News in Brief 10 December 2014

Afghanistan: Progress report - Acting and Deputy Technical Minister of MCIT Eng. Baryalay Hassam met with Afghan Telecom (AT) senior management at its HQ Saturday 5 December 2014. AT's Chairman Rastman reported on the fixed and mobile networks. Projects reviewed were the 18,000 line Ahmad Shah Baba project; the 6,000 lines project in Omed Sabz and the 5,000 line project in Shindand; and the fibre projects in the cities of Khost and Gardez. The expansion of 3G, and the 6th, 7th and 8th TDF projects were also reported on. 

Africa: Tigo transition - President and CEO of Millicom, Hans-Holger Albrecht, has stepped down. Tim Pennington, currently CFO, is to be interim CEO and is to work with board members to ensure key strategic initiatives and priorities for 2015 are executed. Albrecht was named CEO on 1 November 2012. In September it launching Tigo Wekeza (Tigo Invests) in Tanzania, a mobile money service offering users the opportunity to earn a return on their balance direct to their wallet without the need for separate registration.

Algeria: Auditor sought - An audit of 3G services one-year in is to be commissioned by the Autorite de Regulation des Postes et Telecommunications (ARPT). ARPT is consequently launching a tender. The tender is open to suitably qualified companies, with a proven track record in the measurement and quality assessment of network provision. Applicants can obtain the tender documents from ARPT on payment of a non-refundable deposit of DZD 3,000 (USD 33).

Algeria: 3G expansion - Mobilis has celebrated its launch of 3G in Algeria by expanding the number of wilayas covered to reach 35 at the end of 2014, so giving it the largest network coverage. A promotion has been announced for 2 - 22 December 2014 for post- and pre-paid customers. Mobilisis is offering a 300 percent 3G Internet Bonus on all DATA offers.

Botswana: IPO postponed again - The IPO for Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTCL) has now been put back to 2015. The Transport and Communication Ministry said the delay has been dictated by a number of considerations. He noted that the 'complexities and the sheer magnitude of privatising BTCL is a challenging task'. The new date has yet to be set.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Membership made-up - The DRC has been restored as a full member of the African Telecommunications Union (ATU). BizTech Africa reports that the restoration occurred after some USD 440,000 was paid in fees; it had not paid its membership dues for some 17 years. It also paid CHF 1.2 million (USD 1.2 million) representing 30 years in arrears to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). It now has full voting rights with both organisations.

 

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Democratic Republic of Congo: Money milestone - Airtel reckons it has 1 million revenue-generating Airtel Money customers, according to BizTech Africa. The service was launched in February 2012, and Airtel partnered with BGFI Bank Group in August 2014. Alain Kahasha, Airtel DRC Managing Director said it was a key milestone.

Egypt: Indicators rewarded - The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has awarded Egypt its 2014 Award in recognition of the country's efforts in measuring ICT indicators. The award ceremony took place during the 12th World Telecommunications Indicators Symposium (WTIS) hosted by the city of Tbilisi in Georgia in the last week of November 2014. Dr. Nagwa El Shenawy, Undersecretary of Information and Strategic Planning represented Egypt at the Symposium.

Egypt: Solar solutions - Huawei's local business stands at USD 500 million in the current year compared to USD 470 million in 2013, Ahmed Nabawy, Solution Manage at Huawei, said. Speaking to Amwal Al Ghad last week, Nabawy added that Huawei co-operates with several firms in Egypt for supplying technological solutions including Vodafone, Telecom Egypt and Mobinil. Huawei's solar energy technologies are to be promoted going forward.

Gabon: ICT leader - The International Telecommunication Union?s 2014 ICT Development Index (IDI) found Gabon the lead Franco-phone country. The IDI ranked Mauritius top in Africa with a score of 5.22 and Gabon tenth with 3.46. The Index takes account of 11 indicators, and includes ICT access and infrastructure, ICT use by households and individuals, ICT access and use by businesses, the use of ICT by governments and public sector, among others. Gabon?s launch of the 4G is suggested as one of the catalysts; 3G and 4G licences were issued to Airtel and Gabon Telecom.

