Welcome to the Com World Series Blog. As producers of the leading telecoms, media and ICT events for developing markets, we focus on news & views that affect everyone operating in the telecoms ecosystem in Africa, the Middle East and Eurasia.

14 Aug 2014

Central Bank of Nigeria discusses challenges, mobile payments and connectivity ahead of Nigeria Com

dare ol
Licensed Mobile Payment Operators
This year NigeriaCom has developed the mobile money section of the conference, involving the critical players within the mobile payments ecosystem, the regulatory body and some of the pioneering banks. With the Central Bank of Nigeria participating the discussion about reaching the unbanked population is a session not to be missed. We discussed the mobile payments landscape and some of the challenges for a cashless society in Nigeria with Dare Owolabi, Chairman of the Association of Licensed Mobile Payment Operators (ALMPO)

Com World Series: How is your company positioned in Nigeria and what are its future objectives? 

Dare Owolabi: Mobile Money Operators in Nigeria is positioned and believed that mobile money is sustainable and are taking a scalable approach to provide convenient and affordable financial services to the unbanked. Mobile Money for the Unbanked (MMU) works with mobile operators and their future objectives are to provide a financial industry that accelerates the availability of affordable financial services that provide safety, security and convenience to the unbanked.

Com World Series:  What do you think are the top 3 major trends that are affecting your business in the region in 2013?

Dare Owolabi: The 3 major trends that are affecting mobile money business in the past years are:
  • Level of illiteracy among subscribers: Mobile money operators have not sufficiently educated their customers on the use of mobile money.
  • Financial Institution Regulators:  Articulation of policies that will improve the financial inclusion is still a far play
  • High cost of USSD: transaction cost is high
Com World Series:  What are the remaining challenges in terms of connectivity and quality of services in the region and which technologies are most likely to resolve these issues?  

Dare Owolabi: Network connectivity is a major issue:  there are lots of interruptions due to unstable broadband. This makes subscribers to lose confidence in operation of mobile money. The technology that will resolve these issues is to transform telecommunication industry.

Com World Series: How are smartphones/tablets and cloud services impacting mobile/internet service providers in Nigeria?

Dare Owolabi: Most Nigeria use smartphones and tablets and this have increased the infiltration and usage of internet. It is left for the operators to continue to invest and improve data consumptions in order to buy subscribers credibility.

Com World Series: In your opinion, which companies are spearheading innovation in the region and what can be learnt from them?

Dare Owolabi: In our opinion all mobile money operators are trying their best to drive the industry and make sure it succeeds.
NigeriaComDare and the Central Bank of Nigeria plus other distinguished speakers will be sharing views on Day One, 16 September at 15:40 on the panel: The mobile money advantage and reaching the unbanked

31 Jul 2014

Nigerian Railways speaks on connectivity issues ahead of Nigeria Com

Connectivity across the public sector can have systemic impacts to how a city or country operates.  For a better understanding of the challenges at state level we discussed with Fredrick Onasanya, who is Assistant Director at the Nigeria Railway Corporation.  
Nigeria Com: How is your company positioned in Nigeria and what are its future objectives?

Fredrick Onasanya: Nigerian Railway Corporation is positioned in the Transport sector.

The objectives of NRC is to be the best in carrying passengers and goods at an affordable price through a well seasoned,trained experience staff with modern tools/equipment

Nigeria Com:  What do you think are the top 3 major trends that are affecting your business in the region in 2014?

Fredrick Onasanya:  (.a)The policy that established .Nigerian Railway Corporation does not give room for individuals to operate Railroad transportation
(b)Government is not releasing sufficient funds to finance railway compared to her counterpart in other countries

(c) Inadequacy of locomotive and rolling stock

Nigeria Com:  What are the remaining challenges in terms of connectivity and quality of services in the region and which technologies are most likely to resolve these issues?

