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News in Brief 12 February 2014

Afghanistan: Communications conference - The Annual Conference of MCIT Provincial Directors was held in Kabul and attended by Amirzai Sangin Minister of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), senior MCIT staff, as well as the provincial directors of MCIT. Sangin noted that developments include a national optical fibre network, a National Electronic ID program, AfghanSat1, and Afghan Telecom has launched its GSM-3G services.

Africa: Innovative IBM - IBM is opening two new Innovation Centres in Lagos, Nigeria and Casablanca, Morocco. These will focus on providing constituents with services that use Big Data and Analytics and cloud computing technologies. Clients can participate in virtual and in-person training, test out new products, network with peers globally and receive mentoring and guidance from IT and business experts. The Centre in Johannesburg has also been enhanced, and will offer clients hands-on access to advanced technologies in the cloud, data, mobility and social business.

Africa: Latent LTE - LTE networks will cover half of the African population by 2018, according to ABI Research. However the number of African LTE subscribers will grow to more than 50 million by the end of 2018, almost half of whom will be able to use voice-over-LTE (VoLTE). The 50 million-subscriber figure represents a compound annual growth rate of 128 percent between now and then. The research reckons that the driver will be the increasing affordability of LTE handsets, with LTE handset shipments rising 75 percent annually on average in the next five years.

Africa: Solar solutions - Bob Hurley of Eltek notes that the lack of a reliable electric grid in remote areas has led to instability in telecom services and pollution from non-green energy sources. An integral aspect of an alternative energy powered base station is the DC power system, which can manage multiple energy sources. Therefore the system must be able to switch between these various inputs intelligently. Such a system means less routine maintenance visits are required, so saving thousands of dollars for each site visit eliminated. Click here to download your copy of 'How to reduce the total cost of ownership of 4G/LTE networks'

Bahrain: Business broadband - On Saturday Menatelecom launched a 4G LTE dedicated business service. Menatelecom chairman Abdul Razak Jawahery said: "To ensure customer satisfaction...both Menatelecom's state-of-the-art Network Operations Centre and the dedicated business call centre are in operation 24/7 to provide businesses with instant support, should it be required at any time ".

Bahrain: Cars tracked by cloud - Batelco has launched a Vehicle Tracking Solution as part of its Cloud portfolio. Benefits claimed for cloud include improved operational and cost efficiency, risk mitigation, and fast deployment. The solution is being delivered through a partnership with Security 1 under the umbrella of E.K Kanoo Group. Batelco Enterprise General Manager Adel Daylami said that many customers had requested the service.

Botswana: Privatisation pooper - Speaking at the First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) budget review seminar in Gaborone last week, Former Public Enterprise Evaluation and Privatisation Agency (PEEPA), CEO Joshua Galeforolwe said that whilst an initial Public Offering (IPO) of BTC may be attractive to the public in 2014, its efficacy and profit sustainability is questionable. The mmegi news portal quoted him as saying: "I doubt that BTC will manage going it alone ". The privatisation process has seen all backbone assets transferred to BoFiNet, which, whilst levelling the playing field, could curtail the BTC?s profitability.

Burundi: Comms brief ceded - Last week Information, Communication, Telecommunications and Parliament Relations Minister Leocadie Nihazi stood down, along with Victoire Ndikumana, Minister of Posts, Commerce, Industry and Tourism and Communal Development Minister Jean-Claude Ndihokubwayo. The resignation followed the dismissal of First Vice-President Bernard Busokoza. EturboNews suggests the government may now collapse as a result.

Cameroon: Revolutionary rates - MTN Cameroon has announced a tariff plan that allows MTN subscribers to call longer and at lower cost. MTN Elite offers on-net calls at an average of XAF 45 (USD 0.09) per minute. The first on-net call minute of the day costs XAF 90 (0.18) per minute; all other call minutes of the day are charged at XAF 0.75 per second. International calls are at XAF 0.75 per second to 15 countries: China, USA, Canada, India, UK, France, Nigeria, Spain, Brazil, Portugal, Malaysia, South Korea, Sweden, Belgium, and Germany. Ibrahim Abba Gana, Chief Marketing Officer made the announcement.

Congo Brazzaville: Cable caucus - A meeting looking at the Central African Backbone (CAB) was held on 4 February 2014 in Brazzaville. Minister of Posts and Telecommunications of the Congo, Thierry Lezin Moungalla said he wanted to see the implementation of interconnected high-speed fibre-optic networks across CEMAC countries. Agence Ecofin quoted The World Bank Congo's Sylvie Dossou as saying that the countries involved needed to provide a comparative and critical analysis of their respective regulatory frameworks, and play their role with the support of regional and international institutions (CEMAC, ECCAS, ITU).

