News in Brief 7 May 2014

Algeria: Statistical source - The Regulatory Authority for Post and Telecommunications (ARPT) has issued a statement saying that it is the only source of official statistics, and is the only body entitled to validate data relating to mobile subscriber numbers. It said that the 3G market is still nascent, and there are no reliable statistics relating thereto which may be published. It added that any information on this subject, whatever its source and destination, can not be considered accurate. It does, however, plan to communicate timely statistics on the 3G market following a 'strict process of investigation and verification'. That puts a few analyst firms in their place then.

Angola: Presidential post - Last week Angola assumed the presidency of the Southern Africa Telecommunications Association (SATA), taking over from Zambia. Speaking at the opening of the 34th annual conference of SATA, the Inspector general of the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology, Américo dos Santos said that the Angolan government had installed 20,000 kilometres of fibre in all provincial capitals. He added that it is training staff in Russia and Brazil, and has undertaken training in Japan.

 

Bahrain: Free 4G - Zain Bahrain late last week launched 4G LTE service for smartphone and tablet customers; and said users can try 4G LTE service for free for three months. Other features include HD Voice technology, and wider and stronger coverage, and a remarkably better experience overall. Post-paid customers subscribing for 4G LTE service will also get free extra 2GB monthly in addition to their current data package threshold. Zain Bahrain Marketing Director Muneeb Shahid said the service was available for both post- and pre-paid users.

Cote d'Ivoire: Regulatory rendezvous - The Director General of the Autorite de Regulation des Telecommunications de Cote d'Ivoire (ARTCI) has invited all operators that handle post, money transfers and e-mails (SMS) to what are described as 'information meetings' to be held at the ARTCI headquarters starting on 5 May 2014. It said that the CEO 'relies on the actual presence of all operators'. Comium, Green and Cafe were due to attend on 5 May whilst Orange, MTN and Moov are booked for 28 May.

 

.

Egypt: Tower talks - Orange-subsidiary Mobinil is readying to sell its tower portfolio, with three parties reported to be involved in negotiations with the operator, according to TMT Finance. Potential buyers were invited to a second round earlier in the year, and now three parties have been shortlisted. The deal is expected to close within 4-5 weeks. The portfolio is valued at USD 200-300 million and consists of around 3,000 towers.

Gabon: Counterfeit campaign - Regulator Arcep has said it will target illegal handsets, according to Agence Ecofin. Counterfeit devices sell for between XAF 9,500 - 15,000 (USD 20-31), provide poor service and pose health risks. Arcep chairman Lin Bombo said that unannounced inspections would start in the main shopping areas and markets of Libreville. All unapproved devices will be confiscated and destroyed.

Gabon: Data expansion - Airtel Gabon has announced investment of USD 125 million for commercial and social programmes to extend 3G and 4G networks, Ventures reported. Manoj Kohli, CEO of international operations at Bharti Airtel, said some of the funds would be injected into social programmes. Airtel also recently received 3G and 4G licences in Chad from the Ministry of Posts and New Information Technologies.

Ghana: Court for cable cutters - Scancom (MTN Ghana) is suing Hisense Son Electronic and Zuleah Esifu for damage to its fibre optic cables, peacefmonline reported. Hisense Son Electronic damaged cables on the Sakaman-Kasoa road, and Zuleah Esifu used excavators for clearing land for the construction of a filling station, which caused severe damage. MTN Ghana Corporate Services Executive Cynthia Lumor said it had been educating 'the public against these acts for several years now; however every year the number of fibre cuts continues to grow'. It has had to replace degraded fibre along some of the routes e.g. from Axim to Elubo road.

Iraq: Competitive forces - Asiacell has reported a 6.4 percent fall in its 1Q 2014 revenue to QAR 1.62 billion (USD 444.7 million), compared to QAR 1.73 billion (USD 474.9 million) in 1Q 2013, due to competition, parent Ooredoo reported. EBITDA fell 15.1 percent to QAR 764 million (USD 209.7 million), and the EBITDA margin fell to 47 percent. The focus was on cost efficiencies and network modernisation. The subscriber base rose 4.4 percent year-on-year to 10.774 million at the end of March. Compared to the end of 2013, it added just over 40,000 customers. ARPU fell to USD 13.80, from USD 15.0 in the previous quarter and USD 15.5 a year earlier.

