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News in Brief 18 June 2014

Africa: Towers in tranches - Airtel has split the sale of its 15,000 tower portfolio into four blocks to maximise yield. It was first reported in November 2013 that Bharti Airtel was selling its African towers with the aim of raising around USD 2 billion, which would help it reduce its debt. The MoneyControl Website reports that the George Soros-backed Helios Towers is likely to get the largest block. The deal is expected to close in the first week of July.

Africa & Middle East: Ericsson executive - Ericsson has named Rafiah Ibrahim as the new President and head of region Middle East and North East Africa. Hans Vestberg, President and CEO of Ericsson, said Ibrahim had a relevant knowledge of the Middle East and North East Africa market. Ibrahim has more than 30 years? experience from the telecoms industry of which 18 are with Ericsson. Past positions include country Manager of Bangladesh, head of global customer units as well as head of former market unit North Africa with responsibility for business in 11 countries.

Africa & Middle East: Intelligence insight - On 6 June 2014 Vodafone Group published its first Law Enforcement Disclosure report providing an insight into the legal frameworks, governance principles and operating procedures associated with responding to demands for assistance from law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Of the 29 countries dealt with, nine are in Africa and the Middle East, thus: DRC, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Qatar, South Africa, Tanzania and Turkey. Vodafone hopes to update it annually and it is online.

Angola: Mobile milestone - Unitel has achieved 10 million subscriber milestone. Tony Dolton, CEO of Unitel, said it was 'a real historic moment for the company'. He added that Unitel is now 'on the top list of mobile operators in Africa'. Unitel International has recently set up operations in Sao Tome and Príncipe, its second international operation after Cape Verde in the end of 2012. It has an establishment of 2,500 making it the biggest private company. Unitel has recently trialled LTE-Advanced, and it has previously delivered 3G, 3,5G and 4G networks.

Bahrain: Claim calculated - The High Court in London last week allowed the claim of Batelco Group against Siva Ltd, the Mumbai Mirror reported. The court awarded Batelco USD 184.8 million together with a further US USD 30,000 per day from 1 November 2012. The dispute arose after S Tel, a JV between Batelco and Siva Ltd, had its 2G licence cancelled by India's Supreme Court in February 2012. Batelco initiated legal proceedings claiming that Chinnakannan Sivasankaran, the owner of Siva, had not enforced a settlement agreement regarding the JV.

Botswana: Proposals please - The Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) is inviting Licensed Telecommunications Service Providers to express interest in the provision of fast and reliable broadband Wi-Fi Hotspots in Shopping Malls, Airports, Hospitals and other strategic public areas. The project shall be implemented in phases, each phase being rolled out in a period of a year. Phase 1 of the project is to cover Gaborone; Mahalapye; Palapye; Serowe; Francistown; Maun; and Kasane. Proposals should be submitted on or before 17:00 hrs on Monday 30 June 2014. The documentation can be downloaded here.

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Central African Republic: Terrorist texts - At the start of June the Ministry of Telecommunications said that text messages were considered a security threat and their use has been suspended as from 2 June 2014. Subscribers who attempt to send a text are reported to be getting the message: 'SMS not allowed'. There has been a resurgence of violence in the capital Bangui, as well as a call for a general strike relayed by SMS, in late May.

Cote d'Ivoire: Motivated MTN - MTN is to spend some XAF 120 billion CFA francs (USD 247.7 million) to upgrade its network spread over the next three years, with some XAF 40 billion being spent this year. MTN Cote d'Ivoire CEO Wim Vanhelleputte said at the inauguration of a new data centre in the commercial capital Abidjan in early June: "We want to be first ". The CEO claimed it had a market share of 37 percent, and was targeting 'at least' 40 percent. It claims to have some 1,000 km of fibre in Abidjan.

East Africa: Redundant ring - Liquid Telecom claims to have completed construction of its East Africa Fibre Ring, which connects Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania before returning to Kenya. It is the first fully redundant regional fibre ring. The ring brings much needed redundancy to the nations concerned, and will greatly reduce the impact of a cable cut, as an alternative route exists. CEO Nic Rudnick said the ring forms part of the company's Pan-African fibre network.

