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News in Brief 20 August 2014

Angola: Asset assessed - Unitel has been valued at USD 7 billion by Brazilian company Oi, which is merging with Portugal Telecom, the Angolan weekly newspaper Expansão has reported. The information was contained in Oi?s 2Q14 results presentation, which notes the assets are to be sold. Portugal Telecom (PT) owned 25 percent of Unitel, which it helped to found in 2002 as the project?s technological partner. In 2007 PT sold 25 percent of its stake to a Nigerian fund, and PT Portugal now indirectly owns 18.75 percent of Unitel, via its subsidiary Africatel, which is valued at USD 1.313 billion.

Bahrain: Airport access - Zain Bahrain is to provide free WiFi hotspots at Bahrain International Airport. Zain Bahrain enterprise and broadband products and services manager Mohammed Al Alawi said: "Our partnership with Bahrain Airport Company fits perfectly with our commitment to enhance the telecommunications sector in the kingdom and add value to the community. "

Bahrain: Lenovo launch - China's Lenovo has launched its smartphone portfolio in Bahrain. The Gulf Daily News reports that PCs still account for nearly 80 percent of Lenovo's revenue. Lenovo's Android smartphones offered include the dual-SIM and quad-core S-series and the dual-SIM A369i. In September it will release the Vibe Z2 Pro, along with five other models. Lenovo Middle East and Africa Mobile Business Group director Shashank Sharma said that the Middle East is a strategically important market for its long-term goal to lead the personal computer plus (PC+) era.

Botswana: Deal consultation - The SundayStandard has reported that Botswana's Competition Authority is seeking comments from stakeholders on the proposed acquisition of Business Connexion (BCX) by South African operator Telkom. The merger will also need approvals in Namibia and Tanzania, the paper reports. BCX bought Ultimate Solutions, a Botswana company, which distributes brands such as HP, Lenovo and Mercer. Ultimate Solutions has three branches and a retail customer base of over 800 stores.

Botswana: Staff shares secured - Parliament has passed the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) Bill 2014. One of its provisions allows local staff to be shareholders, the Daily Times reported. The bill was tabled by the Minister of Transport and Communications, Nonofo Molefi to amend the 2008 BTC (Transition) Act. A certificate of urgency was used as the BTC listing is scheduled on the Botswana Stock Exchange for 22 August. The 2008 Act opened the allotment of shares to all staff, irrespective of their nationality. The Minister added that allowing foreign employees of BTC to procure shares was contrary to the government's intention to reserve shares for Botswana citizens only.

Congo Brazzaville: Ailing Azur - Regulator ARPCE reports there were 4.6 million mobile subscribers at the end of the second quarter 2014 (down from 4.72 million at the end of May 2014). Total revenue was put at XAF 68 billion (USD 138.9 million). Voice traffic in the quarter amounted to some 921 million minutes, both outgoing and incoming, while the volume of SMS has reached 758 million. The four mobile operators are MTN, Airtel, Warid and Azur, although the latter failed to provide data for the second quarter, and the above totals include estimated values.

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Cote d?Ivoire: Money union - MTN Mobile Money subscribers can now receive international transfers into their accounts via Western Union. This builds on an existing relationship in Uganda. Subscribers to MTN?s money service receive transactions directly on their phones in both Cote d?Ivoire and Uganda. Western Union already has almost 900 locations nationally. MTN mobile money subscribers now number 18.4 million globally at the end of June 2014.

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Cheap cellco cold-shouldered - Cheap calls have seen Africell ostracised by its rivals, who have refused it interconnection, biztechafrica reports. The operator launched in June 2012, and is currently said to have some 5.5 million subscribers (if confirmed, this would make it the third largest operator - a remarkable achievement). SIMs cost just USD 1 and it offers free SMSes, and low cost international calls. The regulator sets the prices of mobile calls and texts, which its rivals adhere to, but Chairman Mbayo Lufunga has described the strictures as ?illegal?.

