30 Sep 2016

"Intra-regional business has been a success due to the One Area Network" - Tigo's Pierre Kayitana

By Amy Turner - Com Series Staff Writer, KNect365

Coming soon to the Com Series blog and YouTube channel...

Here is a sneak preview of our interview with the Regional Government Relations Manager at Tigo Rwanda, Pierre Kayitana.

We sat down with Pierre following his panel discussion on the One Network Area Initiative at East Africa Com to talk about the harmonising of calling tariffs between the participating nations of the Northern Corridor, the socioeconomic impact of this initiative and what is still to be done to improve telco connectivity in the region.




If you are interested in how tech and telco is enabling socioeconomic development and social empowerment on the African continent, through initiatives such as the above, you might be interested in attending AfricaCom.

Africa's biggest tech and telco event is taking place between the 14th - 18th November at the Cape Town ICC, find out more here.

You can book your AfricaCom tickets here.

Be part of the African tech and telco conversation, here:
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28 Sep 2016

NigeriaCom: Deepening conversations in the ICT sector

By Chukwuemeka Fred Agbata Jnr - Co-Producer, Presenter and Columnist, The Punch and Tech Trends

The 7th edition of the Nigeria Com ICT Leaders Forum has ended, and I am looking forward to attending AfricaCom, Cape Town for yet another informative and exhilarating experience.


One of the elements that makes Nigeria Com stand out is the quality of attendees and this year didn't disappointment. In fact, this year saw an increased number in start-up founders in attendance, which is a sign the ICT sector in Nigeria is growing in leaps and bounds.


NigeriaCom chat's to Tech Trends TV

Here are some of the highlights from this year's event:



mHeath Innovations



One of the stand-out sessions was the panel discussion on: “Understanding the Value-chain of Connectivity for Improving Healthier Lives and Societies in Nigeria.”

The session was just fascinating and highlighted the need for Nigeria to leverage technology in tackling health-related issues. The news here is that Qualcomm Wireless came up with their latest eHealth innovation - ChiniPAK360.

Panelist Deborah Theobald, primary grantee of Qualcomm Wireless,
 explained that CliniPAK is a 3G enabled Point-of-Service data device designed to improve healthcare and reduce maternal and child mortality.

According to World Bank records, there are on average less than two midwives per 1,000 people and less than one doctor per 1,000 people in Nigeria. That is to say without adequate access to health services and long-term patient records, the lives of Nigerians becomes threatened. However, this new technology will provide midwives and healthcare providers with flexibility to capture, analyse and diagnose clinical conditions that lead to maternal or infant mortality, and aims to decrease the number of deaths in these groups dramatically.

“Electronic reporting gives us a faster and easier way of understanding what’s going on in the field, so Nigeria can achieve Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 by 2015. Ondo State is now able to track and report on approximately 90% of its maternal births - the highest of any State in Nigeria,” noted Jamila Ibiye Bello-Malabu of the Nigerian National Primary Health Care Development Agency.

The panel discussing m-Health initiatives at Nigeria Com 2016

Panelist Adeleke Balogun, Assistant Director of ICT at the Federal Ministry of Health explained that the thrust behind this innovation is to solve data access-related issues. “Having access to data when needed is a setback in some industries in Nigeria. Hence, that issue has been addressed by the invention of ChiniPAK. Besides having access to data, there are lots of health-related applications such as videos and ebooks, which helps to narrow the knowledge gap”.

The truth is that the immediate availability of current medical data means clinicians and midwives can make informed, timely decisions that have life-saving potential. Considering the potentially enormous benefits of this technology, it is envisaged that other states would borrow the notion from Ondo State and leverage the power of technology to boost their health sectors.



Connecting Nigeria



Secondly, the area that caught my attention at this year's event was the discussion around the country's connectivity, with statistics showing that internet penetration in Nigeria currently stands at 51 percent - ranking the country 6th in Africa. Ismaila Otolorin from Airtel Nigeria revealed these statistics during his presentation on: 'Towards Universal Access and Business Models for the last Mile'. His presentation was quite informative and instructive.

It is understood that the likes of South African MTN, Indian Airtel, Glo Nigeria, and UAE's Etisalat are reluctant to expand their network coverage in some areas because 20 percent of their network sites adds nothing to their revenue. This is what is the major issue associated with the low level of internet penetration in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, if telco operators expand their networks and universal service, there would be more internet penetration in Nigeria. Does it mean that players are not ready to expand their networks? The answer is no.

