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Africa the Centre of New Space Race Era

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In 2017 and beyond, Africa will find itself at the heart of a new space race centred on satellite connectivity.

According to Michèle Scanlon, New Business Development at Gondwana International Networks (GIN), “The race is on for full coverage of Africa with High Throughput Satellite (HTS) service. Long thought destined to be obsolete, as mobile and fibre networks have grown in footprint, satellite services are making something of a commercial comeback.”

Scanlon adds that this new era of satellite services has been driven by HTS Ka-Band spot beam services with the likes of Avanti and YahSat providing cost-effective solutions for markets previously unable to afford satellite connectivity.

This is in addition to global satellite leader, Intelsat setting its sights on full continental coverage with its EPIC satellite series of HTS Ku-Band spot beams.

“Like most battles of competing technologies, first to market also needs to be accompanied by a viable commercial proposition,” says Scanlon.

“Think Betamax vs VHS, or CDMA vs GSM. First to market brings market attention; a commercial proposition brings long-term sustainability and the combination of the two will drive market success.”

“For the internet satellite service provider and end-user, the launch of ubiquitous spot beam coverage, regardless of technology band, should mean more cost effective satellite services delivering faster speeds with more user-friendly dimensioned equipment,” explains Scanlon.

Within this new space race, African service providers are fast emerging. Through a series of acquisitions, most notably of Telkom South Africa’s iWayAfrica and AfricaOnline subsidiaries, Gondwana International Networks has re-established these well-known brands of almost 20 years’ history, among Africa’s first ISPs, to hold one of the largest VSAT customer bases spanning all technology bands.

Scanlon notes that new market dynamics are emerging among traditional as well as new satellite players.

“The traditional satellite project typically took 20 years from design conception to end of its lifecycle in space, whereas terrestrial projects and technology evolve and are adapted significantly quicker and as the final race is on for market penetration of every remote corner of Africa market conditions are in flux.”

Adding to the changing dynamics is the arrival of OTT players into the satellite race.

“Global OTT players like Facebook and Google also see satellite as key for extending broadband services and for their own continued service dominance in a connected world. This is evidenced by Elon Musk, Founder and CEO of SpaceX planning to launch more than 4,000 satellites to provide blanket internet access to earth. Whilst pursuing its own low-orbiting service, Google has backed Musk’s plans with a one billion dollar investment,” she says.

In the new technological race for market share, the technology itself may not be the key differentiator, but rather access to local markets via licensed operators on the ground, speed to market and in rural Africa, and ultimately the price, according to Scanlon.

“With strong competition and continually increasing available satellite capacity, satellite broadband pricing is expected to decline faster over 2017/2018 than in previous periods. The basic economic rules of supply and demand will dictate new price points bringing affordable broadband. However, until the market sees similar reductions in pricing or innovative financing approaches for the required end-user satellite modem the utopian goals of mass-scale broadband penetration in Africa may be limited.” 

In 2017 and the years to come Scanlon predicts the real frontier for new market share is in pursuing HTS spot-beam satellite services for broadband connectivity to the furthest reaches of the African continent.

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NCC Hosts UNODC, Vows to Sustain Collaborations Against Cybercrimes

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The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) will continue to collaborate with other government agencies and international partners towards stemming the tide of cybercrimes.

Mr Sunday Dare, NCC’s executive commissioner, Stakeholder Management, stated this on recently at the Commission’s Headquarters during an interactive session with representatives of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC.

Kamal Toure, the UNODC eLearning Project Officer and Patrick Boismenu, cybercrime expert, were at the Commission’s Headquarters as part of their assessment mission to West Africa to gauge how well Nigeria, Senegal and the Gambia are able to fight cybercrime.

Mr. Dare noted that the Commission performs its regulatory functions in a way that ensures that its licensees take the steps necessary to combat cybercrimes.

He explained that “The role of the NCC here is to do an audit and make sure that we have all the ISPs having active databases and meeting the six months (data retention requirement) as stipulated in the license provision.”

Responding, Patrick Boismenu stated that UNODC is willing to provide assistance in needed areas to ensure that ISPs comply with requirements for data retention because of the crucial role data plays in fighting cybercrimes.

“Our goal is to ensure that cybercrime investigators have access to the tools they need to do their work,” Mr Boismenu explained.

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TCP: NCC Says Consumer Satisfaction, Robust Sector Top Priorities

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By Ugo Onwuaso

Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is determined to carry out its regulatory functions to ensure that the companies operating in the industry were healthy.

Prof. Umar Danbatta, the executive vice chairman of the Commission, made the remark during the 81st edition of the Telecoms Consumer Parliament (TCP) held in Lagos.

He added that “it has taken steps to ensure that the telecommunications sector remains vibrant”.

Mr. Sunday Dare, the executive commission, Stakeholders Management, NCC, who represented the Executive Vice Chairman, said that “the commission would carry out its regulatory functions to ensure that the companies operating in the industry were healthy”.

The Chairman said that the regulatory body had made interventions to prevent disruptions in the consumer’s experience.

According to him, “NCC has commenced aggressive enforcement of the Code of Corporate Governance to ensure that licensees in the industry continue to operate as viable businesses.

“The consumer deserves all the credits for the past and indeed the future successes of this industry.

“The Nigerian telecommunications consumers are at the centre stage of our regulation.

“We at the NCC, being consumer centric regulatory organisation have decided to celebrate consumers of the Nigerian telecommunications industry consistent with the eight point agenda that I set out when I assumed office in 2015.

The number two and six items of the agenda are the core drivers of the NCC year of telecommunications consumer initiative.

“While the number two item of the agenda addresses improved quality of service.

And item six is concerned with protection and empowerment of the telecommunications consumers,” he said.

He also stated that all NCC’s initiatives such as SIM card registration, Mobile Number Portability, Broadband policy implementation, development of 2442 and 622 short codes as well as various consumer awareness campaigns were to ensure consumer satisfaction and protection.

Danbatta added that the commission would continue to look out for and protect the interest of the consumer without compromising the interests of other stakeholders in the industry.

Mr Abdullahi Maikano, director, Consumer Affairs Bureau (CAB) of NCC, said that over the years, TCP had proven to be an innovative way of bringing all stakeholders together to discuss and proffer solutions to industry issues.

Maikano said that the TCP had continued to occupy a pride of place in the commission’s activities.

He said that NCC would continue to provide significant resources to ensure that the parliament is held regularly for the benefit of consumers and the industry.

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Banks’ Working for Early Sale of 9Mobile — Fidelity Bank Boss

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Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo, managing director of Fidelity Bank Plc, has said that all the banks whose money is trapped are working together for smooth sale of the telecoms on or before the end of the year.

This is as the 180 days’ window handed down to the receiver managers of 9Mobile draw nearer.

Explaining industry issues in a recent interactive session with select editors and publishers in Lagos, he said “As you are aware, the creditor banks came together to appoint a new Board and Management for the company, with the Deputy Governor of the CBN as chairman of the Board”.

“The company has good fundamentals with about 22 million subscribers, and it is also very strong in data. Our interest is to ensure the company remains a going concern so that it can attract interested buyers. The banks are working collectively on this,” Fidelity bank chief executive revealed.

It would recalled that at the heat of the $1.2bn syndicated loan default crisis which nearly grounded the former Etisalat, both the telecoms regulator and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), considered the volume of subscribers and intervened.

Part of the intervention was the appointment of Dr. Joseph Nnanna, former Deputy Governor of the CBN to head the chair the board and prepare it for potential investors between 90 to 180 days.

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