Tadesse Bakele is country manager/managing director of Ceragon, a backhaul IP solution provider. He more of a Nigerian than his mother country Ethiopia, having spent over 12 year in the country. Within this period he worked with Reltel wireless now Zoom Mobile, Harris Stratex now Aviat Network where he grow the company from $70 million annual sales to $150 million. He spoke to chike onwuegbuchi on how he plans to grow Ceragon as well as other industry issues.
Nigerian Telecommunications Space
In the next five years, Nigeria will remain the most dominant telecommunication country in Africa. This is the biggest market and will remain the biggest market. From all what we’ve seen, Nigeria has made a big leap forward since 2001 and now I see a new revolution coming, particularly with broadband. Once the 2.3 GHz license issue is resolved, we will see another revolution cropping up in this country. Those are basically the policy of the Nigerian government to make sure every aspect of the Nigerian society communicates through broadband, and this is the only way we can fill the gap in development between the rich and poor.
The government should make sure private investment is properly channeled in that direction to bridge the divide between the rich and the poor, between the well communicated and the less communicated because information is power. Nigeria’s kind of information is the power with which they can develop their country. The only problem which I see is government commitment in delivering energy. I think the best will happen if the current government is committed to finding solution to the energy situation in this country because what makes telecommunications different in this country is that diesel used in fuelling generator is eating up the progress we are making in telecommunications. Once a solution is found in that direction, I tell you it is going to be a jump. So from the government side- energy, from the private side- more investment in broadband will make Nigeria proud.
Implications of many Operators in the Industry
In Nigeria, if this competition was not there, we would not have reached the stage we have reached today. The competition has helped the growth so far, eventually as Average Revenue per User (ARPU) keeps declining, getting lower and lower, it will definitely reach a stage where each company may find it very difficult to make profits then that will result to acquisition and mergers. It has affected the rest of the world and will definitely happen in Nigeria and the time for this is close. By the time companies see their margins declining, they will start negotiating- let’s put resources together, let’s come together, let me buy you, let me merge with you. I am very sure this is very near because most of the ARPU levels are declining and people will start talking now- let’s merge our energies together to save cost and come up to be more profitable to our shareholders. Definitely, the business is good, the best telecommunications policy exist in this country, NCC has done a tremendous job to make it what it is today. If it continues, it will take its natural course and people will start merging and buying one another.
Preparedness to meet Broadband Demands
Ceragon is a big company dominating the entire Asian market. Asia is a market where people have the best quality product with the least price and Ceragon has managed to dominate in that area. It has the capacity to supply the entire Indian telecommunication industry and is supporting a lot of transmission technology equipment in software and hardware. For the Nigerian market, we are prepared and this is the right time for this company to show its strength and capability to contribute to the Nigerian telecom revolution.
Ceragon in the Nigerian Telecom space
Ceragon Nigeria has been in this country for two years. We are a company basically into transport which is transmission technology. It is an inventory which the company has one of the best transmission technology microwave radios in the world. The company’s unique feature is that it is of very high quality and at the same time of the lowest price. We have come into Nigeria to really contribute to the telecom sector because we know that kind of equipment and technology that is needed to make a revolution in the Nigerian telecom sector. That is why Ceragon has come out with very compact, very high capacity IP solution and with these solutions we’ll like to beat the market. The company has finally decided to establish itself fully in Nigeria, we have necessary manpower to do design, planning, installation and maintenance. All these services will be provided by Ceragon Nigeria and we are organizing our service to provide these services to operators.
This is the time to move from PDM to all IP. The IP revolution is coming and everybody has to go IP. Ceragon is the company which was established in 1996 as an all IP microwave radio provider that is our edge. The uniqueness is, in the meantime we aid migration from PDM to IP, we provide a unique product to operators in which case they can migrate very easily from a PDM solution to a total IP solution. That is what we are bringing into the market.
We provide maintenance services. Maintenance agreement will decide whoever takes care of that, eventually the task of maintaining, supporting the spare parts and providing helpful assistance still remains with us, that is if the agreement in full. Not like before when people sell the equipment then run away, give a telephone number abroad but we will be by our customers’ side, readily available to support our technology, the technology we provided them. Still the managed service provider needs our support, needs our technology, needs our help to keep things in place. What we are dedicating to Nigeria is our presence, it is not a two-man show, we are planning to employ close to 100 people in this country and bring them to the support of operators. We understand in Nigeria, the cell site is not like the cell site in America or a cell site in Europe where you visit once in six months. A cell site in Nigeria is a 24 hours affair. It is an enterprise. Once a cell site is an enterprise, at least there are four people, two guards each, a generator operator, a maintainer, a diesel supplier, so we know the pains of an operator. So to comfort an operator, we do have to make our presence strong in this market; that is why Ceragon is up. Ceragon is determined to come up in this market in a big way to support operators and to lessen their pains.
