News in Brief 30 October 2014

Africa: Limited growth - Airtel saw its African revenues rise by 6.4 percent in local currency terms, but the USD appreciation depressed the reported growth to 1.9 percent year-on-year. Data revenues rose 56.8 percent to USD 115 million, due to a 50.4 percent increase in the customer base and higher usage per customer of 24.5 percent. Data revenues contributed 10.1 percent of overall Africa revenues, compared to 6.6 percent last year. The number of active Airtel Money customers rose to 5.3 million with the total value of transactions on the Airtel money platform crossing USD 3.3 billion.

Africa: Smart solutions - New analysis from Frost & Sullivan entitled 'Strategic Analysis of Public Wi-Fi in Sub-Saharan Africa' says high mobile Internet penetration rates in South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya offer huge opportunities for Wi-Fi vendors, especially in megacities where networks face heavy mobile traffic congestion. "The evolution of several megacities into smart cities in Sub-Saharan Africa is laying the foundation for the adoption of smart building and smart grid solutions across the continent'', said Frost & Sullivan Information & Communication Technologies Research Analyst Lehlohonolo Mokenela. "As a result, device manufacturers are focusing on the development of Wi-Fi enabled devices for use in smart solutions, quickening the march towards greater Wi-Fi penetration.'"

Angola: Better banking - Customers of The Millennium Angola bank can now make top-ups for their mobiles and TV via Easy Pay transactions, reports Sapo. Easy Pay allows customers to access their accounts and conduct their principal operations and transactions through Internet Banking, SMS Banking, Mobile Banking and Contact Centre. The application also enables top-ups for the major mobile operators: Unitel, Movicel and Angola Telecom.

Bahrain: Cisco Gold - Batelco has achieved specialisation in Cisco's advanced data centre architecture. Batelco's capabilities include designing, engineering and implementing the Cisco Data Centre product portfolio for businesses across Bahrain. Enterprise Division General Manager Adel Daylami said it is now a gold Cisco partner in Bahrain.

Botswana: Senior steps-down - Orange Botswana Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Philippe Baudin has stepped down, The Voice has reported. According to Orange Botswana Public Relations Manager, Boga Chilinde, the CEO resigned due to unexpected personal and family matters in France. The 55-year-old CEO had been with Orange Botswana since December 2013, and will work for Orange France after his departure in December.

Burundi: Capital cable - The government, working with Onatel and Huawei, has officially commissioned a Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) project for the capital Bujumbura, ITNewsAfrica reports. The Chinese government provided a grant that will fund the Huawei installation of MAN throughout Bujumbura. The MAN project will use fibre-optic and other (wireless) infrastructure to provide broadband connectivity in the city and will reduce costs and improve service delivery to end users.

Egypt: Advisors approached - Monopoly fixed-line operator Telecom Egypt is to hire financial advisers for the potential sale of a 45 percent stake in Vodafone Group, Bloomberg has reported. The State-owned operator has issued requests for proposals to local and international banks to value the unit. Banks will also help identify potential buyers for the stake, a second person said, asking not to be identified.

Ghana: Business bundles - Vodafone Business Solutions (VBS) has launched Red Business, designed to meet the telecom needs of Small and Medium Enterprise (SMEs). The package offers minutes of Internet browsing and calls to Vodafone numbers, other networks and international calls. SMEs will also receive a 50 percent bonus on any top up, free calls to colleagues within a Closed User Group (CUG) and Caller Ring Back Tunes (CRBT). Customers will also enjoy free data devices, up to 50 percent discounts on a range of devices, discounts on domestic fares, shopping discounts at selected shops, fuel and SPA vouchers. Four packages are available: the Weekly package is GHS 5 (USD 1.49); the Rush package is GHS 20 (USD 5.96); Business Classic GHS 50 and Business Hot GHS 100.

Kenya: Twitter treat - Airtel pre-paid users will now be able to access Twitter on their mobile phones for free till 15 January 2015. The offer is only available for android users. Airtel Kenya CEO Adil El Youssefi said: "...we are pleased to introduce 3 months of free access to Twitter to our prepaid customers ". The Twitter App has been customised to show a message on the header and footer of the app.

