News in Brief 28 March 2013

Algeria: Improved ICT - Mobilis is to upgrade its IT environment. La Tribune reports that IBM hardware will run Lotus Domino software with support by Comparex Algerie. The solution will allow Mobilis's 4,300 staff work remotely and communicate using e-mail and instant messaging.

Central African Republic: Political perturbance - President Francois Bozize fled the country on Sunday, heading for Cameroon as rebel forces seized the capital Bangui, the Xinhua news agency reported. The country is currently in the hands of the Seleka, described as a loose rebel coalition of five factions, which launched an insurgency in December 2012.

Egypt: Internet interruption - TE Data on Friday said one of its international undersea cables had experienced 'technical damage', which had hit the speed of services nationally. The Ahram news service reported large numbers of Internet users reporting difficulty connecting or reduced speeds.

Ghana: MMT targets UK - MTN Ghana claims to have some two million subscribers signed for its Mobile Money Transfer service, although representing only 17 percent of the total subscriber base which at the end of January stood at some 11,857,772 subscribers according to regulator NCA. MTN now offers Quick Advance as part of the MMT service, allowing workers of subscribing companies to be paid 40 percent of their salaries in advance. MTN also plans to extend the international reach, with the UK to be added in April. Automated Teller Machine (ATM) services are also expected to be launched.
Kenya: Call charge reversal - Orange has launched a reverse charge call solution - ?NiSort?. Chief Corporate Communications Officer, Maureen Sande, said subscribers can make calls when the calling party?s credit balance is zero. The service will request the call recipient to accept the charges, before completing the call. Orange?s emergency service portfolio now includes Please Call Me, Credit Transfer and PEWA (emergency airtime). A pre-set ?white list? holds up to 10 mobile numbers that will accept 'NiSort? requests automatically.

Liberia: Emergency extension - Lonestar Cell MTN has launched its 'Xtra Time' offering, allowing customers to borrow airtime credit in times of emergency and pay back when they recharge. Kenyan-based technology company MODE is facilitating the servive. CMO Clement Ofori Asante said pre-paid customers must have had a connection for more that three months to qualify, and must have paid for any outstanding airtime before requesting more Xtra Time.

Libya: Fighting fraud - Subex Ltd said last week that it will provide revenue assurance and fraud management solutions to mobile operator, Almadar. The Economic Times reported Subex as saying "it has been selected to provide its industry leading ROC revenue assurance and ROC fraud management solutions to Almadar, a premier telecom operator in Libya. "

Malawi: Deregulation desired - Airtel Malawi has called on the regulatory bodies within the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) for greater deregulation to permit greater allow liberalisation of the industry. The Nyasa Times reported Airtel Malawi Deputy Managing Director Maurice Newa making the comment when speaking last week at a dinner organised by Airtel to honour the Communication Regulatory bodies in SADC. Currently mobile penetration in Malawi stands at 33 percent.

Middle East: Channel expansion - Huawei has appointed regional value added distributor (VAD) of IT products, Optimus Technology and Telecommunications, to distribute its enterprise product range for networking, unified communications (UC) and security. Optimus will expand Huawei?s channel network across the GCC, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq and conduct regular marketing and channel development activities to help increase the vendor?s market share and reach in the region.

Saudi Arabia: Chief named - Zain Saudi has appointed Fahd bin Ibrahim Al Dughaither as its new Chairman. Zain Group in July 2012 raised its stake in Zain Saudi to 37 from 25 percent after underwriting the affiliate?s capital restructuring. Zain Saudi has not made a net profit since launch in 2008.

Saudi Arabia: More time for MVNOs - The Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) has extended the deadline for submitting applications for an MVNO licence to 11 May 2013, and the publication date for the Questions and Answers document on the CITC Website (www.citc.gov.sa) is 25 March 2013. The move followed requests from 'some interested parties' to postpone the deadline.

Saudi Arabia: VoIP to be vanquished? - The Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) says it will ban voice-over-IP (VOIP) services and mobile messaging services that do not provide a monitoring server by the end of this week, Arab News has reported. Services that will be affected include WhatsApp and VOIP services Viber and Skype.

South Africa: 4G for all - Vodacom's pre-paid users will be able to access 4G: the service was launched for post-paid users late in 2012. The operator is investing more than ZAR 6 billion per annum in South Africa, adding to its network of 3G base stations and building LTE coverage. It has some 600 live LTE sites covering Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pretoria and Durban, with an additional 400 planned by the end of 2013.

