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Telcos Must Innovate, Stop Fighting OTTs – Nnamani

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Engineer Ikechukwu Nnamani is the President/Chief Executive Officer of Medallion Communications Limited

Engineer Ikechukwu Nnamani is the President/Chief Executive Officer of Medallion Communications Limited.
With over 15 years of core telecom experience, Engr. Nnamani is very active in promoting forward looking industry policies for the growth of the telecom industry across Africa working with both regulators as well as operators to achieve this goal.
He currently acts as an Executive of the premier telecom body in Nigeria – the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) where he is responsible for coordinating the activities of the Licensed Telecommunication Operators in Nigeria under the body.
He has also promoted the establishment of Interconnect Clearinghouses in Africa, working recently with the Ghanaian Telecom Regulator (NCA) in the creation of the Interconnect Clearinghouse license in Ghana.
He is currently helping to ensure there is a successful implementation of the license in the country.
Engr. Nnamani is also the Chairman of Demadiur Systems Limited, a system integrator company, responsible for the successful deployment of fixed wireless networks in several cities in Nigeria including Enugu, Aba, Owerri, Onitsha, Abakaliki, Kano, and Abuja.
He had worked as an optical systems engineer at Luxcore Networks Inc., in Atlanta Georgia, USA, among other experiences to his credit.
Engr. Nnamani holds a Master’s in Mechanical Engineering degree from Tennessee State University, Nashville Tennessee, USA and a Bachelor in Mechanical Engineering degree from University of Nigeria, Nsukka. While leading Medallion top executive courtesy call on Communication Week Media Limited, he spoke on various issues in the industry. Excerpt.

Medallion’s Locations
We plan to deploy critical infrastructure to enable interconnect, datacentre and hosting services across the six geo-political zones.
It is critical in our targets for the year. We feel the country needs economic empowerment. It is at time of economic recession that companies can deploy that will enable businesses to operate in a cost effect manner.
This is in the heart of our operations; making sure those infrastructures are available where they are needed. Sometimes, not necessarily where to make the largest amount of revenue but there are places these infrastructures are critical to drive innovation.
We look at it as part of our 10-year plan which gives us a lot of timeline to handle the finance aspect of it. Once it is needed, we are sure of doing that.
Our goal is to launch in four cities. Presently, we are in Lagos and Abuja and itching to put infrastructure in Enugu, Port Harcourt, Kano and Ibadan; from all indications, we might be adding Asaba. The datacenters and interconnect points will boost the industry to meet and interact; similar to what we have done in Lagos.
Today, Medallion infrastructure in Lagos, without controversy, is the most connected point across the sub-region in terms of operators and clientele.
The industry is benefiting from it. Without such investment, the cost of doing business would have been higher than it is today. That is value creation.
But we believe in localization of contents. To us, ensuring that South East has a datacentre is important, the same reason we are deploying in PH, Ibadan and Kano. When that is done, costs drop drastically.

Medallion’s Datacentre Certification
This is one of the areas Nigerians need education. The challenge is some companies throwing buzzwords to confuse people.
They create the notion, but in practically terms fail to handle what are expected of them. When you talk about Tier Certification of Datacentres, there are two ways to look at it.
First, there are policy documents on what is obtainable in a datacentre to be classified. A major part of it is availability; in other words, Uptime.
If you have equipment in the datacentre, there must be guarantee of power availability to certain time, yearly, monthly or weekly; it largely depends on design and resources.
For you to achieve this, for instance, power supply must be available 99.99% of the year which requires you don’t depend on a power generating set. The Institute will insist that depending on a generator denies the facility chances for redundancy. Therefore, you will be recommended as Tier I datacentre/facility.
That doesn’t mean one generator cannot guarantee steady power, especially based on your location. Tier III, which is the buzzword in this environment, requires that in a situation public power supply is interrupted, the facility should be up for 72hours/3days.
It is easier to achieve abroad where public power supply is stable. The batteries or generating sets are mere backups. But in Nigeria, by default you are a power generating company. It makes those requirements, by default, things you must have, especially in Nigeria.
Basically, the infrastructure to ensure steady power is critical in certifying the datacentre. You may wish to go through the formal process of certification. In that way, the Institute will visit you facility after going through your postmarks and issue a certificate.
To us, while the certification is important, the day-to-day operation must be reassuring. In other words, in Medallion, the way we operate could depict us as Tier III datacentre, though we have not obtained the certification. It is not different from someone who has gone through school, acquiring the knowledge but has not obtained the certificate.
In principle, it is good to have the certification, because bequeaths the facility with such a status that an independent organization has verified your processes.
Thus, for the fact we have every major player in the industry operating out of the facility, it shows, to a large extent, we have met the global standards in terms of availability of services. In addition, we offer right pricing; not compromising quality for it.

