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The East African : February 17th 2014
The EastAfrican OUTLOOK FEBRUARY 15-21,2014 e -AF R ICAN Smile’s 4G Mi-Fi device brings Kampala up to speed The device c≥eates a Wi-Fi hotspot anywhe≥e By RUSSELL SOUTHWOOD Special Correspondent I nternet coverage in Africa has progressed significantly over the past 10 years but challenges still exist in the form of cost, network and capacity restrictions. So, what is the future of Internet in Africa? Long Term Evolution (LTE), com- monly referred to as 4G, and video will be a game-changer in the continent. YouTube for example was ranked the top five of every country by Alexa.com and that was despite the fairly terrible Internet speeds in most countries in Africa. You can imagine the demand if you took away the speed constraint: the swirling circle of buffering that puts off users. I looked at how LTE is working on Smile’s network in Kampala. I have been using a Mi-Fi device supplied by Smile Telecom to run my smartphone, laptop and iPad using a data connection. The device is almost exactly the same size as an iPod and creates your own Wi-Fi hotspot. So you turn it on, pop it in your pocket and you have Wi-Fi wherever there’s coverage. Whip out the iPad and there’s the little blue dot on Google maps guiding us in. The Mi-Fi works both indoors and out, which is not something every WiMAX vendor can say with confidence. The difference from the portable hotspots inbuilt on smartphones is that the latter can’t handle 4G. But the real kicker is when you use video, it plays right away and runs all the way through to the end. work terms and their lack of the right spectrum that offers such an intriguing opportunity for the insurgent challengers. It’s what WiMAX kept promising but never delivered. Currently, Smile has covered the Greater Kampala area (I used it all day in Mokono) and all the way down to the airport at Entebbe. It will roll out to 15 different regions this year. LTE routers are still not cheap but their cost is coming down. The current device with 5GB of data goes for $96 and if you take out the data allowance, it makes it relatively affordable for a multi-device roaming Wi-Fi hotspot. The only drawback is that it has a battery life similar to that of a smartphone. Smile country manager for Uganda and Tanzania Fiona McGloin tells me that the average use per day is stronger than they initially thought at 250Mb. Most of their users have Apple devices, are on YouTube a lot or are expatriates who are streaming TV programmes from their home countries. Apple’s iPad The latest Apple iPad is capa- That’s how online videos are meant to run. For the first time, I’ve actually had a bandwidth speed in Africa that was the same (and at times faster) than in the UK. Smile is a challenger ISP with thousands of subscribers rather than a mobile operator with millions. There are 1.5 million data users in Uganda, meaning ample opportunities for Smile. The company’s data network has been built from scratch and is completely used for data. Both Orange (which has a good reputation for data) and MTN (which does not) are offering LTE but I didn’t meet anyone with an LTE data connection or LTE mobile handset from either operator. It’s this gap between where the mobile operators ought to be in net- ble of being used in the 800Mghz spectrum that Smile is operating in. Customers (and they won’t tell us how many) are 50 per cent corporate and 50 per cent individuals who, based on the current pricing model, are high-income. The purchase of high-end vs low-end bundles is again split half in half, with young professionals buying most of the low-end bundles. Bandwidth is sold in capacity bundles and individuals tend to find themselves using more at first and then cut back their use. The challenge for incumbent tel- cos is to prove that they can break out of being the eternal corporate ISPs and actually capture thousands of customers. The writer is CEO of Balancing Act, a consultancy and research company focused on telecoms, Internet and broadcast in Africa Regional fi≥ms fast adopting cloud-based se≥vices By ESMOND SHAHONYA Special Correspondent THE RACE is on for faster adoption of cloud computing and mobile innovations in East Africa this year, with a projected rise in global technology spending. According to research firm IDC, spending on cloud computing services will increase to $100 billion. This means that the adoption of this technology is on the rise. The power of the cloudsis driving business models; opening up opportunities and helping businesses maximise their revenues. The adoption of cloud computing in the region has seen the evolution of local cloud services and a growing number of clients. The Safaricom Cloud, Tanzania’s Smart Codes cloud, TTC’s Cumulus, and Uganda’s One Solution are among the growing number of firms battling for a share of East Africa’s cloud market. Most of these cloud vendors are targeting the lucrative SME market. Cloud-based services offered for SMEs include hosted e-mail, payroll processing and accounting software. SMEs and entrepreneurs are using cloud com- Some of the cloud-based services that SMEs are offered are payroll processing, e-mail and accounting software. Picture: FILE puting technology to cut costs and refine their business ventures. Cloud computing is expected to redefine how organisations get and make use of their IT or computing services. With this technology, organisations are able to use affordable software and infrastructure services that are outsourced and accessed through an Internet link. Types of services Software as a service (SaaS) allows business- es to subscribe to software applications from a cloud vendor while infrastructure as a service (IaaS) lets clients use the infrastructure of the cloud vendor. The scramble for the region’s market features local IT firms competing with established global cloud service providers. Tech giants have for the past few years been flexing their muscles with gargets that are tailored for Africa. Intel Corporation made a push into the African market early last year with its customised Yolo smartphone. Huawei also came up with the Huawei4Africa smartphone. Other big industry players like Nokia and Samsung have also been scrambling for a bigger slice of the market. Esmond Shahonya is an ICT analyst and comments on topical issues BRIEFS Online shopping firm Jumia launches in Uganda Jumia, the Nigerian online shopping firm, has ventured into Uganda, providing a platform for shoppers to buy a range of products in fashion, electronics, home appliances, mobile devices and beauty. Uganda becomes the firm’s second destination in East Africa after Kenya. Jeremy Hodara, co-founder of Jumia, said the company hopes to replicate the success it has achieved in Nigeria, Morocco, Kenya, Egypt and Ivory Coast in less than a year and a half. Uganda communications body awards innovators The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has launched the 2014 Annual Communications Innovations Awards, The awards recognise innovations from local companies, groups or individuals in developing or adopting information and communications technology. The award categories are digital content, ICT for development, service excellence, business excellence and young ICT Innovators. The winners will get laptops or computers and free Internet access. 35 The innovators will win laptops and free Internet access. Pic: File VAT charges see drop in PC shipments to Kenya PC shipments to Kenya fell by 10.7 per cent year-on-year in the fourth quarter of last year following the implementation of VAT charges on electronic goods. The International Data Corporation (IDC) has cited the introduction of the 16 per cent VAT duty by the government as one of the reasons for the drop. However the report by IDC noted that PC shipments to East Africa as a whole increased by three per cent year-on-year, reaching 140,251 units, with “strong gains” in Uganda, Tanzania, and Ethiopia. MTN Rwanda to invest $20m in network coverage MTN Rwanda will invest at least $20 million in its network coverage to consolidate its position as the lead operator in the country. MTN controls 74 per cent of the market with more than three million subscribers. This follows the sale of its mobile network towers in December to reduce operational costs and focus on data distribution and voice. The new investments add to the $200 million the mobile company has already invested in Rwanda over the past five years in infrastructure.
February 10th 2014
February 24th 2014