Iran: Logged log-ons - The Minister of Telecommunications Mahmoud Vaezi has said it is developing a system to identify any Internet user at the moment they log-on, the ISNA news agency reported. In November he said 'smart filtering' would be implemented within six months to block Internet content deemed offensive or criminal. The first phase of filtering was expected to be ready within a month, the second phase within three months and a third within six months, he said on 14 November. A recent study found that 69 percent of young users were using illegal software to bypass official restrictions.

Israel: Competition countered - Golan Telecom is rising to the Walla! challenge by upgrading its surfing package to 3 gigabytes, as provided by WallaMobile. Globes reports that Golan's ILS 37 (USD 9.28) package will include 3 gigabyte of Web surfing monthly, up from 2 GB. Unlimited calls and texts are included, with a second line for ILS 18 (USD 4.52). The ILS 9.90 (USD 2.48) package will include 100 call minutes a month to local and international destinations in 55 countries (instead of 60 minutes previously), 100-megabyte surfing (instead of 10 megabytes up until now), and unlimited text messages (unchanged).

Kenya: Pesa potential - Safaricom's Lipa Na M-Pesa is now the dominant cashless transaction platform. According to a McKinsey and Company study, 94 percent of payments are still made by cash. However, cashless services have overtaken the volume of transactions using debit and credit cards as well as other mobile money propositions. Safaricom's General Manager of Financial Services, Betty Mwangi, said that with 94 percent of transactions in cash there was an immense opportunity for the number of cashless transactions to grow. She noted the operator had already made investments in the public transport sector and in government transactions, which it sees as the next growth frontiers for Lipa Na M-Pesa.

Mauritania: Renewals ratified - The Autorite de Regulation has completed its review of GSM licence renewal application process for Mattel and Mauritel. The two operators were granted GSM licences in 2000 for a term of 15 years and are due for renewal on 3 June 2015 for Mattel and 17 July 2015 for Mauritel. The regulator is recommending the renewal of the two 2G licences. A consulting consortium consisting of international law firm Bird & Bird and consulting firm Progressus assisted it.

Mozambique: Reseller appointment - Motorola Solutions has appointed Vaninga & Investimentos Limitada (VIL) as its added value reseller. Vaninga is licensed to build and operate data centres in Mozambique and will provide the backbone infrastructure, in conjunction with Motorola Solutions, to support the creation of secure wireless networks providing services to the public sector. Athlone Investments Ltd recently acquired VIL.

Mozambique: Portuguese pow-wow - On 27 - 28 November senior officials of the International Association of Portuguese Speaking Communications (AICEP) met in Macau. The meeting had the theme of 'A networked future: Opportunities and Challenges'. Attendees were drawn from nine countries and territories including Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Macau, Mozambique, Portugal, Sao Tome and Principe and Timor-Leste.

Nigeria: Critical corporates - Airtel Nigeria has been named by the Federal Government as one the first 20 companies in its Top 100 Businesses in Nigeria 2014. This is an initiative of the President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, to recognise the critical role leading corporate entities play in the development of the country?s economy. MTN also made it into the rankings.

Nigeria: Environmental impact - Over 200 telecommunications firms have been closed down by the Federal Government as they failed to comply with environmental laws after receiving several warnings. Punch reports that 37 cases of environmental offences were prosecuted and seven convictions recorded, with nine others settled out of court, while 21 were still pending. Some of the affected firms have reopened, whilst several are still closed as they have yet to meet the directives on environmental standards.

Nigeria: Promo prizes - Globacom has launched two reward programmes. Glo Overload automatically credits subscribers with 200 percent airtime and data bonus and enters them in a competition with a top-up of NGN 200 (USD 1.10) or more. Some NGN 120 million (USD 665,000) is being offered as cash prizes. The Glo Allawee promotion will give every new customer NGN 18,000 (USD 100) worth of free airtime for calls and text messages.

Nigeria: Smartphone entry - European-based Fly has entered the mobile phone market and named First Choice as its exclusive distributor, ThisDay has reported. The distributor has some 4,000 African points of sale. Fly's Middle East and Africa Managing Director, Nitin Sood, said: "West Africa, and Nigeria in particular, is a strategic new market for Fly, with its growing demand for smartphones, and we are excited to enter this market with First Choice as our partner, which will further help us penetrate the Nigerian market. " Fly was the best selling smartphone in Russia in 2013. The range consists of six smartphones and three feature phones.

