News in Brief 21 May 2015

Africa: Mobile market research - Global research consultancy TNS has announced an exclusive partnership with mobile survey platform GeoPoll. TNS and sister company Kantar Media, will join with GeoPoll to deploy a new range of research products and services. Kim MacIlwaine, CEO, TNS Africa, Mediterranean & Middle East said: "We believe GeoPoll's robust mobile surveying technology combined with TNS and Kantar Media's expertise in market and media research will be beneficial to all of our clients working in Africa. "

Africa: Mozilla mobile - Orange has launched the Klif 3G smartphone, which runs on Firefox OS, in Senegal and Madagascar. The device has two SIM card slots, 512 MB of memory and a FM radio. Further launches are planned throughout 2015.

Africa & Middle East: Facebook future - Of the 1.44 billion Facebook users, about 190 million (about 13 percent) are in the Middle East and Africa, said Jumana Antara, Manager of Corporate Communications of Facebook for Middle East, Europe, Russia and Africa told the Arab Media Forum last week. Of the 190 million users in the region, 167 million follow their Facebook interactions on mobile phones, she added.

Afghanistan: International incentive - Fixed line clients of Afghan Telecom can now call more than 80 countries at AFN 5 (USD 0.09) per minute without hidden charges.

Ghana: Smartphone surcharge - The 20 percent tax on imported smartphones which Finance Minister Seth Terkper said would be scrapped in the country's 2015 Budget statement in November 2014 has yet to be implemented. Biztechafrica reports that the Ghana Revenue Authority is still levying the tax. Smartphone penetration stands at 15 percent and mobile data is projected to grow 6.3 times between 2013 and 2018.

Ghana: View sought - The National Communications Authority (NCA) intends to licence frequency in the 800MHz band for mobile services. The NCA has therefore invited views and comments from licensed service providers, consumers of Information and Communication Technology services and the general public on the selection and award process for spectrum licenses in the 800MHz band which can be accessed on the Authority's Website at www.nca.org.gh. The consultation is open till 11 June 2015.

Jordan: Senior appointments - Zain Jordan has made two senior appointments. Abu Mutawe has been named as Chief Operations Officer and Sa'ad Beseiso as Chief Commercial Officer. Muatwe was with Jordan Telecom 1995-2000, and then joined Zain as a Network Department engineer, and was named as Chief Technology Officer before his appointment as COO. Beseiso joined Zain Jordan in May as Deputy CEO/COO. Beseiso was previously with Mobily in Saudi Arabia as Chief Corporate Transformation Officer 2013 - 2015 and as Chief Consumer Officer 2006 - 2013. Before that, he held the post of Chief Sales and Customer Service Officer at Zain Jordan 1998 - 2006.

Kenya: Collymore a champion - Safaricom Chief Executive Bob Collymore's term as a Board Member of the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) has been renewed for another three years by the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. Collymore's term has been extended in recognition of his championing of the work of the Global Compact across Africa. Collymore's term as Safaricom CEO has also extended by two years from August this year.

Lebanon: Syrian savings - Mobile operator 'touch' has launched the Al Tawasol line for Syrians in Lebanon. For USD 11 valid for a period of 30 days, the pre-paid Al Tawasol line offers 40 minutes and 30 SMS to Syria, in addition to local minutes and SMS and 100 MB of mobile data.

Malawi: Web facilitation - Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM) has partnered with Facebook to launch Internet.org enabling subscribers to visit and use Websites for free, according to TNM Chief Commercial Officer Daniel Makata. The service has been placed under TNM's Smart Data umbrella brand. In a separate announcement Airtel Malawi also said it had partnered with Facebook. In this case it replaces the all Facebook Free offer that Airtel offered in February 2015, Face of Malawi reported. Subscribers will have free access to Facebook, Bing, mycfinder, Ask, Wikipedia, wikiHow and BBC News.

