Thursday, April 30, 2009

Rwandatel Subscribers Hit 280K Mark

Rwandatel, the second national telecom operator has currently hit 280,000 subscribers, the company's Public Relations Manager, Cleophas Kabasiita has said.

Kabasiita told Business Times that, "The company has hit 280,000 active subscribers to date and the company will be rolling out more products, which are in transit and they will be on the market very soon in order to attract more clients," Kabasiita said.

Rwandatel which was officially launched last December has a target of 600,000 subscribers by the end of this year.

Kabasiita also said that the company has been beefing up its human resource base and optimising the network.

The company officials also attributed the increasing number of subscribers to better network and service delivery to the unexpected number of subscribers within its infancy of operations.

"This is the reason why our subscribers have been increasing very first, our network is very good and our customers are experiencing less and less dropped calls," She added.

Rwandatel is the Second National Operator (SNO) in the country after MTN-Rwanda.

TIGO which is owned by the Luxemburg based Millicom International has also received an operating licence and is yet to go commercial by the end of this year.

Kabasiita stated that Rwandatel is not worried of the prevailing competition and that is bent on providing its subscribers with the best network and competitive prices.

The company is the only mobile operator in Rwanda offering all range of Information Communication Technology (ICT) services, including GSM, CDMA and 3G mobile services.

Rwandatel is owned by Libyan African Portfolio (LAP) Green, the company purchased 80 per cent shares and promised to invest $317m (Rfw173b) over 15 years period to revamp the telecom sector in the country.

Mobile Banking Could "Kill" Credit Cards & Cash

Banking by phone used to mean dialing a number and speaking with a teller. For Peter Kastner, 61, a consumer electronics consultant in Westport, it means whipping out his iPhone and touching an on-screen icon.

Up pops a program that connects Kastner to his Bank of America accounts, where he can check his balances and pay his bills, even when he's traveling or boating on the Westport River. No need to interact with a bank employee.

``I don't have to be tethered to a desktop anymore,'' said Kastner. ``Everything I can do on a Web browser, I can do on my iPhone.''

Mobile banking seems like a natural application for today's powerful smartphones, and a majority of the nation's major banks offer mobile services. But most of America's 270 million cellphone subscribers have yet to embrace the concept. That poses a challenge for efforts to convert our cellphones into digital wallets that would take the place of today's credit cards.

``About 10 percent of people have tried mobile banking,'' said Mitch Siegel, director of payment advisory services at the accounting and consulting firm KPMG LLP in Atlanta. Siegel adds that many of those who have signed up for mobile banking services rarely use them. 

But Scott Moeller, chief executive of mobile banking software maker M Shift Inc. in San Jose, Calif., said his client banks have been signing up lots of new customers over the past year. ``We're seeing the adoption rate increasing dramatically,'' said Moeller. ``You're looking at the start of what's to come.'' 

Moeller credits the increasing popularity of powerful smartphones like Apple Inc.'s iPhone and Research In Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry, which are capable of running more sophisticated programs than simpler, cheaper phones. 

Douglas Brown, senior vice president for mobile product development at Bank of America Corp. in Charlotte, N.C., said that his company alone has signed up 2.4 million mobile banking subscribers. ``There's a convenience and control function that people really enjoy,'' said Brown.

Today's mobile banking applications work in the same fashion as a bank's website. For example, the iPhone application for Bank of America lets users see account balances, transfer funds between multiple accounts, or make bill payments. ``Unfortunately, your cellphone can't give you cash,'' said Kastner.

But it can do the next best thing. By adding a radio frequency identification chip to the phone, it can be used to buy products at retail stores. A user would merely tap the phone against a ``near field communication'' device that could read the radio signal from the chip and collect the purchase price from the customer's bank or credit card company. It might sound like science fiction to Americans, but not to people in Japan. About 50 million people in that country carry ``wallet phones'' that let them buy items as well as place calls.

Wallet phones are getting tryouts in the United States, but nobody expects them to become commonplace anytime soon. ``We think this is more like a five- to 10-year thing,'' said KPMG's Siegel. 

The industry faces a classic chicken-and-egg challenge. Hardly any US cellphones contain the necessary chip technology, and consumers won't buy them until enough retail stores have checkout devices that will work with the technology.

Mohammad Khan, president and founder of Vivotech Inc. in Santa Clara, Calif., said that this problem is well on the way to being solved. About 80 million credit cards already contain the same kind of chip found in wallet phones. And Vivotech has sold about half a million of the card-reading devices, including 400,000 to retailers in the United States. As more retailers begin using the chip-reading checkout system, Khan predicted, consumers will grow comfortable with the technology and begin demanding wallet phones. ``They're tapping their card to pay,'' Khan said, ``and tomorrow they'll tap the phone to pay.''

Khan says digital wallet technology is very secure, even though credit data is being radioed from the phone to the checkout device. The phone's chip generates a unique code number for each transaction, so data intercepted by criminals couldn't be used to make any more purchases.

Still, it'll be years before most retailers will be able to accept cellphone payments. But efficiency-minded consumers like Kastner will welcome the changPublish Poste. ``That would be one step closer to removing currency from my life,'' he said. ``It's as simple as that. Convenience.'' 

Source: The Boston Globe 

Mobinil Q1 Profits Fall Below Forecasts

Eygpt's MobiNil, which is in the midst of a tussle between Orascom and France Telecom has posted a 6% drop in first-quarter profits to EGP424 million (US$75 million) - below most analysts expectations. Imputed interest amounts relative to 3G installment payments charged during the first quarter amounted to EGP 29 million and higher interest costs are the main driver for the decrease.

Revenues of EGP2.49 billion (US$445 million) was up on the EGP2.26 billion a year earlier. Capital expenditure for the first quarter reached EGP 420 million (US$75 million).

Mobinil ended the quarter with 21.179 million subscribers which represents an increase of 31% or 1.064 million net additions.

Commenting on first quarter 2009 results, Alex Shalaby, Chairman said: “Mobinil continued to grow in tough economic times and delivered on its identified growth strategy. This again confirms Mobinil’s success in building ties with its customers by providing quality services. In difficult economic conditions it is also gratifying to see Mobinil achieving on its profitability."

First quarter blended ARPU reached EGP 39 (US$6.97) with a decline of 16% over the same period last year mainly driven by the change of subscriber mix as the firm continues to penetrate lower market segments. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

MTN Acquires Revenue Assurance Platform from cVidya

South Africa's MTN ­has ordered a Revenue Assurance platform from cVidya Networks, along with a deal with HP to act as system integrator. No financial details of the contract were provided.

