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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

We’re prepared for Nigerian market - Pieters


Interview:

Group chief executive, CelTel International of The Netherlands, Mr. Marten Pieters, spoke to selected Nigerian journalists in Kempenski, Tanzania, at the weekend. Senior Reporter, REMMY NWEKE, was there and reports.

Excerpts:

The company you have bought into used to be known as Econet Wireless and then as Vodacom and is now known as Vmobile and will be known as Celtel when you rebrand it. Four names in five years. How are you going to handle there-branding issue and what are the challenges?

Of course Vmobile has had a kind of troubled history. That is why I think it is so good that the company now has reached a safe harbour and is in good family. But of course now, entering into the family means that you have to adopt the family name. What we see in Nigeria so far is that Vmobile has done a very good job in promoting their brand-Vmobile. It is a strong brand. But there is also a lot of proof in the industry that if you have a strong brand, you can build on that brand equity and change it into another brand. Let me give you a few examples. Vodafone started out with only one licence and now it is all over the world. They started from the scratch with only a few licences. They bought quite a few licences and they re-branded them all. Orange did the same thing. Orange bought a lot to companies and re-branded them into Orange operations.

We have seen that it is very much possible if you do it in a professional way and you explain to the public that we are not throwing away Vmobile but it is just a next phase in the life of the company. It is a very good company. It has a very strong brand, the customers like the brand, the staff like the brand but it is now time to move on.

Again, becoming part of that family means that you have to adopt the family name. And that is what we have done in other countries. Let me just give you two examples from recent history. In Kenya , we bought a company called Kencell which was using a brand call Yell and we re-branded that two years ago to Celtel and if you go to Kenya now , you would see that it is very well accepted now. We bought a company in Madagascar last year and two months ago, we re-branded that into Celtel. If you do that carefully and you make sure that the communication is clear about it and again you make sure that you do not throw away the good things that you have but rather build on them, then it is absolutely possible and there is a lot of proof in the industry that you can do that successfully.

What is your capital profile that will enable you carry out your planned expansion of Vmobile?

I can tell you that we expect that in the next two years to invest another $700 million in the company. And then, of course, if all Nigerians want to be our customers, we might invest billions of dollars. It will depend on the customer growth.

Your coming into Tanzania market led to a reduction in tariff in the country. Do we look forward to a similar situation in Nigeria?

I think the situation here in Tanzania was a little bit different from Nigeria because in Nigeria every operator has its own international gateway. There is no monopoly of international gateways and that actually keeps the tariffs high. And that’s what was happening here. There was no competition in international traffic because it was monopolized into the fixed line operators. That has changed. The market has opened. And then you see that competition starts and then you are able to drop the tariffs because you don’t have to go through the monopoly that actually keep the tariff very high and then every mobile operator sitting behind him can do nothing else than also to keep the tariffs high. That is the situation here. But in Nigeria you already have a different situation because there is already competition on the international traffic.

What are your plans to improve the quality of the Vmobile network?

First of all, building a mobile network is an art though it is scientific and technology-driven thing. The reality is that it is very much dependent on the quality of the people that are working on it. So you see differences on the quality of the networks. The other issue is that if you purchase a piper aircraft, for instance, and it carries four passengers. Now what we do with the mobile networks is that before the flight we reconstruct that little aircraft into a Boeing 747 which is a big jumbo jet because we have to add passengers during the flight and we can’t go down and stop and put the plane in a hanger for three weeks and say we are going to add some extra chairs. But you can imagine if you reconstruct your piper in the air into Boeing 747. That is quite a difficult task and here and there something might go wrong.

And that is the issue. There are so many new customers on all the networks in Nigeria. And it is like if you have construction on the road, you will end up having traffic jam because you go from two lanes to one lane and the traffic has to stop. That is a bit of issue we have with the networks that we have in Nigeria . They are not stable networks. They are networks that are constantly under construction. And that means that things might go wrong. And I think it has shown by research that Vmobile is probably the best network in Nigeria. They have always served their customers very well because they have a very good network quality.

If I now tell you that Celtel was founded by the best GSM engineer in the world because the company was founded by Dr. Mo Ibrahim. He worked during his career in the GSM industry and founded a company called MSI which was a consultancy company as far back as in the 1980s. This grew to become the biggest GSM consultancy company in the world. They have thousands and thousands of engineers and some of them were passed on to the network when MSI was founded. That means that we are probably the company that knows the most about GSM networks. We are very confident that we can maintain the quality of the network and also bring new ideas into Nigeria.

Being a continental brand are you going to have local flavour?

