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.

30 Oct 2014

AfricaCom 100 survey reveals that despite challenges, Africa’s digital industry has a bright future

The AfricaCom 100 survey provides insight as to the future of Africa’s digital sector. 

Key findings include:

-    Better partnerships between the different stakeholders (operators, vendors, OTT, governments etc.) are needed to make        broadband access more affordable to Africans
-    Digital industry players should invest in priority in mobile broadband and tech start-ups
-    Infrastructure sharing and better partnerships will help address rural telecom challenges
-    Mobile Money and new financial services are the most promising new revenue streams for operators
-    Dissatisfaction with quality of networks is holding back excellence in customer experience in Africa
-    Operators are still unsure about the business case for launching LTE in Africa

London, 29 November 2014 – AfricaCom, the continent’s leading event for the telecoms, media and ICT sector, today announced the results of the AfricaCom 100, the first pan-African survey enabling key players in the market to share their views on the future of Africa’s digital industry. The full results will be shared at AfricaCom (http://africa.comworldseries.com), CTICC. Cape Town, 11-13 November, 2014. The survey, which was launched in September 2014, enabled the event organiser Informa Telecoms & Media to collect expert opinions on the trends changing the digital ecosystem in Africa. 

The survey’s questions covered questions of network developments, investment, new services and partnerships. The main findings reveal that despite challenges, Africa’s digital industry has a bright future, with the potential to deliver innovative and profitable services.

Investment in in networks is a major necessity, both to deploy mobile broadband (seen as the main way of improving access to affordable broadband by 25.7% of respondents) and to improve quality of service, which is by far the main point holding back excellence in customer experience, as voted by 61.8% of respondents.

In terms of new services, 32.4% of respondent saw mobile financial services as the main source of new revenues, closely followed by digital content & entertainment services with 29.4% of answers. Big Data and e-commerce/m-commerce were further behind but still significant with each over 14% of responses.
The digital sector is all about partnering for development. Better partnerships between the different stakeholders (operators, vendors, OTT, governments etc.) are the main way to improve access to affordable broadband (31.4% of responses) and when added to infrastructure sharing, are the best way of meeting the rural telecom demand (61.8% of responses). In addition, 34.4% of respondents said that they would like to invest in tech start-ups to develop the next big services and apps.

Discussing the AfricaCom 100 research project, Julie Rey, Research Director, Com World Series, commented: “The AfricaCom 100 research project is an important new development for AfricaCom; it provides a new tool for our attendees and exhibitors to develop strategies to meet the potential of Africa’s telecoms, media and ICT markets.  The results show the market is still facing challenges but stakeholders are taking concrete steps to meet them and to look into new revenue streams”.

The participants of the AfricaCom 100 survey include decision makers from Africa’s digital industry, with representation from leading organisations such as MTN, Airtel, Vodacom, Facebook, Google, Millicom/Tigo, Orange and more. Their full responses to the study will be unveiled at AfricaCom, alongside deeper discussions with regards to the results shared in the AfricaCom 100 survey results. For more information about the event, visit http://africa.comworldseries.com /

29 Oct 2014

Bandwidth Accelerator+ for affordable 4G+ backhaul

By Bernard Prkić, DragonWave Inc.

Mobile backhaul spectrum that’s used for wireless backhaul is an intangible, yet costly, asset in most markets around the world, as indicated here:

With the advent of 3.5 and 4G technologies, the need for backhaul capacity is increasing by at least an order of magnitude (10-fold) yet the Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) is not following suit. To maintain profitability against a backdrop of weakening ARPU, our customers must cut cost.

In the past, cost-reduction emphasis was put on reducing Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) on equipment. That effort has proven to be successful, as can be seen in the figure below, illustrating the 5-year Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) breakdown for a Microwave Radio Link in 2014 and 5-10 years ago.

For effective cost reduction, the license cost spending needs to be addressed. There are manifold, approaches to do this by boosting spectral efficiency, including:

1.    Radio frequency based approaches:
a.    Higher-order modulation schemes
b.    Cross-Polarisation Interference Cancellation (XPIC)
c.    Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO)

2.    Baseband based data compression solutions:
a.    Header compression,
b.    Lossless wire-speed bulk compression.

The main pros and cons of the baseband approach are:

DragonWave’s Bandwidth Accelerator+ (BAC+), a unique confluence of Header Compression and lossless wire-speed bulk compression, warrants closer scrutiny as its benefits clearly outweigh its weaknesses.

