News in Brief 21 May 2014

Africa: Cloud centres - IBM on 15 May said it had opened two new Mainframe Cloud Innovation Centres. The centres are located in Nairobi, Kenya and Johannesburg, South Africa. The labs will provide clients, Business Partners and academic institutions access to extended Big Data, Analytics, mobile and cloud computing technologies on the mainframe to help solve issues from applied research to academic enablement. Pat Toole, General Manager, System z, IBM said: "Powered by our System z technology, these hubs will deliver optimal economics per workload to our clients and Business Partners who will also be able to access global best practice through our international network of centres. "

Botswana: Registered users rise - The Ministry of Transport and Communication has said that the number of mobile money users has risen some 300 percent since launch in June 2011, ITWeb has reported. The number of registered mobile money users was 283,000 at the end of 2013. The population stands at around 2 million, whilst the number of active mobile users stands at around 3.2 million. Orange Botswana was the first to launch followed by MTN-unit Mascom.

Ghana: Retail refurbishment - Airtel Ghana last week re-opened its Airtel Ring Road customer centre, according to VibeGhana. Ms Yacoba Amuah, Customer Experience Director, said the refurbishment had improved the working environment. Airtel had over 80 branches across the country that would also undergo rehabilitation. Head of Customer Life Cycle Management at Airtel Ghana, Ms Amanda Archer, said the Airtel Premier lounge had been revamped with an Airtel Money corner. Marketing Manager Issac Armah said Airtel's 'talk chaw ankasa' product now provided a five times greater spend as a bonus every day to enable customers make on-net calls.

Israel: Digital directory - Bezeq has launched a national telephone directory on the Internet containing both private and business numbers listed by all the telcos at www.b144.co.il. Use of the directory is free, and will soon also contain the numbers of the new operators, namely Golden Lines and GlobeCall. Interestingly, it includes both fixed and mobile numbers, and shows multiple per lines per subscriber. The service also provides an advanced interface for telephone numbers in the business sector, which allows searches by selected criteria to be made.

Jordan: Frequencies funded - Last week Zain Jordan paid JOD 142 million (USD 200.0 million) for the 4G LTE frequencies it obtained in April and JOD 50 million (USD 70.4 million) for other frequencies to expand its 3G network, the Jordan Times reported Finance Ministry Secretary General Omar Zu?bi as saying.

Kenya: County connectivity - Orange has added a further four counties to its high-speed broadband, bringing the total number of counties on its network to 31. The four new counties are Marsabit, Nandi, Vihiga and Lamu. Orange?s Broadband Virtual Private Network (BVPN) solution allows clients to connect with their workers and transfer data. Company CEO Mickael Ghossein noted that the connections to the County Governors? offices and County Assemblies were the initial phases of interactions with the counties.

 

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Kenya: Sales stopped - Staff of Orange-unit Telkom Kenya who left the company in 2006 have turned to the courts to demand KES 2 billion (USD 22.5 million) in early retirement payments, the Standard has reported. Some 943 ex-staff have obtained an order from the Industrial Court blocking the sale of company assets, pending hearing and determination of the case. In the Government restructuring, some 2,500 staff faced compulsory redundancy and were to receive a termination payment. A separate order was granted earlier to another group of 997 retirees who moved to court and won an award of KES 3.2 billion (USD 36.0 million).

Kenya: World-class winner - Nairobi 's carrier neutral East Africa Data Centre has been honoured at this year?s Global Telecoms Business (GTB) Innovation awards as 'Best Business Service Innovation' alongside Liquid Telecom Kenya for their pioneering work in building the most connected data centre in East Africa. The centre was opened in September 2013 and was designed to meet international standards TIA-942. The award noted it has resolved connectivity, security and power supply issues.

Kenya: Satellite service - Valleypoint Telecoms has contracted Avanti Communications to extend broadband coverage across Western Kenya. Deployed via Avanti's HYLAS 2 satellite, the service will target consumer and enterprise customers. Valleypoint CTO Joseph Weke said Avanti was a trusted operator with significant technical and deployment experience in Africa. Avanti COO Matthew O'Connor said the HYLAS 2 satellite provides 100 percent coverage of Kenya.

