News in Brief 26 November 2014

Afghanistan: e-Commerce consultation - The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology has worked-up a draft of the Electronic Transaction and Digital Signature law for the development and strengthening of e-Commerce and now invites public consultation before the end of November 2014.

Africa: Survey of services - The Afrobarometer survey results released last week found that more Africans have access to a mobile network than they do to electricity, piped water, or a health clinic. 'Developing Africa's Infrastructure: the Rough Road to Better Services' highlights the enormous differences in the 34 countries sampled. It found mobile coverage nearly universal (93 percent), and most communities have access to a school (88 percent). But only about a quarter (27 percent) have access to a post office and sewerage systems (28 percent). Less than two-thirds of surveyed areas had access to the electricity grid (64 percent), a health clinic (62 percent) and piped water (59 percent). Poverty levels tended to be significantly higher in areas without access to these services compared to areas that had access.

Africa & Middle East: Banking buoyant - MEF has published the results of its fourth annual Global Consumer Survey. The report surveyed nearly 15,000 mobile media users in 15 countries in five continents. Africa remains the world leader in mobile banking, with 85 percent of consumers there having used their mobile to carry out a banking transaction when the global average is 69 percent. In the UAE 62 percent of respondents have seen a mobile device used in a public health environment, versus the average of 44 percent.

Botswana: Football focus - Sports marketing agency Optimize has won a three-year contract with Botswana Telecommunications Company Limited (BTCL) as their sports marketing agency and Foundation consultants. BTCL recently announced its renewal of the sponsorship of the Botswana Premier League, Botswana's largest sports sponsorship to date.

Cameroon: International call control - A three-day sub-regional workshop: 'Economic stakes and prospects on the control of incoming calls' was held in Yaounde 18-20 November under the chairmanship of the Director General of the Telecommunications Regulatory Board, Jean Louis Beh Mengue. The workshop sought to identify efficient control measures for the management of international calls, with case studies that have worked.

Egypt: Cloud computing encouraged - At Cairo ICT 2014 the Minister of Communications and Information Technology Atef Helmy announced the launch of phase two of a co-operation agreement between the Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA) and IBM to support local companies in the acquisition of cloud computing skills. IBM is looking to empower companies through the use of its cloud platform to develop and test technology solutions in a faster, more effective and less expensive manner.

 

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Gabon: Deal dishonoured - Etisalat/Maroc Telecom subsidiary Gabon Telecom staff have threatened to strike over pay increases, bonuses and housing allowances, and so disrupt operations. The dispute dates from 2007 when Maroc Telecom bought Gabon Telecom and merged it with Libertis. This saw a major downsizing with 1,200 staff laid off, with only 500 remaining. Salaries were to be adjusted to reflect the greater workload, but the union claims the deal has not been honoured.

Ghana: Device duty deleted - The Ghana Telecommunications Chamber has given its approval to the government?s plan to remove a 20 percent import duty on mobile devices. Finance Minister, Seth Terkper, announced the policy when he presented the 2015 Budget to parliament last week. The move is seen as favouring the legal importation of devices, making the process more competitive, and so help deal with the black market challenge.

Kenya: Car costs cut - Telkom Kenya has signed a KES 115 million (USD 1.25 million) three-year contract to hire cars from local rental firm Vaell. Vaell will supply 20 vehicles (Ford double cabins) per annum. Isaac Muthama, Telkom's Chief Mass Market Officer said that leasing would allow it to focus on its business. The vehicles will be used for product distribution, mostly in remote and rural markets, as well as for responding to clients? calls.

Kenya: Security system send-off - The Ministry of Interior and Co-ordination of National Government and Safaricom have now signed the formal agreement for the roll out of the National Surveillance, Communication and Control System, in Nairobi and Mombasa, BizTechAfrica reported. The ceremony was held on 25 November at Harambee House and was attended by Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Coordination of National Government Joseph Ole Lenku; Amb (Dr.) Monica Juma, Principal Secretary, Interior, Dr. Kamau Thugge, Principal Secretary, National Treasury; David Kimaiyo, Inspector General and Bob Collymore, Safaricom CEO.

