News in Brief 13 November 2013

Africa: Islamic SIM - The Islamic SIM Service (ISS), designed by Greek electrical engineer Yiannis Hatzopoulis, is to be launched at AfricCom this week. It enables users to track the direction of the Kaa?bah, receive accurate prayer timing, convert dates between Gregorian and Arabic calendars and automatically ban incoming calls during prayer time. A SIM card has been deployed - rather than an app - as there are around a billion GSM feature phones are in use in Asia and Africa due to their low price, long battery life and ease of use. Hatzopoulis is now working with leading manufacturer Bluefish Technologies on the project.

Africa: MVNO moment? - Mobile virtual network operators (MVNO) could be a key in increasing revenues for telecoms in Africa, Mats Carrgard, CCO of Virgin Mobile South Africa has said at AfricaCom. ITWebAfrica reports him saying Africa has a market made up of young people that offers numerous niche markets, ideal for banking and retail based MVNOs. Mats said that North African countries such as Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt could benefit from MVNOs due to their well-structured industry.

Africa: Power panel - US-based World Panel is gearing to launch a handheld solar phone charger which it is claimed can charge virtually any device that uses a USB cord as quickly as plugging it into the wall. The chargers can handle up to 10 phones a day. World Panel co-founder Cheryl Gordon said telcos would set the retail price, with the charger bundled with airtime, or with phones to add new rural subscribers. The price is expected to be less than one month of a subscriber's mobile budget.

Algeria: Nedjma no-more - From 4 November 2013 mobile operator Nedjma rebranded as Ooredoo; the branding adopted by its parent, formerly known as Qtel. Agence Ecofin reports that the Nedjma and Ooredoo will be displayed together in the transition period. Joseph Ged, Nedjma's CEO in an interview with All About Algeria noted that Nedjma had invested all its profits in Algeria and had not repatriate dividends.

Kenya: Basic Wiki - Wikipedia and Praekelt Foundation are to offer Wikipedia Zero in Kenya, in partnership with Airtel. Wikipedia will use Praekelt's mobile messaging platform, Vumi, so making it available to anyone with a basic mobile phone. The Vumi platform utilises the unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) technology to allow mobile subscribers to dial a short code to access a multiple-choice menu that they can use to search the encyclopaedia, and was developed by Praekelt Foundation.

Kenya: Quid pro Quo - Safaricom has asked for additional spectrum to facilitate the national rollout of 4G over the next 24 months. In its results presentation CEO Bob Collymore said that in consideration of this it would provide free broadband access to all public primary schools identified as part of the government?s laptop initiative. The free broadband initiative would be in line with the One Laptop Per Child project and Safaricom?s rollout of government-supplied laptop computers to learners.


Lebanon: Minster calls for more devices - Caretaker Minister of Telecommunications Nicolas Sehnaoui said last week that the small number of LTE-enabled smartphones in the market had impeded the growth of the technology. His remarks were made on the second day of the DGTL#U forum at the Movenpick Hotel. Sehnaoui highlighted the changes in the telecom sector over the past two years which had necessitated changing the name of the Ministry of Telecommunications to Information and Communications Technology Ministry.

LTE: Alcatel-Lucent analysis - With the proliferation of new smart devices/tablets there is a manifest need to provide 10x or more capacity at approximately the same capital expenditure to maintain constant profitability. Alcatel-Lucent have quantified the amount of bandwidth that can be profitably delivered by operators using the different technologies available (e.g., 3G, LTE and small cells). Using economic game theory it has determined the winning strategy for operators and, in particular, the relative merits of an LTE-centric versus Single RAN (mixed 3G and LTE)-centric deployment strategy. A copy of the 'The LTE Imperative' whitepaper is available here.

Malawi: Customers covered - How do you know if the 'insurance' provided following a top-up would actually pay out? TNM has now confirmed it paid out MWK 550,000 (USD 1,410) on 22 October 2013 to settle a claim under its TNM Moyo Cover life insurance which is being run co-jointly with NICO Life and MicroEnsure. The claim followed the death of the wife of a subscriber. TNM Head of Marketing Sobhuza Ngwenya said it was the first claim to be settled under the TNM Moyo cover. Subscribers are covered when they use a minimum of MWK 1,000 of airtime each month.

