News in Brief 9 September 2015

Africa: Female engagement - Worldreader has partnered with Opera Software to reach people in 34 African countries using their existing mobile device. The organisations claim to have already provided 5 million readers in Africa with access to 25,000 free digital book titles via their mobile phones. Richard Monday, VP Africa at Opera, said it had placed the Worldreader icon next to the Wikipedia button. According to a 2014 joint study from Worldreader and UNESCO, female readers in the developing world read up to six times more than men, and once women start reading on their phones, they are generally more engaged than men.

Africa: Gilat HTS - Gilat Satcom said it would provide Africa with advanced access to the satellite services with cost savings when it launches Epic, Intelsat's next generation satellite, in 2016. BizTechAfrica reports that Gilat is providing Epic contracts with HTS costs per MB on existing satellites and an automatic upgrade to the Epic HTS service once it is live. Gilat says that users will not need to redirect antennas or replace equipment to access the services from Epic.

Bahrain: Expat enhancements - Zain Bahrain has formed a partnership with the National Finance and Exchange Company (NAFEX), which provides currency exchange and money transfer services in Bahrain. Users will receive special telecom benefits when making remittances back home. Zain Bahrain's Sales and Customer Care Director, Arslan Khan said the move was part of Batelco's strategy to serve Bahrain's multi-cultural community, by providing services to enable expatriate customers to communicate with friends and family back home.

Cote d'Ivoire: Regulatory workshop - l'Autorite de Regulation des Telecommunications/TIC de Cote d'Ivoire (ARTCI) ran a two-day workshop for operators, IT service providers and consumer associations on their rights and obligations, and was part of a training policy adopted in 2011. Over 100 participants attended. The event focused on simplification of the complaints process and importance of retaining ID information for SIM card users. ARTCI also showcased its Webpage for consumers to submit complaints online.

Bahrain: In-air iPads - Batelco has partnered with national carrier Gulf Air to support the airline's on-board operations by providing iPads for the airline's cabin service managers to undertake on-board processes. Access to Batelco's 4G data network is provided, along with tailor-made packages for the airline. Batelco's Acting Head of the Enterprise Division, Donya Al Ansari, said: "We are delighted to support Gulf Air with their digitisation efforts, and plan to extend this support further to benefit Bahrain. "

Egypt: Nokia appraisal - Mobinil is hosting the Orange Global Operational Skill Centre for the deployment of Nokia's radio technologies, and will test and validate new products for all Orange affiliates globally. Mobinil is using a global lab in Cairo that includes Nokia's latest network hardware and software.

Ghana: Power back-ups pinched - The cost of battery thefts between January and December 2014 has been put at some USD 4.8 million by MTN Ghana, BusinessGhana reported. The batteries were imported as backups for MTN sites due to regular interruptions in the power supply. Corporate Services Executive Cynthia Lumor said the batteries were imported.

Ghana: Still profitable - MTN Ghana paid taxes of some GHS 605 million (USD 158.1 million) in 2014, GNA reported. According to Corporate Service Executive Cynthia Lumor the operator also paid some GHS 31.5 million (USD 8.2 million) as fees and duties and GHS 26.6 million (USD 7.0 million) as international incoming traffic to the National Communication Authority (NCA). Despite wider economic issues, MTN Ghana made a profit of GHS 1.9 billion (USD 496 million).

Iran: Greater coverage - MTN Irancell has said that its 3G network now covers 35.8 percent of the population in 427 cities and towns and 56 main roads across all 31 provinces, while its 4G network covers 11.6 percent of the population in 82 cities. The operator has erected 4,250 3G base stations and 1,750 4G sites, and is claiming 12.5 million 3G subscribers and around a million 4G users. It launched 3G services at the start of September 2014 and 4G in November 2014.

Kenya: Formal complaint - Equity Bank has formally written to the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) objecting to Safaricom's intended increase in charges on bank-to-M-Pesa transfers, which will impact on Equitel, its mobile banking service. Safaricom has notified the banks that transactions will from 1 December be charged at the same rate as those incurred by customers sending money from their M-Pesa accounts to other M-Pesa subscribers.

Kenya: Smartphone hotspot - Huawei is looking to double its mobile phone market share in 2016, from the 10 percent currently. Huawei is to launch its flagship products as well as affordable middle and entry level quality smartphones. Huawei recently launched its P8 targeted at the high-end market and sold over 200 devices in a week, according to Millicent Ngatia, the Marketing Director of Kenya Huawei devices.

