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Now employing: signpost for 2010

Two ads in the employment section of the latest Sunday Times offer two related signposts for the development of technology infrastructure in South Africa during 2010, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

Two ads in the latest Sunday Times were seemingly innocuous: six posts advertised for Broadband Infraco, and 13 for the Department of Home Affairs. But between the lines, they said so much.

To start with, the Home Affairs ad was headlined “Building the New Home Affairs”. That ’s a positive sign to start with; an acknowledgement that Home Affairs as it had been structured and the way it had been operating simply wasn’t good enough.



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Posted in the category: Economy, Insight, Technology, Trends

Ready to serve: Lessons from the muck

The third in a series of presentations delivered by Arthur Goldstuck via Twitter. The presentations consists of 10 Twitter messages, or 10 tweets, each of 140 characters or less. The format will be refined over time, but this is how the “tweenote” presentation entitled “Ready to serve: Lessons from the muck” appeared on Twitter on 11 August 2009:

1. Who is the most important person you have ever met? Richard Branson? Mick Jagger?  Nelson Mandela? Sepp Blatter?

2. The most important person I’ve ever met is Aaron Mabase. I only had the privilege of meeting him once.

3. He boomed out: “Welcome to my office!” The walls and floors of his office gleamed white. He watched to see if I approved.



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Tweenote: Mind the Gap

The second in a series of presentations delivered by Arthur Goldstuck via Twitter. The presentations consists of 10 Twitter messages, or 10 tweets, each of 140 characters or less. The format will be refined over time, but this is how the “tweenote” presentation entitled “SA’s Mobile Subscribers: Mind the Gap” appeared on Twitter on 13 July 2009:

1. SA’s cellular industry was launched in 1994 with 2 networks and a projected subscriber ceiling of only 2-million.

2. In 96, Vodacom launched a pre-paid service, adopting a system first used by Portugal’s TMN in Sep 95. MTN followed fast.

3. At launch the industry expected to reach the 1-million mark in 6-10 years. It reached the million mark in 3 years.

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Posted in the category: News

I am a RICA criminal

The RICA law requiring all cellular SIM cards to be registered came into effect on 1 July. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK tests the law and confesses to a new crime…

As of yesterday, I am a criminal.

I brazenly walked into a large CNA outlet, stepped up to the cellphone service kiosk, and without any form of identification demanded two starter packs, one with a Vodacom phone number and one with MTN. In full sight of anyone who bothered to look, I took the packs to the cashier and handed over R1,98 to cover the 99c cost of each pack.

It gets worse.

Once I got home, in total secrecy, I slipped the SIM cards from each provider into two old phones, and switched them on. The MTN card worked immediately, and I was able to begin receiving calls without any further ado. The Vodacom card required me to dial 100 to activate it, and I could then start receiving calls on that phone too.

In the above process, I violated the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (Rica) about half a dozen times – that I know about. The law came into effect on 1 July this year, even though it had been passed back in 2003. Various impracticalities, mainly relating to the process of identifying cellphone users and SIM card owners, delayed its implementation. Following various amendments, it now criminalises a range of acts of commission and omission that previously were normal everyday practice.



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Posted in the category: Insight, News, Technology

All change in cabinet – but not in ICT

The appointment of a new Minister and Deputy Minister of Communications has both raised and dashed hopes for a new era for the advancement of telecommunications in South Africa. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK looks at where change may and may not come – and why.

Siphiwe NyandaAny fan of South African dream football team Kaizer Chiefs will know the feeling: they start off every season with immense hope and promise, and their fans have every expectation they will end the season as champions, or at least with enough silverware in the trophy cabinet to have pleased most of the fans most of the time. By the end of a season littered with disappointment – the one just ended this weekend being a case in point – the fans realise that promise and hope means nothing without results and delivery. Even more ignominiously, it comes a few weeks after the team had been bundled out of a knock-out tournament by a lower-league side.

Siphiwe Nyanda. Pic: Mail & Guardian

So it is with the Department of Communications. Every time we begin a new season, i.e. have a new team in charge appointed by the President, we live in hope that, this time, we will all end up winners. By the end of the season, in which a startling lack of results and very little delivery has left us jaded, cynical and sad, we realise that we have fallen for false promises once again. It is left to the minnows of private enterprise to take on the Department – and beat it, as happened in the courtrooms with regard to licensing – in order for us to see progress.



