News in Brief to 06 January 2016

Afghanistan: Bid extension - Bids for MCIT's tender for the creation of a forensic Laboratory for Digital Crime investigation were due to be opened on 30 December 2015. The Ministry has now been extended the deadline to 10 am on 6 January 2016.

Bahrain: Better business - Batelco has opened a new service centre solely for business clients. An Enterprise-only helpline has been provided on 81888. The technology allows all callers to be identified. However, if business customers experience any issues with their mobile service, they are still encouraged to call Batelco Help Desk on 196. In 2015 Batelco also launched a new e-Services portal for its Enterprise customers providing full visibility on account status and network performance. Additionally, an online chat for Fixed Data Connectivity and ISDN circuits was also launched earlier in the year to assist Enterprise customers.

Bahrain: Group head confirmed - Batelco has appointed Ihab Hinnawi as its Group Chief Executive; Hinnawi has held the role of acting Goup CEO since February 2015. Hinnawi has over 25 years of managerial experience, and has been CEO of Batelco’s Umniah operation since 2009. He previously held the role of enterprise division GM at Batelco Bahrain and the role of CEO at Batelco Jordan.

Botswana: Privatisation prospectus - The long-awaited privatisation of Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) is now scheduled for April 2016, and the prospectus can now be downloaded here. BTC was established in 1980, with the aim of providing, developing, operating and managing Botswana's national and international telecommunications services. BTCL is the only PTO license holder operating both fixed and mobile networks.

Egypt: Korean kick-in-the-pants - Orascom Telecom Media and Technology Group (OTMT) is reported to have lost control of its 75 percent stake in North Korean koryolink. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Pyongyang authorities launched a rival service, Byol, and is now considering merging it with koryolink. In November 2015 Sawiris, the CEO of koryolink, said that nationalisation was not being considered and that talks were underway with the authorities to continue operations. In 2014 koryolink reported profits of USD 270 million dollars after taxes and amortisation of USD 344 million in revenue from its nearly 3 million customers. The company has been unable to repatriate these funds.

Guinea-Bissau: LTE launch - Orange Bissau commissioned its 4G LTE network on 23 December 2015, initially serving the capital Bissau, but with plans to extend to other cities and remote locations. The commercial launch was facilitated by the earlier purchase of a joint 3G/4G licence from the government at a cost of XOF 2 billion (USD 3.33 million). Orange Bissau upgraded to 3G+ on 1 May 2015, and is a subsidiary of Sonatel (Orange Senegal).



Jordan: VoIP regs - The Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) is to issue VoIP call regulations shortly, the Jordan Times reported. A final decision will be made on the new regulations in line with the Telecommunications Law, TRC Chief Commissioner Ghazi Jbour said. IP applications for voice calls over the Internet has affected telco revenues, adding that such apps use infrastructure developed by telcos operating in the local market. The TRC has undertaken a study with local operators on the impact of VoIP apps such as Viber and WhatsApp on the market and its revenues.

Nigeria: Face recognition - Chinese phone maker Gionee has launched its Gionee S Plus. Director, African Region of Gionee, Mr. Frank Chenlei, said the brand was the result of significant research and consistent consumer engagement. ThisDay reported that the design includes Face Recognition, that identifies the users face and can be used to unlock the phone. It is powered by an Octa-core processor, it comes with 2GB RAM and 16GB internal storage which can be expanded up to 128GB via a micro SD card. It features a 13MP rear camera with LED flash and 5MP front selfie camera. 13MP rear camera with PDAF technology, imitates the human eye, as the shutter can shoot a picture with only 0.25 second. Also new to the Nigerian market is the Lenovo Vibe P1m and Vibe S1, The Guardian reported. The Vibe S1 is a dual selfie camera smartphone, with two front cameras. Its 8 megapixel primary camera captures high quality images while the 2 megapixel secondary camera provides detailed information on images.

Nigeria: ICT plan - A new blueprint for the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry is to be published this month, according to Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu. In a statement obtained by the News Agency of Nigeria on Sunday, Shittu said that the blueprint would transform Nigeria's ICT sector. He noted that the government wanted to put an end to its dependency on oil. A committee comprising public and private sector stakeholders is to advise government on critical ICT issues that affect national development. The National Broadband Policy is to be considered, among other issues, as part of the new blueprint.

Nigeria: Juliet joins Jumia - Africa Internet Group's Jumia has named Mrs Juliet Anammah as the unit's new head. Anammah replaces former co-CEOs Jeremy Doutte and Nicolas Martin, who are taking the reins of Jumia Global across the 11 African countries in which the group operates. Anammah was previously a Partner at Accenture and the Managing Director of its Consumer Goods Practice in Nigeria.

