professionals, he said, could now accesshigh-quality data centre education through thisvendor-neutral, one-stop and fast track educationalinstitution.

Emphasising that DCU gives IT professionalsunprecedented opportunity to broaden knowledge on awide variety of topics related to data centre designand management, comprising the latest high densityapplications that are creating challenging designissues for enterprises.

Other courses available include fundamentals ofcooling, fundamentals of power, and fundamentals ofphysical security.

He also disclosed that from now until March 31, 2006,the university would offer all online coursesfree-of-charge.Web-based education is self-paced and availableon-demand via the customer education.

Pointing outthat data center university addresses the great needfor advanced education in the disciplines of planningnetwork-critical physical infrastructure and designingdata centers."

As APC's core expertise has expanded into areas suchas data centre cooling and rack systems for bladeservers, Data Center University is a natural fit," hedeclared.

ITU workshop to discuss RFID

INTERNATIONAL Tele-communication Union (ITU), has concluded plans to stage a workshop to survey the Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) standards.

RFID is an automatic identification method, relying on storing and remotely retrieving data using devices called RFID tags or transponders.

The workshop, slated to hold in Geneva, between February 14-15, at the ITU headquarters, is tagged ‘Networked RFID: Systems and Services, according to the Communications Officer, ITU Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, Mr Toby Johnson, is the

Mr. Johnson also explained that the workshop has become relevant because RFID is the much-touted system that enables data to be transmitted by a tiny portable device, called a tag, which is read by an RFID reader and processed according to the needs of a particular application.

ITREALMS Online recollects that analysts recently predicted that RFID will revolutionize areas of industry including supply chain management, security and mobile telecommunication services.

In addition, RFID is expected to play an important role in the realization of the Ubiquitous Network Society (UNS).

“All this will create a yet unquantified demand on telecommunication networks,” he said, stressing that currently, the market for RFID standards is extremely fragmented.

Special standards for certain limited fields of applications, he said, exist as well as quasi-proprietary or proprietary standards, just as many RFID applications still lack global standards for data formats, compatibility, interoperability, interference problems, personal information protection, authentication, key management and others.

The communications officer noted that the workshop would serve as a survey of the market in terms of standardization and identify new areas for work; it will also begin work on a standards roadmap and provide a starting point for coordination of future work.

The workshop is scheduled to center its discussions on present status of RFID technology and identify future trends, review current and future applications, services and business models leveraging networked RFIDs (NRFIDs), identify NRFID aspects relevant to telecommunications comprising services and network capabilities, architecture, QoS, performance, security.

Other issues participants would be discussing include analyzing how far existing standards could support NRFID applications and services, and identify where enhanced or new standards might be needed, identify elements for a roadmap for a standardization framework, including the clarification of the role of applicable Standards-Development Organizations (SDOs), forums and consortia.

Participants are billed to come from RFID world, and in particular, professionals involved in standards and product planning.

Starcomms seals deal with 25 entities on VPN

Private Telecommunication Operator (PTO), Starcomms Limited has sealed a deal with 25 other corporate organisations to optimise the firm’s Virtual Private Network (VPN) known as Smart Business Service (SBS).

Commercial Head, Starcomms, Mr. Prakash Pantham, disclosed this and gave the list of some of the corporates to include Zenith International Bank Plc, Orion Technologies, Troyca Group, Stallion Group, Computer Warehouse Group and Lagos State University (LASU), among others.

He said that with the success of the service so far, Starcomms Smart Business Service is a virtual network that enables the subscribers to make calls within the network at highly reduced tariffs.

According to him, this service has been structured in such a way that it is flexible and capable of meeting the needs of small scale enterprises as well as big businesses with several branches.

He explained that the service has advantages such as convenience and low cost, emphasizing that the service could reduce the telecom spending of companies by as much as 56 per cent.

He listed other benefits of the service to comprise short code dialing, for easier use, increased organizational efficiency and dedicated account executives.

Starcomms, with over 250,000 subscribers, he said, recently launched its Global Short Messaging Service (SMS), which he noted is first of its kind by a PTO in the country.

This, he also said, was enabled by Starcomms’ Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA 2000 1X) Intelligent Network, which he explained is sophisticated technology platform that has made it possible for the company to provide a broad range of communications products and services.

As a result, Starcomms now prides itself as being the foremost total communications solutions provider company.

Consumer Parliament goes to Ibadan

The first edition of this year’s Telecom Consumer Parliament organised by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), train has moved to the centre of Yoruba politics, Ibadan.

Holding on Friday, January 27, at Jogor Centre, Harvester Close, Liberty Road, Ibadan, tomorrow, this edition would commence at 2.30 p.m. prompt, according to the Head, Public Affairs at NCC, Mr. Dave Imoko.

He explained that the parliament puts telecoms operators and the industry regulator on the spotlight of the consumers.

The event, which is the 26 edition, would deal with the services of both fixed line and mobile operators.

ITREALMS Online gathered that the parliament also would dwell on issues pertaining to Quality of Service (QoS), consumer rights protection, environmental impact assessment, interconnection, tariffs and universal service provision.

The audience, he said, is expected to cut across major stakeholders in the industry, opinion leaders, public affairs and policy analysts, government officials and students.

He further said, that telecoms services consumers, as well as the general public are urged to attend this interactive programme that would be recorded for a network broadcast on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and other television stations, nationwide.

VIA Eden, ULV processor hit market

VIA Technologies Incorporated based in Taipei, Taiwan, has taken its latest in stock VIA Eden and Eden ULV processors to the market place.

