News in Brief 28 September 2015

Africa: Best telco - MTN has been named as the Most Admired and the Most Valuable African brand, valued at USD 4.672 billion, its second award in two years. Brand Africa made the announcement at the 4th Annual Brand Africa 100: Africa?s Best Brands gala event. Three telecom-related brands appeared in the Top 10 Most Admired Brands in Africa: 1. MTN (South Africa) (up 1 place); 6. Nokia (down 2 places) and 7. Airtel (up 4). The Top 10 Most Valuable Brands African featured four communications firms: 1. MTN (down 13 percent); 2. DSTV/GoTV/Multichoice (up 2 percent); 3. Safaricom/M-Pesa (up 4 percent) and 6. Glo/Globacom (down 3 percent).

East Africa: Conformity on counterfeits - The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) through its Conformance and Interoperability programme is supporting the efforts by East African countries' to set-up national and regional Conformance and Interoperability test labs which will eventually be used to stop or check the importation of counterfeit communication devices into the region. The ITU sponsored a workshop in Nairobi last week on the subject.

Egypt: OTMT options - Orascom Telecom Media and Technology's board has approved an offer to acquire, together with investment bank ACT Financial, 100 percent of shares of Beltone Financial. The offer is only valid on condition that it obtains a minimum 51 percent holding. Of the shares offered, 53 percent would go to Orascom Telecom, and 13 percent would go to ACT Financial. Any remaining shares offered would be allocated to Orascom Telecom.

Iran: Credit line - Russia expects to open a USD 5 billion credit line to finance Iranian infrastructure projects officials from both countries said on Thursday last week during a visit by Moscow's energy minister, Alexander Novak, who met Iranian Telecommunications Minister Mahmoud Vaezi, the ISNA news agency reported. According to Transportation Minister Abbas Akhoundi the first project would be to electrify the Garmsar-Incheh Borun railway line.

Israel: GT sale interest - Cellcom, Pelephone and Hot Mobile have expressed interest in acquiring Golan Telecom, Globes reported. Partner is not participating. It is suggested that Xfone's owner Hezi Bezalel could also be interested. The interested parties have been asked to appoint a 'clean team' of external advisors that are not employees, and should consist of lawyers, economists and consultants. Golan aims for bids to be made by the end of October.

Israel: Nullified notes - Partner Communications is to buy-back Series B, C and E Notes traded on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. It will repurchase the notes from time-to-time up to an aggregate amount of ILS 250 million (USD 64.6 million) through to 19 October 2016. The repurchased notes will be cancelled.

Kenya: Mobile movies - Safaricom is now partnering with Vuclip, the mobile video-on-demand service which offers users premium video content on their mobile phones, and allows subscribers to access around 100 videos a day for only KES 10 (USD 0.01). Safaricom's CEO, Bob Collymore said in the release that such deals allow it to 'exploit current and future technological trends to deliver differentiated services that are consistent with market needs'.

Kenya: Roaming reduced - Airtel has announced a flat rate tariff for its Kenya subscribers travelling to the 16 countries in Africa in which it has an operation. The cost of making roaming calls has fallen by between 85 and 32.4 percent. Airtel subscribers making calls back to Kenya do so now at KES 35 (USD 0.34) down from KES 227.30 (USD 2.19) per minute and KES 12 (USD 0.12) from the previous KES 37 (USD 0.36) for making calls from Kenya. Receiving calls while roaming still remains free of charge for the first 100 minutes a month. Sending an SMS message will cost KES 17 (USD 0.16) while incoming SMS are not charged. Rwanda and Uganda are not included under the One Airtel network as a local agreement now exists between East African countries.

Namibia: Finger pointed at MTC - Telecom Namibia last week said the interference generated by MTC is affecting the quality of its 2G and 3G services. Subscribers are experiencing connectivity problems, according to a report by The Namibian. Telecom Namibia's head of corporate communications, Oiva Angula, said that the matter had been reported to the Communication Regulatory Authority of Namibia (Cran), and the regulator received details on 11 September 2015.

Nigeria: Cisco Cloud competency - Cisco has re-certified Vodafone Group Plc as a Cisco Cloud and Managed Services Master Partner globally. As a Cisco Cloud and Managed Services Master Certified Partner, Vodacom Business Nigeria will deliver at least two Cisco Powered services built on the IT Infrastructure Library framework, and provide enhanced management and stewardship practices to its customers.

Qatar: Small change substitute - Early last week Ooredoo launched a new Supermarket Hala Change Service, allowing customers to have airtime minutes as change from their shopping when paying by cash when retailer run short of small change in their tills. Users will have the option of a Hala Mini Bonus Recharge card worth QAR 0.50 (USD 0.14) each when the cashier has no change. This can be redeemed for five local minutes that can be used for calls to fixed lines and mobiles for 24 hours once activated. The Hala Mini Bonus Recharge card is available at popular supermarkets and shops. Users scratch-off the panel on the back of the card to reveal a PIN number, and dial *127*PIN# to activate the allowance.

Saudi Arabia: Lender limbo - Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) aims to reach agreement with lenders to set new covenants for some outstanding loans by the end of 2015, its Chief Executive said in a television interview last week. It originally hoped to reach a deal by the end of June. It revealed in February that it was in breach of the terms of loans from various lenders after issuing a drastically reduced restatement of previously announced profit. The facilities required it to achieve a minimum earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) and its restated earnings brought EBITDA below the agreed level.

South Africa: Broadband budget - In his Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) tabled in parliament on Wednesday last week Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene has stayed with the austere fiscal path adopted last year. However the Minister envisaged investing some ZAR 1 billion (USD 74.1 million) in the rollout of broadband infrastructure and the broadcast digital migration. The move is justified as 'competitiveness improves as result of broadband investment'. In February, Nene said the broadband budget was targeted at broadband connectivity in government institutions and schools. Fin 24 reported other winners are upgrades and maintenance of the national and provincial road networks (ZAR 4.8 billion) and provincial public transport (ZAR 1.4 billion).

