News in Brief 11 February 2015

  

Afghanistan: Site assessed - The Ministry of Communications and IT has conducted a poll of visitors to its updated Website. 1,808 visitors rated the site as 'Excellent' (63 percent); 576 said it was 'Good' (20 percent) and 468 rated it as 'Fair' (16 percent). The site is online at www.mcit.gov.af.

Africa: Facebook facilitated - To address issues of high data usage, Facebook Lite has been launched. The free app is designed to function in areas with 2G connections and poor connectivity. Social media accounts for significant Internet usage in South Africa. Facebook Lite is currently available on the Google Play Store and claims to be an app that is 'compatible with all your devices'. The app is currently available to users in Zimbabwe, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Nepal and is to be rolled out in more countries with poor Internet access.

Algeria: Sales strengthened - Mobilis has strengthening its direct sales network by opening two new commercial agencies in the provinces of Algiers and Skikda, with new branches opened in Bir Mourad Rais and Azzaba. The Mobilis sales network now consists of 166 commercial agencies and more than 120,000 points of sale.

Bahrain: Fixed deals - Batelco is introducing bolt-on packages for voice minutes to all local networks for its fixed line users. There are four top value choices with 200 minutes of voice calls to all networks starting at BHD 1.50 (USD 3.95) and an unlimited option only BHD 5.00 (USD 13.17). New fixed line packages with an entry-level package for only BHD 3.50 (USD 9.22) which includes line rental, free browsing and 200 minutes of on-net calls have also been introduced. A BHD 7 (USD 18.43) package features 2MB Broadband service plus 500 minutes of calls to all networks while a BHD 10 (USD 26.33) package features 2MB Broadband service with unlimited calls to any domestic network.

Bahrain: Frequent flyers rewarded - Members of Batelco's Al Dana Club, who hold Gulf Air Frequent flyer cards as part of their benefits, can now accrue additional Gulf Air Falconflyer Miles based on their Batelco bill payments. The deal sees the accrual rates for Batelco's customers raised from 30 to 50 Gulf Air Falconflyer Miles for every BHD 100 spent. Al Dana Club is Batelco's exclusive customer relationship programme for residential customers who meet a number of requirements based on long-term loyalty to its products and services.

Bahrain: Licence cancellations - The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of 5 February started the process to revoke the licenses granted to First Connex Gulf; Skyfi Networks; Red Moon Communications; Media Phone Plus; General Trading Business Communication Networks; Kulacom Communications; and Smart Marketing. Objections should be lodged with the Authority in writing by 28 February 2015.

Botswana: IPO in first half - The government is continuing with its plans to list Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTCL), AFP reported. The IPO was originally planned for November 2014, which was then put back to December 2014. This was again put back to the first half of 2015. Finance Minister Kenneth Matambo said the privatisation process was at 'an advanced stage'; institutional investors had expressed concern with the IPO being launched in a major holiday period.

Cameroon: Marketeer named - Linda Kouam Kamche has been named as Chief Marketing Officer of MTN Cameroon with effect from 1 January. She will be expected to enhance the growth of MTN Cameroon's customer service organisation. Kamche holds a Telecommunications Engineering Degree from the Technical University Carolo-Wilhelmina at Braunschweig in Germany. She joined MTN Cameroon in 2006.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Footy favourites - Kirusa is to launch its InstaVoice Sports service on the Vodacom network. The service allows Vodacom subscribers to connect with and receive daily updates about their favourite football clubs and teams, and will be available on both smartphones and feature phones. The service is offered in partnership with goal.com, and includes frequent updates on clubs such as Barcelona, Manchester United, and Chelsea, and about various African national teams.

 

Egypt: Driver for financial inclusion driver - The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and MasterCard has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to establish a strategic collaboration to drive financial inclusion. MasterCard will bring latest payment technology innovations to market. MasterCard will also be working with Egypt Post to fully digitalize its customer base, and enable its 4,000 branches to offer electronic value-added-services, employee training and expert driven workshops.

Egypt: IBM investment - The Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA) and IBM launched the IBM Middle East and Africa Digital Sales Centre in Cairo on 4 February, representing a USD 3 million investment by IBM. It is part of a broader three-year deal with the government in which IBM will create jobs and work with clients to transform using cloud, Big Data and analytics, mobile and social technologies. This is the sixth IBM facility in Egypt. In addition to new roles at the Digital Sales Centre, IBM plans to hire more than 800 people across its network of delivery centres over the next three years, serving clients around the globe.