“We are delighted to be working with MTN and look forward to enabling MTN to improve its bottom line and efficiency. cVidya’s recognized the importance of the African market and we therefore consider MTN to be a strategic project, as cVidya’s first Tier 1 project in Africa,” commented Alon Aginsky, CEO at cVidya Networks.

Through an ongoing process, cVidya’s Revenue Assurance Solution automatically detects problem areas which impacts profitability as a result of revenue leakage, data inconsistencies or resources that are not being used efficiently. Once MoneyMap identifies the areas of revenue leakage and resource inefficiency, it provides the user with intuitive tools to promptly correct and manage the problems.

Fraudsters in Nigeria Resort to Phones

Fraudsters are now having a field day duping innocent Nigerians through internet and mobile phones, Daily Trust investigation reveals.

Many Nigerians who spoke to Daily Trust confirmed that they use to receive one or two such mails every month.

Some of the massage they circulate through Short Massage Services (SMS) read: "N1 million has been rewarded to you in the MTN 2009 rewards. Your code is 15rpz. Visit www. before 24hr for confirmation, sender MTN NIGERIA".

"Glo with pride! You have won N525,000 of d Glo February promo, ur num. Was among d 40 lucky winners and ur tic. G2 pls call cash office 4 claims on 08053513287, sender 08054559796"

Daily Trust gathered that all what the fraudster are asking is ATM details such as PIN and Number.

Speaking to one of the fraudster on phone, our reporter was asked to send his ATM details and the name of his bank for him to claims prize.

When contacted by our reporter both MTN and Glo disowned such massages, calling them '419ERS'.

Also Zain in a text massages to its customers warned that " please ignore any SMS telling you that you have won N1m and asking you to log on to for your winning prize. This is not from Zain"

The telecoms regulator, Nigerians Communications Commission recently moved to enforce the operators to register SIM as part of the efforts to reduce scam in the country.

Another means by which the fraudsters exploit to rip-off Nigerians is through sending mails to many email addresses asking people to upgrade their ATM cards online.

One of the scam emails they use is 'Interswitch Nigeria' in which they asked recipients to urgently upgrade their ATM details otherwise they stand the risk of getting their ATM cards been blocked.

Daily Trust learnt that as soon as you reply such mails your card details will be hijacked and they will remove what ever remains in your account.

Some banks have already places warning notice informing their customers about such scams, saying that customers should disregards such mails.

Aso Savings, Abuja urged customers to "please disregard any website or SMS that asks u to update your banking/ATM card details online. No bank will ask you to for PIN online. Always protect your PIN".

Another massages from the bank read: "Don't reveal your PIN to anyone. Its your signature protect it".


Meanwhile, Zain Nigeria has denied sending text messages to its subscribers with a reward package of N1m, Punch newspaper reports.

The company in a text message to its subscribers on Saturday, read, “Dear customer, please ignore any SMS telling you that you have won N1m and asking you to log to for your winnings. This is not from Zain.”

Zain Nigeria’s official website is:

As a fraud alert, the company had stated on its website that, “In view of somewhat regular fraudulent messages being sent out on redeeming gifts in purported Zain promotions, we would like you to take note of the following information to prevent our esteemed subscribers from falling victim of these fraudsters:

Subscribers will be contacted only through the following ways:

“SMS from ‘Zain’; Phone call from 08021900000 or Zain staff line having the prefix 0802222****; Information of winners published on our website or in the press.

Communication to winners via SMS will always have Zain as the originator ID.”

According to the telecoms company, “We will never request that subscriber’s part with any belonging in order to redeem prizes (either in form of cash or forwarding of messages to other subscribers).

“We strongly advise our customers to always verify the authenticity of any suspicious/alleged text or email supposedly from Zain and relating to any bonanza, promotions or offer by calling our customer service on 111 or send an email to the subscriber fraud unit - or call 070800FRAUD.”

Safaricom Opens New Call Centre

April 28, 2009: Safaricom has unveiled a Sh800 million customer care call centre as competition in the mobile telephone sector shifts from pricing to quality of service.

The centre, at Mlolongo on Mombasa Road, will handle prepaid and post paid inquires, data service products, M-Pesa, dealers, and directory services. 

Although the company had a small call centre before, its expanding customer base has dictated  the need to invest more in this department in terms of technology and training of the staff. 

The centre also comes at a time when it has been difficult for customers to get through the lines. 

Through the call contact centre customers will give the mobile company feedback on their products and services, which will in return help the firm to improve service delivery. 

“Competition within the sector will be determined by the quality of service offered by the operators and not price,” said Safaricom chief executive  Michael Joseph. The new facility can accommodate 1,000 staff per shift. 

However, at the moment the operator is not utilising the full capacity with only 650 staff who work in three shifts per day.  The facility can handle more than 80,000 contacts from customers’ service lines per day.

Mr Joseph said that although the initial plan three years ago was to outsource the service, this changed following research on how much the company would have to spend and the quality of service it would get from the third party.

Save on cost

While some of the operators have preferred to  outsource to save on cost, Mr Joseph said, the company decided to have its own call centre services because of the high amount of money that was being quoted by firms interested in offering the service. 

Business process outsourcing and contact centre operators have been urging private operators and the government to promote the sector by offering them their non core activities. 

Telkom Kenya is among mobile phone operators that have outsourced customer care services.  

Zain Kenya, on the other hand, has an internal customer care call centre, which it said was  operating at an optimum level, adding that there may be no need to outsource the service to a third party. 

Missing MTN Uganda Engineer Could Still Be Alive - Paper

­The mystery of an MTN engineer who vanished in Uganda nearly four years ago took an unexpected turn when it was recently claimed that he had been kidnapped by security services. Andrew Ndawula, the MTN engineer reportedly overhead sensitive communications between security officials in Kampala and the crew of the ill-fated helicopter which crashed and killed the Vice President of Sudan, John Garang.

John Garang was the former leader of the rebel forces in Southern Sudan, known as the SPLA who joined a US-led peace deal with the Northern Sudan and agreed an independence referendum in 2012. However, in late July 2005, Garang died after the Ugandan presidential Mi-172 helicopter he was flying in crashed. He had been returning from a meeting in Rwakitura with long-time ally President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda.

Both the Sudanese government and the head of the SPLA blamed the weather for the accident. There are, however, doubts as to the truth of this, especially amongst the rank-and-file of the SPLA. Yoweri Museveni, the Ugandan president, claims that the possibility of "external factors" having played a role could not be eliminated.