Fredrick Onasanya:  Lack of rural connectivity

Challenges( a) .deficiency of energy supply (b)Lack of' Last mile' infrastructure (c) Extravagant cost of Internet connectivity (d) High cost of Bandwidth

Nigeria Com:  How are smartphones/tablets and cloud services impacting mobile/internet service providers in Nigeria?

Fredrick Onasanya:  APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY: WIMAX, VSAT, Cellular Telephone Network

Nigeria Com:  In your opinion, which companies are spearheading innovation in the region and what can be learnt from them?

Fredrick Onasanya:  The best GSM telecommunication company is Durban Communication Networks ltd Abuja

The best bank is Zenith bank.



28 Jul 2014

Video interview with Ike Orizu of Truspot on re-launching as an online music radio & TV station...

Watch the video with Ike Orizu, Founder / CeO of Truspot and speaker at the Digital Music stream at Africa Com - http://www.comworldseries.com/africa - on how he re-launched as a online music radio and TV station...
Play the video

OffComm News talks Slumming IT in Africa

Nic Rudnick, CEO, Liquid Telecom 
which has built the largest single fibre network in Africa.
In January 2014, OffComm News visited the Mathare slum, outside the city of Nairobi, Kenya. Mathare is one of the country’s oldest slums with a population of 180,000. Not only does it have its own football team, it’s a pretty well connected sprawl of dwellings. But how is that connectivity managed and who’s enabling this culture? We caught up with Nic Rudnick at Liquid Telecom to get his take on enabling IT in Africa.

What are the challenges with providing broadband outside the main cities in Africa? 

In Africa, about 700 million people out of about 1 billion live outside the urban areas. The dispersion of the population is such that the terrestrial telecommunication infrastructure is, today, only able to get close enough (about 25km) to about 480 million people.

The economics of telecommunication services are based on density of population around focal points (such as a town centre), except for satellite services. This means that a mobile operator will find it extremely difficult to finance a new base station in an area (relatively small around the new site) where an insufficient number of people dwell or are able to reach daily.

Moreover, densely populated town centres that are too far away from the nearest telecommunication node (another base station or a fibre optic cable node) may not be serviced as new backhaul to connect this new node could be uneconomical.

Finally, the population that lives too far (e.g. over 1km) from a focal point, assuming they cannot afford satellite service, may find that the service they receive is of poor quality, due to the weaker wireless signal in their area.

Universal service and access funds have been designed to remedy some of the economic issue. However local governments are still facing great difficulty to make an efficient and effective use of these funds for IT in Africa.
The migration of analogue TV signal to digital will free spectrum in the sub-800GHz bands. The use of this spectrum extends the area around focal points where the signal is good enough for populations to receive a broadband service. However this transition is slow and complicated and the efficient attribution of freed spectrum to operators is another difficult task for telecommunication regulators.

Liquid Telecom will continue to invest in long-haul and cross-border fibre optic infrastructure, as well as WiMAX, LTE and satellite technologies, to help all players in the industry to service the next 500 million African people that live too far away from the nearest fibre node.

With fibre creeping into inland Africa, is satellite on the way out?

Fibre optic networks are being built, for example by pan-African backbone network operator Liquid Telecom, to bring broadband services to as many people in Africa as possible. However it is likely that some areas, given the size of the African continent and the dispersion of the population in rural areas, will remain, for a long time, far away from Liquid Telecom’s fibre infrastructure. Here satellite can fill the gaps. Also satellite continues to play an important role in providing a backup solution.


9 Jul 2014

Alliance for Affordable Internet shed light on their objectives ahead of Nigeria Com

Sonia JorgeWe are pleased to have partnered with the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) this year to support NigeriaCom. A4AI partner with the Nigeiran government (and several other governments around Africa for that matter) to strengthen the delivery of affordable internet to the public. Executive Director, Sonia Jorge, who will be speaking at NigeriaCom, took a moment to shed light on the alliance and their objectives and innovations:

Com World Series: How is your organisation positioned in Nigeria and what are its future objectives?

