News in Brief 3 March 2014

Algeria: Mutual masts - A mast-sharing deal signed by Mobilis and rival Djezzy at the start of 2014 has been ratified in Barcelona, Agence Ecofin reports. Mobilis hopes to reduce its expenditure and environmental impact while improving its network coverage. Saad Damma, CEO of Mobilis, and Jo Lunder, CEO of Vimpelcom signed the deal.

Algeria: Online offering - Algerie Telecom CEO Azouaou Mehmel has announced that online bill payment will be available to all of its users from March, reports Agence Ecofin. Some customers have used the system since January. But following a deal with the Algerian postal service, the service is now more widely available.

Bahrain: F1 snaps facilitated - Batelco says action images from F1 testing as it happens at the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) are being transmitted by its 4G network. All eleven F1 teams will be using the next four days to shake down their new cars prior to the opening race in Australia on 16 March. Batelco has provided LTE Mi-Fi devices to Sutton Images, a Formula One photographic agency, to enable them to take action shots and share them immediately with their media contacts.

Ghana: Cardless cash - MTN is employing Ecobank to offer its subscribers access to the bank's cardless ATM services nationally and so allowing more than two million mobile money subscribers to withdraw from Ecobank ATMs. The service can be accessed at all the network?s offices and bank?s branches nationally, other partnering banks and about 8,000 merchants.

Iran: Ministerial meetings -The Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mahmoud Vaezi has met with his counterparts from Russia and South Africa in Barcelona. Separate meetings were held with Russian Communications and Mass Media Minister Nikolai Nikiforov and South African Minister of Communications Younus Karim.



Kenya: Electronic event - Nairobi is to host a three-day Digital Fair from 7 March bringing together different groups to showcase the latest trends. The theme is powering the digital future, and exhibitors will include telecom, media and advertising firms, government bodies and learning institutions, including the Kenya ICT Authority, Safaricom, Google, the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) and Scarlet Digital.

Liberia: Frozen finance - The President has imposed a freeze on the bank account of the Liberia Telecommunications Authority, and consequently staff are not being paid, according to a report by FrontPageAfrica. Last week the LTA posted on its bulletin board a message from the Director of Administration, citing the President's freeze on the LTA's account as beyond their control. The move comes after LTA Chair Angelique Weeks signed a lease agreement for a new headquarters building worth USD 1.1 million over a three-year period.

Malawi: Better services - Minister of Information, Brown Mpinganjira, called on mobile operators to improve their service quality whilst opening the 47th AFRALTI Governing Council Meeting. He added: "There is also a lot of work to be done in connecting millions of our people in the region to the technological marvel that is the Internet ". AFRALTI is a recognised centre of excellence in telecommunications training.

Mali: Cable commissioned - A new cable connecting Mali and Morocco has been inaugurated, Agence Ecofin reports. The cable was deployed by Maroc Telecom at a cost XOF 13 billion (USD 27.4 million). The same cable also connects Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Niger over a distance of 5,698 km. The 1,064 km portion in Mali cost XOF 4 billion (USD 8.4 million). Sotelma, a Maroc Telecom subsidiary, manages the international links in Mali.

Mauritania: Revenue refunded - The outcome of two fraud cases relating to the diversion of traffic from incoming international calls was made public on Thursday 20 February 2014. The cases were heard under the Electronic Communications Act 2013-025 of 15 July 2013, with the accused being found guilty and imprisoned for a year, together with a fine of MRO 1 million (USD 3,373) to be refunded to the operators who lost revenue.

Malawi: Timely top-up - In April Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM) is to launch an airtime credit facility product branded 'TNM Pasavute'. TNM Chief Commercial Officer Charles Kamoto said ?Pasavute? would allow users to obtain airtime at the time when they most needed it. During a trial period from 26 February to 15 March 2014 the service will be available to selected subscribers, before being offered to all customers. Pasavute will allow airtime to be borrowed and repaid with a 10% service fee on their next recharge.

