News in Brief 12 March 2014

Africa: Mobile money maturing - The number of payments to mobile wallets on behalf of Standard Bank's clients in Kenya rose 300 percent in 2013. Kenya and Nigeria have led in terms of the adoption of mobile payment technology. Sachin Shah, head of cash management products at Standard Bank, said this is a growing trend that is helping the two countries to introduce more unbanked members of the public to formal financial services. In Nigeria, the Bank has started a mobile payments pilot project with two clients and facilitated over NGN 4 billion worth of payments this year.

Botswana: CEO charges - The former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC), Vincent Seretse, is facing two counts of abuse of office when he was BTC CEO in 2008, and for awarding a tender to a company called Serala (Pty) Ltd which he allegedly had interests in. The Gazette reports that the Assistant Minister of Finance and Development Planning might yet escape the charge following an order by Corruption Court Judge Justice Tshepho Motswagole that the prosecution furnish him with further particulars or drop the charge.

Burkina Faso: Cost of cable cuts - The cost of repairing vandalised cables by the National Telecommunications Office (Onatel) is estimated to stand at nearly XOF 2.9 billion (USD 6.13 million), the Sidwaya newspaper reported. Onatel said there had been 612 cases of vandalism in the period 2010 to 2014. Some 59,000 subscribers were directly affected.

Egypt: Ill wind - Global Telecom, the erstwhile Orascom Telecom, has taken a multi-million dollar impairment charge on its Canadian Wind Mobile business following the latter?s withdrawal from a 4G spectrum auction. Its 4Q13 net loss rose 59 percent from a year ago to USD 749 million, blaming currency factors as well as the Canadian write down, and propelling its full-year loss to USD 924 million, up 349 percent on 2012.

Kenya: Bonga bonus - Safaricom is holding some KES 3.2 billion (USD 36.4 million) in unclaimed Bonga points, with only 80 percent of its reward scheme points being redeemed in the form of airtime, data bundles, merchandise and SMSs, according to Business Daily. Safaricom awards one Bonga point for every KES 10 spent on its network.

Kuwait: Regulatory reading - A bill to form Kuwait's first independent telecom regulator has had its first reading according to the assembly's Website. The Ministry of Communications is the effective regulator and also ultimately owns and operates the fixed-line network. The second and final reading of the bill is scheduled for this Tuesday.

Middle East: Facebook facts - Facebook has said that 28 million people in the Middle East and North Africa region log on daily, with over half (15 million) of daily users doing so via a mobile device. Over the course of a month, 33 million access their accounts via a phone or tablet.

Morocco: Inside job - The investigation into the former Director General of Wana and eleven other defendants regarding the diversion of international voice traffic is due to continue next week. The charges include forgery, embezzlement, and money laundering. According to the Website, the traffic was tapped from an area under the control of the National Agency of Telecommunications Regulation (ANRT). Subsequently apartments belonging to two former employees were found to contain sophisticated equipment. Wana, the operator primarily affected by the diversion of the calls, initiated the complaint.

Nigeria: Tax take - MTN Nigeria has paid some NGN 1.12 trillion (USD 7.22 billion) to the government from 2001 through to the end of 2013, according to Corporate Service Executive, MTN Nigeria, Akinwale Goodluck. In 2012 alone it paid some NGN 191 billion (USD 1.15 billion) to the government. The payments include duties on equipment and stocks, Value Added Tax on revenue and operating expenses, different types of taxes, and various fees to the Nigerian Communications Commission, permits and levies. Goodluck said NGN 34 billion (USD 204.4 million) was spent on diesel for generators in 2013; enough to build 5,200 new base stations.

Saudi Arabia: M2M for Mobily - Mobily and Jasper Wireless announced the availability of services to wirelessly connect machine-to-machine (M2M) and consumer electronics devices. Jasper is providing Mobily with the ability to deliver the necessary applications and services to connect and manage a range of embedded wireless devices across Mobily's key vertical markets.



Saudi Arabia: New chair confirmed - Zain Saudi announced on Monday the appointment of Farhan Bin Naif Al Faisal Al Jarbaa as its Chairman. He replaces Fahad Ibrahim Al Dughaither who resigned for personal reasons, but still holds a board seat.

Senegal: Cables carted-off - Sonatel's Director of Security Security Dame Mbaye said there has been a considerable increase in theft of copper cables in recent years. In 2013 it lost some 27 kilometres of cable from its wired network. She was speaking at an awareness day sponsored by the Authority Telecommunications Regulatory and Post (ARTP) in partnership with the National Police.

