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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

Internet turnaround has begun in SA

In the past year, the Internet user base in South Africa has seen its highest rate of growth since 2001, increasing by 12.5% to 4,5-million.

This is the key finding of the Internet Access in South Africa 2008 study, released today by World Wide Worx. The study was backed by Cisco Systems, and the findings released during the Networkers at Cisco Live! conference in Johannesburg.

World Wide Worx logo“The increase comes on the eve of the biggest shakeup in South African Internet access we’ve seen since the dawn of the commercial Internet in 1994,” says Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx. “It is only the beginning of a dramatic turnaround, and is occurring despite numerous obstacles in the way of growth.”

Among these obstacles has been a highly restrictive regulatory environment, with the Minister of Communications only deciding late in the year not to oppose a court ruling that would allow all network operators to supply their own infrastructure.



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Posted in the category: News

New book unveils the NOHO office

Everyone in business has heard of the SOHO – Small Office Home Office. Now make way for the NOHO – Small Office No Office.

The concept of NOHO – Small Office Home Office is introduced in a new book released today, “The Mobile Office”, by Arthur Goldstuck, technology writer and editor of The Big Change. The book is sub-titled “The essential small business guide to office technology”, and goes beyond the technology to explain how the modern office for both the small business and the travelling executive has changed more radically in the past ten years than in the previous hundred years.

“It’s not just the Internet, not merely the plunging prices of laptop computers, not only the arrival of cellphone banking and mobile e-mail,” says Goldstuck, who heads up the World Wide Worx technology market research organisation.



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Posted in the category: News, Technology, Trends

The real cost of connecting

A new book, “The Mobile Office”, reveals the true cost of connecting a small office or a mobile worker to the Internet – and sounds the death knell for dial-up access in South Africa.

“The Mobile Office”, the latest book by Arthur Goldstuck, technology writer and editor of The Big Change, has for the first time presented a detailed analysis of the cost of Internet access in South Africa. It shows that dial-up access is the most expensive form of Internet connectivity in South Africa.

The belief that dial-up is cheap because it tends to carry the lowest monthly subscription of all forms of Internet subscription is shown to be a myth. While the upfront subscription is usually far cheaper, once the access is actually used, it quickly becomes more expensive.

Arthur Goldstuck and FNB’s Len Pienaar at the media launch of “The Mobile Office” on 20 November

World Wide Worx’s research into mobile technologies in South Africa, under the Mobility project sponsored by First National Bank, provided the initial impulse for the book.



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Posted in the category: News, Technology, Trends

Ericsson on evolution

Telecommunications giant Ericsson will offer live demonstrations of its offerings for the next generation in wireless broadband technology, Long Term Evolution (LTE) , at AfricaCom 2008 in Cape Town next week.

A wide selection of Ericsson’s solutions will be on show at AfricaCom 2008 in Cape Town on 18 and 19 November 2008., including its ‘Full Service Broadband’, Managed Services and Multimedia Solutions, together with live demonstrations of its HSPA, Long Term Evolution (LTE) and Convergent Charging options.

“The LTE demonstration is likely to generate quite a large amount of interest this year, in particular,” observes Aingharan Kanagaratnam, senior manager: Radio Access Sales Support, market unit sub-Saharan Africa, “since it will show what people will be using this technology for and the exciting possibilities that exist when bandwidth is no longer a limitation.”



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Posted in the category: News, Technology, Trends

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

New era in global ICT standards

The World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly closed in Johannesburg last week with decisions on a wide range of issues that will change the future direction of the information and communication technology (ICT) industry .
The role of information and communication technology (ICT) in climate change stands out among a range of key issues that the global telecommunications industry body has agreed to tackle in the coming years.

Members of the International Telecommunications Union, spanning the global ICT industry and administrations from across the world, asked for increased emphasis on key areas such as ICTs and climate change, the deployment of IPv6, accessibility to ICTs for persons with disabilities, conformance and interoperability testing, and encouraging academic participation in the ITU’s work.

Malcolm Johnson, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) said in his closing speech: “We have received a strong message from our members that ITU is, and will remain the world’s pre-eminent global telecommunication and ICT standards body. And we also hear very clearly that ITU should continue on its mission to connect the world, and that bridging the standardization gap – by increasing developing country participation in our work – is an essential prerequisite to achieve this goal.”



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Posted in the category: News, Technology, Trends

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

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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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