Ghana: Digital districts - Over 160 districts now have mobile broadband coverage courtesy of Tigo Ghana. This is one initiative of several in the current round of investments to improve network quality. The project started in late 2013 and includes several district capitals in all 10 political regions, namely Ashanti, Greater Accra, Northern, Volta, Brong Ahafo, Western, Central, Upper East, Upper West and Eastern regions.

Iran: Faster fibre - Telecommunication Company of Tehran (TCT) has said it intends to increase bandwidth capacity to 600GB in order to meet increased demand from users, WiMAX News has reported. The Iranian Internet service provider (ISP) invested some IRR 246 billion (USD 9.23 million) in its infrastructure in the year to March 2014, and is planning an investment of IRR 311 billion (USD 11.71 million) by March 2015. In 2013 TCT laid some 780km of fibre in Tehran province, an increase of 20 percent year-on-year.

Israel: Cellcom considering - Cellcom Israel has said that the Ministry of Communications has published a hearing regarding roaming services provided to subscribers whilst travelling abroad. It is proposing to allow other Israeli operators to offer roaming services to a mobile subscriber of another operator, while abroad. This would use the subscriber's regular mobile number as well as change the way payments to roaming services are calculated, such as by requiring a 1 second unit or 1 KB unit (as applicable) for billing of roaming services while abroad and not charging for certain intervals of the call. Cellcom said it was considering the matter.

Israel: Centre compensation - The Ministry of Communications has published a hearing regarding call centre services provided to the customers of mobile operators, according to Cellcom Israel. The hearing proposes, among other things, to set new or severer criteria for centres with regard to response times, etc. In addition, the MOC proposes to amend the Israeli Communications Law and set fixed compensation in cases of failure to meet the proposed response times. It also wants to fix compensation for when a subscriber is wrongfully overcharged, which is more severe than the existing provision in the Israeli Consumer Protection Law.

Kenya: Minority microloans - The Safaricom Foundation is to invest part of its KES 250 million (USD 2.8 million) annual budget in setting up a microloan facility for young people engaged in small and medium size enterprises (SMEs). At the launch, Chairman Joseph Ogutu, noted that applicants would be tasked with creating SMEs that will enable them to pay back the microloans. Safaricom Chief Executive Bob Collymore said: "In Kenya alone one million people are released into the job market every year. We need to empower and change their mindsets from seeking for employment and support them to become job creators ".

Lesotho: TV transactions - Econet Telecom Lesotho has partnered with MultiChoice to allow the payment by DStv customers of their monthly subscription fees through Ecocash. To pay for the channels the subscriber must be a registered Ecocash subscriber, and have funds in their Ecocash wallet. Ecocash services are available at all Econet Shops, Teba, Post Offices nationally, Pick n Pay and some Engine & Total garages as well as independent agents.

Liberia: SIMs stopped - Cellcom Telecommunications is intensifying its efforts to ensure that the majority of its more than 1 million subscribers are registered. The government is stepping up efforts to register SIM cards in the wake of the Ebola virus outbreak. Cellcom's CEO Mr. John Vasikaran said it would block all unregistered numbers on its system by 7 August 2014. Cellcom has hired a large team of part time young people to carryout registration in local communities in Monrovia and adjacent areas. All new SIMs registered in August 2014 will come with 50MB of data and 50 minutes of voice calls for 24 hours.

Malawi: Peaceful phone promotion - Airtel Malawi has launched its 'Muli Bwanji?' campaign which translates as 'How are you?'. Isabel Kachinjika, Airtel's Brands and Communication Manager said: "Unlike the promotions where subscribers are involved in this particular campaign we will just be running different messages on radio, television, newspapers and different Websites about how humble and peace loving Malawians are ".