The firm which leads development of silicon chip technologies and Personal Computer (PC) platform solutions, announced that VIA Eden processor family, which is fanless along with the VIA V4 bus, including the Ultra Low Voltage (ULV) VIA Eden processors offer unbeatable power efficiency in design and performance within the compact nanoBGA2 package of 21mm x 21mm.

Vice President of Corporate Marketing, VIA Technologies, Mr. Richard Brown, disclosed that by taking full advantage of the advanced VIA CoolStream architecture and world-class 90nm manufacturing, the new 1Gega Hertz (GHz) VIA Eden ULV processor, has an incredible low maximum design power (TDP) of just 3.5 watts and the 1.5GHz part in addition to 7.5 watts, while the whole VIA Eden processor family boasts the industry’s lowest idle power of just half a watt.

He explained that the VIA V4 bus interface of the new VIA C7 processor family enables VIA Eden processors to deliver unprecedented performance in the embedded field, with an average performance increase of more than 30 per cent across leading industry benchmarks over previous VIA Eden processor generations, while maintaining the signature fanless operation through enhanced power efficiency to ensure no active cooling is required.

He also said, “To be able to offer processor speeds up to 1.5GHz within such a low power envelope is a remarkable advance for the x86 market, placing us clearly ahead of the competition and enabling more powerful embedded and silent systems”.

Emphasising that with these unprecedented levels of performance and power efficiency, “the new VIA Eden processor looks set to extend our leadership in markets such as thin clients, where increasingly intelligent, stylish x86 devices require more powerful yet still very cool processing capabilities.”

Particularly, he said, that the product targeted at a range of business, industrial and commercial applications such as thin clients, silent desktops, and set top boxes, the new Eden processor line is available at different speeds to meet the needs of those different vertical market segments.

Further, all of the new processors, he said, have been designed to operate at very low maximum power (TDP); ranging from 400MHz at just 2.5W up to 1.2GHz at 7W.

While the ultra low voltage skus, VIA Eden ULV processors, take power-efficiency a quantum step further, with the 1GHz and 1.5GHz parts designed for a maximum of an incredibly low 3.5W and 7.5W respectively.

Whereas, operating power is further reduced with VIA PowerSaver technology that enables the VIA Eden processor to transition between maximum processor speed and the lowest speed of 400MHz, depending on application requirements, within a single clock cycle, which also ensures seamless running of real-time operating systems and ensures no latency issues.

The new VIA Eden processor, according to him, boosts competitive write bandwidth and linear ordering modes, as well as MMX, SSE2 and SSE3 support for enhanced multimedia performance, and 128KB of both L1 and L2 on-die cache.

“It also integrates the world’s most comprehensive set of security tools in the VIA PadLock™ Security Engine, which can be enabled within applications to provide military-grade protection of business or personal information,” he noted.

Blind software pioneer delivers Turing Lecture

An IT entrepreneur, who overcame blindness to become a world champion water skier and went on to establish his own charity for the visually impaired, yesterday, Wednesday delivered the prestigious Turing Lecture at The University of Manchester in United Kingdom (UK).

Media Relations Officer at the institute’s Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, Mr. Simon Hunter, informed that Director of Data Connection Ltd and founder of the a-technic charity, which develops technology for the disabled, Mr. Chris Mairs, delivered the lecture, entitled: “Lifestyle access for the disabled - adding positive drift to the random walk with technology.”

The lecture, hosted by the University’s School of Computer Science, focused on the affect advancing technologies like ipods, mobile phones and even microwave cookers have had on people with disabilities.

Mr. Hunter also said that the event was sponsored by the British Computer Society (BCS), Institution of Electrical Engineers and IBM.

Held at Roscoe Building, Lecture Theatre A, University of Manchester, he said, the lecture saw Mr. Mairs, who overcame a severe inherited eye disease to eventually lead the British disabled water ski team to victory at four world championships, said technology could sometimes be helpful to disabled people.

“On one hand technology can sometimes help visually disabled people, but on the other hand, the ‘technology heavy’ nature of 21st century lifestyle often disenfranchises the disabled. I will be looking at what should and can be done to improve the outcome resulting from this technological dichotomy,” he said.

Mr. Mairs who directs Data Connection’s product line strategy and is Chief Technical Officer of their MetaSwitch telephony subsidiary, also has oversight on Bat Blaster device which is used by blind water skiers throughout the world to compete in slalom events.

The Turing Lecture series is held in honour and recognition of Alan Turing’s contribution to the field of computing and Chris Mairs’ lecture represents the eighth lecture in the series.

SANGONet web awards opens

Network of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) based in Southern African known as SANGONet is set to host its members to a three-day annual conference and exhibition tagged “ICTs for Civil Society” in Johannesburg.

SANGONet also said that this was precipitated by the overall strategic objective of the NGOs’ awareness of the importance of their websites, even as it invited members to enter for “South African NGO Web Awards 2006”.

Official online news bulletin of the group made available to ITREALMS Online said that this is the second edition of the event, which it said, is to build on the success of the 2005 edition.

This year’s conference, the organisers said would focus on a wide range of policy issues and practical Information and Communication Technology (ICT) solutions and applications relevant to the work of civil society within the region.

The conference, officials said, would have a strong focus on free and open source software and open content issues, just as the second day of the event, March 8, has been dedicated to Open Source.

Ultimate aim of the conference, ITREALMS Online was informed is to expose participants to a wide range

of ICT-related issues that impact on the work of NGOs in Southern Africa and the environment in which they operate.

Programme of the event also made available to correspondent indicated that a combination of plenary sessions, breakaway sessions and practical technology demonstrations.

“The conference is aimed at senior staff, communication and information officers, and technical employees in the NGO sector, as well as individuals who work with these organisations, including international funding agencies, the private sector, parastatals and government,” the organisation stated.