We are not going to tell you about our internal relationship with our agency because that is confidential information. That is competitive, sensitive information. But of course if you build a global brand; although it is not meant to be globalised, now, is African, but in Africa, you can see it as a global brand, then, of course, that means that drives part of your brand positioning and that’s what you see.

But, still, we use more of the same philosophy in the advertising and the way we promote the brand. It has the same brand values and it has the same brand performance. It might be slightly different in the way we do our advertising in each country because people want to recognize what they see in the advertising and say, ‘yes, this is my environment.’

At the same time, I have experienced personally that people always have strong opinions about advertising but, it does not necessarily mean that all those feelings point in the same direction.

Take Coca-cola for instance, I have never seen a local advertisement for Coca-cola. It’s always an international advertisement for Coca-cola and that is the way we want to promote our brand also. It should be the same brand throughout the countries. But, of course, you will see more localized fliers, and if you talk to the salesman, you will probably see some posters that are more localized but the main positioning of the brand should be the same in all the countries. That is, how we try to do it.

Presently unified licensing is coming on stream. Would your company be interested in this?

Yes, of course, we’re interested in unified licence. In the end, everybody will have a unified licence. That is the whole philosophy about the unified licensing. It is a very good direction. What happened in the past was that governments and regulators would give licenses based on a certain technology, which in a way is a little bit funny because the technology is actually not interesting to the customer. The customer is interested in the service. Let us take our main product which is the voice call. I think you as a user of a mobile phone are not very interested if your voice call travels over a 900 frequency or 1800 frequency or something in between. I don’t think you are interested in that. So, it is a little bit funny if you as a government say that, ‘Okay, you can do voice service as a company but you can only do it on this technology.”

Governments are now moving away from that. So, what they would do would be to say okay, ‘you can do a service and you pick the best technology.’ And the best technology today, might be very different from the best technology five years from now. And we see that in the industry.

That is the good thing about unified licence. On the other hand, don’t expect too much from it. That is the down side. People get excited because it’s unified licensing, in the end, what limits the number of operators for example, that do mobile telephony, is not the number of licenses, the thing is the availability of frequencies and that is a very limited thing.

Unified licensing is good but, at the same time, you must not see it as a magic that will change the whole industry because that won’t happen. It’s a kind of natural evolution, a kind of natural growth path that we are going through.

Your operation in the countries where you are presently is not big. Now, you are entering the Nigerian market which is a huge one. How prepared are you to cope with the challenges?

Many members of our management team like me, have worked in much bigger companies before we joined Celtel. We are not a bit scared when we see a big number. Let me tell you that we are prepared for the Nigerian market. Nigeria is a beautiful country with a lot of potentials. But in the end it is just like another market. If you have two million or four million customers has no impact on your processes in the company. In the end it is more of the same thing. It is not something that we did not expect; we are very prepared.

I can tell you that the Vmobile staff are extremely competent. They brought this company to where it is today. The only thing that we shall do is that we shall be a god shareholder and bring some of the knowledge that we have. Having worked in 14 other African countries we have a lot of knowledge about what kind of things are working and those which are not working. We can bring that knowledge to Nigeria. So far, we have brought only five people into Vmobile which already has 2200 people. It is not that Celtel staff will start the company. It will still be the old staff. But as I said, it is now a part of a different family, so, it will have to adapt here and there to the family’s standards and rules. But for the rest we are confident that the staff will drive the company further as they had done in the past.

You are working on the “One East African Network”. What is it about?

It is a great opportunity for us to leverage on this unique opportunity that we have been present in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. What we see very clearly is that there is no border; no wall running across between these countries. As people trade across these borders, they just move from one town within a country to another in another country. They are not trading within a country, they are trading within East Africa. Today, they are heavily prohibited in their activities by the fact that they can’t use one telephone line in all these countries.

So, we are working on a project called “One Network” which is like taking down these borders and allow the customers of Celtel in Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya to move freely through these countries with a single number. If it is left to roaming, it will be expensive. We want to make the whole of East Africa just one market. We believe this will be powerful in contributing to the economic growth in these countries.

Will your taking over Vmobile lead to job loss?

We have told the staff of Vmobile that the brand name has nothing to do with their employment. The good news is that we are growing daily in Vmobile. In fact we hire people everyday. I said to the staff, “I am not in the business of firing people, I am in the business of hiring people.” I can tell you that it is difficult to find all the right people. So, people that can perform should not worry about their jobs.

Having operated in many other African countries, how do you see the regulatory environment in Nigeria?

