News in Brief 19 February 2014

Africa: ITU index - In its latest edition of 'Measuring the Information Society', the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) finds that Africa is the world?s most expensive place for broadband Internet connections, with Africans often paying ten times more than those in Europe. The study ranks 157 countries based on their performance and no African country featured in the top 50. Seychelles, the best performer, was ranked 67th in the index. Thirty of the continent?s 55 countries surveyed are part of the 39 least connected countries (home to 2.4 billion people), with particularly low levels of ICT development.

Africa: V-P for VGE - Deon Liebenberg has been named as Vodafone Global Enterprise's (VGE) Vice-President of VGE Africa, effective from 1 April 2014. He was previously MD for VGE at Vodacom in South Africa and CEO for the Vodacom Business Africa Group across Africa. Prior to joining Vodacom, Liebenberg was the head of Telkom Business Mobile, and the MD at Samsung South Africa. He also served as the V-P and MD for Africa at Research In Motion (RIM).

Bahrain: Success unquantified - Menatelecom claims to have 'exceeded' its subscriber targets after launching national domestic 4G LTE, the Gulf Daily News reported. Menatelecom chairman Abdul Razak Jawahery said: "It is always great to provide a service that supersedes expectations and we are pleased with the impact our 4G LTE services have made on our customers ".

Bahrain: Telecom topping - Batelco is to provide a solution to the Bahrain and Kuwait Restaurant Company, part of the Americana Group, including unified communications, IP telephony and contact centre solutions for the company?s main 36-seat call centre that serves KFC, Hardees and Pizza Hut. IP telephony is being provided for the corporate head office with over 100 users. Adel Daylami, Batelco?s business division general manager, said its teams are capable of designing, deploying and managing the relevant solutions.

Cameroon: Market stimulus - The Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (TRA) has told mobile operators to stop limiting the amounts that can be transferred between consumers. The Regulator noted that Article 5 of the law of 6 May 2011 specifically guarantees consumers rights and freedoms without limit. The Agence Ecofin report notes the TRA saying Orange Cameroon as indulging in 'abusive practice' in recent weeks as it restricted transfers to a maximum of XAF 500 (USD 1.04). However an MTN Cameroon vendor claimed that transfers were unlimited; the restriction existed between plans in an attempt to boost airtime sales for resellers.

Egypt: Evolutionary steps - The board of Telecom Egypt (TE) has approved amendments to its Articles of Association, which will allow changes to the administrative management and operation of the company in preparation for it becoming a fully integrated telco. MD Mohammed Elnawawy said TE had already made moves in this direction, having re-branded itself in 2013, and rolled-out fibre through various infrastructure projects. Further amendments to internal bylaws relating to procurement, personnel affairs and commercial operations are to follow.

Egypt: Swedes in session - A senior delegation from Ericsson met key telecom players from Egypt and the North East Africa region. The Ericsson team included CEO Hans Vestberg, Jan Wareby, Senior Vice President and Head of Sales at Ericsson, Johan Wibergh, Senior Vice President and Head of Networks at Ericsson, as well as Anders Lindblad, President of Ericsson Region Middle East and Isil Yalcin, President of Ericsson North East Africa.

Ghana: Hitch-up with Huawei - MTN Ghana Chief Marketing Officer, Rahul De has formally launched the Huawei Ascend Y220 mobile handset. The CMO said it had invested over USD 90 million in the West Africa Cable System (WACS) submarine cable to provide much-needed bandwidth. The report in The Chronicle said MTN Ghana spent USD 105 million last year on additional network upgrades and expansions. Similar investment is promised for 2014. Co-ordinator of Innovations and Product Services at MTN Ghana, Ms Boadiwaa Ofori-Amoateng said the Android Y220 phone comes with 65 minutes of voice calls each month.

Israeli: Bezeq's Benbenisti bows-out - Bezeq has reported Itzik Benbenisti has stood down as the Bezeq International CEO. In the seven-year period he headed the division, Bezeq significantly expanded its broadband Internet operations, secured the largest Internet customer base in Israel, deployed the first Israeli submarine cable from Israel to Europe, and established itself as a leading IT company. Bezeq did not name a successor.



Jordan: Fiscal forestalment - According to a report jointly published by Umniah, Zain Jordan and Orange Jordan the sector is under pressure from a series of additional state levies imposed in the middle of 2013. The report, issued on 26 January 2014, said combined revenues had fallen by 9 percent since the taxes came into force in July, while profits have dropped by 30-40 percent. The special state tax on mobile phones rose from 8 to 16 percent and the levy on mobile subscriptions from 12 to 24 percent. The sector is also subject to direct taxation, paying both income tax and a revenue sharing levy.

Kenya: Zinging ZTE - Last week ZTE Kenya's CEO Liu Sen said that the telecom sector has revolutionised the local economy. The Shanghai Daily quoted the CEO as saying "ZTE is...looking forward to seeking possibilities in deploying cutting edge technology such as the 4G network in Kenya". ZTE Kenya Deputy CEO Thomas Yang said ZTE had a 'huge competitive advantage over their western counterpart[s] due to their low labour cost'. ZTE Kenya Chief Technology Officer Leo Yu said it would focus on technical skill transfers to Kenya through a raft of measures including professional training at the ZTE University in China. ZTE Technical Manager Simon Muchoki said it had already lain 1,200 km of optical fibre under the national fibre network project.

