News in Brief 3 December 2014

Africa: Bitcoin app - South Africa?s largest Bitcoin exchange BitX, which operates in South Africa and Kenya, has released a mobile app promoting better understanding and use of Bitcoin.

Angola: Public phones - Eight public phones have been installed in the city of Huambo by Angola Telecom (AT). AT's local director Adriano Muteka Muholo, told Angop that the phones were installed in the AT building, in the municipal market, the General Hospital, the medical centre of the St. Peter neighbourhood and some private institutions with public access. Further phones will be installed in the municipalities of Caala, Chinjenje, Cachiungo, Ucuma, Longonjo, Chicala-Cholohanga and Bailundo; all located in the province of Huambo. AT has around 3,000 fixed customers in the province.

Cameroon: Nine-digit numbers - The launch of 9-digit numbers was officially flagged off at a ceremony on the evening of 21-22 November 2014 at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications. The 8-digit regime was launched in 2007. The Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, Jean Pierre Biyiti Bi Essam and the CEO of ART, Jean Louis Beh Mengue, were in attendance. A delegation led by the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications visited the CAMTEL switching centre prior to the switch over. At the programme's launch in September the government called for greater transparency from telcos, and for two weeks now Orange's subscribers have been receiving an alert after each phone call which tells them the duration of the call and how much credit was used.

Cape Verde: Internet initiative - The National Communications Agency (ANAC) and the African Union have organised a training course on the technical aspects of the implementation, operation and management of an Internet Exchange Point (IXP) in Cape Verde. The event was staged in Praia 24 - 28 November. The training represents the first phase of the project 'Point of Système d'Échange Internet Africain (AXIS)'. Some 30 states have signed-up to the initiative that aims to establish a network of IXPs in Africa. A workshop on IXP best practice was held in Praia in June.

Cote d'Ivoire: Money movement - MTN Group has announced the launch of a mobile money cross-border remittance service between Cote d'Ivoire and Benin. This follows the introduction of a similar service in April between Cote d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso. By 30 September, MTN Mobile Money had 22.2 million registered users and was available in fifteen countries.

Egypt: Overseas asset - Orascom Telecom Media and Technology has generated revenues of more than USD 500 million in North Korea. The cash balance of Koryolink, in which Orascom has a 75 percent stake, rose from USD 510 million in late June to USD 540 million in late September, according accountants Deloitte. However currency controls imposed by the regime means that the funds can not be repatriated. North Korea Tech quoted an Orascom executive as estimating the number of subscribers at 2.4 million.



Gabon: Fuel finance - Moov Gabon, an Etisalat unit, has signed a deal with service station operator Total so that customers can pay for fuel with the Moov's Flooz mobile money service. Moov's subscribers will receive a quarter of the value of all transactions in call credit. They can also deposit or withdraw funds at service stations.

Ghana: SME shop - Tigo has upgraded its shop in Tema into a customer experience centre, bringing the number of such centres to four. The others are the Accra Mall, Takoradi and Barnes Road. The centre has dedicated areas for specific needs including providing quality ICT solutions for Small and Medium Enterprises, (SMEs). Head of Customer Experience, Stephen Essien, said Tema has several SMEs that provide support services to both government institutions and large corporations.

Guinea-Bissau: Domain named - The Internet domain (.gw) is now official, according to the National Regulatory Authorities (ARN), Noticias ao Mundo has reported. The process was launched with the support of the association, responsible for Portugal's top level domain (.pt) and collaborating with other African Portuguese-speaking countries.

Iraq: Networks neutered - ISIS is reported to have blocked all mobile networks in Mosul, according to the Lebanese Daily Star. The militants took the action after it was feared that coalition forces were receiving tip-offs. The Associated Press on Thursday reported the city as being chaotic following the announcement on a Mosul-based radio network. Some residents are apparently still able to access the Internet, as it is provided on the fixed network.

Kenya: Fibre rollout - Internet provider AccessKenya Group has completed its fibre optic installation program in parts of Nairobi and around the capital. Connectivity will also be improved in the industrial areas of Ruaraka, Westlands, Parklands, Mombasa Road, the central business district and several other localities in the next few months. CEO Jonathan Somen said it will be able to offer cloud capabilities, management solutions, VoIP, video on demand, etc. AccessKenya Group acquired Dimension Data in 2013. Liquid Telecom is the dominant player.

Kuwait: Smart plan - STC-affiliate VIVA has launched the Huawei Ascend Mate 7. The device is being offered to post-paid voice subscribers for free on a KWD 15 (USD 51.35) monthly plan. It features the Android 4.4.2 KitKat, 3GB RAM and 32GB R0M, and a 6-inch screen with 1920 x 1080 pixels display resolution.