Tech Trends' CFA

Otolorin noted that: “There are a lot of issues ranging from policies, regulation, the current economic situation, security of fibre, power, multiple taxation and other impediments that are trailing the telecoms operators in Nigeria. Once the government starts addressing some bottlenecks within the ecosystem, telecoms operators would expand their universal service so as to deepen internet penetration.

Additionally, the starting point is to effect the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF), through which smart subsidies would be provided to operators. This would induce them to extend their network services to rural areas, so as to deepen internet penetration in Nigeria”.

The Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) was established by the Federal Government of Nigeria to facilitate the achievement of national policy goals for universal access and service to information and communication technologies (ICTs) in rural, un-served and under-served areas in Nigeria.

Otolorin suggested that to speed up the entire region it imperative that government, in collaboration with the Nigerian Communications Commission, further team up with third-party companies so as to help introduce smart subsidies that would induce operators to expand their service in rural areas.

Finally, one of the takeaways from the Nigeria Com event is that Nigeria is doing well with regards to in technology innovation, but still needs to improve in certain areas. Telecom operators need to expand universal access and service in uncovered areas; deepen Internet penetration; while the government needs to create an enabling environment for these operators.

Tech Trends TV sits down with Nigeria Com speaker Tony Smallwood - Executive Head of IoT at Vodacom



About the author:
CFA co-produces and presents Tech Trends, a weekly tech show on Channels Television as well as a weekly column in the Sunday Punch Newspaper known as ICT Clinic. CFA is the Founder of www.techSmart.ng, a tech blog that covers everything tech.

AHUB powered by Ericsson | AfricaCom TV - Episode 2

Welcome to AfricaCom TV - the home of all things African tech and telco.

This AHUB episode is dedicated to showcasing the start-ups who are actively shaping the African tech scene.

The AHUB powered by Ericsson is part of this year’s AfricaCom between the 15th and 17th November in Cape Town, South Africa and is the meeting place for Africa’s start-up community – linking business ready entrepreneurs, developers and start-ups with accelerators, investors, VCs and business mentors.

Here’s a spotlight look at some of the most impressive start-ups and innovations that have recently come out of Africa’s digital landscape:


Companies featured:
Bankymoon
MaxiCash
wiGroup


The AHUB is open to AfricaCom visitors – however if you are a start-up, investor, operator, enterprise, broadcaster, government or regulator then you can get a FREE gold delegate pass, giving you access to all of AfricaCom’s conference tracks. Please apply for a pass here or by clicking the link below.

Find out more about the AHUB powered by Ericsson here.

Register for your AHUB free pass here.



To find out more about the largest tech and telco event in Africa and book you tickets, click here.

Be part of the African tech and telco conversation, here:

27 Sep 2016

The continuing evolution of the vCPE

By Dr. Yuri Gittik - Head of Strategic Developments and Innovation, RAD

The emerging virtual customer premises equipment (vCPE) approach for business customers enables some of the functionality associated with conventional CPEs and other customer-located appliances to be virtualized and optionally relocated to other network locations. Most recently, a new understanding has evolved that broadens and widens its use cases and implementation options.

Firstly, there is now a consensus that vCPEs are not just deployable over a single architecture model but rather a suite of various implementation options, with and without virtualization at the customer site. The question currently being debated is how can virtualization be deployed most efficiently at the customer site.

Secondly, the telecoms industry now understands major vCPE use cases, which include IP VPNs, Ethernet services with virtualized capabilities and, somewhat surprisingly, SD-WAN as a carrier service. For many, the last of these three scenarios was unexpected, since the SD-WAN was originally designed for the enterprise alternative.


Where should Virtual Network Functions (VNFs) be located?


There are three types of architecture that can be employed to introduce virtualization:

A. With just a physical CPE (pCPE, without virtualization capabilities) at customer sites while all virtualization is located in the network/cloud.

B. With a universal CPE (uCPE, that enables hosting virtualized functions) at customer sites while virtualization is distributed between the network/cloud and customer sites.

C. With a universal CPE (uCPE) at customer sites while all virtualization sits at the customer sites.

What is critical to grasp from these different architectures is that vCPE deployment is not a cookie cutter process. These three options serve different enterprise market segments, and can even co-exist within a single customer network.


The two scenarios for launching vCPE deployment:


1. Start without virtualization at the customer site as the initial stage. This would be accomplished using a pCPE that provides tunneling and security. This option is tailored for the architecture type A. Then virtualization can be added using a stand-alone white box, or integrated with the pCPE (gray box).