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Posted in the category: Economy, News, Technology

Telkom confirms sale of Vodacom

Telkom today confirmed the key terms of the sale of a 15% stake in Vodacom, South Africa’s leading mobile phone operator, to UK-based Vodafone Group and the intended listing of Vodacom on the JSE.

Telkom formally confirmed today that a 15% stake in Vodacom will be sold to Vodafone for R22.5bn in cash, less Vodacom’s attributable net debt of R1.55bn. Telkom will distribute 50% of the after tax proceeds from the sale transaction to Telkom shareholders by way of a special dividend. The dividend will be paid upon closing of the transaction, which is expected to take place in the first half of 2009.

The transaction is subject to approval by 75% of Telkom shareholders, the competition authorities and the Independent Communication Authority of SA (ICASA). Irrevocable undertakings in support of the transaction have already been received from Telkom’s largest shareholders, the South African Government and the Public Investment Corporation (PIC).



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Posted in the category: Economy, News, Technology

AfricaCom Awards finalists named

The organisers of AfricaCom Awards 2008 have announced the finalists for the inaugural African telecommunications awards taking place on 18 November 2008 at the International Convention Centre, Cape Town.

South Africa’s new second Network operator, Neotel, has been nominated as a finalist in the New Entrant of the Year category for the AfricaCom Awards 2008. It joins several dozen other African telecommunications operators and suppliers who are vying for recognition.

The awards recognise the achievements and success within the African communications market during the last twelve months.

According to the organisers, the quality and quantity of entries was exceptional and sets the standard for the African telecommunications industry going into 2009.

The finalists are:



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Posted in the category: Economy, News, Technology

Telco Jabberwock is dead!

In a decision that may change the shape of South African telecommunications, a High Court ruling was made on 29 August 2008 by Justice Norman Davis that Value Added Network Service licence holders, which include all Internet Service Providers, must be allowed by the regulator to provide their own network infrastructure. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK assesses the implications.

Today may have seen the beginning of the end of the dreaded monster lurking in the tangled forests of South African telecommunications law. When Judge Norman Davis ruled in the High Court this morning that Value Added Network Services (VANS) must be allowed to provide their own networks – and that the regulator is obliged to grant the appropriate license to any network that chooses to do so –  he heralded the beginning of a truly competitive environment in telecommunications.

The court case was brought by Altech Autopage against the telecoms regulator, ICASA, essentially to force ICASA to issue a new category of telecoms licences to anyone who applied, rather than cherry-picking a select handful that ICASA decided were worthy.

The Electronic Communications Act envisages that these ECNS (Electronic Communications Network Services) or I-ECNS (Individual ECNS) licences would eventually allow their holders to provide any communications service, from Internet to phone to broadcasting, as the technology underpinning these services is all moving to a common platform, namely the Internet Protocol). Little wonder everyone would like a slice of that pie.



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Posted in the category: News

MWEB sale a signal of change

The announcement last week that Naspers has put MWEB up for auction created a stir of surprise, but not shock. Arthur Goldstuck looks at the implications

 

Is the decision by Naspers to sell MWEB a vote of no confidence in the Internet? Hardly. If anything, it declares the opposite: a recognition that the Internet has become so pervasive, its best businesses will be built on what people do on the network, rather than on how people connect to it.

While it may not be a good thing for MWEB, it is probably a necessary thing as MWEB evolves from an ISP into a telecommunications company. MWEB is entering a new era in South African telecommunications and has little choice but to become an infrastructure owner – once the regulatory environment allows it. Naspers is traditionally in the content space, and has avoided owning the plumbing that makes it all work. It will be a painful divorce, but good for the kids.




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Posted in the category: News, Technology, Trends

Neotel unveils broadband phone

Neotel’s broadband phone

Our sister web site, Gadget, today lifts the lid on the first consumer device that will be rolled out by Neotel, South Africa’s second network operator. Alluded to as a “converged device” in briefings earlier this week, it has emerged that it will be a phone with a high-speed Internet connection, providing “carrier grade” voice, as well as broadband data, to consumers in urban areas. Read more about it on the Gadget web site.

 



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The Big Change is a business strategy blog and newsletter published by Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading technology research organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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