News in Brief 29 January 2014

Afghanistan: Fixed project flagged-off - ICT minister Amirzai Sangin inaugurated three fixed-line projects in Ghazni province costing USD 7 million. The three projects are for fibre optic links, an Afghan Telecom digital telephone project with 5,000 lines, and an Afghan Telecom DSL project. Services are currently only available in Ghazni city, but will be extended to the rest of the province in the near future.

Africa: EASSy evolution - The EASSy submarine system is to deploy Alcatel-Lucent 100G technology, which will allow the system to handle in excess of 10Tbit/s. The EASSy system runs 10,000km from South Africa to Sudan. Chris Wood, Chairman of EASSy said: "This upgrade will add an additional 400Gbps of capacity throughout the system, using Alcatel-Lucent?s advanced coherent 100Gbit/s technology, and enables us to take a further step in offering our customers the ultra-broadband capacity needed for innovative services and applications ".

Africa: Tower transaction - US-owned Frontier Tower Solutions (FTS) is reported to be close to closing a number of tower deals in Africa and Afghanistan in early 2014, according to TMT Finance. FTS is thought to be at an advanced stage to acquire towers belonging to MTN Afghanistan, as well as former Vimpelcom asset Telecel Globe, now owned by Niel Telecom (subject to closing conditions), with operations in Burundi and Central African Republic (CAR). MTN Afghanistan has around 5.7 million subscribers, while the two Telecel units have a combined total of 1.9 million subscribers.

Algeria: CTO to CEO - VimpelCom affiliate Djezzy has a new CEO with effect from Thursday last week. The new man is Philip Tohme, currently VimpelCom Group's Chief Technology Officer. Vincenzo Nesci is to continue as Executive Chairman of Djezzy.

Bahrain: Extra channels - Batelco has added more channels via its Play HD Smart Box, which now include Discovery World, Discovery ID, Discovery Science, Animal Planet, OSN News, JimJam and Cartoon Network.

Bahrain: Zain ups fraud management - Zain Bahrain has selected Neural Technologies' Minotaur Fraud Management System to monitor its GSM and Wimax networks, with particular focus on international usage for roaming and high-value calls. The solution is configured for 'Near Real Time Roaming Data Exchange', and has the ability to automatically suspend a subscriber's account, remove services and send urgent alerts to analysts and other key staff by SMS for a fast response, further minimising losses.

Cape Verde: Spectrum supervision - The National Communications Agency (ANAC) formally commenced the construction of a Remote Spectrum Monitoring station on the island of Sal on 21 January 2014. The station will enable ANAC to more effectively managing the spectrum, which involves planning, allocation of spectrum resources and supervision, as well as co-ordination between civilian communications, military and paramilitary.

 

Egypt: ICT veteran for ITIDA - Ehab Mostafa has been named as Vice President (VP) of Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA). The Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Atef Helmy made the appointment. The post is for a year starting on 20 January 2014. Mostafa was previously consultant with the Minister of Communications and Information Technology and prior to that Microsoft General Manager in Kuwait in 2009. He was Regional Projects Manager for Africa, East Mediterranean and Pakistan partners in 2007, and was appointed as Oracle marketing and pre-sales services manager in 1997. In 1993 he was named as Senior manager, Technical support for IBM-Egypt. He held the position of senior programmer at Gulf of Suez Petroleum Company (GUPCO) in 1989.

Gabon: LTE latest - Gabonews reports that Maroc-owned Gabon Telecom CEO Lhoussaine Oussalah says it will launch 3G+ and 4G services in mid-2014. He was speaking at a press conference to launch the Akewa promotional campaign, as the operator claimed it has hit the 1 million milestone, chalking up 1.04 million. Gabon Telecom said it has 361 base stations covering 95 percent of the population, and that its fixed network is available in 55 cities, towns and villages, with ADSL in 12 of them.

Israel: Wholesale terms - On 15 January 2014, Bezeq received the Ministry of Communications' decision of the services it has to offer on a wholesale basis to service providers. The list includes Bitstream Access on a national, regional or local connectivity level; Sub-loop unbundling (at this stage only of Bezeq's network); the lease of dark fiber; the lease of Virtual dark fibre; access to the physical infrastructure of cables, sub-cables, manholes, boxes and posts; as well as wholesale telephony service.

Jordan: Taxes take their toll - Umniah CEO Ihab Hinnawi claims that telecom sector revenues have fallen 9 percent since the government increased taxes on mobile phones and subscriptions, the Al-Bawaba news site reported. A study conducted by the mobile operators has found that since the extra tax was imposed on calls and services, revenues fell 9 percent, while profits declined by 30 - 40 percent. In July 2013 a special tax on mobile phones was raised from 8 to 16 percent, and the tax on subscriptions from 12 to 24 percent.