Telcos Threat to Block Over-the-Top Services (OTTs)
The simple answer to that is No. As technology evolves new services are introduced. As an advocate for technology I am against anything that will kill innovation and stifle technology advancement. I represent the quest for new technology and innovations.
 I also understand that if you have invested on a particular technology you deserve to recoup your fund and make returns to your investors. That makes me align to both sides. However, there is a difference here.
You only start fighting technology only when you are not innovative or adjust business models and solutions to the new/emerging technology.
Like the OTT services, most of them run on data. Rather than fight them because they are probably affecting the traditional voice, why not find a way to also generate revenue out of it. I can assure you there are multiple ways the telecom operators can make revenue through OTT services.

Telcos’ Slide in Revenue and Impact on Interconnect
About ten year ago when we started, the industry was standardized on Time Division Multiplexing processes (TDM-SL-7) means of interconnection. Though, we still have the TDM links, but we are connected to all operators on internet protocol (IP).

Why Did the Migration Took Place on Interconnect? 
That is the current status of technology. Why didn’t people choose to remain on TDM? It is simple: IP platform provides additional benefits.
That is why they implemented IP on the core of their network. Now, the issue we are talking about is subscriber’s preference to the means to call.
Same situation is playing out in the area of international traffic. And that is where the telecos are complaining bitterly, because with Skype, WhatsApp calls people can call across countries provided you are connected on the internet.
At that point, the telcos are losing the revenue from the traditional international call (voice). But what we are saying is that telecos shouldn’t fight these platforms rather move around it to generate revenue. As we speak some are generating revenue.
We at Medallion are constantly restructuring our business to be able to participate even in the emerging technologies.
Competitions are growing, but we are not afraid to compete, because we have fine-tuned our business model to enable us play in the emerging industries. You first line of action shouldn’t be ‘oh, there is a new technology, it will kill us, let’s kill it’.
The point is that even with the new technology let your businesses evolve too. We have envisaged a time companies will need to switch packets. It is a matter of time you can not hold back the OTTs any longer.

What Would Have Happened Without Interconnect Clearing Houses?
I believe the level of success the industry has benefited is still a far cry from what it ought to be and where it should be.
The interconnect clearing houses have drastically reduced the pains previously associated with establishing interconnection.
Today, a licensed operator can approach Medallion and by next week, as long as your network can connect to us, you should be ‘talking’ to every network in the country. In the past, the project takes up to two years to actualize as you must approach each operator, negotiating interconnect protocols agreement.
As a new competitor in the block, the company you are talking to feels threatened by your presence. So, the Company foot-drags, delays and engage every tactic to frustrate you. At the end, they give you a protocol which they are very sure you don’t have.
So, you have to reinvest on new equipment which are not related to your technology for access network. But we bridged those gaps. We interconnect you seamlessly.
So, we were able to bridge the gap of operators on GSM and TDM. That is a value created and huge benefit to the industry. In the area of anti-competition, we have been able to bridge the gap too as a carrier neutral operator.
We can accurately and independently enhance interconnection for efficiency. Also, for traffics that go through us, because we have independent records, billings settlements and reconciliation is more transparent and easier to handle.
However, some operators view us as detrimental to their anti-competitive strategy. They intend to make things difficult for us. But the regulator would intervene.