Cote d'Ivoire: Treasury taps telcos - Telcos face higher taxes and will be required to invest in government bonds this year as part of efforts to increase fiscal revenues and slow the repatriation of profits to groups headquartered overseas. Reuters reports Pascal Abinan, the Directorate General for Taxes, as targeting overall tax receipts of nearly XOF 1.6 trillion (USD 3.53 billion) in 2014, up from XOF 1.4 trillion (USD 2.9 billion) last year.

Egypt: Cable compensation - Telecom Egypt has reached a settlement with the legal representatives of the 'B-Elephant' tanker that damaged and cut two submarine cables, EIG and TE North, in March 2013. A payment of USD 12.535 million will be made in a full and final settlement of all expenses related to repairs, spare parts and the cost of returning the two submarine cables to their original condition.

Egypt: OTV internal appointment - Hanan Abdel-Meguid, CEO of OTVentures (OTV), is to step down on 31 March 2014. The board has approved the nomination of Fadi Antaki as successor, and shareholder approval was obtained on 2 February. Antaki has more than 14 years' experience with the group, most recently as Vice President Commercial from 2011.

Iran: Secure satellite - A new satellite has been unveiled. The 'Persian Gulf' is the second Iranian-built satellite, being designed and built by a Malek Ashtar University of Technology team. It was unveiled at a ceremony attended by President Hassan Rouhani, Vice-President for Executive Affairs Mohammad Shariatmadari and officials, the Fars News Agency reported. It will be used to establish secure communications contacts in narrow bands and mobile network backhaul. In September it unveiled its first satellite, 'Tadbir' (Prudence).

Iraq: Sector satellite support - Hermes Datacomms, a provider of managed networks for the upstream oil, gas and mining sectors, has bought services from Avanti Communications to boost satellite capability in Iraq. Hermes will initially deploy the capacity within its remote fields. This will be followed by an intensive programme to up-weight connectivity for enterprise customers in the Middle East. Avanti will provide secure Ka-band services to Hermes via its HYLAS 2 satellite.

Jordan: Microsoft mist - Umniah is to launch a one-month promotional campaign for Microsoft Office 365 for its Junian internet customers. Discounted rates will be offered to pre- and post-paid UMAX Broadband and EVO 3G customers. The package contains all the classics, together with online storage service OneDrive, which is in line with Umniah's goal to integrate cloud solutions in its products.

Kenya: Better bundles - Orange has launched permanent SMS bundles that will allow Orange pre-paid mobile subscribers to purchase daily, weekly and monthly short message service (SMS) bundles. Offered are a daily KES 10 (USD 0.11) bundle that comes with 150 on-net SMSs and 100 off-net SMSs; a weekly KES 30 (USD 0.33) bundle with 300 on-net SMSs and 200 off-net SMSs and a monthly bundle costing KES 75 (USD 86) provides 1,000 on-net SMSs and 500 off-net SMSs. Company CEO Mickael Ghossein said the bundles were in response to price elasticity and to give customers value for their money in terms of quality service at competitive rates.

Kenya: Money manuscript - Tonny Omwansa, a lecturer at Nairobi University and Nicholas Sullivan, a senior fellow at the Centre for Emerging Market Enterprises, have authored 'Money, Real Quick - The story of M-Pesa'. The book traces the development of Safaricom?s mobile money transfer system M-Pesa that now has over 18 million users in Kenya, and has attracted worldwide attention. It is available on Amazon here.

Kuwait: Advertising account - Zain is to review of its media planning and buying account, the first for four years. International agencies with a regional presence have been invited to pitch, including incumbent Mindshare. It held the regional account since 2009 and for Kuwait and Bahrain since 2002 and 2003. According to Campaign Middle East, Zain is one of the larger ad spenders in the region. The process is due to be completed in the first half of 2014 and it noted that as part of its non-equity Vodafone Partner Agreement, it would be collaborating with Vodafone in the process.

Kuwait: Expansion through equity sale - Zain Group is in talks to dilute its majority stake in Zain Jordan, TMT Finance has reported. Talks are thought to involve a state-affiliated investor. The funds raised would be invested in expanding its next-generation networks. Zain is looking at several different options to boost capital. It is also expected to close a USD 1 billion plus refinancing agreement with several banks in the next 4-8 weeks.

Liberia: Office efficiency - A three-year lease for the offices of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) on Congo Town Back Road, outside Monrovia are reported by The New Dawn to be costing it some USD 1.155 million. The payments are being made to Chinese company Qingfian International. The LTA said that it is paying a fair market value and the consolidation of all staff in one location rather than three had reduced costs of security personnel, generators and fuel. It is claimed that the establishment has grown from 29 to 100 since the Weeks Commission took over. LTA Director of Public Affairs Jarsea Burphy noted that the International Gateway Monitoring System takes up an entire floor. The West Africa Regional Communications Project will take up residence in March.

