News in Brief 25 March 2015

Cameroon: Camtel cut - On 18 March 2015 Cameroon Telecommunications (Camtel) users were without Internet, and Ctphone CDMA subscribers without network coverage. Ticmag reported that only subscribers to fixed line services and those with an ADSL Internet connection had Web access. A technician was reported to have said there had been a 'breach of the network' thought to have been caused either by a disconnected device or a cable cut.

East Africa: SMS rates set - Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda are to reduce the cost of international texting between the three countries, the East African reported. At a regional summit in Kigali on 6 March 2015, the three agreed that the wholesale price for SMS within the region will not be more than USD 0.03 per SMS, including all applicable taxes, while the retail price will not exceed USD 0.06 cents per SMS. This is less than half the current market rate.

Kenya: Bank foray - I&M Bank has signed with MobiKash so that customers of the lending party will be able to deposit and withdraw money from 500 mobile money transfer service agents, Standard Media reported. MobiKash will manage the agents while I&M Bank provide the oversight. The bank will support the agents through its branch network where they will maintain their floats in the bank?s MobiKash trust account. I&M Bank plans to sign up more agents by mid-year, and will start rolling out agency banking for its Rwanda, Tanzania and Mauritius subsidiaries in 2016.

Kenya: Contributions exceed ceiling - Contributions to the Universal Service Fund by mobile operators have now exceeded the targeted KES 2.5 billion (USD 26.8 million) by some KES 900,000 (USD 9.6 million). BizTechAfrica reports the Telecommunication Service Providers Association of Kenya's (TESPOK) Chief Executive Officer, Fiona Asonga, as raising concerns that the fund should be independently audited, and that a new Access Gap Study be undertaken to ensure the fund is effectively deployed.

Kenya: First Pillar - US-based Outernet has launched its first digital library. The system uses satellites to beam information to receivers on earth either through a community receiver named 'Pillar' or a pocket size one named 'Lantern'. The receivers have the capacity to store high volumes of multimedia content (including video, audio, books and Web pages), that can be accessed using a phone or a tablet without the need for an Internet connection. The first Pillar receiver has been installed in a school, with founder and CEO Sayid Karim in attendance.

Kenya: M-Pesa Maintenance - M-Pesa was closed to new registrations, PIN changes and account activation 24-hours before a full shutdown between 11 p.m. Saturday 21 March 2015 and 8 a.m. Sunday 22 March to allow for 'scheduled maintenance'. This included signing up for M-Shwari and M-Kesho accounts. The work is apparently not related to the anticipated switchover to local hosting for M-Pesa.

Kenya: Safaricom set-tops soon - Safaricom is to start selling its digital television set-top boxes in April. The Daily Nation reported that the devices have been approved by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA). Safaricom Corporate Affairs Director Nzioka Waita said the decoders were expected within the next three weeks, with distribution due to start immediately.

Kenya: Stake sale net - BusinessDaily Africa suggests that the sale of Naushad Merali?s final 5 percent stake in Airtel Kenya in 2010 netted some KES 738 million (USD 7.9 million). Mwerali stood down as Chairman in 2013, having been at the helm for 15 years. With the stake sale, Bharti Airtel took full control. The sale was made after former Finance Minister Njeru Githae gave Airtel Kenya an open-ended waiver on the need to have at least 20 percent local ownership in 2012. Business Daily cites the Bharti Airtel annual report for 2011/2012.

Nigeria: Alcatel anchorman - Alcatel-Lucent has appointed Richard Edet as Country Senior Officer and Managing director for Nigeria. Edet will assume overall responsibility for managing day-to-day operations, as well as taking the lead on strategy. He previously held key management posts at SAP Africa, Cisco and Microsoft. Alcatel-Lucent's President for the Middle East, Africa, Turkey & Azerbaijan is Amr K. El-Leithy.

Nigeria: Glo in Airtel's gunsights - Airtel has unveiled a new marketing strategy to grow its subscriber base in a bid to unseat Globacom as the second largest operator. SmartConnect offers a four-in-one Family SIM Pack. Head of Mass Segment Marketing, Bimbo Jolaosho, said: "The product offers bonus recharge for Family and Friends calls; bonus on recharge; data bonus on recharge; 4-in-1 family pack as well as seven hours of early night calls (from 11 pm and 6 am) at 11kobo per second on Airtel-to- Airtel and across all networks. "

Nigeria: Renewal fest - The 5-year licences of the 115 Internet Service Providers (ISPs) fall due for renewal shortly. Nigeria has about 184 ISPs, 115 of which are expected to update the commission with their current business contacts/addresses before the end of March. According to The Guardian, 22 other ISPs are to renew their licences in 2016; 18 in 2017; 21 in 2018 and 20 in 2019. Three GSM operators that are due to renew their 15-year old licences by 18 February 2016, namely MTN, Airtel and Nitel's MTel; the latter, however, is currently dormant.

Oman: Fakes found - Eight shops in Musandam have been found selling non-type-approved tablet devices and mobile phones by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), the Times of Oman reported. Periodic inspections are carried out regularly by the TRA. In the same campaign, the TRA inspection team also apprehended a number of expatriate workers illegally selling international phone calls through a VoIP facility at cheap rates using voice-carrying devices as well as devices for the encryption of data packages that are carried over the Internet.

