News in Brief 7 May 2015

Bahrain: Faster fibre - On Monday Batelco said it is rolling out its fibre network and is upgrading its entire network including its 4G and 3G Networks to provide faster mobile broadband. Batelco said the upgrades would enhance the mobile coverage. Batelco Acting Bahrain CEO Muna Al Hashemi said: "This significant transformation will allow us to offer customers a greater experience and meet their ever-increasing demands. "

Burundi: Social networks severed - Last week access to several social networks and messaging applications were cut, including Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp and Tango. It is claimed that they were being used to co-ordinate unrest. AFP reported that 'a telecoms source' confirmed that operators had been ordered in writing by telecommunications regulator ARCT to block mobile access to certain sites. At least five people have died in disturbances after the ruling CNDD-FDD party named President Pierre Nkurunziza as its presidential candidate for the 26 June elections.

Ghana: Alcatel appointment - Alcatel-Lucent has appointed Ramy Hashem as Country Senior Officer and Managing Director for Ghana. Hashem will assume overall responsibility for managing day-to-day operations, as well as taking the lead on strategic business directions. Based in Accra, he will report to Alpin Verlet, Head of Alcatel-Lucent?s activities in the West & Central Africa region. Hashem was the former Chief Technology Officer for Alcatel-Lucent in the Middle East.

Ghana: Cable expansion - Airtel Ghana has completed the expansion of its fibre optic networks in Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi. Manu Rajan, Marketing Director, Airtel Ghana said: "Customers can take advantage of the benefits of the increased speed from 21.6mbps to 42mbps on compatible devices that the Smart Phone Network brings to consumers, small businesses and enterprises. This year represents a year of growth and investment in our network ".

Ghana: Mobile males - The Department of Geography and Regional Planning of the University of Cape Coast (UCC) last week published its research 'Mobile phones and Youth in Sub-Saharan Africa', sponsored by the UK's Durham University. Four coastal and forest ecological study sites were selected in the Central and Brong-Ahafo regions, comprising Urban, Peri-urban Rural and Remote rural areas. A total of 1,568 questionnaires were administered to young people aged 7 - 25 years. The research found that a higher proportion of males own a mobile phone than females across all areas.

Ghana: Predictable result - A survey commissioned by Vodafone and conducted independently by global consultants P3 Communications has rated the operator as best mobile network for ?Voice clarity? and ?3G+ internet speed?. The research measured call set-up, speech quality and drop rates, as well as downloads and uploads speed. Patricia Obo-Nai, Director of Technology at Vodafone Ghana said: "The results from the study are a direct endorsement of the good work we have put in to ensure that we continue to provide unmatched experience for our customers and to lead the way in the industry ".

Global: MTN merger - Emerging Markets Communications (EMC) is to acquire MTN Communications, a provider of communications and content for remote locations globally. The acquisition will benefit the organisations? combined 1,600 vessels and more than 8,000 land-based customer sites in hard to reach places on all continents and in every ocean. Customers will represent multiple verticals, including maritime, energy, cruise lines and ferries, yachts, non-governmental organisations, telecos, global enterprises and governments. EMC?s global infrastructure features 52 field support centres, three wholly-owned teleports, and global satellite capacity available in C-Band, Ku-Band and Ka-Band, enabling fast installations and response times for customers globally. The deal is subject to regulatory review and other conditions, and is expected to close by 2Q 2015.

Iraq: Refugee relief - Asiacell is participated in the 36th session of the Working Group for Emergency Telecommunications (WGET) which took place in Dubai 29-30 April. Asiacell has beern offering urgent support to displaced peoples in Iraq, and it has established a special centre for them in Sulaymaniya. It is accessible by calling (385) free of charge. The center offers humanitarian, social and legal services to displaced Iraqis and Syrian refugees. It receives an average of more than 10,000 calls a month.

Kenya: Accumulations allowed - Safaricom's Karibu subscribers are to be allowed to keep their accumulated bundles but any new ones bought after 1 May will expire in 30 days. The Karibu tariff is now closed to new subscribers and will not be opened. Safaricom proposed to take away all unused airtime, SMS credits and data held by Karibu Post-paid tariff users after 26 May. The reversal follows an outcry from the tariff?s 150,000 plus subscribers. The Karibu tariff was launched in 2011 and has two price plans.

Kuwait: Office opening - IBM has opened its first office in Kuwait. The new subsidiary is licensed by the Kuwait Direct Investment Promotion Authority (KDIPA) which is seeking high value-added Direct Investment (Foreign & Local) to Kuwait to maintain sustainable economic and social goals fostering a knowledge-based economy and green technology.

