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News in Brief 30 April 2014

Bahrain: CWC stake sold - Batelco's attempt to acquire Cable & Wireless Communication's stake in Monaco Telecom fell through last year, but now CWC has sold it to French billionaire to Xavier Niel for GBP 264 million (USD 443.4 million). CWC previously agreed to sell its Monaco & Islands assets to Batelco for GBP 420 million. However Batelco failed to obtain the necessary approvals. Approval is required by CWC shareholders.

Bahrain: Domestic data dominance - The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has published its determinations of market dominance in domestic data connectivity services. The TRA found that incumbent PSTN operator Batelco continues to hold a Dominant Position in both the wholesale and retail domestic data connectivity services markets nationally, with the exception of the new-build Amwaj Islands.

Bahrain: HQ tower technology - Batelco is to provide Al Baraka Banking Group (ABG) with ICT infrastructure and system works for its new headquarters in Bahrain Bay. Al Baraka's ABG Towers Project features state-of-the-art technology to ensure its status as a 'smart building' to meet both the present needs of ABG but also the group's future needs, regionally and globally.

Bahrain: Timely ports - The Gulf Daily News reports that the times for number ports have been significantly reduced. The TRA issued new regulatory revisions requiring operators to complete a mobile number portability (MNP) request within eight business hours, down from 48. The processing time for a fixed line port has been cut from 72 hours to 8, although it can be extended in the event of technical issues. MNP was introduced in July 2011 with some 126,000 ports completed to date.

Cameroon: Broadcaster blacked - Camtel has suspended broadcaster CRTV's fixed line due to an unpaid bill of several million CFA Francs, Agence Ecofin reports. The move has had affected regional radio stations and TV channels, which can no longer provide audio and video content for transmission. The broadcaster has stopped using fixed lines as they cost more than mobile. CRTV is thought to be short of funds but did subsequently manage to arrange for a minimal fixedline service to be restored to the national and regional headquarters.

Egypt: Mandate sought for mobile money - Vodafone Egypt is seeking approval from the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) to launch a mobile money transfer service called 'Gameeya'. According to Amwal Alghad magazine, the Housing and Development Bank (HDB) has teamed up with Vodafone Egypt to provide the money transfer services. CBE previously stopped the service, as it did not have a licence. Maximum transfer amounts have been set by the Bank and the National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (NTRA), of no more than EGP 3,000 daily at EGP 1,000 per transaction, and EGP 5,000 per month.



Ghana: Pensioner phones - Vodafone Ghana has given 50 'grey friendly' phones to the Help Aged Ghana charity. The new Alcatel One Touch 282 has features intended to assist the elderly, including large keys, an inbuilt fm radio and a SOS emergency key. It also has an enhanced hearing aid feature. Vodafone Ghana's Diversity and Inclusion lead, Iris Owusu Manu, said that the operator wanted to serve all its users regardless of their age and gender.

Israel: Coral considered - Bezeq has said that a decision has not been made regarding the sale of Coral Tel which it controls indirectly via Walla!. Coral operates the Yad2 Website. However Bezeq noted in a statement that Walla had received a number of offers for Coral Tel from what it described as unaffiliated third parties. These are currently being considered.

Kenya: Location finder - Rapid Communications has launched its TuAsk app, which provides users with directory information on facilities in their locality with a telephone call. Users call 0900620126 on the Safaricom network to obtain information about their location, and specify the service they are looking for. The answer is provided by SMS within 30 seconds. Calls cost KES 10 (USD 0.11).

Mozambique: World Cup competition - mcel, in partnership with NZ Mobile, has launched its 'Mundial' SMS competition, with prizes of two trips to Brazil to watch the 2014 World Cup men's football tournament, with all expenses paid. Participants will also compete for daily and weekly prizes, such as 'Beats by Dre' headphones, mobile phones and top-ups. The competition runs until 25 May. It also launched pre-paid 'Mahala', allowing users who make top-ups of MZN 300, 600 and 2,000 (USD 9.65; 19.31 and 64.35) will receive free calls to other mCel numbers. A MZN 600 top-up will allow free calls to up to 10 friends, while a MZN 300 top-up allows free calls on the four following weekends.

Namibia: Student savings - tn mobile is partnering with the National Youth Council of Namibia (NYC) to launch a national youth card project giving reductions on cultural activities, shops, transport and accommodation. The NYC plans to distribute the first batch of the sponsored cards on National Youth Day 26 April.

