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News in Brief 27 November 2013

Africa: Flexible data - Opera Software and Airtel have announced the launch of Opera Web Pass in 17 African countries, which will allow users to choose either a time-based or site-based data package. Airtel's mobile Internet users will be able to access a pay-as-you-go service, picking from a list of web pass subscriptions. Andre Beyers, Chief Marketing Officer at Airtel Africa, said it would make a significant difference to its customers' ability to buy data bundles easily and in a way that suited them.

Africa: Liquid lauded - Liquid Telecom has been named Best African Wholesale Carrier at the annual Global Carrier Awards (organised by Capacity magazine) for the second year running. The judges' concluded that Liquid had shown 'great promise' with ambitious plans for development in Africa. They noted that it is attempting to access a range of countries where infrastructure maintenance remains the most challenging in the world. Its M&A strategy was a particular highlight with four companies acquired in 2013.

Algeria: Domestic device - Consumer electronics manufacturer JACondor is to launch next year a domestically assembled smartphone, Jeune Afrique reported. Some 300,000 units will be assembled, and Condor now has approval from the Ministry of the Interior. Twenty Condor staff are to be trained at one of the Chinese subcontractors. In 1997 Benhamadi group entered the household appliance and consumer electronics sector with the creation of the Condor brand. It now has some 35 percent of the market.

Algeria: Greater speed - The speed of ADSL, currently 2 megabytes for consumers, is to be raised by the end of the year, according to Chairman and CEO of Algeria Telecom, Azouaou Mehmel. The Algeria Press Service noted his concerns regarding the launch of 3G in December, which he said could be a threat, noting that AT has 'to evolve increasing throughput and providing better quality of service', such as the replacement of copper with fibre.

Ghana: Credit cancelled - MTN subscribers are reported to have experienced problems with top-ups, with reloaded airtime credit being 'lost' as is loaded to the mobile phone account. MTN Ghana said on its Facebook page that there had been 'a system challenge causing some subscribers to lose their airtime credit'. It said all lost credits would be replaced. MTN Ghana is the largest player with 46 percent of the market at the end of 3Q 2013.

Ghana: Last-mile speed-up - Swiss-based K3 Telecom is partnering with Media Ghana to launch Triple Play services in Ghana. A customised telecoms network will be created with a unique patented wireless technology, which will allow high Internet speeds, Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) and quality television content. Group Chief Executive Officer of K3Telecom, Uros Mlakar said the technology improves last mile fibre delivery. Mike Cooke, CEO of Media Ghana said the partnership will see the 'value lines of content and access become one'. K3 is to embark on a 5-year plan to drive and expand Internet and content access in Africa from headquarters in Ghana.

Iran: Auction announced - The Telecommunication Company of Iran (TCI) has said the third auction for the provision of voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) services is to be staged with a 'call for collaboration' to be released in December 2013, WiMAX News reported. No further details have been released.

Iran: Thai talks - The Minister of Telecommunications whilst attending ITU Telecom World 2013 held talks with Ministers from Afghanistan, Thailand and China, Tasnim News reported. Telecommunications and Information Technology Minister Mahmoud Vaezi said that Iran was ready for broader co-operation with Afghanistan, 'in implementing communications and information technology (IT) projects, and exporting communication facilities and engineering services to that country'. Vaezi also proposed that Iran and China should make joint investments in research projects and expansion of ICT industries.

Kenya: App awards - Safaricom has awarded six early stage mobile technology start-ups with an aggregated cash prize of KES 3.7 million (USD 43,000) through the Safaricom AppWiz Developers' Challenge. It attracted 1,569 applications and 274 mobile-based ideas, 48 of which were shortlisted to attend a hackathon session from which the top 18 teams were selected to participate in a three month incubation process. 'Tichaa', an app that allows children to learn Swahili was awarded KES 1.7 million (USD 20,000) and won the education category and emerging top overall. Second was M-Ledger, an application that enables customers to manage their M-PESA transactions. Bud Doctor won the health category, the Maasai Moran App, which addresses the challenges faced by the Maasai boy, My Taxi App which won in the games category and Sokonect, an agricultural app.

Liberia: Faster fibre - LIBTECO (Liberia Telecommunication Corporation) opened its Lynch Street Sales Centre and private sector fibre optic window in Monrovia. LIBTELCO Board Chairman Francis Horton welcomed faster Internet services. Horton noted LIBTELCO still faces financial constraints.

Mozambique: Calls on credit - Vodacom Mozambique has launched Txuna Credit which allows subscribers to continue to make calls after their credit has been used up. The facility is only available to pre-paid subscribers, and the first top-up must have been made within 30 and the accumulated total of top-ups must be equal to or greater than MZN 50. It follows that users should not already have a Txuna debt before accessing the facility.

Namibia: Call costs cut - Telecom Namibia (TN) has cut tariffs for 2013/2014, with effect from 1 December 2013, as part of its efforts to stimulate traffic to key international destinations, The New Era reported. Peak tariff for calls to South Africa will go down by 8 percent while off-peak mobile and fixed call charges will be unchanged. Peak calls to Angola, Germany, UK, Portugal, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, Australia, France and Kenya will be cut by an average of 10 percent while off-peak tariffs to the same destinations will go down by an average of 8.5 percent for both fixed and mobile destinations. Call tariffs for the US and Rest of the World will be reduced by 9 percent for both mobile and fixed line destinations. Calls to Zimbabwe mobile will however increase to NAD 4.35 and NAD 5.15 per minute for post-paid and pre-paid, respectively.