World Telecom Dev confab gets dates

Global telecommunications regulator, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has announced that this year’s annual World Telecommunication Development (WTD) conference slated for Doha Qatar, would hold in six weeks times.

ITU in a press statement made available to ITREALMS Online said that WTD conference facilitate an avenue to agree on telecommunication development priorities to bridge the digital divide.

ITREALMS Online also recalls that this is the first world development conference proceeding what some observers described as the landmark World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) held Tunis, last December.

The purpose of the conference, the regulator said in addition is to focus on initiatives to implement the priorities mapped out for bridging the digital divide, taking into account the WSIS Geneva Plan of Action and Tunis Agenda, thus aiming at bridging the digital divide.

“A key objective is to promote international cooperation, regional initiatives and partnerships that could sustain and strengthen telecommunication infrastructure and institutions in developing countries. The Doha Action Plan will set out ways to implement these goals over the next four years,” the statement indicated.

Over a thousand policy-makers and practitioners from government, the private sector, international and regional organizations are expected to attend WTDC-06 to fast-track ITU’s objectives of bridging the Digital Divide in all its dimensions — technical, societal and economic — and to harness the power of ICTs for socio-economic development of the widest number of people, particularly the world’s most deprived.

The opening ceremony slated for March 7, the conference organisers said, will focus on new action lines for global and regional development of telecommunications and ICT, the role of ITU in the post-WSIS paradigm and promoting new initiatives and partnerships to give concrete shape to the global vision enunciated in the WSIS process.

Additionally, ITU noted that the adoption of a comprehensive strategy to achieve balanced telecommunication development worldwide in cooperation with development partners from both governments and private sector, that the conference will consider two new global initiatives benefiting persons with disabilities, and telecommunications for disaster prevention.

Several regional initiatives that have been tabled by countries through a regional preparatory process are also being considered.

They focus on rural connectivity including broadband access, regional Internet Exchange Points (IXP), public Internet access in remote areas, internationalization of domain names, enhancement of regional roaming capabilities, financial schemes to achieve universal service objectives, development of government portals to expand E-government, security and reliability of information and communication technologies and development of digital signatures and public keys for E-commerce as well as e-Health and telemedicine for rural areas.

UK probes mobile roaming rates

Worried by roaming rip-offs, the United Kingdom telecommunications regulator, Office of Communications (OfCom) announced Tuesday it is probing mobile roaming rates.

The regulator said specifically that the examination would center on the mobile roaming fees paid by UK mobile users when they travel abroad.

ZDNet UK reports that the investigation into the UK’s wholesale mobile roaming market is part of a Europe-wide inquiry into the issue.

Hence it comes amid growing concern that consumers are being overcharged when they use their mobile phones to make and receive calls and text messages while travelling abroad.

“International roaming agreements are complex and wholesale charges between network operators can vary significantly. This has led to confusion among users at the wide range of prices they might pay. Although some operators now offer simpler, unified retail tariffs, some consumers still incur substantial mobile phone bills as a result of international roaming charges,” said Ofcom in a statement.

Ofcom also published a guide on its Web site to help people avoid running up hefty bills when using their phone abroad.

Vodafone, one of the UK’s five mobile operators, said it welcomed Ofcom’s move, even though the regulator could eventually force operators to cut their prices.

“It is vital for consumers to understand what they are paying when roaming abroad and we have been working hard to provide our customers with better value and greater transparency with Vodafone Passport,” said Phil Kirby, director of regulatory affairs for Vodafone UK.

With Vodafone Passport, users can use call minutes from their domestic subscription abroad, plus a 75p fee per call on top.

Ofcom’s investigation will be restricted to mobile phone calls and messages, and will not cover data services.

As ZDNet UK reported last autumn, some operators are imposing excessive charges on customers who use third generation (3G) and General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) datacards overseas.

One Orange customer was charged £800 after using his datacard to download just 80 Megabyte (MB) of data in France and Germany.

An Ofcom spokesman explained that data services would not be investigated at this stage, because such services are relatively new.

“Ofcom’s best estimate is that only around 2.5 percent of UK operator’s revenue is generated through accessing such services in the UK... given that the development of mobile data and internet services is at an early stage, Ofcom does not intend to consider these services within its review. The focus is on voice and SMS services which make up the majority of consumer usage, particularly whilst abroad,” said the Ofcom spokesman.

LinuxPro takes certification ‘daratechPLANT’

Canadaian-based Linux Professional Institute (LPI), priding itself as the world’s premier Linux certification organization, yesterday, Wednesday, concluded provision of discounted certification exams at the “daratechPLANT” conference, in Houston, Texas.

The “daratechPLANT” conference is the premier industry meeting place for senior business development executives in engineering, operations and information technology who are involved in asset creation, lifecycle management, instrumentation, real-time operations and plant maintenance, creation, planning and construction.

LPI will be attending the conference to promote the value of Linux certified professionals in demanding and innovative IT work environments.

“This is a new initiative for LPI and is illustrative of the growing influence and adoption of Linux and Open Source technology in a number of business environments. This is the first time we have attended this event and it represents a very important industry vertical for LPI to become more visible in. Many of the attending companies are some of the largest plant manufacturers in the world. We are also proud to say that we will be one of the first Open Source organization at this conference,” said Jim Lacey, President and CEO of the LPI.

Director of Community Relations at LPI, Mr. Scott Lamberton informed that the institute offered both the 101 and 102 exams of the LPIC-1 certification at a discounted price of $90 (about N8,000) per exam to conference attendees.

The exam labs were held Tuesday, January 24 and Wednesday, January 25 in Room Salon 12 of the Wyndham Greenspoint Hotel, 12400 Greenspoint Drive, Houston, Texas.

