News in Brief 30 October 2013

Africa: Game play - Bharti Airtel has launched Airtel Games Club, a flat-fee mobile gaming subscription service offering unlimited premium mobile games at competitive prices, following a tie-up with Nazara Technologies. Games include FIFA 14, Need For Speed and Bejeweled. The Club is now available in Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda and Zambia and by year-end will be available in all of Airtel?s African operations. Andre Beyers, Chief Marketing Officer, Airtel Africa noted that over 50 percent of the African population is below the age of 25.

Ghana: Faster connection - MTN Ghana has implemented 42 Mbps connectivity in and around the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) campus in Kumasi, Ashanti; claimed to be the highest capacity in Ghana. The upgrade from 21 to 42 Mbps is to be made in locations where there is high smart device penetration, and roll-out is expected shortly in a number of hotspots in Accra.

Israel: Connectivity fee cut - The recommendation by the Ministry of Communications' expert committee to cut the fixed-line connectivity fee to ILS 0.099 has been accepted by Minister of Communications Gilad Erdan, Globes reported. The arguments made by Bezeq and Hot Telecoms for higher fees were rejected, as was the case made by Cellcom Israel and Partner for a lower fee. The current average fee is ILS 0.04.

Israel: iPhone inventories - Cellcom and Orange are to sell new iPhone 5s and 5c from 3 November 2013, Globes reporting this to be four days earlier than originally planed. Cellcom is to sell the 16-gigabyte iPhone 5s for ILS 3,700 (USD 1,047) in pre-sales, and the 16-gigabyte iPhone 5c for ILS 3,000 (USD 849). Partner has not disclosed its prices. Pelephone is also pre-selling the 5s at NIS 3,680 (USD 1,041) and the 5c for ILS 3,220 (USD 911). Globes reports that HOT Mobile will also sell the devices. It also notes that Rami Levy started selling the 5c, which it imports independently, in early October.

Israel: Inflated waiting - Hot Telecoms has been fined ILS 100,800 (USD 28,534) by the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Authority for extended waiting times for users of its call centers, Globes reported. Higher fines are promised should the problem not be addressed.

Jordan: Quality queried - The mobile operators have challenged a statement made by ICT Minister Azzam Sleit that the mobile Quality of Service is unacceptable. Zain Jordan, Umniah and Jordan Telecom Group/Orange responded by citing reports by the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) that rate the QoS as 'very high', variously noting that the Minster's comments were without factual basis. Sleit also said that a new mobile operator would be announced by the end of the year.

Kenya: Severance pay sorted - The Court of Appeal last week directed Telkom Kenya to pay former staff some KES 3.2 billion (USD 37.1 million). In 2006 some 996 staff were laid off, and are now to receive a golden handshake of KES 150,000 (USD 1,740) and severance pay equivalent to two and half months? salary for each year worked, according to BusinessDailyAfrica. The older workers claimed they were discriminated against on the basis of age, being paid less as they could access their pensions. The Court of Appeal agreed with the High Court, with the awards are to be paid 14 percent interest from the time the case was filed in 2007, the year in which France Telecom acquired its stake.

Kenya: Top tax payer - For the sixth consecutive year Safaricom is reported to be the highest taxpayer, according to the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA). It topped East African Breweries Limited (EABL), Teachers Service Commission (TSC), British American Tobacco (BAT), Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB), Equity Bank, Barclays Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Kenya Ports Authority and Ministry of Health, in that order.

Mauritius: Rate reduction - Minister of ICT Tassarajen Chedumbrum Pillay has said that with the introduction of Mobile Number Portability (MNP) in November he expected to see mobile operators Orange and Emtel reduce their rates to remain competitive, L'Express reported. Mauritius Mahanagar Telecom Ltd (MTML) currently offers off-net calls some two-thirds cheaper.

Namibia: Seven channels streamed - mcel is to launch a seven channel 3G live television streaming service, in conjunction with DStv Mobile, the mobile arm of pay TV provider MultiChoice. Mark Rayner CEO DStv Mobile said it had been working 'very closely' with mcel and Ericsson over the last few months. Ericsson?s Content Delivery Server (ECDS) allows content to be streamed directly to the consumer?s handsets using a variety of operating systems. Henri Zeitsman, managing director, Ericsson Mozambique, said that the growth of smarter devices has caused an exponential growth of data use in the region, including TV and video.

Nigeria: Cost of Dropped Calls - The Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC) has filed a Freedom of Information (FOI) request with the National Communications Commission (NCC), Sahara Reporters records. It is requesting documents showing the total cost of dropped calls on all networks in the year ending September 2013. In its petition it cites a report by the Economic Intelligence Unit which showed Nigeria lost USD 126 million in dropped calls in 2012.

