News in Brief 23 September 2015

Africa: CTO chair - Professor Umar Danbatta is the new chairman of the 54-member Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) after being elected at its yearly Forum and Council meeting in Nairobi, Kenya. Danbatta is currently the acting Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). Engineer Shola Taylor is the Secretary General and Chief Executive of CTO, and was named as such on 16 June 2015 in London, UK.

Algeria: Interconnect index - The Regulatory Authority for Post and Telecommunications on 7 September 2015 approved the notifications by mobile and fixed operators of their interconnection schedules for 2015-2016 and the subsequent publication of them on their respective Websites. For each operator, this includes tariff and technical interconnection data for the various services subject to interconnection. The operators involved were Algeria Telecom (AT)(fixed line) and mobile operators Algeria Telecom Mobile (ATM), Optimum Telecom Algeria (OTA) and Wataniya Telecom Algeria (WTA).

Bahrain: Regulatory rendezvous - The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Bahrain (TRA) and the Communication and Information Technology Regulatory Authority (CITRA) of Kuwait have met to exchange knowledge and information about TRA's experiences. Minister of Transportation and Telecom Kamal bin Ahmed Mohammed said he supported the CITRA's initiative.

Bahrain: VoLTE gains momentum - Batelco has implemented VoLTE, after contracting Ericsson to provide the technology. VoLTE technology supports video calls, instant messaging, video streaming and data browsing. Batelco Bahrain CEO Muna Al Hashemi said that the service allows simultaneous HD voice calls and video with faster call set-up time. In mid-June Viva Kuwait launched VoLTE.

Egypt: New chair required - Telecom Egypt's Chairman Mohamed Salem said he resigned on Saturday, shortly after a new government was sworn in by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Salem took the post in May after the Prime Minister named new government representatives to the board. Reuters reports he wrote in his resignation letter: "For four months I have done all I can to improve the company's performance ... but I have faced many stumbling blocks and difficulties. " The new Minister of Telecommunications is Yasser al-Kady.

Ghana: Banker for Tigo Business - Gottfried Odamtten-Sowah has been named as Tigo Ghana's Director of Tigo Business. Sowah previously served as Manager of Commercial Business at Stanbic Bank Ghana. He holds an MBA in Project Management from the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) and a Degree in Agricultural Economics from University of Ghana, Legon.

Ghana: Regional offers - Tigo Ghana subscribers in the Western, Ashanti and Eastern regions can make unlimited calls from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day if signed-up to the operator's 'Xtreme Value Offer'. 'Xtreme Voice and Data' is just GHS 0.50 (USD 0.12) a day and gives unlimited calls to Tigo lines and 20MB data for browsing the Internet. The 'Xtreme Voice' at GHS 0.30 a day allows unlimited voice calls to all Tigo numbers. Tigo Ghana's Director of Mobile Tara Squire said the offer was based on feedback from customers within these regions, adding that other regions would enjoy tailored offers.

Iran: Telecoms showcase - Some 210 domestic firms and 80 foreign ones from 18 countries are to participate in the 16th International Trade Fair on Communication and Information Technology and Solutions (Iran Telecom 2015) on 26-29 September at the Tehran?s International Permanent Fairgrounds.

Kenya: Base doubles - MVNO Equitel, a unit of Equity Bank, has now some 1.2 million SIM cards, the Daily Nation reported Equity Bank CEO James Mwangi as saying. Mwangi said that the total value of mobile money transactions by Equitel customers had reached KES 7 billion (USD 66.53 million) in August, while loans borrowed from Equitel have stood at KES 4 billion (USD 38.0 million). An average client undertakes some 120 transactions per month. The Communications Authority (CAK) recorded some 665,661 active users at the end of March 2015, suggesting the client base has doubled in six months.

Kenya: Click & collect - Jumia Kenya customers will be able to pick-up their purchases from courier G4S' selected centres. The customer can pay in cash or via mobile money transfer at pick-up. Jumia notes that the list of local and international brands it services is growing including Microsoft, Infinix, Innjoo, Bata, Maybelline, Darling hair, Nairobi Sports House and Jua energy.