Sonia Jorge: The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) is working directly with the Government of Nigeria to strengthen its efforts towards the delivery of affordable Internet to Nigerian citizens. Nigeria publicly committed to develop and implement the policy and regulatory changes needed to drive down the cost of broadband access when it formally signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Alliance in October 2013, becoming the first country to take this progressive step. It has since been followed by Ghana and Mozambique. 

As a key element of this work, A4AI has brought together a wide range of actors, including representatives from the Nigerian government, private sector and civil society, to identify policy and regulatory barriers to affordable Internet in the country, and to put into place a plan to overcome these obstacles. A national coalition has been formed, and is actively working to produce concrete solutions to the challenges. Through this multi-stakeholder process, A4AI hopes to help Nigeria increase its Internet penetration rate to 30% by 2017, as set out in the country’s National Broadband Plan.

Com World Series: What do you think are the top 3 major trends that are affecting your work in the region in 2014?
  1. Technological innovation: The rapid emergence of new and innovative technologies has the power to drive down the cost of broadband access, when combined with an updated regulatory and policy framework.
  2. Spirit of collaboration: As sectors with seemingly divergent interests recognise the shared economic and social benefits of pursuing increased access to affordable Internet, the region has seen improved collaboration and a rise in effective partnerships.
  3. Shared infrastructure access and development: The increased willingness of government and private telecommunications companies to enter into partnerships is leading to more opportunities for the development of open and shared infrastructure (e.g., fibre optic lines, base stations) on both a national and regional level. Resource sharing through these partnerships will allow the government, network operators, and other infrastructure providers to reduce and share capital and operational risks, which will, in turn, reduce the cost for consumers to come online.

Com World Series: What are the remaining challenges in terms of connectivity and quality of services in the region and which technologies are most likely to resolve these issues? 

Sonia Jorge: New and innovative technological solutions to broadband affordability challenges—including innovative uses of spectrum, urban WiFi zones and data centres— are constantly emerging. While these technologies have shown promising early results in their ability to bring down the cost of Internet, all too often outdated and ill-conceived policies and regulations prevent the benefits of these technologies from being fully unlocked across the African continent. By working directly with national governments and a wide range of key stakeholders, A4AI aims to bring outdated policy and regulatory frameworks into the digital age, and to help to realise the UN Broadband Commission goal of entry-level broadband services priced at less than 5% of average monthly income.

Com World Series: How are smartphones/tablets and cloud services impacting mobile/internet service providers in Nigeria?

Sonia Jorge: The diminishing cost of new technologies has caused a substantial uptake in the use of smart mobile technology in Nigeria, where currently around 25 percent of over 105 million mobile telephone subscribers use smartphones (TNS Global, 2012). The use of these devices and the number of people using them to connect to the Internet is expected to grow as more businesses based in Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, use smartphones and tablets to link to the global economy and to efficiently conduct business. While the adoption of smartphones is increasing, the high cost of a mobile broadband connection, which hovers around 13% of average income, is restricting the ability of citizens throughout Nigeria to connect to and take advantage of information found on the Web. Only when the cost to connect to mobile broadband on these devices drops to a level that the average Nigerian can afford will the true impact of the use of these technologies be felt.

Com World Series: In your opinion, which companies, governments and other players are spearheading innovation in the region and what can be learnt from them? 

Sonia Jorge: A number of companies working in Nigeria and throughout the continent are using modern technologies to bring more people online—Google’s Project Link is providing faster, more reliable Internet to underserved urban areas like Kampala, Uganda, by connecting local Internet service providers (ISPs) to existing long-distance fibre lines; Microsoft’s 4Afrika initiative is working to bring affordable broadband to rural communities via TV white spaces (i.e., vacant radio frequencies available for unlicensed use); and West African telecommunications company, Main One, has been working to construct and roll out a metro high-speed fibre network and data centre in Lagos, with the aim of reducing ICT costs and enhancing business profitability. Meanwhile, Research ICT Africa has consistently been delivering robust, high-quality research into communications issues across the region which helps to drive informed decision-making and debate.
Looking at national initiatives around the continent, Morocco emerges as a positive example of government innovation in the ICT sector. The country was ranked as the top developing country in A4AI’s 2013 Affordability Report, and is implementing a number of innovative policies in order to increase Internet penetration. These policies are encapsulated in “2013 Digital Morocco”, a plan aimed at intensifying usage through a focus on affordability of both devices and access. However, with mobile broadband prices sitting at around 20 percent of per capita monthly incomes, and about 80 percent of monthly incomes for those living in poverty (less than $2 per day), Morocco’s government has much work to do. As well as working to drive prices down, the country plans to equip all schools in Morocco with broadband access and ICT training, and establish PPPs to offer devices to marginalised sub-segments of the population.