Regulatory environment is more complicated in Nigeria than in any of the other countries we are working. This is because of the federal state of Nigeria. We have authorities on so many levels in Nigeria that complicates the whole regulatory issue.

We can learn more from Nigeria for our other markets than the other way round because Nigeria has been able to complicate the regulatory issue up to a level that we haven’t seen before. But we have a very competent regulatory department in Vmobile and they are handling a lot of issues. I guess some of these issues we have never seen before in our other markets. Let me give you an example. Very recently, fees were asked by the aviation authorities for masts that are erected even if they are 300 kilometers away from the nearest airport. This kind of thing we have never seen before. That is the difference.

Do you have any plan to bring your operations in Africa under one network?

Part of our strategy is to be a pan African operator. What we mean is that we want to have our footprints all over the continent. We also want to make it possible for our African customers to be able to talk to one another as if it was a borderless community.

You may know that we know traditionally, telephone traffic travels all over the world. If you make a telephone call from Nigeria to Gabon, for instance, that call quickly goes to London, from London to Paris and Paris to Gabon. It is not a very big issue technologically these days because if there is glass fibre, you actually won’t see any delay. It goes very quickly and it is just a matter of seconds. The reality is that there isn’t always glass fibre. It is like going on a bus trip, the longer it is, the higher the risk that somewhere down the road something goes wrong. So, you see that the quality of those calls is typically not very good. They are also expensive because they become international calls, all kinds of operators in between have to make some money on it. What we try to do is connect directly with each other. On top of that if we are able to implement this “One Network” concept, it will break down the tariff structure.

Let me tell you that that is a very complicated issue. It is not about us or the technology; it is all about governments. Each country has a different VAT (Value Added Tax) regime and all the countries want to make sure that they get their VAT on each call. Then you have different licence fees, you have different levies and specific taxes on telecoms income but they are different in every country. That makes the whole thing extremely complicated. From the technological point of view we can do it already today, it is really the regulatory side that holds us back because it is extremely complicated. But we are about to introduce it in East Africa. I think the moment that we introduce it and customers start to understand what this will bring to them, then there will be pressure from the consumer community to introduce this further. Then, it is easier once we have developed the concept to add more countries one by one. That is what we are trying to do in the next few years.

What is your reading of the Nigerian economy?

We are very positive about the future of Nigeria and that is for three main reasons. First of all, it is still the most vibrant population we have in Africa- very well educated, bright and also highly energetic people and that is what we see everywhere in Nigeria. So, if there is anybody that is going to make it in Africa, it is the Nigerian. That’s our opinion.

The second thing is that it is a country that has oil. And oil as we see today, is a huge influx of money. And then, the sheer size of the economy in itself is a great issue. The biggest in the continent. That in itself will drive the country to a level where Nigeria will be a very interesting economy.

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

Globacom goes for 3G license … As Alcatel begins trial in Lagos

Remmy Nweke

SECOND National Operator (SNO), Globacom, has expressed interest to go for the Third Generation (3G) license.

This is coming as Alcatel Nigeria, has chosen Globacom for the trial of the technology on allocated frequencies for 3G platform as approved by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

It would be recalled that NCC recently approved the trial of 3G by three telecommunications equipment manufacturers, namely Huawie, Ericsson and Alcatel.

Speaking at the a press launch to herald the trial of 3G on Globacom network in Lagos by Alcatel, the chief operating officer (COO), Mr. Mohammed Jameel, said that if NCC approves 3G license today for Globacom that by next seven working days it would be live on Glo network in Lagos.

Third generation promises higher data speeds and higher usage of both data transmission and other multimedia transmission.

“If the license is given today, Lagos would go up in the next week, followed by Port Harcourt and Abuja and then it would spread nationwide,” Mr. Jameel said.

Although, he did not disclose when the trial would end, the COO said that the trial would continue pending when NCC gives them the license to go on.

According to him, the upgrade to 3G from the Globacom’s enhanced 2.5G, would take between six and eight months to complete, citing an instance of upgrading about 2000 cell sites on the network.

“It would take about six and eight months after licensing and requires 3G phones to be able to have the 3G services,” he said.

Mr. Jameel further said that as soon as the license is approved, Glo would commence work on making its Subscribers Identification Module (SIM) cards 3G compatible in order to enable subscribers to enjoy the services abound on the technology, just as the price is yet to be determined due to the license is still being worked out.

“We stand committed to making it available and very affordable,” he asserted.

Also speaking, the General Manager, Alcatel Nigeria, Mr. Jean Paul Bre, said Alcatel has resolved to build a leading network and that was why the choice of Globacom in the testing of its 3G frequency.