Maldives: Value added - Jinny Software has deployed a VAS Consolidation solution for Ooredoo Maldives. Ooredoo provides mobile 3G+ and 4G services. Jinny has delivered a complete suite of value-added services, including SMSC, MMSC, Voice Mail, Missed Call Notification, USSD and Caller Ringback Tone services.

Middle East: Debuting DOB - Mobile payment facilitator Bango is continuing to connect app stores with Direct Operator Billing (DOB), and in 2014 has signed Saudi Telecom and Mobily in Saudi Arabia, Mobinil in Egypt, Telkom in South Africa, Telefónica in Mexico and Telenor in Hungary. DOB gives users the ability to charge a digital purchase to their phone bill in a single click. It provides operator billing for Google Play, Windows Phone Store, Facebook, Firefox Marketplace and BlackBerry World, and an agreement with Amazon has been announced. Richard Leyland, VP Marketing Communications at Bango attributed its success in emerging markets to the 'runaway growth in smartphone usage'.

Namibia: Branded bundles - Telecom Namibia has launched a converged fixed-mobile service offering. Branded 'tn1', three post-paid packages are being offered on 24-month contracts. Maxi provides a 3G device bundled with 2GB data and a 1024k fixed Internet connection with unlimited usage, complete with a Wi-Fi router. MaxiPlus includes a 2048k fixed connection with unlimited access, a Wi-Fi router, a 3G device with 5GB data, a smartphone and a cordless phone with 500 minutes to national networks, as well as unlimited calls between numbers on the MaxiPlus package. MaxiPro is a converged fixed mobile business solution for medium and large enterprises, offering secure access to key business communication features.

Nigeria: Devaluation denial - MTN Nigeria's outgoing Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Andrew Bing has called for the country?s currency to be devalued in order to boost MTN?s import costs. However, MTN has distanced itself from the remarks with General Manager for Corporate Affairs Funmilayo Onajide telling ThisDay that Bing?s comments were personal and not representative of the network?s position.

Oman: Reseller anniversary - Mobile reseller Renna Mobile (Majan Telecommunication) is celebrating five years of operations in Oman. The network was launched in May 2009 to become one of the first mobile reseller companies in Oman. Omantel hosts Renna Mobile. Raed Haddadin, Chief Executive Officer, Renna, said: "...we are geared towards expansion which will take us forward in our position in Oman. "

Qatar: Charity call - Ooredoo held a VIP charity auction for 50 special telephone numbers on 13 May which raised some QAR 30.18 million (USD 8,1 million). The highest auctioned number sold for QAR 10.1 million (USD 2.7 million), beating the previous record holder, '66666666' which achieved QAR 10 million. This is the ninth year of the special number auctions.

Senegal: Healthy messaging - Sonatel (Orange Senegal) is to distribute two health information SMS a month over its network at no charge. The Ministry of Health and Social action to send will draft the messages. Sonatel has over 7 million mobile customers in Senegal.

Uganda: Rolling road-show - MTN has launched Internet expos, starting in Kampala and will take in Jinja, Mbarara, Kabale, and Lira, The Observer reported. The 2014 expos will feature MTN?s data products. Ernst Fonternel, MTN?s Chief Marketing Officer said it had adopted the theme 'Touch, Feel and Experience'. MTN is rolling out fast Internet speeds of up to 42Mbps, and has invested more than USD 70 million in 2013 to upgrade its infrastructure, and target previously uncovered areas.

United Arab Emirates: Etisalat exclusive - Etisalat has launched of the dual-screen Russian-developed YotaPhone on both pre- and post-paid plans. The device features an LCD display on one side and an electronic paper display on the other. The curved E Ink display is readable in direct sunlight and has personalisation options. It is free on an 18-month contract plan for AED 250 (USD 68) with 1GB data and 100 minutes or for AED 400 (USD 109) per month with 10GB data and 300 minutes. It can be bought with a AED 500 (USD 136) discount on a 12-month package, with pre-paid users getting 1GB monthly data for AED 99 (USD 27) with free rental in the first month.

Zimbabwe: Infrastructure initiative - Econet CEO Douglas Mboweni of Econet has said that the poor road network is preventing telecoms development. Econet has some 7,200 kilometres of fibre and Mboweni says the company will improve the roads serving hard to reach communities, which will also allow it to extend its network. The Africa Report quoted hom as saying: "Road maintenance has been so low on government's priority scale in the past three decades that most roads are well past their useful lifespan and need complete reconstruction. "