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News in Brief 26 February 2014

Afghanistan: Digital progression - In connection with the inauguration of Afghan Telecom's network, Minister of Communications and Information Technology H. E. Amirzai Sangin visited Kandahar province on 18 February 2014. The Minister noted that Communications and IT sector had grown considerably in the past ten years, with over USD 2.5 billion invested, and Afghan Telecom has invested USD 65 million in its Salaam 3G network.

Africa: Airtel data analysis - Mobileum (formerly known as Roamware) is to undertake a Big Data Analytics program for Airtel which will provide a deeper understanding of their customer's travel intentions, travel patterns and service usage habits while travelling. Mobileum will analyse Airtel Africa customer, network and commercial data. Outputs are expected to be travel prediction, roamer detection and roamer segmentation.

Africa: Seychelles soon - Bharti Airtel?s Director and Africa Head, Airtel Money, Chidi Okpala, said at the 4th MobileMoney Expo in Lagos, that 3.5 years from launch it has a network of about 140,000 active agents. Airtel claims to generate a daily average of 1 million transactions valued at USD 30 million from an active base of 5 million subscribers. The mobile platform is operational in 15 African countries, and will be launched in the Seychelles in March 2014.

Bahrain: Radio renewal - UK-based Simoco Group, a mobile radio specialist, has secured a contract with Bahrain International Airport. The contract, with its partner United Commercial Agencies (UCA), is to deliver an advanced Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) solution to the airport, which sees 1,052 flight departures per week. The technology addresses a number of issues the airport operator faced with its current TETRA communications system, which includes poor coverage and low channel capacity. A Simoco Xd Tier III trunked radio system will be deployed.

Bahrain: Satellite support - Batelco's teleport is to be utilised by satellite operator ABS as a major site to support the 'In Orbit Testing' of its newly-launched ABS-2 satellite. On offer are managed and dedicated Teleport hosting services complimented by dedicated Internet access, IP transit, MPLS and SDH services using its own local and global network to support global requirements of its teleport customers. Adel Daylami, Batelco Business Division general manager said the telco was committed to helping customers achieve their business goals. ABS -2 features 89 active C, Ku and Ka-band transponders across 10 different beams and covers Eastern and Central Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia Pacific, Russia and the CIS countries at its prime orbital location of 75°E.



Cote d'Ivoire: Telecoms taxed - From 17 February 2014 a new 3 percent communications tax came into force. It is to be added to the 18 percent Value Added Tax already applied. Agence Ecofin noted that during a press conference in January 2014 the Chief of Staff of the Minister of Post and ICT, André Apete implied the tax would be absorbed by telcos, saying "...the telecommunications sector is not expected to increase. "

Egypt: Centre commissioned - Raya Corporation last week officially opened what it described as the Middle East?s largest communication centre in Cairo?s Maadi district. Minister of Communication and Information Technology Atef Helmy attended. The new centre will offer technological services to Etisalat?s customers. Some 5,000 jobs have been created with a further 1,000 posts that will be created in the coming year. Raya Corporation was formed in 1999 from seven IT companies.

Egypt: Loan confirmed - Mobinil has obtained a syndicated loan worth EGP 2.26 billion (USD 320.4 million). The stock exchange was told that the lending banks include Banque Misr, Commercial International Bank (COMI), Qatar National Bank Alahli (QNBA), Bank of Alexandria, Credit Agricole (CIEB), Ahli United Bank Egypt and Emirates NBD. ArabFinance reported that the loan is to be used to pay off part of the loan instalments and bonds payable in 2014 and 2015.

Ghana: Pilot phase - 4G operator Blu Telecommunications has installed a high speed free Wi-Fi service at the Accra Mall ahead of the official launch this Wednesday. Blu's Chief Commercial Officer Tara Squire said the service was seeing a high level of interest. Chief Operating Officer Ekow Thomson said it was keen to give consumers a 'taste of the sort of speeds they will be able to enjoy once they sign up with our service'. It is considering distributing wholesale bandwidth on its 4G network, apart from service individual end users. It has been allocated dial-code 025.

Ghana: Token transaction - MTN Mobile Money subscribers can now withdraw cash from Ecobank ATMs anytime and anywhere without a card. To access the service, subscribers dial star 511hash on their phone and generate a token for the withdrawal. The token number is then used to withdraw the money any Ecobank ATM in Ghana. The service can be accessed in all MTN branch offices, Ecobank and other partner bank branches and more than 8,000 other merchant points nationally.