Equally speaking, Project Manager at Alcatel Nigeria, Mr. Sebastien Boussel, while throwing more light on the technology, said that it has the ability to offer camera that could be used in monitoring traffic at a given location, downloadable video on demand.

“It also offers high speed Internet, content streaming download,” he said.

Special guest at the launch and Nigerian actress, Ms Stephanie Okereke, described it as gladdening and exciting for 3G to finally land on the shores of the country.

She expressed hope it would help in curbing crimes in the society.

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

NCC assigns nationwide frequency to Prestel

Remmy Nweke

PIONEER Unified License Operator (ULO), Prest Cable and Satellite TV Systems Limited (Prestel) has been assigned a nationwide frequency by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

In a letter of assignment of frequency to Prestel and made available to ITRealms Online, was sequel to the payment of annual spectrum fees for additional one carrier in the 800 Mega Hertz (MHz) band for Wireless Local Loop (WLL) embedded in the Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) operations.

The frequency apart from covering the 36 states of the federation also covers the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja.

Chairman and chief executive officer, Prestel, Mr. Anthony Prest confirmed this development, saying it was after his firm paid N350,000,000.00 for this national frequency assignment in 800MHz band.

As explained by him, Prestel now has estimated three carriers each in every state nationwide.

“Our intention is to make sure that every house in Nigeria has a land line/fixed wireless telephony and anybody who wants Internet (EVDO) can do so from the comfort of their homes and office,” Mr. Prest said.

Noteworthy is that Prestel is so far the only known ULO based in Niger Delta and championing development of ICT in the country.

A letter signed by Mr. U.A.S. Maska on behalf of the executive vice chairman and chief executive of NCC, said the status of the updated total assignment in the 800 MHz comprises earlier assignment dated July 12, 2006, said the assignment is renewable annually with the next renewal due on January 2008.

The assignment of 800 MHz band which is being shared by many operators, NCC said, is needed to ensure that there is enough separation between the carriers of adjacent operators in order to avoid interference.

The channel of frequency to Prestel cut across channel 52, 94 and 136 and on bandwidth of 827.82 MHz and 872.82 MHz and 829.08 MHz and 874.08 MHz between Rx and Tx respectively as well as 8826.56 and 871.56.

On the roll-out obligations, NCC said, the use of lose would apply to this assignment consequent upon the requirement to roll out services in at least three states in each of the geopolitical zones of the country within five years starting from January 2007.

It would be recalled that the Edo State-based Prestel, recently secured a numbering plan from the regulator, the NCC.

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

‘Don’t expect much from Unified Licensing regime’

Remmy Nweke

NIGERIAN telecommunications consumers have been warned not to expect so much from the on-going Unified Licensing Regime (ULR).

ULR commenced effectively in the country, March 1, 2006, and has since witnessed the licensing in the new regime of eight telecommunications companies.

The eight Unified License Operators (ULOs) comprise of MTN Nigeria Communications, Interceullar, Starcomms, VGC Communications Limited, Danjay Teleco, Bodex, Multi-Links Telecommunications Limited, Prest Cable & Satellite TV Systems Limited and Intercellular Nigeria Plc.

Telecommunications expert and group chief executive, CelTel International of The Netherlands, Mr. Marten Pieters gave this advice in a media parley in Tanzania.

While affirming CelTel’s interest in getting its own license, Mr. Pieters noted that building a mobile network is an art though scientifically and technologically driven.

The reality, he said, is that its very much dependent on the quality of the people that are working on it, hence there are differences on the quality of networks.

Another pertinent issue, as said by him, is the availability of frequencies, which he noted, “is a very limited thing.”

He therefore, cautioned that though the licensing is good, consumers should not expect magic.

“You must not see it (ULR) as a magic that will change the whole industry, because that won’t happen,” he asserted.

Mr. Pieters emphasized that it’s a kind of natural evolution, “a natural growth path that we’re going through.”

However, he did not reveal the date or period when CelTel would be processing its unified license in the country.

But indications are that the process could come soon after a successful take-off of rebranding Vmobile to CelTel Nigeria.

Permutations are rift that the rebranding would take off before the middle of September this year.

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

Ekuwem, Nwannenna storm IoD roundtable

Remmy Nweke

PRESIDENT, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem and his counterpart at the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), Dr. Chris Nwannenna, would today, August 30, lead speakers at this month’s Institute of Directors (IoD) August roundtable.

Also to speak at the forum is the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, according to the Director-General (DG) IoD, Mrs. Elizabeth Fagbure.