Kenya: Harmonisation meeting - Internet charges for East African mobile users roaming in the region are to be harmonised. According to the Business Daily, regulators from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan are to meet in Nairobi, with Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) Director General Francis Wangusi saying that it was part of a wider strategy that will see a common tariff adopted for mobile money transfers and SMS.

Kuwait: Better business bundle - Post-paid corporate subscribers of Zain Kuwait will now get double data roaming allowances. Business users who are signed-up to Zain's 'Smartphone Global' and 'Smartphone Global Plus' packages will get up to 4 GB per month at the same price. A real-time control function now provides users with usage visibility.

Namibia: ICT summit - The Ministry of Information and Communication Technology has said that the 2nd National ICT summit will take place 6-7 October under the theme 'Bridging the Digital Gap.' This summit will bring together industry stakeholders, including government employees, private businesses, professionals, consumers and academia, to reflect on ICT trends and challenges facing the industry in general, but also the local ICT scene in particular. Sponsors include Telecom Namibia, Schoemans, International Business Machines Corporation subsidiary Green Sigma, the National Commission of Research, Science and Technology, XON Systems and Juniper Networks.

Nigeria: Better banking - First Bank of Nigeria Limited has launched what it describes as an integrated lifestyle mobile banking app, under the FirstMobile banner, ThisDay reported. The app provides a secure platform for the execution of banking transactions, and access to lifestyle news content. The application is free and available for download to customers of the bank. FirstBank's Head of Digital Banking, Mrs. Folasade Femi-Lawal, said it was another step towards leveraging evolving technologies to bring fast and convenient financial services closer to Nigerians, in line with the bank?s digital banking strategy.

Nigeria: Internet elections - The Nigeria Internet Group's (NIG) new President is Ms. Oyeronke M. Oyetunde following her sole nomination at the 2015 Annual General Meeting (AGM). Oyetunde is General Manager, Regulatory Affairs at MTN Nigeria and will head NIG till 2017. Oyetunde joined MTN Nigeria in 2004. Temitope Fashedemi was returned as Vice President for the second term, Dr. Bayero Agabi as Publicity Secretary and Dapo Adejokun as Treasurer.

Nigeria: New-for-old - Airtel Nigeria's subscribers can now trade in their old phones for brand new Smartphones. The Airtel Smart TRADE-IN scheme sees the old phone valued and the amount set against the cost of the new device. Airtel Nigeria's Chief Commercial Officer, Maurice Newa, said: "In line with our commitment to provide services that will continually delight our customers. We have launched this service to offer customers the opportunity to get the latest devices available in the market ". Users are advised to visit the Airtel Website to get an idea of the value of their old phone. The service is currently available at the Airtel showrooms in Ikeja Mall, Palms Mall, Sanusi Fafunwa and Oba Akran in Ikeja. It will be rolled out in other Airtel showrooms in due course.

Qatar: Smart move - Vodafone Qatar has added the Smart ultra 6 to its Smart series retailing at QAR 799 (USD 219)in Vodafone retail and Online stores. It has a 13 megapixel (MP) rear-facing Sony camera, with LED flash, auto focus, touch focus, face detection and high dynamic range imaging. There is also a 5 MP front-facing camera.

Saudi Arabia: Free hotspots - Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) is providing wireless Internet services using Wi-Fi technology free of charge for all pilgrims as it expands its network coverage in Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifa to reach over 1,500 locations. Mobily's Chief Technology Officer Mezyad Bin Nasser Al Harbi said: "Mobily seeks to provide Internet services through Wi-Fi technology free of charge to reinforce the positive image of the Kingdom to all pilgrims. " This is the ninth year that Mobily has provide the facility.