Liberia: Ghanaian junket - A four-man fact-finding delegation has visited Ghana. The Minister for Post and Telecommunication, Dr Fredrick Norkeh and his two deputies, Mr. Zotawon D Titus and Mr. Fong Dolomengi, in charge of Telecommunications and Postal Operations respectively, met the Ghanaian Minister for Communication, Dr. Omane Boamah. The meeting followed visits to agencies and institutions under the direction of the Ministry. The team also visited the Northern Region to see the fibre optic cable along the eastern corridor, which will connect over 200 communities and towns.

Mauritania: Fines being finalised - The regulator has warned it will now issue fines to the three mobile operators after the deadline for service improvements was reached. Mauritel , Mattel and Chinguitel failed to meet the appropriate standards in an audit carried out between 31 December 2013 and 23 January 2014, and in particular with regard to the voice services in a number of cities. The operators now have ten days to make any comments.

Mauritius: Internet indisposed - On 13 February 2014 mobile operator Emtel experienced a network outage, which saw 'many' subscribers unable to connect to the Internet during the day. The Mauritian Express reported that service was gradually restored throughout the day.

Middle East: Taiwan trunk - Chunghwa Telecom is to invest some CNY 840 million (USD 137.7 million) to construct three major international submarine cables, one of which - the SMW5 - will connect with the Middle East and Europe. SMW5 is expected to be completed in 2Q 2016.

Morocco: Regulatory registration reminder - The SIM card registration deadline is just over five weeks away. The National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (ANRT) gave mobile operators Maroc Telecom, Medi Telecom and Wana Corporate advanced notice of the 1 April 2014 deadline. After the deadline, unregistered subscribers will have restricted access. It is since 2011 that the regulator called telecom operators to identify their service subscribers. ANRT said it aims to 'formalise the contractual relationship between mobile subscribers and their respective operators, guaranteeing their rights and obligations'.

Mozambique: New number series - Mobile operator Movitel is to now offer numbers with an 87 prefix, due to rapid growth in subscriber numbers. Movitel is claiming it has over 3 million subscribers, or a market share of around 24 percent.

Nigeria: Focus not fines - The Minister of Information and Communication Technology Omobola Johnson said in an interview at a Renaissance Capital investment conference that the government may consider a temporarily ban on the sale of new SIM cards in order to force a greater investment in network quality. The Minister said: "Fines are just a slap on the wrist. We need to change behaviour. " Johnson said that when MTN and Airtel?s licences fall due for renewal in 2017 improving service and infrastructure will be written into the conditions.

Oman: Rural reconnoitre - A team from the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) and operators Omantel and Nawras, led by HE Dr. Hamad bin Salim al Rawahy, the TRA's Executive President carried out a follow-up visit to the projects the TRA launched in Sharqiyah North Governorate last year. Some 18 base stations have been erected in rural areas not covered by the operators? plans. The delegates also looked at ways of easing the obtaining approvals to for the installation of towers. The team visited Wilayat of Dima Wa Al Taiyeen in the previous week.

Saudi Arabia: Better BTS - Saudi Telecom Company (STC) and China-based vendor Huawei have signed to deploy Huawei?s Penta-band Antennas. These will improve the performance of STC?s convergent Time Division Duplex (TDD), and Frequency Division Duplex (FDD)-LTE network. The antennas simultaneously support five blocks in the 690MHz-960MHz/4×1710MHz-2690MHz spectrum bands and will be deployed in Dammam. Trials will be conducted before installation. STC had around 7,000 4G LTE enabled-towers by October 2013, with coverage expanded to 76 percent of the population.

Somalia: Misinformation - The government has denied that it has requested the shutting-down of some telcos in a statement from the Ministry of Information. The Ministry said all telecommunication companies should continue with their services. This is presumed to be a consequence of recent actions by Al Shabab which reported forced the Hormuud network off the air in at last three southern regions under the group's control.

United Arab Emirates: Building basics - du is to launch its Smart Telecom Building Infrastructure Guidelines, as engineered and developed by its network team. It will enable developers to design and build future-proof telecom services in their properties, which will accommodate all future needs of smart communications. This is in support of the Dubai Smart City initiative, which will see the emirate's government services and the public linked through the use of smart devices, easily accessible using high-speed wireless Internet connections.

United Arab Emirates: Interest rate improvement - Reuters reports that du has agreed terms on a USD 720 million loan which will replace two existing debt facilities and lower the company's funding costs. The five-year loan is expected to be provided by Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, National Bank of Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia's Samba Financial Group. The interest rate will be 140 basis points over the London interbank offered rate (Libor).

United Arab Emirates: e-Evolution - Etisalat said it would stop its E-Vision service from 1 March and migrate fully to the eLife service. Customers are being offered a free upgrade. ELife TV is delivered via Etisalat's high-speed fibre optic network and offers more than 490 TV channels through premium packages from all major providers. These can be viewed on a variety of platforms including PCs, tablets and mobile devices. It provides over 90 HD channels including general entertainment, documentaries, music, children's content and news.

Zambia: Card compliance - A technical team of the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA) has been monitoring the compliance of MTN, Airtel and Zamtel in their compliance with the new SIM card regulations. Consequently it has instructed the operators to set-up dedicated toll-free lines for handling queries. ZICTA has said of a subscriber base of 9,462,504, a total of 8,235,991 SIM cards have been registered and 2,215,376 deactivated.

Zimbabwe: Procurement problem - Chief Executive Reward Kangai is saying NetOne and TelOne should not be forced to procure goods and services through the State Procurement Board (SPB). State-owned mobile operator NetOne claims its inability to procure goods and service directly for the lack of competitiveness, The Herald reports. NetOne made the response in parliament to questions as to the lack of growth.