She equally, said that the roundtable holding at the institute’s secretariat Ikoyi, has the theme, “IT and Telecommunications: Veritable Tools for Economic Growth.”

She emphasized that the theme, has been selected to sensitize directors and business leaders as well as the members of the IoD on how to re-invigorate the IT and telecoms sector in order to effectively harness opportunities, promote public and private partnerships and facilitate strategic trade alliances.

Additionally, the Group Managing Director of Linkserve Limited, Chief Chima Onyekwere, and Managing Director of Continental Re-insurance Plc, Mr. A. Adejumo, will both deliver the sponsors’ package, while chief host of the day is the President, IoD, Mr. Femi Ekundayo.

The IoD members’ evening is a monthly forum of the IoD where members, their spouses, friends and business associates interact and educate themselves on salient economic issues.

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

NAHCO commissions ExpertEdge Systems

Remmy Nweke

SOFTWARE subsidiary of the Computer Warehouse Group (CWG), ExpertEdge Software and Systems, has been commissioned by the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) to assist in putting the ice on the agency’s efforts to shore up its operations.

Disclosing this to ITREALMS Online, the Corporate Affairs Manager at CWG, Mrs. Morenike Popoola, said the step was taken by NAHCO management to boost its operations and reposition for global competitiveness.

This step, though very relevant, has produced very marginal improvement. Fortunate enough, it did not take long to realize that the missing link is the company’s failure to address her technological need.

There are two core applications in place for handling cargo operations worldwide viz; iMUSE and HERMIS but there is no automated system to manage its accounting, procurement and reporting functions (back-end).

According to her, there was a great challenge to install a robust but flexible business solution that will integrate with the two core applications which provide feeder data for processing.

The system should also come with in-built logic and programmes that can execute commercial agreements with their customers who are mostly international airlines.

She noted that it is important that these are lines insist on the adoption of business scenarios of their different native countries. This requirement, she said, has placed a complex demand for a customized, flexible and integrated application of international standing.

NAHCO engaged the assistance of her foreign share holders in a global search for a solution to this missing link, she said.

The search team from the firm, made up of reputable and experienced information technology and business managers, she said, put their hard earned integrity at stake after paying site visits and conducting demo sessions; rose with one voice pointing at Oracle E-business as the ‘Orange Man’.

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

Seasons of recalling ICT products

Remmy Nweke

On August 14 when Dell announced without option that it has to recall the batteries of its laptops already in the market, not much eye brows were raised.

The total number of recalled batteries was estimated to be about 4.1 million at that exercise in accordance with the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission.

As if this was not enough, a week later, Apple, another core Information Technology (IT) hardware company, announced its own recall, expected to attract or affect several millions of notebooks and laptops.

A unifying factor here is that Sony reportedly produced most of the recalled batteries, which were manufactured and shipped between April 2004 and July 18, 2006.

The problems Dell is having stem from impurities within the anode and cathode of the battery, said Kay, who was briefed on the problems by Dell executives. Over time, those impurities, usually tiny pieces of metal, can work their way to the edge of the anode or cathode and rupture the isolator that sits between the two, he said. Once that happens, you get a short circuit and possibly a fire according to analysts from CNET.com, Messrs Tom Krazit and Michael Kanellos.

In cell phones, they also said, lithium ion batteries can overheat because of a short circuit. If the temperature rises slowly, the battery case may melt. If it rises rapidly, however, enough pressure may be generated to create a small explosion in a lithium ion battery. Consumers have suffered severe burns as a result of these failures. The chemical reaction that produces energy in a lithium-ion battery is considered quite violent.

For Apple this recall could be on-going at the moment, but noteworthy is that the these products were probably made for specific markets in the Least Developing Countries (LDCs) of the world, eventually find its way circulating in the advanced countries, thus raising concern over the battery.

It is a fact that if the alarm was initially raised from LDCs, less attention should have been given to the the outcry that surrounded it.

As informed recently by the chairman cum founder, Dell, Mr. Michael Dell, his firm was still investigating the incident in order to find a remedy for the future.

Report has it that while in Sydney early this month, Mr. Dell used the opportunity to schedule meetings with some large customers while in Ausutraia and New Zealand as well as the staff at the Sydney’s Town Hall.

Also recently, leading system manufacturer in Nigeria, Zinox Computers extended its warranty for a batch of computers produced between March and May, 2006.

The gesture, Zinox said was designed to cushion the effects of long delays experienced while clearing its equipment at the local ports, which resulted in weakening of a batch of motherboards.

