News in Brief to 18 November 2015

Africa: Forex fluctuations - Currency fluctuations are one of the biggest challenges for Etisalat's African operations, according to Etisalat Group's CEO Ahmad Abdulkarim Julfar. Etisalat operates in 18 markets and saw a drop in profit of 8.5 percent in the third quarter, with one of the primary reasons cited being losses due to foreign exchange. Julfar said: "The forex has impacted not only us, but everybody, especially if you operate in countries where the currency have really taken a big hit like Nigeria, Sudan and Egypt in our case. " He said operations in countries where the local currency is pegged to the euro, such as in west Africa, have not been affected so much. He noted that regulators had sought to have more operators to foster competition, but felt that the focus should be on the consolidation of operators. The CEO was speaking at the Arabian Business Forum in Dubai.

Africa & Middle East: Successful satellite - Arianespace launched two satellites on 10 November, namely Arabsat-6B (BADR-7) for Arabsat, and GSAT-15 for ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation). This is its tenth launch of 2015 from the Guiana Space Center (CSG), and sixth with the Ariane 5 heavy launcher. Arabsat-6B (BADR 7) is the ninth satellite orbited by Arianespace for this operator since the launch of Arabsat-1A in 1985. This satellite is the first of the sixth generation of satellites in the Arabsat fleet. It will provide telecommunications and direct-to-home (DTH) TV broadcast services for the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia. In 2012 Arabsat also confirmed its goal of bolstering its position in the Europe-Middle East-Africa (EMEA) zone by acquiring the company Hellasat.

Algeria: Cable compensation - Algeria Telecom is to compensate users for the time they were denied access to the Internet when the SEA-ME-WE4 cable was cut on 22 October. The Regulatory Authority ARPT said that all customers had been given a free automatic extension of their subscription for a period equal to the time during which their service was interrupted or degraded. The process of compensating users commenced on 4 November 2015.



Angola: Computer centre - The Minister of Telecommunications and Information Technologies said last week that more than 14 million people now have access to the mobile network. Jornal de Angola reported him inaugurating a computer centre in Luanda, as part of the 'Digital Ngola' programme. The centre has 24 computers connected to the Internet. The programme seeks to provide free Internet access in the provinces of Luanda and Lunda Sul, and has seen some 995,876 devices connected to the Internet this year. The provinces of Luanda, Malanje, Lunda Sul, Benguela and Uige have felt the benefits, with 11 provincial centres created.

Botswana: IPO imminent - The Minister of Transport and Communications Tshenolo Mabeo has said that the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTCL) Initial Public Offering (IPO) will be launched before the end of 2015. Botswana Daily News reported Mabeo as saying that on launch, it would take eight weeks for people to show their interest in buying shares. Of the 49 percent of the BTCL shares the government is selling, 5 percent will be reserved for BTCL staff.

Egypt: Loss for GT - Global Telecom lost some USD 32 million during 3Q 2015, a 13.4 percent fall compared to the second quarter but still up on the same period in 3Q 2014. Annual net losses improved due to the low cost of services. Financial costs also fell by 63.7 percent compared to 3Q14, in addition to a 48.4 percent fall led by price exchange against 3Q14. Income tax rate fell by 69.7 percent in the year. Minority shares rose significantly compared to 3Q14 as a result of selling a 51 percent stake in Orascom Telecom?s shares in Algeria. Total revenue stood at USD 730 million in 3Q15, a fall of 13.0 percent from the same period in 2014. Last month, Orascom Telecom and Act Financial were looking to acquire 100 percent of Egypt-based financial services company Beltone in a deal worth some EGP 650 million (USD 82.8 million). Belltone shareholders have now approved the deal.