Microwave link capacity, range and availability are closely correlated, as illustrated here:

With BAC+, we break the rules as we can increase net link capacity without affecting either link range or link availability (=quality) and without adding any hardware on the site. We can apply BAC+ in three different ways:

1.    108% on-average capacity booster.
2.    15-17 dB range extender by backing off modulation by 4 steps while maintaining the same throughput.
3.    50% license fee OPEX cutter with an additional 3-7 dB range extender bonus by cutting the required channel in half while maintaining the same throughput.

The third use case above is in fact the most potent one for reducing TCO by cutting OPEX in half, whilst keeping capital expenditure at bay. BAC+ offers instant, extra-strength and inexpensive congestion relief, as attested by independent performance measurements conducted by a Tier-1 player in January 2014:

Microwave link capacities with a 1+0 DragonWave link in a single 28 MHz channel operating at 2048 QAM without and with BAC (no header compression) as a function of different payload profiles.

Are you ready to join us and rewrite the rules with BAC+?

28 Oct 2014

Creating Opportunities for Nano credit in emerging markets

Everywhere in the world, right in this moment, someone is communicating their love, value of their business, saying goodnight, good morning or good bye, selling their product or simply following up on a conversation. Someone else is communicating over email, listening to their favorite band, or video chatting with friends. In the next few seconds, for some of those people  those connections and conversations will abruptly end when they run out of or exceed their minutes, messages, airtime, cable TV, electricity units or money or data on their cellular plan.

We feel their pain, we’ve been there.

That’s why created something to help them finish the conversation, see the last minutes of the game, wash off their soapy hair, say good night,  finish that college application due in an hour, hear the song ending of their favorite band, pay that hospital bill, or even buy that shoe and say one last ‘I miss you’.

We give people the chance to complete their aspirations.

Formed with the main aim of bringing everyday mobile solutions through Mobile Network Operators to everyone, with emergency Credit financing, we provide nano-finance (facilities of less than USD20) to prepaid customers through innovative and customized solutions.

According to the Ericsson mobility report in June, there are approximately 6.8 Billion mobile subscriptions world over.

Out of these numbers, Africa, India, China and Middle east contribute over 4.3 billion subscriptions ( a majority of the numbers so to speak). For instance the top 5 countries by net additions were India, China, Indonesia, Thailand and Bangladesh who contributed accounted for over 50% of new mobile subscriptions in Q1 2014.

These numbers in themselves speak volumes. It is worthy to note that a large portion of these markets are predominantly pre-paid.

Telcos in Emerging markets are continually faced with the challenge of servicing low ARPU customers with new low cost products and services. The other key area of growth will be in mobile money transfers, payment and low denomination credit – or nano credit if you are to use a different term.

These mobile markets are overwhelmingly prepaid, and that means airtime vouchers, as well as new SIM cards, must be widely and easily available if an operator is to have a business that functions at all, successfully or not.

As an experienced VAS provider in the emergency airtime space, MODE knows these challenges too well. Founded in May 2010 by two aggressive and passionate individuals and some earnestly trusting board of directors from across the globe, We started off operations in Kenya and have since facilitated transactions for millions of people across the globe, with offices in London, Singapore, Nairobi, New Delhi, Kampala, Mumbai, Lagos, Lusaka and Johannesburg.

Mode will be at AfricaCom 2014 – to register: http://africa.comworldseries.com/register/

27 Oct 2014

AfricaCom Speaker Geoff Cohen, 24.com on creating a future-proof Pan-African media and content business

AfricaCom 2014 speaker Geoff Cohen, CEO, 24.com on: the geographic reach of its online news service; the importance of mobile; what it knows about its audience; how it does and doesn't compare to newspapers; its profitability; and its use of video.

Geoff Cohen, 24.com will be speaking at AfricaCom (11-13 November 2014). For further details and to register, go to: www.comworldseries.com/africa and follow it on #africacom

Interview by SmartMonkey TV

24 Oct 2014

Free Intel workshops at AfricaCom 2014


AfricaCom 2014 Senior Event Sponsor Intel are delighted to invite you to attend four free workshops dedicated to leveraging telcos’ assets to generate new revenues and developing successful apps. Join Intel’s leading specialists and apps specialists, a group of the region’s top operators, digital innovators and developers and hear insights on leveraging networks assets for new revenues streams, the IoT opportunities, monetising apps and Android coding sessions.