Speaking on this development, head, Technical Strategy at Zinox, Mr. Innocent Okorie explained that motherboards are extra sensitive electronic components that are not supposed to be unduly exposed to heat and humidity.

These components, he further explained witnessed these delays under unfavorable weather conditions have, as was expected, occasioned a 4 per cent failure rate on that batch of motherboards.

It would be recollected that last year Hewlett Packard and DELL equally had to replace world wide different models of their systems that were discovered to have major component failures. It is therefore seen that Zinox move was in tune with international standard practice.

The technical expert further said that those who have purchased PCs from Zinox with this batch of motherboards, that is, between January and May, 2006, would enjoy an additional six months warranty, making theirs an 18-month comprehensive warranty.

As said by him, this has been responsible for the collapse of the several manufacturing entities and uncompetitiveness of locally manufactured goods.

The uniqueness of recalling products in the ICT community globally is encouraging based on the viaualised good governance among its member companies.

Conversely, manufacturers such products should advance on their quality control of different products coming out of their stables.

Whereas the practice should be encouraged, consumer and quality control department of companies involved in manufacturing should come up with another module of ensuring good output so as to avoid eventualities and especially within the ICT community.

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

APC elevates Rob Johnson to CEO

Remmy Nweke

The American Power Conversion (APC), with office in Nigeri has named Mr. Rob Johnson as the firm’s interim President and chief executive officer (CEO).

This follows the approval of the board of directors and retirement of Mr. Rodger B. Dowedell, Jnr, which takes immediate effect.

Before now, Mr. Johnson has been the Vice President at APC and would be acting on interim basis as president and CEO pending the appointment of a new CEO or confirmation of his new status.

On the other hand, Mr. Dowdell would continue to serve on the board of directors as non-executive chairman of the board.

Mr. Johnson joined APC in 1997 after APC acquired his Systems Enhancement Corporation, the power management software firm he founded in 1990 and has held the position of president till the acquisition.

As vice president at APC, Mr. Johnson directs the development and marketing of APC's cooling, management, and accessory offerings for data centers and networking environments including critical components of APC's InfraStruXure solution. He holds a BS in Engineering Management from the University of Missouri.

On his new responsibility, he said, it is has been an exciting time at APC, marked by truly innovative solutions and a tremendous opportunity in the data center.

"In addition, APC has a team of extremely talented individuals and a wonderful customer base with which to work. With this solid foundation, the board and I don't envision any immediate major strategic changes at APC in terms of products offered or sales channels. We are extremely well positioned to address our markets from the data center to the living room," he said.

Speaking on behalf of the board, a director, Mr. Jim Gerson, said APC noted that during Mr. Dowdell’s 21 years of leading APC, his strategic vision and strong direction were instrumental in building APC into the world's leading uninterruptible power supply (UPS) company and now a leader in the NCPI market for data centers. "His inspiration has enabled us to become the dynamic and innovative company APC is today. Rodger oversaw APC's remarkable growth from a small start up to an industry leader with over $2 billion in revenue and approximately 8,500 employees worldwide. Most recently, he has led APC's entry into the data center market with the successful introduction of the award-winning InfraStruXure(R) architecture. Fortunately, Rodger will continue to serve as our chairman and we will continue to benefit from his vision and insight.

Mr. Gerson said APC was pleased to have Rob assume the role of president and CEO while we conduct a search for a permanent replacement," continued Gerson. "In his current position, Rob works closely with APC's development, sales, marketing and operations teams and has exhibited strong leadership skills at APC. We look forward to working with APC's management team, driving innovation and excellence in the market and the company, while focusing on enhancing shareholder value."

Just as Dowdell said, "I have had an amazing journey at APC, joining the company when there were just a handful of people and experiencing all its ups and downs over the years. We have truly built something to be proud of. Not only has APC become a leader in its industry, but it is an organization that is solving real customer problems. Over the years I have worked with amazing people and I thank them for all their energy and commitment. I am excited about the next stage of my contributions to APC and am anxious to begin working with the board on APC's strategic vision for the next 20 years.”

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

‘Who wants to be a millionaire’ gives out N5m

Remmy Nweke

The MTN Nigeria sponsored television show, “Who wants to be a millionaire?” has given out over N5 million since its relaunch earlier this month in Lagos.

The organizers of the show being hosted by Mr. Frank Edoho, said that every Friday winners emerge with over N10 million maximum offered for grab along with consolation prizes, courtesy, MTN Nigeria Communications.

The repackaged TV show in its first edition afterwards on Friday, 4th August, saw the two hot seat occupants leaving with N45,000 and N120,000 even when both had ample opportunity to get bigger and better prizes, of up to maximum of N10 Million.