Four days after the crash, Ndawula vanished. Prior to his disappearance, he had been reported to be unusually tired and putting in particularly long hours, once not returning home until the small hours of the morning. A graduate from Makerere University, Ndawula was MTN’s Switch Planning Engineer.

A relative of the family told The Observer newspaper that “I was told that he is often moved between countries for his own safety after he overheard security information that is very sensitive to the region. The last we heard was that he had been to Nairobi, then Kigali. He is moved around,”

If there was a conspiracy to assassinate Vice President Garang then the peace deal in Sudan which is already tense could break down completely and destabilise the region.

Ndawula’s father, Kigongo-Musiige, however told the newspaper that he felt the information was "not concrete," but admitted that MTN officials had told him that his son might have listened to some sensitive communications.

At the time of the disappearance, there was a considerable fuss about the incident reaching to the Prime Minister's office.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

MTN, Zain Win Uganda PR Awards

MTN has won the first ever public relations excellence award for 2008, writes Vision Reporter.

MTN won the award for organising the fifth MTN Marathon race that took place last year. The company was also awarded the Corporate Social Responsibility Award.

The awards' chief judge, John Mramba, said the award for the public sector was won by the Civil Aviation Authority for their campaign; "Uganda's face for a better international image."

The award for the private sector was won by ZAIN for their campaign on the Akon concert.

The young practitioner of the year award was won by the senior public relations officer of the Uganda Red Cross Society, Catherine Ntabadde.

Fireworks won award for their campaign "Project Mist.

Friday, April 24, 2009

ICASA Supports Vodacom, Telkom Deal

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has defended the controversial sale and unbundling of Telkom SA shares in the Vodacom Group to UK based Vodafone.

“The Authority has decided to accept the notification received from Vodacom and not to require Vodacom to seek the Authority’s approval in respect of the transaction. In reaching its decision, the Authority considered the Ownership and Control Regulations, 2002, which remain in effect in terms of section 95(2) of the ECA,” ICASA said in a statement.

Wokers in the South African telecommunications sector are opposed to the move and have taken the government and the companies to court over the transaction. ICASA absolved itself from any wrongdoing.

“The Ownership and Control Regulations indicate that the Authority can only intervene, that is, through an approval process, in a transaction for the transfer of beneficial ownership of shares in a licensee on condition that, amongst other factors, a “control interest” (as defined in the Ownership and Control Regulations) in the licensee has been transferred from one person to another and a market concentration exists,” it said.

“The Authority could not establish that a transfer of control interest has occurred in the transaction or that a market concentration exists in the market in which Vodacom operates in light of the fact that several individual ECS AND ECNS licences have now been issued by the Authority. The Authority is fully aware that any transaction of this magnitude is likely to raise a range of public interest issues. However, the Authority has decided to deal with public interest issues within the context of the existing Ownership and Control Regulations and the Electronic Communications Act.” 

New Promotion Gives Free Minutes for Zain to Zain Calls In Nigeria

Zain Nigeria has announced a new product offering, allowing customers to get bonus minutes when making calls to another Zain number. 

Called “One4One”, the initiative basically gives a free minute of talk time to customers for every minute of talk time used when calling another Zain number. Effectively this means that, in a 2 minute phone call, the customer will only be billed for one minute of talk time.

Zain Nigeria, through its spokesman, Emeka Oparah, announced the start of the new promotional offer 7 April 2009. There are some conditions to the offering, as minutes cannot be carried over to another call or billing period. Certain contract packages are also excluded fro the deal.

“This is a unique Offer in many ways and the benefits are numerous. The introduction of One4One clearly demonstrates our commitment to translate our brand philosophy of helping people everywhere Zain operates to see, experience and appreciate a “Wonderful World”. We have no doubt that this offer will offer some relief to homes and businesses at this critical time. Zain is introducing the Offer at this time because of the company’s desire to assist Nigerians to stay in touch with family, friends and business associates despite the effect of the current global economic realities,” Oparah said.

The offer, which commences on April 7th, will end on May 31st 2009.

MTN Launches CSR Campaign Targeting women in Sudan

MTN Sudan has launched its corporate social investment projects for 2009, entitled “Together for wellbeing of Sudanese society”, including an initiative specifically aimed at the upliftment of women.
Says Hassan Jaber, CEO of MTN Sudan: “The project aims to empower women and draws attention to the importance of supporting them in today’s society. A memorandum of agreement between MTN Sudan and the Sudanese Development initiatives (SUDIA) was signed at Al Salam Rotana Hotel in Khartoum on the 24th of March 2009.

The project entitled “MTN’s micro-finance initiative for women empowerment”, focuses on financing small projects that will help increasing the daily income average for targeted families.

The first phase of this project will last for one year, after which funding will be directed to other families. 

Half of the world’s population live on only $ 2 a day or less than that , which means affected families are unable to afford the high cost of health, education and food . Micro-credit schemes have provided great solutions to increase the rate of daily income for these families and build their capacity.

Mr. Abdul Rahman Al Mahdi, SUDIA Executive Director, said that the fund will be directed in favor of four areas in Khartoum State to cover a large number of Sudanese families.

He also added that the program provides the possibility of training a number of young people on how to manage small loan programs. He then added that the support provided by MTN for this program will greatly help owning necessary expertise to four national committees and enabling them to obtain the qualification needed for the managing such large projects.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tanzania to Introduce SIM Registration

Tanzania's government has joined the growing trend for countries to require all PrePay SIM cards to be registered with the network operators, citing the usual reasons of crime and terrorism. The Minister for Communication, Science and Technology, Prof. Peter Msolla, said the government would soon table a bill in the National Assembly for the establishment of a Central Equipment Identification Register (CEIR).

Prof. Msolla also said the new technology would help the police trace people who use mobile phone handsets to issue threats to victims either through phone calls or text messages.

The minister made the announcement at a one-day seminar on communications services held in Iringa. There have been concerns expressed that the government could  use the ability to track messages to clamp down on opposition politicians.

Last November, Tanzania's Regulatory Authority (TCRA) Director General, John Nkomasays said that he expects the number of mobile phone users in the country will jump by 25% to 13 million by the middle of this year. Typically, when SIM registration is introduced, the number of recorded subscribers drops noticably.

According to figures from the Mobile World subscriber tracker, the country ended last year with just under 12.6 million customers - representing a population penetration level of 32%.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Econet Zimbabwe In Battle With Old Mutual

ECONET Wireless, at the centre of what could be a bruising legal defamation battle with Old Mutual, is throwing the gauntlet at the insurance and pension giant and wants it to decide whether it wants to continue to be a key shareholder in Zimbabwe's largest telecommunications company.