Take your pick from a range of workshops running on Monday 10th and Tuesday 11th. These will be focusing on topics including:

  • Leverage your network assets to accelerate digital innovation
  • Maximizing Telco opportunities via IoT
  • Apps Marketing and Monetization
  • Developing Android apps on Intel Architecture

For more information and to secure your place in these hands-on innovation sessions, visit our website: http://africa.comworldseries.com/intel-workshops/

If you haven't already registered to attend AfricaCom 2014, get your tickets here: http://africa.comworldseries.com/register/

23 Oct 2014

Winner of APO Invitation to AfricaCom 2014 Revealed


Aimable Twahirwa from Rwanda wins APO invitation to participate in the AfricaCom 2014

CAPE-TOWN, South-Africa, October 23, 2014

APO (African Press Organization) (http://www.apo-opa.com), the sole press release newswire in Africa and the global leader in media relations relating to Africa, today announced that science journalist Aimable Twahirwa (@atwahirwa) from Rwanda won APO invitation to participate in the AfricaCom 2014, Africa’s leading telecoms event (http://www.comworldseries.com/africa), held in Cape Town, South Africa, on 11–13 November 2014.

APO will offer transport, accommodation and perdiem for Twahirwa to travel to Cape Town and cover the entire event.

“It gives us great pleasure in offering this invitation to Aimable, a recognized and influential journalist. As a company, we need to support the journalists out there who fight every day to educate us on the matters of the world,” says Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard, Founder and CEO of APO (African Press Organization).

Aimable Twahirwa is an award-winning and trained senior science journalist based in Kigali, Rwanda. During his 15 year- career, he has been covering science and technology writing for prestigious newspapers both Pan African and international newsrooms as well as Radio and online.

After he graduated in science Journalism, his first assignment was on the Climate Change  where he delved in Energy and Agriculture research. His early days at Rwanda News Agency (RNA) led him to become the Rwanda correspondent for the Pan African News Agency where he has been covering science and technology stories.

On a freelance basis, he has published revealing stories about genocide, in the African media and for press in UK and Europe and North America. Aimable is fluent in both languages French and English which made him an influential correspondent for specialized science magazines such like 'Scidev.Net' and NATURE publications Group, a London based publisher.

More information about AfricaCom 2014: http://africa.comworldseries.com

Aïssatou Diallo
+41 22 534 96 97

About APO

APO (African Press Organization) (http://www.apo-opa.com) is the sole press release newswire in Africa and is a global leader in media relations relating to Africa.

With offices in Senegal, Switzerland, Dubai, Hong Kong, India, and Seychelles, APO owns a media database of over 100,000 contacts and is the main online community for Africa-related news.

It offers a complete range of services, including press release distribution and monitoring, online press conferences, interactive webcasts, media interactions, strategic advice, public diplomacy, government relations and events promotion. To find out more, please visit http://www.apo-opa.com.

Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/apo_source

Follow us on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/company/african-press-organization

Follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/africanpressorganization

SOURCE: APO (African Press Organization)

Start AfricaCom week in style with Mobile Monday's End of Year networking event

Mobile Monday South Africa’s End of Year Event

Monday, November 10th, 2014

Topic: Mobile the Magical Money-Making Machine


Attention: The 2014 End of Year Mobile Monday South Africa Event featuring the legendary international man of mobile, Tomi Ahonen

2014 has just flown back and in traditional MoMo style we are hosting an End of Year bash to kick off AfricaCOM 2014 in Cape Town. To celebrate this extraordinary year in Mobile, South Africa’s 20th anniversary of telecommunications in the country, we have an extraordinary speaker lined up. This year’s bash is brought to you by Intel and WeChat

Special Guest: Tomi Ahonen

Some say this International man of mobile provided Mark Zuckerberg with the inspiration for Facebook. Others say, he single headedly laid the undersea cables that provided mobile Internet connectivity globally (or maybe its just all the traveling he has done speaking the word of Mobile. We are proud to announce that 12 time published mobile evangelist, Tomi Ahonen will for the first time LIVE in Cape Town be our key note speaker at this year’s MoMo year end function.

