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News in Brief 18 September 2013

Africell: Remote recharge - US-based iSend has announced new deals with Africell Gambia and Africell Sierra Leone. iSend has some 150,000+ retailers in the USA, Canada, UK, Europe and the Middle East allowing the purchase of airtime. Zein Annous, Commercial Director of Africell Sierra Leone, said that the deal makes it easier for its subscribers' pre-paid accounts to be topped up by family members abroad. iSend recently announced a partnership in Ghana.

Africa: Subscriber sensitivities - Analyst firm Manifest Mind forecasts that the African mobile market will grow at an annual rate of 21.27 percent from 2013 to 2020 to reach USD 234 billion from the current USD 60 billion. It noted that there was 'significant scope' for further take-up of handsets on the continent. Africans are highly sensitive to costs and have adopted mobile phone usage strategies to minimize these costs, the research house noted. These include the use of multiple SIM cards in their phones and the extensive sharing of phones between users or families.

Algeria: Bids submitted - Algerie Focus reports the Regulatory Authority for Post and Telecommunications (ARPT) opening public bidding for 3G licences in Algeria on 15 September 2013. Zohra Derdouri, the new Minister of Post and Information Technology and Communication. Bids were submitted by Mobilis, Nedjma and Djezzy, and all were accepted by the regulator. The companies eligible for 3G licences will be announced on 15 October.

Angola: Data delivery - Sepritel, in association with Brazil?s GigaCom, is installing a data transmission service, targeting banking and telecom sectors, the newspaper Economia & Finanças has reported. It will now manage the telecoms network of the Alimenta Angola supermarket whilst it awaits certification from the National Bank of Angola and from Emis ? Empresa Interbancária de Serviços (interbank services company).

Egypt: Fixed not fixed - The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology has announced that it will issue a universal licence to Telecom Egypt in the second half of September. However, under the proposals, although mobile operators would be allowed to operate fixed networks, they would not be able to acquire their own international gateway or to build their own fibre network. The resolution of these outstanding issues has still to be announced.

Egypt: New name - As part of the re-orientation process, Orascom Telecom Holding is to be renamed on Egyptian Stock Exchange, as the Listing committee has now approved the switch to Global Telecom Holding.

Ghana: Compensation criticised - Citi Business News reports MTN Ghana's subscribers being critical of the compensation package offered following last month's network disruption. MTN texted users asking them to accept free airtime of 360 seconds 'as a goodwill gesture', valid for four days. The operator also apologised for the network disruption on 14 August attributed to network upgrades.

Ghana: QoS parley - The Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications is hosting the Quality of Service Development Group (QSDG) of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) 16-20 September 2013. More than 60 participants from Africa and elsewhere are expected. The event is being held in collaboration with the Southern Africa Telecommunications Association (SATA) and the National Communications Authority (NCA).

Iraq: Dubai debut - Zain Group last week was holding a money markets day conference for its subsidiary 'Zain Iraq' Dubai in the presence of more than 150 regional and international investors to showcase current developments and expected growth opportunities from its operations in Iraq. The meeting was being held as part of the preparations for the initial public offering in Iraq.

Israel: TV test - Last week the Cellcom Israel board approved a pilot TV program with a view to entering the television market. The pilot will test the Idan Plus digital terrestrial television system and its reliability as part of the television service. It is particularly keen to assess the sensitivity of the set-top box to disturbances. Globes also reports Partner is assessing the TV market.

Kenya: Lengthened Liquid - Liquid Telecom claims to have completed its integration with Kenya Data Networks and has re-launched the enterprise as Liquid Telecom Kenya. With KDN in its stable, Liquid now boasts the largest single fibre network in Africa, stretching 15,000km across borders. It links Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Mauritius, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia with a number of different wholesale, enterprise and retail brands.

Kenya: Revenue restraint - Safaricom Chief Executive Bob Collymore said last week that the new county governments, which were introduced this year, should not target the telecoms sector to raise revenues. Speaking at the company's AGM, the CEO said: "Mobile money is still relatively new and Government should be wary of putting any additional tax burden on the customer, and in particular on the poor who rely on M-Pesa more than any other ".

Kenya: Roaming rate reduction? - A plan to cut the high cost of mobile roaming is being drawn-up by Kenya, ICT Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i has said. The Minister said that it was a critical area that needed market-based solutions and not policy or regulatory intervention, The Star reported. However lowering the roaming cost is dependent on other countries adopting a uniform policy and regulatory framework. A study by Africa Union Commission on the cost of mobile roaming in Africa was commissioned in 2011, and is still subject to stakeholders' and African Telecommunications Union's review before being published.