Providing technical Support to Operators
We are planning series of training for the operators’ engineers. This kind of training will run from time to time to enable engineers in Nigeria have the capability to know our technology very well, to understand it very well, to manoveur it very well and to be able to maintain it very well. There may be companies springing up, that are specialized in the maintenance of Ceragon technology. Today, we have the responsibility to help these people provide the technical solution to every problem they are facing.
Going LTE or 4G
We are the first company which is LTE ready, so we provide the backbone for LTE. We do the backhaul, get a signal from companies like Alvarion among others, and distribute it to customers. That is our specialty. Backhauling means transporting signals from the base station to users using our VPN and we are ready.
Leveraging on Fibre Cables
That is a reason we think this is the best time to come into this market, because Glo 1 has already landed, MainOne is coming and WACS is also coming. Very soon, the entire cost of telecommunications- data, video, voice is going to crumble in this market and that will create possibility for expansion to underserved areas at cheaper prices. The cost of credit crumbling will create opportunities. We are ready to connect customers when fibre arrives. The easiest and fastest way to do it is through microwave and our microwave technology is ready to transport that signal and distribute it around Nigeria.
In microwave technology, Ceragon is the only company leveraging on its research and development portal. In most PDH, SCDH and IP technology, we carry only products developed from our R & D, produce and test it. More so, we don’t go into buying another person’s product and selling it at a profit in this market. We are the only company that has its own portal in transmission technology. Everything we sell is our own technology.
Capacity to Handle Projects
I have been in the industry for the last 12 years. 12 years ago, if you asked me this question, it would have been very difficult but today in Nigeria, there are over 250 sub-contractors who have engineering, design, maintenance capability. The only thing we have to do is select the best out of them, train them on our technology, then certify them. So we would have let’s say a hundred of them for training under company sub-contractors, the best among them will be Ceragon certified operators. That is how we would like to plan, we don’t plan to bring people from outside to do this job, what we would like to do is train existing infrastructure companies. In 1998, when I came to this country there was none but today, there are over 250 infrastructure engineering companies who can do design, who can do planning, who can do installation and maintenance. We decided to train them and give them the capability to provide the services we want them to provide under our supervision.
Ceragon in the Next Four Years
In the next three to four years, Ceragon will be one of the best transmission technology provider in Nigeria. That is why Ceragon wants me to work with them, that is the task I was given. We’ve made lots of investment in this market, we hired lots of people in this market, we create the capability to beat the competition in this country to make Ceragon the number one transmission technology provider in Nigeria.
CBN Pulls Rate Cut Trigger, King Dollar Returns
By Lukman Otunuga, Senior Research Analyst at FXTM,
In a move that caught investors off-guard this week, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) slashed interest rates by 100 basis points bringing the MPR to 11.5%. Given how inflation has been above target since 2015, rates were expected to remain unchanged for the rest of 2020 and possibly early 2021.
The question on the mind of many is whether the rate cut will achieve the desired effect by stimulating consumption and economic growth? Ongoing border closures and disruptions created by COVID-19 have pushed inflation to levels not seen since March 2018 above 13.20% while a drop in the production and price of Oil continues to rub salt into the wound. While looser monetary policy could support growth, it may come at the cost of rising inflation and weaker Naira.
Over the past few months, central banks across the globe have deployed unprecedented measures to defend their respective economies against the coronavirus menace. However, fiscal policy has been identified as the sharper tool with governments across the world providing a critical lifeline to keep the wheels of their respective economies rolling.
Outside of Nigeria, King Dollar made a return by appreciating against every single G10 currency. In times of uncertainty, everyone wants a juicy piece of the world’s most liquid currency. As coronavirus cases rise in Europe and other parts of the world, the flight to safety is likely to boost appetite for the Dollar. This is bad news for many emerging markets currencies, especially those with high Dollar-denominated debt.