MOMO Event Details:

Date: Monday, 10 November 2014

Time: 18h00

Venue: Pepenero Restaurant, Moullie Point, Cape Town

Drinks and snacks will be served

Cost: Free as always but this year space is limited to BOOK YOUR TICKET NOW!

Mobile Monday is a partner of AfricaCom, taking place at the CTICC in Cape Town in 11-13 November.


21 Oct 2014

AfricaCom 2014: Vision for Africa

Launches, acquisitions, growth, partnerships, broadband, new technologies & services and how to monetize digital platforms: Africa’s digital market is moving by leaps and bounds, and showing the world how innovation is done. This is the underlying premise of the AfricaCom 2014 Keynote sessions entitled:  Vision for Africa’ which will present a snapshot of the most current trends in the market, and discuss the benefits for customers and industry stakeholders alike.

Always insightful, the 2014 opening session to kick off the 17th annual AfricaCom conference on 11 November 2014 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC), is once again set to deliver thought provoking debate.  Africa’s digital market is driven by broadband developments, which enable better services to consumers, new opportunities for all stakeholders and further growth for Africa’s economies. The key questions are how to deliver broadband access to consumers across the continent (what technologies, on what devices), how it can be in a way that is affordable to African users, and how stakeholders can generate revenues from the investment.

The opening keynote panel at AfricaCom will look at how strategic partnerships affect services to users and investments from stakeholders: the complicated relations between telecom operators and OTT (over the top) providers. The panel will be composed of some of Africa's leading operators (Millicom, Airtel , MTN, Orange), joined by two of the most world’s significant OTT players: Facebook and Twitter. The operator/OTT debate has raged for the past few years and took a new turn earlier this year with the growth of voice-based OTT brands and new partnership models developed by operators in Africa.

A panel on broadband developments will cover the investments and initiatives needed to improve broadband access across the continent, with contributions from pan-African players Orange, Intelsat, Convergence Partners, Liquid Telecom and China ComServices. Mobile broadband being the main way Africans access the Internet, LTE services will be covered with contributions from large operators Vodacom, Smile and Unitel Angola as well as smaller newcomers Surfline and YooMee. The role of handsets and devices will be debated by representatives of major operators (Millicom, Airtel) as well as a handset manufacturer (Tecno) and OS provider Mozilla.

Finally, new revenue streams will be discussed, with a major new topic introduced to the AfricaCom keynotes M2M & IoT, with a keynote presentation from BMW on their ConnectedCAr and a panel including Orange, Vodacom, Google and the Praekelt Foundation.

Content being a key revenue stream in Africa, a panel will look at how to monetise content services, with contributions from operators Vodacom and Airtel, content providers eTV and Ole! Media Group, one of the continent’s fastest growing digital powerhouses and OTT player Yahoo.

AfricaCom 2014 provides an information oasis with all major players under one roof.  It is also the place where innovation and business happens and is a not to be missed event for anyone looking to develop or grow existing revenue within the highly competitive and rapidly evolving digital ecosystem.  Don’t say we didn’t warn you...

About AfricaCom 2014

Taking place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) from 11 – 13 November 2014, AfricaCom is now in its 17th year. AfricaCom is Africa’s largest communications conference & exhibition. The conference programme covers the most strategic issues affecting companies in Africa’s digital market - services, efficiency, profitability, customer experience, partnerships, policy and more – and features 11 co-located events: VSAT Africa, TM Forum Live @ Africa Com, LTE Africa, Digital Music, Mobile Money & Commerce, AfricaCast, AfricApps, etc. To register: www.comworldseries.com/africa

20 Oct 2014

Orange in Africa: “Local content boosts usage growth.”


IP&TV News finds out more about Orange’s African strategy from Orange’s Sebastien Crozier…

IP&TV News: Could you give us an overview of Orange’s African content strategy, first of all in countries where it’s currently a mass market operator?

Sebastien Crozier: Orange is rolling out its 3G and 4G networks that allow internet access and data services to mass consumers.

