News in Brief 11 July 2013

Bahrain: Free facilitator - Menatelecom has announced an offer ending 13 July on post-paid broadband packages, whereby subscribers get a free wireless device. Free menaHome USB devices are available with all new post-paid subscriptions, and is with any post-paid package from BHD 9 (USD 24) upwards. The menaHome packages offer built-in WiFi support and a free voice line. Frequent travellers can use the myKey service with a mobile USB broadband solution for laptops. Menatelecom is an investment subsidiary of Kuwait Finance House-Bahrain.

Cameroon: Better broadband - MTN has launched services using 'WiMAX 16e' with effect from 14 June 2013 under the Xtra Surf moniker. According to John Simon Ngann Yonn, MTN Cameroon's Marketing Director the product offers the best Internet speed available on the market, providing bandwidths of up to 2Mbps. MTN is offering a choice between the Wifi box and mini modem, which has the form of a USB key.

Iran: Not @ - The Minister of Information and Telecommunications, Hasan Nami, has announced a locally developed e-mail system. The service will be operated by the Post Office, and every citizen will be assigned an address, RIA Novosti reported.

Israel: Cellcom change - Eliezer Ogman is stepping down as Cellcom Israel's Chief Technology Officer after 13 years in post. Ogman will stay in office until his successor is appointed and has assumed his responsibilities.

Kenya: International money - Kipochi, Africa's first Bitcoin transfer service, is to link with M-PESA. Kipochi, which means purse in Swahili, claims to be a lightweight, easy-to-use Bitcoin wallet. Users only need an e-mail address, phone number and passport or national identity number to sign up and can currently transfer up to one bitcoin a day using the service. Exchanging money will be just USD 0.04 per transfer. Kipochi needs an Internet-enabled phone, but a modification to allow it to run on any mobile is in hand.

Kenya: New man named - The East Africa Communications Organizations (EACO) Congress is to be chaired by the Director General of the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), Francis Wangusi for a two-year term. He replaced the Director General of Burundi's Agency for Control and Regulation of Telecommunications (ARCT), Joseph Bangurambona. The event will now be held every two years to allow time for the hosting country to make the necessary preparations, and consequently Tanzania will host the 21st Congress and Exhibition in June 2015.

Kuwait: Free trial - Wataniya Telecom has launched its 4G network, and expects to cover most of Kuwait by the end of 2013. It has invested some USD 350 million to upgrade its network with 4G technology. 4G is available on fixed and pocket routers for a monthly subscription of just KWD 17 (USD 59) with a total usage of 60 GB per month for 12 months (30 GB as the main pack plus customers get 30 GB Night Pack for free every month). A free 7 days trial is being offered.

Nigeria: Apt apps store - MTN Nigeria has launched its NextApps store, powered by white-label app store company Nexva. Free and premium apps are available for Android smartphones, and it supports 'one-click' billing. Larry Annetts, CMO of MTN Nigeria, said the operator liked the way the store could be both customised and localised.

Nigeria: Central control - Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)?s Banking and Payment System Director, Dipo Fatokun has said that telcos in Nigeria are restricted from offering mobile banking service because the apex bank does not have direct control over them. Ventures Africa reported Fatokun speaking at the 18th Central Bank Seminar.

Oman: Consultative comments collated - The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has responded to the comments on the Public Consultation on the Competition Framework. The document contains the TRA?s comments and observations to the submissions received from interested stakeholders to the Public Consultation on the Competition Framework and the Draft Market Definition and Dominance (MDD) Report that started on 8 August 2012.

Qatar: Facebook a favourite - 86 percent of the population is active on the Internet, while there are more than 700,000 Facebook subscribers, a new study by Spark Digital has found. The study was conducted over a six-month period in 22 Arab countries.

Saudi Arabia: Smartphone SMS - Despite regulatory concerns, Portio Research reckons that the number of users of OTT messaging in Saudi Arabia rose from 9.4 million at the end of full year 2011 to 12.9 million at the end of 2012. As smartphone penetration increases, the number of OTT messaging users is expected to reach 29 million by the end of 2017, implying a CAGR of 18 percent over the next five years.

Senegal: Framework finalised - The Regulatory Authority for Telecommunications and Post (ARTP) issued a decision on 24 June 2013 establishing a framework for the quality of services offered by the licensed telcos, including penalties for non-compliance. ARTP will publish annual rankings of the three operators (Sonatel, Sentel and Espresso).

