News in Brief 07 January 2015

 Bahrain: Expansion eyed - Second-placed Zain Bahrain is to enhance its network coverage to ?meet customer demand?. The expansion will form part of a USD 100 million network transformation programme implemented by Ericsson, which itself extends a 2G/3G/4G partnership initiated in October 2013. Zain launched its 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) network in April 2013. Zain Bahrain network director Hamad Al Romaihi said: "The second phase of the network transformation programme will aim to enhance capacity ? and roll out new sites across the Kingdom. "

Cameroon: Managerial merit - The Africa Telecom People's (ATP) jury has named Elisabeth Medou Badang, Orange Cameroon's Managing Director, as the 2014's top telecom manager in Africa. Badang assumed her post on 2 December 2013 after three years as CEO of Orange Botswana.

Cote d'Ivoire: Fifth forum - The country will host the fifth Africa IT & Telecom Forum (AITTF) 26 - 27 March in Abidjan. Organiser ANSUT is the national agency for universal services of telecoms and ICT, and is hosting the event in partnership with the Ministry of Posts and ICTs. Some 300 delegates are expected. ANSUT head Euloge Soro-Kipeya said that the agency?s mission was to spread new technologies, create awareness about the country?s ICT progress and infrastructure, open new markets for private ICT investors and combat digital exclusion. Abidjan will also host Consultrafic on 17-19 February 2015, jointly sponsored by Cote d'Ivoire and Tunisia's Ministers of ICTs in association with the Cote d'Ivoire's National Agency for Telecommunications Universal Services (ANSUT) and Tunisia?s AZ Com.

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Computer centre - Vodacom Congo has furnished a computer suite for the Universit? de Kinshasa (UNIKIN) worth some USD 83,000. BizTechAfrica reported that the centre comprises 100 computers connected to the Internet with accompanying chairs and tables. State-funded UNIKIN was established as Universit? Lovanium in 1954.

Egypt: Footy following - Mobinil signed a partnership deal with Chelsea FC in England to be the club's official partner in Egypt. Mobinil will offer exclusive news and content from the club through special packages on its 1111 service. Chelsea has nearly 2.5 million Egyptian followers on on the club's Facebook page.

Egypt: TE tender success - Telecom Egypt (TE) on Saturday 3 January said that it would provide ADSL and upgrade key infrastructure for 11 governmental bodies. These include ministries of scientific research, education, agriculture, youth, health, civil aviation, justice, manpower, irrigation and water resources in addition to the public prosecutions nationally and the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics. TE is expected to sign the agreements shortly. This is part of the national broadband project initiated by the National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (NTRA).



Ethiopia: 3G upgrade - During January ethio telecom is offering users in areas with 3G coverage the opportunity to upgrade their SIM from 2G to 3G by sending '3G' to 825. Users then need to select WCDMA/3G/GSM auto mode, and before turning their devices off and on again after 24 hours. A list of 3G service areas is available here.

Ghana: Free Wiki - MTN is the country?s first mobile operator to offer free access to Wikipedia as part of the Wikimedia Foundation's global Wikipedia Zero initiative. The Ministry of Education is supporting the move. MTN's Chief Marketing Officer Rahul De noted that Wikipedia Zero would provide an opportunity for children, students and professionals to learn more and enhance their knowledge. Mr. De stated that: "Wikipedia Zero removes the data cost barrier for our customers to access educational material. "

Ghana: MTN modernisation - MTN says it will provide 3G in the 170+ districts making up the country. In 2013 MTN started a major modernisation programme to expand and optimise its network. MTN Ghana's Corporate Service Executive Mrs Cynthia Lumor told BizTechAfrica: "MTN is aimed to increase that number and also to ameliorate any coverage gaps within the 170 districts....MTN has close to five thousand kilometres of fibre which also enables faster data speeds and better greater quality for our customers. "


Iraq: 3G initiation - Zain Iraq is reported to have initiated its 3G network on 31 December, so beating its rivals. Asiacell followed on 1 January 2015. It has invested USD 1 billion, which included system modernisation and licence fees. In November 2014 Asiacell paid USD 307 million for a 2100MHz 3G licence. Both are marketing their 3G tariff plans as '3.9G'.

Israel: Increasing Internet - A survey published on Sunday by Bezeq found that people spend about half their free time on the Internet and around 70 percent have a family WhatsApp group. Israel had two million Internet subscribers (excluding mobile subscribers) and around 5.6 million Web users. The average bandwidth in use in Israel is 40MB, and the average home surfer downloads approximately 2GB of data per day. Households have an average of five devices connected to the Internet simultaneously. Some 63 percent noted that the computer had become their primary platform for watching movies and TV programming.