Kenya: Advertising aggression - The Advertising Standards Committee (ASC) has banned an advert that suggests the Safaricom network is expensive. The ASC said that Orange Kenya advertising was not based on facts and was in breach of the publicity code that bars adverts that criticise a rival's products and services, reports Business daily. The ad appeared on 8 January and employed a green SIM card to depict the more expensive rival; the orange SIM card was the cheaper.

Kenya: Set-top from Safaricom - GOtv decoders are now available to Safaricom subscribers on credit following the launch of a decoder financing option through a three-way partnership involving the Commercial Bank of Africa and MultiChoice. Payments are made in quarterly instalments with a loan limit of KES 1,000 (USD 11.33). Safaricom said that the partnership would enable over 7 million Mshwari customers to access the technology using the facility.

Kenya: Smartphone launch - ZTE has launched the Nubian mini, ZTE bladeL2, and blade c2 plus, among others, the Standard reported. The local smartphone market is currently estimated at over 50 percent. Last year it was ranked third in the smartphone market after Apple and Samsung; shipping a total of 13.6 million handsets. Mark Jin, ZTE?s Sales Director (Terminal Products) for Kenya and Somalia region said: "Two thirds of every handset device sold in Kenya is a smartphone. "

Middle East: Smartphone services - Half of Saudi Arabian and a third of UAE travellers use smart phones to access online services. Mark Walsh Portfolio Director at Reed Travel Exhibitions commenting on a report on the travel trade Website Tbnooz.com, said: "Of the regional travellers who generally plan their trips online, 48 percent had used a smart phone during the previous 12 months to carry out travel-related activities, a figure that rises to 69 percent if tablets are included. Indeed, 50 and 35 percent of Saudi and UAE travellers respectively access online services via their smart phones... "

Morocco: Camel counting - Maroc Telecom is launching management tools for farmers. Fine Laazib and WifiPub, an integrated Wi-Fi Internet access system, were launched at the ninth annual International Agriculture Show in Morocco (SIAM), for which it is an official partner. Fine Laazib is intended for camel and goat breeders, and provides for a better distribution of herds on pasturelands. It supplies breeders with real-time estimates of the potential yield from existing pastures and calculates the optimal livestock levels to maximise yields.

Nigeria: Fibre fees - The Osun State Government has threatened to confiscate MTN's base stations after it failed to pay the right of way permit fees for its fibre to the state government of some NGN 399.4 million (USD 2.47 million). TheDay reports that the base stations were seized by the officials on 7 April but were released two days later following the intervention of MTN's Emmanuel Seton. However, it is claimed that MTN failed to make the payment by the revised 15 April deadline, and so would action the seizure on 25 April.

Nigeria: Handset health - MTN Nigeria is working with the Nigerian National Health Insurance Scheme and Salt & Einstein MTS, a mobile insurance services aggregator. They are developing a mobile-based universal health insurance service known as Y'ello Health, Punch has reported. It will provide affordable health insurance cover on a pre-paid basis. Mobile subscribers will be able to opt into a micro healthcare insurance scheme with Health Management Organisations using their mobile phones for a range of pre-defined medical treatments for which affordable premium could also be remitted through their mobile phone. MTN Nigeria CMO Larry Annetts said it is being targeted at people without health Insurance due to limited budgets.

Nigeria: Mid-life surfing - A study undertaken by mobile advertising network Twinpine Networks of 22,000 respondents found that Internet users between the ages of 33 - 53 (Generation X) are more active on the Internet than those aged 19 - 32 (Generation Y). Generation X use the Internet for research, news on current affairs, lifestyle, entertainment and sports, and online shopping while the Generation Y use it mainly for social media interaction and Instant Messaging. 50 percent more people between the ages of 33-53 regularly purchased goods and services online and 6 percent more of this group were more likely to share information on social media or lodge a complaint about a product/service via social media.