Oman: Low-cost LTE - Omantel has announced that subscribers on specific Mada plans can purchase a 4G smartphone for only OMR 15 (USD 38.85) or get 50 percent extra mobile broadband data on top of their existing mobile broadband monthly plans if they to choose to purchase a 4G smartphone at the recommended retail price, which is extended to both Hayyak and Mada customers.

Qatar: Sporting schedule - Ooredoo has announced the Mozaic TV coverage schedule for the 2014 cricket season, including live access to the Asia Cup, ICC World Twenty20 Bangladesh 2014 and the Indian Premier League. The season coverage will be accessible to all Mozaic TV OSN Pehla Spice Plus channel subscribers in Qatar. MoneyGram and Ooredoo Mobile Money users will have a chance to win a fully paid round-trip to Dhaka to watch the final match of the ICC World Twenty20 Bangladesh 2014 on 6 April.

Senegal: Public protected - Last week the Commission on Personal Data Protection (CDP) said it had received a statement from the National Telecommunications Company (SONATEL) relating to files and databases holding personal information of clients. This will now allow Sonatel be compliant with the legislation regarding personal data, the CDP said in a statement. The submission consisted of 27 reports dealing with the video recording of staff and clients, databases of subscribers, both fixed and mobile, and Sonatel Multimedia. The Sonatel submission is the start of the process, and Tigo and Expresso are expected to follow.

South Africa: Basic BlackBerry - BlackBerry unveiled a new, cheaper smartphone being built under a partnership deal with FIH Mobile Ltd, the Hong Kong-listed unit of Taiwanese electronics firm, Foxconn. Codenamed Jakarta, the device will first go on sale in Indonesia in April 2014 for under USD 200, according to BlackBerry?s new Chief Executive John Chen. The Z3 will launch on version 10.2.1 of its BlackBerry 10 mobile operating system, and the device will also feature an FM Radio. Arthur Goldstuck, head of South African research firm World Wide Worx, in a tweet has suggested it will launch in South Africa shortly afterwards.

South Africa: Bots blamed - Vodacom has confirmed its Twitter account was hacked this week, claiming it had been the subject of a bot attack. Vodacom is reported to have started tweeting weight-loss advertisements reading 'The fastest way to burn off fat & lose weight featured & recommended from Dr Oz. show', followed by a link ? with the Tweets continuing regularly throughout the night. HumanIPO notes that in December a report by Incapsula showed 61.5 percent of all Website traffic in 2013 was attributable to bots, up 21 percent on the previous year, while 31 percent of bots are now classified as 'malicious'.

South Africa: Satellite solution - Liquid Telecom has built a satellite hub at Teraco?s vendor-neutral earth station in South Africa. This will allow it to route African traffic in Africa rather than backhauling it via Europe. Nic Rudnick, CEO of Liquid Telecom said that its fibre and satellite networks complement each other and enable it to meet the ever-increasing demand for connectivity from across Africa. He added that Teraco is the most connected point in southern Africa.

South Africa: Share loan settled - Telkom's suspended Chief Financial Officer has repaid a USD 548,000 loan according to statement issued on Monday. Jacques Schindehutte was lent nearly ZAR 6 million to purchase Telkom shares with. Both the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission have found that this was in violation of sections of company law. Chief Executive Sipho Maseko will have to attend a corporate governance course. Schindehutte was suspended in 2013 over allegations of personal misconduct.

South Sudan: Frontier facility - Last week MTN launched a customer service centre at the South Sudan-Uganda border post. The operator said: "The centre will ensure vendors don?t have to travel all the way to Juba to purchase airtime scratch cards, rectify problems. " The centre will offer registration services for SIM Cards, mobile Internet connections, reactivation of blocked numbers, and fully connected Carolina phones valued at SSP 85. Gasper Mbowa, MTN?s marketing manager said the aim is to have service centres at all major border points.

Tanzania: Revenue revaluation - The Telecommunications Traffic Monitoring System (TTMS) was formally launched at the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) headquarters last week. TCRA Director General Professor John Nkoma that monthly revenues of USD 1 million are expected to be generated from inbound international calls. The kit will also be used to monitor transactions made through mobile money transfer services and so allow the government to collect tax. Some TZS 3.2 billion (USD 1.92 million) has already been collected in November and December 2013.