Kenya: Toying with TV - Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore told The Star that the mobile operator will not be running a television station of its own although it has applied for four broadcasting licences from the Communications Authority (CA). On 23 July the CA noted that the operator had applied for commercial free-to-air, IPTV services, subscription management and terrestrial subscription broadcasting services licences. Collymore said that over 1,500 Big Box decoders had been sold since the digital broadcasting platform was launched in May and that the Big Box will be on sale at the end of September after technical issues have been resolved.

Malawi: Free Twitter feed - Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM) has launched a Smart Free Twitter promotion, offering users unlimited access to the Smart Data product. TNM Chief Commercial Officer Dan Makata said that during the promotion, users will able to use Twitter free of charge. The free Twitter promotion follows the launch of free access that TNM is offering to all of its customers. The free tweeter promotion will run for 3 months and the service is available to Pre-paid customers only.

Malawi: Lead operator - Airtel Malawi has registered 3.5 million subscribers in August 2015, the Nyasa Times has reported Public Relations and Corporate Affairs Manager Edith Tsilizani as saying. Airtel Malawi was the second mobile operator to launch a GSM network in October 1999. It launched 3G services in September 2010. Rivals are Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM), and Cellcom which was awarded a licence by the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) in May 2011 but has not yet launched.

Maldives: Subscribership stalls - The Communications Authority reported the mobile subscriber base as falling to 702,658 subscribers in July, compared to 703,246 in June, and mobile penetration fell to 202.2 percent from 202.34. Of the total mobile subscribes, 81,815 are post-paid and 623,883 pre-paid. Fixed lines (including payphones) fell to 22,215 in July from 22,233 in June.

Mauritius: Internet exchange - A new Internet exchange point was opened 31 August 2015, reports Agence Ecofin, one of twelve new facilities in the EU-African Internet Exchange System (AXIS) network of regional and national peering points. The Sub-Saharan Africa programme will see some 30 IXs built eventually. The existing ones are in Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Congo, Cote d?Ivoire, Gabon, Gambia, Liberia, Namibia, Seychelles and Swaziland.

Mayotte: Equality sought - Orange Mayotte has seen prolonged industrial action since July 2015, reports Agence Ecofin, after a EUR 120 a month increase agreed in May 2015 was not honoured. The payment was to be backdated to January 2012. Mayotte-based staff are demanding equality with their colleagues on Reunion. Union representative Mdahoma Amed said salaries had to be recalculated using the cost of living locally, as had been done on Reunion.

Middle East: Film library - The beta version of Huawei's muchTV video streaming service has been launched. A library of films and programmes for any Android or iOS device is provided. The app is available from app stores and the muchTV website, and is available to individuals across the GCC, Levant and North Africa. This is part of its InTouch Partnership Programme, and is supported by over 2,100 partners globally collaborating across eight global Hosting Centres. Huawei's first Middle East Hosting Centre, launched in 2014, supports the technological requirements for the inTouch Programme, including muchTV.

Mozambique: Millionth milestone - Vodacom has reported that its subscriber base has now reached the million-subscriber mark, and that its M-Pesa transactions now stand at around the USD 750,000, APA reported last week. Vodacom Mozambique Chairman Lucas Chachine noted M-Pesa's success when signing a deal with Eduardo Mondlane University allowing students to pay for their rent and meals using M-Pesa free of charge.

Nigeria: EasyStarter enhancements - Etisalat Nigeria has enhanced its family orientated EasyStarter package, and users can now register five 'You & Me' numbers and stay connected to more members of their community. For every NGN 200 (USD 1) in top-ups each week, 'You & Me' platform users get NGN 300 (USD 1.50) free airtime to call any of the five 'You & Me' numbers. Etisalat is also offering a free 10MB of data weekly on recharges of NGN 100 and above on the EasyStarter package. The new EasyStarter package also offers unlimited connections to 2go, Whatsapp, WeChat, Facebook and BlackBerry for NGN 150 weekly.

Nigeria: MTN stake sale - MTN Nigeria is to become a Public Liability Company (PLC) in 2016, with shares being listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE). The Business Journal reported a senior insider as saying. Part of the game plan for 2016 will be the sale of MTN towers and outsourcing of various operations.

Nigeria: Virtual Visa card - Mobile money operator Chams Mobile and Skye Bank have launched a virtual Visa card, ThisDay reported. The card appears as an image on the user's mobile device or PC, with a plastic card as an option if preferred, and is issued free. It offers online payment alternative for e-commerce. It is available under the Kegow; the programme and card brand of Chams Mobile. Chams Mobile has a mobile money (payments) licence issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria in late 2012, and is an authorised and licensed Mobile money operator.

