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Telcos Raise Alarm on Forex Scarcity

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Despite assurances by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) that it has secured a concessional foreign exchange (forex) access window for telcos from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN, the telcos at the weekend raised the alarm that they were on the brink of collapse because of forex challenges.

The carriers, under the aegis of Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), lamented that the failure of the CBN to grant them concessional forex access window was taking a terrific toll on their operations.

Its Chairman, Gbenga Adebayo, who spoke during a breakfast meeting with the Nigeria Information Technology Reporters Association (NITRA) in Lagos at the weekend, lamented that the industry is facing major challenges in purchasing forex to fulfil contractual obligations to equipment suppliers and foreign vendors.

This situation is adversely impacting the network operations and also some recent developments in the industry have alluded very clearly to the risks at hand, he warned.

The prevailing scarcity of forex has occasioned a situation where the banks are unable to obtain forex for an upward period of six months, he lamented.

According to him, carriers are similar to manufacturing firms and deserve to be treated in the same manner because the core network equipment and other auxiliary equipment procured for providing voice and data services are equivalent to plant and machinery acquired by the manufacturing firms for the production of goods and services in the country.

He said items classified as plants and machinery that are procured and imported into the country by carriers include Radio Frequency (RF) coverage equipment (Base Transmission Station (BTS), Base Station Controller (BSC), Node B, Radio Network Controller (RNC); and core equipment comprising Mobile Switching Center (MSC), Media Gateway, Radio Management Centre (RMC), Charging Control Node (CCN), Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM), Packet Core, Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) Nodes; transmission equipment, such as microwave, optic fibre, and RF planning tools.

Others are customer contact equipment such as subscriber identity module (SIM) cards; and network tools, such as planning and monitoring tools.

“These equipment are subsequently integrated to form a network to provide services of voice/data/SMS/VAS/enterprise solutions/leased lines – which are finished goods in the telecoms sector.

“In addition, telecoms sector is termed “infrastructure of infrastructures” and social overhead capital which propels productivity in other sectors of the economy. The multiplier effects of efficient and reliable telecommunications services on other spheres of the economy, such as banking, aviation and hospitality cannot be over-emphasised.

“ALTON is of the opinion that the telecoms sector deserves to be supported through direct forex allocation from the CBN interventions. This will facilitate the deployment of pervasive broadband network nationwide and ensure that the country retains its prime position, as the largest Telecommunications market in Africa,” he said.

He said the exemption of telecoms equipment and services from items to be accorded priority in the allocation of forex by the banks has adversely impacted the industry as it has increased operating cost (opex). “In the absence of local substitutes for its plant and machinery, telecoms service providers are constrained to source forex from interbank market at higher rates compared to other sectors such as manufacturing, aviation and agriculture accorded priority in forex allocation at reduced rates by the CBN. Owing to the prevailing economic situation in the country, ALTON members cannot transfer the increased cost burden to the consumers, thereby contracting profitability and ability to make further investment to drive growth in the industry,” Adebayo said.

Another effect is unfavourable credit terms which has made it very challenging for telcos to honour their obligations to foreign vendors as at when due. This has occasioned delayed payment to equipment suppliers and other foreign vendors, who have now resorted to imposing unfavourable payment terms on telcos in the country. “Some of the foreign vendors had issued Notice of Disconnection of service, which could disrupt service availability with attendant impact on customers’ experience,” Adebayo added.

He said the forex situation had led to network enhancement and improvement initiatives. According to him, ALTON members had made commitments intended to ensure the implementation of National Quality of Service (QoS) Fixing Project. He said it is a coordinated network investment plan supervised by the NCC at designated locations nationwide over a period of time by the carriers to ensure improved QoS.

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Behind Closed Doors: Microsoft’s Bid to Make Bing Apple’s Default Search Engine

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Insiders have disclosed that Microsoft Corp. engaged in discussions with Apple Inc. around 2020 about potentially selling its Bing search engine.

The proposed deal aimed to replace Google as the default search engine on Apple devices, particularly iPhones.

People familiar with the matter, who chose to remain anonymous, disclosed that high-level executives from Microsoft held exploratory talks with Eddy Cue, Apple’s services chief, responsible for the existing search engine partnership with Google.

Despite these discussions, the deal never progressed beyond preliminary stages. This revelation has gained renewed attention in light of the ongoing U.S. Department of Justice antitrust trial against Google, in which Apple and Microsoft are actively involved. The Justice Department is using Apple’s arrangement with Google as evidence of Google’s search market dominance.