Ghana: Timetable trimmed - The timetable for the sale of spectrum in the 800MHz band has been revised. The National Communications Authority (NCA) said applications were submitted on 9 November and their assessment will take 26 business days. Assessment of eligibility and statutory certificates will take five days from 16 November; and the notification of eligible bidders and invitation to participate in the auction will take place on 20 November. Orientation for applicants on the auction process will take a day, and is scheduled for 23 November and payment of the bid deposit, which is 10 percent of the reserve price, will take place on 26 November. The auction will be held 1 - 3 December, with the winners named on 7 December. The licence fees can be paid from 7 December 2015, with the minimum reserve price due by 5 February 2016, and the difference between the minimum reserve and tender price by 6 March 2016. The NCA has 2x30 MHz of 800 MHz spectrum available after the digital switchover and at this stage is selling two licences of 2x10 MHz each, with the remainder to follow in 'due course'.

Kenya: Catholic communicator - Airtel has partnered with the Catholic Church as a platinum sponsor for the upcoming visit of His Holiness Pope Francis to Kenya on 25-27 November 2015. Some KES 10 million (USD 96,000) has been paid to the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB). Airtel Kenya CEO Adil El Youssefi presented the cheque. Airtel has also unveiled a Catholic Portal. Subscriptions options are KES 5 per day; KES 25 for a week or KES 70 for a month.

Kenya: Not for discussion - Parliament will not be asked to scrutinise Orange's sale of its 70 percent stake in Telkom Kenya to Helios, as it has been defined as a private transaction. The Business Daily reported the deal's adviser as saying it is a private one and the State's holding will not be affected by the sale. There have been calls for the terms of the deal to be made public before approval.

Nigeria: Wayward agents - Etisalat Nigeria has denied claims that SIM cards pre-registered on its network are on sale to the public. The claims followed localised promotion of pre-registered SIMs, Nigerian Reviews reported. Vice President Regulatory and Corporate Affairs, Ibrahim Dikko, issued a statement saying that agents were selling pre-registered SIMs in parts of the Lagos metropolis; an action which it could not condone, support or engage in. He said that measures had been put in place to ensure pre-registered SIMs were not available on its network.

Oman: Broadband bonanza - Omantel has told the Muscat bourse that it saw a 7.2 percent rise in its 3Q15 revenues to OMR 383.3 million (USD 995.6 million) from OMR 357.6 million (USD 928.8 million) in 3Q14. This was mainly driven by domestic retail revenues, which saw growth of 7.8 percent to OMR 377.7 million (USD 981.0 million) from OMR 350.4 million (USD 910.1 million) in 3Q14. There was a strong performance by both fixed and mobile broadband as well as wholesale services, with fixed and mobile broadband revenues growing some 26 percent.

Oman: Secure fibre solution - Omantel has launched International Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) for corporate customers last week. This allows multi-national companies to have a dedicated and secure connectivity with their headquarters and branches internationally. Omantel Corporate Business Unit's Manager of Connectivity Solutions, Ahmed al Ojaily, said: "...This will help organisations exchange information in a very secure and safe manner, at different speeds and at affordable prices. "

South Sudan: Cross-border comms - Mobile subscribers in South Sudan can now use their SIM cards in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda without the need to acquire a new card, the Sudan Tribune has reported. Minister of Telecommunications Rebecca Joshua Okwaci said: "Today from here you can call Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda using your local SIM card and you will be paying the same cost that you are paying when you are in Juba. The one network area is now operational between South Sudan and the three East African countries ". The one network area was a directive of the Fifth Heads of State Summit held in Kenya in May 2014.

Tanzania: Cut compensated - Tigo Tanzania has apologised to over 10 million of its mobile subscribers following a service outage on Sunday 8 November, due to a network failure, The Citizen reported. Users were unable to make calls, send messages and send money via Tigo Pesa. A statement issued by Tigo said that the outage was due to 'reasons beyond its control related to multiple fibre cuts' that affected the network. Tigo's General Manager Diego Gutierrez formally apologised. Subscribers were compensated with six minutes of cross-network airtime, 40 texts and a megabyte of data which they could use until midnight the following Monday.

Zimbabwe: Unregistered users - Econet Wireless Zimbabwe is reported to have disconnected a million unregistered lines last week. The Herald noted that users were given an ultimatum via text messages to register the lines by 13 November. Econet Wireless Zimbabwe Executive Assistant to GCEO Mr Lovemore Nyatsine was quoted as saying it was 'an on-going exercise' and that it continued to encourage its subscribers to update their records.