News in Brief 14 May 2015

Afghanistan: Infrastructure inspected - Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdul Razaq Vahidi visited telecoms installations in Nangarhar province on 2 May 2015. Vahidi said the Ministry intends to preserve the achievements of past years and expand the activities of Afghan Telecom. As Minister of MCIT, it is his first working visit to Nangarhar province.

Angola: Video surveillance - Huawei's head of public sector sales, Rean Chan, has announced a partnership with the government for the launch of a safe cities project, reports Portalangop. Huawei is in talks with the Ministry of Interior on the video surveillance project, which is still awaiting finance.

Bahrain: Attractive package - Menatelecom has launched a new Mena Home 4G package for its high-speed Internet service at BHD 5 (USD 13.17) for 10 GB. The new package offers attractive benefits such as 'half day on you and half day on us' with free data downloads from midnight to noon, the Gulf Daily News reported. Free on-net unlimited local calls and bundled minutes to all local networks (fixed and mobile) are also being offered.

Bahrain: Points mean prizes - VIVA Bahrain has launched a new loyalty rewards programme. The programme is tiered and users can collect points based on usage, which can then be redeemed for free on-Net calls, SMS, international minutes and data. VIVA subscribers can enrol for free. The tiers start with the basic Bronze, earning up to 120 points, followed by Silver 121 - 299 points and Gold 300 - 600 points. Elite is achieved at 601+ points.

Cameroon: Universities targeted - The government has launched a special fund of some XAF 400 million (USD 689,000) to modernise the digital infrastructure in universities. The fund will facilitate the acquisition of an adequately broad bandwidth to facilitate Internet usage in universities. According to the Minister of Postal Services and Telecommunications only 400,000 citizens currently use the Internet, representing 5 percent of the total population compared to the African average of 18 percent.

Cape Verde: Accountancy applications - The National Communications Agency (ANAC) is advertising for an accountant. The applicant should be a resident of Cape Verde, have a degree in accountancy and be under 35 years of age. Fluency in Portuguese and good knowledge of English or French is also required. Applications should be submitted to the National Communications Agency (ANAC) by 29 May.

Cote d'Ivoire: Council member confirmed - Mr Konan Djaha was sworn in as a Member of the ARTCI Regulatory Council on Friday 8 May 2015 at the Court of Appeals in Abidjan.

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Plant plans - Phone and tablet maker VMK is to invest some USD 15 million over the next 5 years and is to open a new facility in Kinshasa in October, according to founder Verone Mankou. Mankou met the deputy Prime Minister, Thomas Luhaka, who has responsibility for posts and telecommunications. VMK expects to create 500 jobs. It currently employs 100 people at its assembly plant in Brazzaville. Cote d'Ivoire and Cameroon will be targeted in due course.

Gabon: Registration SMS short-cut - Following telecom regulator Arcep's requirement for subscribers to be registered, Airtel Gabon launched an SMS-based system in April which allows subscribers to register their personal details with the operator, Agence Ecofin reported. Subscribers who fail to register by the deadline will be disconnected.

Ghana: Airtel tap & pay - Airtel Ghana is offering contactless 'tap and pay' NFC technology to its 1.5 million registered mobile money customers after it partnered with Verifone. Airtel Merchants have been supplied with NFC-enabled devices, and users will be able to tap their NFC phone at the POS terminal to make payment using their mobile wallet. A sticker will be provided for devices not enabled for NFC.

Ghana: ICT innitiative - The Minister for Communications, Dr. Edward Omane Boamah, has commissioned an Enhanced Community Information Centre (E-CIC) for La Nkwantanang-Madina Municipal Assembly in the Greater Accra Region, under the e-governance project. Two other CICs in New Juabeng South and Ga South Municipalities in the Eastern and Greater Accra regions respectively were also handed over, BizTechAfrica reported.

Ghana: Power politics - The Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications has said that telcos may soon be compelled to lay off workers if the current power crises continues due to the rising cost of doing business. The first power barge, which will reduce the impact of the crisis, is expected in September. It is suggested that some 13,000 workers have already lost their jobs in the past four months due to the crisis. In an interview with Citi FM, the Chief Executive Officer of the Telecommunications Chamber, Kweku Sakyi Addo said the situation is worsening.

Iraq: Fibre push - Hevek, a fibre optic specialist, has partnered with fibre cable manufacturer m2fx to launch the latter?s Miniflex products in Iraq. Hevek supplies the country's telcos with fibre optic products, including Fibre to the Home (FTTH) deployments. UK-based m2fx's full product range, including pushable fibre cables, lightweight aerial solutions and microducts for FTTH networks will be supplied. Hevek has already supplied m2fx cables and micproducts to leading carrier Gorannet, which is deploying them as part of its FTTH customer rollout in Kurdistan.

Israel: Triple telephony - Cellcom Israel is to launch its triple package telephone, Internet, and television for an all-in price of around ILS 200 (USD 50.65) per month, Globes reported. Cellcom is not waiting for the Ministry of Communications and Bezeq, who have yet to decide whether to include telephony as part of the wholesale market. Cellcom's triple-play offering will compete with HOT's offering.