Kuwait: Top talent touted - Zain Group is to use LinkedIn to enhance its employer branding and talent acquisition strategy. Scott Gegenheimer, Chief Executive Officer, Zain Group said: "As Zain Group continues to grow, we need to focus on acquiring the best talent locally and regionally and to reinforce our reputation as the employer of choice. " Zain will use LinkedIn's Recruiter product, its own Career Page, and a number of other tools to engage potential candidates.

Lebanon: Telecoms task force - The Lebanese CEOs of Arab, European and US technology firms are to be invited to submit a plan to the Ministry of Telecommunications to overhaul the telecoms sector, the Daily Star reported. Minister of Telecommunications Boutros Harb made the announcement at the Phoenicia Hotel on Friday. The event was organised by mobile operator 'touch' and attended by 30 executives, telecom officials and representatives of OGERO. Harb said a task force is to be formed shortly to devise a new strategy for the sector.

Lesotho: Reward for recovery - Econet is offering a reward of LSL 20,000 (USD 1,800) for information leading to the arrest and conviction of people responsible or information that leads to the recovery of stolen ETL equipment. The move comes as the operator reports a growing number of what it describes as deliberate sabotage of its fibre cable and acts of vandalism and theft of copper cable.

Madagascar: Airtel assurance - The Airtel Antoka free insurance product has been launched by Interim CEO of Airtel Madagascar, Cielo Nzozika. Partners are MicroEnsure and Allianz. From only 3,500 MGA monthly consumption, users aged 18 to 65 years have the benefits of life insurance, disability following an accident and hospitalisation. The cover is free for the first year.

Nigeria: Consumer compensation - The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has mandated telcos to compensate subscribers; and operators are required to submit their plan before 31 January 2015. Maryam Bayi, NCC?s Director of Consumer Affairs Bureau, said that the compensation pact will stipulate the compensation that a customer is entitled to whenever there is a breach of service by an operator. Bayi added: "The committee on compensation is working. We had to bring [in] the operators. "

Nigeria: Teens targeted - Airtel Nigeria has launched 'Airtel Trybe' aimed at the youth market. It offers free SMS, social media such as Whatsapp, Twitter, Facebook, and the ability to make calls at NGN 0.11 per second across all networks, while on any Nigerian tertiary institution's campus. 'Freebies' include free 10 minutes Trybe-to-Trybe calls for each subscriber per day and another free voice calls offer from 11 pm to 4.30am to other Airtel subscribers. Subscribers also get daily freebies to chat with unlimited access to Whatsapp, Twitter, Facebook and Blackberry Messenger, and valid for 2 days.

Nigeria: Third gen social tool - Etisalat Nigeria has signed with Singapore-based YuuZoo Corporation, which is described as the world?s first third generation social e-commerce company. The partnership will bring YuuZoo?s model to a market where the annual e-commerce revenue is put at over USD 500 million. YuuZoo combines social networking, e-commerce and gaming under a single mobile-optimised local destination.

Nigeria: Under utilisation - According to the Oxford Business Group, only 30 percent of the installed 3G capacity is being utilised, six years after commercial rollout of 3G services. MTN with about 56 million subscribers says that there are only 12 million 3G smartphones.

Portugal: Oi offer - Altice has said that it has an exclusivity agreement with Oi to negotiate the purchase of the Portuguese assets of Portugal Telecom (PT). Altice's offer values Portugal Telecom at EUR 7.4 billion (USD 9.2 billion) on a cash- and debt-free free basis. The bid includes EUR 500 million based on future revenue generation at PT. Meanwhile the dos Santos offer by her Terra Peregrin company is claimed to already incorporate a premium to shareholders. The dos Santos bid was made on 9 November in response to the Altice bid.

Saudi Arabia: City coverage - Mobily has completed the coverage of more than one hundred residential quarters in more than twenty cities with a fibre network. The operator plans to cover more than a million residential units with the network. Cities recently covered are Jazan, Onaizah and Al Hofuf.

Senegal: Ministry mauling - The budget of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications has been cut in the 2015 budget bill by over 90 percent to XOF 1.38 billion (USD 2.62 million), compared to XOF 11.34 billion (USD 21.53 million) in 2014, press agency APS has reported. The economy, finance, planning and co-operation committee has expressed concerns.

South Africa: Burgeoning broadband - Vodacom, in its interim results for the six months ending 30 September 2014, reports the average data used per smartphone rose 55.4 percent over the last year to 336MB per month. The number of active smartphones and tablets on its network rose 21.1 percent to 8 million. The average monthly data usage on tablets increased 28.9 percent to 879MB. Back in September 2011 Vodacom had 4.1 million smartphones on its network, which used an average of 84MB a month.