Oman: Wi-Fi widened - Omantel has announced that its Wi-Fi network now covers both Muscat City Centre (MCC) and Qurum City Centre (QCC). Omantel Manager, Connectivity Solutions Corporate Unit, Ahmed Ali al Ojaily, said: "Providing [customers] with instant and easy access to the Internet is one of the top priorities of the company. "

Qatar: Mobile money membership - This week Ooredoo said it had joined the GSMA?s Mobile Money Interoperability (MMI) program. Members already include Bharti Airtel, Etisalat Group, Millicom, MTN Group, Orange, STC Group, Vodafone Group and Zain Group, representing some 582 million mobile subscriptions in 48 countries in Africa and the Middle East. Ooredoo claimed a million mobile money subscribers in 2013.

Qatar: Office opened - BT has opened an office in Qatar. It has partnerships with Ooredoo and Vodafone and has a number of key clients including QNB. Wael el-Kabbany, BT Global Services VP (Mena), said BT had been planning an expansion in the Middle East and North Africa region for the past three years, Gulf Times reported. BT provides global networking and cloud services. BT has a presence in Oman, Bahrain, Morocco and Egypt as well as Pakistan. In Saudi Arabia, BT operates through the joint venture BT Al Saudia.

South Africa: Ideas box - A first prize of ZAR 1 million (USD 95,110) is being offered by Vodacom South Africa for the best idea submitted by a staff member. CEO Shameel Joosub said the Innovation project wanted people to propose innovative ideas that could significantly change the way the operator does business.

South Africa: Promo powerback - Cell C has introduced four new promotional pre-paid vouchers two-weeks after MTN said it was cutting its pre-paid rates to ZAR 0.79 a minute. TechCentral reported the deal would run from 1 May to 31 July. Cell C launched the Supacharge products in February 2013. They give pre-paid and top-up customers free on-network calls and SMSes as well as data. A spend of ZAR 25 could buy 25 on-network minutes, 25 on-net SMSes and 25MB of data. Those spending ZAR 500 or more get unlimited on-net calls plus 1GB of data and 1.000 on-network texts.

Tunisia: STAR solution - Tunisie Telecom is partnering with the Tunisian Insurance and Reinsurance Company (STAR). STAR will have secure broadband data services for the interconnection of its sites and all its outlets, very high-speed broadband Internet access via fibre as well as working solutions in 3G ++ mobility Voice and Data with packages tailored to their needs. The partnership will allow better collaboration between staff and an optimisation of STAR's communication budget.

United Arab Emirates: Broadband platform - Vendor Huawei in association with the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) last week welcomed senior-level stakeholders from the UAE's public sector as well as analysts, telecom industry leaders, and consultancy firms. The focus was how national broadband initiatives will transform the region's socio-economic landscape at the first Huawei Broader Way Forum. Panel sessions were held to investigate the role of national broadband networks in driving countries' transformation to a digital society. The role of broadband infrastructure in terms of GDP growth, job creation, and development of national services such as healthcare and education were amongst the key applications highlighted.

United Arab Emirates: Hosting hiked - Etisalat has upgraded its hosting services with 16,000 sq metres of floor space, with plans to increase it by a further 5,000 sq metres. Etisalat currently operates two certified Tier III data centres with five more planned to undergo Tier III certification later in 2014. Etisalat is launching new colocation packages inclusive of space, power, Internet bandwidth and onsite storage in all its locations in the UAE. Abdullah Hashim, Senior Vice President Digital Services, Etisalat UAE said: "Businesses today operate on a 24/7 basis and expect their partners to follow suit. By enhancing our data centre services, we are reinforcing our commitment to operating facilities that meet rigorous standards and compliance needs of businesses.

Yemen: Sabotage suspected - A fibre optic cable was cut on Saturday 26 April 2014 in Shabwa province. The Defence Ministry's 26sep.net news portal said sabotage was suspected. Connectivity is reported to be greatly reduced as a consequence, with repairs were in hand, the news agency Saba reported. Saba noted that the cable suffered a similar attack in Safer in Marib province the week before.

Zimbabwe: Support via VoIP - Internet Service Provider Zimbabwe Online (ZOL) has launched a toll free customer support service number directly to their Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) support number on 08677 123 123. The Independent noted that support calls often lasting 30 minutes, and at 23 cents a minute for Econet users might cost USD 7 or more. ZOL is a subsidiary of Liquid telecoms which is also the Internet Access Provider for Econet Wireless.