News in Brief 14 July 2015

Africa: Facebook regional focus - Facebook has opened its first sales office in Africa, which is located in Johannesburg, South Africa. The aim is to capitalise on Africa's 200 million Internet users, 60 percent of whom are already on Facebook. "Mobile is not a trend; it's the fastest development in communications we've ever seen. This couldn't be more true in Africa, where so many people are mobile-only, " said Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook's vice president for Europe, Middle East and Africa. Ari Kesisoglu is Facebook's regional director, Middle East North Africa.

Africa: Momentum for mobile money - Revenues from mobile money transfer services are expected to touch USD 2 billion this year and USD 4 billion in 2018, according to a study from Juniper Research published by CommsMEA. Africa is set to lead the market, with several African mobile operators now generating more than 10 percent of their revenues from mobile money. Safaricom's M-Pesa service recorded mobile money revenues of more than USD 330 million in the last financial year. Recent surges in both transaction volumes and values were driven by increased implementation of both cross-border and intra-national remittance interoperability, with uplifts engendered by deals Safaricom and MTN (for the Rwanda-Kenya corridor) and by national interoperability agreements in markets such as Tanzania and Pakistan.

Algeria: New bundle - Mobilis' new pre-paid bundle includes a Huawei Y221 smartphone, Mobtasim 2G/3G SIM card, 3 months of mobile internet service, calls and SMS for DZD 8,200 (USD 104). Subscribers pay DZD 250 (USD 3.16) a month for 250 MB of mobile data. Users taking up the offer will be entered into a prize draw with an Audi A1 as first prize, trips to Turkey and Huawei smartphones. Various Ramadan bonuses are also being offered.

Angola: Free Facebook - Movicel is the latest mobile operator to team up with Facebook, and is the first Portuguese-speaking country to offer the service, the Lusa news agency has reported. Content on health, family issues, news and jobs will be available. Also involved in the initiative are Unicef, the Ministry of Family and Promotion of Women, and the Sapo Angola and Platina Line portals. Movicel has over 3.2 million customers.

Angola: Rural issues - The sixth Globalcom 2015 Congress found that telephony is improving despite the high charges, although coverage in remote and rural areas needs to be a priority, the Angola Press Agency reported. However Angola Telecom Network Director Adilson Santos said the lack of electricity in rural and remote areas continues to hamper expansion projects. He defended the sharing of infrastructure to reduce costs and increase the quality of services through partnerships.

Bahrain: Connectivity for Centre - Batelco is poviding the Farouk Almoayyed Center for Enterprise Development (FACED) high-end connectivity support to the Center's 20 SMEs members and businesses. Ahmed Subah Al Saloom, Chairman of Bahrain Small and Medium Enterprises Development Society, and Managing Director of FACED said: "The management of the Center is very pleased with the generous support provided by Batelco, which will provide free high quality fibre optic broadband services to the enterprises incubated in the Center. This is an important initiative that would support businesses and offer them a better opportunity to develop in the market ". FACED is a business incubator that hosts up to 20 office stations.

Botswana: Satellite gateway - Globalstar said that its gateway in the country is now live, enabling it to deliver satellite coverage across the continent. The gateway is in partnership with Broadband Botswana Internet (BBi), and provides Globalstar's full line of simplex services, including its Spot portfolio of personal tracking services.

Cote d'Ivoire: Artists articulated - MTN C�´te d'Ivoire has launched its celebrity social media service, MTN STAR ACTU, in partnership with Kirusa. Favourite stars can be tracked through Kirusa's InstaVoice platform. It is available to all MTN subscribers in Cote d'Ivoire on both smartphones and feature phones. The unique voice microblogging feature allows celebrity commentaries to be streamed to subscribers. The MTN STAR ACTU service has attracted many local artists.

Ethiopia: Call centre options - ethio telecom has launched a new call centre hosting business model, and tariff, for its enterprise customers from 1 June 2015: existing customers will benefit from the new model at renewal. Ethio is providing two services. ethio will either provide the system on the client's premises; or the facility can be hosted within the premises of ethio telecom call centre.

Guinea: Cost of calling keeps rising - From 1 July Orange and MTN have said that their rates will be increased to accommodate a new tax on phone calls set at GNF 1 (USD 0.00014) per second, Agence Ecofin reports. The tax is being applied to both fixed and mobile calls, interconnection and roaming. It is intended to redress the cost of Ebola crisis. A tax on phone network access was introduced in January, under which operators pay 3 percent of their turnover. VAT, international inbound call tax, interconnection tax and licence fees also apply.