South Africa: Hotspot heaven - In its AlwaysOn promotion, Internet Solutions (IS) will give users 10GB of WiFi data per month for ZAR 29 (USD 2.62) in RSA and across its WiFi hotspot footprint until the end of January. The data is split; 5GB per month for access in RSA and 5GB per month via its international roaming agreements. IS has over 1,500 hotspots in RSA and more than a million hotspots internationally in 110 countries.

South Africa: New life for old phones - Device recycling firm Zwipit is now trading locally. It categorises items based on their condition (working, broken or good) and pays accordingly. All items acquired are refurbished in Spain and resold to customers, with guarantees, in international markets. Felix Martin-Aguilar is Zwipit South Africa's MD.

South Africa: Not-social media - Cell C's unfortunate run in with a client which saw a banner erected which named the outlet and agent that provided poor service has no end in sight. Despite a court appearance, Cell C appears to be unable to draw a line under the affair. The banner was vandalised with black paint to remove the negative messages with the message changed from 'The most useless service provider in SA' to 'The most useful service provider in SA'. MyBroadband reports that a new banner has now appeared with the message: 'Cell C ? perceived by the owner of this billboard to be The most useless service provider in SA as experienced via Cell C Sandton City'. However the name of the Cell C franchise manager and the related message have been removed.

South Africa: Role models - Cell C has extended its contract with the Miss South Africa until 2017. The new three-year-contract with the Miss South Africa Pageant part of the operator's Believe Manifesto and its on-going strategy to empower women. Suzette van der Merwe, Executive: Commercial Communications said it was seeking to support the development of strong inspirational role models for women.

Tanzania: Profitable Pesa - Last week Tigo announced the first of its regular quarterly payments worth TZS 3 billion (USD 1.68 million) to TigoPesa users. The payment was made three months after the operator paid out a profit of TZS 14.25 billion (USD 8.0 million) accumulated in the Tigo Pesa Trust Account. TigoPesa has a subscriber base of 3.6 million customers. Tigo General Manager Diego Gutierrez said the payment goes to all Tigo Pesa users including super agents, retail agents and individual users of the service. The next instalment for the period October - December 2014 is due to be paid in February 2015.

Tanzania: Co-operation codified - Mobile operator Zantel and Tanzania Posts Corporation (TPC) are to co-operate in the provision of Universal Communication Services in urban and rural areas using new technologies. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the two in mid-November. The MoU describes the areas that the proposed partnership is to encompass, including agency business; provision of courier services; and other postal services as are determined from time to time.

Togo: Bankruptcy beckons - Togo Telecom is reported to be close to bankruptcy. Agence Ecofin reports that it has consistently recorded poor financial results since 2008. A report commissioned by the State attributed the problem to poor management by CEO Sam Pétchétibati Bikassam, the failure of the Board; and poor monitoring by the Council, the supreme decision-making body responsible for defending the interests of the state.

Uganda: Market madness - Airtel Uganda's Managing Director has said that the local market is too small to sustain the current number of mobile operators. Tom Gutjahr was quoted as saying: 'It's an absolute illusion to believe that four, five, six mobile operators can ever be profitable in one country', adding that the smaller companies are unlikely to 'get profitable any time soon.' Airtel has spent about USD 100 million in infrastructure expansion in 2014.

United Arab Emirates: Local investment - Middle East Venture Partners (Mevp) is to invest in more than a dozen digital media companies in the next three years with a fund of USD 30 million. It will focus on Internet start ups in e-commerce, edutainment and payments. Speaking to Gulf News, Walid Hanna, managing partner at Middle East Venture Partners said: "This is where the action is. We are heavily investing in the UAE. It has become the hub for the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council). "

United Arab Emirates: Smart park solution - Dubai Parks & Resorts have signed Etisalat to deploy smart technologies across its Dubai project. The solutions will facilitate visitor registration, smart parking, connected transport, online ticketing and digital payment. Expertise on operational services, such as security system and utilities management will be shared.

United Arab Emirates: Store simplified - Etisalat has announced carrier billing for the Microsoft Windows Phone Store app. Users can charge their purchases directly to their monthly mobile bill or pre-paid account. Users do not have to enter their credit card details each time they purchase apps or games from the Window Phone Store.

Zimbabwe: Breaks rather than bonuses - TelOne says it consulted its staff before it decided not to award them bonuses this year, Managing Director Mrs Chipo Mtasa has said. The Herald reports that workers agreed the non-payment, despite claims by the Communication and Allied Services Workers Union of Zimbabwe that legal action would be taken. A letter was sent to staff giving them an option to commute vacation leave days in lieu of bonus if they so desired. Some 2,061 staff out of 2,136 had accepted.

Zimbabwe: Utility network - State-owned Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) is to invest some USD 32 million in the deployment of a 1,850 km fibre network. ZESA spokesman Fullard Gwasira said that the infrastructure will be initially used to better manage the national grid. Subsidiary PowerTel Telecom will resell the spare capacity.