Industry sources this week said Econet, which is bitter its name has been dragged into the mud for allegedly influencing the vote at a recent extraordinary general meeting (EGM), believes its battles with Old Mutual are nothing but corporate jealousy as the company now directly competes with Old Mutual through its direct shareholding in Africa First Reinsurance (Afre), which it acquired after becoming a controlling shareholder in ReNaissance.

Econet is now a major player in the insurance and pension industry in Zimbabwe through Afre, formerly First Mutual Limited, which it acquired through its investment vehicle Econet Wireless Capital, which has been investing in non-core telecommunication assets to diversify the group's revenue streams.

Afre, which competes with Old Mutual head-on in the market, is expanding locally and in the region and wants to become the largest in Zimbabwe.

A source close to Econet told The Financial Gazette that since the acquisition by Econet, Old Mutual had fought the mobile phone operator in every forum possible, and as in this case, Econet is confident its nemesis will come out second best.

Econet believe that Old Mutual's executives have become too emotionally involved and it was probably best for them to exit their shareholding in Econet.

"What we saw the other day (at the EGM) is not good for Zimbabwe's corporate reputation. It was obvious to everyone that Old Mutual had simply come to disrupt the process. In the past when Old Mutual did not like something, they engaged us, and even offered us financing alternatives of their own.

"Now they just come to fight us. We sold our shares in their company when we bought First Mutual. They should do the same if they can't deal with us in a professional manner," an Econet executive said.

Already, Econet lawyers have been working round-the-clock making extensive preparations to battle with Old Mutual and its officers for the role the mobile phone group claims Old Mutual played in damaging its reputation.

Initial anger at what was perceived by Econet as an attempt to tarnish its image and that of its founder and directors, has now given way to calm determined preparations for a legal battle with those it considers responsible for allegations of vote rigging at its recently held EGM.

A local daily, The Herald, has already been sued for a record US$2 billion for publishing what Econet perceived to be an inaccurate story.

A spokesman for Econet confirmed that the matter was going to court and "we don't want to talk about it anymore."

At the heart of the battle is an attempt by Old Mutual Asset Management, to cast a vote at the Econet EGM using shares belonging to some of its clients.

Econet threw out the Old Mutual vote on the basis that the insurance group did not have prior authority from the shareholders to vote on their behalf.

Although the vote cast by Old Mutual would not have made any difference to the actual outcome of the vote, the fight over whether they were entitled to vote or not resulted in a massive controversy at the EGM, and also led to media reports where there were allegations of vote rigging.

Econet directors were particularly aggrieved at the reports, attributed to Old Mutual in the media, in which it was alleged that the latter was taking Econet and its directors to court for vote rigging.

"The fact that it was Old Mutual, making these allegations gave them a lot of credence, when the truth is they had no right to vote with those shares. We now have affidavits and letters from the owners of those shares making it clear, they were not aware that Old Mutual had acted in this way. They simply wanted to tarnish our reputation and we are not going to take it lying down," said the Econet executive.

Old Mutual and Econet have been feuding for several years now.

Last year their feud broke out into an ugly fight when Old Mutual tried in vain to stop the merger of Kingdom Financial Holdings and Meikles Africa Limited.

Union Moves to Block Sale of Vodacom to Vodafone

South African operators Telkom and Vodacom as well as Vodafone and the local Department of Communications are being taken to court by the Communication Workers Union. The union served the three telecoms companies and the government department with notice of an urgent court interdict application in a bid to halt the sale of part of Telkom''s stake in Vodacom to Vodafone.

The CWU said its main bone of contention was the fact that the organisation was not properly consulted by Telkom in terms of both legislation and the recognition agreement regulating relations between its members and the company. The union said it had no other option but to use the law to force all parties to properly consult CWU, which has members at both Telkom and Vodacom. The CWU also believes that the public interest had been "deliberately ignored and compromised", and the issue should have been considered through a process of public hearings by the Independent Communication Commission of South Africa. According to the CWU, Telkom's CEO and its board chairperson failed to honour a meeting facilitated by the Department of Communications on 14 April where a discussion on the deal was to have taken place.

Telkom is selling part of its stake to Vodafone and spinning off the rest to its shareholders for public trading. Vodacom earlier said it completed all the conditions for the transaction and stock market listing and expects to start trading on 18 May.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Ghana Telecom Rebrands To Vodafone

Ghana Telecom has been rebranded as Vodafone Ghana and launched a brand new website. After buying a 70 per cent shareholding in the Ghana Telecommunication Company in August 2008, partnering with the Government of Ghana, Vodafone says that it has made significant investments to improve the performance and to expand the capacity of its networks. Vodafone has also signed a multi-million dollar deal with Huawei Technologies to bring its 3G network services to the Ghanaian market.

David Venn, Chief Executive Officer of Vodafone Ghana, commented: "Today's announcement is the next step in a telecommunications renaissance across Ghana. Vodafone will offer the most reliable and cost effective services in the Ghanaian market and we will set the benchmark for customer satisfaction. Our customers should expect an excellent network as the basis for these services and we are committed to delivering it."

He added: "I would like to thank all Ghanaians for the welcome we have received and the tremendous interest they have shown in Vodafone since we arrived here in this market. We have also invested in the social fabric of Ghana, deploying community booths, supporting National Farmers day and helping the educational funds of a number of the traditional areas. I look forward to announcing similar initiatives in due course."

Vodafone Ghana, originally the Post and Telecommunications Department of the Civil Service, went through several transformations before being renamed Ghana Telecom in 1996. It was divested first to a consortium called G-Comm Limited led by Telekom Malaysia and was later managed by a Norwegian management services company known as Telenor Management Partners (TMP).

It employs close to 3,400 Ghanaians and is a major source of employment in the communications industry.

France Telecom, Orascom Duel Over Mobinil Persists

Egypt's Orascom Telecom and France Telecom have continued their acrimonious public battle over the control of Egyptian moble network operator, MobiNil. This morning, Orascom Telecom Holding (OTH) announced that France Telecom has failed to pay the purchase price as required by the terms of the arbitral award issued by the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce and has failed to comply with its obligations under Egyptian law to make a public tender offer on the same terms as the Award.

OTH says that it has provided FT with documentary evidence from its banks, which confirms that the shares can be transferred free of pledge.

