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News in Brief 5 February 2014

Africa: Orange credit - Orange has launched its Orange Top-Up online service, allowing people to remotely send mobile credit to customers of over 350 networks across 100 countries, including 33 in Africa. In Africa, customers of mobile networks in Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe can benefit from the service. Orange said further operators will continue to connect to the service, with Orange Botswana due to join next.

Africa: VAS offering - BlackNGreen has signed a partnership deal with Airtel in Africa, Agence Ecofin reported. BlackNGreen will launch various value-added services including religious and other products in its portfolio. It expects the deal to generate revenues of around USD 20 million by the end of 2014. CEO Rahul Gupta said it was looking to double the size of its team in the next eight months, and will be opening new offices. It has establishments in Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria and Algeria.

Cote d'Ivoire: Telecoms tax - Agence Ecofin reports that the 2014 budget includes a new tax on specific telecom services. At a press conference late in January the Chief of Staff of the Minister of Post and ICT, André Apete, suggested that operators were unlikely to pass the charge on to users as telecoms was a growing sector. The tax is to be levied on the pre-tax price paid by the originator of a call, or the client ISP, and is to be collected by the mobile operator or ISP.

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Cable commissioning - According to Tryphon Kin-Kiey Mulumba, Postmaster General, Telecommunications and New Technologies of Information and Communication (NTIC-Pt), fibre optic cable will soon connect homes, schools, government offices and businesses in Kinshasa. Agence Ecofin reported the comment being made during an inspection tour of the metropolitan fibre optic ring work sites, which is due for completion in March 2014. Phase 2 will see other cities connected.

Egypt: City network - Telecom Egypt (TE) is to provide the new city of Madinaty with a fibre optic network. Construction of the city started in 2006 and it covers an area of over 33 million square metres. It will accommodate 600,000 residents in 120,000 housing units. The deal was signed with the Arab Company for Projects and Urban Development, a subsidiary of Talaat Moustafa Group Holding (TMG Holding). Mohammed El Nawawy, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Internet speeds of up to 10 gigabytes per second will be offered.

Egypt: Fibre pair - Telecom Egypt has signed agreements with 'MENA submarine cable systems' (MENA), a subsidiary of Orascom Telecom Media and Technology Holding (OTMT), worth a total of EGP 210 million (USD 30.0 million). MENA will use one fibre pair in Telecom Egypt's cable, located between Zaafarana on the Red Sea Coast and Abou Talat on the Mediterranean Coast. Telecom Egypt has also signed another deal with 'OTMT' providing different offerings and international services.

Ghana: Cable cuts to be countered - The Ministry of Roads and Highways is collaborating with the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications to reduce the number of cable cuts. The Minister of Roads and Transport Hon. Amadu Aminu Sulemani has expressed his concerns, with a meeting of telcos led by the Chief Executive of the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications, Kwaku Sakyi-Addo and the Minister to be held at his office in Accra. Cable cuts stood at 2,110 in 2013, compared to 1,605 in 2012 and 480 the previous year, 75 percent of which occur during road construction. Small-scale illegal mining is responsible for 10 percent.

Israel: 4G recommendation - Ministry of Communications Director General Avi Berger, the Chairman of the Tenders Committee for allocating 4G frequencies, has advised the establishment of three 4G networks with almost unlimited infrastructure sharing, Globes has reported.

Kenya: Money high - The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) has reported some KES 1.9 trillion (USD 21.6 billion) was transferred in mobile transactions. Mobile money subscribers rose to 25.1 million in September with 732 million mobile transactions recorded in the year.

Madagascar: Airtel aid - Airtel Madagascar has renewed its partnership with Mobile Hilfe, an organisation that works with the homeless in the capital and remote rural areas, notably Mantasoa, Andasibe and Mahavelona. Mobile aid includes medical interventions and health education. "Airtel Madagascar is pleased to renew this partnership will facilitate the work of Mobile Hilfe ", said CEO Heiko Schlittke.

Nigeria: Bill of government rights - Concerns have been expressed about the Cybercrime Bill which has been forwarded to the National Assembly by the federal government. The Leadership newspaper reports that it is feared that the Bill would force operators to conduct surveillance on individuals, and release user data to the authorities. A warrant would not be required in cases of 'verifiable urgency' to intercept and record electronic communications under the new bill.

Nigeria: Infrastructure infidelity - The directors of Infrastructure services provider MASS Telecom Innovation (MTI) are being accused by shareholders of fraud worth some NGN 275 million (USD 1.7 million). In a petition to the Nigerian Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) shareholders have alleged that the former directors paid themselves unapproved severance packages, as well as inappropriately obtaining, distributing and utilising funds raised from the capital market between March and April 2008.

Nigeria: Mute on MNP - The THISDAY newspaper has noted that mobile number portability (MNP) was introduced by the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) on 22 April 2013, and that within 48 hours over 4,000 subscribers had ported. Subsequently figures for May and June 2013 were published. Since then the paper notes that no porting figure has been released by the NCC, raising the question as to how successful MNP has actual been nine months after its launch.

Nigeria: SMS lotteries suspended - Gbenga Adebayo, chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) says the government has banned all forms of short message service (SMS) promotional lotteries. The move is to allow the government to operate its Centenary Games Lottery on the operators? platforms, and was communicated through the National Lottery Regulation Commission (NLRC) and directed MTN, Airtel, Globacom, Etisalat and Visafone to suspend all SMS-based promotional lotteries from 1 January 2014.