Egypt: Bigger backbone - Etisalat Misr is to deploy Huawei Technologies NE5000E 400G core routers to provide an upgraded and expanded backbone network.

Egypt: Tower transaction - Mobinil has short-listed four firms as it prepares to sell its transmission tower network. Amwal Alghad reported Managing Director Ive Gotieh as saying that the final selection will be announced by the end of July. The list includes some firms already operating in Egypt. Mobinil reported loses of some EGP 177 million (USD ) in 1Q14.

Ghana: Cable-cut conundrum - Tigo Ghana is tackling the problem of cuts in underground cables...by putting them above ground. It said it is investing USD 44.2 million to upgrade its networks, between now and October, Telecom.paper reported. The program will see the creation of an overhead fibre network between Takoradi and Kumasi. Future phases will include investment in additional coverage and capacity for Tigo's voice and Internet services as well as the upgraded and Tigo stores.

Ghana: Rural reward - The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is to award Ghana for bridging the communication gap in rural communities, the myjoyonline Website has reported. The substantial rise in lines between 2003 and 2014, coupled with pragmatic programs by successive governments are some of the factors leading to this success. The last community to benefit from Ghana's rural telephony project is Tuluwe in the Northern Region, about two weeks ago. The ITU?s WSIS Project Prize 2014 Award in Rural Telephony was presented last week.

Kenya: Consumers go to court - The Consumers Federation of Kenya (Cofek) is petitioning the High Court to stop the issuing of mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) licences. The petition claims that the licences were awarded illegally while disregarding consumer interests. ITWeb reports that stakeholder and public consultations were not undertaken. Cofek has also queried the legality of the three MVNOs to provide mobile money services without clearance of the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK). The petition will be heard on 26 June.

Kenya: Secure surveillance - Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) Director General Francis Wangusi is optimistic that Safaricom can deliver a national security surveillance system, according to Capital FM. The comments were made to the National Assembly's Administration and National Security Committee last week. It will be fully under the control of the National Police Service. This week Interior Principal Secretary Mutea Iringo will be quizzed on how the award was made. CEO Bob Collymore said in a statement: "In the interests of transparency, Safaricom Limited welcomes the move by the Parliamentary Committee on Security and Administration to scrutinise the deal and we would therefore like to assure Parliament of our full cooperation during [the] life of the probe. "

Nigeria: Cellmast compensation - Odukpani Community in Cross River State is readying for legal action against Globacom for failing to pay NGN 360 million (USD 2.199 million) as compensation for two deaths after a mast collapsed on 19 March. Chairman of the Odukpani Local Government Council Bassey Asuquo Eyo was reported by HumanIPO as saying: "All overtures to Globacom to compensate the community has failed, it has been decided that the court should settle the matter once and for all ".

Nigeria: Retailer remorse - Retailer Tatacoms Integrated Resources has won its case in the Delta State High Court against MTN Nigeria. It had sued for unilateral termination of its contract, and was awarded NGN 20 million (USD 122,175). The court also awarded NGN 20,000 in costs to Tatacoms. Tatacoms Integrated operated an MTN Connect Store. MTN said Tatacoms failed to lodge monies collected on its behalf when due; did not properly manage the third party outlet and carried out an unauthorised SIM swap, among others. Tatacoms claimed it was not given an opportunity to respond to the complaint.

Oman: Polish partner - The Times of Oman has reported that the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) and the Polish Office of Electronic Communications have signed a memorandum of understanding which will see further co-operation between the two agencies. The MoU will encourage the adoption of regulatory aspects in the two countries, including the management of radio spectrum and allocation of new frequency bands. It also aims to boost the quality of mobile Internet, as well as the development of mobile networks to provide services for mobile access to the Internet and obtaining data sources.