Oman: Fast FTTH - Omantel has announced a project to provide fast Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) technology using GPON technology. The project has been implemented in a number of phases, starting with the main cities in the different governorates, as well as in areas outside main cities. Eng. Said Abdullah al Ajmi, Vice President of Omantel Integrated Networks Unit said that FTTH is providing high speed Internet broadband with speeds greater than 150 MB per second.

Oman: Regulatory forum - A Telecom Law and Regulation forum is to be held on 13 ? 15 April 2015 in Muscat. The forum will examine the legal framework of telecom services and networks and seek to clarify the regulations and agreements regulating security of the Internet and services to combat electronic crimes, prevent violations of rules, regulations and licence conditions. Full details are here.

Qatar: Driving data - A Smart Fleet Management system has been launched by Ooredoo Qatar, the Gulf Times has reported. Smart Fleet is designed to manage vehicle fleets. The cloud-based service deploys GPS and GSM technology, and can centralise and manage transport-related information so that fleet activities can be planned and operational costs reduced. A driver behaviour analysis tool is provided. The solution is available for a monthly subscription charge, following a one-off installation fee

Senegal: Regional roundtable - A Regional Forum on Standards is being held this week in Dakar at the initiative of the Regulatory Authority for Telecommunications and Posts (ARTP), together with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The forum will provide examples of good practice developed from global standards and improve skills in standardisation. The meeting was to be preceded on 23 March by the Working Group SG12RG-AFR looking at aspects of quality of service and quality of experience. A meeting on sustainable development and climate was scheduled for 26-27 March.

South Africa: Oracle interim Chief - Oracle South Africa has appointed Kevin Attard as interim Country Head following the departure of Pieter Bensch to head up the local HP operation. Attard, who was based in London as an Application Strategy & Sales Development Senior Director for the ECE/MEA region, takes up the position with immediate effect.

South Africa: Samsung shortly - Samsung's Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge will be available locally in early April via Vodacom, according to TechCentral. Limited stocks will only be available at launch in South Africa.

South Africa: Streamlined service - Genesys Enterprise Workload Management and Digital Channels is providing a multi-channel customer service for Vodacom. The operator serves more than 30 million customers daily and the solution is claimed to provide a genuine two-way communication. Previous a first in, first out system regime was in place with a 24-hour turnaround on all leads. The process will be streamlined, with issues identified and decisions executed on priority issues 'nearly' 98 percent of the time.

South Africa: Stocks strengthened - Bloomberg has reported that mobile operators are stockpiling fuel and emergency supplies to ensure their networks continue to function in the face of Eskom power outages. The report suggests that MTN has strengthened its deals with suppliers to run its generators, whilst Vodacom has increased its diesel reserves, upgraded generators, and installed additional diesel storage capacity at key network sites. Cell C has deals with Neotel and Teraco to mitigate the impact of power cuts. Vodacom's Richard Boorman was quoted as saying: "Almost all of our 10,000+ base stations have some form of battery backup which is typically good for 2-4 hours' run time ".

South Africa: Transfers tabled - Telkom is to transfer staff from call centres, supply chain and IT sectors to new employers on 31 March, saying that the unions had failed to secure a majority consensus on an additional offer it had made. Spokesman Jacqui O'Sullivan said that service levels had been under pressure for a number of weeks. SACU and Solidarity recently asked for Voluntary Severance Packages (VSPs) and Voluntary Early Retirement Packages (VERPs) for staff affected by the outsourcing initiative.

Swaziland: Simunye shortfall - MTN Swaziland is investigating a missing SZL 600,000 (USD 51,474) from one of its wholly owned e-top up outlets situated in Simunye. According to the Swazi Times auditors found that there were a number of events when funds were removed; some as cash, and some as airtime. Suspected staff have already been interviewed by police.

Syria: Academia calling - The Minister of Communications and Technology, Dr. Mohammad Jalali, last week opened a new Faculty of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering building at the University of Damascus, and also opened a three-day workshop entitled 'The Evolution of Mobile Communications Systems and the transition to 4G'. Academics and staff from Syriatel and MTN participated with the aim of creating effective scientific collaboration between universities and agencies in order create research and engineering joint ventures.

Tanzania: Port-to-port - Tanzania Ports Authority's (TPA) has completed a major Information and Communication Technology (ICT) project connecting its headquarters with its 13 national branches, the Tanzania Daily News has reported. The network is connected via Tanzania Telecommunications Company Limited (TTCL) fibre using Multiprotocal Label Switching Virtual Private Network (MPLS VPN). TPA's branches connected with the system include the headquarter's office, Mwanza Port, Kigoma Port, Mtwara Port, Tanga port, Dar es Salaam Port, Mafia Port, Lindi Port, Kilwa, Pemba, Bukoba, Nansio and Musoma Port. So far, over 200 offices under the Prime Minister's Office, Local Government and Regional Administration have been connected using TTCL's fibre.

Togo: Ministerial regeneration mandate - Last week the government said it would now take the necessary steps to rebuild Togo Telecom. The regeneration package is to include the upgrade of the network, better customer services, high speed Internet at affordable rates, better management and tighter control of spending, according to Post and Digital Economy Minister Cina Lawson. Togo Telecom is the holding company of mobile operator Togo Cellulaire (TogoCel).

Uganda: SIM scam - In a memo dated 19 March, the Financial Intelligence Authority has alerted the Uganda Communications Commission to a loss of up to USD 144 million over the last three years, The EastAfrican Weekly reported, citing a memo from the agency. Data codes are being used to illegally terminate international mobile phone traffic (grey traffic) into local networks disguised as local traffic.