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News in Brief 30 October 2014

Africa: Marginal fixed - Fixed lines account for only 3.6 percent of the African telecoms market, according to analyst house Frost & Sullivan, which says mobile has captured 96.4 percent of the subscriber market. It attributes the low take-up to state-owned telcos dominating the line market, and the associated lack of investment.

Angola: Cable customer - TeliaSonera International Carrier (TSIC) and Angola Cables have signed an IP Transit agreement that will enhance regional connectivity to TSIC?s customer base along the West African coast using Angola Cables? submarine cable assets. Under the agreement, facilitated by pre-sales and fibre consulting agency, AP Telecom, Angola Cables will invest in high performance infrastructure which will help address a burgeoning demand for internet access across the African continent.

Angola: Consultant bows-out - Detecon completed its restructuring of Angola Telecom (AT) at the end of September. It said that 'vital steps' had been taken during the three-year contract to improve service delivery. A new organisational structure and infrastructure improvement programmes were implemented. The service portfolio was updated and extended. AT improved its revenue collection rate. Network stabilisation and a customer-centric operational model formed the basis of revenue growth in 2013. AT has resumed operational responsibilities.

Central African Republic: Village network - Thuraya Telecommunications is working with SOS Children?s Villages to bring satellite connectivity by donating public calling office units, SatSleeves and Thuraya IP+ broadband terminals along with SIM cards and airtime. The gear will be used for communications between villages, which are too far inland to be reached by coastal fibre networks. SOS Children?s Villages will also use the donation to co-ordinate emergency preparedness and responses.

Cote d'Ivoire: Bank mandate - Mobile money facilities provided by mobile phone operators has been described as 'unfair competition' by participants at a conference of African bankers last week in Abidjan. It was claimed that non-bank players performed operations that were the province of credit institutions, without being subject to the same regulations as banks. The conference called for greater vigilance by the regulators to prevent the uncontrolled development of such players and so compromise the primary function of banks. Some fifteen countries participated.

Djibouti: Northern hub - The Djibouti Data Center (DDC), with its connections to eight submarine cables, is planning to facilitate connections to Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Somalia. Anthony Voscarides, Chief Executive of Djibouti Data Center was quoted as saying: "The Djibouti market itself may be small, but the DDC serves as a unique gateway hub to the many millions of customers in these neighbouring east Africa countries ". The company launched services in March 2013 in partnership with Djibouti Telecom and will connect to at least three more cables on the Europe/Asia route in 2015.

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Egypt: Internet investment sought - Minister of Telecommunications Atef Helmy said investment of USD 5-6 billion is required to construct a broadband Internet backbone and some USD 3 billion to build seven technology parks to which it hopes to attract multinationals, Reuters reported. An economic summit to encourage investment is to be held in February 2015 in Sharm al-Sheikh.

Kenya: Corporate compensation - Orange has launched a reward scheme for its corporate clients, who will earn a point for every KES 10 (USD 0.11) they spend. The points can be redeemed to pay bills for post paid Orange Mobile lines or to purchase airtime and devices. Corporate Ziada points will expire after two years from the time they are earned.

Kenya: Pricing probe - The Competition Authority of Kenya wants to probe pricing and conditions of USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) access in the telecoms market. It believes that there may be constraints to competition. In a press statement last week it said: "Preliminary market assessments in Kenya suggest there may be constraints to competition from access to USSD services ".

Kenya: Timely taxes - Citizens can now pay their taxes by mobile money after Bharti Airtel partnered with the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA). Airtel users can now inquire for KRA services, generate KRA payment reference numbers (PRN or an e-slip/invoice number) and make payments through Airtel Money by dialling short code *572#. Taxes paid this way will be cleared, processed and credited to the KRA account in real-time. Ironically, rival Safaricom which operates the M-Pesa mobile money service, has, for the seventh year in a row, been named as the largest taxpayer in the 2013/2014 financial year.

Kuwait: Sustainability survey - Zain Group has published its third annual Sustainability Report entitled ?Transparency: The key to a Wonderful World?. The 2013 Report notes the expansion of battery and hybrid solutions deployed by Zain from 141 in 2012, to 212 in 2013, along with the deployment of 795 right-sized generators and 457 outdoor cabinets to improve energy efficiency. Details are here.

Malawi: Advanced airtime - Over the last 30 days in excess of 200,000 TNM subscribers have used its Pasavute service on a daily basis. This figure equates to almost 20 percent of the active user base just six months from launch. The service allows subscribers to buy airtime in advance and pay for the airtime voucher at a later stage. Subscribers are only offered Advance Airtime loans in line with their spending patterns thereby ensuring that they do not extend themselves financially.

Oman: Positive performance - Nawras has reported that its revenue for the 3Q14 stood at OMR 57.8 million (USD 150.1 million), up 13.9 percent year-on-year. EBITDA was OMR 31.2 million (USD 81.0 million), up 27.3 percent year-on-year, while net profit was up 35.9 percent to OMR 10.8 million (USD 28.0 million). Mobile and fixed subscribers stood at 2.514 million, up 6.5 percent year-on-year.

Qatar: Entertainment expansion - Ooredoo Qatar and the GMA Network are to add a further 15 channels to the recently launched My GMA package on Mozaic TV. The My GMA package offers Pinoy TV entertainment content for the estimated 342,000 Filipinos residing in Qatar. The package costs QAR 99 (USD 27) per month. The new channels will be available to all existing and new My GMA subscribers at no additional charge.