On the commodity side, Oil prices remain heavily influenced by demand-side factors and the state of the global economy. Prices are likely to remain stuck around the $40 regions in the near term, especially If another round of possible lockdowns hit Oil demand. Looking at the technicals, WTI Crude is under pressure on the daily charts. If prices are unable to break away from the sticky $40 regions, the next key point of interest remains around $38. A weekly close above $41.50 could pave a path towards $43.
NCC Arrests Man for Hacking into DSTV System
Nigeria Copyright Commission (NCC), has arrested one Mr Aliu Olalekan, for allegedly hacking into DSTV system and watching the channels free without subscription.
Mr Matthew Ojo, NCC Director in the Lagos Directorate Office said this while speaking with newsmen in Lagos, on Tuesday.
He said that the suspect used to watch DSTV channels free without subscription on his Android phone via an app which he downloaded on google play store.
“This suspect distributed the know-how to his telegram followers and on his blog with the aim of gaining more followers and viewership on his blog and makes more money through google ad-sense.
“The operation was based on surveillance which had earlier been carried out by the Multi-choice team and verified by a copyright inspector, ” he said.
He added that the arrest was made in collaboration with a team of copyright inspectors led by the Head of Enforcement Department, Mr Charles Amudipe.
Others included; a team from Multichoice Nigeria led by Mr Umar Ibrahim and policemen from Lagos Command Headquarters, Ikeja.
Ojo said that the joint team conducted an anti-piracy operation at the premises of the culprit in Amukoko, Lagos.
According to him, the suspect was contacted on phone by a member of the operation team on the disguise of patronising him. “The suspect came out to meet the caller and in the process of discussion, he was apprehended.
“The suspect took the team to his resident. The squad paraded his one-room apartment and recovered his laptop and phones used in perpetrating the ungodly act. “He was arrested and brought to the copyright commission office for further investigation, ” he said.
Ojo said that, on getting to the commission’s office, the statement of the suspect was taken and the inventory of items seized from him taken. He said that investigation on the matter was still ongoing and if found guilty the suspect will be charged to court.
NCC, Digital Encode Support NITRA Innovative Tech Forum On Post-COVID-19 Strategies
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Nigeria’s telecommunications regulator and Digital Encode, Cybersecurity and Compliance advisory company, have indicated interest to partner with the Nigeria Information Technology Reporters Association (NITRA), the national umbrella body of ICT reporters, as it organizes a forum that will x-ray the industry’s future plans for ICT growth post pandemic era.
The event, slated to hold on October 15, 2020, will seek to discuss the needs for a fortified ICT sector after the COVID-19 era, and the level of preparedness of ICT stakeholders to embrace the challenge of being pivotal to the stability and growth of all other sectors.
A statement from NITRA National Secretariat in Lagos indicates that due to the pandemic and need to observe the COVID-19 protocol on social distancing, the event will be held via a Webinar.
This year’s theme, “Multi-stakeholder Approach To National Recovery Post-Pandemic”, is in line with the annual event’s generic theme, ‘NITRA Innovative Tech Forum’, a contribution by NITRA to the development of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) innovations and policies in Nigeria.
Prof. Umar Danbatta, executive vice chairman, NCC is expected to deliver the keynote speech at the event and will throw more light on Federal Government’s plans, programmes and policies on post-pandemic strategies using ICT.
Dr. Adewale Obadare and Dr. Seyi Akindeinde, founders of Digital Encode, while accepting to support the event expressed their readiness to offer their expertise in Cybersecurity for organisations to prepare against cyber- attacks with the new normal.
They will also highlight areas that are high risks that need fortification in terms of cybersecurity.
Speaking on the event, Mr. Chike Onwuegbuchi, national chairman, NITRA, noted that as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to leave its negative trails across the globe, economic reboot for countries will not only depend on how well they readapt to the new normal, but also more on their recovery plans.
According to him: “While the federal government has consistently expressed its willingness to set all policies in place to engender growth, and accelerated implementation of these policies, private sector firms have also shown great hunger for the task ahead in post-COVID-19 era.
However, the question that needs to be answered is whether all stakeholders are ready for the required task ahead.”
The event will also offer participating companies opportunities to publicize some of their individual efforts at contributing to reacting a soft landing or lifeline for SMEs and other ancillary companies as the pandemic threatens their survival.
Digital Encode is a multi-award winning and leading consulting and integration firm that specializes in the design, management, and security of business-critical networks, telecommunications environments and other Information Technology (IT) infrastructures.
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