Liberia: Controversial covenant - The barring of a former Commissioner of the Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA) from working in the sector for two years after their departure is being promoted by LTA Chairman Angelique Weeks. Weeks is claiming there is potential for information to be passed to other industry stakeholders. FrontPage Africa also reported her saying that clause giving Presidential powers to override this provision weakened the effect of the restrictive covenant. Lone Star Regulatory Affairs Executive Nathaniel Kelvin, who moved from regulator back into the sector, has said the proposal is 'out of order'.

Middle East: Nokia still in there - Smartphones now account for nearly 40 percent of phones in the Middle East, according to analyst firm IDC, with volumes up 16.4 percent in 2Q 2013 compared to the same quarter in 2012. Nokia remains the brand leader for the overall Middle East mobile phone market, with a 45.2 percent market share. Android is the dominant operating system, with 60 percent share of overall smartphone volume. However, competition is heating up as iPhone sales rise and Nokia turns the corner with its Lumia Windows Phone range. Samsung had 18.3 percent share of the overall handset market but had nearly half of the smartphone market, where it outsold Nokia by almost five to one.

Nigeria: Cable connection - Submarine cable operator Main One Cable has secured a USD 550, 000 grant from the US trade and development agency. This will allow it to extend its services to the Niger Delta region by rolling out about 480km of fibre-optic cable and supporting infrastructure to connect Port Harcourt to the existing Main One cable system, Biztech Africa reports.

Nigeria: Slim Smartphone - Targeting the local smartphone market, Huawei has launched its Ascend P6, described as the world?s slimmest smartphone. Managing Director, Huawei Consumer Business Group West Africa, Tony Liang, said the device features a 1.5GHz quad-core processor and a 4.7-inch high definition in-cell display.

Oman: Share sale - A 19 percent stake in Oman Telecommunications Co. is to be offered through public subscription, which is intended to widen ownership amongst the local population whilst also reducing a potential budget deficit, Dow Jones has reported. Omantel received a letter from the finance ministry telling it that the government had decided to sell 27 percent of its shares in the company, equivalent to 19 percent of the company's share capital.

South Africa: Management on the move - MyBroadbad reports that Vodacom managing executive Enzo Scarcella has resigned. Scarcella joined Vodacom in 2008, and he has been responsible for various initiatives in the company, including the successful Player 23 campaign. Scarcella hinted to MyBroadband last week that he might be leaving to join Telkom.

South Africa: Small step - Fixed-line operator Telkom will not have to go to arbitration over a dispute with Blue Label Telecoms the North Gauteng High Court has ruled, according to Business Day. The court also dismissed an application by Blue Label's former subsidiary African Pre-paid Services Nigeria (APSN), which argued that the local court did not have jurisdiction over the lawsuit filed by Telkom against Blue Label, APSN and other parties. The rulings pave the way for the matter to now be placed before a court.

Togo: Moov money - Moov is mounting a promotional campaign to promote 'Flooz', its Mobile Money service. Initially launched in Coite d'Ivoire, Biztechafrica notes that funds cannot yet be transferred internationally, although it quoted branch consultant Prisca Foli as saying 'it will come'. Togo Flooz account holders can perform transactions for up to USD 600 (XAF 300,000) daily. Moov has a 30 percent share of the mobile market.

Tunisia: Interest increases - Reuters reports South Korean operator KT Corp saying this week it is looking at a 35-percent stake in state-owned Tunisie Telecom from a conglomerate owned by Dubai's ruler, joining 10 or so other bidders. "The talks are still in the early stage and nothing has been decided yet, " KT said in a statement.

Tunisia: Loan leader - The Arab Banking Corporation (ABC), through ABC Tunisie, has been mandated as the sole lead arranger and facility agent for a USD 133 million five-year term loan for Tunisiana Telecom. Four other banks have taken part in the loan, which will be used to finance the enhancement of Tunisiana's 3G network and the launch of fixed-line business, the TradeArabia News Service reported.

United Arab Emirates: Malaysian MVNO - MVNO Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa (VMMEA) has launched in Malaysia using its Friendi branding, and hosted by fourth ranked network, U Mobile. VMMEA Chief Executive Mikkel Vinter said that Malaysia has strong cultural, trade and tourism links with the Middle East markets where VMMEA has the bulk of its operations. VMMEA has a controlling stake in the operation, with a minority stake held by state investment fund Kumpulan Perangsang Selangor Sdn Bhd.

United Arab Emirates: Man overboard - Etisalat Group has poached the Executive Vice President of Enterprise at du, Hatem Bamatraf, as its new Group Chief Technology Officer. Bamatraf joined du in 2007 as Senior Vice President of Network Development. Previous posts include Director of Network Development at Mobily in Saudi Arabia and Chief Engineer of Mobile Systems at Etisalat.

Zimbabwe: Disconnections done - Telecel Zimbabwe has disconnected some 10,000 active but unregistered SIM cards, NewsDay has reported. This followed a directive from POTRAZ in August. Other lines disconnected apparently have not generated any revenue in the past 90 days.