Candidates, he said, were pre-register on the LPI website at https://www.lpi.org/en/register, to receive a LPI identification number and they brought valid photo identification and their LPI ID number to the exam event.

The Linux Professional Institute (LPI) is an internationally recognized, vendor-independent organization advocating and assisting the professional use of Linux, Open Source and Free Software, through the certification of Linux professionals. Established as a non-profit organization in 1999, LPI is community based and supported. LPI’s certification program is delivered worldwide in seven languages.

The organization has delivered over 100,000 Level One and Level Two certification exams, globally, since the programs inception.

LPI supports affiliates on five continents, including Brazil, Bulgaria, United States, Japan, Canada, Germany, Australia, China, France, the UK and South Africa.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Lousy customer services for foreigners


Features of the week:

That customers are the kings of every business may not be in the dictionary of the Düsseldorf-based Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) operator, e-plus. Foreigners are lost as soon as they subscribe to this network in the name of language barrier and lack of customer relations at the service shops. Reports REMMY NWEKE.

IMAGINE buying a Subscriber Identification Module (SIM), only to be told that you cannot send a Short Messaging Service (SMS) to your country, merely because you are in Germany.

Your reaction is better imagined than what Mazi Eyi Eze got as a welcome pack from e-plus recently.

Mazi Eyi Eze has been in Germany and Berlin precisely for over one week, and was dying to be in touch with his family; hear the voice of his lovely wife and exchange text messages from his base in Lagos-Nigeria, but these were not forthcoming.

This could be more disturbing looking at the background of Mazi, which is of the eastern Nigeria; where families and even extended families must keep to the brotherly relationship maintained over the years.

Experience amassed with confusion

It became imperative to probably buy a mobile SIM, which took him to one of the assistants he met on arrival who came up with list of available offering within and among mobile telecom operators in the city of Berlin.

Alas, a choice was made and e-plus was picked basically for its low-cost Short Messaging Service (SMS) both locally and internationally.

E-plus, a Dusseldorf-based Global System for Mobile communications (GSM), began offering mobile services to Berlin and seven other major cities in Germany since 1994.

24 hours later, one e-plus SIM has been paid for, fixed on a Siemens S65 GSM/Global Packet Radio Service (GPRS) handset, and ready for use. So, Mazi now has a Berlin number he could be reached on anytime, but there was still a problem - the language question and SMS?

This is because all customer care service personnel at Wilmerdorf StraBe shop of e-plus, attend to people in German language.

It was then that the language barrier thing dawned on him, leaving Mazi in the world of his own. Although he was later assisted in activation of the SIM to place a call through to announce to his family in Lagos the new phone number, this joy was short-lived because the low-cost SMS was not going through to his Nigeria’s network, Vmobile.

A trial to contact a family member via SMS failed up to the 10th time and thinking he could fix this later on in a nearby shop to his guest house at Osnabrucker StraBe, he headed for home.

An American, who recently relocated to Hamburg-Germany, preferred to be known as Mr. Ken Jeff, who also uses e-Plus, said he is experiencing the same problem, although he would have loved to send some SMS’ to the grandma in the United States and efforts have not been successful.

False network report

In spite of this, on his way, Mazi branched into a café and call center along Meirendorff StraBe manned by an Ethiopian, Mr. Denmise, complaining of his experience so far.

Mr. Denmise also tried helping by interpreting the system generated SMS from the service provider via +491770703700, on probably why Mazi’s SMS was not sent.

It reads, “Die SMS konnte nicht zugestellt widen, da entweder die eingegebene Nummer nicht gultig ist oder das Guthaben der Free & Easy Card nicht ausreichend ist.”

This, he explained, to mean that the SMS cannot be delivered either because the number may be incorrect or there is no credit on the phone.

Then, Mr. Denmise checked on the credit by pressing 1155 only to discover that it has about E14.11 cents, as well as the number also correctly entered. So he gave up.

It was further gathered that Mazi could not send messages on his Berlin line but could receive, because it is a prepaid SIM, in addition to e-plus having international roaming with one out of the four GSM operators in Nigeria.

Finding a place for foreign customers

Currently, Nigeria records over 18 million GSM subscribers as at early weeks of December, 2005, according to the telecom regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and that was a growth achieved within four years of GSM in the country, with four operators.

So, if for instance, e-plus decided to have only one international roaming agreement with GSM networks in Nigeria, definitely, the teleco is missing greatly real business. Given that the number of Nigerians residing in Berlin and Germany generally with relatives scattered over the country goes into thousands.

And expanding this vital contact, would mean finding a place for versatile customers in its network and may be, in its lexicon of Customer Relations Management (CRM).

Nigerians urged to invest on content, NIG gets 10 committees

Nigerians have been urged to channel their investment plans into content provision on the internet by the President, Nigeria Internet Group (NIG), Mr. Lanre Ajayi, just as the group has concluded plans to inaugurate 10 committees to make it’s operations more people oriented.

He made this call in a chat with ITREALMS Online, saying that content providers make more money than mere Internet Service Providers (ISPs) also known as legacy ISPs.

Mr. Ajayi said that Nigerians should start tinkering on investing on content online because there are more opportunities.

“We must put content in the Internet and we must focus on information content,” he declared.

Although he recognized that a fraction of Nigerians have access to the Internet, enthusiasts, he said, must not loose sight of the importance of content at this era.

“Content is king on the Internet,” he asserted.

Nigerians, he said, must provide content for the rest of the world and Nigerians as well, even as he noted that NIG spent 10 years in creating awareness on access to the Internet that now is the time for promotion of content.

