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News in Brief 27 August 2014

Africa: Top ten - Markets tipped for strong growth are the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Madagascar, Mozambique, Senegal, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, according to the Arab Advisors Group. It finds that mobile adoption in these ten markets grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21 percent between 2009 and 2013. It forecasts CAGR of 9 percent between 2014 and 2018.

Africa: Tower transactions - After selling some 3,100 telecom towers in July located in four African countries to Helios Towers Africa, Airtel has some 14,500 towers left in its African portfolio. Airtel is reported to be in advanced stage talks with American Tower Corporation (ATC) and Eaton Towers for the sale of the remaining towers, located variously in Nigeria, Ghana and Uganda.

Africa & Middle East: Security weakness - Enterprise security firm Palo Alto Networks has conducted research highlighting security risks in the internal storage used by applications on Google Android devices. More than 94 percent of popular Android applications used in the Middle East and Africa are potentially vulnerable; Android has the largest market share of all platforms in AME at 40 percent. Sensitive information can be hacked on an Android device using the Android Debug Bridge (ADB) backup/restore function. In addition, most of the security enhancements added by Google can be bypassed.

Cameroon: Disruptive arrival - Orange has anticipated the launch of Nextell Cameroon (was Viettel) by raising its game with regard to its near 6 million pre-paid subscribers. Nextell is due to launch in September. Orange says it is focusing on retention through quality service, affordable rates, and customer service. However Orange has been experiencing quality of service issues, whilst Nextell starts with 3G exclusivity.

Israel: Bezeq bonds - Bezeq has raised ILS 1.5 billion (USD 423 million) through an extension of two existing bond series. It initially planned to raise ILS 700 million (USD 197.4 million) but due to strong demand in the offering to investment institutions, the volume of the offering reached ILS 1.15 billion. The extended series were Series 6 of index-linked bonds with an effective interest rate at issue of 1.73 percent and Series 7 of shekel-denominated bonds whose price reflected a 2 percent effective interest rate.

Kenya: Commissions calculated - M-Pesa agents earned commissions of KES 10.6 billion (USD 118.1 million) in the year ending March 2014, representing 40 percent of revenue, the Business Daily reported. The agents' take grew by a quarter from KES 8.5 billion (USD 94.7 million) in 2013. Drivers were an increase in M-Pesa subscribers and a rapid increase in the average number of transactions per customer. The agency commission rate is 40 percent. M-Pesa turned over KES 26.5 billion last year, or almost a fifth of Safaricom's total turnover. M-Pesa outlets now total 81,025, and the average agent earned a commission of KES 131,868 (USD 1,469) last year.

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Mauritius: Bharat broadband - Bharat Telecom is underway with the second phase of its fibre optical deployment. Phase one focused on the south, taking in the airport, Plaisance, Rose-Belle, Chemin-Grenier and Bel Ombre. Work started in June 2014, and is due for completion in March 2015. Since 2013, ZEOP, the Mauritius Telecom and Emtel have also laid cable. Meanwhile the government has been deploying Wi-Fi nationally.

Morroco: Upgrade financed - Meditel has borrowed some MAD 1.4 billion (USD 165.8 million). The bank loan is to finance 4G technology, as competitors Maroc Telecom and Inwi are already ahead. The chosen vendor is Huawei. In February Méditel announced an investment of MAD 4 billion (USD 473.7 million) for the upgrading if its 3G mobile network, to be completed in late 2015, using Single RAN technology (single radio access network) that places 2G and 3G services on a single platform. Meditel expects its coverage to rise from 51 to 99 percent.

Nigeria: Authorised agents - Globacom is due to launch a mobile money agency network under the Glo Xchange banner. Glo is partnering with licensed mobile money operators, Firstmonie, Ecobank and Stanbic IBTC.

Nigeria: Phone partnership - Infinix Mobility has launched its Infinix Zero smartphone, partnering with online retailer Konga.com. Buyers of the Infinix Zero on Konga will enjoy up to 500MB data monthly for the next 12 months from Etisalat Nigeria. The Infinix Zero comes with an octa-core 1.4GHz processor, 13 megapixel camera with Sony Exmor RS sensor, 5-inch IPS screen with 1280x720 resolution, 16GB ROM and 2GB RAM. The device runs on the 4.4.2 Android operating system.

South Africa: Management slim-down for MTN? - MTN could be planning to reduce its management staff by some 850 posts, according to Agency Ecofin. The remarks are attributed to a South African union leader. South African revenues for 1H14 were down 7 percent compared to the same period in 2013.

South Africa: Share suffers - MTN has continued to lose market share to Cell C and Telkom, according to Blue Label Telecoms. My Broadband reported that MTN has seen its market share fall a further 3 percent over the past six months, from 32 percent in 2013, to 29 percent for the period ended May 2014. Vodacom remained stable at 50 percent, while Cell C rose to 19 from 17 percent before, and up from 8 percent a year ago. Telkom has doubled to 2 percent, from a low base.

South Africa: Wholesale adjustment - Telkom has cut the price of its 20Mbps and 40Mbps VDSL wholesale products, according to a report by Techcentral. Telkom CTO Alphonzo Samuels was reported as saying it will publish their new fibre-to-the-home prices in October, and that the first services will be launched in 4Q14. Telkom said it had reduced the wholesale prices of its 20Mbit/s connection by 22 percent and its 40 Mbit/s connection by 37 percent. Telkom said in June 2014 that it planned to roll out FTTH connectivity to over twenty South African suburbs before the end of 2014.

Tanzania: Comms tower commissioned - Airtel Tanzania has expanded network coverage in Uvinza district (Kigoma region) following the commissioning of a new tower in Sigunga village. Airtel is targeting the upcountry areas of western Tanzania, and in particular the rural districts.

United Arab Emirates: Diverse data - Etisalat last week launched its ?Global Data Plan? giving post-paid mobile users local data, roaming data and unlimited Wi-Fi in a single package. It includes 10GB data for local use, 1GB of roaming data, unlimited local WiFi and unlimited roaming eWiFi for only AED 500 (USD 136) per month. The 1 GB roaming data can be used on Etisalat?s network of 248 roaming partners in 106 countries. Etisalat's Chief Marketing Officer, Khaled ElKhouly, said it was the first plan in the UAE that combines local and roaming data.

Zimbabwe: Destination for deposits - EcoCash is claiming to be the recipient of more than 60 percent of all money transfers made to Zimbabwe through WorldRemit. WorldRemit and Econet Wireless announced a partnership to promote EcoCash as an option for money transfers on 11 June 2014. WorldRemit's founder and CEO, Ismail Ahmed said: "Zimbabwe is one of 9 countries in the world where more people use mobile money than have bank accounts. " Ecocash launched in 2011 and currently has in excess of 4 million subscribers. It is claimed that 43 percent of the country's annual GDP moves through the service.