Sonia Jorge will be speaking on the first day at Nigeria Com to hear her insights REGISTER TODAY.

4 Jul 2014

African Insurers Urged to Review Mobile Strategies

Written By Emma Okonji, All Africa.

A recent report by Juergen Weiss, based on the Gartner 2013 Global survey, has predicted that by 2015 at least 40 per cent of the currently existing insurance-related, customer-facing mobile applications will be abandoned due to lack of demand.

The reason for this, the report said, is due to the fact that insurers have not designed their applications in a way that makes consumers want to use them and secondly, that consumers are simply not aware when new software applications are available.

The report therefore warned insurers to review their mobile strategies, in order to gain customers' confidence.

However, developing customer-facing mobile applications remains the third most important technology priority for insurers.

Head of African Operations for SSP, Rhys Collins, a major online firm in South Africa, said: "In Africa this would be second or first priority. There is a definite correlation between the growing download of apps in Europe with wider smartphone adoption".

"The percentage of users using a cellphone now far outweighs those using the internet. It is predicted that by 2017, 79 per cent of users will have adopted smartphones as opposed to just 49 per cent in 2013."

Users want to interact with service providers via their mobile device wherever possible. This has been driven by the wide adoption of social media, Collins added.

He said this raises three key issues for insurers namely: how insurance customers embrace mobile insurance (the demand view); what insurers should expect from mobile applications (the supply view) and finally, what are the best practices for a better mobile insurance experience.

According to the report, there are numerous reasons for the lack of mobile adoption by insurance customers. Collins asserts there are very few opportunities for interaction between customers and insurers.

He said the potential for interaction would continue to exist, but that to engage customers with these new interaction points, insurers need to overcome preferences like phoning a contact centre.

He explained that since the primary reason consumers select an insurance policy is price, if apps do not create or highlight any monetary incentive or benefit for customers there will be limited appeal.

Weiss recommends insurers avoid investing in the design of mobile apps without first having a detailed value analysis. Only then should they develop a holistic app strategy that allows customers to seamlessly use the app, one that is integrated into the entire insurance value chain.

"While the absolute number of mobile users in Africa looking to interact with service providers is far less than Europe, the opportunity still exists in certain market segments for one or two insurers to steal an advantage" Collins said. He insisted the insurance industry in Africa has not identified a 'killer app' that will dramatically increase customer adoption.

1st Speaker interview for Ngiera Com 2014 with Tom Allen, COO, Smile Communications

tom allenThe ComWorld Series team engaged with Tom Allen, COO, Smile communications ahead of the NigeriaCom conference and exhibition, taking place at the Lagos Oriental Hotel, Lagos, Nigeria, 17-18 September. We found out a little more about the activities of Smile as a new LTE player in embracing the Nigerian market. Here are some insights from Tom ahead of the event.

ComWorld Series: How is your company positioned in Nigeria and what are its future objectives?

Tom Allen: Smile is planning to be the Broadband provider of choice and at the end of this year we aim to be in 12 cities. 

ComWorld Series: What do you think are the top 3 major trends that are affecting your business in the region in 2014? 

Tom Allen: The demand for data services, OTT challenging the Telcos from voice to video, Capacity on networks are the major limiting factor.

ComWorld Series: What are the remaining challenges in terms of connectivity and quality of services in the region and which technologies are most likely to resolve these issues? 