Kenya: Short suspension for Safaricom - Safaricom users experienced an outage in Nairobi on 17 November, with users unable to make calls, receive or send messages as well as send or receive money with M-Pesa. Safaricom posted on its Facebook page an assurance that its engineers were working on the problem.

Madagascar: Airtel club - Registration is free to the Airtel club by texting 466, and registrants receive 10 welcome points and a point for every MGA 100 (USD 0.04) consumed. Each class of points collected is equivalent to a gift, and users are able to exchange points for a gift. The validity of traded airtime is 2 days from the date of the exchange, and the points are valid for 2 years from the date of subscription. Users can transfer their points to a person of their choice.

Madagascar: LTE latent - Analyst firm Pyramid has said that it expects to see overall service revenue in Madagascar grow at a CAGR of 6.8 percent between 2014 and 2019. LTE subscriptions are expected to reach 400,000 by 2019, with the uptake of LTE services starting in 2016. Click here for more details of the report.

Madagascar: Transport transactions - Orange Madagascar has signed a deal with urban, regional and national bus operators for passengers to pay fares using the Mobile Money service, Agence Ecofin reports. Transport operators can use the platform at Total service stations, to pay salaries and buy phone credit. Orange could also provide the Mobile Money service to the government to transfer subsidies to bus operators.

Malawi: Cable costs cut - Malawi Telecommunications Limited (MTL) has said that Internet access is now 50 percent cheaper than it was five years ago, due to submarine cable connectivity. MTL Chief Technology Officer Hebert Maosa told BizTechAfrica that the current cost of Internet connectivity was attributable to 'middlemen' as MTL does not have a direct cable connection. In 2010, MTL connected Malawi via Mozambique, and since December 2013, Malawi has had a second connection via Tanzania. Speaking like a true engineer, he bemoaned 'mass usage', which, he said, affects the quality of Internet service....

MENA: Media market association - Online services group iMENA, Etisalat Group and media and entertainment hub twofour54 have launched Himmah, a working group to stimulate the development of the local online industry. There are some 150 million Internet users in the MENA region. Himmah will address issues such as market penetration, the scarcity of professional industry-relevant talent, the fragmentation and complexity of doing business in MENA's key markets and the lack of enabling services. It will also look at funding options, deficiencies in regulatory and commercial/legal frameworks for online businesses, and limited availability of local and regional online market information.

Nigeria: Hot handset - Infinix Mobile signed with Konga.com and Etisalat to launch its Infinix HOT x507 smartphone. Peter Zhou, Head of Marketing at Infinix Mobile, said the Infinix Hot was built for trendy, colourful people in society, Communications Week reported. It uses an Android 4.4.2? Kitkat. It has a 5.0-inch IPS with 16 million colours, quad core 1.3 GHz MediaTek processor,? a 5.0 megapixel back camera with flash and a 2.0 megapixel front facing camera (3p lens). It also comes with a 16 GB internal memory with SD card slot that supports up to a 32 GB card.

Nigeria: Tracking terminated - The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has closed down unlicensed Owntel Communications. Owntel had its operations on Isheri Road in Ojodu, Lagos. Owntel was offering vehicle tracking services, and fixed and mobile terminals.

Qatar: Old phones renewed - Vodafone Qatar has assisted in the refurbishment of some 1,700 handsets over the last seven months. This is part of its sustainability initiative and follows steps taken by Vodafone globally to prolong the product lifecycle. The initiative followed the launch of Vodafone 4G in July and allowed Vodafone customers to exchange their old handset with a 4G-enabled smartphone. HYLA Mobile refurbished the old devices. Between April and October, Vodafone refurbished a total of 137,713 handsets across 16 markets including Qatar.