What Is Happening with Value Added Services?   
For years, we have been pushing for value added services (VAS). Because telcos still force these people and collect what is due to them, majority are frustrated and getting out of business.
But, if they had from onset embraced channeling their services through the clearing houses, the same way we create values for telcos, and we would have helped solved the VAS operators’ problems.

Can Mobile Virtual Network Operators’ (MVNOs) Licensing Solve Some Problems
It is a sort of two-edged sword with a yes and no answer. Yes, because MVNOs is a welcome development; same time, the policies and implementation scheme will determine the success or otherwise. Example, Ghana licensed MVNOs about two years ago and it has been a challenge for them to take off.
 There is a difference between operating virtually and when it is officially announced. At the time of branding the operations then people can understand how it works.
Actually, it is a matter of time before it happens. When operators realized that managing cell sites is not their core-operations, they outsourced. Even with all the problems facing interconnect today, a time will come when they will appreciate it is not something they need not to hand onto. Similar stuff will happen when MVNOs get into full force; the telcos will start to outsource some part of their operations to them.
With a good revenue sharing formula, it is a win-win for everybody. How fast and successful it will become depends largely on the policies that back it up.
Secondly, the licensing model the regulator decides to adopt. If the telcos perceive it as anti to their operations they will create bottlenecks. The big question is: what part of the challenges operators are faced with presently that MVNOs will address? You must be able to create the value proposition. If not, if we implement MVNO licenses because it has worked in the UK and other environment, we can show you over ten things that have worked elsewhere but made little headway in this environment.
Mobile Money is working very well Kenya, in Nigeria it has been a struggle. It is even more successful in Ghana than here. We need to address the why.

Why?
The operators simply refused to cooperate with them. So, if you do it here and run into similar problem, you will get similar result. A model for the implementation of the scheme is very key to its success.
We also need to appreciate that here certain factors can militate against VMOs while they are thriving in other climes. It behooves on us to critically examine why they might not succeed here and address them before licensing them.

National Roaming and the Challenges
Roaming, traditionally, is a commercial arrangement between operators that benefits even the home network than the roaming network. It implies that with XYZ operator’s sim card I can work into a city that has only ABC operating, thus, XYZ can generate revenue by my presence in the city, likewise the home network. So, it is viewed as a plus.
But the context is viewed here as a minus. It is meant to by symbiotic not parasitic relationship. Two things must happen for roaming to occur.
First, there must be an existing network that you want to roam on. So, when people argue about USPF intervening in the matter, unless it wants to invest on a network in those places and allow third parties to roam on it. If not, somebody must invest in those areas for roaming to take effect.
Allowing others access to the your network is a matter of having right agreement because it is a source of additional revenue. It is similar to interconnect.
Why would you not want interconnect when it is additional revenue, because your existing subscribers are making calls on net. You are down to revenue made via your network, but by virtue of interconnect you spread your net for more revenue.
It should be a no brainer. But people look at it as ‘oh, if that subscriber comes, then the person won’t buy my sim card’, but subscribers roam when on transit. There tends to be a lot of ignorance with regards to this; people are just fighting the wrong fight.

Why Moving to Other Cities to Invest?
Nigerians exist in these cities. What happens today is that costs of services in those cities are higher. Obviously, everything has to come back to other areas where infrastructures exist and they bear the brunt.
Aside telecoms, look at petroleum distribution. When the price was increased, Lagos had a problem moving from there it was to N145/litter, because within Lagos we had access to the tank farms and seaport, but people outside Lagos where like ‘what are you people saying.
We have been paying N200/litter as standard here, because there was additional cost of getting it to the people. The same thing is happening in telecommunications hence we want to get infrastructure to everybody and make services cheaper. We believe if the patronage will be higher and user experience will get better.