South Africa: No MTN mahala - The Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASA) has ruled against MTN?s claim that its TopUp is the only contract that gives you 'Mahala', concluding that MTN has no ownership of the term 'mahala', which means 'free'. The complaint related to a print advertisement in the Sunday Times on 11 November 2012, and the fact that Telkom Mobile (8ta) and Vodacom?s free double recharge minutes are similar offerings. It was also argued that ?mahala? could not be used as a brand due to its every day usage.

South Africa: OTT users mushrooming - 'Mobile Messaging Futures 2013-2017' published this week records South Africa as representing the leading mobile market in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the rapid adoption of smartphones in the country has given rise to a fast growing and sizeable OTT market. The number of OTT messaging users in South Africa rose from 3.2 million users at the end of 2011 to 5.3 million by end-2012. Since this growth trend is expected to continue in the short to medium term, Portio Research expects the number of OTT messaging users to increase to 23.8 million users at the end of 2013.

South Africa: Senior staff shuffle - Telkom has proposed a new executive committee structure to staff, which see both new posts created and existing ones realigned. ITWeb reports that the newly created Head of Strategy and Regulatory will reside within the group CEO?s office; along with a Chief Risk Officer; Chief Marketing Officer (CMO); a CTO; and a CIO. Telkom says it has undertaken a comprehensive business review, which confirmed an urgent need to focus its attention on areas of the business that are critical to its success. CEO Sipho Maseko, who joined in April, has said it is currently defining its mid- to long-term strategy and plan, as well as determining how to manage its wholesale and retail structural options.

South Africa: Small beginnings - Described as an MVNO, Red Bull Mobile launched in South Africa in February 2011, and is a joint partnership with Cell C. Red Bull Mobile has released one pre-paid, four post-paid and two data products. Jose Dos Santos, Cell C chief commercial officer has said it now has 120,000 customers. The brand is also available in Austria, Belgium, Hungary, and Poland. There is an operation in Australia, although that is reported as closing down. Cell C claimed to have 10 million subscribers in the second half of 2012.

Tanzania: Cautionary MOAT - The Mobile Operators Association of Tanzania (MOAT) has said that a new monthly SIM charge is likely affect people with low usage. The government introduced a TZS 1,000 (USD 0.60) monthly charge on every SIM card. However MOAT reckons that 8 million subscribers spend less than that on calls each month. According to TCRA data, there are currently some 27.43 million mobile subscribers at the end of 1Q13.

Tanzania: Key role - Tanzania Telecommunications Company Ltd (TTCL) Commercial Executive Mr Nicodemous Mngulu told the Daily News that it was focusing on various value added services for its customers, such as low-cost Internet access and entry-level mobile handsets. TTCL has a small mobile base but manages the National Information Communication Technology Broadband Backbone (NICTBB), which Mngulu said ensures it has a central role to play.

Turkey: Ruling received - The British Privy Council has delivered its verdict on who owns the controlling stake of Turkcell on 9 July. The court ruled that Turkey's Cukurova Group can buy back its stake for USD 1.57 billion, which includes interest payments, within 60 days. Russia's Altimo owns 49 percent and Cukurova 51 percent of the holding company, whilst TeliaSonera is Turkcell's biggest shareholder with 38 percent. The eight-year dispute between the major shareholders has seen the cancellation of its annual general meeting in June, leaving it unable to confirm board appointments or approval of accounts and dividends.

Uganda: Rates revised - MTN Uganda has revised its Mobile Money rates from 2 July after the government introduced a 10 percent levy on mobile money transfer services. GM Corporate Services, Anthony Katamba said the new Mobile Money rates would result in a slight increase in transaction fees. The fee is paid by users, and is to be applied on all money transfer services including those provided by non-telecom operators.

United Arab Emirates: Friendly top-up - With effect from 28 June, customer's will be able to use du's credit transfer service, One 2 One, to transfer credit with lifetime validity between pre-paid accounts free of charge through the More Time option. This follows the withdrawal of the More Credit option. Credit transfers can be multiples of AED 1, between the values of AED 2 - 200. Credit can be transferred to up to 25 friends in a day, with the amount of transfer either equal to, or less than the available balance in their More Time account.

Zimbabwe: Extreme mobile banking - TN Bank, owned by Econet Wireless, has been renamed Steward Bank. It has also achieved a capital base of over USD 75 million, placing it in the Top 5. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) set a minimum capitalisation target of USD 50 million for commercial banks to be achieved by the end of 2013. The rebrand follows the acquisition of TN Bank by Econet Wireless in January 2013. Ngwenya, a South African national who was appointed to head the bank earlier this year, said the name ?Steward? was chosen because it reflects the bank?s values and commitment to its customers.