Although the transfer of shares was due to occur by 9th April, an extension until 15th April has been agreed upon to avoid financial penalties and resolve difficulties with the stock exchange.

Orascom says that it has now been asked by Egypt's Capital Market Authority "CMA" to refrain from making any further public comments on the dispute.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Emerging Markets Telecoms Adopt Cautious Approach In Capital Spending

­Debt ratings agency, Fitch Ratings said today that the challenging macro-economic outlook is driving emerging market telecoms to adopt a more cautious stance on capital spending for 2009. In a new report, Fitch compares technology development and investment trends across Emerging Asia, Latin America, Russia/CIS and Africa, and examines currency risks stemming from the recent devaluation of most emerging market currencies.

"With the exception of Africa and China where infrastructure investment is expected to increase by about 10% and 20% respectively, other regions are expected to report broadly stable-to-declining capex in 2009," noted Priya Gupta, Director in Fitch's Asia-Pacific Telecommunications, Media and Technology (TMT) team.

"Russia, in particular, is braced for sharp cuts, with many regional fixed-line incumbents expected to slash their capex by over 50% from the previous year, and mobile operators to reduce budgets by up to 25%," commented Nikolay Lukashevich, Senior Director and Fitch's Head of Russian/CIS Corporates.

Supported by capex rationing in 2009 as well as relatively resilient earnings in the recessionary environment, Fitch expects credit quality across the emerging markets to broadly register a stable-to-improving trend; although much will also depend on the competitive environment within individual markets, exposure to currency risk, event-risk related to M&A and/or capital management policies.

Fitch notes that growth in cellular (2G) services is slowing as penetration is now quite high in many emerging markets, while 3G services are yet to gain traction. Meanwhile, broadband is emerging as a key growth driver, although the agency expects medium-term growth to be constrained by low PC penetration in many emerging markets.

Fitch notes that the recent devaluation (in H208 through Q109) of most emerging market currencies against the US dollar is negative for telecom players, as it typically inflates capital spending and increases the cost of servicing dollar-denominated debt. Against this backdrop, the agency takes positive note of the fact that most rated Asian, African and Latin American emerging market operators (with the exception of the Argentinian telecoms) have limited exposure to foreign currency debt after hedging.

"After debt restructuring by Telefonica de Argentina and Telecom Argentina following the Argentine crisis of 2002, the two companies remain exposed to a currency mismatch between debt and cash flow generation," said Sergio Rodriguez, Director in Fitch's Latin American TMT team. "However, this is substantially mitigated by low leverage at less than 1.0x for both companies at end-2008," he added.

In Emerging Asia, Fitch notes that several companies have significant forex debt exposure, although in most cases this is substantially mitigated by low leverage as well as natural and purchased hedging measures. Within the portfolio, stand-outs include Indonesian operator PT Excelcomindo Pratama Tbk (XL, 'BB-' (BB minus)/Stable) and Sri Lanka's Dialog that have about a 50% share of foreign exchange debt and exhibit leveraged profiles; - however their currency risks are moderated by partial hedging (at XL) and significant forex earnings (at Dialog).

In Russia however, some telecoms operators are facing significant currency risks. For various reasons (including the scarcity of long-term, inexpensive Russian rouble financing), some telecom companies, particularly mobile operators, have preferred to predominantly raise foreign currency-denominated debt. Although this has allowed them to economise on interest payments in the good times, further significant rouble devaluation could significantly impair their financial flexibility.

A copy of the special report is available on the Fitch website (registration required).

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

We Are Compliant - Says Orascom on ICC Ruling

­Following a legal ruling last week, Egypt's Orascom Telecom Holding (OTH) says that it has transferred shares it holds in Mobinil to France Telecom. There has been a quite public dispute between the two companies since the legal ruling, with Orascom claiming that the paperwork hadn't arrived, and France Telecom insisting that Orascom was being obdurate.

OTH says that it has complied with the decision of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and today applied to the trading committee of the Egyptian Exchange to execute the transfer subject to the receipt of the purchase price from FT.

For its part, France Telecom says that on several occasions, it has sent certificates from its bank confirming the availability of the funds required to transfer the Mobinil holding company’s shares. France Telecom says that it has also offered to establish three-way discussions with Orascom Telecom and its creditor banks with a view to ensuring the rapid removal of the pledge enabling the award’s execution.

OTH says that it was informed that the Egyptian Exchange was unable to execute the transfer of shares as France Telecom didn't provide the Egyptian Exchange with the necessary documents to execute the transfer.

In a regulatory filing, Orascom also said that France Telecom has not paid the purchase price to execute the transfer in compliance with the shareholders agreement and the decision of the ICC.

After the order is carried out, France Telecom will end up with sole ownership of the holding company, and hence have a 51% ownership of the mobile network. Orascom Telecom will retain its 20% direct stake in the mobile network, and the stock market float will be unaffected.

The company is the largest operator in the market, and according to figures from the Mobile World database, has a market share of around 48%.

MTN Zambia Lays out Plans to Double Customer Base

MTN's Zambia operations plans to invest US$95 million upgrading its network this year as it seeks to double its customer base to at least 1.4 million.

"We are looking at growing the business by double this year through purchasing new equipment and investing in support systems to improve our network," Chief Executive Officer, Per Christer Eriksson told the Reuters news agency. "The total cost of our expansion programme for this year is about $95 million and we are looking at increasing our market share to about 30 percent," he added.

The company invested US$80 million on its network in 2008.

MTN Group recently announced that Mr Erik van Veen, the current COO of MTN Uganda, is to take over as CEO of MTN Zambia.

According to figures from the Mobile World tracker, MTN ended last year with just under 700,000 customers - and a market share of around 18%. The country itself has a population penetration level of just 31% and two other operators, Zamtel and Zain, which is the market leader with 2.7 million customers.

Nigerian Mobile Market in Full Throttle

The Nigerian mobile market’s bullish growth showed no signs of abating in Q4 08. Quarterly net additions of 7.15m took the total number of customers over 60m, with a year-end figure of 62.99m, while the annual gain stood at 22.59m. By comparison, Q4 07 saw an increase of 3.39m and the 2007 boost was 11.92m. Meanwhile, the latest figures from Nigerian regulator the NCC show that at the end of January the total had risen to 64.16m.

