Monday, June 29, 2009

Zain Ghana Launches New Competition

Ms Carmen Bruce-Annan, Corporate Communications Manager of Zain Ghana, has said the company's objective was to empower its customers to become passionate and creative.
Ms Bruce-Annan was speaking at the launch of the "Zain Live your dream competition" consumer reward promotion.
"We want to encourage our customers to be radiant by leading the way in imagination and vision, since we now have over one million subscribers within six months of operating in this country.
"We are marching towards our customer target for 2009" she said.
The three-month promotion is meant to reward 600 fixed and cellular prepaid customers and empower them through the provision of funds to enable them embark on their dream projects.
There would be nine weekly draws, two monthly draws and a grand draw in which every top up of GH¢2 and usage of 50GP of airtime qualifies as entry.
She said Zain was always finding novel ways in rewarding its customers adding "the more you use the 3.5G network, the closer you get to living your dream".
Ms Bruce-Annan said customers would be given the option of financial counseling to enable them to make the best use of their winnings.
"Zain has so far given out 2.5 million dollars as bonuses in its You pay Zain pays reward programme," and would continue to give out bonuses until December, she said.
Ms Bruce-Annan said the winning prize for the grand draw is GH¢75,000, whilst the second and third prizes are GH¢25,000 and GH¢10,000 respectively.
With regards to the monthly draw, she said the winner would take home GH¢ 5,000. Other prizes include bonus airtime, a Zain Universal Serial Bus Modem, Laptops, and fully connected 3.5G mobile phones.
Zain is a telecommunications operator across the Middle East and Africa providing mobile and data services to 64.7 million customers in about 24 countries.

Safari Launches New Campaign

Kenya's telecom's operator, Safaricom, has launched a new brand campaign.

The campaign, with the tagline Niko na Safaricom, underlines the firm's rich Kenyan heritage and resonance with its over 13 million subscribers across the country.

Put together by Safaricom staff and the firm's appointed advertising agency, Redsky, the campaign will be relayed through all available media channels: TV, radio, retail units, press, billboards and website.

According to Safaricom CEO Michael Joseph, this is a way of saying, "Thank You" to the firm's subscriber base, which spans a cross-section of Kenya.

The motivation behind the campaign is to demonstrate the diverse and evenly distributed beauty of Kenya and her people.

Added Mr. Joseph: "From the campaign it is evident that Safaricom reaches out to all Kenyans in ways that are not apparent to most people."

Globacom Confirms It Is Interested In NITEL

Globacom has confirmed interest to buy Nigeria Telecommunications Limited (NITEL), to save the prized assets of the first national carrier.
It dismissed charges that this would amount to market monopoly.
Globacom reiterated at the weekend that it is the only national carrier licensed to provide transmission links to other telecoms operators in the country, and said it has the gravitas - among which is nationalism - to acquire and transform both NITEL and its mobile subsidiary, Mtel.
Its Head of Network Operations, Aremu Olajide, enthused that Globacom has all it takes to manage NITEL for better service delivery when he fielded questions at a media parley for ICT journalists in Lagos.
He stressed that "if given the opportunity to buy NITEL, Globacom will bring back the national pride of the country," adding that it has capacity to function as a national carrier and would lease any capacity of fibre optic connectivity links to operators in need, any time, any day.
"We have obligation, by the nature of our licence, to link any operator that comes to us.
"Other infrastructure owners who are private network operators do no have that obligation, they could turn down any request from any operator and not fall foul of any law, but Globacom cannot."
On plans by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) to sell NITEL in parts, Aremu said Globacom is willing to buy the parts that would enable it function very well as a true national telecoms carrier.

Starfish Enters Malawi with TNM Deal

Starfish Mobile International, an African Wireless Application Service Provider (WASP), has partnered with Telekom Network Malawi (TNM) in launching and strategically driving TNM's Mobile Content business and services in Malawi.
The initial launch services will allow TNM subscribers to access a range of mobile content services ranging from basic SMS services including, but not limited to, General News, Exchange Rates, Sports updates, Love Messages, Religious Messages and Horoscopes to the popular Ring Back Tone (RBT) Music Service.

The launch is part of Starfish Mobile's long term strategy with TNM in building an exciting, innovative and profitable VAS business for TNM in Malawi and in bringing content services to a vast number of their mobile subscribers, many of which have never been exposed to these sorts of mobile services before. The country's estimated mobile penetration stands at over 1, 5 million mobile users.

"We are very excited with our strategic partnership with TNM and in the potential of the Malawian VAS market going forward," says Per Ostberg, Starfish Mobile Country Manager for Malawi.