Nigeria: Auto airtime - Etisalat Nigeria has launched Automated Recharge (Instant and Mandate options), which allows users to recharge their phones or buy data electronically irrespective of location or time of day. Subscribers with bank accounts and are registered for Internet banking can now instruct their bank to credit their Etisalat account with airtime on specific dates or once an airtime-credit level is reached. Customers can also buy credit for themselves, family and friends with the Automated Recharge Instant option, by filling in the details on the Etisalat transaction page provided on their bank's Internet banking platform.

Nigeria: Customer centric - Etisalat held a Customer Forum in Akure recently. The event was to measure its performance on consumer promise whilst eliciting direct feedback from customers on the company?s products and service offerings. Etisalat Nigeria Head Customer Experience and Retention, Biola Edun, said "Caring and satisfying our customers is central to our business strategy. Customer Forum gives us an opportunity to listen to our customers, interact with them directly on issues and fashion out mutually beneficial ways to address their challenges ". Etisalat Nigeria Head Mass Market, Idowu Adesokan, reiterated that the company?s operations are designed to provide quality services and pricing to its customers.

Nigeria: Digital debut - Multichoice has launched BoxOffice in Nigeria, providing digital satellite television (DSTV) services. Subscribers can rent and keep movies for up to 48 hours, for NGN 400 (USD 2.49) per movie. John Ugbe, MultiChoice Nigeria Managing Director said with BoxOffice, DSTV Premium subscribers could enjoy the latest Hollywood and Nollywood films via their Explora decoders.

Nigeria: Old cards outlawed - NCC Director of Public Affairs, Tony Ojobo, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja that it is no longer possible to register old Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards. He said that operators are now only allowed to register new SIM cards going forward. SIM card registration was launched on 28 March 2011.

Oman: Marketing media - Omantel has rolled out 'connected signage' on 80 screens nationally that allows the operator to update all marketing and promotional content in a couple of minutes. The solution allows central monitor of the screens from a central IT data centre. Vendor Anzyma has installed the digital signage network across all the Omantel outlets in all governorates. The screens are currently being used for running Omantel promotions, advertisements and new videos.

Oman: Stake sold - The government raised nearly OMR 204 million (USD 528.5 million) from the sale of a 19 percent stake in Omantel. The two-week retail part of the sale, which closed on 13 April, was 1.05 times subscribed. The institutional element, completed in March, was 1.99 times subscribed.

Qatar: Connectivity compared - Qatar is the top-ranked Arab country and listed as number 23 out of 148 developed and developing countries in the ?Networked Readiness Index? report, which was commissioned by the World Economic Forum. The report ranks Qatar ninth in the world for Internet users; eight in the world for households having access to a computer and tenth for Internet connection. Ooredoo has highlighted its contribution with the supply of services such as national Fibre Optic network to homes and businesses, 4G LTE network and High Definition Voice calls. Qatar was ranked 46th in terms of global technological innovation, with a quarter of the population employed in knowledge-intensive jobs (61st).

Qatar: Football festivities - Ooredoo has launched the Hala Football Club subscription, which provides 200 local call minutes with other Club members, for QAR 3 per week. Ooredoo launched its Football Club back in 2010 for the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The new offering is part of the company's #Koora campaign. The Hala Football Club will automatically renew every week, to end on 21 July.

Qatar: Internet incubator - Ooredoo has formed a 50-50 joint venture with German e-commerce incubator/investor Rocket Internet to create and develop businesses across online retail, marketplaces and payment services in Asia. Asia Internet Holdings will cover 15 markets in Asia including Pakistan, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Australia. The JV is expected to start operations in the second quarter of 2014. Nasser Marafih, CEO of Ooredoo Group said that a 'fundamental shift' is occurring in its markets as more goods and services are bought online using mobile phones, particularly in Asia. In December 2013 Rocket Internet formed a JV with MTN Group.

Qatar: Licence with Altitude - Last week the Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA) published a Class Licence allowing the provision of public telecom services on Qatari registered aircraft. The licence is technology neutral but systems supporting the services can only be operated when the aircraft is at an altitude of at least 3,000m. The CRA initiated a public consultation on 27 January 2014.

Saudi Arabia: Chinese collaboration - Mobily CEO Khalid Al Kaf and Yang Jie, President of China Telecom Group (CTG) met this week at Mobily's Riyadh HQ. Collaboration was the theme, with communication, IT, Cloud computing, smart cities and FTTH services discussed. The two are currently working together through CTG's affiliate CSC with regard to a fibre network.