Oman: Brand leader - Brand Finance has found that Omantel is Oman's most valuable brand, having moved up eight places to be 33rd among the 50 most valuable brands in the Middle East-North Africa (MENA) region. Omantel is currently valued at USD 479 million and has grown by more than 50 percent since last year.

Qatar: Duct mapping - Ericsson has been selected for the implementation and management of the new telecom duct infrastructure by the Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA). The project will see the construction of duct infrastructure in public roads expanded. Ericsson Network Engineer will provide a GIS-based mapping tool that supports record keeping for the new infrastructure, which will be established by the CRA in co-operation with the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology and the Public Works Authority.

Qatar: Enhanced Clound e-mail - The Ooredoo Cloud Email Security Service has been launched. This is an add-on to its Cloud Security offering for enterprise customers. The platform blocks spam and malware, and Ooredoo also offer an advanced antispam and antivirus service with bi-directional filtering capabilities. Added functions include data leakage prevention, identity based encryption, message archival and anti-blacklisting.

South Africa: Cheaper LTE - Vodacom South Africa has reduced the cost of its Broadband Connect LTE products, MyBroadband has reported. It launched the new Broadband Connect LTE packages with promotional prices available on 24-month contracts until 30 September. However domestic users are excluded from these deals.

South Africa: More TRACE for Cell C - Cell C has renewed its two-year deal with TRACE TV to launch TRACE Mobile, which carries content that is coupled to a Cell C pre-paid tariff plan, MyBroadband has reported. Cell C users who sign up for TRACE Mobile will receive access to TRACE Music, along with loyalty and lifestyle rewards. Cell C has ended its free WhatsApp data promotion on other plans, and is offering a ZAR 5 for 1GB WhatsApp bundle instead, whilst TRACE Mobile will have free WhatsApp. The plan was available from 7 September.

South Africa: Numberplate nonsense - The case against Telkom Chief Executive Officer Sipho Maseko for allegedly driving a car with false numberplates has been dropped by the state after Maseko appeared in court. Prosecutors claimed that a different car license plate to the one he had been issued was displayed on his car from February 2013 to July 2014. This resulted in traffic fines of ZAR 18,000 (USD 1,295) in another person's name. However the case may be taken up again by the police.

South Africa: Package sale - Telkom is to roll out the second phase of its SmartBroadband Uncapped High Speed Wireless packages to more than 200 additional areas in Gauteng. The online sale will take place on 7 September to offer the uncapped 24-month contracts starting at ZAR 599 (USD 44) and will focus on selected base stations in Gauteng from 7 September to 30 November. It will be rolled out to additional locations in the Western Cape and Durban in the following months. The first phase of the online sale was undertaken in June, when some 400 people took advantage of the packages in 29 locations in Gauteng.

South Africa: Roaming review meeting - From 4 September 2015 the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) is hosting the Communication Regulators Association of Southern Africa (CRASA) Roaming Task Team (CRTT) and Roaming Forum in Sandton, ITWeb reported. The CRTT Meeting is to finalise the retail and wholesale roaming price ceilings, and develop a Baseline Report for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Roaming Glide Paths. The revised date for the glide path is 1 October as directed by the SADC Ministers of Communications, ICT and Postal.

Uganda: Airtel wallet co-operation - Airtel Uganda and Centenary Bank have launched a Mobile Wallet service. The service is an additional feature of the bank's mobile banking platform, CenteMobile. Other services on the platform include transfer of funds, payment of utility bills, request for mini statements, and fundraising.

Uganda: MTN app - MTN Uganda has launched the MyMTN mobile app that allows smartphone users to manage their bank accounts. Users do not need an active data bundle in order to use the app, and it enables MTN customers to buy airtime and data bundles, check their balances and access various promotional offers also available via USSD. Access to Mobile Money or MySelfService over the app requires the user to input a password, guaranteeing security for service subscriptions, airtime purchases and mobile money transactions. The app works on Android, Blackberry, iPhone and Windows phones, and it can be downloaded free of charge from all major app stores.

United Arab Emirates: Quality content - Mobile operator du is now offering HD quality content from Starz Play for a monthly subscription of AED 49 (USD 13.30), billed directly to clients. Subscribers can download the Starz Play app and subscribe directly via their mobile phone. During the launch period, subscribers using du mobile billing will receive a two-month free trial period. Starz Play was launched in the UAE in May.

United Arab Emirates: Share liberalisation approved - Foreign and institutional investors will be able to own Etisalat shares from 15 September after the board approved new rules governing ownership. State-run Etisalat is valued at nearly double the second biggest listed UAE company, but its shares could only be held by UAE nationals and all institutions were excluded. In June it said rules would be relaxed to allow 20 percent to be held by non-nationals but voting rights wont be granted.