Malawi: Insurance synergy - Airtel and Nico Insurance are partnering to allow subscribers to access to cheaper services through 'Three For Free' Insurance which was launched last week in Lilongwe, Nyasa Times reported. Airtel Malawi Managing Director Heiko Schlittike said the partnership is a reflection of the synergies that exist between insurance companies and African telcos. NICO Life Insurance Company Chief Executive Officer Osman Karim said his firm was happy to be associated with Airtel.

Malawi: Lacell licence - The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) has sought public views on the proposed telecommunication services licence to Lacell Private Ltd. MACRA also published a complete draft licence with the notice. The general public and interested persons were invited to make written representations on the Draft Licence by 4 May. The licence can be viewed here.

Malawi: Mobile money ready - Research conducted by a partnership between the Ministry of Finance, the Reserve Bank of Malawi and the Better Than Cash Alliance has been published, and is entitled 'The Opportunities for Malawi?s Transition Away from Cash'. The report can be downloaded here.The report identified four potential opportunities including the digitising of the Government's centralised payment system with support from banks, and merchants accelerating digital payment acceptance via mobile money and debit card at the point of sale.

Maldives: ISP interest - An additional Internet Service Provider (ISP) licence is to be issued by the Communications Authority of Maldives (CAM), and has invited applications from interested parties. A request for proposal (RfP) document is available at Applications must be received no later than 13:00hrs on 30 June 2015.

Morocco: Bids put back - The Agence Nationale de Reglementation de Telecom (ANRT) has extended the deadline for submitting bids for three new licences; for the establishment and operation of trunked radio networks (3RP), provision of satellite telecommunications services using GMPCS technologies and the provision of telecommunications satellite services using VSAT technology. The deadlines were set for 7 May 2015 but have been put back to 16 June. The bidding process was launched on 16 March.

Mozambique: Singular soul-mate - On 1 May 2015 Vodacom announced its 'My Number 1' promotion directed at Pre-paid and Hybrid users. A preferred number can be called for 60 minutes each day for MZD 10 (USD 0.30) per day.

Nigeria: Connected taxi - Etisalat Nigeria is partnering with global taxi service provider, Uber to deliver premium Uber access to all Etisalat customers on the go. Etisalat will be the main data provider for Uber?s services. Etisalat Nigeria's Chief Marketing Officer Francesco Angelone said that Etisalat is committed to innovation and technology-oriented initiatives.

Nigeria: Healthy Glo - Globacom has unveiled a National Mobile Health Insurance (NHIS) product. Ashok Israni, Globacom?s Regional Chief Marketing Officer, said the package was developed in partnership with NHIS to take quality health care to Nigerians through their handsets. Users have to register, after which they can access pre-defined medical treatment for 'affordable' premiums remitted through the subscribers? mobile phone. Free medical consultation and medication is available in over 8,000 hospitals.

Nigeria: Locally sourced SIMs - CardCentre Nigeria (CCNL) is commissioning a SIM card manufacturing plant. Chams CEO Demola Aladekomo said that when the facility starts production, local telcos would not need to import full bodied SIM cards, the Vanguard newspaper reported.

Oman: Bill maximisation - Tecnotree is supplying Omantel with its Agility convergent billing and wholesale billing solutions to maximise revenue and enhance productivity. The project commenced in December 2014. Stavros Vougas, Tecnotree's Regional Vice President MEA & APAC said the partnership highlighted the growing demand for convergent and personalised services. ?

Oman: Small cell solution - Omantel has launched a trial of Cisco Universal Small Cell Solutions on its mobile network. Speaking to the Times of Oman, Iyad Alchammat, Cisco Oman's General Manager, said that the trial enables 'five bars everywhere' coverage using voice and data services on mobile broadband (3G and 4G) and Wi-Fi networks. He noted that the locations that would benefit include hospitals and public health facilities, shopping centres, airports and transport hubs and sports venues, hotels and convention centres, as well as large offices, towers, and high rise buildings, residential and in-home coverage, and remote and rural areas.

Qatar: Backing for banking - Ooredoo Group is supporting the World Bank Group's efforts to promote financial inclusion and deliver universal financial access by 2020. Ooredoo has committed to providing 17 million people with mobile financial services by 2020, in Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Indonesia, Myanmar, Algeria, Maldives and Iraq. The World Bank Group's 2020 goal calls for adults around the world to have access to a transaction account or an electronic instrument to store money, send and receive payments.

