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News in Brief 9 October 2014

Africa: Mobile music - Airtel is to partner with brand and multimedia group TRACE and international music superstar Akon to launch a mobile music challenge. Branded Airtel TRACE Music Star, it will be run in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda Zambia, Madagascar, Malawi, Nigeria, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, DRC and Gabon. The best singing talent will be identified, rewarded and entered into the competition. The six-month competition will start in early October 2014.

Africa: Streaming service - Aflix has expanded its Video-On-Demand Hollywood mobile streaming service to thirty other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Android mobile video subscription and PPV app is now available in Angola, Botswana, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia and Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritania, Mayotte, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome & Principe, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It launched in Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana in August.

Algeria: VSAT network - Algerie Telecom will have to deploy VSAT services in 24 provinces in 2015, 36 in 2016 and all 48 in 2017 after it was granted a 10-year licence to build and operate a public telecom network using VSAT technology, Agence Ecofin reports. The operator will offer Internet access, broadband data transmission and emergency services.

Cameroon: Extra digit - A ninth digit is to be added to phone numbers from 21 November. Speaking to the press last week Posts and Telecommunications Minister, Jean Pierre Biyiti bi Essam, said the introduction of the new numbering plan was to address the growing number of users. MTN, Orange and Nexttel numbers will start with a 6, whilst CAMTEL's will begin with a 2. The first numbering plan was launched in 2001 when it moved from six to seven digits, and in 2007 an eighth digit was added.

Egypt: Fixed fixed? - Telecom Egypt (TE) has reported that the replacement of fibre cables as part of a technical upgrade has disrupted its fixed line services. TE spokesperson Mohamed Azab told the Daily News that the service would be restored on 1 October. Services were first disrupted in April 2014, followed by a series of outages.

Ghana: Banking benefit - The Bank of Africa (BOA) has launched a new app titled as 'B-Mobile' to enable users to access their bank accounts to check balances and transaction history, top up mobile credit or airtime for themselves and for third parties. Users will also be able to carry out intra and interbank transfers and pay their utility bills such as for post-paid electricity and DSTV/GO TV.

Ghana: Customer centric - Tigo is upgrading its customer support centres, which will now be known as ?Customer Experience Centres?. They will have dedicated areas to meet specific customer needs and allow the sampling of current phones and tablets. Three such facilities have been opened at its head office on Barnes Road, the Accra Mall and Takoradi. Head of Customer Operations at Tigo Ghana, Stephen Essien, said it was refurbishing several other shops.

Ghana: Founders get foretaste - 4G-operartor Blu Telecommunication has launched its Founders Campaign. CEO Emmanuel Collison initiated the program, aimed at recruiting the network?s first group of customers who will have free 4G access. The pilot group is expected to provide quality feedback prior to commercial launch in mid-October. Chief Commercial Officer Tara Squire said the group would be consulted from time-to-time for market research and development issues. Blu is one of three companies issued with a 4G licence.

Ghana: Major market - Vodafone Ghana has launched a youth lifestyle platform named 'Vodafone X' targeting 15 - 24 year olds. The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of Vodafone Ghana, Agnes Emefa Essah said it had extensively researched the concept which showed 'they needed a platform that speaks their language, offers them the opportunity to express themselves'. Some 60 percent of the population are under 24 years, while 18 percent are aged between 15 - 24 years.

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Ghana: Operator assistance - Tigo has been commended by Deputy Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Dela Sowah for providing ICT services to connect the Domestic Violence Secretariat. Tigo responded to a request by the Ministry, providing modems, handsets, a router and monthly airtime for a year. The Deputy Minister in a citation noted "?among others the provision of voice and data services has made it possible for us to reach over 1,000 women and youth with useful information and resources on how to keep safe, prevent violence or seek redress?"

Ghana: Promotional policy - The National Communication Authority (NCA) has drafted promotional guidelines, which will also cover packaged services offered by operators. Adom Business reports that copies of the draft have been sent to operators for their input. Recently 'Instant billing feedback' was launched to tell users what they have been charged, including calls, SMS and Internet browsing. The NCA however would like the cost to be notified prior to the activity being undertaken.

Iran: Neighbourly networking - Iran and Azerbaijan have been exploring 'new avenues' for mutual co-operation. The FarsNews reported that Deputy Minister of Communications and Information Technology (IT) Hassan Hashemi last week met with a delegation from Azerbaijan. The Azeri delegation requested broader co-operation with Iran in telecom and information technology fields.

Iraq: Mobile aid - Asiacell is to distribute 10,000 free SIM cards equipped with a free SMS notification service to provide information tailored for internally displaced people (IDPs) and refugees. Asiacell has set-up a call centre for IDPs and refugees in Sulaimanyah, and will be run by a non-governmental organisation (NGO) and supported by Asiacell. The operator is also providing clothes and other necessities for children in the Arbat Camp.

Israel: Statutory shuffle - Cellcom Israel said that following the previously reported statutory board composition requirements Rafi Bisker, Haim Gavrieli and Edith Lusky have resigned as members of the board, with effect from 21 September 2014. Discount Investment Corporation (DIC), Cellcom's controlling shareholder, designated Ami Erel as chairman, as its appointee, effective 21 September 2014, replacing Raanan Cohen who has resigned.

