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News in Brief 8 January 2014

Afghanistan: Central control - Mobile operator Roshan has opened a Network Operations Centre (NOC), which allows monitoring of the 2G and 3G networks. The centralised network monitoring replaces 13 regional monitoring systems. The network covers over 240 cities and towns in all of the country's 34 provinces. Karim Khoja, Roshan?s Chief Executive Officer noted it was the first NOC in Afghanistan. The NOC is part of the nearly USD 600 million Roshan has invested in its network to date.

Afghanistan: Deputy named - Newly appointed Deputy Minister of IT, Mohammad Aimal Marjan, was officially introduced by Minister of MCIT H. E. Amirzai Sanging in a ceremony held at MCIT on Monday 23 December 2013. Marjan was Head of IT, then Director General of IT and now IT Deputy Minister of MCIT.

Angola: Off-shore solution - Harris CapRock Communications, a provider of managed communication solutions for remote and harsh environments, has signed Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) to provide an integrated telecommunications solution supporting the Mafumeira Sul project off the Angolan coast. The Mafumeira Sul project consists of multiple production assets located 15 miles off the coast of Cabinda province in 200 feet of water.

Bahrain: Planned payments - Nine banks are collaborating with Batelco to facilitate a new automatic bill payment service for its fixed-line and mobile customers. Customers can visit any Batelco Retail Shop to specify the amount to be automatically paid each month, before being entered into a prize draw. The prize is a year of bill payments.

Burkina Faso: CFO confirmed - Sibiri Ouattara has been appointed as the new Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Communications and Postal Services (ARCEP). The appointment was formally announced on 20 December, with Ouattara taking office with effect from 30 December 2013. He replaces Sylvie Sangli.

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Consultation on concession - A preliminary consultation on LTE licences has been initiated by Tryphon Kin Kiey Mulumba, the Minister of Posts, Telecommunications and New Technologies of Information and Communication, on 19 December. Agence Ecofin reported that Mulumba met with the CEOs of the mobile operators to discuss terms and pricing.

Egypt: New CFO named - Hassan Helmy was named as Group Chief Financial Officer of Global Telecom (previously Orascom Telecom) reporting to CEO Ahmed Abou Doma, effective from 15 December. He succeeds Khalid Ellaicy, who joined the company in 2011. Helmy was previously CFO of Telecom Egypt.

Gabon: Sixty seek settlement - Sixty of the former Gabon Telecom staff maintained their long running sit-in at the Privatisation Committee. They are members of the 696 staff made redundant by Gabon Telecom. The sit-in was initiated on 16 November 2013. The ex-workers are demanding a fair settlement.

Iran: Strategic satellite - Head of the Iranian Space Research Centre (ISRC) Hassan Karimi said in late December that Iran plans to launch its first indigenous telecom satellite by March 2018. He cited the country?s Strategic Plan. Iran has launched three satellites: its first data-processing satellite Omid (Hope) in 2009, 'Rassad' was launched in June 2011, and a third in February 2012.

Israel: Share holder shake-out - Cellcom Israel has said that the Israeli court's approval of a creditors' arrangement for IDB Holding Corporation Ltd. (IDBH) is now in force and the condition regarding certain disclosure matters about the Elzstain-Extra group has been met. As a result the Elzstain-Extra group, subject to approvals, will control IDBH. IDB controls Cellcom, Israel's leading mobile operator and supermarket chain Super-Sol.

Kenya: Cable cuts charted - AccessKenya in November installed a fibre monitoring system for its 450 km carrier Ethernet fibre optic network. It said it spends about KES 200,000 (USD 2,260) on each cut cable, which average three to four per week. Nairobi experiences the largest number of cuts, with 90 percent caused by contractors and cases of vandalism. It is also expanding its wireless network coverage to include all the 47 counties in Kenya by the end of 2014.

Morocco: Roaming recommended - To address no or low network coverage in certain regions, a bill to reform the telecom sector has been submitted to the Government Council. The Ministry of Industry, Trade, Investment and the Digital economy is proposing a national roaming system, allowing subscribers to use the network of another provider when their own does not offer coverage. Should the bill be ratified, a study to define terms and conditions will be undertaken.