Mauritius: School connectivity - The Minister of Technology, Communication and Innovation, Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, has said that his Ministry would shortly, subject to procurement procedures, award a contract to provide all secondary schools with high bandwidth Internet connectivity through Wi-Fi networks. Jugnauth said that by December 2015 at least 350 Wi-Fi hotspots with broadband Internet would be set up in public places around the island. He commended Mauritius Telecom for the acceleration of the inland fibre optic development project whereby it would offer more than 70,000 users an Internet speed 10 times faster than their present package while holding current prices.

Middle East: Nolla for Flytxt - Big Data Analytics solution provider Flytxt has appointed Mario Nolla as Vice President, Analytics and Consulting Practice. Nolla will lead the Analytics and Marketing Consulting Practices and will report to Vinod Vasudevan, Group CEO, Flytxt. Mario was Etisalat's Director of Customer Value Management for six years, overseeing customer value and experience management strategies of its 19 subsidiaries.

Nigeria: Student identity solution - HID Global, which provides secure identity solutions, has launched a student ID verification solution in West Africa with local partner Botosoft. The programme has been developed for the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) to combat student identity fraud. More than 2.2 million students will register online annually and receive machine-readable smart cards. The solution included 48 HID Global FARGO DTC4500 and DTC4500e ID card printers/encoders with a combined capacity of more than 65,000 cards per day. Additionally, HID Global assisted with the card design and development of the mobile reader application software used in the mobile readers.

Qatar: Loan signed - A five year USD 500 million loan facility with has been signed by Ooredoo Qatar. The revolving credit facility will be used for general business purposes and has been provided by a group of 11 local and international banks.

Qatar: New plan - Vodafone Qatar has launched its new Red Qatari Plan. This provides 10 GB of data and unlimited local calling for QAR 250 (USD 69) per month. Users are also eligible for a 50 percent discount on the Valet & Parking Privilege at major shopping centres and entertainment venues including Landmark Mall, The Pearl, Laguna Mall, Katara and Ezdan Mall.

Rwanda: Service centres - MTN Rwanda has opened four new customer service centres in the provinces in Karongi and Petit Barriere in the Western Province, Gicumbi in the Northern Province and Nyakarambi in the Eastern Province. These will provide sales points for MTN products and services, Mobile Money merchant points, education and service demonstration, payment points for monthly bills and SIM registration. This brings the total of MTN one-stop service centres in the country to 19, including 7 in the capital, Kigali.

Saudi Arabia: Tower sale - Etihad Etisalat (Mobily), the second largest mobile operator in the country, is to sell its 10,000-strong tower portfolio for up to USD 2 billion. The move is intended to raise cash after being forced to drastically restate its profit last year as a net loss, the Wall Street Journal has reported. New York-based investment bank TAP Advisors has been appointed for the sale of its towers.

South Africa: Better bookings - Vodacom Business has partnered with NightsBridge for its Vodacom Hospitality Solution. This is intended to give smaller operators in the tourism and hospitality industry a competitive edge, ITWeb reported. Anthon Muller, Executive Head of Managed Enterprise Mobility at Vodacom Business, said small operators lack Wi-Fi connectivity and exposure, and suffer from outdated booking processes. The solution provides exposure on travel Websites and access to booking facilities and front-office reservations software.

South Africa: IoT initiative - MTN Business has launched its African Internet of Things (IoT) platform. The launch also sees the introduction of a global M2M SIM card, which gives users the same rate for M2M activity across MTN's African footprint. The IoT platform is live in South Africa, with other operations to follow in the next 12 months. As part of the IoT launch, application developers are participating in the inaugural MTN Business Mind-2-Machine Challenge.

South Africa: Safe switch - Cell C is maintaining its aggressive push to win market share and has launched a Contract Buy-Out promotion. It is offering subscribers up to ZAR 10,000 (USD 858) to cancel their contracts on competing networks and switch to an 'Epic' contract with Cell C. Subscribers choosing to switch will receive a new handset and a guarantee that their prices will not change for 2 years.

South Africa: Telkom talks ongoing - Telkom said that the talks with MTN regarding bilateral roaming and outsourcing of Telkom's radio access network are sill ongoing. Telkom has told its shareholders that legal and regulatory approvals are awaited after they signed a preliminary agreement on network sharing in March 2014.