Kenya: Chinese concentrate on cloud - ZTE is to focus on cloud computing and LTE adoption in 2014. CIO East Africa quoted ZTE Kenya CEO Liu Sen saying:, "In 2014, we aim to strengthen our partnerships with mobile network operators by helping them improve their overall network quality. We will also be looking at the area of LTE and Cloud Computing and how this can be utilised by government for better public service delivery. " Partnering with government is a key element of its strategy, with the intention to supply solutions to improve public service delivery in health, transportation and energy.

Morocco: Facebook facilitated - Maroc Telecom has launched MT-Talk Pass, giving unlimited access to Facebook and Facebook Messenger for its pre-paid mobile subscribers. Unlimited browsing at a speed of 7.2 Mbps is provided. It also provides access to Facebook Messenger, which allows image and audio-file sharing.

Morocco: Stake sale close to settlement - Maroc Telecom-parent Vivendi is expected to close the sale with Etisalat within the next three weeks, TMT Finance has reported. The two are said to be negotiating the final terms. In July 2013 Vivendi started exclusive talks with Etisalat for the sale of Maroc Telecom and signed in November with a value of USD 5.67 billion. Vivendi holds a 53 percent stake via its wholly owned subsidiary Societe de Participation dans les Telecommunications.

Mozambique: Electric credit - Vodacom has signed with local electricity company Electricidade de Mocambique (EDM) to market pre-paid top-ups for electricity (Credelec) via the operator's mobile money transfer service M-Pesa service.

Nigeria: Acquiescent Airtel - Airtel Nigeria has been awarded the Lagos State Government 2013 Tax Compliance Award. The Executive Governor of Lagos, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) presented the award to the Airtel's Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director Segun Ogunsanya at the 7th Annual Lagos State Taxation Stakeholders' Conference held at The Haven, Ikeja GRA. Airtel was the only telco to feature in the awards.

Saudi Arabia: Shop and Surf - Visitors to the Red Sea Mall can now access Wi-Fi Internet free of charge; Red Sea is both the first mall in the Kingdom to do so, and one of the largest. Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) is facilitating the facility. It is one of 800 wide-range Internet accesses implemented and operated exclusively by Mobily. The coverage is achieved through 45 access points with a broadband speed up to 10Mbps. Alaa AlMalki, Acting CEO of Mobile Networks at Mobily noted it had extensive experience of covering densely populated public spaces such as holy sites and the central region during the period of Hajj.

Senegal: Consumers consulted - Mobile Number Portability is the subject of a Regulatory Authority for Telecommunications and Post (ARTP) public consultation on draft guidelines. In the interests of transparency, the Authority said it would publish a summary of all the comments that have been sent to it.

Senegal: Outsourcing opposed - Plans by Sonatel (Orange Senegal) to outsource some of its operations have seen Union members meet tell members of the Bennoo Bokk Yaakaar political party of their opposition to the plans, Agence Ecofin has reported. The BBY, part of the ruling coalition, issued a press release calling on the government to be 'most vigilant' with respect to the future of Sonatel. It plans to meet with all of the stakeholders to acquaint itself with Orange's plans. Last December Sonatel said it intended to transfer call centre and other operations to Cote d'Ivoire.

Senegal: Surfing schools - Sonatel (Orange Senegal) is to facilitate school ICT, having signed a framework agreement with the Ministry of Education. The deal will see teachers able to use ICT, improve the governing of the education sector through ICT, and improving the school environment. The first phase will see free Internet access for public schools, with Sonatel providing 1 Mbps Internet access and its My Orange Office service for every primary and secondary school, including a domain name, Website hosting and 100 e-mail addresses.

Sierra Leone: Airtel rates arrested - There will be no increases in wholesale or retail top-up card prices according to Airtel Sierra Leon?s Corporate and Communication Manager, June Rose Johnson. Awoko reported her saying that any change would required the approval of regulator NATCOM. Airtel has apparently applied to increase airtime costs in the past 12 months, but its applications have been turned down. NATCOM is apparently undertaking an investigation into the price increases of top-up cards and is expected to meet shortly with dealers, operators and retailers.

South Africa: Cheaper call delay - Following action by majors MTN and Vodacom, Telkom Group CEO Sipho Maseko has said that opposition to the reduced Mobile Termination Rates - effective from 1 April - will delay the introduction of cheaper calls for consumers. Maseko in a statement said: "Previous interventions have stimulated the industry to become more competitive as all players have moved to offer lower retail prices following these interventions. " Telkom claims MTN and Vodacom 'enjoyed' a regulatory regime that favoured them in the period 2001 and 2012, with Telkom subsidising them.