Middle East: Arabic apps - The winners of the Arab Mobile App Challenge are Loujee, the first Arabic mobile app educational toy for children, which won the grand prize of USD 50,000. Second was Crowd Analyzer, the first fully automated Arabic social media-monitoring platform in the Middle East and North Africa, winning USD 30,000. Third was Markabaty, which helps car owners troubleshoot and find workshops, which won USD 20,000. Sponsors were Silatech, the Applied Innovation Institute, and Ooredoo.

Nigeria: MTN misguided - The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has challenged MTN Nigeria's claim that it is only required to keep call data of its subscribers for only three months. THISDAY reports that the NCC under a Freedom of Information (FoI) request revealed that operators are required to retain call data for a minimum period of 12 months or as otherwise directed by the NCC. The directive took effect from 3 July 2007.

South Africa: Victimised Vodacom - ICASA's introduction of asymmetrical mobile termination rates were welcomed by Cell C and Telkom, as the principal beneficiaries. The announcement has, not surprisingly, sparked a response from Vodacom. The operator noted that its proposal of a glidepath, with reductions over a number of years to minimise the impact, had not been accepted. It also noted that the level of asymmetry is 'unjustified' with 'no clear basis for the differential'. It added: "This asymmetry is clearly a subsidy for the smaller operators ".

Syria: ICT incubator - Syriatel and the Syrian Computer Society (SCS) have signed a deal to unify their developmental processes. Both will continue to organise the Collegiate Programming Contest, which is seen as ultimately providing the national market with highly qualified programmers. Among other initiatives, a TV programme will be created focusing on telecommunication and information technology, targeting the youth segment.

Syria: Staff manager sought - Syrian Telecommunications is advertising for a Director of Human resources management, to be located in its central administration. Applications using a form provided by ST should be mailed to the Syrian Telecom General Bureau, Mezze, Damascus. Applicants have a month to submit their application. Details are at www.ste.gov.sy/index.php?d=8&id=181

Tunisia: Consulting confirmed - French-based Progressus Corporation has won a project to carryout a competitive analysis of pricing in telecommunications to assist in the review of guidelines on commercial deals. The tender was launched by the National Telecommunications (INT) on 28 November 2013.

Turkey: Fibre expansion - Turkcell unit Superonline Iletisim Hizmetleri is to buy all of the shares of Metronet Iletisim Teknoloji (Metronet), which has an enterprise value of TRY 29 million (USD 13.1 million). Approvals from the related authorities are now required. Metronet provides communication services including Internet, voice and digital services in Turkey. The deal will see Turkcell Superonline?s fibre in-city coverage increase to 14 cities, up from the current 12, with its homes passed rising by some 100,000 once Metronet?s infrastructure integration is completed.

Uganda: Internet index - The Executive Director of the Uganda Communications Commission Godfrey Mutabazi says that there are now 4.4 million Internet users in the country. He was quoting Mass Room; a US-based organisation which carried out research in a number of African countries including Uganda. Around 30 percent of the population have Internet access, placing Uganda in tenth place in Africa.

United Arab Emirates: Apple out and about - Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, has met with Ahmad Julfar, CEO of Etisalat Group, to discuss how the two can strengthen their relationship across Etisalat?s footprint. ArabNews reported that Saleh Al-Abdooli, CEO of Etisalat UAE, and Khalid Al-Kaf, CEO of Mobily were also present.

Zimbabwe: Debt recovery progress - Fixed line operator TelOne has recovered USD 90 million of unpaid service bills through its debt collection campaign and has written off over USD 65 million as of 31 December 2013, according to the Financial Gazette. TelOne?s CEO Chipo Mutasa has said that it is owed over USD 200 million from subscribers who have defaulted. The campaign was launched in August 2013, as many subscribers had not paid their bills since 2009, due to the dollarisation of the economy, which left many users with large bills. In October 2013 cumulative debts of domestic customers of some USD 80 million were cancelled.

Zimbabwe: Usage on the up - Econet Wireless says it now has some 3.5 million registered subscribers for its EcoCash mobile money platform. It is targeting 8 million subscribers by the end of 2014. NewsDay quoted Econet Services CEO Darlington Mandivenga as saying that the increasing usage it was seeing was a key factor, helped by the continued addition of new services to the platform. It is now offering EcoSchool at the University of Zimbabwe to assist students in the purchase of books at cheaper prices and gain access to materials and courses from across the globe.

Zimbabwe: United front - Mobile money agents working for Econet, Telecel and NetOne have formed an association to advance their interests and lobby on policy making. Members of The Mobile Money Transfer Agents Association of Zimbabwe (MMTAAZ) will pay USD 2 in monthly subscription fees. More than 100 mobile money transfer agents have joined since its launch in January.