Gabon: Postal outposts - Mobile operator Azur Gabon now has access to La Poste's national telephone network in La Poste's 70 offices after it signed an agreement last week in the capital Libreville. Azur Gabon head Georges Akoury said the deal would help Azur provide adequate coverage to its subscribers living in remote parts of the country. Azur Gabon is a subsidiary of Azur Telecom, which also has operations in Central African Republic and Congo Brazzaville, and is owned by Lebanese group BinTel.

Ghana: Comments shared - The National Communications Authority (NCA) has reviewed comments submitted on its proposed new licence regime, and has provided responses to the comments raised by stakeholders. Details of comments on the International Clearing House are provided here; the International Wholesale Carrier Licence here, and on the issuing of a unified licence here.

Kenya: SIM box fraud stopped - Safaricom has told The Standard that it has invested in new technology to curb SIM box fraud. Safaricom Corporate Affairs Director Nzioka Waita said it could now detect and disconnect illegal calls in less than five minutes. The SIM box detection software was installed in the final quarter of 2014. Waita was responding to a report by the High Level Panel on Illicit Finance, which cited SIM box fraud costing the country over KES 480 million (USD 5.14 million) a year.

Lesotho: Submissions sought - The Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) has developed draft rules (subsidiary legislation) in terms of the Communications Act 2012. These are online here, and the LCA is inviting comments from the public on the rules. The final date for submission of comments is mid-day on 26 March 2015.

Mauritania: Last lap for licences - The Autorite de Regulation has completed its investigation of the GSM second generation licence renewal applications for Mattel and Mauritel. It initiated the process at the beginning of December 2014. The specifications of the final revised expenses relating to licences, taking into account the main points made by the operators regarded as relevant and reasonable, and the financial conditions of the renewals, have now been sent to the Minister of Employment, Vocational Training, Information and Communication Technologies.

Nigeria: Networking Nokia - Last week a Nokia Media Roundtable was staged in Lagos with some 150 experts from the vendor, operators, government, and IT companies. Nokia's VP and Head of Middle East and Africa, Bernard Najm said that Nigeria is a priority country in the Africa region for the company. He added: "Mobile broadband infrastructure in Nigeria needs to be strengthened to significantly improve network coverage and speed across the country including mid-size cities and rural areas ". Nokia opened its second office in Lagos in 2014. Nokia Head of Central East and West Africa (CEWA), David Gaul said Nokia Networks' 2020 vision predicts consumption of 1GB of personalised data per user per day.

Sierra Leone: One rule for all - Africell has been given a two-week ultimatum to start billing its voice calls in the local currency, instead of in units, the Star Africa reported. The National Telecommunications Communication (NATCOM) announced its revised policy last year, requesting that all operators comply. Recently appointed NATCOM Chairman Momoh Conteh said that all operators must respect the prevailing regulations, telling a parliamentary committee that Africell was not an exception.

South Africa: Billing upgrade - Vodacom has signed a deal for the latest version of Redknee Unified, a billing, charging and rating platform. It is expected that Vodacom will be able to launch advanced products, promotions and new service offerings to its subscribers, target new market segments, and support its data/LTE growth strategy, according to Redknee. The platform provides multi-tenancy capabilities, enabling Vodacom to host multiple operations, such as Vodacom Lesotho and others, from a single platform.

South Africa: Increasing local presence - Vendor Huawei is to increase its local staffing by 50 percent in the next five years, TelecomLead reports. Huawei has been active in South Africa for over 15 years, and has 1,028 staff locally. Huawei Senior Vice President Dafeng Li will implement a South African National Broadband and National Data Centre and continue to foster ICT talents.

South Africa: Interface initiation - Mobile wallet integration company Walletec and SnapScan have partnered to provide a single interface point between the Point of Sale (PoS) and any mobile or e-wallet solution. SnapScan allows users to pay for goods in over 10,000 stores in South Africa, is an important partnership following on the heels of partnerships with M-Pesa, Kopo Kopo, Payza and Airtel Money.

South Africa: Low-priced LTE device - Vodacom SA's new LTE-capable Smart 4 Turbo was launched on Monday 9 February for ZAR 1,499 (USD 129); its lowest priced LTE-enabled handset. The device runs KitKat 4.4 and has a 5MP camera. The device is also available on a range of contracts including the Vodacom Smart S Light for ZAR 159 per month, which comes with 100 MB of monthly data. Vodacom launched its branded devices in August 2014 with the Smart Kicka, which has sold more than half a million devices. This was followed-up with Smart Tab 3G of which more than 200,000 have been sold so far.

