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News in Brief 11 September 2014

Africa: Tigo tales - Indian-based value-added service provider One97 Communication has launched an audio story portal in partnership with Tigo. Tigo users in Senegal, Tanzania and Rwanda can dial into the portal. The platform will remember user language preferences, bookmark incomplete stories and will add new stories every week. One97 Communications claims these stories are written and voiced by locals and recorded in its own studio in Africa.

Algeria: Interconnect inquest - The Regulatory Authority is now seeking public comment on the procedures for handling interconnection disputes and associated arbitration between operators. This follows recent developments in the postal sector as well as the emergence of new players and the emergence of new forms of interaction between the various operators and service providers.

Burkina Faso: Monsoon monitoring by mobile - The Rain Cell Africa consortium are claiming a reliability rate of 95 percent for detecting rainfall events using data gathered by mobile networks. The results have been aired in the Geophysical Research Letters journal. The system takes advantage of the fact that water reduces the radio signal transmitted between two antennae. The project involved operator Telecel Faso, researchers from the Lame laboratory at the University of Ouagadougou GET and LTHE. Data on the reduction of the radio signal recorded during the monsoon of 2012 was utilised.

Cape Verde: Library lottery - Regulator ANAC has called for Bids for the development of Library Management Software. Bids for the development of Library Management Software have been called for by regulator ANAC. The deadline for submission of proposals is on 6 October 2014. Details are here and here.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Capital sales centre - Tigo DRC has opened a new sales centre in Kinshasa. The centre features free Wi-Fi and will also serve as a customer service point. Tigo also used the opportunity to promote Yebela Cash, which allows Tigo subscribers to earn money every week as a bonus by consuming airtime. Yebela Cash also allows customers to save money, buy airtime, send money to their relatives, and withdraw money earned in a Tigo cash store.

Djibouti: Data centre diploma - The Djibouti Data Centre (DDC) has been recognised as lowering regional carrier Internet accessibility, says research firm Frost and Sullivan, who have awarded it with their Enabling Technology Leadership award. It noted that the DDC is the 'only data centre facility in East Africa with access to all major international fibre optic cable systems connecting Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific with Africa'. It offers cable head access and provides backhaul services, virtual point of presence (vPOP) options as well as the Djibouti Internet Exchange Point (DjIX).

Ghana: Consumer conduit - The National Communications Authority (NCA) has published its second edition of ?Consumer Watch?. The first edition was published in the Daily Graphic of 10 October 2013. With a twice-yearly publication frequency, the journal aims at keeping the general public informed on the Authority?s activities. The current issue deals with the Harmonised Short Codes; Education on unwanted Text Messages and Calls; Addresses of the Authority?s Regional Offices and Mobile Telephony Tariffs as at August 2014. The publication can be accessed here.

Ghana: Cost of cable cuts - The Ghana Telecommunications Chamber reports that, on average, seven fibre cuts are recorded daily by operators, and telcos have spent some GHS 80 million in the last three years making repairs to the cut fibre. In 2011 there were some 480 cuts, and the number has risen to 2,110 in 2013. In the first half of 2014 some 1,304 cuts have been reported. In the same period MTN recorded 436 cuts covering a total length of 4,336 kilometres.

Ghana: Rollout recommended - Surfline Communications, the first operator to provide a 4G LTE network, has deployed 220 sites in close proximity to each other across Accra and Tema, acquired bandwidth from three fibre optics vendors and financed a USD 100 million plus network. Surfline was one of three companies award a Broadband Wireless Access licences for five years to cover 60 percent of all district capitals. The Network of Communication Reporters has urged the other two, Blu and Goldkey Telecommunications, to roll out before the November 2014 deadline.

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Ghana: Tigo for top-ups - Users of Tigo Cash can now buy airtime for other networks for their third parties in real time. The move follows market research, which found that Tigo Cash customers and users undertake several transactions across networks, particularly money transfer and buying Tigo airtime for others. Tigo Ghana Head of Commercial and Mobile Financial Service Selorm Adadevoh said: "In line with our commitment to offer a ?Digital Lifestyle?, we have introduced this Electronic Top up service to reduce the hassle of our customers looking for scratch cards for friends and family on other networks ".

Liberia: Charitable cellco - Cellcom is responding to the medical crisis by allowing subscribers to claim a USD 0.30 daily credit for use between the hours of 6 and 9 a.m. Chief Executive Officer John Vasikaran said the 'Good morning Liberia' program allowed family members to keep in touch, whilst providing financial relief during the current crisis. Dialing *030# between 6 - 9 a.m. will inject USD 0.30 a day or close to USD 10 per month to subscribers regardless of available credit balances. Chairmen of the Board of Directors, Mr. Avi Zaidenberg noted that people might not have access to resources or have the ability to buy recharge cards

Nigeria: Customer centres - Chief executive officer, Etisalat Nigeria, Mr Matthew Willsher, said the newly-opened Abuja Experience Centre would strive to deliver outstanding customer service at every touch point. He added Etisalat had over 200 Experience Centres and other touch points, and has grown its subscriber base to 19.5 million subscribers. Director, Consumer Affairs, National Communications Commission, Hajiya Mariam Bayi noted 'it will be a great thing to see all the other network providers emulate Etisalat in providing excellent network quality and customer service.'