South Africa: VIDI works with Vodacom - VIDI, the on-demand video streaming service, has said that subscribers can now add their VIDI subscriptions directly to their Vodacom bills. VIDI has also partnered with ONTV, the Samsung-exclusive Smart TV app where subscribers can get Video On Demand powered by VIDI directly on their Samsung Smart TVs.

Sudan: Improving Internet - Minister of Science and Telecommunications Tahani Abdullah has said that 4G mobile services will be launched in the next three months the Sudan Tribune reported. Details of coverage and which providers might be involved were not provided. The comment was made at a telecom symposium held at the Rashid Diab Center in Khartoum.

Tunisia: Normal service resumed - Workers have withdrawn the threat of strike action after Tunisie Telecom agreed to award staff a wage rise of at least TND 287 (USD 148) a month, Agence Ecofin reported. Workers will also receive a TND 60 (USD 31) bonus, back dated to January 2014. The coverage bonus for 2015 was changed to TND 700 (USD 361). The Unions described the move as a victory and said talks would resume in June.

Tunisia: TT fined - The National Forum of Telecommunications decided at its meeting on 4 May 2015 College to impose a fine on Tunisie Telecom of 0.05 percent of its 2012 turnover or an amount equal to TND 633.29 million (USD 326.7 million). TT was found not to have complied with the INT's notice issued on 25 October 2012 followed by an injunction dated 1 August 2014, ordering it to comply with the regulations relating to retail offers.

Turkey: Legal VP - The Turkcell board has appointed Serhat Demir as the Executive Vice President of the Legal and Regulatory Function, effective from 18 May 2015. Demir graduated from the Faculty of Law at Istanbul University and received his Masters of Business Administration degree from Fatih University.

Uganda: Cost-effective channels - Pay TV product prices have been reduced by Star Times Uganda with the introduction of new channels from 1 May, the Daily Monitor reported. For UGX 114,000 (USD 39) subscribers get a dish, decoder and three months' subscription to the Nova package, with upgrade options. A decoder now costs UGX 9,500 (USD 3.25) and the price of the Nova bouquet is UGX 8,000 (USD 2.74). The Unique bouquet costs UGX 54,000 (USD 18.50) and provides over 76 channels, whilst the Classic costs UGX 36,000 (USD 12.33) with over 55 channels. The Basic costs UGX 18,000 (USD ) with over 37 channels whilst the start-up package is held at UGX 49,500 (USD 16.95) including a decoder and five months of Nova subscription.

United Arab Emirates: du second for data downloads - The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has published its report on the quality and reliability of the mobile networks in 2014. Etisalat and du both scored over 98 percent for completion of indoor and outdoor calls, while voice quality was over 95 percent. However, data transmission speeds over 4G infrastructure saw du seeing download speeds of 7.56Mbps and uploads of 900kbps, whilst Etisalat achieved downloads of 12.68Mbps and uploads of 2.13 Mbps.

Zimbabwe: Low cost Internet - State-owned fixed-line provider TelOne is launching fast, low-cost public Wi-Fi. The service is initially available in Harare. According to TelOne, nearly 25 public zones have been set up so far, each of which covers a 100-metre radius. Most are in the capital Harare, followed by Bulawayo and Victoria Falls. Melody Harry, TelOne Corporate Communications Officer, told the Anadolu Agency: "By virtue of being a shareholder in the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy), we have the capacity to bring public Wi-Fi at unbearably low prices and are happy to pass this to our clients. " It is offering three packages: USD 1 for 100MB, USD 2 for 240MB and USD 5 for 600MB.

Zimbabwe: Revenue slippage - Revenue that mobile network operators generated declined by 17.9 percent in 4Q14 while the number of base stations rose by 9.7 percent, the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has said. A recent report showed that operators generated a total of USD 907.3 million last year, down from USD 1.1 billion in 2013. The most significant was between the third and fourth quarters of 2014, of at least USD 28.1 million, or 11.3 percent. Revenues in 3Q14 were USD 247.8 million, compared to USD 219.7 million in 4Q14.