2. Start with colocation of separate white box server and existing CPEs at the customer site, and then, as a next stage, collapse them into a single device to maximize performance and reduce costs. This scenario begins with a white box (basically a COTS), which runs the vendor’s operating system or the carrier’s own software to host VNFs. Later on, the white box can be enhanced with hardware-based functionality, such as performance acceleration, switching/routing, L2/L3 demarcation and other physical network functions (PNF), in addition to VNFs. This option is tailored for architectures B and C as the starting point.



Both these scenarios are equally valid. Technical and business drivers such as cost structure, target services, network architecture, use cases and other parameters will determine where VNFs will be situated. Some applications – end-to-end encryption, WAN optimization, testing, and monitoring, for example – must be located at the customer premises by definition. 

Others are simply more effective at the customer premises. There are also operational and transport issues to consider, not to mention governmental regulations and policies related to data protection.

The vCPE, therefore, has been evolving and continues to do so. Standardization by industry bodies, beginning first of all with the Broadband Forum, is yet another contributing factor in considering the vCPE as a work in progress.


Today’s reality


This is the year in which the vCPE has moved into its deployment stage. Not surprisingly, two alternative models reflecting the above two scenarios have been employed. The first – adopted, for example, by Orange and DTAG – begins with a pCPE, while virtualization at the customer site will be added later. The second – adopted other carriers, such as AT&T – begins with virtualization using a white box server.

Taken together, all of these developments provide African operators with a distinct advantage, since they will have the opportunity to carefully watch and assimilate the experience of their American and European counterparts before opting for one model over the other. In this way, they will be able to first the review the research, expertise and interoperability testing accumulated during U.S. and EU rollouts before charting their own path.


Conclusion


For service providers, vCPE’s sweet spot lies in agile service offering, while introducing advanced software-defined provisioning and customer self-configuration with ability to carry out shorter, and more flexible deployment cycles for new services. When implementing vCPE architecture, there are several options for VNF placement – in the data center, at the customer edge or a combination of both – each fitting a different scenario. When planning vCPE deployments, service providers need to consider how functionality placement affects bandwidth efficiency, security, survivability, performance, diagnostics, and last but not least, service quality-of-experience.


About the author:

Yuri Gittik is Head of Strategic Developments and Innovation at RAD. In this capacity, he is responsible for steering the innovation and leading strategic development of new RAD solutions and partnerships, with a particular focus on NFV and cloud solutions. Dr. Gittik also leads RAD’s strategic cooperation with key carrier accounts around the world, as well as R&D collaboration.

About RAD:

RAD is a global vendor of solutions for telecom service providers, power utilities, transportation systems, and government agencies. 

Their Service Assured Access solutions for mobile, business and wholesale service providers are designed to improve the way they compete: service agility to minimise time to revenue, complete visibility of network performance for greater operational efficiency, and better QoE to reduce churn.

Founded in 1981, RAD has an installed base of more than 15 million units, and is a member of the $1.25 billion RAD Group of companies, a world leader in communications solutions.



If you are interested in topics such as these and others, that are evolving the world of tech and telco, why not attend AfricaCom 2016?

Africa's biggest tech and telco event is taking place between the 14th - 18th November at the Cape Town ICC, find out more here.

You can book your AfricaCom tickets here.

Be part of the African tech and telco conversation, here:
AfricaCom
Youtube
Twitter
Facebook
LinkedIn
Instagram


26 Sep 2016

On the cusp of a tech revolution: The Nigeria Com 2016 report

By Adam Thompson - Portfolio Manager, Africa, TMT, Knect365

On the edge of something big – Nigeria is in the formative stages of a technology led revolution that will change the socio-economic picture for the country.




The Naira has weakened immensely over the last six months yet in characteristically optimistic fashion Nigerians are pushing the digital sector to re-invigorate the economy. Even President Muhammadu Buhari championed Nigeria as one of the world's largest and fastest growing telecoms markets during the US-Africa Business Forum a fortnight ago.

The 7th annual Nigeria Com showed a clear ambition from all participants from the offset, to utilise technology and telecommunications to stimulate growth and development of a digitally-led, knowledge-based economy.

While the macro-economic outlook in Nigeria is more challenging than ever, paradoxically this remains Africa’s largest economy in GDP terms and Africa’s most populous nation. With that in mind the opportunity for technology to scale quickly in Nigeria is still attractive for investors. The challenge lies in providing the level of connectivity and reliable broadband services to consumers and businesses to help develop the sector.


NigeriaCom plenary panel: Enhancing content integration to bridge the digital revenue gap – the rise of data driven services through smart devices
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and Nigeria’s ITU Organising Committee gave an insight into the Smart Communities agenda for creating a digital Nigeria. While the sentiment for Smart Communities was felt among participants, the challenge of digital skills development was overlooked here and in later sessions it was highlighted as a critical area where more investment and attention is needed.