Apple’s Eddy Cue defended the collaboration during his trial testimony, asserting that Google was the superior search option, emphasizing the quality of Google’s technology.

Apple’s partnership with Google, initiated in 2002, had grown to become highly lucrative, earning Apple between $4 billion to $7 billion annually by 2020.

This financial aspect, coupled with concerns about Bing’s competitiveness, played pivotal roles in Apple’s ultimate decision not to acquire Bing.

While Bing was briefly used as the default search engine in some Apple features between 2013 and 2017, including Siri and Spotlight, Google ultimately remained the preferred choice. In court, it was revealed that Microsoft had considered a multi-billion-dollar investment in its relationship with Apple in 2016, but this attempt was unsuccessful.

Eddy Cue’s testimony underscored Apple’s belief that Google’s search technology was unmatched, signaling that Apple had no plans to develop its own search tool.

This differs from Apple’s approach in other areas, where it competes directly with Google in mapping software, voice assistants, and operating systems.

In retrospect, Apple’s dalliance with Bing serves as a fascinating chapter in the tech giants’ intricate web of partnerships and rivalries.

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iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max Owners Complain of Overheating Issues

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Some of the first owners of Apple Inc.’s latest offerings, the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, are feeling the heat – literally.

Reports are pouring in from frustrated customers who claim that their new devices are prone to overheating during usage and charging, casting a shadow over Apple’s flagship product.

Complaints have flooded Apple forums and social media platforms, with users expressing concern over the device becoming uncomfortably warm while gaming, making phone calls, or using FaceTime.

The issue appears to be exacerbated when the phone is plugged in for charging.

Apple’s technical support staff have been inundated with calls on the matter and have been directing customers to an older support article on managing hot or cold iPhones.

This notice suggests that overheating may occur during intensive app use, charging, or initial device setup.

Apple, headquartered in Cupertino, California, has remained tight-lipped regarding these complaints, leaving users speculating about the root cause of the issue.

As the iPhone accounts for a substantial portion of Apple’s revenue, any product flaws are scrutinized intensely. While some problems can be resolved through software updates, others may fade with time. Apple usually subjects its products to rigorous testing to catch potential pitfalls before mass production.

The overheating issue could be related to the iPhone setup process, which can be processor-intensive, particularly when re-downloading apps and data from iCloud.

Users have also suggested that certain background apps, such as Instagram or Uber, might exacerbate the problem.

Videos of users measuring the phone’s temperature with thermometers have surfaced online, with one user reporting, “iPhone 15 Pro Max gets really hot easily.”

However, it’s not a universal problem, as some users have reported no issues or found that using a protective case mitigated the heat.

This development follows recent complaints about the FineWoven material used in iPhone 15 cases, highlighting potential quality concerns with Apple’s latest product offerings.

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TikTok Faces Regulatory Storm in Indonesia as Minister Calls for E-commerce Split

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Teten Masduki, the Indonesian Minister of Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises, has emerged as a vocal critic of the Chinese-owned social media giant TikTok.

Masduki’s relentless complaints about TikTok’s dominance in the Indonesian e-commerce market have set the stage for a seismic regulatory shift that could have far-reaching consequences.

Masduki, a former activist who once took on government corruption, has been disrupting official meetings to raise concerns about TikTok’s impact on local players. This groundswell of criticism has culminated in sweeping regulations that force TikTok to split payments from shopping in Indonesia, a move seen as a significant blow to TikTok’s e-commerce aspirations.

Under these new rules, social media companies in Indonesia are barred from handling direct payments for online purchases, effectively requiring TikTok to either create a separate app for payments or risk being shuttered in Indonesia entirely.

The regulations, stricter than anticipated, have already had a chilling effect on the e-commerce market, benefiting local champions like GoTo and Sea.

While TikTok has pushed back, arguing that the separation of social media and e-commerce hampers innovation, the Indonesian government remains firm in its stance, aiming to protect smaller enterprises and voters as elections loom on the horizon.

This clash underscores the challenges TikTok faces in its pursuit of e-commerce dominance and sets a precedent for other countries in the region. As TikTok’s meteoric rise in regional e-commerce continues, governments are increasingly assessing whether the platform benefits or harms domestic merchants.

For TikTok, the challenge lies in finding a solution that appeases authorities while allowing it to continue its growth. The repercussions of this battle in Indonesia could reverberate throughout Southeast Asia and beyond, shaping the future of social media-driven e-commerce.

In a rapidly evolving digital landscape, Teten Masduki’s bold stance against TikTok may just be the opening salvo in a much larger struggle for control of the e-commerce arena.

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