Iran: SIM swap service - MTN Irancell subscribers in Tehran who have registered for a 4G SIM card and also those whose SIM card is lost or damaged may call the operator to arrange a swap or ask for a Welcome Back pack. Subscribers may receive their new SIM card at a specified time and place in one of the 22 districts of Tehran. The USIMs will be delivered to subscribers from Saturday to Thursday from 08:00hrs to 16:00hrs. The price of the 4G pack is IRR 129,200 (USD 4.70); an ordinary SIM costs IRR 69,200 (USD 2.50), which is to be paid in cash to the couriers. The service will be extended to other parts of the country.

Iraq: Zain stake floated - Zain's Iraqi holding company Al-Khatem, which previously held all the stock in Zain Iraq, completed its first day of trading on the Iraqi stock exchange last week. 25 percent of Al-Khatem's shares were offered with the share price averaging at IQD 6.09 (USD 0.005) and closing at IQD 5.99. Zain Iraq was required to list 25 percent of its shares by 31 August 2011.

Kenya: Airtel alerts - Airtel and the Kenya Red Cross Society have launched a public emergency information service that offers disaster management information on disease outbreaks and other emergencies such as fires, floods and terrorist attacks. CIO East Arfrica reports that the system uses a location-targeted SMS system called the Trilogy Emergency Relief Application (TERA), and texts containing disaster warnings, health advice and updates on emergency preparedness and responses will be shared with Airtel customers. Kenya is the second country in Africa to use the TERA technology, which was first used in Sierra Leone where International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) partnered with mobile operators during the Ebola crisis.

Kenya: No agreement - Airtel Kenya's distributors have been granted a period of grace by the High Court, whilst the two sides have more to time to agree an arbitrator following Airtel's review of its price and distribution structure. According to Business Daily, the 23 distributors say Airtel amended their contracts on 24 March without consultation. Consequently there is now a temporary order preventing Airtel from making the changes. If agreement can't be reached on an arbitrator, the court will appoint one.

Kenya: Windows enabled - Tecno Mobile has announced the launch of Tecno WinPad 10, a 2-in-1 device, which runs on Windows 8.1 with Bing Operating System (OS). Powered by an Intel Atom quad-core processor, the detachable device is packaged with a tablet, a keypad and keyboard cover. The device will be upgradable to Windows 10 for free when the software becomes available later this year. Users also get ayear of Microsoft Office 365, built-in 3G, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. The TECNO Winpad 10 will be available in Safaricom shops and is to retail at KES 30,000 (USD 320).

Lesotho: HQ upgrade - The Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) will be moving from its current offices on the 6th Floor, Moposo House, Kingsway Road to its new offices at 30 Princess Margaret Road, Old Europa next to Lesotho Red Cross headquarters in Maseru. The relocation started on Friday 26 June 2015 and is expected to be completed by Friday 3 July 2015. Normal service will resume on Monday, 6 July 2015.

Mozambique: Stakes for sale? - More than 50 percent of companies in which the Mozambican state has a stake are not considered strategic and may be privatised, said the president of state stake-holding company Igepe, Apolin�¡rio Panguene talking to Macauhub in Maputo. It was suggested that Mozambique Cellular (mCel) and Telecomunicacoes de Mocambique (TDM), which are the responsibility of the Ministry of Transport and Communications, are having difficulty 'adapting' to the new market dynamics. Panguene said the 26 percent stake in mCel, the first mobile operator in the country, would be easy to sell, although no decision has been made.

Nigeria: Licence included - E-commerce site is now going ahead with its purchase of Zinternet Nigeria after the Central Bank of Nigeria gave its approval, Tech Cabal reported. Konga now owns 100 percent of Zinternet's assets, including its mobile money licence. In April 2014, the company opened up its platform to SMEs and enabled them to sell alongside Konga, and now has over 15,000 small businesses that trading on its domain. Konga will now be able to offer payment solutions to merchants on and off the platform.

Nigeria: Mobile-only offering - Video-on-demand (VoD) startup iROKOtv is closing down its desktop service for African users, and is to now offer a mobile-only service, disrupt-africa reported. iROKOtv founder Jason Njoku said the 3G infrastructure had made streaming difficult in an African context. iROKOtv is banking on increased mobile penetration in Africa to make its new approach successful, with 76 percent of its users coming via mobile Internet. Njoku added that Android had taken time to take root but is comfortably on the way to becoming the dominant operating system in Nigeria and Africa.

Nigeria: Youth targeted - Infinix Mobility is targeting under-24s with its Infinix Zero 2 smartphone, according to ThisDay. It is employing the largest e-commerce platforms through a 'factory-to-consumer' model, which it claims significantly reduces channel costs. The 16 GB device retails at NGN 32,900 (USD 170) and the 32GB version at NGN 35,900 (USD 186) and is available from Jumia and Konga.