Jordan: Consultation called-for - Regulator TRC says that it is in the process of developing the legislative and regulatory frameworks that are 'necessary and appropriate' for the licensing and accreditation process for electronic signature service providers. TRC has initiated a three-month consultation period. Parties wishing to participate should write formally to the TRC, and include an e-mail address for further dialogue. Further details are here.

Kenya: Dual device - Telkom Kenya is now offering the Lumia 530. On 2 October Microsoft announced the launch price of KES 10,999 (USD 121); it is available from all Orange and authorised dealers. The device is available in both single SIM 3G and Dual SIM 3G variants.

Kenya: Telkom strike threat - Telkom Kenya is under pressure to review performance bonuses awarded to members of the Communication Workers Union of Kenya. The union has threatened strike action in the second week of October, whilst instructing members to reject the KES 2,000 (USD 22) offer. The Union is claiming that it is unfair for non-Cowu staff to be awarded bonuses of 50 - 75 percent of their salaries amounting to KES 30,000 - 1,000,000, whilst most of the work is done by its members.

Lesotho: Public participation - Lesotho Communications Authority is inviting comments from the public on the state of competition in the telecoms sector. Responses need to be in writing and be submitted to Incyte and LCA by the revised deadline of Friday, 17 October 2014. Further details are here.

Malawi: Back biting banned - Mr. Andrew Kumbatira has been named as the new Director General of the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA). Kumbatira was formerly Post Master General. In her welcoming remarks, Principal Secretary of Information, Tourism and Culture, Mrs. Chimwemwe Banda was quoted by BizTechAfrica as advising Kumbatira to 'carefully analyse the working environment and the role of people within the institution'. She made reference to 'backbiting', so hopefully the staff concerned will have got the message.

Middle East: Smartphone seller - IT, telecom and consumer electronics retailer and distributor Jumbo Electronics has signed an exclusive supply and services agreement with Indian smartphone brand Obi Mobiles. Jumbo will manage the distribution of Obi devices to all key retailer and independent retailer channels in the UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Iraq. Obi Mobiles is a venture launched by Singapore-based IT supply chain firm Inflexionpoint. The smartphones were launched at the end of September in the UAE.

Mobile Money: Phone payments - Paul Edwards, Chairman of EMP Group, said that around 25 percent of the global economy involves mobile payments, and 2014 has seen a 400 percent increase in global mobile payment transactions, compared to 2011. The comments were made during his keynote speech to the 5th Emerging Markets Payments Conference (EMPC) on 26-27 September.

Namibia: Cash flow crisis - The Namibian newspaper reports that Telecom Namibia has failed to pay staff only a month after it was downgraded by credit ratings agency Fitch. The salaries are paid on the 25th of the month, but payment was delayed two days. Senior manager of corporate communication and public relations, Oiva Angula, cited cash flow problems.

Nigeria: Better broadband - Phase3 Telecom in late September announced the addition of Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) to its network. The operator claimed that even in remote locations, it would be able to deliver speeds of 100 megabits per second (mbps) and above. Users with offices in different locations will be now be able to lease virtual private networks (VPNs) using routers sitting on the operator's network. Chief Executive Officer Stanley Jegede said it would facilitate the provision of affordable and reliable broadband connectivity.

Nigeria: ICT initiative - Airtel launched its rural ICT initiative four weeks ago dubbed 'Boost ICT Usage in Rural Areas'. The roadshow has visited rural communities and towns in the South East, South-South and South Delta. Communities in Abuja, Nassarawa, Adamawa, Borno, Kebbi, Zamfara, Kaduna and Niger States will be visited between 8 - 29 October.

Palestine: Entertaining English - Wataniya Mobile is partnering with Souktel and the British Council to offer a 'Learn English' service. The interactive program offers two options, a Mobile Quiz and a Word-a-Day service. Wataniya's Fayez Alhusseini said it is looking for distinctive products that target the youth market.

Qatar: Class licence consultation - ictQATAR has initiated a consultation on amendments to the Class License for Short Range Devices (SRDs) as issued in May 2010. This stipulated the frequency ranges and corresponding outputs allowed to be used for SRDs. The Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA) has decided to provide clearer information on the frequency ranges allowed to be used for a certain category of imported equipment. The amended schedule is open for consultation for a period of 30 days from 21 September. The consultation document is here.

Rwanda: Users sort - Tigo Rwanda has announced its 'Tigocashinga' campaign. The New Times reports Daniel Barrientos, Tigo Rwanda's head of mobile financial services, as saying that the aim is to win more users for Tigo's electronic payment facilities. The one-month promotion features a daily RWF 100,000 (USD 141) prize draw whenever they send money, pay bills or buy items using TigoCash.

Turkey: Streamlined Superonline - Turkcell has said it will merge affiliate Talih Ku?u Altyap? Hizmetleri A.S. (Talih Kusu) with Superonline ?leti?im Hizmetleri A.S. (Turkcell Superonline). It said that the underlying aim was to simplify the group structure, increase efficiency and reduce operational costs.