South Africa: New chair for Cell C - Oger Telecom Chairman Mohammed Hariri is stepping into the role vacated by Simon Duffy, as non-executive Chairman of Cell C. Duffy has held the post for six years. Oger holds a controlling 75 percent stake in Cell C. Hariri is also vice-chair of Oger Telecom parent Saudi Oger, and is Chairman of Turk Telecom as well as sitting on a number of other boards.

Tanzania: Airtel top advertiser - A report by the Push Observer shows telecommunications and brewers vying to be the top advertisers in 4Q 2012. The report found telecoms taking the four top places in the quarter, followed by brewers and bottlers. Airtel Tanzania took some 13,000 spots, followed by Tigo with 10,000; Vodacom 8,000 and Zantel 7,800 units.

Tanzania: Bargain bundle - Zantel has launched 'MIMINA' giving free calls to all networks, Internet access and SMS for 24 hours for just TZS 3,499 (USD 2.16), effective from Tuesday for pre-paid subscribers only. Subscribers will receive 200 minutes of airtime to all networks, 200 SMS and a 200MB Internet bundle for 5 days. Chief Commercial Officer Sajid Khan said Zantel aimed to provide communications for all regardless of their economic status.

Tanzania: Fibre frustration - The Tanzania Telecommunications Company Ltd. (TTCL) Sales and Marketing Manager Peter Ngota said that agriculture, road construction and sabotage/theft are the biggest impediments to the setting-up of the National ICT Backbone Broadband (NICTBB), according to a report by IPPMedia. However by September 2013 services will be extended to 103 villages, as 80 percent of the population live in villages and most are farmers. NICTBB is managed and operated by TTCL on behalf of the Ministry of Communication, Science and Technology.

Tanzania: Towers touted - Zanzibar Telecommunication (Zantel) - in which Etisalat has a 65 percent stake - is looking to sell 600 - 700 towers and TMT Finance reports expressions of interest (EoI) are being accepted. Standard Chartered is advising, although Booz & Company, KPMG and Allen & Overy are also involved. Helios Towers is rated in the report as it already has some 1,020 towers acquired from Millicom?s Tigo Tanzania for USD 80 million in 2010. Other likely bidders are ATC, Eaton Towers and IHS.

Tunisia: Subscribers ascendant - Wataniya's Tunisiana saw a fall in its net profit of 11.4 percent to USD 166.2 million for 2012 from USD 187.6 million in 2011; and a drop in revenues to USD 718.1 million, from USD 746.7 million a year before. EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation) fell 9.1 percent to USD 384.2 million, compared with USD 422.5 million. However its subscriber base rose 8.6 percent in 2012 to reach 7.19 million.

Uganda: Speed doubled - MTN Uganda says it has increased Internet speeds to 42Mbps, double the previous 21.6Mbps. It claimed in a press release it was the first Ugandan operator and one of the first in Africa to achieve this. Chief Marketing Officer Ernst Fonternel said: "...our 42Mbps is the fastest speed achievable on a 3G+ network... ". In February 2013 MTN launched its fibre network at Katuna on the border with Rwanda. It is also planning to roll out a 4G network.

United Arab Emirates: Skype slip - A report by UAE-based The Nation noted last week that du?s fixed and mobile Internet services were allowing access to Skype calls. The paper reports that the block to the Skype Website previously made it difficult to install Skype on computers in the UAE, but it was available on smartphones with foreign-based applications shops, and once installed, it was possible to make voice and video calls. It was unclear how permanent Skype availability might be, it being suggested the service has had periods of availability on the du network before.

United Arab Emirates: Protection please - A visit by the Indian Prime Minister to the UAE scheduled for late March has been postponed. This follows the UAE requiring India to sign a Bilateral Investment Protection Agreement (BIPA) to provide a degree of protection for potential future investments in India. According to the Economic Times, a notice under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) issued to Etisalat's Chairman has also caused concern. The matter is now with the Indian Finance Ministry and the visit is expected to be rescheduled for the late summer.

Zambia: Improving Internet - The Zambia Telecommunication Company (Zamtel) is planning to improve rural Internet services. The Lusaka Times reported Zamtel's Chief Executive Officer Dr. Mupanga Mwanakatwe as saying it will launch broadband in peri-urban and rural areas. Some 400 2G and 3G base stations will be deployed. TTCL hopes to have a live LTE network in Livingstone in May 2013 after an investment of USD 4 million. Zambia will also have chairmanship of the Southern Africa Telecommunication Association from April.