 

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Lebanon: Channel choice - Alfa is to offer live television and video-on-demand (VOD) content from Turkey's Argela ITV. The second-screen service will work via Alfa's 3G and 4G mobile networks or through a Wi-Fi Internet connection. Subscribers will have a variety of content with channels including Rotana Clip, Al Arabiya, Bloomberg, Al Jazeera, France 24, Fashion TV, LBC Sat, MBC1, MBC3, Spacetoon, Abu Dhabi Sports, Bloomberg and a selection of local channels including Future TV, TeleLiban and MTV Lebanon.

Madagascar: Renewal recalibration - Legislation framed in 2005 has been placed on the statute books according to Agence Ecofin. Licence renewals are to now cost USD 6.3 million, up from the USD 770,000 previously, according to Minister of ICT Neypatraiky Rakotomamonjy. New operators will have to pay USD 50 million to obtain a licence, and the new rules require operators to share infrastructure. Finally, a new telecom regulator, the Autorite de regulation des telecommunications is to be created to replace the Office Malagasy d'etude et de regulation des telecommunications (Omert).

Malawi, Zambia: Data collection devices - The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is to collect real-time data in Zambia and Malawi using mobile phones and tablets, ITWeb reported. The 'Rapid Mobile Phone-based' (RAMP) surveys will see researchers collect field data on mobile devices and relay the information to a server. This will allow real time access to the collected data. The Netherlands Red Cross Society has been training staff.

Morocco: Smartphone service - Maroc Telecom has launched a streaming music service in partnership with music app publisher Anghami. The service offers unlimited access to over 10 million tracks of Arab and Western music, organised by genre and category. Subscribers get two months free access to the Anghami Premium service on their smartphones and tablets, after which the cost is MAD 15 (USD 1.70) a month. Pre-paid users will be offered a data bundle to stream music from Anghami.

Nigeria: Celltower capitalisation - IHS has raised USD 2 billion in equity and USD 600 million in debt in what it says is the biggest equity fund raising by an African company this decade. The funds will be used to finance infrastructure spending and recently agreed acquisitions, according to a company statement on Monday. The loan facility consists of a seven-year tranche of USD 500 million and an eight-year tranche USD 100 million in Nigerian naira. Ecobank, Standard Chartered, Standard Bank, Investec and the World Bank?s International Finance Corporation (IFC) participated in the loan, IHS chief executive Issam Darwish told Reuters.

Nigeria: Fibre fill-in - Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) are to be licenced between now and mid-2015 to deploy fibre infrastructure and are to benefit from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) budget of USD 1 billion for the National Broadband Plan. The Leadership reports that this will be used to fill holes in broadband rollout projects. The NCC has earmarked some USD 500 million for the InfraCos that are due to come on stream shortly. Seven licences are to be issued in Lagos and the six geopolitical zones.

Nigeria: Top Ten - Globacom has been rated as one of the Top Ten Most Respected Companies in the country. The Research and Intelligence unit of Business Day Media Ltd, in collaboration with Jobberman.com, carried out the survey. Glo scored 157 points on all six parameters in 12 cities. No other MNO featured in the Top 10; the others being GT Bank, Shell, FBN Holdings, Nestle, Nigerian Breweries, Zenith Bank, Diamond Bank, Glaxo Smithkline and Dufil.

Qatar: Direct debit - Ooredoo Mobile Money customers can now send money directly to M-Pesa accounts in Kenya following a deal with M-Pesa and Moneygram. Funds can also be sent from Ooredoo via MoneyGram to a chosen recipient who can then collect cash at over 940 key locations in Kenya. Several new direct transfer locations have become available in 2014 including Sri Lanka bank accounts. Users can transfer money domestically and internationally to over 339,000 MoneyGram agents in 200 countries including the Philippines, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia, Kenya, Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria and more.