Medallion in Next 5 Years
We hope to be able to offer services across the sectors of economy across the geo-political zones in multiple cities as a foundational infrastructure provider.
Of course, every now and then we get partnerships with people that want to take services outside the country. So, we also see ourselves doing a lot of intercontinental partnerships.
We would always want to partner indigenous companies in those cities we are invited. We have cemented partnerships in Ghana, with other opportunities in Uganda where they want to take advantages of the expertise we built over the years in Nigeria.
Ultimately, in moves to grow the brand, we see ourselves been listed as public company for Nigerians to participate in what we are doing. It is very key to us as part of our five-year strategic plan.

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek believes that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. So since 2007, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and how they affect lives.

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Sanitise Economy, Curb Debtors Via Technology, Ekeh, Zinox Boss

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Leo Stan Ekeh, serial digital entrepreneur and chairman, Zinox Group

Leo Stan Ekeh, Africa’s leading technology entrepreneur, has charged the Federal Government to leverage technology in reducing to the barest minimum the growing incidences of corporate debts and usher in an era of unprecedented boom and sanity in the Nigerian economy.

 

He made this assertion while delivering the Guest Lecture at the maiden edition of the 2018 Nigerian Online Merit Awards (NiOMA) held in Lagos recently.

 

Ekeh, chairman of the Zinox Group, who disclosed that technology will resolve much of the contemporary problems facing the Nigerian state if holistically applied, noted that the country will benefit immensely if the government turns to technology in its search for lasting solutions to the challenges confronting the economy.

 

According to Ekeh, the recent revelation by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) that, about 350 Nigerians account for 80 per cent of its N5.4 trillion debt portfolio and the refusal of majority of these debtors to liquidate their indebtedness is an issue that can be easily resolved through the application of technology if there exists accurate data of how these debts arose.

 

In his opinion, it could also be that the government at different levels are partially responsible for some these debts, especially if they were unable to meet their obligations to some of these corporates.

 

Ekeh acknowledged that the present debt profile should be a case study for upcoming entrepreneurs or part of the issues to be dissected by data analysts on why some of these businesses failed, noting that this may also reveal a lot of insider compromises on the part of the lenders so that sincere lessons could be learnt and better structure and systems put in place to avert a recurrence.

 

“Working in concert with the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Attorney General of the Federation and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for enforcement purposes, AMCON can leverage a simple technology application that makes it easy to access the bank balances of debtors across all the various banks in Nigeria. This will be a mandatory requirement for the extension of loans and credit facilities and will foster more responsible borrowing as the lenders can easily debit the accounts of borrowers upon due date to recover sums extended.

 

“This will not only reduce the growing profile and negative trend of corporate debts, with its attendant detrimental effect on the economy but will also expose many Nigerians who are publicly hailed as billionaires but who are only living large off depositors’ money, while frustrating further lending to start ups,” he stated.

 

Disclosing the many ways he has relied on technology to ramp up efficiency in his various businesses and simplify complex processes, Ekeh revealed that by next week, he would be trying out a new Enterprise application that will simplify transaction with bankers, irrespective of the numbers.

 

“This application will give us control over all of our bank accounts instead of relying on bank staff to implement our instruction at their convenience.”

 

He also disclosed that the new warehouses widely reported as recently acquired by e-commerce giant Konga were equipped with digital cameras with data analytics and artificial intelligence capabilities which can easily detect fraud and random inconsistencies such as a change in the appearance of an individual or item captured on entry into the facilities. Most importantly, these cameras are cloud based.

 

Urging the government to commit more resources to technology in resolving the unemployment challenges and drive the nation towards rapid development, Ekeh cited the influence of technology in the political space which has reduced post-election litigations from 87% to about 33%, noting that this will further reduce to 11% or thereabouts with the adoption of electronic voting, if funded by the government.

 

“Technology does not lie; it is either you are right or wrong. With technology, you can do unimaginable things. You don’t even need to go through the four walls of a University to acquire quality education,” Ekeh enthused.

 

The Zinox Chairman who spoke on the theme – Leveraging the Internet Revolution to leapfrog Nigeria’s development – affirmed that Information Technology will disrupt the Nigerian economy positively by the year 2023, creating immense opportunities and new wealth for many Nigerians.