Oman: Stake sale - Darwish bin Ismaeel al Balushi, Minister Responsible for Financial Affairs, has said that the government is continuing with its plan to sell a 27 percent stake in Oman Telecommunications Company (Omantel). The decision was originally announced in mid-2013. The Oman Observer quoted Al Balushi as saying the sale is proceeding as per the plan, without a postponement. However the Minister said it might take some time to achieve. The Bank Muscat, appointed as financial consultant, in October 2013 is currently preparing the documentation of subscription.

Qatar: LTE network completed - Ooredoo says it has activated its 500th LTE site in Qatar, and consequently 4G service now covers the whole of the territory. Since launch in April 2013, Ooredoo has expanded 4G coverage five-fold. Further network enhancements are planned.

Saudi Arabia: Tactical targeting - Direct sales is the latest technique to be honed and polished by Zain Saudi Arabia. Some 600 men and women in 26 different cities are now promoting all services directly to subscribers both at homes and at work, the Saudi Gazette reported. The team is promoting on-the-spot service activation, and the ability to pay cash or use one of the automated paying devices supplied to the sales team. The 120 saleswomen are targeting female subscribers.

South Africa: Aspirant app provider - Telkom Mobile is now the top mobile brand on Mxit's mobile social network, having attracted an additional 168,806 new users to its app environment. In so doing it has pushed Cell C into second place. Andrew Kramer, Mxit head of sales noted that there are twice as many mobiles as there are TV sets in South Africa and 4.6 times more households with a mobile than a computer. The campaign consisted of Telkom banners displayed on the Mxit platform over four days and generated some 1 million impressions and 3,451 clicks. The branded splash screens were delivered to 3.8 million targeted users over 7 days, resulting in 287,763 clicks. Telkom Mobile Tradepost Messages (a text message delivered to a user's Tradepost on Mxit) were delivered to targeted users for four days.

South Africa: LG latest - The LG G Pro Lite launched on 1 February 2014 on Cell C and Virgin Mobile at ZAR 239 (USD 21.44) per month, LG South Africa announced. The G Pro Lite was launched in other markets during October 2013, and announced with BlackBerry in December that it would pre-install BlackBerry Messenger on the device. LG SA?s General Manager of Mobile Communications, Deon Prinsloo, it is aimed at lower income users that want a large screen device. In South Africa it will also come with BBM pre-installed, and will receive an additional 300MB of data per month on Cell C?s Straight Up 100 contract.

South Africa: Mobile media - UK-based Media buyer WPP PLC said last week that its Tenthavenue unit had acquired a majority stake in mobile activation and rewards company Jupicorp Proprietary Ltd. Jupicorp trades as The Mobile Airtime and Rewards Company, and was founded in 2010. It employs eight people, and offers mobile airtime and lifestyle rewards to clients using in-house pin encryption technology. Clients include Shoprite, South Africa's largest retailer, Nestle, Tiger Brands, Snackworks, SAB Miller and Danone. Revenues for the year to February 2013 were ZAR 60 million (USD 5.38 million).

South Africa: Ready to roll - MTN's Long Term Evolution (LTE) network now covers 3 million people, with just under 1,000 LTE-enabled base stations deployed nationally. MyBroadband quotes Krishna Chetty, MTN South Africa?s General Manager of Radio Planning and Optimisation as saying that MTN covers 99 percent of the population with 2G technology, and 75 percent with 3G technology. MTN will continue to roll out more sites, with plans to invest around ZAR 4 billion (USD359 million) in upgrades, although the lack of available 4G spectrum is an issue.

Sudan: Still solvent - Zain has reported 18 percent growth in revenue despite a 35 percent devaluation of the Sudanese pound during 2013. It says it has maintained its market leadership with 11.7 million subscribers; a 43 percent market share. Data revenues grew 49 percent. A new tax system is expected to enhance Zain Sudan?s financial position for the next three years, partially compensating for the losses incurred due to currency issues.

Swaziland: Final gasp - The Swaziland Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC) finally switched off its mobile telephony network on 29 January 2014, according to the Observer newspaper. Managing Director Petros Dlamini confirmed that the company had switched off the mobile network, but did not elaborate. The move follows a three-year legal battle with MTN Swazi, and a ruling by the International Court of Arbitration (ICA).

Zimbabwe: Pupil pilots - A four-month pilot of Econet Wireless' next generation education solution, EcoSchool, has been launched, according to BizTechAfrica. The service provides educational resources, lecture notes and educational content at discounted prices. Content is delivered on customised EcoSchool tablets, bundled with data packages. Content can also be accessed using any registered Android tablet. The pilot project is being trialled by specified students at the University of Zimbabwe College of Health Science, who pay USD 5 a month for access to the tablet, eTextbook platform and allocated data.

Zimbabwe: Rural renaissance - Telecel Zimbabwe is to expand its network in rural areas in the Matabeleland region in 2014. Southern Regional Manager Nelson Chipangamate said it intends to continue expanding the network in the region's remote areas and improve service delivery to previously marginalised areas. Chipangamate said in 2013 Telecel had increased network coverage in places such as Binga that had no coverage, ThisDay reported.

Zimbabwe: Telecash touted - Telecel Zimbabwe Chief Commercial Officer Ashraf El Guindy has formally launched the operator's new mobile money service 'TeleCash'. TechZim reports that the service has been launched in co-operation with Obopay, and thus is the first mobile banking service to connect with ZimSwitch and so with all banks on the platform. The service will offer lower tariffs than rival Econet for transactions over USD 1.99, with TeleCash transaction fees 7 - 50 percent lower than its rival. EcoCash, however, does not charge fees on transactions less than USD 1.99, while TeleCash charges USD 0.07 (unregistered subscribers) and USD 0.08 (registered users). State-owned NetOne re-launched OneWallet in November 2013.