Thursday, August 30, 2007

FW: MTN Benin Fiasco--an example for Ghana?




MTN Benin still off air





By Leon Engelbrecht


Posted: 17 August 2007


The stand-off between MTN and the Francophone West African country's telecommunications regulator will soon enter its sixth week.

Benin's Telecommunications Regulation Authority (TRA) suspended MTN and Atlantique Telecom's "Moov" service on 9 July, saying both companies had changed their names without its permission.

The regulator also said MTN and Atlantique needed new licences, with much higher licence fees required. MTN was asked to pay $620 million (R4.34 billion), a 620% increase from the $10 million under the original structure.

MTN and Atlantique – owned by Dubai-based Emirates Telecommunications – have so far refused to pay.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that Benin's remaining two mobile providers have paid. They are Libercom, a subsidiary of state fixed-line company Benin Telecom, and Bell Benin, owned by local businessman Issa Salifou.

The wire service also reported the TRA has granted Nigeria's second-biggest operator, Globacom, a 10-year licence.

An equity analyst, who did not want to be named, says the big question is whether Globacom replaces or supplements the two suspended network operators.

The Reuters report suggests the former, saying Benin launched a tender for a new operator after suspending MTN and Moov. Globacom was selected from 10 tenders submitted and signed a contract with the government on Monday.

Fight it

The analyst says the significance in the Benin debacle lies in what MTN does now and how that is perceived by regulators in the other markets in which the multinational operates.

“In my personal opinion, MTN has every right to fight it,” the analyst says. However, what is key is what message this stand-off sends to other countries where MTN operates. “MTN has to treat this very carefully. It may be better to exit rather than capitulate,” the analyst says.

“Either way, the money is not material. In the bigger scheme of things Benin is a small market. What matters is how they come out and how they are perceived to have handled the stand-off.”

BMI-TechKnowledge senior analyst Richard Hurst says he is sure MTN is working hard to resolve the issue. “They must be locked in some negotiations,” he says.

“It would be in the regulator's best interest to resolve this as soon as possible,” Hurst adds.

Financial impact

MTN, whose Benin network was previously operated by Spacetel Benin under the Areeba brand, had 514 000 subscribers in Benin, in March. Atlantique Telecom's Moov network, previously part of the Telecel group, has around 450 000.

Benin is a small but significant market for MTN, analysts say.

However, MTN has so far not commented on how the dispute is impacting its revenue. The mobile operator's 2006 annual report indicates the Benin operation generated $41.2 million (R288.4 million) in revenue. It also shows MTN's average revenue per user in Benin is $21 (R147) per month.

Victor Tokpanou, legal adviser to president Thomas Boni Yayi, told state television on Monday there was still room for negotiations with the two suspended operators.

MTN had not responded to ITWeb's request for comment by the time of publication.




Thursday, August 09, 2007

Social Networking Promiscuity??

July 3, 2007

Websites betrayed by unfaithful users

A survey has revealed the 'promiscuity' of many members of social networking sites and raised doubts over surging valuations

Social networks are spawning a generation of internet tarts, research suggests: online consumers with little brand loyalty and no qualms about keeping several sites on the go at once.

Users of social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook are "chronically unfaithful", a survey by Parks Associates, the analysts, has found. Half of users regularly use more than one site, most of which are free. One in six actively uses three or more.

This phenomenon of "network promiscuity" extends across web commerce. Analysts say that it is symptomatic of a new consumer scepticism over traditional branding.

Robert Jones, of Wolff Olins, the brand consultants, says: "Grand operatic brands no longer work. Think of the ultimate model 'old brand' – the Marlboro man, a myth selling you an item that slowly killed you. It just doesn't work online. As people become better informed, brands become less about emotion and more about functionality."

User infidelity in the social networking sector, made up of about 300 competing sites, is challenging once-accepted dot-com maxims, such as the importance of first-mover advantage and the strengths implicit in scale.

It also raises doubts over the surging valuations being attached to the sector's "superbrands", amid evidence that they will be forced to evolve constantly to retain young users determined to play the field.

Akready, warning signs have emerged: the latest figures from Nielsen//NetRatings showed that MySpace, the market leader, recently lost users in Britain.

The dip coincided with the news that News Corporation, the MySpace owner, had held early talks with Yahoo! over a possible sale of the network that could have valued MySpace at more than $10 billion (£5 billion). News Corp is the parent company of The Times.

The number of British visitors to MySpace dipped to 6.5 million in May, from 6.8 million in April. The fall, which comes as Facebook, its rival, experiences a huge surge in visitors, was the first to hit MySpace since it signed a deal with Google last summer, under which the social network stands to reap about $900 million in advertising revenues. It was only the second dip since News Corp bought MySpace for $580 million two years ago.