 

Noting that this will happen irrespective of the status of leadership at the helm of affairs in the country, Ekeh urged attendees at the event to prepare for the coming disruption.

 

While appreciating the organizers and Publisher of News Express, Mr. Isaac Umunna, Ekeh who received the ICT Icon of the Year award at the event also seized the opportunity to recognize the media for the long years of support in spreading the ICT gospel, even as he declared his intention to stand down from participation at many of such future events in order to allow the younger generation and his son, Prince Nnamdi Ekeh, founder of Yudala to take the stage as he believes they have better global education and exposure to lead the nation to the digital promised land.

 

Among dignitaries in attendance at the event was former Executive Vice-Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Ernest Ndukwe who chaired the event; Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode represented by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Kehinde Bamigbetan; Publisher of the Guardian Newspapers, Mrs. Maiden Ibru; former Vice-Chancellor, Obafemi Awolowo University and Chairman, Editorial Board of the Guardian, Prof. Wale Omole and Editor, Vanguard Newspapers, Mr. Eze Anaba, among others.

 

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Mobile Operators Commit to Common Approach to IOT Security

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The GSMA has announced that global mobile operators have committed to adopt and implement the GSMA IoT Security Guidelines.

The guidelines outline best practice and recommendations for the Internet of Things (IoT) security for the entire IoT ecosystem and set out a comprehensive security assessment scheme to help ensure IoT services are protected against IoT security risks. There will reach 3.1 billion IoT connections by 2025, according to GSM A Intelligence.

“For the IoT to flourish, the industry needs an aligned and consistent approach to IoT security. Our guidelines encourage the industry to adopt a robust set of best practices that will help create a more secure IoT market with trusted, reliable services that can scale as the market grows.

“The mobile industry has a long history of providing secure services in licensed spectrum and by implementing these guidelines, we can help ensure the long-term sustainability and growth of the market,” commented Alex Sinclair, Chief Technology Officer, GSMA.

The GSMA IoT Security Guidelines are targeted at IoT service providers, device manufacturers, developers and mobile operators and provide best practice for the secure end-to-end design, development, and deployment of IoT solutions across industries and services.

They address typical cybersecurity and data privacy issues associated with IoT services and outline a step-by-step process to securely launch solutions to market.

They are supported by an IoT Security Assessment scheme that provides a checklist to support the secure launch of IoT solutions into the market and keep them secure throughout their lifecycles thereby creating a sustainable IoT ecosystem that is designed for end-to-end security.

Both the GSMA IoT Security Guidelines and IoT Security Assessment also cover the fast-growing Low Power Wide Area or Mobile IoT technologies, LTE-M and NB-IoT.

 

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BoICT Explains Why Glo Won Most Innovative Award

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Organisers of the Beacon of ICT Awards, Communications Week Media, have said that Globacom won the Most Innovative Player Award at the 2018 edition of the awards because it pioneering most of the innovations in the nation’s telecoms industry.

Giving the explanation while presenting the awards to Globacom,  Ken Nwogbo, Editor-in-Chief and Chief Executive Officer of Communications Week Media, reiterated  Globacom’s consistent role as the pioneer in Nigeria’s telecom space in the area of innovation and service quality.

According to him, “Glo has remained consistent in pioneering most of the innovations we have in the telecoms industry today, both in voice and in data services.

Glo Café, Borrow me Data, Campus Booster, E-top Up and Easy Share are among the recent products which have offered unparalleled experience for telecom subscribers on the Glo network. Many of the respondents who took part in the poll said this was why they voted for Glo as the Most Innovative Mobile Player”.

Nwogbo further explained that winners in the various categories were decided by readers of Communications Week in an online survey conducted by the magazine from November last year to March 15, 2018.

The Beacon of ICT Awards was instituted to reward the vision and efforts of individuals and companies that have contributed to the growth of the ICT industry in a particular year.

The main objectives of the awards are to evaluate and recognize standards of excellence in the country’s quest for growth and development in the use of ICT and to ensure that ICT professionals are provided a basis for recognizing and validating outstanding contributions.

 

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