There are now four mobile CDMA networks operating in Nigeria, and they contributed significantly to the quarterly gain. On aggregate, they added 1.93m customers in Q4, only just behind the record gain of 2.01m recorded in the previous quarter. This took the total mobile CDMA customer base over 6m with an end-2008 total of 6.05m, although the NCC’s figures show that there was a net loss in January which took the base back down to 5.87m. In terms of individual operators’ performances in Q4 08, Visafone overtook Multi-Links during the quarter with an excellent figure of 0.98m net additions. It finished on 2.21m compared to 1.99m for Multi-Links, which added 0.51m in the quarter. Meanwhile, Starcomms added 0.36m to break the 1m barrier, finishing on 1.16m, and Reliance reached 0.70m in its second quarter of operation.

Of course, the CDMA market remains a relatively minor part of the total, with less than 10% of Nigerian mobile customers at the end of 2008. The market leader is MTN, which recorded a gain of 2.91m – a Nigerian record. It finished on 23.08m, almost 6m ahead of nearest rival Celtel which ended the year with 17.20m customers. Having seized second place from Glo Mobile in Q3 08, Celtel consolidated its lead in Q4, adding 1.29m customers compared to 0.63m for Glo, which finished the year on just over 16m. The two remaining networks in Nigeria are government-owned Nitel, which had 0.26m customers, and the new Etisalat/Mubadala-owned entrant, which managed to gain almost 0.4m customers in its first quarter of service.

On a proportionate basis, the total market grew by 55.9% in 2008, up from 41.9% in 2007. Amongst the top three operators, Celtel led the way with 55.0% growth, ahead of MTN (39.8%) and Glo (30.9%).

Report Details Potential of Tower Sharing

Delta Partners has published a white paper about the potential of network sharing in the MEA region. The paper notes that there are currently over 200,000 mobile network towers in operation across the Middle East and Africa, in which operators invest annually between 10-20% of their revenues to rollout new sites or upgrade existing sites. Operators continue to make large investments in order to upgrade technologies and capacity as well as population coverage, especially in rural Africa.

An extra 100,000 towers are expected to be rolled out in the next 5 years.

"Network sharing is not a recent trend, but the current economic environment, increasing competition and pressure on margins across MEA markets is making operators consider it in order to achieve significant savings in capex and opex. In some cases, infrastructure sharing is the only viable way to access rural areas and penetrate lower end segments", says Victor Font, Managing Partner. "We believe that over $8 billion can be saved in the next 5 years if operators collaborate and start sharing their networks assets".

Recent multi-billion dollar network sharing deals have already been concluded in India, and last month's announcement that Vodafone and Telefonica would share parts of their European network infrastructure was hailed as a milestone of pan-European collaboration and result in better quality and coverage, less unsightly masts and save hundreds of millions of Euros for shareholders.

"The same shareholder value can be created in the MEA region, but many operators are still a little cautious as they see their network assets as a key asset and differentiator," says Chris Datta, Principal, "our analysis has shown, however, that a potential downside in market share is far outweighed by the extra benefits of cost saving on both opex and capex. In other words, operators would have to drop their market share by over 10% to not create value."

"We see operators, investors and regulators starting to actively support site sharing and we expect it to become a key trend for 2009 /2010 in the Middle East and Africa" adds Victor Font. "The key success factors lie in the negotiation and structuring of the deal e.g. whether to include passive and/or active network elements, existing towers or just new towers and who would manage the assets. The main challenge will continue to be in the execution."

Friday, April 10, 2009

Despite Ruling, France Telecom Dispute With Orascom Persists

The dispute over France Telecom's acquisition of 28.75 percent of Mobinil from Orascom Telecom for EUR 530 million persists. The French operator has requested Orascom to resolve difficulties with its creditors as quickly as possible and to provide a clear indication as to when Mobinil shares under pledge will become available. Orascom replied that it was prepared to transfer its stake in Mobinil to France Telecom, but that the procedure was being held up by the Egyptian financial markets authority.

At the end of the 30-day period fixed by the Arbitration Court, the Mobinil shares currently held by Orascom remain under pledge due to the fact that Orascom has not yet resolved the conditions for their release with its creditor banks. The Arbitration Court's decision provided for such a situation through the insertion of a penalty of USD 50,000 per day to be levied against Orascom from 10 April until the full execution of the award.

France Telecom said the necessary funds for the payment of this transaction are already available and that if the situation remains unchanged, it reserves the possibility to enter into direct relations with Orascom's creditors as permitted by the conditions governing such pledged shares. After this, France Telecom wishes to re-enter into discussions with the Egyptian market authorities in order to make an offer to minority and individual shareholders of 51 percent Mobinil subsidiary ECMS.

Orascom said that it had complied with the deadline to execute the transfer of Mobinil shares, but the Egyptian Exchange said it was unable to execute the transfer because France Telecom failed to submit the necessary documents. The exchange also acknowledged that it must comply with a ruling by the Egyptian Capital Market Authority requiring a mandatory tender offer for ECMS triggered by the Arbitration Court award

Thursday, April 9, 2009

MTN Zambia Plans Upgrades to Double Customer Base

Mobile operator MTN Zambia plans to invest $95m towards upgrades to double its subscriber base, chief executive officer Per Christer Eriksson said Wednesday. 

MTN is the second-biggest mobile phone operator in the southern African country, with a subscriber base of 700,000 translating into a 15% share of the market. 

Kuwaiti mobile phone firm Zain has 78% market share, while the government-owned Cell-Z has seven percent. 

"We are looking at growing the business by double this year through purchasing new equipment and investing in support systems to improve our network," Eriksson told reporters. 

"The total cost of our expansion programme for this year is about $95m and we are looking at increasing our market share to about 30%," he added. 

The expansion programme for this year would be concentrated on network upgrades in western and north western Zambia, he said. 

The new investment would augment the $80m that MTN Zambia - a subsidiary of South Africa's MTN, the continent's largest mobile operator by subscription - invested in 2008. 

Eriksson said the firm had also subsidised its tariffs by 90 percent to grow its customer base. 

Analysts say subscription to mobile telephones is growing in north western Zambia following a big migration by people seeking employment at two major copper mines. 

Eriksson however said MTN Zambia had been affected by the global crisis which has devastated the vast copper mining sector, the country's lifeblood, resulting in over 12 000 job losses. 

"We don't have a drop in business, but we have experienced slower growth but our overall subscriber base remains healthy," he said. 

Zain & Essar To Share Base Stations in Kenya

Wireless operators Zain Kenya and Essar Telecom Kenya (ETK, previously known as Econet Wireless Kenya) have agreed to share network infrastructure, Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation reports.