Tom Allen: Capacity is an issue, manifested by poor quality; Quality of service beacons will emerge such as Smile with much better networks. With the lack of fixed infrastructure then only 4G LTE services can provide the quality and capacity needed.

ComWorld Series: How are smartphones/tablets and cloud services impacting mobile/internet service providers in Nigeria?

Tom Allen:The wave is just starting, capacity is self limiting these. Smile will bring these to life with much better quality and speeds. Tablets (or large format Smartphones) will become dominant with these can already providing local personal hot-spots for wider usage. Simple OTT offerings will start to emerge and will dominate.

ComWorld Series: In your opinion, which companies are spearheading innovation in the region and what can be learnt from them? 

Tom Allen: The issue is making more capacity available – poor networks stifle innovation. Smile is a challenger.

Find out more at www.comworldseries.com/nigeria. Tom Allen will be speaking on Day 1 at 12:15 on the session “LTE Showcase: Breakthrough and impacts of 4G/LTE for Nigeria"

30 Jun 2014

Tier 1 African Mobile Operator Selects Mobile-Technologies’ SIM and Number Management Solution

As a leader in the provision of advanced telecom solutions, Mobile-Technologies has been chosen by a tier 1 mobile operator in southern Africa to deliver a fully automated SIM and number management solution to manage their entire SIM supply chain more effectively.

The Intelligent SIM Manager (iSM) is a highly sought after SIM and number management system that deals with all the aspects of the SIM lifecycle. It helps the sourcing of SIM-cards by automating the collection of all data required pre-production, secures data transportation, handles warehousing and distribution, and finally the SIM provisioning and activation from a single web-interface.

“Many network operators use in-house manual processes or outdated solutions exposing themselves to costly production and inventory mistakes, loss of data integrity across multiple infrastructure components and the potential duplication of SIM card records. Our iSM solution completely eliminates these challenges while bringing in more efficiencies and cost savings.” Says Eli Hem Jensen, CEO, Mobile-Technologies.

Eli continues, “Access to new mobile number ranges from regulators is often restricted and very costly. This makes optimal number recycling business-critical. The iSM solution is the perfect solution to deal with these challenges.”

The iSM solution is part of our ISL framework which enables the operator to embrace new opportunities and capabilities including offering number selection, customer registration (KYC - Know Your Customer) and dealer management in a progressive and cost efficient manner. For more information: www.mobile-technologies.com

About Mobile Technologies Co., Ltd

Mobile-Technologies provide advanced services and solutions for wireless operators across the globe. Our leading-edge technology is based on many years of experience in telecommunications and we are proud of the value our innovative solutions bring to our worldwide clients. Our products and solutions are tailored for Mobile Operators. We cumulate years of experience in SIM lifecycle management, customer registration, SIM provisioning and activation, prepaid vouchers management and dealers management.

Important information

Issuance, publication or distribution of this press release in certain jurisdictions could be subject to restrictions. The recipient of this press release is responsible for using this press release and the constituent information in accordance with the rules and regulations prevailing in the particular jurisdiction. This press release does not constitute an offer or an offering to acquire or subscribe for any of the company’s securities in any jurisdiction.

27 Jun 2014

Is Car to Car Communication the Future of Road Safety?

It’s fair to say that in the last couple of decades there have seen major advances in the automobile world. From intuitive satellite navigation systems, to hybrid, super energy efficient cars, and of course more recently, Google among others have explored the vast and powerful possibilities of driverless cars with inbuilt car to car communication systems.

These completely responsive cars have already been endorsed by major governments throughout the world, including Google’s home in the USA. The basic premise is that through V2V (vehicle to vehicle) communication, hazards could be intuitively avoided and traffic conditions anticipated. With reports stating that all cars could be fitted with this technology by 2020, it’s time to get familiarised with the notion of driving a much more intelligent motor car.

With extensive testing happening now in the USA, the next two years will prove vital to the future of V2V technology. Major parties involved in the project include the US Department of Transportation plus almost all the major car manufacturers across the globe, from Volkswagen to Ford. The idea is to literally road test the technology along major arterial routes in the US to determine its potential benefits and pitfalls.