The debate continued during a select panel of incubators, start-ups and those passionate about developing the bottom end of the pyramid including 
Chukwuemeka Fred Agbata Jnr (CFA) of Tech TrendsChannels TV, Wole Odetayo of Wennovation Hub, Olatorera Oniru of DressMeOutlet.com among others. The salient point was that more needed to be done on the policy front to protect and develop small Nigerian businesses in the wake of large multi-internationals taking prime position in the market.

The Telecoms Leader’s Roundtable set the tone for development of more robust broadband networks as the catalyst for this digital economy growth. Leaders from Airtel, ntel, Avanti and the NCC shared views on how spectrum transformation is key to unlocking the opportunity in this sector, creating faster and more affordable connectivity hinged on collaboration between telcos and the regulator.

Networking at Nigeria Com 2016

At the front end of the digital sector a stellar panel put the digital entertainment sector to rights, looking at how to bridge the gap between content and data uptake. Nigerian ARPU is still low considering the high levels of mobile penetration in the country. A fine selection of minds leading digital development from Adia Sowho, Director of Digital Business at Etisalat Nigeria, Daniel Price at Perform Group & Goal.com and Oye Akideinde of BOOM Player at Tecno Mobile among others looked at the future of digital entertainment through the mobile. A key take away was the need to tap into local resources and local content production that would enable digital business growth.

Collocated at Nigeria Com was the Enterprise ICT Leader’s Forum which facilitated the CIOs and CTOs of major enterprises for another year at the show. There was big focus on the fundamental impacts of IoT on Nigerian businesses and establishing what the future role of an ICT leader would look like with the continual convergence of CIO and CTO roles.


Connection speeds still slow in Nigeria but the appetite for data is strong, says ntel boss

By Isaiah Erhiawarien - Senior Correspondent, Infotech at the National Mirror

The growth in broadband penetration in the country has not been evidently clear in the speed of internet connection prompting the Managing Director of NATCOM, owners of ntel, Abass Kamar to describe data connection in Nigeria to be slow.


Kamar (right) presented: 'Being Broadband: This is How We Do It' at Nigeria Com 2016

Kamar who made the remark while speaking at the Nigeria Com 2016, said that despite the slow speed of data connections in the country, there is clear evidence that there is a hunger for reliable data connections in the country, noting that the industry is presently witnessing a fundamental and phenomenal shift from narrow band to broadband connection.

He said that to meet the of the needs of consumers for high speed broadband connections it has become necessary to embrace 4G technology, and that the migration to 4G broadband in the next five years will be greater than the migration to mobile communication.

He disclosed that the 92 million internet subscribers are connected through the narrow band connection and as such active subscribers have to contend with a 2G connection, which is lower than one megabyte connection per second.

He observed that as a result, the average consumption under the 2G connection is lower than 200 megabytes per month, compared to a global standard of 800 megabytes monthly, stressing that there is urgent need to address this deficit.


Paul Adepoju and Abass Kamar discussing Nigerian broadband potential

According to Kamar, the way out of the present trend of low speed data connections in Nigeria is 4G technology, if the industry must carter for the mass market needs, saying that the industry needs solutions that does not focus on cities but on the vast area of the country.

He said that the needs of the Nigerian internet community goes beyond city hotspots to mobile solutions that can carry a lot of capacity, noting that ntel has the ability to build Nigeria’s most constant efficient mass market mobile broadband network.

Kamar explained that although it went out to acquire a company that has been out of fashion and business, it has has the fundamental requirement of being built on what is called the 'golden spectrum'.

He added that ntel is built on the 4G/LTE, advanced technology is built on the 900/1800MHz spectrum, which can deliver the unbeatable and game changing customer experience of high speed internet access up to 230Mbps,"thus enabling a world of full mobile broadband experiences that will transform both lives and livelihoods.”

Abbas, an ex-Country Manager of Ericsson Nigeria, said that ntel is the biggest 4G network in the country today but that the decision of the company to rollout to only Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt was strategic, saying that beyond its inherited infrastructure - it also has secondary sites from tower companies.

In an address while declaring open the event, Portfolio Manager, Africa TMT KNects365, organisers of the event, Adam Thompson observed that Nigeria requires the diversification away from a heavy dependence on the oil and gas sector, and expansion of the knowledge economy.

He said that the development of ICTs marks a stronger prospect for social benefit and that this can only occur through convincing actions from the Nigeria Com participants.

This article originally appeared in ICT & Biz Africa