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News in Brief 5 December 2013

Africa: Bridge for Bharti - Bharti Airtel is joining Bridge Alliance, a group of 14 operators serving over 500 million customers. All of Airtel's African operations will join the alliance and so have access to the latest Bridge Alliance enterprise and roaming services. Andre Beyers, Chief Marketing Officer at Airtel Africa said membership would enhance its provision of corporate solutions and forward-thinking roaming services.

Africa: Fund finalised - Investment management firm Convergence Partners has announced the launch of its Communications Infrastructure Fund (CPCIF), claiming to be the only infrastructure fund globally dedicated solely to the ICT sector in Africa. It has a first close of USD 145 million under management. Convergence Partners has invested in significant projects, including SEACOM. CPCIF has a final close of USD 250 million. CPCIF achieved its first close with commitments from Convergence Partners (as sponsors), the International Finance Corporation, the European Investment Bank, the Dutch Development Bank (FMO), the Development Bank of Southern Africa and the CDC Group.

Botswana: Hotspots heralded - Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTCL) has launched its first public Wi-Fi hotspots. BTCL Head of Product Management, Pilot Yane, said the four initial BTC Connect Hotspots were in conference venues, shopping malls and restaurants. Subscribers will also be able to use the BTCL Connect Hotspot vouchers at any of the listed Hotspot venues, allowing them to roam between Hot spots.

Cape Verde: Cable cut - CVTelecom issued a statement last week following the severance of the fibre optic cable connecting the island of Santo Antao. CVT noted that the cable connecting Porto Novo (Santo Antao) and S. Pedro (So Vicente) was cut at around 11.55 a.m. on 21 November, and that this is the thirteenth time the cable has been cut. This affected services of both CVMvel and Unitel + T on the islands of Santo Antao, S. Nicholas and Sal.

Egypt: Bank bandwidth - Telecom Egypt will update Al-Ahli Bank's information network using fibre optics at a cost of EGP 90 million (USD 13 million) over a five year period. According to the Daily News, services will be provided in 121 nationally. TE CEO Mohamed El Nawawy said that the upgrade would be completed within 12 months, with technical support over a five-year period. Bandwidth of up to 10Gbps will be provided.

Gambia: Johnson jettisoned - The Freedom Newspaper reported last week that Information Minister Nana Grey Johnson has been dismissed with immediate effect, for reasons unknown. The minister?s oversaw the running of state-owned telco Gamtel, which is reportedly in a poor financial state due to a lack of funding and high debt levels; it has had to delay paying staff the paper reports. Johnson is also credited with recent legislation restricting freedom of Internet use.

Ghana: Top trumps - Chamberline Nyemitei, Tigo's Brands and Marketing Co-ordinator for the Eastern Region, has rewarded 15 Sales and Activation agents of the company in the Eastern Region for increasing the Tigo subscriber base at a ceremony in Koforidua, BusinessGhana reported. Apart from the awards, all sales agents receive a commission on sales.

Kenya: Fast funds - BitPesa Ltd. is to use the Bitcoin virtual currency to facilitate remittances to Kenya of some USD 1.2 billion per annum. The service is to start on a trial basis by March, after regulatory approval is obtained. BusinessWeek reported Chief Executive Officer Elizabeth Rossiello saying it plans to gain 1 percent of the market within a year, targeting 6,500 monthly transactions. Kenya is sub-Saharan Africa?s third-largest recipient of remittances, after Nigeria and Senegal, with more than 3 million Kenyans living overseas. North America accounts for about half the remittances, followed by Europe with almost a third.

Lebanon: Call-centre capacity created - Last week touch launched its new Beirut 24/7 120-seat call centre. Located in the Beirut Digital District, it has launched with 80 seats manned each shift. Nadim Khater, Chief Commercial Officer told The Daily Star it already had a smaller call centre which could not cope with the volume of calls. The new centre will eventually operate three shifts of 120, and is currently handling 20,000 - 25,000 calls daily.

Liberia: Taxi transaction - Paying for a taxi ride with a mobile phone is now a possibility, thanks to an initiative being piloted by Lonestar Cell MTN with 10 taxis. The New Dawn reports that the pilot is expected to be scaled-up to 100 taxis in the near future. Laurence Bropleh, Corporate Affairs head at Lonestar Cell MTN, said payment can be made once the passenger realises they are in a mobile money branded cab.A third party can also make the payment.