On the same day, as in all the subsequent editions of the show, N500, 000 and N400, 000 went to 30 lucky winners comprising of 10 viewers from the studio and 20 viewers who watched from the comfort of their homes respectively.

This format, organizers said, will remain for the next 11 months, ensuring that 30 lucky Nigerians will smile home with the sum of N900, 000 weekly by providing answers to questions asked by the presenter, in addition to the prize money to be won by any lucky Nigerian who sits on the hot seat which has been pegged at a whopping N10 Million.

A winner in one of the series, Mr. Kelechi Amadi, an Aba, Abia state-based student who turned to business to make ends meet because of lack of funds to further his education and who has won the sum of N20,000 twice in the home play segment of the richer and bigger TV quiz show, said that the money has helped in no small way to revive his hitherto waning urge for higher education.

“Participating in ‘Who Wants to be a Millionnaire?’ was really a tonic to me. It provided me with a creditable avenue to showcase my knowledge and beyond all that, the monetary reward I got from it was channeled towards the purchase of JAMB examination forms for me and my siblings, thereby taking a huge burden off me and my parents” he said.

In his comment, Managing Director of Ultima Nigeria Limited, the franchise holders for the T.V programme in Nigeria, Mr. Femi Ayeni, said that more and more Nigerians stand the chance of winning life- changing sums of money in the programme as his firm and MTN have decided to ensure that the questions asked in the programme and the mode of entry remain simplified.

This, according to him, is because they are aware that the real excitement is in people winning and there is of no value putting N10 Million at stake and making the questions unanswerable.

“The simplicity of the programme starts with the simplicity of the entry process. To participate in the programme, all a viewer has to do is to place a call or send a text to a preminum rated short code (132). If the subscriber is able to correctly answer the question that is immediately texted to him or her, he or she will be invited to the studio and will stand a chance to sit on the hot seat and win N10 Million. The subscriber also stands the chance of winning an extra N50,000 for just being in the studio, just like 20 other Nigerians who stand the chance of winning N20,000 just by watching the programme on T.V”, he said.

Corroborated Mr. Ayeni, the Senior Manager, Master Brand, MTN Nigeria, Mr. Kola Oyeyemi, noted that the telco believes in Nigeria and the ability of Nigerians to win the juicy prize monies on offer for the betterment of the larger society.

“We are involved in this programme because we believe in Nigeria. There is a ratio of 10 to 1 for every single Nigerian who is rich. Our belief is that if a person wins N10 Million, the multiplier effect will be great as he will touch many lives. Our hope is to build smart millionaires through the programme and we hope the emergence of the first set of winners is a prelude to that”, he stated.

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HP opens center @ FCT

Remmy Nweke

Global giant on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) provision, Hewlett Packard (HP), has opened a new service centre, at the federal capital territory (FCT).

Officially commissioned recently by the Science and Technology Minister, Prof Turner Isoun, the centre has a team of experienced and fully certified HP engineers with the complement of a full Manager to oversee the service operations and customer escalations.

“It also has an extensive stock of spare parts. All warranty and post-warranty services will be handled for all HP equipment meant for this region,” says HP Managing Director, Dr. Lloyd Atanbansi.

The service centre is expected to compliment similar one already in operation in Lagos and Port Harcourt, even as the leading technology firm says it also intend to open collection points in select cities for repairing and returning equipment.

Described as good news for HP customers, Atabansi said “they will be getting the same unique HP support anywhere they stay in Nigeria. Customers will have the option of returning their products to their resellers who are HP Business Partners; Authorized Service Delivery Partners (ASDPs) or the HP Service Center.”

As said by him, the HP Service Center Project in Nigeria is not alone in her drive to ensure that her customers continue to receive the best in class service, stressing that part of this drive was based on the continued collaboration the company is having with other Service Centers in Africa and worldwide.

“This line of business alone employs more than 100,000 personnel in Europe Middle east and Africa not to mention the several Service Partners in our network. Supporting this network are the Call centers in South African and Morocco to aid our numerous English speaking and French speaking customers respectively. Several remote support and self help, self healing tools available through the HP website help the Nigeria Service Center deliver more quality delivering better returns on your investment in our products”, he said.

The Minister, represented by a director in the ministry, Mr. Tunde Adeyanju, lauded the HP’s initiative, saying the company has set the pace for others to follow. He noted HP’s contribution to IT and technology development globally and Nigeria in particular, stressing that the Service Centre will no doubt endear HP to her numerous customers.