Nigeria: Ebola education - Airtel Nigeria and Opera Software have launched a free service providing information on the Ebola virus. The Website www.ebolafacts.com has been zero-rated, so allowing Airtel subscribers to access the site without incurring data charges. Chief Commercial Officer, Airtel Nigeria, Maurice Newa, restated Airtel?s commitment to provide relevant information on matters relating to the Ebola virus.

Nigeria: Universal university - Globacom is to host the University of Ilorin?s curriculum and academic work on its data network. The platform will be accessed through students? hand-held devices or computers. Globacom?s Chief Commercial Director, Mr. Prabhat Aggarwal said that: '...given our wide network running on microwave infrastructure, optic fibre rings and the Glo 1 submarine cable, it will not be difficult to provide integrated voice and data services to your community for academic and administration ".

Oman: Broadband for Batinah - Nawras has launched its 4G/LTE Home Broadband services for pre- and post-paid users. The monthly plans come in a great range of options, starting with an entry level bundle offering 10 GB for OMR 15 (USD 39); 25 GB for OMR 19 (USD 49); 75 GB for OMR 23 (USD 60) and 150 GB for OMR 33 (USD 85). Feras Al Sheikh, Nawras Director of Consumer Sales, said that the Batinah coast and large parts of Muscat are now covered by LTE Home Broadband and it plans to roll out to the entire Sultanate over the coming months. Nawras has spent more than OMR 95 million (USD 246 million) on upgrading its network.

Oman: Nominal numbers - The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has said that mobile phone numbers cannot be re-sold, as they are the property of the government. According to the Muscat Daily, the regulator said that people own a number but do not have the right to sell them, as the numbers are a public resource. The TRA also said that it reserves the right to withdraw any number allocated to the user if deemed to be in the public interest. Trading numbers or relinquishing their use is considered a legal violation that is punishable as per the Telecommunication Regulatory Act, with fines or a possible goal sentence.

Palestine: New member - The SAMENA Telecommunications Council last week welcomed new member PALTEL Group. Mr. Bocar BA, CEO of the SAMENA Council said: "We are aware of the challenges telecom operators like PALTEL Group must constantly encounter to be able to realise greater investment value and provide excellent service to their customers. In order to bolster its investment efforts in technology expansion and development across the ICT industry, we shall extend all possible support to PALTEL Group as our valued member. " PALTEL started operations in Palestine in 1997 as a public shareholding company. Mobile unit Jawwal currently serves over 2.63 million mobile subscribers and covers 95 percent of the territory. SAMENA stands for South Asia - Middle East - North Africa (SAMENA).

South Sudan: All together - Zain South Sudan has launched a multimedia campaign, with the theme 'We are'. For the duration of the campaign free talk-time is being offered between midnight and midday. Zain's initial campaign in 2013 took the 'I am' theme, which showed Zain's growing product portfolio. Scenes of education, community building, and youth feature in the latest campaign.

South Africa: Multiple mouthpieces - Telkom Business last week launched its Single Number service. Users can now connect fixed-line numbers to multiple phones, including mobile devices. The service provides a simultaneous ringing option so that all connected phones ring at the same time, allowing the most convenient device to be used to take the call. Phones can be added and removed using a self-service portal. There is a once-off activation fee of ZAR 30 (USD 2.80) and a monthly subscription that starts at ZAR 99 (USD 9.25).

Tanzania: Favourable finance - Vodacom Tanzania mobile money distributors can secure loans without collateral at favourable terms, thanks to a deal with the Bank of Africa. Vodacom distributors will be able to secure loans worth up to six times their average commission earned over six months. Distributors will be entitled to take a loan worth TZS 10 million (USD 5,882) and above while the maximum loan they can get is TZA 75 million (USD 44,115). The interest rate is 1.7 percent per month, and the loan is payable in over a year. M-Pesa now has more than 70,000 agents. After paying off their initial loan, distributors can borrow amounts greater than TZS 75 million.

Tanzania: Subscriber share-out - Profits of some TZS 14.25 billion (USD 8.38 million) accumulated on the Tigo Pesa Trust Account is to be distributed to Tigo Pesa users, which it is claiming as a telco 'first', according to Tigo?s General Manager, Diego Gutierrez. Tigo Pesa currently has some 3.5 million users nationally. The Tigo Pesa Trust is an account where the funds from Tigo Pesa users have been deposited since the mobile money operations started. The Bank of Tanzania (BoT) has approved the move in a letter of Non-Objection issued in July.

Zimbabwe: Funds facilitated - Telecel Zimbabwe said last week that it had partnered with UK-based online transfer firm, Mukuru.com (Mukuru). The move is intended to facilitate payments from South Africa via its mobile money platform, Telecash. Some 3 million Zimbabweans live outside the country, most of who are in South Africa. Inbound payments from this group were put at some USD 412 million in 1H14. Funds sent via Mukuru can be collected at over 3,700 Telecash outlets or through the 5,000 ZimSwitch points of sale and automated teller machines using the Telecash gold card. Telecel has transmitted over USD 17 million through Telecash since its launch in late January, with over 600,000 of its 2.3 million subscribers using the mobile money platform.