News in Brief to 16 December 2015

Africa & Middle East: Rating revision - Fitch Ratings has adjusted MTN Group's credit rating down a level. This was due to the increased risk that it faces in its two largest African markets, Nigeria and South Africa. The rating was cut to BBB- on Thursday last week. In Nigeria MTN has been fined MTN USD 3.9 billion, whilst South Africa's credit rating was cut by Fitch last week due to a worsening growth outlook that threatens fiscal credibility.


Cameroon: SIM registration - A campaign to register mobile subscribers is to start on 21 December 2015, the Telecommunications Control Agency (ART) told APA last week. Unidentified numbers will be systematically deactivated. A similar campaign was undertaken in August 2014. An audit undertaken between May and June 2015, found some users owned dozens of SIM cards linked to a single operator.

Gabon: Capital 4G - Airtel has commissioned its new 4G LTE network in Libreville. The network went live on 10 December. Gabon Telecom launched its 4G offering in October 2014. In July 2015 Airtel Gabon selected Ericsson for its 4G network deployment. The telco paid USD 11.55 million for a ten-year 3G/4G licence in March 2014.


Kenya: Access via Airtel - I&M Bank customers can now access to their accounts via Airtel Money without charge. The account holders will be able to pull money from their bank accounts into their Airtel Money wallets or, push money from their Airtel Money wallets to their I&M Bank accounts automatically. A promotional offer valid till 31 March 2016 allows I&M Bank customers who have linked their Airtel Money wallets to the service will enjoy free transfers from their I&M Bank account to Airtel Money and from Airtel Money to I&M Bank accounts.

Kenya: Hard evidence - The Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) has asked Airtel Kenya to provide evidence that Safaricom is violating an agreement on sharing mobile money agents. The CAK director-general Kariuki Wang'ombe said Airtel had sought his intervention, Business Daily reported. Airtel has written to Safaricom accusing it of coercing its mobile money transfer agents to remove Airtel branding from shops and to stop offering Airtel Money services.

Kenya: Low cost housing - In a move to encourage transparency, Safaricom's CEO Bob Collymore has claimed he has net assets of some USD 2.72 million. Among the assets listed by Collymore is a house in London valued at USD 530,000 and shares in Safaricom worth USD 180,000. According to data from the UK's Land Registry the average London property is now worth GBP 499,997 (USD 758,515), which suggests either Mr Collymore has a small flat in an unpopular part of the city, or hasn't been to London for a while.

Kenya: Roaming bundle - Telkom Kenya has launched its pre-paid Mashariki bundle offering favourable roaming voice and SMS rates. This is in response to the East African Community's aim to lower the cost of roaming charges in the region under the One Network Area initiative. Subscribers travelling in Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan benefit from the package. For every KES 1,000 (USD 9.61) used, a customer gets 70 minutes with 120 SMSs (or up to 130 minutes upon conversion of SMSs to minutes or up to 260 SMSs upon conversion of minutes to SMSs). For every KES 500 used, 30 minutes with 70 SMSs (or up to 65 minutes upon conversion of SMSs to minutes or up to 130 SMSs upon conversion of minutes to SMSs).

Kenya: Shop service - Bharti Airtel has opened 18 new customer service shops over the last 10 months with a plan to open 10 more before the end of its financial year in April 2016. The Airtel shops offer a range of services including Airtel Money transactions, mobile data services, SIM replacements, post-paid contracts signup and bill payments. The shops also offer a wide range of devices including phones and tablets. Airtel Premier lounges are available at Parkside, Sarit, Oval, Koinange Street and Moi Avenue in Mombasa. Airtel has 20 customer service shops and 25 distributors-owned shops.

Kenya: Smart upgrade - The Note 2 (X600) has been launched in Kenya by Infinix Mobility. The smartphone has a 6-inch HD display and a long-life battery with fast-charging capability, and is the successor to the Infinix Hot Note (X551) smartphone. Sales of the latter reached over half a million in Kenya since its launch in February 2015. The new phone is available on Jumia with a retail price of KES 12,499 (USD 121).