Qatar: Vodafone self-service - Vodafone Qatar has rolled-out 25 self-service machines in its major stores. The first phase saw 19 machines set up in 14 locations. The second phase sees six new locations. Vodafone's self-service machines will allow post-paid users to settle their monthly bills through cash or credit card and pre-paid customers to recharge. Vodafone has plans to install more self-service machines. It partnered with QNB.

Saudi Arabia: Banking comms from Mobily - Mobily has signed a communications and IT (CIT) services agreement with Al-Rajhi Bank. The MNO will provide SMS and data services, and will connect all the bank branches via a fibre network. It will also provide advanced connecting service with a high technical specification used mainly in transferring and exchanging of information between data centres, which will develop and improve communications infrastructure efficiency and information technology in the bank. The two have previously jointly launched the Cash Deposit System for companies (GRG smart type). Ismail Al-Ghamdi, Acting Business Chief Officer Mobily and Ibrahim Al-Rashid, Chief Officer of IT, Al-Rajhi bank, signed the deal.

Saudi Arabia: Biggest BlackBerry market - The BlackBerry Passport is now available from all major telecom retailers. Mike Al-Mefleh, Director, Product Management, Middle East of BlackBerry, said: "Saudi Arabia is an important market for BlackBerry. We focus on this market because this is one of the largest in the Middle East. " The device features a physical QWERTY keyboard, and is one of the first devices to launch on BlackBerry 10.3.

Saudi Arabia: Sociable staff - Saudi Telecom Company (STC) has signed with LinkedIn to improve its recruitment processes. Over 8,500 STC staff members have joined LinkedIn and STC?s LinkedIn page has over 61,000 followers. Amjad Shacker, STC's General Manager of Corporate Communication it would reach a new segment of clients.

Senegal: Points for prizes - Sonatel has launched a loyalty programme branded 'Orange Sargal'. Users topping up will be awarded points and consequently win prizes. Points can be redeemed for calling minutes, unlimited numbers, SMS, Internet and Illimix passes. They can also be redeemed for vouchers valid at Orange and at partner restaurants, supermarkets, hairdressers, beauty care, booksellers, etc. Recharges of more than XOF 30,000 (USD 57) per month from January will be ranked as 'Gold', and recharges of more that XOF 100,000 per month 'Platinum' qualifying the users for further privileges.

South Africa: Billing amendment - Vodacom has increased the data billing increment on its network to 10 kilobytes (KB), My Broadband has reported. Previously the data sessions were billed in increments of 1KB on most contract packages. Some exceptions, and pre-paid and top-up tariff plans, had unitisation of between 5 - 10KB. Vodacom said there would no effective change for most users, although it noted that older telemetry modems that establish and then intentionally tear down the packet data protocol (PDP) context might be affected, a spokesperson for Vodacom said.

South Africa: City connectivity - Vodacom South Africa is to deploy the fibre-optic backbone of the Baywest City development in Port Elizabeth, BusinessTech has reported. The ZAR 1.7 billion (USD 155.2 million) development has a mall and light industrial sector, as well as 7,000 residential units with a private school and medical centre. It is due to open in April 2015. Baywest MD Gavin Blows said it is the first large-scale green-field development in the country to incorporate a wholly functional fibre-optic backbone from inception. Vodacom is also to connect 250,000 homes and businesses with FTTH and FTTx services. Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub has said that with the current penetration is 2 percent.

South Africa: Colourful radio - Orange is to launch its iOS and Android compatible Orange Radio application. The app is integrated with Deezer to provide users free access to radio stations and podcasts. The app is already available in 70 countries, with global coverage targeted by 2015. Orange is active in South Africa selling handsets, Wi-Fi services and SIMs for use abroad.

South Africa: MTN music - Subscribers who buy a Sony Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact from MTN will also get a free 12-month subscription to simfy Africa to give them access to streamed music. Larry Annetts, MTN South Africa's Chief Marketing Officer said it was 'unlike anything else on the market'. In June 2014 simfy Africa launched its exclusive partnership with MTN. A monthly simfy Africa product also remains on sale via MTN, with a 14-day free trial, for ZAR 49 (USD 4.50) monthly. In October MVNO Virgin Mobile South Africa was promising a new music-based product proposition to be launched before the end of 2014.