Qatar: ICT input - Vodafone Qatar has become a sector member of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and will participate in ITU's Telecommunication Standardisation Sector (ITU-T). The ITU-T's work is undertaken by the Study and Working Groups, in which sector members develop recommendations for ICT.

Rwanda: Free facility - MTN Rwanda is offering subscribers free access to Wikipedia. Subscribers can now enjoy unlimited access at no cost to Wikipedia via its 2G and 3G services. Ebenezer Asante, MTN Rwanda's CEO, said it had previously launched other services relevant to its users such as Magic Voice and 'believe the innovation of Wikipedia will put Rwanda on the map'. He added that Wikipedia Zero was a 'vital component' in MTN?s mobile strategy.

Rwanda: Payment precedent - Tigo Rwanda has announced its parent, Millicom, now has a controlling stake in RSwitch, a provider of bank-to-bank payment switching services. The stake was acquired from Frankfurt-based African Development. Tigo has claimed a 'world first', with a telco acquiring a national payment switch. RSwitch holds one of two switching licences in Rwanda. Millicom has over 7 million subscribers in African with access to mobile financial services (MFS).

Saudi Arabia: Asian alliance - Saudi Telecom Company (STC) is the newest member of the Bridge Alliance, which it has joined to leverage collaboration in regional enterprise mobility services and M2M. With STC's membership, the Alliance now has 36 operators with a combined customer base of over 660 million mobile subscribers. Bridge Alliance is the leading mobile alliance in Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa.

Senegal: Portability launch latest - The former DG of regulator Autorite de Regulation des Telecommunications et des Postes (ARTP), Abou Lo, has said he recently signed a decision on guidelines for Mobile Number Portability, according to HumanIPO. This initiates the process of selecting a service provider to manage the single platform. ARTP had previously said that it was conducting a public consultation, with MNP expected to be launched by October 2014.

South Africa: Wireless hopeful - French-based WiFi carrier Nomosphere has opened of its first international subsidiary in Johannesburg, South Africa, according to the BusinessTech Website. Nomotech Group claims to be the largest wireless access provider in France, owning approximately 60 percent of the mobile base stations in the country; its subsidiary wireless ISP Ozone has over 42,000 subscribers (a market share of nearly 50 percent). Nomosphere said that its WiFi solution is powered by carrier-grade WiFi hardware from Xirrus, Ruckus Wireless, and Cisco; and proprietary open-access and network monitoring solutions.

Tunisia: Hotel hosting - Hotel, industry and retail group M'hiri has signed a global agreement with Tunisia Telecom (TT) on 5 June. TT will supply the Group with mobile and fixed telephony solutions to optimise its communication budget; provide secure Data Services interconnecting all its sites via broadband; and provide fibre to its hotel sites and new cloud solutions for hosting, messaging and collaborative work.

United Arab Emirates: Seamless solution - Etisalat has partnered with UAE Exchange to offer seamless payment solutions. Ahmed M Al Awadi, Chief Financial Officer at Etisalat, said: "...we are excited about our partnership with UAE Exchange that allows us to leverage our partner?s extensive network across the UAE and widen our customers? options for routine activities such as bill payments and subscription renewals. " The partnership increases Etisalat customers? choice of cash collection centres to the 132 UAE Exchange branches.

Zimbabwe: Fund transfer facilitated - Econet and WorldRemit have launched a new international remittance service that allows the transfer of funds to an EcoCash wallet in Zimbabwe. Anyone in the 35 markets that WorldRemit operates from will be able to transfer money directly to an EcoCash wallet. The transfers will be made using credit or debit cards via the WorldRemit Website. TechZim notes that the EcoCash logo appeared on the WorldRemit Website some months ago. WorldRemit has similar deals with mobile operators in Kenya, Ghana, Ethiopia, etc.

Zimbabwe: TV targeted - Econet Wireless is planning to launch its pre- and post paid 'ipidia' TV service. TechZim reports that the post of marketing director has been advertised. The service will feature a set-top box and the service will be targeted against premium TV offerings.