Nigeria: Apple alignment - Globacom has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Apple?s authorised distributor for Africa, Core Group. Head of Gloworld, Mrs. Titi Ebinisi, said that the partnership would also allow the combination of Apple products with Globacom?s 'super fast' Internet service, Glo Bolt. Devices now available at the Glo outlets included iPhone 5s, iPad mini and iPad air.

Nigeria: Expanding Etisalat - Fourth ranked GSM operator Etisalat has recorded 19.5 million subscribers, up from 15.3 million at the same time last year. It says it is investing some USD 300 million this year in network expansion, ThisDayLive reported. Chief Executive Officer of Etisalat Nigeria, Matthew Willsher, said the company had consistently maintained high service quality on its network since its inception in 2008. Rural communities are being targeted and it has a fleet of 7,000 base stations on 4,500 sites, with plans to increase the number of sites 5,000 by the end of 2014. Investment will be in 2G and 3G networks, but not 4G as no spectrum licence have been offered.

Nigeria: MTN Diamond deal - MTN Nigeria and Diamond Bank have jointly developed a mobile money product, the Guardian reported. The Diamond Y'ello Account is automatically opened by dialling star 710 hash. The youth and mass-market segments of the MTN subscriber base are being targeted, as well as unbanked and under-banked subscribers. The product enables the transfer of money from it to other types of account, within the bank and at other banks. Users can check their balance, withdraw cash through agents, ATMs or over the counter, and access loans. The Diamond Yello Account will also let account holders pay bills.

Rwanda: Transparent telephony - Airtel Rwanda Managing Director Teddy Bhullar, said that 'Airtel zone' offered real-time, low and transparent rates for on-net (Airtel-to-Airtel) voice calls. Calls cost from RWF 1 (USD 0.0015) per minute to a maximum of RWF 0.31 (USD 0.045) per minute, depending on the time and traffic on the network. The government imposed 10 percent tax on airtime from 8 percent in the last budget.

Saudi Arabia: Mobily renews Microsoft - Mobile operator Mobily has renewed its Microsoft Enterprise Agreement for the three years ending 2017 under parent company Etisalat's Global Framework Agreement. Mobily will be recognised as a Tier-1 Client and a member of a Multi-National Account. Microsoft has only 80 such accounts globally.

Senegal: No news - The Regulatory Authority for Telecommunications and Post (ARTP) has said that it wants to establish a partnership framework with reporters for the better dissemination and processing of information that it wants to make available to the general public. Unfortunately the meeting to update journalists on the development has been postponed.

Tunisia: Consultation cast-off - The National Telecommunications (INT) has prepared draft guidelines for its analysis of the telecommunications market. INT has therefore launched a public consultation with submissions invited by Monday, 8 September 2014. INT is asking about the procedures and frequency for conducting the analysis, as well as the methodology to be adopted for compiling the list of relevant markets for ex ante regulation (wholesale and retail). It also wants to establish which players are 'dominant'. Responses should be sent to the Forum by e-mail at the following email address: j.ikram@intt.tn

Tunisia: Dongle data - Regulator INT has launched an online survey for the 3G dongle (USB) users of the three operators. It wants to collect data on 3G coverage and quality, using indicators such as throughput, jitter, and latency measured by the users themselves through testing tools online such as Speedtest, PingTest or platform M-lab. The results of this survey will be used by INT to identify problems related to quality of service and allow the targeting of further investigations aimed at improving the overall level of Internet QoS offered via 3G dongles. The survey form is available here.

Uganda: Savings solution - Airtel Uganda, in conjunction with Grameen Foundation, has enabled Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) and other forms of savings groups, such as Chamas or investment clubs, to store their group?s cash as mobile money. The service has been facilitated by a grant from the GSMA mWomen Programme, which works with the mobile industry to increase women?s access to and use of mobiles. The Group Savings product can be linked to bank accounts at financial institutions to allow access to interest-bearing savings and credit. Credit will be dependent on saving history, and instalments can be paid from the group wallet.