South Africa: MFS approval - Econet is to launch Ecocash services from South Africa in early October, The Source reported. It has received approval from the appropriate regulatory authorities. It is to partner with Flash Mobile Vending, a subsidiary of retail giant Pepkor, whose mobile vending service is used by more than 60,000 informal sector small business shop owners in South Africa. The service will only be available to Zimbabweans who have an Econet Wireless South Africa SIM card, known as 'Call Home' and which is powered by Cell C.

South Africa: Spam surprise - Some 2,000 Vodacom, MTN, and Cell C customers have been refunded after paying to opt out of a 'funny video' service, following a spam SMS campaign which charged them to reply 'Stop', MyBroadband reported. According to The Power Report in the Sunday Times, Xihari Consulting used MTN IWS, an MTN-owned WASP, to send 44,230 mobile users a message. The 1,786 users who replied 'Stop' were charged ZAR 3 (USD 0.22).

Swaziland: Roaming rates - MTN Swaziland's Senior Customer Experience Officer Muzikayise Mthembu has said the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region was working towards a reduction in roaming costs, and this may allow MTN to offer lower roaming charges in the future. Currently it is in the hands of its network roaming partners.

Tunisia: School connectivity - All public schools in will be connected to the Internet by the next school year, 2016-2017. Of the 6,000 schools, Tunisie Telecom has already connected 4,000. Minister of Communication Technologies and the Digital Economy, Noomène Fehri, Co-ordinator of the project made the statement on 15 September 2015. The requirement is mandated in the ICT 2020 agenda. Fehri, however, expressed concerns about the lack of maintenance of these facilities, particularly those in remote areas.

Turkey: Infrastructure investments - Turkcell is to fund infrastructure investments with a loan deal with BNP Paribas, Citibank, HSBC, ING and Intesa Sanpaolo for an amount of USD 500 million and EUR 445 million with an availability period until 30 June 2016. Dunya reported that the unsecured loan has a 2-year grace period, 5 years maturity, principal repayment in every 6 months and an annual interest rate of 3 month Libor/Euribor +2.00 percent.

United Arab Emirates: GBI for Smarthub - Gulf Bridge International (GBI), an international cable network operator, has connected to Etisalat's SmartHub. GBI's Chief Commercial Officer Amr Eid said joining Etisalat's ecosystem will strengthen the diversified portfolio of services on the network and will enhance content and capacity offerings to carriers, ISPs and enterprise customers in the Middle East region and globally.

United Arab Emirates: International incentive - Etisalat's Wasel mobile customers can now make voice calls to 190 countries at any time at a fixed, discounted rate. Wasel pre-paid mobile users calling India, Bangladesh and China will be charged at AED 0.30 (USD 0.08) per minute for a limited period, instead of AED 0.48 (USD 0.13). Calls to Egypt, Pakistan, Nepal, Indonesia, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka will be charged at AED 0.60 (USD 0.16) per minute, and calls to Nigeria, the Philippines, Palestine, Jordan and Syria will be charged at a fixed rate of AED 0.90 (USD 0.25) per minute. Calls to 44 countries including Lebonan, GCC, USA, UK and Sudan are AED 1.20 (USD 0.33) per minute, and calls to 131 other countries are charged at AED 1.80 (USD 0.49) per minute.

Zambia: Promotional paralysis - The Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA) has written to MTN, Airtel and Zamtel instructing them to address issues of quality of service delivery immediately, ITWeb reported. ZICTA consumer protection officer Edgar Mlauzi said meetings had been held with operators, and said consideration was being given to banning promotions, as they affect service delivery.

Zimbabwe: Fibre for cities - Internet service provider ZOL, a subsidiary of Econet-owned Liquid Telecoms, is to roll out fibre networks in Bulawayo, Gweru and Mutare, the Zimbabwe Independent reported. ZOL will launch a range of new voice and data plans over its infrastructure. Earlier this year Liquid Telecoms secured a USD 150 million loan from Standard Chartered Bank to fund fibre expansion. Econet and its ZOL unit are the main competitors to state-owned TelOne, with ZOL having rolled-out fibre networks in Harare and Victoria Falls.