According to him, there would be some finance to be saved by providing content, which would lead to reduction of cost of bandwidth, “because when you have that the Internet exchange would thrive”.

Meanwhile, NIG has concluded plans to inaugurate 10 committees before the end of this month.

Mr. Ajayi gave the list of these committees to include publications, student/campus, position policy statement, research and statistics, conferences, international relations, training, web content development, e-readiness and online discussion.

He said that details would soon be made know and that members of NIG should watch out for a people-oriented group.

NIG was founded in 1995 as a non-governmental organization to champion the course of creating awareness and optimizing the Internet for change so as to help in its penetration and closing of digital divide.

Novell creates AppArmor project for Linux

United States-based Novell Inc developer of software for the open enterprise with office in South Africa, has announced the creation of the AppArmor project, a new open source initiative dedicated to advancing the state of the art of Linux’s application security.

Managing Director of Novell Africa office, Mr. Graham Hallworth, informed that Linux application security technology is vital for protecting Linux systems from external or internal attacks, viruses, and malicious applications.

The technology, he said, fills a major void among open source offerings by providing easy-to-use configuration and monitoring tools along with tight integration with the Linux operating system.

As a result, the managing director noted, businesses could reduce threats, protect critical corporate data, reduce security administration costs and comply with government regulations.

The software house, has also donated the core components of its Novell’s AppArmor framework to provide a foundation for the project.

Mr. Hallworth pointed out that Novell AppArmor is the only enterprise-deployable Linux application security solution that could be applied in hours, not days, and maintained cost-effectively without requiring high-level Linux and security expertise.

“Novell is focused on ensuring open source technology can meet the most demanding enterprise needs, and few issues are as important to enterprises as having a very simple means to ensure application security,” said executive vice president and chief technology officer Jeff Jaffe, for Novell.”

He explained that with AppArmor technology now freely available under open source license, the community has at its disposal some excellent technology to address security issues.

This, Mr. Jaffe said, demonstrates Novell’s ongoing commitment to enterprise-class security as well as the firm’s continuing leadership of key community initiatives.

According to a recent report by the SysAdmin, Audit, Network, Security (SANS) Institute, applications have become the primary target of attackers trying to break into business and government networks.

AppArmor protects critical data on Linux by making sure application flaws could be exploited by attackers, easily protecting applications from intrusions and threats without forcing IT staff to rely on emergency patching.

Novell’s project Mr. Jeffe also provides security that is simple enough to achieve widespread adoption, instead of being switched off and ignored as often happens with complex access control systems like SELinux.

The AppArmor project is the latest addition to Novell’s portfolio of open source initiatives, including the fast-growing openSUSE project.

The community-based effort provides developers complete access to the latest AppArmor code and tools to facilitate the review, testing and development of the AppArmor technology.

Industry and community leaders support the AppArmor project industry leaders are expressing strong support for the AppArmor project and agree the project will create better technologies, which protect mission-critical data hosted on Linux systems in the enterprise.

NCPI, tangible opportunity -– Kleynhans

Country General Manager for Africa at the American Power Conversion (APC) Mr. Carl Kleynhans, has said that the firm’s Network-Critical Physical Infrastructure (NCPI) represents a tangible opportunities for chief information officers (CIOs) and Information Technology (IT) managers in elimination of business costs of unnecessary downtime, human error, lack of agility and data centre oversizing.

Speaking recently, Mr. Kleynhans, said this is especially valid in the mission-critical data centres and disaster recovery sites.

Noting that IT infrastructure could be split into two parts, IT computing and communication equipment such as servers, routers, storage, laptops and desktops as well as the NCPI that this hardware supports.

NCPI, he said, includes power, power distribution, cooling, cooling distribution, service and the physical infrastructure management systems that support the hardware and software platforms of mission-critical data centres and facilities.

He also said that experience had shown that one-time engineering of an entire NCPI results in a distinctive system, with specific problems that require precise diagnosis and repair.

These processes are not only expensive and time-consuming, but also provide little intelligence that could be applied to future problems or problems at other data centres in the organisation.

Standardisation, according to him, eliminates the need for one-time engineering and eradicates the overhead of dealing with specific problems in the infrastructure, thereby freeing up resources for developing the data processing functionality of the IT layer supported by the infrastructure - the real mission of the data centre.

He further said that the goals of NCPI standardization are to drive out the inefficiencies and error-prone complexity of one-time engineering, to transparently manage the routine business of IT physical infrastructure and create the same signature quality expected of any infrastructure.

The country GM pointed out the impacts availability in several ways, namely the major factors affecting availability are the reliability of equipment, Mean Time To Recover (MTTR) and human error.

In terms of the reliability of equipment, he explained that standardised modular components could be mass-produced in greater volume than non-modularised systems, reducing production defects.

Modular components, he said, could be returned to the manufacturer for factory service, which greatly improves the quality of repairs. In addition, modular systems with standardised hook-ups could be configured at the factory in the same way they would be configured on site, allowing for factory pre-testing for defects.

MTN lifts student with Kia Optima

TWENTY-year old Secretarial Administration student of the Federal Polytechnic, Owerri, Ms. Chinenye Onyema, has emerged star prize-winner of a brand new Kia Optima salon car, in the last draws of the MTN Y’ello Seasons, promotion held in Lagos.

Indigene of Obazu Mbieri, Imo State, Ms Onyema was still holidaying in her village when her number 0806 543 4897, was picked from a pool of over 14 million entries as said by MTN, at the final draw of the Y’ello Seasons promo.

When contacted on the phone, Ms Onyema’s joy knew no bounds as she could not hide her excitement about her lucky break.