Part of Starfish Mobile's success over the past 6 years in creating and building very successful and profitable VAS businesses for Mobile Operators in Africa has always been a very strong focus on localised content and Malawi is no exception. "We have already signed over 15 Malawian music artist as part of creating a very strong local music presence and catalogue for TNM. This is just the start of what we have planned in creating a very dynamic localised mobile music business in Malawi. We should also mention that Starfish Mobile has an agreement with COSOMA in Malawi for the collection of Mechanical Music Royalties," says Jason Williams, Starfish Mobile Content Manager for Malawi.

Starfish Mobile is also looking at launching some very innovative and exciting Mobile Marketing campaigns with TNM in the near future based on some very successful promotions we have run in other countries over the past 12 months. This all forms part of a structured roll-out strategy for TNM going forward and is based on what Starfish has successfully implemented for other Mobile Operators in Africa over the past six years.

Starfish Mobile International is now one of the biggest Mobile Strategy, Content and Media companies on the African continent and is currently operating in 17 countries and is connected to 23 Mobile Operators.

Emerging Markets Lead the Way in Mobile Innovations

Mobile operators seeking the "killer application" that customers can't live without should look again at emerging markets, where mobile money is proving a valuable tool for connecting the unbanked.

Carriers in Africa, Asia and Latin America are finding that offering customers the chance to use their phones to transfer money to family and friends, pay bills or make purchases brings the kind of loyalty that Western counterparts can only dream of.

Although the sums of money involved are mostly tiny, many of these customers have no bank account, meaning their handset is their first and only connection to the financial system, and changing telecoms provider is extremely disruptive.

"Once you get to a critical mass, if you've got customers, you've got customers for life," Brian Richardson, chief executive of South African mobile banking company Wizzit told an industry conference in Barcelona last week.

Western carriers have largely pulled back from adventurous acquisitions in emerging markets, which became unpopular with shareholders and were then stymied by the global credit crunch.

Instead, seeing the success of Apple's iPhone and fearing the prospect of becoming mere "dumb pipes" for valuable media content, they have become preoccupied with trying to boost profits by driving up data usage in developed markets.

The industry's hottest M&A news is the $23 billion attempt by India's Bharti Airtel to merge with South Africa's MTN, while Kuwait's Zain blazes an acquisition trail through 24 Middle Eastern and African markets.

Zain has created a multi-national network by scrapping roaming charges across its markets, and is rolling out its mobile-money service Zap across the network, which it reckons will help it double customer numbers to 110 million by 2011.


In Western economies, using mobile phones for banking seems an obvious next step, but in fact the obstacles are greater as both banks and telcos both want to own the consumer, while the need for new ways of delivering services is not urgent.

"The pain level to move money in developed countries is low. The pain level to move money in emerging countries is high," Eric Duprat, general manager of PayPal's mobile business, told the conference organized by industry group the GSM Association.

With Internet banking, ATM machines and ample bank branches available in most developed markets, the focus of mobile banking in the West is on near-field communications technology that makes contactless payments possible with the swipe of a phone.

To make this possible, banks and telcos would have to collaborate in an unprecedented way, with each wary of giving up any control over their prized customer base. "I don't who's greedier, the banks or the network operators," Richardson said.

Banks such as HSBC's First Direct are adapting existing Internet-banking platforms to make them more suitable for mobile use, for example on Apple's iPhone -- but would ideally do much more.

"We certainly believe that phones could eventually replace credit cards," Jenny Southwell, First Direct's head of digital marketing, told Reuters.

"The main thing that's holding us back is the manufacturers aren't putting phones in the mass market. It's sort of chicken and egg. You need the retailers to accept it as a form of payment before the manufacturers will put it on the phones."

In the end, consumer demand will probably bring about mobile banking via contactless payment in the West some time in the next few years, but neither banks nor mobile operators may make money out of it, Andrew Bud, CEO of mobile transactions firm mBlox, believes.

"It gives you a disadvantage if you don't participate, but there's no upside if you do," he told Reuters.


In the developing world, the number of mobile-money deployments is expected to double to 120 by the end of 2009.

Some of the biggest are M-PESA in Kenya, run by part Vodafone-owned Safaricom, Zain's Zap, MTN's recently launched MobileMoney, which it will deploy in over 20 countries, and PLDT's Smart Money in the Philippines.

Momentum, as the unbanked seize the chance to get financially connected, seems unstoppable. For many, it means an alternative to long queues or dangerous journeys to send and receive remittances from work abroad.

The profitability of these deployments is still unproven -- but M-PESA brought in 4.1 percent of Safaricom's total revenues last year, and increased the number of signed-up users to 6.2 million by the end of March, up from 2.1 million a year earlier.