Also, the Senate President, Ken Nnamani, who was a special guest at the occasion, echoed similar message. While noting that government will always create conducive environment for investments, he said any multinational company thinking of establishing shop in Nigeria should make provision for service centers, to increase the life span of equipment, as being demonstrated by HP.

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Monday, August 28, 2006

CelTel builds Pan African network

Remmy Nweke, just back from Tanzania

Recently emerged share owners of Vmobile Nigeria, CelTel International of the Netherlands, has said its aim is to build a Pan African network.

It could be recalled that Celtel which commenced operations eight years ago, recently bought 6.5 majority shares in the Vee Network Limited, trading under the name of Vmobile. It has grown into 15 African countries with over 15 million customers and he group MTC has over 22 million customers.

Disclosing this to a cross session of Nigerian media delegation who visited CelTel operations in Tanzania, the group chief executive, Mr. Marten Pieters, said that presently, the network has advanced plans to achieve this feat region by region until it eventually gets to its dream, which is a Pan-African telecom operator.

The telco, he said, has remained successful so far, stressing that this, Pan African dream will avail subscribers on the network to have one Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) number which would afford them to call within the network at the regional level without the stress attached to roaming, and exclusion of some packages while on roaming in some networks.

In other words, roaming on CelTel would be localized.

To this end, he said that in the East Africa, for instance, CelTel would soon introduce this across Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.

Mr. Pieters also said that CelTel would replicate this in all the regions on the continent, even as this methodology would soon see the light of the day in West Africa, with Nigeria as its hub.

“Its not a technology issue these days. But we have differences in government, Value Added Tax (VAT,” he declared.

“We’re about to introduce it here in East Africa. Technology wise, we can do it today,” he said.

CelTel is working on East African operations to enable it do something differently and something unique, he told newsmen.

Lamenting, however, that the regulatory environment is complicated, yet they are not deterred to invest in Nigeria because it has lots of potentials.

Equally, Mr. Pieters pointed out that CelTel would not stop its expansion drive on the continent as it will continue to look into new opportunities.

“Buy licenses and extend our footprint further,” he said.

Even as he predicted that in the next five years, GSM market subscriber base would grow upto 150 million, out of which 50 million is expected to come from Nigeria.

Therefore, he said, the company has quite some potential, also still in he future because “our shareholders in Kuwait have access to a lot of money …. There is a lot of money here and they are very supportive of our further growth in Africa, which has been expanded since we have been able to get this position in Nigeria,” he said.

Also speaking, the Managing Director, CelTel Tanzania, Mr. Steve Torode, who was accompanied by the Sales Director, Mr. Herbert Louis, said, the Pan African dream of the company, otherwise known as ‘one network’ would enable subscribers to roam freely within the East African region.

“Above all, contribute to the economies of affected countries,” he asserted.

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Sunday, August 27, 2006

CelTel to invest $700m by 2008

Remmy Nweke , who was in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

The Netherlands based mobile giant, CelTel International, has said it would invest in the next two years an estimated $700 million on its operations on the continent.

This is coming as CelTel has indicated interest on getting the Unified License in Nigeria.

Chief Executive, CelTel International B.V. of Netherlands, Mr. Martens Pieters, disclosed all this at a parley with a session of the Nigerian media in Kilimanjaro Hotel, Kempinski, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania weekend.

He also said CelTel is determined to build its network consistently so as to be above competition, noting that this way, the operator would be able to bring about reduction in tariffs on its services.

He stressed that building network depends immensely on the people working on the operations already.

“Expanding the network is constantly going on,” he said.

Pointing out that in Nigeria, instability has become a major obstacle and expressed confident that CelTel, formerly Vmobile Nigeria would improve on its offerings to Nigerians.

He further affirmed that definitely, CelTel Nigeria which is warming up for total rebranding, would soon go for unified license.

“Yes, CelTel is going for unified license, which is based on technology, because eventually everyone would go into unified license,” he declared.

Warning, however, that Nigerians should not expect so much from the Unified Licensing Regime (ULR), because according to him, technologies are all over fighting for space, yet there is issue of frequency to be addressed.

He was however silent on the date CelTel would commence action on the ULR in the country, even as he said, rebranding of Vmobile Nigeria to CelTel, which it recently acquired a major stake in would be concluded in matter of weeks.

Mr. Pieters, confirmed that the immediate chief executive of Vmobile Nigeria, Mr. Willem Swet was not sacked, rather, he resigned voluntarily to rejoin his family in South Africa after midwifing Vmobile surrounded with crisis to a certain level of stability.

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