Jordan: Roaming ratified - Umniah has announced Wataniya Palestine as a new roaming partner. The agreement was signed by the CEO of Umniah, Mr.Ihab Hinnawi, and Wataniya Mobile?s Mr. Fayez Al- Husseini.

Jordan: Umniah unknowns - Umniah has signed with Truecaller, which provides a directory of international phone numbers and data on all incoming and outgoing unknown calls. Umniah subscribers will be able to inquire about telephone numbers through the service whether they be national or international callers and without the need of a smartphone. Last year Umniah partnered with other international app providers, including Skype, Wikipedia, and WhatsApp.

Kenya: DD deal done - Dimension Data has completed its acquisition of AccessKenya Group. The deal is worth KES 3.05 billion (USD 35 million). AccessKenya Group announced this week that Dimension Data could proceed with a compulsory buyout of minorities who did not accept its original offer, since they represented less than 10 percent of the remaining shares. Dimension Data said it had received acceptances from shareholders owning 89 percent of the shares in issue. AccessKenya's 430 km metropolitan fibre network connects more than 560 buildings in Nairobi and Mombasa. It has slightly more than 6,000 corporate leased lines.

Kenya: Health insurance via handsets - Safaricom is to offer low cost Linda Jamii health cover in partnership with investment firm Britam and Changamka Micro Insurance. Last week it unveiled health cover targeting a million customers in the 12 months. The annual KES 12,000 (USD 137) premium for medical cover worth KES 290,000 (USD 3,320). In its pilot phase the scheme attracted only 8,000 customers. Currently there are 630 middle tier hospitals where customers will be able to access medical services. Premiums will be collected via M-PESA.

Lebanon: Rural offering - Mobile operator touch, managed by Zain, has launched a WLL Fixed Mobile Line service as part of its 'Dary' offering at Qehmez village, caza of Jbeil. Dary offers a SIM card and compatible handset, and provides remote areas with voice and data capabilities at fixed line costs. Dr. Charbel Cordahi, CFO at touch, said "We will boost our efforts to improve services this year through increasing the number of transmission sites, consolidating the 3G infrastructure while increasing the 4G coverage, the fastest worldwide, following its launch in 2013. " Dary was designed to serve some 200,000 citizens in 210 villages and towns without fixed line connections or supported by obsolete technologies.

Nigeria: Investment is important - Adrian Wood, former CEO of MTN Nigeria and now CEO of Brymedia has said that the government needs to be careful not to turn-off telecom investors. He noted that MTN had paid sizeable dividends in the last three years, which was on the back of a USD 10 billion investment. The industry as a whole has invested some USD 25 billion to date. He told Technology Times that taking 'stiff measures against the most successful of the operators including Globacom, Airtel; all that will do is to discourage investors from the broadband generation and that will be bad'.

Nigeria: Under-utilised undersea cables - Despite the substantial investment in international submarine cables, which has created over 10 terabytes of bandwidth capacity, the Vanguard newspaper reports that the cable systems - MainOne Communications, Glo One and the West African Cable Systems - have yet to utilise 10 percent of their capacity. Ms Funke Opeke, MainOne's Chief Executive Officer lamented the hurdles preventing full last mile broadband deployment; MainOne usage currently stands at around 5 percent of its total capacity.

Qatar: More messaging - Ooredoo customers can now access Q-Mobile premium SMS services at Ooredoo Self-Service Machines (SSM). Brian Speldewinde, Assistant Director, Indirect Sales Channels at Ooredoo, said that customers can now receive important information quickly. Ooredoo has more than 200 SSMs located throughout Qatar, including in malls, airport terminals, and petrol stations, and has recently installed drive-through SSMs on major highway intersections and border crossings.

Saudi Arabia: Child safe cellphone - Mobily has launched Mobily Guardian App which parents with the ability to control their children?s Android smartphones, in collaboration with Pervasive Group Inc. The app allows parents to locate their child?s phone immediately or periodically using text message commands, set time restrictions to limit usage of the device, enables parents to block, allow and set time limits on selected apps to be used, and to monitor text messages for inappropriate language as well as block calls and texts from unwanted contacts and numbers. The monthly subscription is SAR 15 (USD 4) per month or SAR 99 (USD 26) per annum.