Nigeria: Backhaul from Cambridge Broadband - Cambridge Broadband Networks (CBNL) has announced new contracts with MTN Nigeria to upgrade and expand the operator?s 3G network. CBNL will supply, install and commission a new VectaStar backhaul platform, working with MTN to provide programme management, deployment and support services. Olusegun Salami, Senior Manager, Transmission Access Planning, MTN Nigeria said it had seen significant growth in subscribers accessing the Internet via 3G. Nigel Webb, Vice President, Sub-Saharan Africa, CBNL noted the vendor's local presence. VectaStar is a multipoint microwave backhaul platform for 2G and 3G networks, all IP 4G LTE and Wi-Fi networks and next generation infrastructures including small cells.

Nigeria: Skill stimulation - The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has expressed concern regarding the remittances by telcos to overseas service providers, saying it is an unhealthy development. Executive Vice Chairman, Dr. Eugene Juwah, speaking at a stakeholders? forum in Lagos, noted that software accounted for 40 percent of the total international remittances recorded by the Information Technology (IT) sector in the period 2010 - 2012. Juwah called for a strategic plan to stimulate local content and skills for the growth of telecom-related software.

Oman: Rise resisted - The Telecommunications Regulatory (TRA) has turned down mobile operator Nawras? request to increase its Shababiah tariff. Nawras wanted to increase the tariff for this package, but the TRA identified a number of pre-paid and post paid subscribers would be affected by this increase. TRA cited its duty to protect consumer interests, and in this instance those of the pre-dominant youth demographic representing students and job-seekers.

South Africa: Reading resource - In conjunction with Read A Book, Vodacom South Africa has launched an e-reader program. Vodacom will install an e-reader app on 45 tablets available at the nine Vodacom ICT Resource Centres for public access. Topics include African literature, history, business / entrepreneurship and fiction, and visitors to the ICT Resource centres will be able to download the e-books to a memory stick or to their phones.

Saudi Arabia: Fleet focus - Mobily (Etihad Etisalat) has launched its turn-key fleet management service (FMS) in collaboration with Advanced Electronics Company (AEC). Mobily FMS offers near real-time vehicle tracking, vehicle management, detailed reporting, remote diagnostics and configurations.

Senegal: VAS vision - The Regulatory Authority for Telecommunications and Post (ARTP) is formulating an action plan for the control of value-added services (VAS), according to CEO Abu Lo. Lo said that the number of VAS providers has risen from 29 in 2008 to 92 by October 2013. Some 293 short numbers have been assigned to VAS providers and operators, including 35 short six-digit numbers and 258 five-digit numbers for SMS/MMS. Traffic for premium SMS services has increased by 9-fold between 2008 and 2012, reaching 20.3 million SMS in 2012. VAS services support the activities of companies in specialised field such as mobile banking, bill payment, tracking and geolocation.

South Africa: Better broadband - Telkom Wholesale is to upgrade the speed of its ADSL products free-of-charge in a phased process starting from 11 November 2013, with products rated at 1Mbps, 2Mbps, and 4Mbps raised to 2Mbps, 4Mbps and 10Mbps respectively.

United Arab Emirates: BlackBerry bribe - Etisalat claimed this week it had successfully registered 75 percent of its mobile subscribers ahead of the Telecom Regulatory Authority?s (TRA) deadline of 16 January 2014, under the 'My Number, My Identity' campaign. Etisalat intends to give away 140 BlackBerrys through a weekly draw, with 10 registered users being picked out each week from now till January 2014. All of Etisalat's subscribers who have registered are automatically entered. Etisalat has warned that the January deadline is the last opportunity to register existing phone numbers and retain uninterrupted mobile phone service.

United Arab Emirates: Europe via Etisalat - On Monday Etisalat announced a partnership with MTN Group to extend its regional network reach via Etisalat's UAE-based SmartHub. It will provide an additional route to Europe for MTN. Ali Amiri, Executive Vice President, Carrier and Wholesale services, Etisalat said it demonstrated the importance of the UAE as a regional hub. Jyoti Desai, Group Chief Technology and Information Officer, MTN said it allowed the telco to provide advanced communication services to its customers in the Middle East and Africa.

Zimbabwe: Smartphone support - Huawei Technologies has opened a support office in Harare, Zimbabwe, to be headed by Ngonidzashe Magwendeza as the country representative. Huawei recently launched its smartphones in the county, including the P6, the Ascend Mate and the Ascend G510 which are being distributed by Econet Wireless. Magwendeza said Huawei would provide software, parts and other accessories. The Harare office now brings the total number of Huawei?s offices in Africa to 18.