The power of communication
Through a short-range wireless network and using standard GPRS data, these cars will effectively talk to each via a network of nodes on traffic signals, stationary roadside units and the cars themselves. This technology will provide accurate and up-to-the-minute reports on the road up to 1000 meters ahead.

Not only this, the idea is that everything within these cars would be interlinked, with a series of warning lights and receptors transmitting signals to neighbouring vehicles. This would prompt them to react accordingly in the event of a crash or incident. The technology works round blind bends, sudden stops, it can even anticipate dangers of changing lanes. 

Now, it’s worth stressing at this point that the first V2V communication cars will allow the driver a large degree of control, with the option to switch it off entirely if required. The intention is to provide a warning system for drivers rather than taking the wheel from them entirely.

Despite this, the possibilities V2V communication present, naturally reveal unprecedented benefits ranging from scenarios such as running late for that early morning business meeting, or en route to catch a flight. It has also been hailed as fast-track to dramatically improving road safety, allowing drivers a significantly increased amount of time to react to traffic conditions.

A controversial solution

In Africa traffic incidents remain a major cause for concern. Experts have explained that the potential such technology has to reduce accidents due to negligence or driving under the influence is massive. In South Africa alone alcohol and substance abuse accounts for the vast majority of collisions. With such hard facts, there is little wonder why a communication system such as this is a hot topic.
On the other hand, a critic may argue that treating the root cause of symptomatic problems like alcoholism and drug taking should be a primary focus, rather than employing the benefits of V2V communication to absolve ourselves of responsibility.

Relying on technology like this blindly also carries its own risk. Following the instructions of a system without critical appraisal of the information provided, rather than using instinct and initiative can open up a whole host of hazards. Not only that, with a limited reach, V2V communication cannot be fully effective. The ideal scenario is for every car to be fitted with the ability to communicate with each other. There is also the question mark hanging over privacy issues. What’s to stop someone for example, sitting by the side of the road and transmitting a false message?

The other query raised has been over the idea of insurance. Specifically because the basis of such agreements would certainly have to be revisited since the idea of comprehensively insuring a driver would no longer apply.

The game-changer V2V communication instigates is both deep and far reaching. Its invention is certainly a landmark in communication technology, even in its early stages. But it could be said that its possibilities are matched by the questions it raises. It seems that there are many hurdles to overcome and questions to answer before this becomes the way our roads are travelled. 

Contributed by reader Emma Pickles

26 Jun 2014

Mobile Money services, Mobile Music, Social Networks and Apps all covered on the last day of VAS Africa

It was standing room only at the start of the second day of VAS Africa, with an inspirational keynote speech by 18 year old entrepreneur Nadav Ossendryver.  Outlining the ideas behind Latest Sightings, an innovative app tracking wildlife in the Kruger, Nadav detailed his use of social media for building his community and developing activities around the app.

The youth market was a focus of the panel discussion featuring Cell C and Orange as they detailed their strategies for targeting the 16 – 21 year old segment.  What services will they pay for and what is truly relevant to them?
The conference went on to discuss Mobile Money services, Mobile Music, and Social Networks  and Apps in Africa. 

Speakers detailed clear trends on the need for higher speed, top quality networks to deliver the new, innovative content and apps, as well as the requirement for fair and accessible data pricing.  Strong partnerships are paramount, and win-win business models essential.

Arnauld Blondet, Innovation Director for AMEA at Orange, commented on the success of this year’s VAS Africa, and the growth and development on previous years “VAS Africa is definitely the great opportunity for mobile telcos to look at their growth, understand new trends, listen to vendors and seek new business models.  This is the great recipe of VAS Africa.  I am impressed with the bigger agenda, bigger number of people and quality of presentations.  VAS is clearly a big subject”.

We look forward to returning with an even bigger and better VAS Africa on 24th-25th June 2015 in Johannesburg.