News in Brief 5 December 2013

Africa: Bridge for Bharti - Bharti Airtel is joining Bridge Alliance, a group of 14 operators serving over 500 million customers. All of Airtel's African operations will join the alliance and so have access to the latest Bridge Alliance enterprise and roaming services. Andre Beyers, Chief Marketing Officer at Airtel Africa said membership would enhance its provision of corporate solutions and forward-thinking roaming services.

Africa: Fund finalised - Investment management firm Convergence Partners has announced the launch of its Communications Infrastructure Fund (CPCIF), claiming to be the only infrastructure fund globally dedicated solely to the ICT sector in Africa. It has a first close of USD 145 million under management. Convergence Partners has invested in significant projects, including SEACOM. CPCIF has a final close of USD 250 million. CPCIF achieved its first close with commitments from Convergence Partners (as sponsors), the International Finance Corporation, the European Investment Bank, the Dutch Development Bank (FMO), the Development Bank of Southern Africa and the CDC Group.

Botswana: Hotspots heralded - Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTCL) has launched its first public Wi-Fi hotspots. BTCL Head of Product Management, Pilot Yane, said the four initial BTC Connect Hotspots were in conference venues, shopping malls and restaurants. Subscribers will also be able to use the BTCL Connect Hotspot vouchers at any of the listed Hotspot venues, allowing them to roam between Hot spots. 

Cape Verde: Cable cut - CVTelecom issued a statement last week following the severance of the fibre optic cable connecting the island of Santo Antao. CVT noted that the cable connecting Porto Novo (Santo Antao) and S. Pedro (São Vicente) was cut at around 11.55 a.m. on 21 November, and that this is the thirteenth time the cable has been cut. This affected services of both CVMóvel and Unitel + T on the islands of Santo Antao, S. Nicholas and Sal.

Egypt: Bank bandwidth - Telecom Egypt will update Al-Ahli Bank's information network using fibre optics at a cost of EGP 90 million (USD 13 million) over a five year period. According to the Daily News, services will be provided in 121 nationally. TE CEO Mohamed El Nawawy said that the upgrade would be completed within 12 months, with technical support over a five-year period. Bandwidth of up to 10Gbps will be provided.

Gambia: Johnson jettisoned - The Freedom Newspaper reported last week that Information Minister Nana Grey Johnson has been dismissed with immediate effect, for reasons unknown. The minister?s oversaw the running of state-owned telco Gamtel, which is reportedly in a poor financial state due to a lack of funding and high debt levels; it has had to delay paying staff the paper reports. Johnson is also credited with recent legislation restricting freedom of Internet use.

Ghana: Top trumps - Chamberline Nyemitei, Tigo's Brands and Marketing Co-ordinator for the Eastern Region, has rewarded 15 Sales and Activation agents of the company in the Eastern Region for increasing the Tigo subscriber base at a ceremony in Koforidua, BusinessGhana reported. Apart from the awards, all sales agents receive a commission on sales.


Kenya: Fast funds - BitPesa Ltd. is to use the Bitcoin virtual currency to facilitate remittances to Kenya of some USD 1.2 billion per annum. The service is to start on a trial basis by March, after regulatory approval is obtained. BusinessWeek reported Chief Executive Officer Elizabeth Rossiello saying it plans to gain 1 percent of the market within a year, targeting 6,500 monthly transactions. Kenya is sub-Saharan Africa?s third-largest recipient of remittances, after Nigeria and Senegal, with more than 3 million Kenyans living overseas. North America accounts for about half the remittances, followed by Europe with almost a third.

Lebanon: Call-centre capacity created - Last week touch launched its new Beirut 24/7 120-seat call centre. Located in the Beirut Digital District, it has launched with 80 seats manned each shift. Nadim Khater, Chief Commercial Officer told The Daily Star it already had a smaller call centre which could not cope with the volume of calls. The new centre will eventually operate three shifts of 120, and is currently handling 20,000 - 25,000 calls daily.

Liberia: Taxi transaction - Paying for a taxi ride with a mobile phone is now a possibility, thanks to an initiative being piloted by Lonestar Cell MTN with 10 taxis. The New Dawn reports that the pilot is expected to be scaled-up to 100 taxis in the near future. Laurence Bropleh, Corporate Affairs head at Lonestar Cell MTN, said payment can be made once the passenger realises they are in a mobile money branded cab.A third party can also make the payment.