Nigeria: Broadband bonanza - At the NCC's Telecoms Stakeholders? Summit, Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, said the ICT sector had delivered an increase in GDP growth of 1.3 percent, by contributing about 8 percent to the nation?s GDP in 2013. She added that if the industry achieved its target of a 30 percent increase by 2017, then the sector would deliver a 3 percent increase in GDP. Etisalat Nigeria CEO, Mathew Willsher, at the same event, noted that there were more than 121 million active subscribers in Nigeria, but only 56 million active data subscriptions.

Nigeria: Telco triumph - Phase3 Telecom was commended at its 10th Anniversary and end-of-year party for deploying of over 5,000km of fibre optic cable on the PHCN power lines and has since 2007 installed and commissioned several points of presence at major cities with last mile connectivity. Amongst the attendees was the Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, and former Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Ernest Ndukwe. The Minister described it as a 'shining light'.

Oman: Improved Internet - Nawras reports that it has activated the third 3G+ Data Carrier utilising U900 spectrum along the Al Batinah coastline. The national Turbocharging Program will continue into 2014, and will see all base stations upgraded in all of the main cities. Wolfgang Wemhoff, Nawras Chief Technology Officer noted that in November it activated the enhanced 3G+ services in Quriyat and Dagmar, in preparation for launch in the densely populated areas of the Al Batinah coastline. Nawras claims to have tripled mobile data speed across its entire network. It aims to provide 3G+ services to over 90 percent of the population by the end of 2014.

South Africa: Gain for Gondwana - In late December Telkom South Africa sold its pan-African business, iWayAfrica and Africa Online Mauritius through a private sale to Gondwana International Networks. iWayAfrica offers terrestrial wireless and VSAT services in eight countries.

South Africa: Share sale - Vodacom Group CEO Shameel Joosub has sold shares worth some ZAR 6 million. TechCentral notes that the deal was done on 31 December 2013, at ZAR 130.87 per share, close to Vodacom?s all-time high of ZAR 134, which was achieved the previous day.

United Arab Emirates: Binding bid - Etisalat-affiliate Pakistan Telecommunications Company Limited (PTCL) has finally announced that it has submitted a binding offer to acquire 100 percent shares of Warid Telecom, and has submitted a binding offer after obtaining the approval of the board. Etisalat is reported not to have resolved the matter of a USD 800 million payment due to the Pakistani government at a recent meeting.

United Arab Emirates: Broadband gear - Etisalat is seeking the 'supply, installation, testing, commissioning and integration' of a 3G femtocell network, ITP.net reported. The closing date for tender applications is 23 January 2014.

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United Arab Emirates: MNP launched - The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) announced in December that Etisalat and du were ready to launch Mobile Number Portability (MNP) with effect from 22 December 2013, with the launch of the central MNP system. The TRA said users would be able to use the service with effect from 30 December 2013. The TRA noted that the UAE had a mobile penetration rate of 181 percent and a smartphone penetration rate of 73.8 percent. du said that MNP could be initiated at 51 du shops and hundreds of authorised partner outlets. User will need to provide a valid national id or passport.

Uganda: Fast forward - The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) is forecasting intense competition in 2014 due to forecast economic growth of 6.2 percent, according to Fred Otunnu, UCC PR head. The UCC says there are 16.8 million mobile phones currently, against a population of 36.35 million. Telecoms analyst firm BuddeComm notes the country has a simplified and converged licensing regime, which has significantly reduced barriers to market entry and increased competition.

Zambia: Airtel ascendant - The number of Airtel Zambia's mobile money users now stands at 1.8 million and monthly transactions stand at half a million, according to Managing Director Charity Lumpa. Lumpa also said the company has almost 5 million mobile subscribers, whilst MTN is ranked second in the market with around 4.6 million subscribers. Airtel Zambia launched 3G services in January 2012.

Zimbabwe: Transfer tax - A tax on mobile money transactions is now being levied after intense lobbying from the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe (BAZ). A 5 cents tax is now applied to transactions carried out using mobile money platforms. Econet?s EcoCash is the biggest mobile money platform in Zimbabwe with 3 million subscribers.