Oman: Reducing roaming - Under the auspices of the GCC General Secretariat, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has to announce that Omani citizens and residents roaming in the GCC countries will enjoy reduced roaming rates for voice calls, SMS, and mobile data services. The new rates would start from the 1st of April 2016. The new price caps for roaming charges have been approved by the GCC Ministerial Committee for Post, Telecommunications and Information Technology during its 24th meeting held in Doha in early June. The reductions of roaming charges on both inter-operator wholesale level and end user retail level will take place over a three year period, for voice calls and SMS services, and over a five year period for mobile data services.

Qatar: Broadband bargain - Ooredoo has announced that its QAR 200 (USD 55) monthly Mobile Broadband Plan (MBB), which offers 15GB of data, has been improved for all users free of charge. Users subscribed to the 15GB pack will now receive 25GB of data. Ooredoo will be offering 50 percent off the new 25GB Mobile Broadband Plan (MBB) for 12 months or QAR 100 (USD 27.45) a month.

Qatar: Big data meet - The Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ictQATAR) has said it recognises the potential gains from big data for all sectors. But it also understands that big data can pose a potential threat to individuals' and organisations' right to privacy and integrity, and put additional pressure on cyber security. The Ministry has convened a roundtable, inviting stakeholders with relevant expertise and experience on big data to not only validate the findings from the Ministry's ongoing research and engagements, but also to add insights from other government agencies, private and public organisations, and academia. This white paper explores the opportunities, and challenges identified by the stakeholders and suggestions on how they can be mitigated. The white paper can be viewed here.

Qatar: Growing market - The telecom services market is expected to generate USD 2.8 billion in service revenue by 2020 against a forecast of USD 2.3 billion in 2015 with an annual compound growth rate of 3.6 percent, driven by operators' investment in next generation networks, according to Pyramid Research. Mobile penetration rate is expected to rise to 191 percent by year-end 2020. Average per capita spending on telecom services now stands at over USD 1,000 per annum. Ooredoo and Vodafone have invested to offer the highest speeds and the best quality of service to mobile subscribers. LTE-A deployments through carrier aggregation have yielded downlink speeds of 150-225Mbps.

Qatar: Popular programming - Nine popular Arabic series will be available during the Holy Month of Ramadan are available from Ooredoo?s Mozaic TV. Each series contains 30 action-packed episodes, with an episode released for each day of Ramadan. Fatima Sultan Al Kuwari, Director Community & Public Relations, Ooredoo, invited users to share their experiences with #SharingOurBest on social media. Users travelling will also be able access the content through Ooredoo's Mozaic GO App, which allows them to stream and watch the content anytime and anywhere. The Mozaic GO app is available from the Apple Store by searching for 'Mozaic GO' and using the Mozaic TV Account Number to log-in.

Rwanda: Cash interconnection - Tigo Rwanda has partnered with the Bank of Kigali Ltd (BK) so customers can send money between any Tigo Cash wallet and any Bank of Kigali bank account. Tongai Maramba, General Manager of Tigo Rwanda said: "This development underscores our commitment to deliver what our customers have always wanted - a joined up ecosystem of financial services where all players in the financial sector are interconnected. "

Rwanda: NTC card - Airtel Rwanda has launched its Kozaho 'tap and pay' card which uses Near Field Communication (NFC) technology and is provided with an Airtel Money account linked to the user's mobile phone. The card is personalised and is valid for life. Users can use any POS terminal in a two-step process. The card can be used with Kigali Bus Services, motorbikes and taxis and select supermarkets and shops in Kigali.

South Africa: CAPEX for Cell C - Cell C has raised EUR 240 million (USD 314 million) in debt to fund its expansion programme, with new 'first priority senior secured notes' to supplement the EUR 160 million (USD 210 million) previously issued, TechCentral reports. The new notes mature in July 2018 - the same date as the previous issue - with an interest rate of 8.625 percent. The offering was still oversubscribed, and was arranged by MedInvestment Bank, Bankmed and MedSecurities Investment.

South Africa: Free Facebook- Cell C is to offer Facebook free-of-charge for all subscribers and access to free basic services from 1 July through to 31 August. After the promotion expires, Cell C subscribers will still get free Facebook through for a further 12 months. Cell C customers will also have free access to WhatsApp until 31 August. The promotion was launched on 19 October 2014 and was due to expire on 30 June.