The deal will see the two companies share around 300 base stations for the next 15 years. ETK, which operates under the banner ‘yu’ has over 100 base stations in Nairobi and is planning to expand its network nationwide by the end of 2009. ETK is currently Kenya’s smallest wireless operator by subscribers with a 0.59% market share and is hoping that the collaboration with Zain will aid growth.

Zain claimed over three million subscriptions at the end of December 2008, making it the country’s second largest mobile operator behind Safaricom. The deal will benefit Zain by cutting base station operational costs, as well as strengthening its network coverage in the nation’s capital.

Zain Nigeria Choses Tekelec for All-IP Network Migration

Tekelec, the network signaling, mobile messaging and performance management company, has been chosen by Zain Group to enable Zain Nigeria Ltd., Zain's largest network operator, to quickly gain the benefits of migrating to an all-Internet Protocol (IP) multimedia subsystem (IMS) network. Zain Group provides mobile services in 23 countries and is the world's fourth-largest telecommunications company based on geographic presence. 

Major factors in Zain's selection of Tekelec were the technology's market-proven reliability and ability to scale to the growing demands of global service providers. Another important feature in Zain's selection of Tekelec's EAGLE 5 platform was Tekelec's support of SIGTRAN (SS7 signaling over IP), which is a stepping stone for cost-effectively migrating to an all-IP network. SIGTRAN enables service providers on the public-switched telephone networks (PSTNs) to use an underlying IP transport vehicle, thereby allowing them to offer their subscribers multimedia services through their existing network. Zain Nigeria completed the EAGLE 5 deployment in Q4 2008. 

"The project has been managed by Tekelec in an exceptionally professional and consistent manner even when faced with integration into a challenging environment such as Nigeria," said John Earley, Technical Director for Zain Nigeria. "I can say with confidence that Tekelec's handling of this project from start to now has been faultless. We are looking forward to a seamless integration into our existing core and anticipate substantial improvements in network signaling performance." 

In 2007 and 2008, 37 of Tekelec's 40 new customers purchased the EAGLE 5 platform across Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Central America, Europe, and the Middle East. The company's solutions are now deployed in 103 countries.

Malawi Licences Two More Phone Operators

Malawi has awarded two more mobile operating licences to consortia of local and international firms. The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) chairman Thengo Maloya said in a statement that La Cell Private and Expresso Telecom Group have been awarded the latest licences, Reuters reported.

The southern African country already has three operators with Zain leading the pack with over 1 million subscribers, followed by Telekom Networks Malawi, partly owned by the Malawian government.

Maloya said the additional operators were meant to help bring down the cost of doing business in Malawi and to improve the quality of telecommunications services. Maloya said the regulator was not happy with the quality of service from the current operators, so the regulator is looking to create a more competitive environment. The regulator also announced new penalties of USD 100,000 per annum for firms that fail to roll out services as promised, as well as a USD 50,000 fine for poor service.

France Telecom Gets Controlling Stake in Sonatel

France Telecom has taken control of Senegal based Sonatel after it brought 9.87% of the company from the Senegalese government, taking its ownership to 52.2%. Once the transaction has been completed, the Senegalese government will remain Sonatel’s second biggest shareholder with 17.28% of the operator's capital.

After various shareholder payments, the net cost to France Telecom will be EUR209 million (US$278.5 million).

France Telecom originally invested in the landline and mobile network operator in 1997. In addition to rebranding as Orange, the Group has expanded in Mali, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. At the end of last year, the Group had 3.8 million customers in Senegal, and a further 3.4 million in surrounding countries.

On signing this agreement, Marc Rennard, France Telecom’s Executive Director of the AMEA region and Chairman of Sonatel, said: "Since 1997, France Telecom has been very happy to support Sonatel's success in Senegal and the surrounding region. The quality of Sonatel's teams combined with France Telecom's experience have made Sonatel one of the most important operators in West Africa, especially in terms of innovation and service quality, which continue to benefit the Group's customers across its footprint. This new stage in our partnership will strengthen the dynamic business performance that characterises the Sonatel Group”.

Ethiopia Launches Multi Million Network

Ethiopia launched on Sunday a multi million mobile telephone network to increase its mobile telephone subscribers to 12 million from the current 4.1 million.

Ethiopian Telecommunication Corporation (ETC) said that a six million expansion work for the mobile telephone is being carried out in the first phase of the project.

Ethiopia, home to 77 million people is still among the countries with low telephone network in Africa.

Ethiopia is also known for its expensive price of mobile telephone SIM card.

However, the corporation announced a price decrease as of April 2 2009

The previous $ 36 cost for the prepaid mobile phone SIM card was reduced to $ 16.

The price is still expensive compared to other African countries where SIM card is available for $ 5 and less.

The charge for replacement of lost or damaged SIM card was also lowered to $ 1.2 from $ 2.5 previously.

“The move was aimed at benefiting the public from the ever expanding telecom services in the country,” said ETC.

MTN Makes Changes in Africa Team

South Africa's MTN Group has shuffled its key management in its African subsidiaries. MTN Group President and CEO, Mr Phuthuma Nhleko, says these appointments will go a long way towards helping MTN to achieve its vision of being the leading telecoms player in emerging markets.

“An appropriate degree of mobility of staff between our various operations facilitates increased learnings across the business and provides our staff with attractive and meaningful opportunities for growth within emerging markets. Over time, this should further bolster our ability to attract and retain the best skill and capability across our footprint,” says Nhleko.

Mr Themba Khumalo, the current CEO of MTN Rwanda is to take over as the new CEO of MTN Uganda. Previously Khumalo was an executive at MTN South Africa before his appointment as CEO of MTN Swaziland.

Mr Khaled Mikkawi, former CEO of the MTN operation in Liberia, will become the CEO of MTN Rwanda. Mikkawi was with Investcom for nine years before the company was acquired by MTN in 2006.

Mr Erik van Veen, the current COO of MTN Uganda, is the new CEO of MTN Zambia.

In the West and Central Africa region (WECA), MTN Guinea Bissau CEO, Mr Frans Joubert, has been appointed CEO of MTN’s operation in Liberia. Mr Anthony Masozera, the current CFO for MTN Rwanda, will become the new CEO of MTN Guinea Bissau. Mr Wim Vanhelleputte has been appointed CEO of MTN Côte d’Ivoire. Vanhelleputte joined MTN from another mobile operator where he served as CEO.

Orascom Loses MobiNil Case To France Telecom

­Orascom Telecom has lost a legal action and been ordered to sell its entire stake in Egypt's MobiNil to France Telecom. In 2007 Orascom Telecom initiated an arbitration against France Telecom at the Arbitration Court of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) to try and force France Telecom to transfer its MobiNil shares to Orascom Telecom.