Qatar: Military radio - Thales is to supply the military with a satellite communications system. The ground segment will provide ground and naval forces with a long-range communications capability. The network complements existing military radio communications systems. Thales's System 21 technology will provide secure, high-data-rate transmissions. The Network Operations Centre, also provided by Thales, will be used for planning and managing the complete system, which will be operated by the armed forces.

Rwanda: Agency promotion - Airtel money agents are to get double commission for any transactions made as part of the 'The best things in life are free' promotion directed at the over 4,000 Airtel money agents, according to Teddy Bhullar, the Airtel Rwanda's Managing Director. About 70 percent of the telcos over 1.1 million subscribers have Airtel money accounts according to Bhullar. Phillip Onzoma, is the head of Mobile Commerce and Enterprise business at Airtel Rwanda.

Saudi Arabia: Games galore - Mobily has partnered with mobile social gamer PlayPhone. Branded PlayZon, the social game store will launch to nearly 200 million mobile subscribers in the Middle East and North Africa region starting with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates with rollout to more countries planned. Khalid Al Kaf, CEO of Mobily said: it was 'constantly looking' for ways to enhance the customer experience, and 'offering the world?s most popular games with never-before social features to an already social-engaged user base' was an obvious development.

Senegal: Social survey - The National Agency of Statistics and Demography (ANSD) is undertaking a household survey in the latter half of October 2014, using what it claims are new technologies for mobile data collection. The survey is being conducted in collaboration with the World Bank. There will be an initial baseline survey, following which a call centre will be used for data collection by mobile phone on a monthly basis on social themes.

Sierra Leone: Top brass summoned - The National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM) has to appear before parliament, as concerns were expressed about its accounts for the year under review. Last week a delegation consisting of junior managers appeared before parliament but were told that the senior management were required to attend.

South Africa: Acquisitions announced - Dimension Data said last week that it had acquired Agile Business Solutions and Xpedia Fusion, which provide a variety of Oracle software products and services. Both are privately owned companies. The move will expand Dimension Data?s Oracle products and services, and Dimension Data will gain 72 Oracle experts. Xpedia has clients in East and West Africa and in Southern Africa.

South Africa: Business broadband - Telkom has recently launched SmartInternet Unlimited aimed at business users seeking unlimited mobile data. Telkom said it would reliably offer 2Mbps over the mobile network. The package offers fixed monthly pricing, with no coverage restrictions. As with all uncapped packages, an acceptable usage policy will apply. This means that if a customer exceeds 100GB per month, their download speeds will be throttled. The charge is ZAR 1,699 (USD 155) per month for a 24-month contract (router included).

South Africa: Buyers lined-up - According to Vox Telecom CEO Jacques du Toit the search for a buyer is 60 percent complete, and he expects the deal to be concluded before the end of the year. My Broadband reports interested parties include a mix of private equity players and international companies; Reunert, Altron and Seacom are current favourites.

South Africa: Reversed charges - MTN subscribers who have run out of airtime can now use the operator's Pay4Me service which allows the charges to be taken by the called party, who will be pre-notified and given the option to either accept or reject the Pay4Me call. The receiver accepting the call will be charged on behalf of the caller at 99 cents per minute, charged per second, regardless of their tariff plan. If they do not take the call, they will receive an SMS notification about the missed Pay4Me call. The service was launched on 24 October, and is for on-net calls.

South Africa: Stake sales slated - The head of the National Treasury has said that the government has held exploratory talks with banks that could potentially advise it on the sale of state assets to raise cash for power utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene announced in his maiden mid-term budget speech on 23 October that stakes in listed and unlisted companies and real estate may be sold off to help meet a ZAR 225 billion (USD 20.6 billion) Eskom funding gap. The government has not identified the assets, he said.

Tanzania: Outlet opened - Vodacom Tanzania has opened a retail outlet at the Quality Centre Uchumi Shopping Mall, along Nyerere Road. Vodacom currently has over 82 retail outlets. The shop is the sixth in Temeke District. Hassan Saleh, Vodacom Tanzania Chief Officer Sales and Distribution said the aim was to take its products and services to where its customers are.

Uganda: Petrol payments - MOGAS customers can now pay for fuel at 38 stations using Airtel Money. Airtel Money Director Mr. Nuhu Kanyike said: "We are very excited to partner with MOGAS as we introduce this payment method. At Airtel, we put our customers first and partnering with well-established and constantly growing companies such as MOGAS to ease and improve their lives is testament to that ".

United Arab Emirates: Clearance required for contacless - Etisalat is readying to launch its Flous Near Field Communication mobile wallet service after its Egyptian launch. Gulf News reported Khalifa Al Shamsi, Chief Digital Services Officer for the Etisalat Group as saying: "We are waiting for UAE Central Bank?s approval to launch NFC [Near Field Communiction] services in the UAE. We are ready with the technology, [we are] just waiting for the green signal ".

United Arab Emirates: Remote home management - Etisalat has partnered with Belkin to offer home automation products on monthly payment plans. Branded WeMo, the kit consists of WiFi-equipped, motion-sensitive cameras, and connected light switches and power sockets that monitor energy consumption. Each product can be controlled via an app that works with Android and iOS devices. Etisalat is making bundles of devices available on payment plans starting at AED 99 (USD 27) per month.