Qatar: Data e-voucher - Ooredoo announced this week that its Mobile Data Scratch Cards would be available in E-Voucher format. Currently mobile data is only available via weekly or monthly subscriptions and top-up scratch cards. The retail model aims to cater for the large Ooredoo dealer base that sells Ooredoo products across Qatar. The Mobile Data Cards were one of the operator's top sellers in 2014, and enable Hala and Shahry customers to extend their mobile data limit without eating into their existing credit. Top-ups come in denominations of 250MB for QAR 20 (USD 5.50), 1GB for QAR 60, 3GB for QAR 80, 6GB for QAR 100 and 15GB for QAR 200.

South Africa: Deadline delay - Telkom and Business Connexion (BCX) failed to meet the 30 April 2015 deadline to complete their merger, as the two are still awaiting regulatory approvals. Telkom said the deal still needs to be approved by the local competition authorities and ICASA. Once these are obtained, final approval needs to be obtained from the Takeover Regulation Panel. The deadline for the merger has been extended to 31 May. The deal was first announced in May 2013.

South Africa: May MVNO launch - Mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) me&you launched on 4 May, offering mobile voice and data services on a month-to-month basis. Me&you roams on Cell C?s network, and is owned by the Durban-based Ignition Group, and receives infrastructure and billing support from MVN-X. An introductory package is giving unlimited mobile voice calls for ZAR 300 (USD 26) per month.

South Africa: Reconciliations requested - The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) asked broadcasting, electronic communications and network services licensees to submit annual forecasts of their licence fees and Universal Service and Access Fund (USAF) contributions. These were to be in line with the annual turnover definition contained in the regulations on annual contributions to the USAF. A trial balance was requested, together with detailed management accounts and reconciliations. Submissions were required by 30 April.

Tanzania: Local link - Google Global has launched a cache link to the Tanzania Internet Exchange (TIX) so that domestic traffic is serviced locally. At the launch last week the Minister for Communications, Science and Technology, Prof Makame Mbarawa, said: "At present, about 11.6 million Tanzanians are using Internet services but since the new link provides affordable and faster connections, we hope the number will grow to 15 million people by next year. " He added that the ICT Data Centre, whose construction is being finalised, will be the largest in East Africa. It is expected to be completed in August 2015.

Tanzania: New front for Facebook - Tigo Tanzania is partnering with Facebook so that its subscribers have free access to Facebook services in English and a new Kiswahili version via their device. Tigo General Manager Diego Gutierrez said: "It is the first time any major social media company has made a version in Kiswahili the national language spoken by Tanzanians and majority of the people in East, Central and Southern African region ".

Tunisia: Summary of submissions - Eight submissions were received from telcos, equipment manufacturers and engineering offices following the public consultation launched by the National Telecommunications Authority on the introduction of 4G. The consultation was open from 18 March to 15 April 2015 and submissions were received from Orange Tunisia, Ooredoo Tunisia, Ericsson, Alcatel-Lucent, Nokia, Huawei and SFM Technologies. A summary of the contributions can be viewed here.

Turkey: Done deal - Turk Telekom (TT) has now signed a share transfer agreement with partner Is Bankasi (IS Bank) to acquire the latter?s 10.0035 percent stake in mobile unit Avea for a price of TRY 875 million (USD 357.4 million). 6.3 percent will be paid in two equal instalments by January 2017, with the remaining 93.7 percent to be paid in four equal parts, with the deal to final close in n 2020. With the necessary approvals, TT will be the sole owner of Avea.

Uganda: Call from committee - Last week the Parliamentary committee on Information and Communication Technology called for the government to repossess Uganda Telecom Ltd (UTL) from LAP Green, who hold a majority stake of about 69 percent. The call came after senior managers of UTL appeared before the committee last week and reported that the operator was cash strapped and needs further investment. The UCC recently issued a warning that it might revoke UTL's licence over debts.

United Arab Emirates: Bonds beckon - Etisalat is to raise up to USD 500 million through a re-opening of its June 2019 bond, Reuters reported. Etisalat, rated Aa3/AA-/A+ by the main credit agencies, said in a statement to the stock exchange that it would issue bonds under its USD 7 billion global medium-term note programme. HSBC and National Bank of Abu Dhabi are bookrunners for the bond tap.

Zimbabwe: Research resource - State-owned TelOne last week signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) to set-up a framework for ICT research. The aim is to turn research papers into viable business solutions. Fixed-line operator will be able to approach NUST to commission research in to particular areas of interest. Managing Director Mrs Chipo Mtasa said: "We can support each other in growing our ICT sector. "