MySpace has achieved the traffic targets underpinning its deal with Google with ease, but, according to Nielsen, over the past six months Facebook's audience in the UK has grown at 19 times the rate of MySpace's, surging 523 per cent to 3.2 million.

Alex Burmaster, a Nielsen analyst, said: "MySpace is, by far, still the most popular social network. However, if last month's growth rates were to remain consistent . . . Facebook would catch MySpace in September."

The pattern was repeated in the United States, MySpace's largest market, where traffic to the site fell to 56.6 million in May, from 57 million a month earlier.

MySpace has pointed out that traffic figures from different research firms differ, but admits that it will have to evolve new content and tools to remain relevant. It also takes issue with the idea that switching between free sites involves no cost to users.

"MySpace users invest huge amounts of time building up their profiles as part of our community. That means they are massively loyal," a spokesman said.

Yet the Nielsen figures confirm that network promiscuity is a factor, showing that 444,000 Britons visited all three of the leading rivals – MySpace, Facebook and Bebo – in May.

Even the biggest internet brands – of which Google is the leader – may not be immune to the digital generation's lack of loyalty, analysts say. The eight-year-old search engine was judged to be the fourteenth-biggest global brand last year by Interbrand, the consultants. It was the biggest riser in a top 50 of which half are more than 50 years old.

Rita Clifton, the chairman of Interbrand, said: "The internet has allowed a brand-building process that would have once taken decades to be achieved in a fraction of that. There is a downside, of course: what goes up quickly can descend just as fast."

The dangers are illustrated by the fate of Friendster. The social network accrued more than 20 million users after its launch in 2003. Late last year that figure had fallen to less than one million as users migrated to sites with better music and video tools.

There are also suggestions that, while the internet makes the world a smaller, "flatter" place, personal online services do not suit traditional global branding campaigns.

Mr Jones said: "McDonald's can have the same golden arches in every city, but social networking is a very personal thing and is susceptible to cultural differences. Using one of these sites does not bear comparison with eating a hamburger." Already, Google has been forced to change its brand in China to "Gu Ge". Despite the switch, the search engine trails local rivals by a huge margin.

Orkut, the social networking site run by Google, has gained about 50 million users, but despite its massive popularity in Brazil, it remains little known in America and Britain.

Mindful of the hurdles facing them, sites are already making moves aimed at winning and locking in users. MySpace, which has been criticised for failing to innovate, sought to reinvigorate its user base last week when it announced the launch of a new video-sharing service. MySpaceTV will compete with YouTube, owned by Google. Last month Facebook launched a new platform that allows outside developers to create free and paid-for online services that can offered to users.

Park Associates says that the mercurial behaviour of social net-workers could open opportunities for new sites and developers who build software that links different networks. User infidelity need not spell the end for social networking superbrands, it suggests.

John Barrett, who led the group's research, said: "MySpace is a growing ecosystem and one that, ironically, now extends beyond MySpace itself."

Social services

MySpace 6.5 million UK users, up 28 per cent in six months. Average time spent on site by user in a month: 96 minutes

Bebo 4 million UK users, up 49 per cent in six months. Average time by user in a month: 152 minutes

Facebook 3.2 million UK users, up 523 per cent in six months. Average time by user in a month: 143 minutes Source: Nielsen//NetRatings

be careful what u put online! Employers might be watching....unless it's all good!:-)


Net reputations ruin job hopes

Blogging and social network bloopers can hurt your employability

Tags: internet

By Tim Ferguson

Published: Wednesday 28 March 2007

Employers are increasingly checking out online personal information about candidates when making recruitment decisions.

Net reputations built up through online activities - such as blogging, posting videos to YouTube or using social networks such as FaceBook and MySpace – can have a significant effect when applying for a job, according to a report from business social network, Viadeo.

According to the research, one in five employers finds information about candidates on the internet and 59 per cent of those said it influences recruitment decisions.

A quarter of HR decision-makers said they had rejected candidates based on personal information found online.

But despite this, most people are unaware of the effect their 'net reputation' can have on their job prospects.

Cheat Sheets

♦ Web 2.0
♦  Mash-ups

Examples of online information that has been shown to create negative information include MySpace sites that reveal excessive drinking or disrespect for work.

One survey respondent said their company rejected a candidate based on activities that "did not fit ethically" into the organisation.

But information found online can also work positively when applying for a job, with 13 per cent of HR decision-makers having decided to recruit people in light of what they found.

Positive information could include achievements not already known, internet skills demonstrated through a website and extra skills not revealed by a corporate application form.

Peter Cunningham, Viadeo's UK country manager, said the results should be a wake-up call to anyone who has ever posted personal information online. "The rise of search engines such as Google means that potential employers are never more than a few clicks away from information about you," he added in a statement.

The research surveyed more than 2,000 consumers and more than 600 employers via an online interview.