South Africa: Power politics - The government is continuing to consider its options with regard to the funding of power utility Eskom, with ITWeb suggesting last week that Vodafone is the most likely buyer of the state's 14 percent stake in Vodacom valued at ZAR 27.8 billion (USD 2.38 billion). Eskom is set to raise about ZAR 50 billion (USD 4.3 billion) in debt, in addition to its original plan of raising ZAR 200 billion, and has been moved under the National Treasury's watch in a bid to prevent the country from enduring a lengthy blackout.

South Africa: Unstable institution - Last week the City Press said the Government Communications and Information System (GCIS) was being reinstated as a standalone entity. The former Department of Communications (DOC) was split into two separate entities, and according to acting Director-General of the DOC, Donald Liphoko, the Department is now in the process of 're-establishing the GCIS as a schedule one department reporting to the Minister of Communications'. The move comes eight months after president Jacob Zuma's announced that ICT Ministry would be split, with the DOC under Faith Muthambi and the Department of Telecoms and Postal Services under Syabonga Cwele.

Turkey: Istanbul interconnectivity - Turkcell Superonline has partnered with Telekom Austria to deploy an MPLS PoP in Istanbul with effect from January. The interconnection has been set-up, and will support an 8 Tbps capacity in total with 100 Gbps technology. Turkcell Superonline?s corporate customers will now have direct access to their international offices.

Turkey: Troubling Twitter - The Financial Times has reported that Turkey accounted for more than 90 percent of tweets blocked by Twitter globally during the second half of 2014. An early draft of Twitter's bi-yearly transparency report showed 1,820 tweets had been blocked or removed by Twitter following requests from the Turkish authorities, compared with a global total of 1,982 withheld tweets. In the first half of 2014, Turkish blocked just 183 tweets.

Uganda: Money marketing - US-based Cignifi is to work with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), part of the World Bank Group, to improve the adoption of Airtel Uganda's Mobile Money platform. Cignifi will use its proprietary data platform to analyse Airtel call detail records and Airtel Money transactions. Airtel users will be scored to identify prospective users that have not registered and also reactivate dormant users. The analysis will allow a more effective, better-targeted marketing of mobile money products.

United Arab Emirates: Certification conference - The Global Certification Forum (GCF) has held a two-day Agreement Group meeting in Dubai organised in collaboration with du - the first time such an event has been staged in the Middle East. GCF maintains and operates a certification scheme for new mobile devices, and became a not-for-profit company in May 2008 and is incorporated in the UK. The Khaleej Times reported Juergen Meyer, GCF Steering Group Chairperson, as saying GCF has six associate operator members in the Middle East and North Africa region. Du is the only associate member from the UAE while Etisalat and Vodafone in Egypt, Zain and Wataniya in Kuwait and Paltel other associate members in the region.

United Arab Emirates: Meeting of minds - The TRA's DG H.E. Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori and Etisalat's CEO Saleh Al Abdooli met at the TRA's Abu Dhabi headquarters. On the agenda was the development of telecom services; increasing customer satisfaction and maintaining competition between service providers. Enhancing overall performance of networks, and improving quality of coverage in various parts of the UAE was discussed. A joint team comprising TRA members and service providers is to be formed to find solutions to customer complaints. There will be regular meetings to discuss matters relating to the sector and ways to deal with user issues.

United Arab Emirates: Outsourcing outreach - Egypt's Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA) has opened a new centre that provides Teleperformance marketing and sales services in Dubai. The centre is intended to attract Gulf projects and investments in the field of contact centres and outsourcing served by Teleperformance Egypt, which aims to recruit 1,800 ICT specialised staff within three years to provide outsourcing services to the USA, North Europe and the Middle East.

Zambia: Publication called for - The United Party for National Development (UPND) President Hakainde Hichilema wants the findings of the Sebastian Zulu Commission of Inquiry into the sale of Zamtel to Lap Green in 2011 to be made public, ITWeb has reported. The current government set up the Commission in 2011, and Zamtel was repossessed in 2012 after it was claimed it had been illegally sold by the previous administration. Zamtel was sold to Lap Green Network for USD 257 million.

Zimbabwe: Computer power - The government has launched the Zimbabwe High Performance Computing Centre (HPCC). The Minister of Higher and Tertiary Science and Technology Development, Oppah Muchinguri, said that the HPCC offers a platform to experiment and sift through huge data sets. The Minister noted: "The HPCC is central to our ability to control the world around us and requires the migration of ideas and practical tools from basic science research into applied engineering ".