Iraq: Listing approved - Zain Iraq has received regulatory approval to list on the local Stock Exchange, Zawya reported. The country's mobile operators were obliged to list 25 percent of their shares on the ISX by August 2011. Only Ooredoo's Asiacell has done so, launching its IPO in February 2013. Zain has received approval from the Iraq Securities Commission (ISC), and details of the of the flotation are to be provided 'over the next few weeks.'

Kenya: CEO contract confirmed - Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore has had his contract as CEO renewed for a further two-year period. Board chairman Nicholas Ng'ang'a said the CEO will 'continue the good work he has become known for'. Collymore succeeded founding CEO Michael Joseph in August 2010, who in turn moved to head up Vodafone's mobile money unit.

Morocco: Telecoms training - Engineers from Burkina Faso, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, Gabon, Guinea, Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal and Togo are being invited by telecom regulator ANRT and international co-operation agency ACMI to attend courses for government officials and private sector managers. It is the second year that the Institute of National Posts and Telecoms (INPT) has offered an engineering degree. The regulator is covering all associated costs for bursary recipients, whilst ACMI will handle the application process.

Nigeria: May app promotion - MTN Nigeria's subcribers can download all Nigerian apps under the APPtitude promotion free-of-charge for a month. An APPtitude portal is hosted on the MTN Website. MTN also promises to support app developers, associations and SMEs in converting their Websites to mobile applications while bearing the cost of maintaining and hosting the apps. Local app developers are encouraged to submit their apps on the APPtitude portal.

Nigeria: Metrics measured - Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Dr Eugene Juwah has said that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) of some USD 12 billion was made in the sector 2011 - 2015, rising from USD 20 billion in 2010, whilst the telecoms sector's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contribution now stands at 9 percent. In 2010 GDP contribution was put at 4.5 percent. The Daily Trust reported Juwah as forecasting that broadband Internet penetration would reach 30 percent by 2018.

Nigeria: Plans opposed - Plans to sack 150 staff of the Nigeria Communication Satellite (NIGCOMSAT) to ready it for privatisation have been opposed by the National Union of Postal and Telecommunications Employees (NUPTE). President of NUPTE Comrade Sunday Alhassan said the union, with support of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), will resist both the dismissal of the workers and the privatisation of the organisation.

Nigeria: Pocket package - Etisalat Nigeria's Etisalat 2GB for NGN 2000 data plan option has no restrictions in terms of its usage, The Leadership reported. Director of Consumer Segment, Oluwole Rawa, said: "At Etisalat, we are always on the lookout for creative and innovative ways to improve our value proposition. With the new modified data plan, our customers can conveniently stay connected with their associates and loved ones without feeling a strain on their pockets. "

Nigeria: Students sought - Globacom re-launched 'Glo Bounce' aimed at the youth market in April. The package allows subscribers to exchange calls at NGN 0.11 per second according to Chief Marketing Officer, Ashok Israni. The 'Campus Zone' feature allows subscribers to call other lines at the rate of NGN 0.11 per second once activated.

Oman: Asian acquisition - M1 TeliNet (a subsidiary of Singapore's M1 Limited) is to acquire a 15 percent interest in Integrated Telecommunications Oman (TeO). Previously known as Sama Telecommunications (Samatel), TeO is an international gateway operator and provides international calling card services. It is also due to launch mobile reseller services later this year. The deal is subject to regulatory approvals and the completion of the conditions required by TeO and its shareholders.

Oman: Italia improvements - Telecom Italia Group's international operator TI Sparkle is partnering with Oman Telecommunications (Omantel) to jointly develop IP infrastructure and provide Tier 1 IP transit service in the region through a new point of presence (PoP) in Muscat. TI Sparkle said the partnership would enhance its IP transit service, Seabone, allowing better connection for customers in the Gulf and South East Asia, with improved performance through advanced IP, Ethernet and IPX services.

Qatar: Self-serving subscribers - Katara cultural village and Hamad International Airport (HIA) have benefited from two Ooredoo Self-Service Machines (SSMs). Subscribers can register and purchase Hala SIM cards, pay bills using a cheque, etc. The Katara SSM is in a popular tourist area.

Rwanda: Customer centric - Four new customer service centres have been launched by MTN Rwanda. The centres are located at Karongi (Western Province), Petit Barriere (Western Province), Gicumbi (Northern Province) and Nyakarambi (Eastern Province). The four bring the number of MTN one-stop centres to a total of 19, including 7 in Kigali.

Saudi Arabia: Sparkle for STC - TI Sparkle, the International Services arm of Telecom Italia Group, and Saudi Telecom have announced the provisioning of the first 2x100 Gbps of IP Transit connectivity in the Middle East. Dr. Humoud Alkussayer, Saudi Telecom?s Vice President for Wholesale said: "The 100 Gbps connectivity solution is the first to be introduced within the Middle East." Alessandro Talotta, TI Sparkle CEO added: "With the introduction of the 100 Gbps technology to the Middle East and Africa and the recent creation of a massive IP gravitational centre in the middle of the Mediterranean through our Sicily Hub, TI Sparkle is a pioneer in providing top quality and advanced cost efficient connectivity solutions to customers in the region who are experiencing a tremendous growth of advanced IP services and demand of digital contents in their home markets." The TI Sparkle Sicily Hub in Palermo is claimed to be located closer to the Middle East and Africa than any other European peering point. It is also connected to all cable landing stations in Sicily and it is served by the TI Sparkle top tier 1-grade IP Transit service.