South Africa: Roaming talks ongoing - Telkom has told shareholders that it is still talking to MTN South Africa about an extension of its roaming agreement to include bilateral roaming and outsourcing of the operation of Telkom's radio access network. The two signed a preliminary deal in March 2014. Legal and regulatory approvals are still awaited.

South Africa: Set-top success - The Minister of Communications, Faith Muthambi, has welcomed a ruling by the North Gauteng High Court on set-top boxes. Muthambi said the digital migration process could now proceed. The court has affirmed amendments to the Broadcasting Digital Migration policy gazetted on the 18 March as being in the public interest. The Gauteng High Court ruled against broadcaster in its challenge of the decision not to encrypt set-top boxes for digital broadcasts.

Southern Africa: Four meet digital deadline - Namibia, Tanzania, Malawi and Mauritius are the only four SADC Member States that have successfully migrated from analogue to digital broadcasting before the migration deadline of 17 June 2015. The remaining SADC countries have to still build their digital networks to meet the prerequisites for migration, it was disclosed at the 9th SADC Digital Broadcasting Migration Forum held 22-23 June 2015 at Walvis Bay in the Erongo Region, Namibia. Madagascar and Seychelles are said to be conducting trials for digitalisation and Zambia has switched on its networks, but have no operating set-up boxes yet.

Tunisia: Fixed portability assessed - The National Institute of Telecommunications has entrusted a specialist consultancy to undertake an audit to verify the suitability of the Tunisie Telecom fixed network to support fixed number portability and recommend cost-effective mechanisms to implement the service. INT says that the consultancy has now reported favourably and that Tunisie Telecom subscribers connected to its classic TDM fixed network and those connected to the NGN platform. The final report can be downloaded here.

Turkey: Deal done - Turkcell in statement dated 26 June said it is to acquire the remaining shares of SCM Holdings Limited in Netherlands-based Euroasia that owns 100 percent of Astelit in Ukraine. Astelit operates under the 'life:)' brand in the Ukraine. SCM?s 44.96 percent stake will be acquired for USD 100 million. Turkcell CEO Kaan Terzioglu said: "As Turkcell, we had declared that we would be evaluating both organic and inorganic growth opportunities to strengthen our position in the countries where we operate. In this context, we have taken the first major step in Ukraine ". 3G services were launched on 4 June.

Uganda: Analogue goodbye in August - Analogue broadcasting is expected to have been phased out completely by the end of August, according to the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) Director for Broadcasting, Fred Otunnu, as reported by the East African Business Week. The analogue signal is already disabled within 60km of Kampala. The second phase will cover 120km from Kampala on 31 July; the third phase will see the entire country converted on 31 August. Otunnu said there were around 3 million television sets with over 60 percent of owners residing near Kampala or are within the 60km radius.

Uganda: Dual SIM devices - Microsoft has launched three smartphones, with Microsoft Office, the Monitor reported. These are the Lumia 540, Lumia 640XL and Lumia 430 Dual SIM. The 640XL is offered with a year's free subscription and OneDrive storage, and costs UGX 850,000 (USD 291) at Midcom and other retail outlets. The 430 costs UGX 230,000 (USD 79).

Zimbabwe: Complaints countered - The value added services (VAS) charging system is to be separated from Econet?s main billing platform after complaints of unwanted automatic service registrations, multiple billing, VAS spamming and missing balances were received. Econet has suggested that regulator POTRAZ threatened to close its VAS activities down, but News Day reports a POTRAZ spokesperson as saying that no such threat was made. In future there will be a separate Dedicated Account where customers can deposit money for all VAS that they are subscribed to. Econet?s VAS offerings include third-party services such as ringtones, games, news headlines and job ads.

Zimbabwe: Staff sliming - According to Bulawayo 24/7, Telecel Zimbabwe has not renewed the contracts of 250 staff, and ;more contract and permanent staff could lose their jobs from the end of June. Last week Econet Wireless cut salaries by 35 percent and reduced working hours from 40 to 26 hours a week. Liquid Telecom Zimbabwe staff will not be affected by the move. TechZim reports Managing Director, Wellington Makamure noting in an e-mail Liquid Telecom?s independence from Econet Wireless Zimbabwe. Makamure said Liquid is managing staff levels, monitoring spending and managing costs.

Zimbabwe: TV subscribers - Global research firm Dataxis reckons that the number of pay-TV subscribers is likely to reach 341,260 at the end of 2016. There were over 149,200 pay-TV subscribers at the end of March, reports NexTVame. Over 3,100 pay-TV subscribers were added during 1Q 2015, from 145,100 pay-DTH subscribers at the end of 2014. DSTV and MyTV dominate the market. At the end of 2014, there were over 1.67 million free-to-air users across Zimbabwe.