Qatar: Profit possible - Vodafone Qatar Chief Financial Officer Steve Walters said it is anticipating a profit in 2015 after it reported a narrower loss for 3Q14. Vodafone Qatar made a net loss of -QAR 53.5 million (USD 14.68 million) in the three months ending 30 September, according to Reuters. This compares with a loss of -QAR 75 million (USD 20.6 million) in the same period in 2013. It had 1.37 million mobile subscribers at the end of September, up 16 per cent from a year ago. In October Vodafone Qatar said it had agreed to buy state-owned Qatar National Broadband Network (QNBN), which began rolling out a fibre network in 2012 and expects to complete construction by 2015.

South Africa: Afrihost deal approved - The Competition Commission (CC) has recommended that the Competition Tribunal approve MTN's acquisition of a 51 percent stake in ISP Afrihost. The commission's assessment was that MTN and Afrihost do not appear to be direct competitors as Afrihost focuses on the small to medium enterprises (SMME) and the residential segment whereas MTN mainly focuses on the large corporates. For hosting services, the investigation showed that there are several large and reputable competitors. In the market for Internet access (ADSL and mobile Internet connectivity), Afrihost is a relatively small player and competes with Mweb Connect, Vox, Telkom Mobile, and Vodacom, among others.

South Africa: Cost cutter - A partnership between Cape Town-based software start-up Full Stack, and Xamarin, cross-platform mobile enterprise software developer, will reduce the costs for the development of native mobile apps across Africa. The Xamarin platform allows apps to run natively on iOS, Android, Mac and Windows devices, and that the need to develop a separate app for each device is therefore removed. Andrew La Grange, co-founder of Full Stack, said: "We chose to work with Xamarin as it's the only platform that lets you develop one mobile solution and apply it to all handsets. "

South Africa: First footstep - Top-up deals offered by Virgin Mobile include free Virgin to Virgin (V2V) minutes that are valid for calls made to other Virgin Mobile SA numbers. The monthly quantity equates to the subscription value of the contract, up to ZAR 499 (USD 45). On values over ZAR 499, subscribers get a flat 1,000 free V2V minutes. VMSA CEO Anton Landman said: 'We have set ourselves the target of one million subscribers in the next three years, and this is just one of the ways we intend achieving this.'

Tunisia: Local loop investigation - To ensure the economic development of broadband, the National Telecommunications (INT) has launched a process to appoint a consultant to assist in the development of wholesale unbundled local loop and bitstream, and other retail offerings marketed by the incumbent for Internet retail market. Full details are here.

Turkey: Apps ascendant - Turkey, along with Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, and India have been named as the next growth markets-to-watch for players in the mobile app industry, according to App Annie and MEF which believe these countries? mobile infrastructure and rate of development are creating significant new opportunities for app publishers. App Annie?s data shows China is the largest of the growth markets, with downloads growing 10 percent in 2013, second only to the US. However, Brazil overshadowed this growth where app downloads doubled between 3Q13 and 3Q14. In Turkey downloads rose 60 percent.

United Arab Emirates: Speedier service sought - Etisalat and du have been told to give subscribers quicker access to services or allow them to cancel services immediately. In a statement carried by Emirat Alyoum, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) said users should be able to have services activated or cancelled more easily, except in cases which require a visit to an office. TRA said the operators could face penalties if they fail to comply.

Zambia: Ministerial mail - Zamtel has finished the first phase of Internet provision for government ministries and agencies, the Post of Zambia reported. Zamtel won the exclusive government contract, with official e-mail addresses available by 1 November. Phase one allows the government to have full visibility and control of the network through a centralised network management and monitoring system. The project will see the deployment of a highly secure, robust, efficient, scalable and reliable network connecting 24 government ministries.

Zimbabwe: More TN transactions - Econet Wireless has acquired TN Medical, which is owned by the group's former chairman Tawanda Nyambirai, the Daily News reported. The sale price was not disclosed. Last year Econet took over Nyambirai-founded TN Bank, now Steward Bank. Econet has rebranded TN Medical to Steward Health. While the TN Medical deal was conducted in March, Econet did not mention the transaction in its recently published financials for the half-year to August. However, it said USD 80 million investments were made in property, plant, equipment and intangible assets.