Sierra Leone: Communications criticised - The Parliamentary Information and Communications Committee last week summoned mobile operators to regarding their alleged poor provision of service, the Awoko news site reported. The Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Binneh Bangura accused the operators of failing to meet the communications need of the populace, whilst continuing to charging for poorly delivered services. It was suggested that Africell in particular is using old and outdated equipment. NATCOM was also criticised, and Acting Director of NATCOM, Saidu Turay said it is now poised to rigorously use the powers at its disposal.

South Africa: BlackBerry billing - Telkom Mobile and BlackBerry have announced an integrated carrier billing service for BlackBerry users in South Africa, which utilises Telkom Mobile's newly developed Event Billing service. Telkom Mobile users can buy applications on the BlackBerry World storefront and charge it directly to their mobile phone bill or airtime, as well as make in-app purchases, such as additional content or new levels for a gaming app. The process includes a double opt-in process.

South Africa: Council consummated - Last week the National Broadband Advisory Council (NBAC), which will advise the Minister of Communications on the implementation of 'South Africa Connect', was officially launched. The Council comprises independent technical experts and representatives of business, trade unions and civil society. Since the adoption of 'SA Connect' in December some 782 schools have been provided with computers. A new e-skills institute, Ikamva, was launched two weeks ago.

South Africa: June return - Cell C CEO acting Jose dos Santos says that CEO Alan Knott-Craig is expected back within two to three months, MyBroadband has reported. On 18 November 2013 Cell C announced Knott-Craig had suffered a stroke, but was expected to make a full recovery. The comment was made by dos Santos on CNBC's Techbusters.

South Africa: Retail presence - Huawei has opened its first store based at Vodacom World in Midrand, Johannesburg. Bruce Wong, Huawei Key Account General Manager for Vodacom said Africa was a key market for Huawei, and that the opening the first store in SA shows its commitment. Stores in other parts of South Africa will follow. The E5730 Mobile Wi-Fi, a high-speed packet access mobile hotspot, was also launched during the store opening. Makro and Edgars stores are selling the E5730 in South Africa at an approximate price of ZAR 999 (USD 92.82).

Swaziland: High MTRs - A study commissioned by International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the European Commission (EC) has found that Swaziland has the highest mobile termination rates (MTRs) of any country in the southern African Region. The charges are applied for calls from Swaziland Post and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC) to MTN Swaziland. The MTRs is some USD 0.17, whilst Namibia charges only USD 0.05; Mozambique USD 0.07 and South Africa and Botswana USD 0.08.

Tunisia: Poulina partnership - Tunisie Telecom has strengthened its partnership with the multi-group Poulina. Abdelwahab Ben Ayed, CEO of Poulina and Mokhtar Mnakri, CEO of Tunisie Telecom signed the deal. Fadhel Kraiem, Deputy Director General of Tunisia Telecom also attended. The Poulina group operates in several sectors, including real estate, industry, trade and services, and will provide a series of convergent offers. Poulina staff will also benefit from services offered by Tunisie Telecom, and in particular ADSL Home lines.

Turkey: Tata Turkcell connection - Tata Communications and Turkcell Superonline have signed a collaboration deal to set up a Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) node in Istanbul. Businesses in Turkey, and adjoining countries where Turkcell Superonline has established cross-border fibre connectivity, will be able to connect to Tata Communications' global MPLS and Ethernet networks.

United Arab Emirates: Local WiFi - du has announced its new 'WiFi UAE' initiative, which is now available at more than 100 prominent locations in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The facility will be rolled out nationally in the second phase. Ahmad bin Byat, chairman of du, said: "In today's times, a key enabler in joining these pieces together is telecom technology. "

United Arab Emirates: May for Maroc - Last week Etisalat said that it expects to complete its EUR 4.2 billion (USD 5.78 billion) purchase of a controlling stake in Maroc Telecom by the end of May. In November Etisalat agreed to buy Vivendi's 53 percent stake in Maroc Telecom for EUR 3.9 billion euros, plus a further EUR 300 million in 2012 dividends. Serkan Okandan, Etisalat's Chief Financial Officer, told Reuters that it needed to complete the regulatory approvals for the countries in which Maroc Telecom operates.

United Arab Emirates: Single rate - Etisalat has simplified its international call tariff with just one rate for both peak and off-peak. Henceforth a AED 1.80 (USD 0.49) per minute standard rate applies for all international calls, the rate drops to AED 0.33 per minute if on one of Etisalat's new bundled 'Saving Packs'. A Basic Plan (AED 50 per month) under the offer gives 50 flexible minutes (local, international and incoming roaming) bundled with 50MB of data usage.