She was full of praises for MTN and expressed thanks to God and MTN for making it possible for her to become the owner of a brand new car in the new year and promised to put her prize to judicious use.

In her address at the occasion, Corporate Services Executive at MTN Nigeria, Mrs. Amina Oyagbola, said six of the star prize winners in the MTN Y’ello Seasons promo have had brand new Kia Optima cars delivered to them in their respective areas of abode.

She noted that over 5,000 subscribers have received bags of rice with gallons of vegetable oil during the seven-week promotion.

“The MTN Y’ello Seasons promo is a reward for the MTN subscriber, to enable them experience and share in the joy of Christmas and Sallah celebrations with their families and friends,” Mrs. Oyagbola also said.

Mrs. Oyagbola thanked the nation’s media practitioners for the support MTN has received from them on the Y’ello Seasons promo and indeed all of MTN’s activities.

Expressing her hope and desire for the cordial relationship to continue into the New Year.

Other customers who won prizes include Laide Sadiq and Janet Babuku, a resident of Jos, Plateau State emerged winners of 806 bags of rice.

The MTN Y’ello Season commenced on November 7, 2005 and lasted till January 5, 2006.

To qualify for the promo, MTN customers were required to buy and activate an MTN Pay As You Go SIM pack for N480 with preloaded N200 airtime plus N280 free airtime at first recharge.

Activation of a post-paid MTN BusinessTime starter pack, she explained also qualify the customer for an entry.

750 exhibitors sign for 3GSM congress

Estimated 750 corporate exhibitors are expected to grace the 3GSM World Congress slated for next month in Barcelona.

Congress is the world’s premier international mobile event, predicted to attract more than 40,000 telecom executives, including more than 6,000 chief executive officers and more than 1,200 press and media representatives who cover the event for worldwide audience.

Just five weeks to the gathering billed to hold between February 13 and 16, the organizers said as a past GSM World Series regional they look forward toward ensuring interested delegates would learn from another world-class line-up of keynote speakers who would take to the stage at the even.

A press statement from the organizers said that some of the chief executive confirmed to participate in the event, include Antonio Viana-Baptista, Telefónica Móviles, Arun Sarin, Vodafone Group, Wang Jianzhou, China Mobile Sanjiv Ahuja, Orange, Steve Ballmer, Microsoft Rene Obermann, T-Mobile International Mun Hwa Park, LG Electronics Mobile Communications Peter Erskine, 02 Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, Nokia Bill Roedy, MTV, Carl-Henric Svanberg, Ericsson, Ed Zander, Motorola.

The speakers are equally expected to cover full spectrum of the mobile ecosystem.

The organizers also said, the Mobile Innovation Forum has grown in importance for 2006, and brings together small start up companies with the investment community, mobile operators and vendors.

Directly allied to this event is the new Mobile Innovation award, a unique and prestigious addition to the GSM Association’s Awards categories.

On the Mobile Entertainment Summit (MES), organizers noted that the global forum for entertainment and content brands would come together with the mobile industry as the two worlds converge at breakneck speed.

Featuring some of the world’s most recognisable brands and addressing the key issues, an unprecedented line up of experts speakers include, Thomas Hesse, SonyBMG, Gary Carter, FreemantleMedia , Daniel Kranzler, INFORMA Peter Bazalgette, Endemol , Lucy Hood, Fox Mobile Entertainment, Attila Gazdag, Walt Disney, Frank Sagnier, Electronic Arts Eric Mika, Variety.

This year’s congress the organisers promise would be the biggest and best ever, bringing together industry leaders and visionaries from around the world and across the mobile value chain to explore the top strategic, commercial and technology challenges ahead of the global industry.

From mobile entertainment and the progress of next generation wireless services, to the challenges of providing first time communications to connect the unconnected people of the world, this is the event where the entire mobile industry converges to debate and discuss the issues, to network and most importantly to do business.

With a far broader global attendance, than at the regional events you may have attended, the world congress offers you even more business opportunities.

East Africa subscribers aim 40m Research

In three years time, the telecommunication subscribers in the Eastern African countries are expected to reach 40 million, according to the Telecoms and Media World Cellular Database.

This information is coming as Nigerian subscribers are already crossing over 20 million, as said by the regulatory, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

Telecoms and Media World Cellular Database in information made available to ITREALMS Online recalled that by September 2004 mobile subscribers in East Africa was to 10 million, an increase of 65 per cent.

Business Research Executive, Ezequiel Dominguez, said that this was a forecast to increase to 11.3 million before December 2004 and 17.6 million by the end of 2005, even as it targets subscribers would reach 40 million by end of 2009.

He also said that the region has witnessed exponential growth and cannot be ignored.

This growth, it said, was despite obstacles such as low level of economic development and huge grey market that exist in the region.

“There are huge demands and opportunities for cellular telephony in the East and Central African region,” the study stated.

In a related development Telecom and Media, also the organizers of GSM East and Central Africa 2006, said that high-level speakers are expected to share their knowledge and experiences accompanied with lively debate and real-life case studies.

As such, the organizers said these speakers include Chief Executives, Celtel Kenya, MTN Uganda, chief technical officer of Orange Cameroon, Director General of ZanTel, Marketing Director at Celtel Zambia and Deputy General Director, UniTel, Messrs Gerhard May, Noel Meier, Jean Lebel Ngopnang Jouenang, Noel Herrity, Norman Moyo, and Amilcar Safeca in that order.

The line up also include Peter Arina, Chief Commercial Officer, Safaricom Mohamed Sheikh, Chairman, Telsom Mobile John Sihra, Co-ordinator, EASSy Project Pascal Leccia, Senior Investment Officer, GICT, World Bank Group Martin Jarrold, Chief, International Programme Development, Global VSAT Forum Francisco Chate, Director, National Institute of Communications, Mozambique Vitalis Olunga, Head of Regulatory and Public Policy, Safaricom, and Chair GSM Africa.