Content such as music and video are naturally favoured axes of development. Orange hence launched 2 key services in this area:

1: Orange Radio offers an aggregation of more than 20,000 radios available in mobility with a large footprint. The service is interconnected with Deezer and will be integrated part of fixed and mobile packages proposed by many Orange affiliates.

2: Orange Video by Dailymotion offers a video streaming service that is largely available. A dedicated and localized service has been developed in collaboration with the affiliates in Ivory Coast, Senegal, Madagascar, Maurice, Reunion as well as in the Caribbean’s. Local content strongly contributes to boost usage growth.

And what about those in which it isn’t a mass market operator?

Orange is putting an important emphasis in a few priority countries such as South Africa and Algeria where these two same services will be strongly localized.

Orange content services are diffused by other telecom operators especially over aDSL.

What do you think the main challenges will be for African content diffusion over the next year?

We identify four main challenges for African content services development over the next years:

1. Providing high quality internet services requires significant bandwidth increase and hence an increase of the internet interconnection capacities provided by sub-marine cables. Orange is putting a strong emphasis on this development through its international wholesale divisions.

2. In order to provide the overall continent with sufficient network capabilities, a high-speed fibre terrestrial network needs as well to be further deployed.

3. Datacenter number and capacity increase is a third important stake. Orange strongly contributes to such development in countries where it is as a mass-market operator.

4. African countries must lastly continue increasing their content production. Countries such as Nigeria, Egypt or South Africa already create an important volume of local content.

You’ll be at this year’s AfricaCast – why do you think this event has become so important so quickly?

3G and 4G network deployments create new needs and new stakes. Content services have become one of the major stakes for the telecom industry and more globally for the ICT sector in Africa.

An event such as the AfricaCast has hence become one of the unavoidable meetings in the high-tech area.

Sebastien Crozier will be appearing at next month’s AfricaCast, Africa’s premier show on the future of broadcasting, which takes place on the 11th-13th November 2014 at the Cape Town Convention Centre, South Africa. AfricaCast will be co-located with AfricaCom - for more information and to book, click here.

Mobile money – time for a reality check?

The growth of mobile money in Africa over the last seven years has been phenomenal. Figures doing the rounds (and quoted by The Economist and Financial Times amongst others) include the calculation that 43% of Kenyan GDP is channelled through M-PESA each year, and that Kenyan mobile money is reported as having 26 million customers (Central Bank of Kenya website).

There’s a brilliant article by Susan Johnson, professor at the Centre for Development Studies at the University of Bath, in which she explores the big claims coming out about mobile money. I won’t go into the details here, but Susan found that the 43% of GDP figure is hugely misleading.  If you consider that only 9% of the value facilitated by the Central Bank’s real time gross settlement system are through M-PESA, its clear that this is a bogus statistic. Susan’s article, Kenyan mobile money and the hype of messy statistics, explains the premise and calculations in depth.

Subscriber numbers appear to have been overhyped too. The 26 million customer figure I referred to earlier (reported on the CBK website) is not a figure for unique customers. The data collected simply reports the total number of signups, without taking account of multiple registrations, hence it is not a figure for unique customers.

So, while M-PESA certainly has been a huge success, alternative figures provide more accurate, but less dramatic, comparisons.

My point here is that mobile money has not yet arrived, it has much further to go to meet its full potential. This rings true with what I have witnessed about the dominance of cash for the majority of consumers – not only in emerging markets, but also in first-world countries such as the US and UK where daily retail transactions are predominantly cash-based.

Back in emerging markets, the vast majority of prepaid airtime vouchers and scratch cards are still paid for in cash. This still the case for M-PESA’s parent mobile network, Safaricom. The same is true for other prepaid products like electricity vouchers, bus and train tickets and other micropayments. These kinds of transactions may be small in value but they are huge in volume.

Operators need to acknowledge the power and prevalence of cash even as they continue to build on the gains in digital money.

Vahid will be discussing solutions for the cash to digital convergence at AfricaCom. His presentation is at 12.40 pm on Day 2 of the conference (12 November) under the Mobile Money and M-commerce stream. You can view the full AfricaCom agenda here.

Meet Nomanini and investigate its rugged point of sale terminals and flexible cloud-based back-end at stand A21 in the exhibition hall, where you can pick up a free SIM and airtime - because we know that roaming is expensive! For more info: http://nomanini.com/africacom/