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News in Brief 19 December 2013

Algeria: Flotation being finalised - Ooredoo is planning a 10 - 15 percent flotation on the local bourse in 2014. CEO Joseph Ged said on Radio M that meetings are planned in January 2014 to finalise the floatation. Agence Ecofin noted that these follow a series of meetings in 2013 with the former director of the Algiers Stock Exchange. For 2013, Ooredoo is forecasting a turnover of USD 1 billion, with a net income of USD 190 million.

Botswana: Rates reduced - Newly formed Botswana Fibre Networks (Bofinet) are lowering tariffs by 40 percent. The Gazette Business last week reported Bofinet Board Chairman Ratsela Mooketsi, following the formal hand over of the first phase of assets from Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC), as saying that prices will be brought down further in the next six months, suggesting a target reduction of 20-25 percent.

Cote d'Ivoire: Broadening broadband - Moov has reportedly extended its HSPA+ network coverage to the cities of Daloa, Dimbokro, Gagnoa, and Toumodi according to Agence Ecofin. Previously the 3.5G network was available in Abidjan, Bingerville, Assinie, Bassam, San Pedro, Yamoussoukro and Bouake. Orange launched its 3G network in April 2012, followed by MTN and Moov in December 2012.

Ghana: Benefits package - Vodafone has launched four weekly and monthly integrated bundles under the ?RED? banner. Subscribers can make on-, off-net and overseas calls as well as browsing and texting for as little as GHS 5 (USD 2.14) a week. Vodafone Ghana's recently appointed Chief Executive Officer Haris Broumidis said RED provides a unique combination of benefits.

Kenya: Reworked regulations - The CCK reports that since the SIM card program was completed the number of registered card has fallen from 81 to 70 percent with a spot check on 11 October putting the number of unregistered SIM cards at 2.5 million. New regulations are being drafted.

Kuwait: Payment protection - Wataniya Telecom has partnered with PayByMe for secure payments for online digital services. It enables payment options for brands such as PayPal, Facebook, Crytek, Wargaming.net, Ubisoft, Steam and Trion Worlds. Wataniya offers network APIs for third-party developers and payment gateways from companies like PayByMe to support payments by Wataniya subscribers for online transactions.

Kuwait: Senior service - On Sunday 15 December Wataniya Telecom announced it had appointed Wael Al-Sultan as Senior Director of its Customer Care Division. Al-Sultan holds a bachelor degree in Computer Science from Duquesne University of Pittsburgh, USA. He joins Wataniya Telecom with 25 years of experience in the banking and telecommunications sectors.

Israel: Better broadband - Bezeq has selected Alcatel-Lucent's VDSL2 vectoring equipment to upgrade the capabilities of its national broadband network, which serves 1.2 million subscribers. The deployment will enable Bezeq to broaden the reach of its ultra-broadband access service, providing homes and businesses with speeds up to 100Mbps.

Malawi: Banking boost - Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM) Business Development Manager Earnest Kalomba said the operator is promoting its Mpamba payment service heavily. The Nyasatimes reported Kalomba saying the operator is working towards ensuring all of its 2 million subscribers register. Around 28 percent of the population have access to banking services, up from 19 percent in 2008, the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) has said.

Mauritius: Tablet tender - Mauritius Telecom is to supply the Ministry of Education 26,100 tablets for high-school students, according to Agence Ecofin. The contract is worth MUR 134 million (USD 4.3 million). The contract was awared on 8 November after a tender opened in July. The Android Penta 10-inch tablets are to be delivered within eight months. A second tender for 25,000 tablets will be held in January 2014.

Niger: Digital dialogue - The 7th Conference of the Network of African Institutions of Communication Regulation (RIARC) was held last week in Niamey with the theme: 'Condition of the transition to digital in Africa: role and challenges for regulators'. The meeting was under the aegis of the International Telecommunication Union, which in 2006 promoted an agreement setting 17 June 2015 as the date for the end of analogue TV. The meeting was to track progress to date and highlight what still needs to be done.

Nigeria: Free features - Airtel Nigeria is to offer a free Internet search service in conjunction with Google under the FreeZone brand. Feature-phone-friendly versions of Gmail and Google+ will also be available free of charge.

Nigeria: Frequency free-for-all - The auction for a frequency licence in the 2.3 GHz band is open to both incumbents and new entrants. The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said that in consideration of the role of wholesale broadband services to the success of its Open Access Broadband Strategy there will be no restriction on who can participate in the auction, provided that the applicant is a company registered in Nigeria with the Corporate Affairs Commission. Eugene Juwah, Vice-President of the NCC has also said that some operators with 2.3GHz spectrum are not fully utilising it or are deliberately under-utilising it. The NCC has said that in such cases it will withdraw the licence. The NCC is also to offer 30MHz frequency by the end of January 2014 for the provision of wholesale broadband services.

Nigeria: GSM gamble - The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has told GSM operators Globacom, Airtel and Etisalat to comply with its 8 November directive that banned all forms of promotion and lotteries. The three could now face sanctions, as it claims the three have observed the directive in the breach.