South Africa: Forex fluctuation - MTN Group saw 2013 earnings per share rise 25 - 30 percent, boosted by a foreign exchange gain of about ZAR 1.1 billion (USD 100.4 million), due mainly to a currency gain by MTN Mauritius. MTN made a foreign exchange loss of about ZAR 2.7 billion (USD 246.6 million).

South Africa: Imperial improvements - Vodacom South Africa is to support Imperial Logistics data network and hosting services across the freight group's divisions and operating companies through to 2019. Engineering News reported that the existing network services would now include Vodacom's VoIP offering as well as application and business process services to improve the competitiveness of Imperial's clients.

South Africa: Size matters for seniors - The Alcatel 2000 phone has been launched by Vodacom South Africa, which is targeted at senior citizens. Consequently it has a large 2.4-inch screen with large font, large keypad and dedicated SOS Button. Its battery gives up to seven hours of talk time and dedicated keys for FM Radio, lock and a torch. Vodacom is selling it for ZAR 499 (USD 45.57). It is also available on uChoose Flexi 100 for ZAR 79 (USD 7.22) per month which includes ZAR 100 (USD 9.13) airtime.

South Africa: Telkom triumphant - The Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASA) has found for Telkom in a battle with Cell C over its 'Rethink' advertising campaign. Cell C argued that Telkom Mobile?s commercials made improper comparisons, and were disparaging of Cell C. It claimed that Telkom Mobile?s 29 cents per minute rate cannot be compared to its 99 cents per minute as is not a flat rate and only applies when a Sim-Sonke customer phones another Sim-Sonke customer on the Telkom Network. The ASA was satisfied that the comparison made by Telkom Mobile was 'reasonably' fair.

South Africa: WhatsApp on the Up - Over 50 percent of adult city dwelling mobile phone owners use WhatsApp, according to a social media update from World Wide Worx (WWW). Updating its SA Social Media Landscape 2014 report, the firm said 10.6 million mobile phone users use the WhatsApp service out of 20 million mobile users living in towns and cities. Whilst 45 percent of mobile login to Facebook via their handsets, with total Facebook use including desktop use standing at 11 million users. WhatsApp is expected to rise to 63 percent penetration within 12-18 months, overtaking Facebook, while Facebook's uptake will also rise to 53 percent.

South Africa: Wi-Fi cover widening - ISP MWEB is to deploy Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi for its new national wireless broadband public access service, as well as manage enterprise wireless LAN (WLAN) services to businesses that exploit its fibre broadband service. MWEB has over 5,000 indoor and outdoor Ruckus ZoneFlex dual-band Smart Wi-Fi access points (APs), including ZoneFlex 7782 outdoor, and ZoneFlex 7982 and ZoneFlex 7055 indoor APs. MWEB plans to deploy 15,000 more over the next 12 -18 months, and will will operate 150 Wi-Fi Zones by the end of March 2014 offering dual-band Wi-Fi access, with plans to increase to over 500 sites by the end of 2016.

Tanzania: Registration reminder - Zantel has launched its awareness programme for SIM card registration. Zantel Chief Executive Officer Pratap Ghose said users would benefit from being 'properly informed and thus served better by our company'. SIM registration is mandatory under the Electronics and Postal Communications Act (EPOCA) of 2010. Tanzania Daily News quoted Pratap as saying there were now additional agents to assist registration.

Turkey: Cloud for clients - Funambol has added Turkcell to its list of clients, launching its personal cloud service. The Turkcell personal cloud service automatically secures personal content such as pictures, videos and music in the cloud, syncs it across mobile devices and computers, and enables content to be shared. It is embedded in Turkcell's T40 branded smartphone and is available for all mobile phones and computers on Turkcell's network. Turkcell selected Funambol due to its best-in-class capabilities, broad device coverage and flexibility.

United Arab Emirates: SMEs sort - Etisalat is rewarding its new post-paid subscribers by cancelling 2 months? rental on its Business Ultimate packages. The offer is targeting 055 and 052 mobile series customers to upgrade to Etisalat without changing their numbers. New customers can subscribe to Business Ultimate post-paid rental plans of AED 49, 99 or 199 (USD 13.33 - 54.16) and in return receive rental waivers. They will also enjoy up to 260 minutes of international /national calls, limited free SMS and data capacity on monthly basis. John Lincoln, the senior VP, Business Marketing, said that the packages were designed for the specific needs of SMEs and large enterprises.