News in Brief 22 July 2015

Africa: Easier payment - Mobile wallet platform Paytoo is to work with Infenix in order to offer a remittance solution to more than 79 million subscribers in 29 African countries. Paytoo's mobile wallet services are being combined with Infenix's remittance payout distribution network, giving Paytoo Mobile Wallet customers the ability to send remittances to 29 countries and 50 branded mobile wallets in Africa.

Africa: Mobile movies - Movie streaming company iROKOtv's move to mobile-only is paying off. CEO Jason Njoku Jason said it has seen some 'amazing' usage around downloads in Africa, and average daily subscription has jumped 36 percent, Techcabal reported.

Egypt: Talks tabled - Telecom Egypt (TE) expects to complete talks with mobile operator Mobinil over interconnection rates by September. TE CEO Osama Yasin said talks have been extended a further two months, Amwal Al Ghad reported. A case filed by Mobinil against TE in April was rejected by the Arbitration Committee, which sought to compel TE to apply the same interconnection rates that had been applied by Mobinil since June 2008. The Arbitration Committee ordered the two to reach a mutual price agreement. TE will start a new round of talks with Vodafone and Etisalat after it has reached agreement with Mobinil.

Ghana: Customer service focus - Tigo's Customer Operations Director for Africa, Ingeborg Nieuwenhuis, has just concluded a one-week visit to Ghana, citfmonline reported. Director for Customer Service at Tigo Ghana, Stephen Essien, said the visit formed part of several on-going efforts to revamp Tigo Ghana's customer experience strategy. The entire customer operations team has also participated in a 3-day Customer Experience leadership-training programme in the central region.

Ghana: Tap triumph - Airtel Ghana claims it now has more than 2 million customers, representing 25 percent growth in two months. This follows the recent launch of 'Tap 'N' Pay', which allows users to make payments with Airtel Money with a tap of their mobile phones at POS terminals. The Airtel Money service is available at 13,000 registered agents, 500 merchant outlets, 80 shops that accept Airtel Money, seven partner banks and over 215 ATMs nationally.

Kenya: Airtel insurance cover - Airtel Kenya has launched a free insurance product in conjunction with Pan Africa Life Assurance and MicroEnsure. Airtel Kenya subscribers will be eligible for life, accident and hospitalisation insurance, with increasing benefits based on their monthly airtime usage. Airtel Insurance is open to all Kenyan residents of 18+ years.

Kenya: Broadband for new buildings - Safaricom is forming partnerships with real estate property developers to provide Internet-ready premises for businesses. The new service, dubbed Jiji Smart, will see Safaricom provide broadband infrastructure such as fibre connectivity to buildings while under construction to ensure premises are Internet-ready. Safaricom Business General Manager, Ms Rita Okuthe said it was leveraging on its capabilities in fibre and 4G to offer high speed Internet.

Kenya: Smartphone for students - Infinix Mobility and online store Jumia have launched the Infinix X509 (Zero2) smatrtphone, targeted at young entrepreneurs, professionals and students. The Infinix X509 was available from the e-commerce Website from 13 July and is retailling at an introductory price of KES 19,999 (USD 195).

Kenya: Speedy settlements - M-Pesa merchants can settle their deposits within seconds using a new service launched by Safaricom and Standard Chartered. The time taken to convert the e-value available to them into cash is now literally seconds. The previous manual RGTS system took a minimum of six hours for the conversion.

Malawi: Customer cover - Mobile operator TNM says it has paid out over MK 58.5 million (USD 130,238) in life insurance claims under its Moyo Cover insurance offered to customers registered on its mobile money-transfer service, Mpamba. TNM Products Manager Asante Chitimba said that there had been 259 claimants people since September 2013 when the service was launched. TNM Moyo cover is administered through Nico Life Insurance and MicroEnsure. Premiums are paid by TNM on behalf of all users who recharge or use a minimum of MWK 1,000 airtime per month. Usage in the current month provides cover for the following month.

Morocco: Low-cost access - icflix has agreed an exclusive partnership with Maroc Telecom (MT). The deal will allow MT customers to access icflix for what the VoD service described as an 'unprecedented' price of MAD 50 (USD 5). Earlier this month Zain Kuwait signed with icflix for access to Jazwood, Hollywood and Bollywood content, including films, TV shows, cartoons and documentaries.

Nigeria: Better broadband - MTN HyNetLTE has been launched by MTN Business in Lagos, following the upgrade of its WiMAX network; the new LTE service will soon be expanded to other parts of the country that currently have the 'MTN HyNet' WiMAX network. The old HyNet modems can be exchanged free of charge for an LTE-enabled one, The Vanguard reported. MTN Business is offering existing and new customers up to 10 GB of free data this summer for every new subscription. Cities with 'MTN HyNet' WiMAX include Kaduna, Warri, Ilorin, Makurdi, Osogbo, Bauchi, Sokoto, Abuja and Port Harcourt, covering 11.8 percent of the population at the end of 2014.

Nigeria: Mobile music - MTN Nigeria and Globacom generated over NGN 9 billion (USD 45.1 million) for the local music industry in 2014 through the monetisation of caller tunes. The Punch  newspaper reported that while MTN generated over NGN 5 billion (USD 25.1 million) for artists who sell their work as caller tunes on its platform.