Kuwait: Stake sale approved - The Kuwaiti Capital Markets Authority (CMA) has approved Saudi Telecom Company's (STC) approval for the buyout of a 74 percent stake of Kuwait Telecom Company?s (Viva?s) total outstanding shares at a price of KWD 1 (USD 3.29) per share. The purchase will be self-financing, with STC disclosing that the offer period will run from 27 December 2015 until 31 January 2016. Viva is owned by STC (26 percent), the government (24 percent) and the public (50 percent). In December 2011 STC announced it would list VIVA's shares on the Kuwait Stock Exchange (KSE), and which took place on 14 December 2014. VIVA previously staged an initial public offering (IPO) in July 2008, and raised some KWD 25 million (USD 82.4 million) in a sale open to Kuwaiti nationals only.

Lebanon: Financial motivation - Orascom Telecom withdrawal from the mobile network tender was not politically motivated, but was based on a financial assessment of continued operations, The Daily Star reported. Orascom was dealing with allegations recently made in the local press.

Middle East & North Africa: New channel - Image Nation Abu Dhabi and Discovery Networks are launched a new TV channel under the Quest Arabiya moniker in the Middle East and North Africa. The channel is to offer original content from and for the region. It is available in 45 million homes in 22 countries. Genres of extreme outdoor activities, engineering, nature and wildlife, science and space, and people and places will feature. It will also feature content from Discovery and its international channel Quest's extensive back catalogue.

Nigeria: New devices - Asus is launching four Zenfone mobile devices, including the Selfie, Laser 5.5, Go 5.0 and C 4.5, all of which feature comprehensive camera systems. The devices feature front and back cameras with 13 megapixel, with users able to share photographs and document without using Bluetooth and without Internet connectivity. Sharing is performed through the Party Link app that is embedded in the phones. All ZenFone models are equipped with ASUS PixelMaster technology. The ZenFone Selfie boasts an up to octa-core 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with 3GB of fast memory and LTE connectivity with dual-Sim slots. ZenFone Laser also incorporates the latest Corning Gorilla Glass 4, a quad-core 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with 2GB memory and LTE connectivity with dual-SIM slots.

Qatar: VSAT venture - Ooredoo Qatar and Es'hailSat are to work together on a range of new satellite and communication services for Qatar, Peninsula On-line has reported. Es'hailSat is to be one of Ooredoo's preferred partners, and will work with Ooredoo to develop a portfolio of VSAT and other satellite services for customers in Qatar. They will collaborate on designs and specifications for developing VSAT projects.

Rwanda: Bus fare - MTN Rwanda has introduced bus fare payments, allowing subscribers to buy tickets from public bus companies using mobile money, New Times reported. CEO Gunter Engling said the new application would contribute to the growth of the public transport sector. The service has been tested with six bus companies.

Rwanda: Cost cutting - The New Times has reported that Airtel Rwanda is in the process of trimming its costs, and will accordingly shortly terminate the contracts of several of its senior and middle managers. However the paper reports 'sources' as saying that Airtel is not planning to exit Rwanda and that it is only restructuring.

Saudi Arabia: Service delivery - Saudi Telecom Company (STC) has selected the Cisco Virtualised Packet Core (VPC) for its mobile service delivery model. STC is the first service provider to deploy the solution in the Middle East and North Africa. VPC will allow STC to simplify and accelerate the process of adding new enterprise customers from all vertical sectors including healthcare, transportation, retail, banking etc. and launching new applications. The Cisco VPC provides a universal mobile packet core to support all STC's wireless services in a single solution.

