News in Brief 9 October 2013

Africa: Local presence - Global wholesale carrier BICS announced last week that it has opened new offices in Ghana, Kenya and South Africa. BICS currently has offices located in Brussels, Bern, Dubai, Singapore and New York. Clémentine Fournier, Regional Vice President Africa, BICS said it would have dedicated teams in each of the new offices.

Africa & Middle East: Jobs jettisoned - Alcatel-Lucent said on Tuesday that it plans to cut 10,000 jobs globally by 2015. The cuts are part of a restructuring plan to make the company more competitive by reducing fixed costs by EUR 1 billion (USD 1.36 billion), or about 15 per cent, by the end of 2015. Some 3,800 jobs will be lost in the Middle East and Africa.

Africa: Read replaced - Nick Read, who currently runs Vodafone?s Africa, Middle East and Asia-Pacific business, is to replace Chief Financial Officer Andy Halford, who is stepping down in March. Read in turn will be replaced by Serpil Timuray. Timuray has run Vodafone Turkey since 2009 and she has sat on the Vodacom Group board since 2012.

Botswana: Termination talks - Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) is to hold a meeting with staff regarding planned lay-offs. The Sunday Standard notes BTC is to start a series of separation package talks. In a memo, Head of Employee Relations, Keamogetse Mubu said that the meetings would include union, non-unionised staff and managers.

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Corruption Call Centre - Vodacom on Friday 4 October launch a hotline (1150) to expose corruption within its organisation. Vodacom Director for Co-ordinating Regions Elvis Mundabi said that users who call the number will be dealt with by an independent private company in the UK. Vodacom has also told its staff to use the same number to report cases of corruption to ensure good governance.

Ghana: CSOs call for Internet - Over 30 Ghanaian Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have called on the government to prioritise and increase investment for improving Internet penetration. Deputy Executive Director of Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Sulemana Braimah said: "Access to the Internet by a large section of the Ghanaian population should ... be seen as a prerequisite for Ghana?s development ". MFWA?s Internet freedom project shows Ghana still below the 20 percent penetration mark.

Gabon: Taxing time - Airtel's tax affairs are reported to be the reason behind an unannounced visit to its premises by a Prosecutor on 26 September 2013. Agence Ecofin reports that since the change of ownership in April 2010, the company has not been regulated on a number of issues. Is suggested that a number of Airtel's activities have not been declared and are not itemised in its accounts. Documents and computers were removed, together with activity reports from previous years, conclusions of contracts, and reports of transactions.

Iran: Facebook still out-of-bounds - Minister of Telecommunications Mahmoud Vaezi said on Monday there were no official plans to legalise Facebook and Twitter, although President Hassan Rouhani had pledged to reduce online censorship, the ISNA news agency reported. On 17 September the two networks were briefly accessible, although this was put down to a technical glitch. Some ministers and officials do have pages and make occasional posts, although these are presumably directed at people outside Iran.

Lebanon: Three-month mandate - Zain Group's management contract to run the 'touch' mobile network has been extended until 31 December. Zain previously said it expected its contract to be rolled over until a new government is formed. PM designate Tammam Salam has been trying to form a government for nearly six months, and the stalemate has delayed plans to revamp the largely state-held telecom sector.

Kenya: Huawei handset - Safaricom is offering the Huawei Ascend P6 in its retail outlets nationally. It is to retail at an introductory offer of KES 39,999 (USD 458) with a 1.5GB Internet bundle for the first 400 handsets sold, after which the recommended retail price of KES 41,999 (USD 481).

Mauritania: Quality queried - The regulator has returned to the city of Nouakchott to assess the Quality of Service (QoS) following the expiry of the period granted to mobile operators Mauritel, Mattel Chinguitel. Operators Mauritel and Mattel were found to be still failing. The two have 10 days to comment on the findings before financial penalties are considered.

Middle East: Touch tested - One in five GCC residents spend more than 5 hours a day on touch enabled devices an Acer survey has found. In the GCC, 18 percent of the population is spending more than 5 hours a day on touch enabled devices, with 39 percent spending less than two hours, and the majority, at 43 percent, spending two to five hours a day. Some 15 percent use their Ultrabooks to generate content, whereas 5 percent are using a combination of tablets and Ultrabooks. However 80 percent are using their touch-enabled device only for content consumption.

Middle East & North Africa: Status check - Facebook announced this week that it has 56 million active users in the Middle East and North Africa. Half of these users returned to the Website on a daily basis, according to Facebook regional chief Jonathan Labin. 33 million people in MENA use a phone or tablet to access the service monthly, while the number of daily active users on mobile is now 15 million.

Morocco: Stake sought - Zain is reported to be considering increasing its stake in Wana, the owner of mobile operator Inwi. UAE-based The National reported Scott Gegenheimer, Zain's CEO, as saying that the move would be a joint venture with Al Ajial Investment Fund. Zain now has a strategy to take control of affiliates by obtaining at least 51 percent of the capital; currently Zain has 31 percent of Wana.

Qatar: Narrative on numbering - IctQatar is asking for comments on the National Numbering Plan (NNP) review. The NNP needs updating due to rising demand for telecom services. The plan is open for comments until 3 November. Fixed and mobile numbers were had an extra digit added in 2010 to create 8 digit numbers. MNP was launched in January 2013.

Senegal: Sonatel success - At the Orange Money Forum Sonatel said it has signed-up 1.25 million users of its Orange Money fund transfer service since launch in April 2010. There are now some 2,000 distributors. The 5.5 million transactions in the first 9 months of 2013 were worth XOF 27 billion (USD 55.9 million). It has signed up more than 10 commercial partners for bill payment and service purchasing, and in July launched trans-border interoperability between Senegal, Mali and Cote d'Ivoire.

South Africa: MVNO Mini milestone - Virgin Mobile achieved a Guinness world record last week for the largest number of people fitted into a Mini Cooper. The record was achieved at the new Virgin Mobile concept store in Braamfontein, with Sir Richard Branson in attendance. The previous record was 23.

United Arab Emirates: Business bundles - Etisalat last week announced its ?Business Tablet?, offering a set of flexible device and data bundles without up-front cost. Tablets available include the 4G LTE Retina display iPads, 4G LTE iPad Minis, the 4G LTE Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. The cost of the device can be made over 12 or 24-months. John Lincoln, Senior Vice President, Business Marketing, Etisalat UAE, said that the offerings would cut the capital expense for businesses.

United Arab Emirates: Retailer renewal - Orange Business Services has renewed a contract with retailer MAF-Carrefour Hypermarkets. The retailer has been a customer since 2008. The 3-year contract extends the international network services agreement provided by Orange and now includes the management of domestic WANs in some countries, starting in the UAE. Orange is also providing consultancy services in addition to international connectivity covering 72 sites across 13 countries in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) and Caucasus region.

Zimbabwe: Data on demand - Concerns have been expressed about Statutory Instrument 142 of 2013 on Postal and Telecommunications (Subscriber Registration) Regulations 2013 which was gazetted last Friday. Operators now have to set up a central subscriber database, which has to be released to law enforcement agents on demand. Subscriber data now has to disclosed upon receipt of a 'written request signed by a law enforcement agent who is not below the rank of assistant commissioner of police or a co-ordinate rank in any other law enforcement agency'.