Nigeria: New name - Helios Towers Nigeria is henceforth to be formally known as HTN Towers. Inder Bajaj, Chief Executive Officer of HTN Towers, said the rebranding heralds a new phase in the company's growth and reflects its pan-African expansion ambitions. HTN currently operates in 33 of 36 states in Nigeria, and is the third largest tower company in the country, with over 1,200 towers and 2,300 tenants.

Nigeria: Wearables coming - A range of Huawei wearable devices will be launched in August, including the Huawei Watch, TalkBand B2, and TalkBand N1. Senior Marketing Manager for Huawei Consumer BG, Olaonipekun Okunowo, said the first to be offered would be the Huawei Talkband B2.

Qatar: VoD offering - Ooredoo Qatar has signed an exclusive deal with Starz Play. The OTT Video on Demand streaming service offers Hollywood TV series, films and children's content. Qatar will be the first MENA market to offer the service, with other markets in the Ooredoo footprint to follow. The service will be available via Ooredoo's Mozaic service and Mozaic GO app in Qatar by the end of 2015. Operator billing will be offered in some Ooredoo markets for Starz Play.

Sierra Leone: Network management - Airtel has confirmed that it will be working closer with Ericsson and Huawei, the Concord Times reports. Bharti Airtel Sierra Leone Managing Director Sudipto Chowdhury said that Huawei will be responsible for day-to-day operations with a strong local presence to improve response times, whilst Ericsson will continue to supply and install new radio and transmission equipment for 2G and 3G sites. Ericsson is to commission 28 new 2G base stations, with the focus on chiefdoms, which are not currently covered. Some 127 new 3G towers will also be erected to improve coverage in Freetown, as well as extending 3G technology to all district headquarters.

South Africa: Bidders short-listed - Vodacom Group has short-listed four bidders to provide network maintenance, Agence Ecofin reports. The three-year contract is due to start on 1 November 2015 are Huawei Technologies (China), Alcatel-Lucent (France), Ericsson (Sweden) and Neotel (South Africa). Vodacom spokesman Richard Boorman said that the outsourcing plan would not see any job losses.

South Africa: CEO calms troubled waters - MTN South Africa CEO Mteto Nyati said agreement had been reached with the Communication Workers Union (CWU) to end the two-month strike. The breakthrough followed the departure of MTN CEO Ahmad Farroukh and the appointment of Nyati. The union has accepted MTN's bonus and salary adjustment policies. The CWU said MTN had agreed to a 12 percent annual bonus for staff, payable regardless of company performance, down from the initial claim of 16 percent. Casual workers are to be offered permanent contracts, and payments for Sunday working will be improved. The issue of an overall pay rise requires further talks.

South Africa: Cheap cellphones - Indian-based Karbonn is to launch a number of new models. Karbonn is a joint venture between Jaina Group and UTL Group formed in 2009, and is aiming to meet the consumer demand for lower cost smartphones and it has had some success in India and Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly as most of its devices are dual SIM, MyBroadband reported. The cheapest smartphone is the A5 Turbo, with a dual core 1GHz processor for ZAR 699 (USD 57), whilst the octa core powered Mach Two starts at ZAR 5,499 (USD 445) and has dual 8 megapixel cameras with Sony sensors.

South Africa: Open access - MTN South Africa Chief Technology Officer Eben Albertyn has said it is committed to an open access network environment in which it supplies fibre infrastructure for service providers to offer residential customers high-speed Internet connectivity. MTN has appointed a team to focus on the wholesale offering. MTN has deployed FTTH to the gated community of Monaghan Farm outside Johannesburg. It is currently trenching in a number of suburbs including Parkmore, Morningside and Lonehill in Johannesburg, where it is deploying FTTH in partnership with their residents' associations.

Tanzania: Promotional pennies - Vodacom Tanzania is launching its 'Spend and Get Campaign', which gives back to customers TZS 100 (USD 0.05) which is deposited into the M-Pesa account for every TZS 1,000 (USD 0.46) and more spent on GSM (voice, SMS, and data). The account has to be activated. Vodacom claims that users can add TZS 3,000 (USD 1.38) in a month regular SMS and Voice usage.

Uganda: P8 launched - The Huawei P8 smartphone is now on sale, with Kampala the latest destination of a worldwide tour that has included South Africa, Bangkok, Singapore, New York and London. Retailers include Simba Telecom, Banana phone world shops, Nilecom and Go phones in Kampala.

Uganda: Rural remittances - Online shopping community Kaymu Uganda is partnering with MTN Uganda to provide a dedicated Mobile Money payment option for buyers living outside of Kampala, PCTechMag reported. Currently, Kaymu Uganda only sells to buyers residing within Kampala. The buyer will, however, have to pay the transport fees which is dependant on the buyer?s location.

United Arab Emirates: Philippine buy-out - Liberty Telecoms Holdings, which provides high-speed Internet services in the Philippines, is to buy out its Qatar-based partner Ooredoo (formerly Qatar Telecom). SMC said in a stock exchange filing that its board had authorised subsidiary Vega Telecom to buy all the holdings of Qtel West Bay Holdings, Wi-tribe Asia and White Dawn Solution Holdings in Liberty Telecoms. The deal will also require a tender offer of common shares of Liberty Telecoms. Liberty has been losing market share in the high-speed Internet business.

Zimbabwe: New MVNO? - TelOne is to partner with NetOne to activate its mobile operating licence, The Herald reported. The licence was granted in 2011. TelOne MD Chipo Mtasa said it would pursue the partnership route as it has not the resources to provide the required infrastructure.