SDR forum takes on communications advances

Denver, Colorado-based Software Defined Radio (SDR) forum would today round-up it’s first meeting for the year in Maima with the theme ‘Communications advances’.
Executive Director in charge of Information, Allan Margulies, said the theme was chosen due to relevance of interoperable communication in times of crisis which is paramount, whether for civil emergency services in events such as Hurricane Katrina or for military operations on the battlefield.

Advances in SDR, the director noted are working toward making interoperability a reality for both the military and for civil emergency services.
The forum’s first general meeting of the year, which ends today, Margulies said, began three days ago at the Marriott Dadeland in Miami, Fla., and would address those concerns.
Some working groups and special interest groups, the director said, addressed security, regulatory, education, and marketing issues, as well as technological issues.
Prior to the meeting, on January 16, Max Robert of Virginia Tech’s Mobile and Portable Radio Research Group and a team from Virginia Tech would lead a workshop, also scheduled at the Marriott Dadeland, which presented advances in software technology for use in designing software defined radio systems.
SDR uses software architecture to provide different functions with the same hardware, thus providing the desired operability.
Ideally, an SDR hides the implementation details and provides communication among a variety of different radios by seamlessly changing its software parameters.
“Radios” include any transmitter or receiver, from garage door openers to cell phones to walkie-talkies, to satellite communications systems.
One of the goals of SDR technology is to ensure that wireless users do not have to physically upgrade, change, or install “fixes” on their hardware; rather, that the software definition function is already embedded within the hardware.
The focus of the workshop is on Software Communications Architecture (SCA), in which the word “architecture” refers to the foundation of any digital system, whether it is hardware, software, or a combination of the two.
“This is analogous to an architect’s blueprint, in which the detail is provided for assembling the components,” the director explained.
Workshop leader Mr. Robert said, “Successful SDR is at the nexus point of a variety of technologies spanning both software and hardware. Members of any design team must be aware of the overall systems problems-SDR is not a software problem, and it is not a hardware problem, it is a systems problem.”
SDR membership spans across commercial, defense, and civil government organizations, and includes wireless service providers, network operators, component and equipment manufacturers, hardware and software developers, regulatory agencies, and academia.Presently numbering more than 125 organizations, the SDR forum’s membership includes major commercial wireless players from Asia, Europe, and North America.

Unified licensing is good, but ... Odufuwa


Interview:

Chief Executive, eShekels Limited, Lagos, Mr. Fola Odufuwa, spoke with Senior Reporter, REMMY NWEKE on accelerating bandwidth and achieving the proposed Unified Licensing regime in the country.
Excerpts:

You spoke recently at the OSIWA organized workshop on affordable bandwidth in West and Central Africa in Senegal, about deregulation and competition, what is your perception of that in West Africa?
Well, not West Africa particularly, even Africa generally, there have been much liberalization in the telecom sector. What has happened is that Global System for Mobile communications (GSM), the mobile services have been liberalized, but the entire spectrum; Internet Service Providers (ISP), Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT), Fixed, have not been liberalized. So, what you find is that, you still see monopolies in some areas, for instance, in the fixed, we still have one fixed operator across most African market.
Only a few countries have issued out Second National Operator (SNO) licenses and the effect of all of that is that there have not been effective competition that would drive down or lower prices for the generality of the people across the entire spectrum of services.
That has been the case and partly it has been due to the fact that absence of competition allowed what you can call ‘simulated’ competition, where an operator is offering about 30 cents for service and the other operator is offering 29 or 28 cents. So there has not been a pressure to improve on prices or even improve on customer services and network quality generally.
It is a key problem because without liberalization you would still have market distortions, market inefficiencies and there would be a feeling of helplessness on the part of the consumers, because, if you don’t like it you cannot do anything about it.
How do you relate this to inadequacies of bandwidth?
It is partly due to this issue of liberalization. Let me explain, in most of African countries, particularly in the West coast of Africa, we have two sources of bandwidth supply, one is the sub-marine cable SAT-3 or Atlantis to Dakar and all the rest or through satellite supplies, may be about six of them with fleets of satellites all over Africa. So, these six operators were charging already what in their own perception are their best rates, but these rates are several multiples; that is, several thousands above what is obtained even in developed economies.
So you find developed economies or rich countries paying extremely low prices for Internet and poor countries such as found in Africa paying extremely high for bandwidths, why? Because, it is what we call suppliers power. Supplier has a power, and is exhibiting significant market power because there are few of them and there is no competition, because, for SAT-3, for example there is only one and access to SAT-3 is in the hands of incumbent operators - national carriers, who have no reason beyond social responsibilities, for most of them who have no commercial reason to maximize the investment they have made by allowing consumer, and by offering lower prices in order to have high volume of people and still have same margin or even better margin.
I would share with you, we did a recent study of the global market wireless indicators like Apple and (EBITDA) from many countries, one of the trends we noticed was that even countries where you have low Apple like China and Egypt have very high EBITDA margins; EBITDA is like profit before tax - Earning Before Interest Tax Depreciation Amortization (EBITDA).
Now, in other words, even though operators in these countries were charging low prices, better still there is prevalence of low Apple in these economies and even in Africa, the margins were higher in the countries where the Apple rate is very high. The earnings and profit to the operator is much higher than in Japan or advanced countries where charges are higher. So, it is a key thing and it does not mean that where the charges are lower it does not necessarily translate to lack of profitability for the operators.
In Nigeria, for instance, you find out that every year, the operators that are growing are doubling their incomes, though they are now penetrating what we call the middle and bottom of the pyramid in terms of consumer segment. Nevertheless their annual revenues are doubling every year; from 40 to 80, 80 to 100 or 150 and now it is 200 and above. So, it is something that needs to be considered.
Now back to the question about the bandwidth. Africa needs to liberalise the availability of bandwidth by fibre in whatever route by authorizing people to install submarine cables and these things do not really cost so much money. SAT-3 cost about $250 million connecting South Africa to Portugal, now you can install the same network with one-third of that price. I mean these are things Africans don’t need to go and source for donor funding or World Bank or wherever to look for fund. Internally, within the continent and African communities, there are entrepreneurs with the capacities to make that kind of investments.
What do you make out of non-presence of the Nigerian government in this kind of workshop that has to do with bandwidth, intensely required in terms of development of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)?
Well, there are several reasons and it is not necessarily that they are regulatory efforts. The way it is, in what you called ICTs, is such that it is fragmented. You have telecoms with Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), you have broadcasting with National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), you have IT with National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), and you have satellite space with National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA). So you have four agencies that are impacting on technology generally in the country and the four of them have different roles of impact or market impact.
For instance, if you say you want to liberalise a Nigerian satellite it is not going to be done by NCC or NBC and even though the people, the users of these satellite are going to be people licensed by NBC, and NCC alright. And if you say you want to liberalise the market, there is no history of external fibre optic connection and there is history of regulation in that area so it has to be invented. That also requires some push and if there is nobody who has written a letter saying he wants a license to install a link between Lagos and United States, I mean, nobody would be thinking about it. So, that is the kind of issue at stake and it is not really the fault of any regulator but sometimes a function of market pressures and market demand that leads to the opening up of certain areas.
But NCC seems to be very prominent among all other government agencies within these agencies you have listed. Now, would it be that you are advocating for the harmonization of these agencies for the regulation of these sub-sectors?
It is inevitable that there would be a convergence particularly two or three regulatory bodies if not all the four of them. That has to be, because, for instance, if you buy a Personal Computer (PC), you may be looking at NITDA, but when you open the PC, reboot it or want to do anything on it in the terms of communication whatever, then you would be looking at NCC. And when you now want to talk about the content, you would be looking at NBC and whatever you are doing that involves satellite on the same PC you have to talk or look at NASRDA.
It may have worked historically but in the current world and at the pace at which technologies are converging it does not work. Nowadays, you have phases like ‘I would listen to my PC’, ‘I would watch my radio’ and even in Nigeria in some hotels, you can browse the Internet on your television set. These are why technologies require the convergence of the regulatory bodies; with Internet Protocol Television (iPTV), video streaming, you now know you don’t know which is what anymore.
For instance, how do you count a television viewer, is it the one who have a television set box or the one who is watching it on his computer and the person who is listening to his radio via his computer through a radio website audio streaming. In Nigeria, there are a number of radio stations in the east and west, who are transmitting through the Internet, I mean, how do you count the person; when is he a radio listener? When he carries a traditional radio transistor in his palm or when he listens to it via the PC.
And the real truth is that the convergence of technologies requires that there should be a convergence of regulators, whether it is done now or later, but the quicker it is done the better for us.
What do you make out of the Unified Licensing regime NCC is proposing to take off this quarter?
It is a good development but requires lots of deep thinking because there would be a lot of fallouts. For instance, are we going to have or what would happen if an operator has a unified license, is it going to be required or mandated to offer the entire spectrum of services across the entire breathe of the country or are we going to have regional players, city-wide players and village-wide players.
And those village-wide players would they also be required to offer all spectrum services, both mobile, fixed and the rest. Then, what is the incentive if I have a unified license like what happened in the past, I have an SNO license and I have not really used it but focused on mobile license or I have a Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) license and I am focusing on the data aspect but I am not dealing with the voice aspect because the terminals in the person’s opinion is high and then there is no obligation to fulfill the entire license. That kind of issues are going to come up, where would the frequency spectrum to support these; is it unlimited or limited to say how it would be grouped, say 4, 8, 12, 6. Now the over 200 operators in the industry including ISPs, VSAT, mobile and fixed lines companies are they going to have eight companies or 12 companies offering everything?
So, it requires a lot of deep strategic thinking, otherwise, what you would find if not carefully done is going to create a market distortion again and then the consolidation that is hopeful would now be in abyss. But if it is well done, it could actually lead to the consolidation of the industry and make both big and small operators co-habit without any problems. It could also force or reduce the possible presence of a significant dominator because now you would have a level playing field for everybody and this would usher in full competition and growth. It could also enhance the bargaining power of operators and even of consumers as well. Operators with their suppliers, because, for instance, where I was buying a megabit of bandwidth at $3,000 now I can buy a hundred megabits because I have the capacity to distribute that for a $1,000 or even less.
What of the consumers?
Yes, then, for the consumers, there is a greater ability to bargain because prices are reducing and you could switch within eight operators instead of a hundred. Those are permutations and we still have to bear in mind that actually it has never been done anywhere in the world yet, in terms of converging all three sectors. Yes, there is convergence of two, that is, broadcasting and communications in some markets but not of three or four.
So it is good that we also not end up making ourselves guinea pigs, or case studies of how unified licenses should not be done. In fact, it may even create a situation nobody does unified licensing any more, because it did not work as well.
You know for instance, that people are not selling the Third Generation (3G) license at the same rate it was being sole three, five years ago, because everybody agrees that that model did not work and many telecommunications companies failed because of that.
So we may need to be also careful so that we may not create undue pressure and market failure in the industry.