There have been strained relations between Orascom and France Telecom, with the latter initiating the legal action against FT in December 2007 due to disagreement over the strategy for MobiNil. 

The Arbitration Court has rejected Orascom Telecom’s claims and then turned the matter on its head and ordered it to transfer a large stake in MobiNil to France Telecom instead.

France Telecom says that it will be paying approximately €530 million, and will have full control over the leading mobile operator in Egypt. France Telecom will therefore be able to consolidate the entire financial results of ECMS. On the basis of the 2008 results, this represents additional annual revenues of over €360 million and EBITDA of €165 million.

The holding in the company is slightly complex.

The mobile phone network - which trades as MobiNil - is owned by a holding firm, ECMS - which is in turn owned by three parties, 20% directly by Orascom Telecom, 29% via the stock exchange and the remaining 51% is owned by a company, confusingly called MobiNil.

This holding company is in turn 71.25% owned by France Telecom and 28.75% owned by Orascom Telecom. The court ruling applies only to Orascom Telecom's 28.75% in the holding company.

After the order is carried out, France Telecom will end up with sole ownership of the holding company, and hence have a 51% ownership of the mobile network. Orascom Telecom will retain its 20% direct stake in the mobile network, and the stock market float will be unaffected.

The company is the largest operator in the market, and according to figures from the Mobile World database, has a market share of around 48%.

Egypts Lifts Ban on GPS phone

The Egyptian government has lifted the ban on GPS mobile phones in the country. The National Telecommunication Regulatory Auhtority agreed in a meeting with the ICT ministry to allow the import of cars, phones and other devices with civilian GPS and navigation applications.

The devices will still be subject to certain NTRA technical requirements. Customs officials have already been informed of the change.

Telkom Introduces Mobile Service

South African fixed-line operator Telkom has launched its new Mobi service, offering mobile voice services over its WCDMA network. The company already offered data services on the mobile network and has now introduced voice after finalising a deal to spin off its stake in mobile operator Vodacom.

Telkom Mobi offers five service options: prepaid, everyday off-peak, mobile 200, mobi 300 and mobi 500. The prepaid start pack costs ZAR 149 and comes with 15 minutes and 30 SMS. The cost for calls to the Telkom network is ZAR 1.99 per minute during peak times and ZAR 0.89 off-peak times, while peak-time calls to mobile networks are ZAR 2.29 per minute and off-peak calls cost ZAR 1.39. The Telkom Mobi Everyday Off-Peak service carries a monthly subscription fee of ZAR 109 and provides subscribers with 150 off-peak minutes, 30 SMS per month and 25 MB of data.

The three postpaid plans cost ZAR 279, ZAR 389 and ZAR 545 for respectively 200, 300 or 500 minutes per month. The plans also come with monthly SMS and data bundles. The mobile service is currently available in Gauteng and Cape Town. 

Friday, April 3, 2009

Women Activists in Uganda Reject Phone Tapping Bill

The proposed telephone tapping bill by the Ugandan authorities will increase domestic violence; women activists in Uganda have warned.

The activists insist that passing the Regulation of Interception of Communications Bill in its current form will increase violence against women.

The activists, under the Uganda Women Network (UWONET) statement on Thursday said currently there are cases of violence against women perpetuated by their husbands, who illegally access their spouse’s telephone records from communication service providers.

UWONET officials, who met the Parliamentary Committee on Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) considering the Regulation of Interception of Communications Bill, 2007, on Thursday asked legislators to be sensitive on how women will be protected so as to minimize domestic violence.

The Regulation of Interception of Communications Bill, 2007 intends to make provision for the lawful interception and monitoring of certain communications in the course of their transmission through a telecommunication, postal or related service system in Uganda. The Bill also seeks to provide for the establishment of a Communications Monitoring Centre in Uganda.

Legislators asked why the women activists were against giving the mandate to sanction communication interception to the Minister of Security whereas it is the practice around the world.

Mr. David Bahati, a parliamentarian said the Bill was focusing on national and economic interests of the country, rather than on individuals.

The UWONET officials said interception of communication would tantamount to invasion of individuals’ privacy guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Constitution.

Rita Aciro of UWONET said, “Whereas it is true that certain restrictions are permissible for public safety and security, it is also true that some of the worst human rights violations have been committed in the pretext of such derogations.

“Therefore it is important that such derogations are strictly crafted and monitored so that they do not serve as a smokescreen for the violation of human rights.”

She added that the Bill needs to be in tandem with other laws including the Communications Act to ensure a uniform practice across all government agencies preying into the privacy of individuals.

UWONET recommended that permission to authorize interception of communication be given to a senior judge to safeguard against abuse of the interception.

Aciro said, “The order should indicate the kind of communication which is to be tapped and when the need for that information ceases to be.”

She said the information gathered should not be used as evidence in court, but rather for following up investigations, and that it should never be made public.

The officials said items in the Bill would be handled by amending other laws like the Prevention of Terrorism Act instead of bringing up a new law.

UWONET is an advocacy coalition of 17 national women’s NGOs and institutions and individuals in Uganda.

Econet Refutes MTN Interest In Yu

Econet Wireless Kenya, which trades under the Yu brandname, has refuted local media reports that South Africa's MTN has offered US$450 for a stake in the company. The reports are “rumors,” Chief Executive Officer Srinivasa Iyengar told reporters in Nairobi. The story emerged in Kenya's Standard newspaper.

The claimed price being offered by MTN coincidentally matches the US$450 million in debt the network recently raised to fund its rollout plan.

Last year, Econet Wireless International (EWI) sold a 49% stake in the company to India's Essar Communications Holdings (ECHL). The companies said that the move would significantly benefit Econet Wireless Kenya (EWK), which is 70% owned by EWI, from a rollout as well as product offering perspective.

“Econet is not for sale,” Iyengar added. “Essar is a partner for life.” Econet Kenya will change its name to Essar Telecom Kenya Ltd., he concluded.

The network operator was recently reported to have signed up 200,000 subscribers since it launched last November - and is aiming for one million customers by the middle of the year.

Figures from the Mobile World database subscriber database reports that Safaricom is the market leader with a market share of 82.3% with Celtel coming in at 17.6%. Telkom Kenya (Orange) has just started a "mobile" type service. The country itself has a population penetration level of 36%.

The regulator has recently announced that it will make a second attempt at launching mobile number portability - which traditionally benefits new entrants into markets.