Nigeria: Payment platform - Paga, a Nigerian mobile payment company, is providing its mobile and financial services to 16 million Etisalat subscribers via the Etisalat Easy Wallet platform. Paga can send and receive money from NGN 500 to NGN 100,000. The Punch reported that after 34 months of operation, Paga has over a million users and 3,500 agents in 150 towns across 23 cities nationally.

Nigeria: Software solution - Vodacom Business Nigeria has launched a Software as a Solution (SaaS) covering Microsoft Exchange, Lync and SharePoint software. The hosted solution can be purchased and managed on Vodacom's e-commerce web store.

Nigeria: Top top-up man - Ahmad Baba has been named at Chief Executive Officer of mobile phone top-up solutions provider, OneCard Nigeria. Baba's previous post was as Vice-President, Backbone Connectivity Nigeria. In 1983 he joined Nitel. OneCard Nigeria launched a pilot service in July and due to be launched in the next few weeks. It offers secure web-based top-ups as well as a Java-based application for retailers.

Saudi Arabia: Comprehensive data centres - Mobily has formally inaugurated its latest data and information security centre in the Al Faiha District of Jeddah. The seven floors have a total area of 5,300 square metres. Mobily's alliance with IBM will provide businesses with managed and cloud security services. Mobily launched its first data centre in Riyadh in July 2013, and has 38 data centres across the country out of a planned total of 56.

Senegal: Expanded network - Sonatel is to commission 253 base stations including 53 mobile 3G+ relays to provide an enhanced network capacity for the Great Magal of Touba scheduled for 22 December. For the previous event in January 2013 180 additional BTS were sufficient. Touba has some 148 base stations. In the twelve years that the mobile network has been enhanced the number of additional antennas placed in service has risen by more than 50; in 2001 only 5 BTS were deemed sufficient to handle all the mobile traffic on offer.

Senegal: Frequency fest - A 3-day sub-regional frequency co-ordination meeting was held on Tuesday 17 December in Dakar, on the initiative of the Regulatory Authority for Telecommunications and Post (ARTP). The meeting was to implement a framework document for the co-ordination and sharing of radio frequencies, originally signed on 27 August 2009 by all neighbouring States: Senegal, Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Mauritania.

Senegal: Tower transaction - IHS, the African infrastructure provider and investor, is reported to be the well placed to acquire the 3,000+ towers belonging to Orange subsidiary Sonatel. TMT Finance suggests the tower fleet is worth some USD 500 million, which comprises 1,600 towers in Senegal, 400 in Guinea, 1,000 in Mali, and 85 in Guinea-Bissau. Lazard is understood to be advising Orange.

South Africa: Bed-fellows? - MTN is reported to be in talks with Telkom about an infrastructure sharing deal, according to BusinessWeek. Telkom is in discussions with 'parties' on a possible mobile deal, Chief Executive Officer Sipho Maseko said at the company?s first-half earnings presentation on 18 November 2013.

South Africa: Claims successfully challenged - Rival MTN has successfully challenged Vodacom's claim that it has the fastest 3G network with the largest footprint. The Advertising Standards Authority found that whilst Vodacom has more sites more widely spread, there is no evidence that more people are covered than MTN. The ASA has also upheld MTN's complaint against Vodacom's claim that it has the 'fastest network for smartphones'.

South Africa: Consent-based charging - MTN has introduced a token-based billing system to prevent users being billed for content services they have not subscribed to by wireless application service providers (Wasps). The move comes after Vodacom and, more recently, Cell C implemented a double opt-in system for all services offered by Wasps, to ensure that any event-based billing made to the their customers for purchases or subscription services is with their express consent.

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Syria: Profits plunge - Syriatel Telecom posted stable revenues in the first nine months of this year as profits, excluding unrealised foreign exchange gains, fell 40 percent, according to the Syria Report. The company has faced great difficulties due to the on-going civil war, including damage to fiber-optic cables causing short-term outages across the country. At the beginning of December the Minister of Telecommunication said the war had damaged the country?s telecoms infrastructure to a large extent.

Tunisia: iPhone imminent - Tunisie Telecom previewed its iPhone5C and 5S packages last week. The 5C package is TND 199 (USD 118) per month, whilst the 5S will be TND 599 (USD 357).

Turkey: Phone preview - The Turkcell T40 smartphone is expected to be on sale in early 2014, the Sabah newspaper reported on 16 December 2013. The Information Technologies and Communications Authority's (BTK) Tayfun Acarer said earlier that the country is interested in setting-up joint mobile phone production with Japan. Some 17.5 million mobile devices are imported annually according to Acarer, of which smartphones represent 60 percent of the total.

Zimbabwe: Pay platform - Econet Wireless has launched EcoCash payroll system for companies to distribute salaries and wages to staff using the EcoCash platform. Zimbabwe Fertiliser Company, Cimas, Masca, National Seeds, Zesa Enterprises, local government authorities and others are named as early adopters. Econet Services CEO Darlington Mandivenga said new products would be launched in 1Q14; the service now has 3 million subscribers.