South Africa: Digital deadline - The switch-on of the digital signal has now been set as 1 February 2016, TechCentral reports. Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe said that Cabinet had been briefed on the progress made on the digital migration programme, and that the dual illumination period for the digital broadcasting signal had been set. The migration was originally scheduled for November 2011 in line with a Cabinet decision taken in 2007, but was pushed back to 1 December 2013, and subsequently 17 June 2015, the International Telecommunication Union?s deadline for analogue switch-off.
South Africa: Local content - SAVuka TV is offering video-on-demand (VoD) through its mobile TV application. Initially available on Android, the app provides short clips of quality local pay-TV content. Created by Pecil Productions. Content includes dramas, reality shows, documentaries and lifestyle programmes, which are about eight minutes long. Users can choose various payment options through PayGate via Subscriptions start at a daily ZAR 9.99 (USD 0.66); ZAR 19.99 (USD 1.32) for five days and ZAR 35 (USD 2.32) for a month. Pay-per-view prices are premium (ZAR 5.50 per view), fresh (ZAR 3.50 per view) and lite (ZAR 1.50 per view).

South Africa: Travel Saver - Vodacom South Africa's post paid subscribers can now save on roaming rates when they travel to 180 countries including the USA, UK, France, Spain, Brazil, Hong Kong, China, Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya with effect from December 2015.

Tanzania: LTE coverage - Five regions are now served by Tigo's 4G LTE network, namely Dar, Arusha, Tanga, Dodoma and Morogoro. Tigo Chief Commercial Officer, Shavkat Berdiev said that Mwanza, Zanzibar and Moshi would be added in the New Year with the ultimate goal to cover the entire country by the end of 2016. Luxembourg-based Millicom owns Tigo.

Turkey: Porting process - Telecom regulator BTK has amended the number portability regulations. The process for fixed lines has been shortened, as the 3 month waiting period after the subscription date with the number holder has been removed. The rule has also been removed for mobile subscriptions with taken over numbers. It will also be possible to take-over a ported number in the recipient operator, and the submission period of porting requests and checking period of porting requests has been reduced from 2 to 1 day. A notification tone is to be given to subscribers on mobile number porting. However, subscribers will have the right not to hear the tone. The current application will continue in fixed number portability.

Turkey: Sales appointment - Turkcell has appointed Ismail Butun as its new Senior Vice President of Retail Sales under the Sales Function, effective from 15 January 2016. He was previously General Manager, Beverages Group at Nestle. Butun has almost 20 years of professional experience in marketing and sales.

United Arab Emirates: Market focus - Ericsson has commissioned a telecom equipment hardware and software distribution centre. It offers hardware assembly and software load implemented at the same location. The regional hub will support countries in the Middle East and Africa, and the set-up is based on postponing the hardware assembly to a later stage in the supply chain. The centre was formally opened on 7 December. It is located in the Logistics District in Dubai South.

United Arab Emirates: Public platform - Elitecore Technologies have provided du with a platform to allow the monetisation of Wi-Fi in public spaces. The WiFi Service Management Platform allows enhanced Wi-Fi services, such as complementary basic Wi-Fi access, free high-speed access for government services, and premium paid high-speed Wi-Fi. Advanced management capabilities such as analytics and insights into usage and customisable push notifications for nearby Wi-Fi availability are also available.

Zimbabwe: Listening minister - Minister of ICT Supa Mandiwanzira has said that the concerns of operators will be listened to, although a review of mobile tariffs is not being considered, ITWebAfrica reported. The Minister said the government was trying to understand the positions from which the telcos are requesting permission to raise tariffs from the current rate of 15 cents per minute. The Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (POTRAZ) earlier in 2015 instructed telcos to cut their mobile tariffs by 30 percent. In a paper prepared for the Minister, the three argued that the economy is difficult and revenues are fast declining, which in turn is stifling innovative.

Zimbabwe: NFC from Econet - Econet Wireless is launching a tap and go payment system called EcoCash Ta! The service will enable customers to buy from vendors and informal merchants without using cash. Econet Wireless Zimbabwe Chief Executive Douglas Mboweni said that more than 500 vendors, merchants and agencies had signed for EcoCash Ta! in Harare alone, and Econet planned to launch it in other parts of the country over the next few weeks. The Near Field Communication technology enables clients to tap their mobile phone against a merchant or vendor's enabled micro point-of-sale device and the value of the transaction is automatically deducted from the client?s EcoCash account. No PIN is required when paying for purchases of up to USD 3, and any transaction above USD 3 requires a PIN up to a daily limit of USD 1,000.