Israel: AGM appointments - Cellcom Israel's Annual General Meeting on 23 December 2014 re-elected Shlomo Waxe and Ephraim Kunda as directors; and re-appointed Somekh Chaikin, a member of KPMG International, as the Company's independent auditor.

Mali: Insurance incentive - An insurance and savings product under the 'Sini Tonon' banner has been launched by insurance firm NSIA (Nouvelle Societe Interafricaine d'Assurances), in partnership with Orange Mali. It provides an Orange Money savings account in which users can save a minimum of USD 6 and benefit from various insurance products. When savings reach USD 80, the user will be placed in a quarterly draw, with a prize of USD 2,000. Accounts with more than USD 73 in them will earn annual interest of 2 percent.

Middle East: Cloud co-operation - Affirmed Networks and virtualised mobile network provider Elephant Talk Communications have announced the deployment of the former's Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) solution. Branded the Affirmed Mobile Content Cloud, it will form part of Elephant Talk's Software Defined Network Architecture mobile Software DNA 2.0 platform as deployed with mobile operators in Europe and the Middle East. Martin Zuurbier, Chief Technology Officer for Elephant Talk said it was able to integrate 'best-of-breed' SDN/NFV technologies into a comprehensive, upgraded platform that will be deployable in all of its markets.

Middle East: SAP Samsung solutions - SAP is helping Middle East customers achieve value from the Networked Economy through partnerships, it said at the recent SAP TechEd and d-code event held in Berlin. Samsung Electronics and SAP plan to deliver enterprise mobility solutions for a number of industries, starting with retail, oil and gas, finance and healthcare, to create an enterprise mobility ecosystem building on the SAP Mobile Platform. Sam Alkharrat, President, SAP MENA was quoted as saying: "The Middle East has one of the world?s highest mobile device penetration rates, and that is why we are confident these partnerships with major technology industry leaders will help our customers in the region push the envelope of networked economy and unleash innovative customer engagement models."

Middle East: Tailored smartphones - Yota Devices, the makers of the dual screen smartphone YotaPhone 2, have signed a new partnership with custom mobile application developer Tawasol. Yota plans to provide locally tailored Apps. The YotaPhone 2 will have pre-installed Tawasol's 'Islamiyat', a religious app, which includes the Holy Quran and daily prayer times. Abdul Karim Sawan, Vice President for Middle East & Africa, Yota Devices said: "One of the Middle East's key needs is access to range of Apps that suit their religious activities and our collaboration with Tawasol allows us to provide them with customised mobile applications that elevate their user experience."

Nigeria: Content centric - Etisalat has launched SmartPak designed to provide subscribers with unlimited access to the content they most use. Etisalat Nigeria's Chief Executive Officer Matthew Willsher said it differs from the all-purpose Easyblaze bundles, which charge customers for the size of data they want. Three packages are being offered: Social Me Pak, Chat Pak, and Video Pak. ChatPak offers access to applications such as WhatsApp and BBM while the Social Me Pak gives access to social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, in addition to the chat apps available on ChatPak. The Video Pak offers 2-hour access to stream for NGN 400 (USD 2.18).

Nigeria: FOREX freeze - The ban on the import of electronic and telecom equipment with official Foreign Exchange (FOREX) by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is retarding network expansion, as the cost of infrastructure procurement and rollout rises. Akinwale Goodluck, Corporate Services Executive at MTN Nigeria told BusinessDay: "Mobile operators will need more naira to buy foreign exchange. It simply increases the cost of telecoms equipments and certainly affects rollout plans ". Goodluck says operators still have a lot of ground to cover in terms of mobile network coverage and access.

Nigeria: Payment partnership - First Bank of Nigeria and Etisalat Nigeria have partnered to make mobile payments more accessible and secure using FirstBank's Firstmonie Mobile Money and Etisalat easywallet. Firstmonie will feature on the easywallet STK menu. Head, Marketing and Corporate Communications, FirstBank, Folake Ani-Mumuney said: "Partnering with Etisalat to promote the use of the STK menu as the preferred Mobile Money channel further demonstrates our commitment to lead innovation in the development of secure mobile payment solutions."