Nambia: IP network initiated - Telecom Namibia is now offering services on its IP-MPLS network, having launched its Global VPN and Carrier Ethernet products. IP-MPLS VPN service allows users to securely connect international sites to sites in Namibia and SADC for transfer of voice, data and multimedia traffic and vice versa. The service is available with six QoS options. TN has also signed a MPLS network interconnection agreement with PCCW Global, the Namibian Sun reported. PCCW's network covers over 1,500 cities in 110 countries.

Nigeria: Less-remote solution - South African-based Inala Technologies is to partner with M-P Infrastructure. Established in 2008, M-P Infrastructure offers full turnkey telecom network infrastructure solutions including site build services, equipment supply and installation, equipment testing, commissioning and maintenance of GSM networks. Inala's Operations Manager Louw Cilliers told The Guardian that it had distributed over 30,000 remote servicing solutions to Airtel, Etisalat and Tower. M-P has offices in Ghana, Cameroon and Cote d'Ivoire.

Oman: Promotional points - Omantel has launched a loyalty initiative under the Makasib program. This allows subscribers to earn points when using Omantel mobile, fixed and Internet services. The points can then be exchanged for rewards and benefits. Haitham Abdullah Al Kharusi VP Consumer Unit at Omantel noted: "Customers can then redeem these points for free on-net and international calls, free on-net and International SMS, free mobile broadband usage, bill discounts, free Hayyak credit in addition to cash vouchers from partners in the country ".

Rwanda: IPO in the offing - Crystal Ventures is considering selling its 20 percent stake in MTN Rwanda via an initial public offering (IPO) on the local stock market, The East African has reported. The Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA) has apparently already been approached for approval. Renaissance Capital is to be lead transaction advisor.

Saudi Arabia: City co-operation - The Medina Development Authority has agreed for mobile operator Mobily to develop the infrastructure of the Central Zone by providing telecom services and IT for a 10-year period. Mobily will develop and upgrade the readiness of the infrastructure of the city of Medina to accommodate modern technical applications, as well as business systems for key areas in the city. This also includes implementation mechanism and service delivery. The development authority will provide all the necessary protection and support for Mobily's investments within its mandate.

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In the current issue: SIERRA LEONE: Addax to complete Sierra Leone biomass power plant by year-end... KENYA: Expressions of interest for gas and coal-fired power plants... KENYA: Kinangop wind power project nears financial close... GHANA/COTE D'IVOIRE: Cross-border supply deal... LIBERIA: Mount Coffee Hydro tender... And more...much more!

Southern Africa: FNB expands footprint - First National Bank (FNB) has launched its banking application and mobile Website in Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho, Tanzania and Mozambique. FNB currently has 600,000 active users of its banking app in South Africa. The app can be downloaded on Apple, BlackBerry and Android devices.

Swaziland: Second operator strategy? - The Minister of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT), Dumisani Ndlangamandla is looking to end Swazi MTN's monopoly as a mobile operator. The Swazi Times reports that the Minister last week called on the Swaziland Communications Commission (SCCOM) to facilitate a second mobile operator 'while you go about bringing the commission [SPTC] to its feet'. The comment was made at the stakeholders' workshop of SCCOM, which is seeking input for its strategic plan.

Tanzania: Stake raised - Vodacom Group is to increase its stake in Vodacom Tanzania for ZAR 2.46 billion (USD 244.0 million) in cash. This will give it a 82.2 percent stake, up from 65 percent, by acquiring new shares in Cavalry, a private investment company and an indirect shareholder, Vodacom said in a statement. The transaction is subject to approval by the South African Reserve Bank.

Zambia: MTN Merger - MTN Business and MTN Zambia are no-longer separate entities. MTN Business is now the enterprise business unit of MTN Zambia, the announcement coinciding with the launch of MTN Zambia's cloud computing services, The Times reported. MTN Zambia Chief Executive Officer Abdul Ismail said MTN Zambia would now provide end-to-end business solutions to its corporate clientele under one roof. MTN Group acquired UUNET in Zambia in 2010, re-branding it MTN Business.

Zimbabwe: Regulation required - The Bankers Association of Zimbabwe (BAZ) is calling for better regulation of mobile banking, the New Zimbabwe reported. BAZ president George Guvamatanga said last week that there is a proliferation of banking services that are not properly regulated, and so 'promoting unacceptable practices'. Econet, Telecel and NetOne all offer mobile money transfer services, approved by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. Econet also offers a savings facility, which is linked to Steward Bank, which it wholly owns.

Zimbabwe: SMS savings - Short message service (SMS) bundles are being offered by Telecel Zimbabwe which will significantly reduce the cost of texting. A bundle of 25 text messages valid for a day costs ZIM 0.20. A ZIM 1 bundle gives 250 texts over a 7-day period. The ZIM 3 bundle provides for 400 SMSs over a 30-day period. The promotion runs to 31 December 2013. Telecel Marketing Director Octivius Kahiya said that the savings were 'significant'.