Telecoms in Africa – May 2012

May 29th, 2012, Published in Articles: EngineerIT

Compiled by Matthew White, Iona Press Services

West Africa seeks to bridge digital divide through broadband

A recent report cited by Mkpe Abang of IT & Telecom Digest, estimates that only about 5,7% of Africa’s population has internet access, while the continent accounts for 14,3% of the world’s population. Speaking at the 2012 West African ICT Congress in Lagos, he said the focus on deepening telecoms penetration in West Africa had seen growth in basic voice telephony but not data. Lanre Ajayi, president of the Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria, argued that for Nigeria and other West African countries to achieve broadband penetration, each country must set goals and define policy objectives and strategies in the areas of e-government, e-commerce, IT park development, internet governance, cyber security, internet exchange, spectrum management and outsourcing. He proposed a broadband penetration target of 50% within five years for Nigeria. Ajayi also called for incentives to encourage operators to deepen their investment in broadband rollout.

MTN raises US$200-million to improve Ghana network

MTN Ghana has signed an agreement with local banks to raise more than US$200-million to expand and improve the quality of its network. The arrangement will further see four foreign banks raising $60-million for MTN. The MTN Loan Syndication is believed to be the country’s biggest local currency deal.

Egyptian engineer’s antenna wins African Innovation Prize

An Egyptian engineer’s design for a base-station antenna that can facilitate upgrades to more advanced mobile networks in developing countries has been awarded the first Innovation Prize for Africa. Winner of the US$100 000 prize, Prof. Mohammed Sanad, at Cairo University’s faculty of engineering, said his antenna “suits developing countries which don’t have a telecommunications infrastructure.”  Conventional  cellular base stations cannot be assembled and disassembled on site. They are heavy and need complicated mounting towers. The new antenna suits all generations of wireless applications without any need to change or upgrade.

4G improves internet speed in Namibia

Namibia’s MTC claims to be only the second operator in Africa to launch Fourth Generation (4G) LTE technology, promising much faster internet. The new technology is deployed in more than 1000 km of fibre backbones countrywide. It is expected that the whole of Windhoek will have access to the 4G service by the end of July 2012, and that 45% of the country’s population, including those in rural areas, will be covered by mid-2013.

Uganda’s MPs want cable sub-contractors named and shamed

Uganda’s Parliamentary ICT Committee wants subcontractors whose work on the National Backbone Infrastructure and e-government Infrastructure project (NBI/EGI) was substandard, to be blacklisted. Speaking at the handover of a forensic technical audit, report committee chair Paula Turyahikayo described Phase 1 of the project as a “liability” to the people of Uganda; for which the contractor and sub-contractors should be held accountable. “We want a list of all the sub-contractors of Phase 1 of the project to be handed over to parliament. Being blacklisted would debar the firms from working on publicly-funded projects for an unspecified period. The NBI/EGI is being funded through a US$10-million concession loan from China, repayable in 20 years. The report generally points to poor workmanship, gross negligence and sheer incompetence on the part of the civil works and electrical sub-contractors. At one installation centre, an earth cable was used as a high voltage live wire.

Rwandan schools to get e-libraries

The Isaro Foundation, a Rwandan NGO, has announced its intention to establish digital libraries in secondary schools countrywide in a bid to improve reading and writing skills among students. Isaro CEO Jean Leon Iragena said the organisation had been shipping books from the USA, but this had proved costly because of transport charges. The first e-library will be established in Bigogwe High School, Nyabihu district in a pilot phase. If successful, the project will expand to other schools.

Fines prompt GSM firms to invest in network upgrades

Following the Nigerian Communications Commission’s imposition of US$7,3-million in fines for poor performance on all four GSM operators, two of the affected operators, MTN Nigeria and Etisalat Nigeria, said they will invest a further $1,3-billion and $500-million respectively to expand their networks and enhance service quality. Etisalat Nigeria CEO Steven Evans said failure to achieve some quality measures was not due to capacity expansion alone, but other factors that represent industry-wide challenges. Foremost among these is the absence of reliable power, necessitating every one of more than 3000 cell sites being served by two generators running 24 hours a day. Also, regular damage and cuts to the fibre networks due to roadwork and in some cases sabotage are also responsible. It is estimated that MTN suffers more than
70 cuts to its fibre every month.

Cellphone subscribers benefit from tariff cuts

Mobile phone tariffs are falling in many African countries. Among the latest: Mozambique’s publicly owned mobile phone operator M-Cel has set a new rate of 3,9 meticais (about 14 US cents) per minute for calls within the M-Cel network, and 4,2 meticais per minute for calls to other networks. M-Cel said this will benefit 4,7-million clients. Airtel Uganda has cut costs for Ugandans who communicate with family, friends and business associates across the continent. They can now call any destination in Africa for 0,4 US cents per second, while calls within East Africa and to Nigeria and South Africa will cost 0,24 US cents per second. Airtel Zambia has reduced international calling rates to selected destinations; the call rates to South Africa have been slashed by 75%.

Kenya gets second World Bank loan for ICT projects

The Kenyan Treasury has signed a US$54-million loan agreement with the World Bank for ICT development. The loan is the second tranche from the World Bank to finance the Kenya Transparency & Communications Infrastructure Project to develop rural ICT centres. Among projects that will benefit from the loan are a virtual network between universities, digitising land records and establishing an e-business registry.

 

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