Tunisia: Safer haven sought - Korea Telecom (KT) said late last week that it would not be bidding for a stake in state-owned Tunisie Telecom, according to Reuters. In 2013 said it was in initial talks to buy a 35 percent stake in Tunisie Telecom from Dubai Holding's arm, Emirates International Telecommunications LLC. It bought the stake for USD 2.25 billion in 2006.

Uganda: Digital default - A change in technology standards has landed the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) with court action. MOTV Africa, a digital satellite television service provider, is demanding UGX 14.6 billion (USD 5.7 million) in compensation after the UCC dropped the DVT-B standard in favour of DVT-B2, but after MOTV had made a significant investment in the DVT-B standard, having received the appropriate approvals. It is claimed that the technology was rendered obsolete and irrelevant with damages including loss of capital equipment, pre-operating expenses, operational expenses and projected profits. The date for digital migration has also migrated and is currently set for December 2014.

Uganda: Regional telco revealed - Last year a campaign was run for members of the public to suggest name for a new Pan-East African mobile operator, based in Uganda. Now East African Business Week reports that the Aga Khan Development Network Foundation (AKDN) is behind the plan. However the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has previously published data suggesting that the voice market is saturated, with the number of mobile subscribers standing at 16.7 million. The UCC's Eng. Godfrey Mutabazi has suggested that the population is about 34 million, of which half is below the age of 15.

Uganda: Station scrutinised - A mast belonging to MTN in the Uganda Wildlife Authority's (UWA) Murchison Falls National Park has been questioned by parliamentarians. The Auditor General's report for the year ending June 2012 shows MTN's contract with the UWA has not been renewed. However MTN has continued to pay the original fee of USD 15,000 per annum and not the proposed fee of USD 20,000. The Observer newspaper, however, quotes MTN General Manager Corporate Services, Anthony Katamba, as saying the mast has been in the park for over ten years, and that it was currently involved in negotiations with the ministry of ICT, Ministry of Tourism and the UWA executive to extend the lease.

Uganda: Text talk - Uganda Telecom (UT) has re-launch its Voice SMS service on the Kirusa Platforms. The service uses pioneering Voice SMS technology by Kirusa, which allows mobile subscribers to send messages by voice, eliminating the need to type. It is available to all UT subscribers on both feature phones and smartphones. Shailendra Naidu, Chief Commercial Officer, Uganda Telecom, said it was 'hopeful' that the service will provide a new way for subscribers to communicate, and 'prove to be a beneficial resource'. Inderpal Singh Mumick, CEO, Kirusa, claimed it was the next-generation messaging application.

United Arab Emirates: Destination Datamena - Turk Telekom International is to establish a Point of Presence (PoP) in the UAE, facilitated by Datamena. TTI will expand the connectivity options to Turkey, Eastern and Central Europe, and will also bring Gulfstream AMEER, a new alternative route between the Middle East and Europe, into Datamena, where it can connect further to other cables such as MEETS.

United Arab Emirates: Overdue dues - Pakistan's Upper House was informed last week that some USD 799 million has to be recovered from Etisalat International Pakistan for a 26 percent stake in Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL). The stake was sold for USD 2.60 billion of which USD 1.80 billion had been paid so far. Repayment of the reminder is awaiting the transfer of properties included in the Share Purchase Agreement (SPA), and to date 3,117 properties have been transferred and 131 remain to be transferred after the resolution of some legal issues. Etisalat is now expected to pay the remaining amount in the current financial year.

United Arab Emirates: Ports promoted - The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has reported that some 61,000 mobile number porting requests were received by both mobile operators since the official launch of the Mobile Number Portability (MNP) service in December 2013. Although only 23,000 were actually ported, as many requests had to be resubmitted with the required paperwork. Mohamed Nasser Al Ghanim, Director General of the TRA said that the launch of MNP is in line with the wider TRA strategy to promote strong competition between the two mobile operators.