Nigeria: Transfer trends - Azimo, the UK social online money transfer service, has found that Nigeria - along with Poland - top the list of the most generous expats at Christmas, with African countries taking three of the top five places. Nigeria was the second most generous country, receiving an average of four transfers totalling USD 1,376. Ghana was fourth with USD 1,061 and Kenya fifth with USD 1,002. Azimo?s data shows that over 75 percent of the transfers are for essential family support such as bills, food and rent, usually to one or two recipients. During December some 40 percent of all transfers are 'gifts', with the increase in gift giving corresponding with a drop in the average transfer value from an annual figure of around USD 613 to a seasonal low of USD 306 in December.

Oman: Mobile bank uptake - Bank Muscat mBanking facility now has some 235,000 users. Tariq Atiq, Asst General Manager - Cards & eBanking, said: "Bank Muscat strategy to provide banking services via mobile phones complements the government's efforts in creating a digital society and providing electronic services which spell convenience to customers."

Qatar: Hotel hosting - Ooredoo is to deliver high-speed fibre Internet, telecommunications and a range of ICT solutions to the Regency Group Holding. The Group's businesses include 5-star hotels, real estate, and travel agencies. The deal was signed by Ooredoo?s Chief Sales and Service officer, Dr Mohamed Saleh al-Marri. IPTV services will be provided for the Wyndham Grand Regency Hotel.

Qatar: Leveraged Lumia - Vodafone Qatar is offering buyers of the Lumia 830 smartphone, which costs QAR 1,499 (USD 411), a free JBL PowerUp wireless charging speaker worth QAR 1,080 (USD 297). The PowerUp uses NFC and Bluetooth technology to wirelessly stream music and can also charge the Lumia phone. Pre-paid customers will receive a 6GB data package for 90-days and post-paid users will be entitled to 15GB per month, also for 90-days.

Senegal: Festival refinements - Sonatel has strengthened its infrastructure in the cities of Tivaouane and Kaolack for the 113th Maouloud festival. Sonatel has deployed some 290 mobile BTS antennas (compared to 278 last year) including 40 3G antennas.

South Africa: Fixed/mobile collaboration - Telkom said in late December that it was still talks with MTN to extend their roaming agreement to include the outsourcing of Telkom's radio access network. Telkom said in November 2014 that the move would give both operators a larger voice and data capacity at a lower price and that it hoped to conclude the proposal by 31 March 2014.

Tanzania: Top telco - Vodacom Tanzania has been named as the Employer of the Year for the second year running by the Association of Tanzania Employers (ATE), BusiWeek reported. The operator also topped the following categories: Performance Management Process, Leadership and Governance, Human Resource Policy and Practice, Workforce Focus and Quality and Productivity of Employees. In November Vodacom was also named as the top taxpayer in the telecoms sector at the 2014 National Compliant Tax Payer Award ceremony.

Turkey: Upgraded 3G - Turkcell has initiated three-carrier HSDPA (3C-HSDPA) technology on its 3G network in 81 cities. Users will experience downlink transmission speeds of up to 63.3Mbps over a 3G connection. Turkcell has also deployed Dual Carrier (DC)-HSUPA technology, providing peak upload speeds of 11.5Mbps, twice the current rate. Sureyya Ciliv, CEO of Turkcell, said: "We are also getting ready for 4G as Turkey prepares to introduce this technology in 2015."

United Arab Emirates: Data deal - Etisalat has increased mobile data capacity from 100MB to 250MB (2.5 times) for its AED 29 (USD 7.90) mobile data plan subscribers as a limited period promotion. The 100MB mobile data plan is an entry-level data plan. Existing customers will be migrated to the new 250MB capacity from their next renewal, although the plan will renew at 100MB at the end of the promotion period. Etisalat?s 4G LTE network covers more than 88 percent of the country's populated areas.

United Arab Emirates: Mid-week Marketplace - Etisalat has said that there have been over 76,000 downloads for its Etisalat Marketplace mobile app. The service offers deals on films, dining and leisure activities every Wednesday, as part of its special Etisalat Wednesday initiative, and has seen over 85,000 purchases in the past six months since launch. Khaled El Khouly, Chief Marketing Officer, Etisalat, said: "...Etisalat Wednesday has...received a great response, as is evident from the number of downloads and purchases of coupons on our mobile app. "

Zambia: Voucher printing - Airtime distributor StreetCred is partnering with Nomanini, a South Africa-based mobile point of sale service. StreetCred will be Nomanini?s exclusive partner in Zambia. The cloud-based PoS system provides active terminals processing a million cash transactions a month across South Africa, Namibia, Kenya and Mozambique. Vahid Monadjem, CEO of Nomanini said it had been working with StreetCred for nine months trialling and increasing the number of PoS terminals. Informal vendors can use the terminal to sell and print airtime vouchers as required, and retailers do not need to buy scratchcards in bulk.