Namibia: Booths banished - The Namibian reports that telephone booths are being removed from the streets of Windhoek, whilst Telecards are still available. The paper reports the pay phones are dumped in the Telecom Namibia yard in Windhoek's Southern Industrial Area. Oiva Angula, Senior Manager: Corporate Communications & Public Relations was quoted as saying they were being removed due to low usage.

Nigeria: LTE launch - Spectranet has launched its LTE network in Abuja, offering a maximum download speed of 4Mbps, THIS DAY has reported. Spectranet first launched its TD-LTE network in August and plans to expand services to other cities, including Ibadan, Kano and Port Harcourt. Spectranet was awarded a 2.3GHz spectrum licence in May 2009 and launched a commercial WiMAX network in Lagos in October 2011. In September 2012 DragonWave announced that Spectranet had selected its Horizon product family to deliver high capacity, 4G/LTE-ready wireless backhaul networks.

Saudi Arabia: Store success - The number of applications downloaded by subscribers through the Mobily App Store exceeded three million, a 200 percent increase on last year. Mobily's App store supports most operating smartphones systems such as Android, BlackBerry, Windows, Symbian, and Java.

Sierra Leone: New chairs - Dr. Tom Obaleh Kargbo has been named as Chairman of NATCOM, and Dr. Michael Kargbo as Chairman of the National Commission for Privatisation (NCP) replacing Siray Timbo and Abu Bangura respectively. Dr. Obaleh Kargbo is former Chairman of Sierratel.

South Africa: Approval for new approach sort - The Independent Communications Authority of SA's (ICASA's) newly-appointed CEO, Pakamile Pongwana, has said that a new approach will be presented to its council next week, after which it will be shared with stakeholders. Pongwana is former head of regulatory affairs at Vodacom and took over as CEO of ICASA as of 1 November, succeeding Themba Dlamini. ITWeb notes the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee was told that ICASA missed 67 percent of its 45 targets, and only spent 85 percent of its budget.

South Africa: BlackBerry buoyant - The Mobility 2014 research survey, commissioned by technology research company World Wide Worx in conjunction with First National Bank (FNB) suggests BlackBerry?s market share has risen from 18 percent in 2012 to 23 percent in 2013. The most popular mobile brand is Nokia, boasting a 44 percent market share, although down from 50 percent last year. Samsung increased its market share to 19 percent, up one percent. Apple accounted for just 2 percent.

South Africa: Faster fibre - Telkom expects to launch fibre-to-the-home (ftth) by the end of 2014, whilst saying its trial of a 100Mbps offering was 'proceeding well', MyBroadband has reported. In March 2012 Telkom was rumoured to be readying to roll out ftth services in parts of Pretoria, Johannesburg, and Cape Town. Trials were underway in two business parks, three gated communities, and a ?leafy suburb?. The home trials were running in La Pama in Durban; Plantations in Durban; and Somerset in Gauteng.

South Africa: Internet induction - MTN has launched its eStreet mobile Internet caf offering subscribers a free interactive service to educate them about smart devices. Brian Gouldie, Chief Marketing Officer at MTN said the Internet caf will travel around the country, to ensure that new and existing subscribers get the most out of the network, smart technologies and online solutions.

South Africa: M-PESA migration - Nedbank is to re-launch its M-PESA mobile money service onto a new IT platform that will interface directly into banks. M-PESA was launched in partnership with Vodacom in August 2010, and now claims more than 1.2 million registered users. Nedbank admitted that creating a mobile money program in South Africa has proved more challenging than in other markets due to the integrated need to move money from bank accounts to an electronic wallet directly and the associated ability to use those funds in daily dealings.

South Africa: Mobile milestone - On 26 November Cell C reckons it hit the 13-million mobile subscriber mark, representing net additions of around 4 million in the last 14-15 months, acting Cell C CEO Jose dos Santos told BDLive. October was apparently a record with just over 1.2-million gross connections, and with more than 400,000 net additions.