Namibia: Booths banished - The Namibian reports that telephone booths are being removed from the streets of Windhoek, whilst Telecards are still available. The paper reports the pay phones are dumped in the Telecom Namibia yard in Windhoek's Southern Industrial Area. Oiva Angula, Senior Manager: Corporate Communications & Public Relations was quoted as saying they were being removed due to low usage.

Nigeria: LTE launch - Spectranet has launched its LTE network in Abuja, offering a maximum download speed of 4Mbps, THIS DAY has reported. Spectranet first launched its TD-LTE network in August and plans to expand services to other cities, including Ibadan, Kano and Port Harcourt. Spectranet was awarded a 2.3GHz spectrum licence in May 2009 and launched a commercial WiMAX network in Lagos in October 2011. In September 2012 DragonWave announced that Spectranet had selected its Horizon product family to deliver high capacity, 4G/LTE-ready wireless backhaul networks.

Saudi Arabia: Store success - The number of applications downloaded by subscribers through the Mobily App Store exceeded three million, a 200 percent increase on last year. Mobily's App store supports most operating smartphones systems such as Android, BlackBerry, Windows, Symbian, and Java.


Sierra Leone: New chairs - Dr. Tom Obaleh Kargbo has been named as Chairman of NATCOM, and Dr. Michael Kargbo as Chairman of the National Commission for Privatisation (NCP) replacing Siray Timbo and Abu Bangura respectively. Dr. Obaleh Kargbo is former Chairman of Sierratel.

South Africa: Approval for new approach sort - The Independent Communications Authority of SA's (ICASA's) newly-appointed CEO, Pakamile Pongwana, has said that a new approach will be presented to its council next week, after which it will be shared with stakeholders. Pongwana is former head of regulatory affairs at Vodacom and took over as CEO of ICASA as of 1 November, succeeding Themba Dlamini. ITWeb notes the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee was told that ICASA missed 67 percent of its 45 targets, and only spent 85 percent of its budget.

South Africa: BlackBerry buoyant - The Mobility 2014 research survey, commissioned by technology research company World Wide Worx in conjunction with First National Bank (FNB) suggests BlackBerry?s market share has risen from 18 percent in 2012 to 23 percent in 2013. The most popular mobile brand is Nokia, boasting a 44 percent market share, although down from 50 percent last year. Samsung increased its market share to 19 percent, up one percent. Apple accounted for just 2 percent.

South Africa: Faster fibre - Telkom expects to launch fibre-to-the-home (ftth) by the end of 2014, whilst saying its trial of a 100Mbps offering was 'proceeding well', MyBroadband has reported. In March 2012 Telkom was rumoured to be readying to roll out ftth services in parts of Pretoria, Johannesburg, and Cape Town. Trials were underway in two business parks, three gated communities, and a ?leafy suburb?. The home trials were running in La Pama in Durban; Plantations in Durban; and Somerset in Gauteng.

South Africa: Internet induction - MTN has launched its eStreet mobile Internet café offering subscribers a free interactive service to educate them about smart devices. Brian Gouldie, Chief Marketing Officer at MTN said the Internet café will travel around the country, to ensure that new and existing subscribers get the most out of the network, smart technologies and online solutions.

South Africa: M-PESA migration - Nedbank is to re-launch its M-PESA mobile money service onto a new IT platform that will interface directly into banks. M-PESA was launched in partnership with Vodacom in August 2010, and now claims more than 1.2 million registered users. Nedbank admitted that creating a mobile money program in South Africa has proved more challenging than in other markets due to the integrated need to move money from bank accounts to an electronic wallet directly and the associated ability to use those funds in daily dealings.

South Africa: Mobile milestone - On 26 November Cell C reckons it hit the 13-million mobile subscriber mark, representing net additions of around 4 million in the last 14-15 months, acting Cell C CEO Jose dos Santos told BDLive. October was apparently a record with just over 1.2-million gross connections, and with more than 400,000 net additions.

South Africa: Money services measured - The joint Dashboard and World Wide Worx study, part of a collective Mobility 2014 study, found Absa?s CashSend was the most popular mobile money service with some 30.8 percent of respondents using it. FNB?s eWallet was second with 22.4 percent. M-PESA, the joint initiative between Nedbank and Vodacom, and Standard Bank?s Instant Money were equal, each scoring 19.6 percent. Relaunched MTN Mobile Money saw 6.5 percent of respondents say they had used the service, with FNB Geopay and FNB Pay2Cell at 1.9 percent each.