South Africa: Mobile health solution - Vodacom has showcased its m-Health services at GovTech, the South African ICT conference, ITNewsAfrica reported. The solution, developed in conjunction with Vodacom partners and health experts, is geared to address the government?s strategic healthcare goals of increasing life expectancy; decreasing maternal and child mortality; combating HIV and AIDS and decreasing the burden of tuberculosis (TB). Vodacom Business Chief Officer, Vuyani Jarana said: "We are combining the pervasiveness of mobile devices, and accessibility of mobile apps with the expansive coverage of Vodacom?s network to take healthcare directly to the citizen, making services more affordable. " He added that the solution uses 'non-capex intensive systems, which are rapidly deployed to broad-based health outreach workers and patients even in the most remote areas.'

South Africa: Mxit moves on - South Africa's first feature phone messaging service said it is donating its intellectual property (IP) and technology assets to The Reach Trust. CEO Francois Swart is to step down after three years and all staff will be employed by the trust, Mxit said in a statement. The Reach Trust is an independent public benefit organisation established to improve lives through the development of innovative and cost-effective mobile solutions. Swart noted: "Whilst Mxit overall has seen a decline in activity and engagement over the past 18 months, the use of services offered by The Reach Trust on Mxit has been stable and in many cases show an upward trend. "

South Africa: Teacher tie-up - Vodacom South Africa and educational publisher Pearson South Africa (PSA) are to partner on the distribution of digital learning content consisting of school textbooks, supplementary material and adult education under Vodacom's Mobile Education Programme. The content will be used by teachers to prepare lesson plans, and the Pearson content will be provided in print and e-book format. The programme is run in partnership with the Department of Basic Education, Microsoft, Mindset Learn and Cisco.

South Africa: Vodacom proceeds - The National Treasury wants to use the SAR 2 billion (USD 148.2 million) from the sale of its Vodacom shares as an initial capital contribution to the BRICS New Development Bank. The Treasury said in a document submitted to parliament that the sale is expected to yield SAR 25.4 billion, of which SAR 23 billion has been provided to recapitalise Eskom.

Swaziland: Soccer airtime suspensions - The Swaziland Post and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC) has suspended three senior managers the leakage of documents relating to the Swazi Telecom Charity Cup credit facility that was advanced to teams, the Swazi Times reported. SPTC gave SZL 1.1 million (USD 81,000) worth of airtime credit to Manzini Wanderers, Young Buffaloes, Royal Leopard and Manzini Sundowns.

Uganda: Better branding - Airtel Uganda announced on 20 October a restructuring in its sales and distribution operations. MD Tom Gutjahr said it is implementing a revised strategic plan to better align the sales and distribution team to business priorities. Gutjahr said the Airtel brand in Uganda continues to grow, but the restructuring is needed to ensure that its go-to-market model is appropriate for business conditions and that its operations remain competitive. Additional talent is to be sourced to join the existing team. Airtel confirmed the appointment of Tom Gutjahr as its Ugandan MD director in July 2014; he was CEO at Tino Paraguay previously.

United Arab Emirates: Healthy fibre solution - The Dubai Medical District has a struck a deal with mobile operator du to collaborate on the development of smart services. Easier modes of payment for du staff, Ministry of Health personnel and the general public are to be facilitated. du will create and establish infrastructure utilising fibre at Dubai Medical District, enhance signal range, and offer packages for Ministry staff.

United Arab Emirates: Innovative illumination - Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority (DSOA) is working with mobile operator du to install the UAE's first smart streetlights and building technologies within the free zone Technology Park. Motion sensors supplied and programmed by du ensure lights provide 25 percent visibility until triggered by approaching vehicles and pedestrians. Additional sensors can be added to the street lights to collect and share information and data on the surrounding environment, such as pollution and weather conditions, or relay CCTV, advertising messages and/or safety warnings.

United Arab Emirates: M2M focus - du is expanding its partnership with Vodafone Group to take in machine-to-machine (M2M) services in the UAE. du says it will combine its local market knowledge with Vodafone?s M2M platform and expertise. The initially focus on the connected car opportunities in-car infotainment, and mHealth applications.

United Arab Emirates: Threat minimisation - Etisalat last week signed a deal with next-generation security provider Palo Alto Networks. Etisalat will include Palo Alto Networks security platform in its Managed Security Services offerings. Etisalat's Chief Business Officer Salvador Anglada said cybersecurity threats were becoming more diverse and frequent, and pose greater dangers than ever for business.

United Arab Emirates: Two team-up - Siemens is to use its expertise to leverage mobile operator Etisalat's managed services and ICT solutions. Salvador Anglada, Chief Business Officer of Etisalat said: "We are now looking to leverage both companies' strengths, mainly in the cloud and digital component ". Head of Supply Chain Management & Procurement Siemens Middle East, Wissam Nasr. "We will build on the expertise experience and strengths of both companies ".

Zimbabwe: Cable cuts taken to court - TelOne is taking Media Technics and Liquid Telcom to the High Court seeking some USD 116,000 in compensation for cable damage caused when a trench was being dug sometime between May and June 2014 at a number of sites. Media Technics had been contracted by Liquid Telecom for the construction works.

Zimbabwe: EcoCash international payments - Payments from MoneyGram's clients in 200 countries can now be paid into Econet Wireless' EcoCash wallets, after the two signed a two-way deal last week. EcoCash has some 4.9 million EcoCash subscribers and 20,000 agency locations. MoneyGram is present in more than 50 African countries.