South Africa: Money services measured - The joint Dashboard and World Wide Worx study, part of a collective Mobility 2014 study, found Absa?s CashSend was the most popular mobile money service with some 30.8 percent of respondents using it. FNB?s eWallet was second with 22.4 percent. M-PESA, the joint initiative between Nedbank and Vodacom, and Standard Bank?s Instant Money were equal, each scoring 19.6 percent. Relaunched MTN Mobile Money saw 6.5 percent of respondents say they had used the service, with FNB Geopay and FNB Pay2Cell at 1.9 percent each.

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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!

South Africa: Tower target trashed - Cell C has commissioned 110 new base stations in Gauteng, beating its target of 100 new sites, according to acting CEO Jose Dos Santos. MyBroadband reported the CEO saying this had taken the total of its sites to 4,040. Of these, 198 are 2G-only, with the rest (3,842) being 3G sites, Cell C said. Dos Santos said that he expected an additional 340-360 sites to be on air by May-June 2014. An additional 98 sites have been added regionally.

Swaziland: Better banking - MTN Swaziland and Standard Bank (SB) are collaborating on the launch of Standard Bank Mobile Banking which allows customers to make fund transfers, check their account balances and send airtime to their mobile phone or to others. SB Chief Executive (CE) Phil Mnisi said pre-paid electricity and other bill payments are being developed. MTN Swaziland?s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ambrose Dlamini that the partnership will give the bank?s customers greater convenience.

Tanzania: Money subscriber success - Tigo Tanzania has signed up 2.6 million mobile money subscribers, representing 42 percent of its subscriber base. The mobile money service was launched in October 2010. According to Tigo GM Diego Gutierrez, banks have only penetrated the top 10-12 percent of the economic community, resulting in 80 percent of the population not having access to traditional banking services.

Turkey: Sector status - At the end of 3Q13, the number Internet subscribers exceeded 34 million of which 25.4 million are mobile Internet subscribers, according to Transport and Communication Minister Binali Yildirim. Fixed lines reached 13.6 million while mobile subscribers stood at 68.9 million. Mobile traffic volume increased to 48 billion minutes in the third quarter from 47.76 billion minutes in the previous quarter while around 44.6 billion SMS were sent in the same period.

Uganda: ATM access - MTN Uganda has added another mobile money ATM cash out service using Interswitch. All of Interswitch?s ATMs will be compatible with MTN Mobile Money when customers generate a four-digit code. Ernst Fonternel, MTN Uganda?s Chief Marketing Officer, said the facility would give its customers significantly improved access to their money on a fast growing network of ATMs across Uganda. Ugandan mobile money transactions totalled UGX 11.7 trillion (USD 4.58 billion) in 2012, a 211 per cent increase on 2011, according to the Central Bank.

United Arab Emirates: Improved interest - du is looking at refinancing debt due in 2014 and 2015 to take advantage of favourable interest rates, although it has sufficient cash to settle the loans. Ahmed Al Sayegh , Senior Director of Corporate Treasury, said the available rates will be presented to management to make a decision.

United Arab Emirates: Own-brand device - Dubai-based regional Blackberry distributor, Emitac Mobile Solutions (EMS) is to launch five new Android models. Babar Khan, CEO of EMS, told Gulf News that EMS provides international warranty in 14 countries. It is present in 57 countries and its first generation models are already present in Middle East, Africa, CIS, Eastern Europe and South East Asia. The 'Be' smartphones are priced between AED 299 and AED 699 for screen sizes between 3.5 and 5 inches and will be available in the UAE from 10 December. EMS adopted Android as it is the fastest growing operating system and has more than 80 percent market share as of quarter three.

Zambia: Licence litigation - Mobitel has applied to start a judicial review after the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority's attempted to seize equipment on the grounds that it was broadcasting without a licence. Mobitel CEO Francis Chapota said ZICTA and the Police service had served a search warrant, claiming a radio station was being operated without a licence. Officers attempted to seize and impound telecom equipment and transmitters owned by Mobitel, The Times of Zambia reported. Chapota said a licence was issued on 31 May 2007, and was renewed up to 30 April 2013. On 9 September ZICTA sent a renewal notice.

Zimbabwe: Wireless gets behind wind - Econet Wireless is working with Danish wind energy group Vestas to erect small wind power generators. Called 'Wind For Prosperity', the scheme aims to provide power to people living in rural areas and small towns beyond the reach of the grid. The initiative was launched in Washington this week and is a social impact joint venture, led by Vestas and supported by investors, including Econet Wireless.