So, today we finally got a chance to talk to the David Behr, the ZOL CEO. Below is the full text of the 1 on 1 interview we had with him this afternoon. He basically explains more on the dispute between his company and Telecontract we reported earlier this week. We’re hoping to have a similar talk with the Telecontract CEO if we can get hold of him. (UPDATE (04 April 2010: 1148hrs): here is an exclusive with Telco CEO, Shadreck Nkala.) Tech Zim: I’ll just start with the current status, after the update on the website and the press news release, what’s going on?
Strive Masiyiwa, founder of Econet Wireless has given instructions to shut down the Zimbabwean operations of the now global telecoms company. The instructions are for the mobile operator to close down business by the end of day 01 April 2010.
Since ZOL came out with the story about its fallout with last-mile network provider Telecontract, we’ve been trying to get more details about the issue from the two. It hasn’t been easy. The Telecontract CEO, Shadreck Nkala, is said to be in meetings all day and all we get are promises that he’ll call back. Same thing with the ZOL CEO. Can be frustrating this job sometimes! So, we’re left with no option but to go the informal route. Anyway, we’re getting information that ZOL is in the process of moving all clients to Africom, the company bringing in the SEACOM fibre from TDM in Mozambique.
Ever since Ecoweb announced the coming launch of mobile WiMax last year in October, we’ve been waiting eagerly here at Techzim for further announcements and possibly, a launch date. This didn’t come until last week when Ecoweb finally said something through their Econet investor relations page. Ecoweb, a wholly owned subsidiary of Econet Wireless Zimbabwe revealed that it is in the final testing phase of mobile WiMax project and will be opening it up to subscribers in next month. Speaking about the deployment, Ecoweb General Manager, Tororiro Isaac Chaza said:
Econet announced today the reduction of its mobile line’s price from US$5 to US$2. The US$2 includes airtime worth a dollar. This follows a similar move by its closest competitor, Telecel Zimbabwe, about 2 months ago. Adverts by Econet in the local press today urge customers to act now as ‘offer’ is only “valid while stocks last!” We’re not sure what exactly is meant by this statement. Maybe Econet will revert to the $5 when they run out ‘stocks’. And the ‘stocks’, is this the physical sim cards itself or capacity on the network?
Recently the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) made an announcement that it had committed US$24 million from the Universal Services Fund (USF) for implementing eight projects in the rural areas. No specifics as to which telecoms operators had been tasked to carry out the rural network outreach programs. Also no specific areas in the 8 provinces were made public by Eng. Charles Sibanda who made the announcements. Studies that have been conducted worldwide have identified that telecommunications is an important tool for the economic development and self-sufficiency in any society. Indeed, mobile and internet penetration are now used as key economic indicators
We’ve been hearing rumours over the past week that Telecontract was threatening to disconnect all ZOL clients if ZOL didn’t let them bill customers directly. The rumour was confirmed yesterday when ZOL issued a press statement to explain what was going on in this troubled marriage. Some background: The arrangement that has been working for the two telcos until recently, was that ZOL would sign up customers for the upstream internet service they have and use Telecontract for the last mile connection to the client.
Telecel Zimbabwe launched a new promotion dubbed ‘Mega Juice’, at the weekend. The new Mega Juice card, which costs US $1, gives the subscriber $2 bonus air time, effectively giving away three dollars worth of air time for the price a dollar. The Mega Juice air time however is only valid for 24 hours from the time the air time is loaded or, in Telecel jargon, from the time the mobile phone is ‘juiced up’. As is the case with such promotions, this is valid for calls within the Telecel network. Using the Mega Juice card they can talk to other Telecel subscribers for about 13 minutes for one dollar. With an ordinary air time card they would only be able to chat for about four minutes.
Telecel Zimbabwe Shareholding The Fingaz on Thursday revealed a new twist to the Telecel Zimbabwe shareholding question. Apparently Telecel International may have to cede more than just 11% shareholding to local entrepreneurs. Telecel International agreed to a POTRAZ requirement in 2007 to give up 20% of its 60% shareholding but it didn't. Depending on how the inclusive government deals with this, "The company could be forced to honour its initial deal it signed with Telecel Zimbabwe to offload 20 percent from its current 60 percent shareholding to indigenous players in the venture."
An article about the Econet metro fibre network in The Standard last week, had the following takeaway: IMAGINE Harare, in its dilapidated state, being the most digitalised city in the world. To many, this may sound too far-fetched but for Liquid Telecom, a subsidiary of Econet and Harare Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda it is only a matter of time before the dream is realised. Well, yes, too far-fetched actually. The article goes on to explain a Public Private Partnership (now a buzz phrase with politicians here) where Econet's satellite operator subsidiary, Liquid Telecom and the Harare City Council are embarking on a US$ 3.5million project to install fibre optic rings in the city.
Canonical released Beta 1 of Ubuntu 10.04 today. The latest version of the OS that brought Linux to the people is scheduled to be released on the 29th of April. It's a long term support (LTS) release, and this time named after a cat, 'Lucid Lynx'. The Zimbabwe loco team has been active the past couple of years promoting the Ffee OS, and last year registered a milestone when the Parliament of Zimbabwe moved over all their desktop and server computers to Ubuntu 8.o4.
Chips Computing Services has won the Best Achiever Award for Sage Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) X3, barely a year after the product was launched in Zimbabwe. Chips Computing Services, which holds the Sage Pastel franchise in Zimbabwe and is the official distributor of Sage and Pastel products, won the award, which is based on sales, ahead of many other participants from across the world, including South Africa and Australia.