Somalia: Inhibited Internet - UN-funded Radio Bar-Kulan has reported that residents of Bulo Burde, Halgan, Mahas, Jalalaqsi and other areas found that Internet access through Hormud Telecom was unavailable as of the evening of 21 January. This followed the ultimatum issued by al-Shabaab after giving telcos a 15-day ultimatum. Hormud representatives in Bulo Burde were reported as saying negotiations with al-Shabaab had failed.

South Africa: In denial - Reports last week that an unnamed southeast Asian company would spend USD 3 billion on buying and expanding Telkom's mobile infrastructure has been denied by the operator. Telkom has some 1,600 towers and has plans for a further 8,400. Telkom said it is talks with various parties to consider the best options for the business, without giving further details.

South Africa: No mobile merger - BusinessTech reports that Telkom has rejected Cell C?s merger offer as the latter is running at a loss: as a private company, Cell C is not obliged to publish its financial details. Last year Sipho Maseko, Group CEO at Telkom, said Telkom Mobile business was going through 'a very difficult time', and was in discussions with parties over future operations. In July, Cell C CEO Alan Knott-Craig confirmed that the mobile operator had held talks with Telkom Mobile. There are potential synergies as Cell C has a poor network; whilst Telkom lacks market share. BusinessTech also thinks Orange might be interested in working with Telkom.

South Africa: Sharpened focus - mHealth Alliance, a global organisation promoting mobile health solutions, is to relocate from the USA to South Africa in 2014. The head office will be relocated from the USA-based United Nations Foundation to the South Africa-headquartered Praekelt Foundation. This is to facilitate the scaling up of mHealth projects in the global South. Mobile health projects use mobile devices to deliver health-related information. Executive director Patricia Mechael says the transition will sharpen their strategy to systematically address critical gaps such as country-level policy developments and institutional capacity building, and needs identified by the mHealth and broader global health communities.

South Africa: Vodacom succession - Vodacom has said that Nick Read will step down from the Board with effect from 5 February 2014 following his recent appointment as Chief Financial Officer designate of the Vodafone Group on 1 January 2014. Serpil Timuray, appointed to the board in September 2012, will succeed Read on 5 February 2014 as a member of the Vodacom Group.

South Sudan: New Zainer - Basel Manasrah is the new CEO of Zain South Sudan, replacing Wassim Mansour, who returns to his role as advisor to the Group CEO after an eight-month assignment. Manasrah joined Zain in 2000; roles include COO Zain Jordan; marketing and customer care director at Zain Kuwait; commercial consultant for Zain Iraq and commercial consultant for Zain Bahrain.

Tanzania: Cellular convenience - Uchumi supermarkets are now accepting payment by Vodacom's M-PESA mobile money transfer platform. Vodacom Tanzania Chief Sales Officer Hasan Saleh welcomed the move, whilst Uchumi's Country Manager Chris Lenana said the partnership would benefit both sets of customers.

Tunisia: Stake short-list - Korea Telecom, Orange and Turkcell have been short-listed for the purchase of Emirates International Telecommunications' (EIT) 35 percent stake in TT, according to Habib Dababi, an advisor to the ICT minister. Agence Ecofin reports that the government has decided that it would not sell off any further stakes in the state-owned operator.

Uganda: Counterfeits to be cancelled - The Executive Director of the Uganda Communications Commission Godfrey Mutable has said that the equipment for detecting counterfeit mobile devices is now in the country, and a public awareness campaign is due to start in February. The program was delayed after the UCC claimed it did not have the funding for the equipment. About a million handsets were deactivated in Kenya since October 2013.

United Arab Emirates: FedNET update - The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has reported the progress to date of establishing the Electronic Federal Network (FedNET). The project is divided into two phases. The first is building the network?s technical centre and the second is rolling out the pilot exercise measuring connectivity. Both these phases are due to be completed in the last week of October 2014, and it expects to finalise the entire project with the connection of the 42 federal entities by end of July 2015. The project implementation started in early 2014 and will be completed in an 18-month timeframe.

Zimbabwe: EcoCash thinks strategic - Strive Masiyiwa, the founder and chairman of Econet Wireless, wants to turn EcoCash mobile wallet technology as Zimbabwe's primary method of payment, according to the New Zimbabwe newspaper. The move comes as the local economy relies almost exclusively on the US dollar but the limited number of bills in circulation are old and tatty, and change is problematical due to a shortage of coins. Some 31 percent of the population are now registered for EcoCash. Econet has embarked on an aggressive merchant acquisition campaign, and is paying out 80 percent of revenue in agency commissions.