South Africa: Downloadable digital - Discover Digital, a new video-on-demand player, plans to launch both subscription-based and transactional video-on-demand (VOD) services, as well as content kiosks. Co-founder Stephen Watson told TechCentral in an interview that the company has already designed and built a set-top box and is now developing applications for smartphones. It has also acquired the necessary facilities in a data centre in Sandton, Johannesburg.

South Africa: Netflix says no - In January, Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko told Bloomberg that he had held talks with a host of large media companies including Comcast, Bertelsmann, Naspers, and Netflix, to carry content on the telco?s fixed-line networks. In February, it invited industry to bid for the provisioning of Video on Demand (VoD) services. However, BusinessTech, reports Jonathan Friedland, Chief Communications Officer of Netflix as saying: "We have no plans yet to enter South Africa. " Vodacom has also been linked with possible talks.

South Africa: Potholes positioned - A new Find & Fix mobile application will enable the reporting of potholes, faulty traffic signals, storm water drains, manhole covers, and other infrastructure issues in the Johannesburg Road Agency (JRA) jurisdiction. Skhumbuzo Macozoma, MD of JRA said: "The app is the first of its kind to be launched in the Southern Hemisphere, Middle East, Asia, and Africa regions. Another African first for Joburg ". The beta app for Microsoft platforms has been available from 25 April; the Android version from 2 May and for iOS from 9 May.

South Africa: Smart city solutions - PCCW Global has signed a collaboration agreement with Chinese real state specialist Shanghai Zendai, to provide technology and telecom services to assist in Zendai's development of a smart city in Modderfontein, Johannesburg. PCCW Global, as the strategic technology partner, will provide Zendai with a range of services including systems development and solutions integration, application development and management, telecommunications and information technology services, cloud computing services and e-commerce services.

Sudan: 3G first - MTN has launched HSPA+ and so is the first operator to launch a 3G network in the country. MTN Sudan's Chief Marketing Officer Syed Ahsan Ul-Haq said: "We have launched this ahead of many other advanced economies around the world ". The 42 Mbps offering is currently available in greater Khartoum. MTN network infrastructure is being upgraded so provide national coverage.

Tunisia: On the case - Clearly stung by the suggestion that it might not have promoted the introduction of Mobile Number Portability as quickly as it could, INTT (Instance Nationale des Telecommunications) has issued a statement. It said that it 'has taken all necessary steps in accordance with the regulations for the implementation of the service number portability as soon as possible'. The INTT went onto to say that it attaches particular importance to number portability as it is in the interests of both the consumer and business clients, and will see increased competition in the market.

Tunisia: Rebrand rolled-out - Tunisiana is now Ooredoo. The new brand was applied virtually overnight, transforming all customer touch points including all the direct channels nationally, with the rebranding of all third party shops due to be completed in just four weeks. Ooredoo is investing in high-speed networks, including the nationwide 3G mobile broadband network, and is rolling-out the next generation fibre network in central business districts. It launched the Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone on 15 April, and is to launch affordable Ooredoo-branded smartphones. Ooredoo had a 75 percent stake in Tunisiana and subsequently agreed on 31 December 2012 to acquire an additional 15 percent stake. The remaining 10 percent is held by the Tunisian authorities.

United Arab Emirates: A2P messaging - du is to partner with Nexmo. The deal will facilitate the delivery of high value and business critical services to du?s subscribers through application-to-person (A2P) messaging. Nexmo?s Cloud-to-Mobile solutions provide Cloud APIs enabling app developers, online providers and enterprises to reach customers and devices via mobile messaging and voice. Nexmo?s cloud communication offerings will utilise message termination services for A2P traffic. In addition, Nexmo will assist du with messaging fraud and spam prevention.

United Arab Emirates: Outlet opened - Etisalat has opened a new outlet in Al Ain. Etisalat Chairman Eissa Mohamed Al Suwaidi and ETISALAT UAE CEO Saleh Al Abdooli formally opened it.

Zimbabwe: Econet efficiencies - Steward Bank has lain off 127 employees, or 40 percent of its establishment, to cut costs as it continues to reform the institution more to its liking. Formerly known as TN Bank, the enterprise was fully acquired by Econet Wireless in January 2013 and is setting out to achieve its objective of being a 'top 5' bank in by 2017. Staff costs at USD 5.06 billion represented 39 percent of total operating expenses in the 1H 2013, compared to 34 percent in the same period of 2012.