Casually reading an article posted by the Herald a week ago, I was met with a statement that made me stop: ...Potential for better returns in the sector is abound considering that the penetration rate by Econet, Telecel and NetOne, largely confined to urban areas, stands at a mere 20 percent in a country with more than 12 million people.
Communications Regulators’ Association of Southern Africa Holds Impact Assessment Workshop in Zimbabwe
The Communications Regulators’ Association of Southern Africa (CRASA) will, starting tomorrow, hold an impact assessment training workshop at Elephant Hills in Victoria Falls. The 2 day workshop is aimed at providing forums where awareness of the need for impact assessment in the policy and regulation making processes are discussed. The workshop is being attended by regulatory authorities and the SADC region telecommunications and internet service providers. CRASA operations manager explains in the secretariat message for the workshop:
PowerTel and the BTC Fibre Deal There was an article in this week's Sunday Mail on PowerTel's fibre deal with Botswana Telecommunications Corporation. Again no mention of the bandwidth capacity being purchased. We searched around and found this pdf on the BTC website. It says "...under the agreement with BTC will get access to direct international undersea connectivity with the SynchronousTransport Module One (STM1) at a maximum of 155Mbps." The PowerTel managing director, Samuel Maminimini made the usual promises business leaders make after achieving such milestones:
Telecel Zimbabwe’s board of directors has announced that its acting chairperson, Jane Mutasa, has been suspended from the board to enable her to defend herself against the criminal charges that have been preferred against her in Zimbabwe. The following statement was issued after a board meeting that took place today: “At the extraordinary board meeting of the Board of Telecel Zimbabwe, held on March 19, 2010, the directors resolved to suspend Mrs Mutasa as director of the company to afford her an opportunity to defend herself against the charges that have been preferred against her by the state following allegations of fraud brought to the police by the company.
Pastel Software Zimbabwe, the official Sage Pastel distributor in Zimbabwe, has revealed plans to launch new Pastel Evolution point of sale and branch synchronisation add-on modules in June this year. This will be the first time these modules have been available in Zimbabwe. Experts from Sage Pastel International’s headquarters in South Africa will present, explain and demonstrate the new modules on June 7 and 8. Pastel Software Zimbabwe runs as a division of Chips Computing Services and distributes Pastel software directly and through a network of local dealers. It is the only Platinum Certified Sage Pastel Partner in the country. Sage Pastel grades its business partners as Silver, Gold and Platinum, with Platinum being the highest grade. The only other partner in Zimbabwe, Omni Africa, is a certified Gold Business Partner.
Ok. The good news first: Starting this week, Econet has slashed its off-peak calling rates to just 10 cents. Off-peak here refers to 10PM to 6AM everyday. The not so good news:...
Egypt, South Africa And Nigeria Account For More Than 80% Of Google Code Jam Africa Qualifying Contestants
The first round of the Google Code Jam Africa 2010 is over. Of the 54 countries in Africa, only 18 made it through the qualification round of Code Jam Africa 2010 and of these, only 3 countries accounted for more than 80% of the contestants; Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria. This is despite there being no country specific entry restrictions (well, save for Internet connectivity). An indication of the countries with super brain developers? Or maybe that of those with interest in software development? Maybe of those that knew about the contests?
We thought we'd do a map of all the Wi-Fi hotspots in Zimbabwe to help people locate the nearest hotspot from any location. We started with the ISP that has a good number of them dotted across the country, ZOL. Because of that, this is by no means exhaustive. There are more hotspots in Zimbabwe and if you know any we didnt include here, please just tell use where it is and we'll put a marker on it. Better still, open the map in Google Maps, login with you Google account and make the changes yourself! Once we have enough hotspots from different providers we'l drop the ZOL title and pin the ZOL tag to specific hotspots. We hope it helps you find a hot spot near you!
Econet Asks: Should We Have Waited Until We Could Give Everyone 3G Or We Did The Right Thing To Launch And Sort Out Issues Later?
Econet Wireless Zimbabwe is among the few companies in Zimbabwe to embrace online social media. The company’s 3G Facebook page has about a thousand fans and it gets updated several times a week. For subscribers, this provides an always available face of the company on the Internet. You can have conversation with an Econet techie right there, and he (or she hey) speaks informally and is frank on the issues that matter to subscribers. The kind of way you’d converse with a real person in real life. This as opposed to the call center agents that always make me feel handled. And for Econet, this is a great way to get honest feedback from customers.
Econet held a breakfast meeting today to give an update to stakeholders on the network upgrade project that has been taking place since last year. We’ll give you an update of the discussions held once we have something.
We got this presentation here from a function we attended last week. The presentation was made by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) and generally covers the current state of telecoms industry in Zimbabwe. Coming from them, we’re sure it’s pretty accurate.
Like many people, for a long time now, Google has been my default search engine. This default state of my online experience makes it easy to forget that there are other options out there; that I could look at the web through a different set of lenses. And that indeed, there might actually be a better experience elsewhere. I don’t want to use Google just because everyone likes it, so every now and again I like to sample the other popular search engines of the day. The one thing that has made me stick with Google for the past 5 years stills stands out; the priority given to relevant local results.
The issue of aligning ICTs and business processes and goals has been the subject of many discussions and debates. I felt the need to relate the issue to our own Zimbabwean situation as we are equally or in a worse position than those that are making the loudest debates. It is not clear to me whether ICT failures are government policy related, limited resources, ICT management failures or corporate failures. In Zimbabwe, some recent notable ICT failures are in the electricity billing system, voters roll, and health records system. Apparently some of these national projects were feasible but complete failure to deliver on time at reasonable cost on most of the recent national projects is a major concern.