Saudi Arabia: Payment partnership - Boku has announced a new partnership to bring direct carrier billing to Google Play for Zain subscribers in Saudi Arabia. Zain subscribers can use one-tap mobile payments to purchase games and apps in the Google Play store. The charges are completed using only the subscriber's phone number and appear on the mobile bill or are deducted from the pre-paid balance.

South Africa: Bull bows-out - The Red Bull name will shortly no-longer be associated with the telecom sector, as Cell C is readying to withdraw the ZAR 49 (USD 4.20) Red Bull Mobile starter pack, MyBroadband has reported. Red Bull Mobile launched in South Africa in 2011 as a branded Cell C product rather than a mobile virtual network operator. The product offering has changed and been scaled back over time, with only a pre-paid tariff plan, data bundle, and a 3GB data contract on offer until recently. However the Red Bull Mobile Zone will be retained, and will continue to include the World of Red Bull benefits.

South Africa: Cell C cuts - Last week Cell C started a restructuring that could see 47 staff made redundant according to Techcentral. Trade union Solidarity said that staff had been informed, adding that more posts could be affected.

Tanzania: Financial finesses for farmers - Financial training is being offered as part of the Connected Farmer Alliance, the USAID-funded partnership between Vodacom and TechnoServe. Farmers will be shown how to build their financial capacity through M-Pawa, the mobile money transaction service launched in May 2014, and which now has around a million users. The service was launched in partnership with the Commercial Bank of Africa to allow users to open a bank account. TechnoServe has a base of farmers and the scheme aims to reach 140,000 farmers in the first year. To date over 20,000 farmers have been trained and 6,000 of the trained farmers save on M-Pawa. Farmers will be able to save as little as TZS 1 at a time and earn interest. The more a customer uses Vodacom services, the more they can borrow on M-Pawa.

Tanzania: Report rejected - Last week the Parliamentary Economic Affairs, Industries and Trade Committee requested a detailed report on a dispute between Vodacom Tanzania and major dealership, Shivacom, The Citizen reported. The issue first surfaced in 2012 involving fake vouchers that were being used to short-change customers. The Committee rejected an official explanation from the Tanzanian Revenue Authority, as there were insufficient details for it to act on. The TRA was asked to provide a comprehensive report after rejecting a two-page document. The sum involved has been put as high as USD 350 million although Vodacom has said a lesser amount is involved.

Turkey: Device latest - Turkcell has launched its own brand T60 smartphone, supplied with motion sensors and voice command features permitting hands-free control. T60 users will be able to accept or reject calls with simple hand gestures without touching their phones and take photos with voice commands. The T60 offers two interfaces; standard and easy launchers, and additional modes for use by children and guests. The device will be available from June priced at TRY 799 (USD 326).

United Arab Emirates: Chinese customer - ChinaNetCenter has joined Etisalat's SmartHub network. With its membership of EMIX and SmartHub IX networks, ChinaNetCenter expands its connectivity with other networks from the Middle East, Asia and Africa to use its capabilities and provide low-latency connectivity. Chu Minjian, board member and vice president of ChinaNetCenter, said the partnership with Etisalat would provide regional reach and help it better serve its customers.

United Arab Emirates: Etisalat app available - Etisalat has launched its C'Me communication application, with offers high definition (HD) voice and video calling over Wi-Fi, an address book, rich messaging with the new 'C'Me wave window' and fully integrated social networks. It is available from iOS and Android app stores, without charge. It can be used on both smartphones and tablets.

United Arab Emirates: Internet initiative - du and the Smart Dubai Executive Committee has launched 'WiFi UAE' services in a number of public areas. The aim is to have Wi-Fi connectivity at more than 300 locations by the end of 2015. Users of any UAE-based telco can access 'WiFi UAE', with standard and premium services being offered.

Zimbabwe: Digital update - TelOne is in the process of digitising its network, with the Kariba and Karoi exchanges being the latest beneficiaries, Bulawayo 24/7 reports. TelOne users in Kariba and Nyamhunga have been informed that all existing phone numbers will be changed. The new numbers will take the form 214 xxxx and the new area code will be 0261. The current four-digit number will therefore be changed to a seven-digit format.

Zimbabwe: Savings scheme - Econet Wireless has launched its EcoCash Savings Club. EcoCash users can set up a group mobile wallet free. Savings clubs earn interest on all pooled funds starting from USD 1 after every 30 days. Informal group savings clubs are popular and consist of a group of members who each contribute regularly into a cash pool that members borrow from on a rotating basis, and the EcoCash solution provides a more secure way to manage such an arrangement. All members can check the group's account activity at any time on their phones. The account is an extension of EcoCash Save, which already has more than 1.5 million users.