Nigeria: Device deal - MTN Nigeria is partnering with Nokia to allow subscribers to trade in their old phones for Nokia Lumia 625 smartphones. Kola Oyeyemi, General Manager for Consumer Marketing at MTN Nigeria, said the aim was to provide affordable smartphones with mobile Internet. Subscribers can obtain discounts of up to NGN 18,000 (USD 112).

Nigeria: Launch lined-up - ZTE is set to launch its high-end smartphones in Nigeria. ZTE claims 11.5 million smartphones shipments in 2Q13 and controls 5 percent of global smartphone market. ZTE Nigeria is now looking for secure outlets for the ZTE brand.

Nigeria: Lumia launch - Etisalat is to launch the Nokia Lumia 1020 in Nigeria, which runs on the Windows 8 operating system. Christopher Brown, General Manager of Nokia West Africa, said it was 'creating better smartphones that allow lifestyle as well as business consumers to capture important moments in pictures with our Pureview technology'. Airtime worth NGN 37,000 (USD 230) is being offered for a recharge of NGN 10,000 (USD 62) on the easyflex 5000 2-for-1 offer.

Rwanda: Diesel decline - Bharti Airtel is reducing its carbon footprint through its Green Kigali project. Since July 2013 it reduced diesel usage by 85 percent. Airtel Rwanda Country Head, Marcellin Paluku acknowledged the support of the Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority (EWSA).

Saudi Arabia: Movies from Mobily - Mobily has launched mView for Internet users which will allow them to watch free and paid channels, in addition to movies through computers, smart phones, or Android and iOS tablet devices on a single subscription. The monthly subscription for SAR 35 (USD 9) and the on-demand movies from SAR 7 each.

South Africa: LG launch - LG's G2 is to be retailed through Vodacom, MTN, and Cell C at a recommended retail price of ZAR 7,999 (USD 813) from 1 November, mybroadband reported. Eric Namwhoo, Product Director for LG Mobile in South Africa said the entry-level contract price point for the LG G2 is around ZAR 370 per month.

South Africa: Nicer network - TIA Telecom, an end-to-end telecommunications provider, has completed a three-month network audit for Cell C, iol reported. The operator will now update its network design around Johannesburg over the next five months. Cell C?s Pretoria network already has better call set and call drop rates, including capacity utilisation, interference and indoor penetration, and similar results are expected in Johannesburg. In August it announced a ZAR 200 million upgrade, aiming to roll out 100 new sites in Johannesburg.

South Africa: Promotional platform - Mxit has said it has new and repeat blue-chip advertising clients including Vodacom, Telkom Mobile, Steers, Eskom, Hansa, Brutal Fruit, Samsung, Red Heart Rum and Ballantine's. Mxit users apparently spend on average 95 minutes online daily, and the service counts 6.5 million active monthly users in South Africa and 700 million page views of its apps per month.

South Africa: Spectrum fees settled - Vodacom is reported to have settled a dispute with the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) in which it allegedly owed more than ZAR 77.8 million (USD 7.9 million) in fees for the use of spectrum. TechCentral reports Vodacom spokesman Richard Boorman as saying the terms of the settlement are 'confidential'. The dispute dates from 2010, when ICASA published new spectrum fees, effective from 1 April 2011. The disputed amount was the difference between the old and new fees.

United Arab Emirates: iPhone pre-orders - Etisalat and du are now accepting pre-orders for the iPhone 5s and 5c. Both are only offering contract free plans, meaning buyers can only opt to buy a phone by paying the handset price up-front. Etisalat is offering a post-paid no-contract plan for AED 225 (USD 61.23) per month offering 10GB of Internet and 800 local and 200 international along with 200 SMS free along with the package. du is allowing users to pre-book the new iPhone without revealing any pricing strategy for either pre- or post-paid plans.

United Arab Emirates: mHealth - Etisalat is to partner with British Telecom (BT) to provide healthcare ICT services. BT will provide its experience of large healthcare IT programmes to Etisalat?s clients in the UAE. Abdulla Hashim, Senior Vice President, Etisalat said: "The partnership with BT will help us create an appropriate ecosystem for both public and private sector. " Wael El Kabbany, Vice President, BT Middle East and Africa, noted it would be helping Etisalat introduce comprehensive and advanced healthcare information technology services... "

United Arab Emirates: Statistics Centre satisfaction - du is to be exclusive mobile service provider for the Dubai Statistics Centre, with the deal signed by Fahad Al Hassawi, Chief Commercial Officer, du and Tariq Yousef Al Janahi, Acting Deputy Executive Director of Dubai Statistics Center (DSC). DSC staff will have the benefit of du's Premier Plan G, a post-paid mobile business tailored for government organisations.