South Africa: Return for Reunert - ICT group Reunert earned ZAR 1.4 billion (USD 127.8 million) profit from its sale of Nashua Mobile?s subscriber base to Altech Autopage, MTN South Africa and Vodacom South Africa, BusinessTech reports. The sales, which were approved by the Competition Tribunal in September, are now finalised with all subscriber accounts moved to the relevant acquiring parties. Nashua Mobile agreed to sell its 750,000 subscribers to the three and cease operations as soon as the subscribers were migrated, as ?it is unlikely that the business would generate acceptable returns?.

South Africa: Voda Video - Vodacom South Africa is to launch a video-on-demand (VOD) in 2015. Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub told BusinessTech that the time frame was not yet confirmed. Altech Node, a subscription push service and home automation system, and Vidi, an online VOD service from Times Media Group are already available in the local market. Telkom had invited bids for the provisioning of VOD in February.

South Africa: Wholesale chief named - Prenesh Padayachee has been named as Telkom's new MD for Wholesale Services; he is currently CTO of Internet Solutions (IS). ITWeb reports that the appointment is effective 1 January 2015. Padayachee has been with IS since 1998. Telkom says he is ideally suited as it 'continues to strategically reposition the wholesale business with the goal of achieving an access-agnostic network'.

Tanzania: Daily tips - Vodacom Tanzania has launched its Simu health information service. Simu Doctor provides information on the impact of lifestyle changes on health and related issues. For TZS 100 (USD 0.06) per day subscribers receive up to two SMS health tips on how to live better and longer.

United Arab Emirates: Fit phones - Etisalat is offering Huawei?s Ascend Mate 7 smartphone bundled with B1 TalkBand fitness tracker. The devices are being offered on subscriptions starting from AED 250 (USD 68) a month and include a data allowance and flexible minutes for local, international and incoming roaming calls. Post-paid users can opt from one of the three plans with a free device bundled with B1 TalkBand and Bluetooth headset, on an 18-month contract plan for AED 250 with 1GB data and 100 flexi minutes or for AED 400 per month with 10GB data and 300 minutes. Pre-paid customers can buy the smartphone for AED 1,899 (USD 517) with 1GB free data allowance for the first month and AED 99 (USD 27) starting from the next month.

United Arab Emirates: Gambling on games - Last week the Abu Dhabi Media Summit 2014 learned that broadband penetration and the connectivity of more Arab youth to the Internet via their smartphones will drive the regional gaming market to triple from USD 1.6 billion to USD 4.4 billion over the next eight years. Yannick Theller, Managing Director at Ubisoft Emirates told Gulf News that smartphone users spend an average of 13 minutes daily playing 'Candy Crush', and that the time spent on this game alone is greater than the seven minutes they devote daily to accessing Facebook. The Middle East?s gaming market already has revenues of up to USD 2.6 billion annually. Mobile platforms are expected to dominate the market by 2018, according to a study by analyst firm, Strategy&.

United Arab Emirates: Now submarine stores - If you thought the streets were cluttered with mobile phone stores, Sony Mobile Middle East and Africa (MEA) has found virgin territory with an underwater store in Dubai to be located at The World Islands off the coast of the city. The world?s first Xperia Aquatech store will host a 'first-ever' technology showcase at a depth of four meters underwater. The store is to open on 3 December and will be open for three days.

Zimbabwe: Bad debt for bank - Econet Wireless Zimbabwe banking subsidiary, Steward Bank, is reported to have written off USD 15.5 million in connection with a bad debt relating to TN Harlequin Luxaire, the largest household furniture manufacturer and retailer. The Financial Gazette's Companies & Markets understands that Steward Bank failed to recover debts taken over from de-listed Lifestyle Holdings' subsidiary TN Harlequin Luxaire Limited. The bank had a USD 23.02 million debt from the company at the start of 2014, now reduced to USD 7.5 million, which is thought to be collectable.