Oman: Multiple lines - Omantel has launched Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking service for its Enterprise customers. Manager of connectivity solutions at Omantel Corporate Unit, Eng Ahmed bin Ali al Ojaily said: "The SIP service is an ideal solution that provide multiple voice services to fixed lines with several benefits ". SIP is being offered in three packages. The first includes ten channels (the number of calls running at the same time), is available for OMR 60 (USD 156) per month; the second offers 20 channels and costs OMR 75 (USD 195). The third offers 30 channels and costs OMR 90 (USD 234).

Qatar: Online approvals - The Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA) will grant authorisations for the imports of telecommunications and radio equipment to businesses in Qatar through the Qatar Government Portal, Hukoomi, with effect from 3 January 2016. CRA authorisation is necessary for the sale of mobile phones and private mobile radio devices. To ensure a smooth transition, CRA will also accept submissions manually until end of February.

Saudi Arabia: Retail rewards - In late December Mobily said that its point-based Neqaty loyalty programme is now available in over 1,200 retail outlets for more than 40 renowned brands representing a total of 22 partners, where customers can utilise their existing points and earn more points through shopping. Neqaty partners now include eXtra stores that offer electronics and household appliances and offers 35 points of presence. Neqaty members can earn one point for each SAR 10 spent while shopping at eXtra stores and Loumar Thobe. Neqaty partners also include a wide array of household brand names, including Al Borj Laboratories, Abul Latif Jameel Electronics, Avis Rent a Car Service, iZone, Tokyo Games, Diet Center, various pharmacies and salons, Virgin Mega Store, Saad Addin sweets and Loumar Thobe.

Saudi Arabia: Shares sought - In late December Saudi Telecom Company (STC) offered to buy the shares in Sale Advanced Company (SaleCo) it does not already hold, for SAR 400 million (USD 106 million), Gulf Magazine reported. The transaction will be financed by existing resources. STC released a statement on the 'Tadawul' financial market site in which it said that it currently owns 60 percent of the company. SaleCo is a Saudi based company located in Riyadh offering sales services through all distribution channel networks located in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab States.

South Africa: Double billing - On Friday 1 January a number of Vodacom accounts were double billed. Techcentral reported that an SMS was sent to users on Friday afternoon to tell them of the problem. Affected users were due to be refunded on Monday. It is unknown how many users were affected.

Tanzania: Facebook following - Tigo Tanzania's Facebook followers recently clocked a staggering 1million, making its Facebook page the most popular. Tigo's Facebook page was created in June 2011 and Tigo has won two trophies for 'The Hall of Fame in Brand Excellence', and 'The Best use of Social Media in Marketing'. According to Socialbakers, a social marketing company that analyses and monitors the use of social media and is also a member of Facebook Marketing Partners, Tanzania currently has 4,144,40 Facebook users. Tigo Facebook therefore has over 41 percent of local Facebook users. Tigo General Manager, Diego Gutierrez said: 'Our platform on Facebook and our official twitter handle (Tigo_TZ), have become essential tools for us to listen and learn from our growing technology-savvy customers and the public in general.'

Zambia: Debt cleared - The government has approved the conversion of all debt owed to it by the Zambia Telecommunications Company (Zamtel) into equity. Acting Chief Government spokesperson Vincent Mwale said Zamtel owes the government over ZWK 1.5 billion (USD 135.5 million). Zamtel is state-owned and is the country's smallest operator with less than 2 million subscribers. In February 2015 the Auditor General's report showed that Zamtel had not made a profit since it was taken over from Libya's Lap Green Networks in 2012. Lap Green Networks had purchased the company in 2009 for USD 257 million.

Zambia: Tower plan - Zamtel is to commission more than a thousand towers in 2016 in a bid to improve connectivity, the Times of Zambia reported. CMO Evans Muhanga said it was targeting rural areas with broadband and mobile services. The company is to also undertake a programme of building refurbishment.

Zimbabwe: Littering legacy - Mobile operators have been given six months to phase out scratch airtime recharge cards, ITWebAfrica reported. The Minister of Environment, Water and Climate, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri noted that the operators had ignored the extended producer responsibility principle by leaving the responsibility of clearing scratched top-up cards discarded in public places to the local authorities. The Minister ordered the mobile operators to use alternative systems of recharging phones. A USD 20 fine for littering and USD 5,000 for illegal dumping have been introduced.