Pakistan: Property portfolio problem - Etisalat International Pakistan (EIP) has still to make the final payment for its acquisition of Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL), CustomToday reported. The final payment was withheld, as a property portfolio had not been conveyed to the new owners. Out of 3,248 properties, 3,217 (99 percent) have been transferred while the remaining 31 (1 percent) properties cannot be transferred due to a variety of reasons, including legal impediments. The 31 had been forwarded to EIP as 'Second Shortfall' for resolution of the matter as per the Share Purchase Agreement (SPA) and court cases were being handled by PTCL itself.

Qatar: Mobile money app - Ooredoo Qatar has launched smartphone app 'Ooredoo Money'. The app was developed to simplify the use of mobile money, and can be downloaded for free. Existing mobile money users can use their mobile number and the six-digit mPIN combination to sign in to the app.

Qatar: Open source - The Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (IctQatar) has published its Open Data Policy. Government data will be made available publicly to the extent permitted by law and subject to privacy, confidentiality, security or any other valid restrictions, and accessible in modifiable and convenient formats that can be searched, downloaded and indexed. The Policy institutes specific actions to ensure all government agencies take steps to expand public access to government data by making it available online.

Saudi Arabia: Enquiry endorsed - Emirates Telecommunication Corporation (Etisalat) has said that it 'unequivocally' supports an independent investigation into Mobily's financials after revenues were significantly overstated. Mobily has seen its stock fall some 44 percent since late October after errors forced the restating of 18 months of earnings. Mobily's Chief Executive was suspended last month.

Senegal: Free LTE - Tigo Senegal launched a 4G pilot trial in Dakar on 3 December 2014, Agence Ecofin reported. The trial runs to 31 December and is free of charge to subscribers. Areas covered are Yoff, Almadies, Fann Residence, University, Dakar-Plateau, International Conference Centre Abdou Diouf Diamniadio and Touba. Tigo is looking to deploy 4G on a commercial basis.

Somalia: Bay ban - The Al Qaeda linked Al Shabaab group is reported to have taken Hormuud services off the air in the Bay region towns of Diinsoor and Ufurow, Garowe Online reports. Al Shabaab militants are thought to be concerned about an offensive due to be launched against their bases. Hormuud has faced similar bans before. In January Al Shabaab suspended the use of the mobile Internet over concerns it was being used against them.

South Africa: African Android device - Mi-Fone has launched its mi-FAB 4.5 for ZAR 2,199 (USD 193); it is also available in Nigeria and Ghana, and other African countries. It is only available online and offers a national courier service. The device runs Android 4.2 OS and features a 1.2 GHz Quad Core CPU with 32GB of storage. It features two cameras.

South Africa: Allocation adjustments - MTN South Africa has apologised to customers for service disruptions in the last two weeks. A number of users who migrated from Nashua Mobile also experienced connectivity problems on 25 November. Eben Albertyn, Chief Technology Officer at MTN SA said it had been making 'many' adjustments including re-configuring the current allocation of spectrum. Load shedding in recent weeks had exacerbated disruptions. Battery thefts had also been an issue.

South Africa: Banking on fibre - First National Bank (FNB) is expanding its fibre to also provide backhaul for telco, Business Tech report. FNB has been considering an entry since 2013, and it is already licensed to be a telecoms provider. It did consider launching as an MVNO on Cell C's network in June 2013.

Sudan: Net non-neutrality - The Freedom of the Net 2014 global survey rated Sudan as 'Not Free', with a score of 65 out of 100 compared to 63 in 2013. Out of a total of 12 African countries analysed, Sudan was one of three countries in the 'Not Free' category, ranking 11th - only ahead of Ethiopia.

Zimbabwe: Top-up cards terminated - Telecel Zimbabwe said last week that it was to abandon top-up cards. It is introducing a PIN-less electronic airtime recharge service dubbed, e-Juice. The new facility allows subscribers to have airtime directly loaded onto their devices without having to purchase physical scratch cards or vouchers which come with recharge PIN numbers, Telecel Zimbabwe said in a statement. Subscribers will pay for the airtime at any agent outlet and the airtime is electronically added to their account.