Philippines operators in a GSMA study made 74 percent more revenue per user on average from mobile money clients.

Estimates of the current size of the mobile-money market vary widely. The chief executive of Fundamo, the leading provider of mobile-banking software platforms, estimates that some 25-30 million people might currently be using it.

But the GSMA estimates 364 million people without bank accounts could have access to mobile money by 2012, making $5 billion in fees for mobile operators.

About 3.5 billion people or more than half the world have no bank account, but 1 billion of those do have a mobile phone.


Zain Launches Zap Mobile Money in Uganda, Plans International Transfers

Mobile operator Zain has officially launched its Zap mobile commerce service in Uganda. The firm's CEO Yesse Oenga said in a statement that the roll-out of the Zap service in Uganda will be phased. In the first phase launched 29 June, Zain subscribers will be able transfer money securely to friends and family across the country in addition to topping up airtime and paying for goods and services.
Meanwhile, Zain will soon introduce a money transfer service across East Africa in the wake of the introduction of international roaming services through its One Network offering.

The pan-African mobile phone company is in discussions with the central banks of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania about the possibility of transferring money across borders the same way voice is transferred, without any extra charges, according to Maurice Newa, Zain's chief commercial officer in Africa.

"The technology is not a problem because we have it," Newa said last week. "It is the regulatory issues that are preventing such a move and right now we are talking to the regulators of the finance sector about how we can transfer money across the borders," he said. Newa made the remarks when the company announced its trustee partnership for its ZAP service with Standard Chartered Bank Uganda.

Zain is due to launch ZAP, a mobile commerce service that will allow Ugandans to transfer money. It is already operational in Kenya and Tanzania.

Newa said that coupled with its One Network cross-border service, if approved, it will be able to offer an East Africa-wide mobile banking platform that will be the world's biggest cross-border mobile commerce service.

"With ZAP, Zain customers will soon be able to make cross-border payments and transfers between Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda with no extra charge," Newa said. One Network allows travelling customers to move across geographic borders without roaming surcharges.

Yesse Oenga, the Zain Uganda managing director said the company has met all regulatory requirements, and that the Bank of Uganda has cleared them to use the full suite of mobile commerce services.

"That means that the ZAP service with Zain will not be limited to money transfer but will include mobile airtime transfer, mobile money transfer, mobile banking, mobile merchant payment and cross border money transfer," Oenga said.

The partnership will allow Zain customers to use their mobile phones to pay utility bills, pay for goods and services, receive money and send money to friends, family and business partners.

Other features include the ability to deposit and withdraw of money into and from bank accounts, check bank balances, keep track of payments and top up phone airtime.

Lamin Manjang, the chief executive officer Standard Chartered Bank Uganda said mobile commerce has the potential to transform banking in Africa and will help overcome many of the obstacles presented by providing banking services to remote and rural communities.

The ZAP service in Uganda has already been activated with over 1 million Zain customers possessing the service in their phone menus.

Mobile money transfer service emerged as the new battle front for telecom companies toward the end of last year when MTN announced it was set to introduce the service in its Uganda market and three markets in West Africa.

While the MTN service has not received a big user take-up -- as was the case in Kenya when Safaricom offered the service -- company officials have said the service has so far seen more than US$250,000 transferred electronically.

MTN Merges International Carrier Business With Belgacom

South Africa's MTN is to merge its international carrier business into Belgacom International Carrier Services (BICS) and named the merged firm the official international gateway for carrier services of MTN globally.
In terms of this transaction, MTN will contribute into BICS the assets of MTN ICS, its international wholesale subsidiary, which generated revenues of €223 million for the year ending 31 Dec 2008.
It is envisaged that the MTN ICS operations will be progressively integrated. Post implementation of the transaction, Belgacom will own 57.6% of BICS, Swisscom 22.4% and MTN 20.0% with the right to appoint two directors to the board.
The combination of the international carrier services of BICS and MTN ICS is expected to improve efficiencies and product offerings resulting from greater economies of scale. In addition to the anticipated efficiencies, the transaction is expected to positively impact the future growth of the larger combined entity which will become a leading international wholesale operator in Africa.
Elie Bardawil, CEO of MTN ICS, commented: "MTN ICS, formerly known as Mediterranean Network, operated for more than 10 years as the international gateway for primarily the Investcom group of companies until its acquisition by MTN in 2006. Since then MTN ICS has contributed to the overall growth of MTN's international traffic and related services. MTN ICS will bring to the combined entity its knowledge of the African and Middle Eastern markets and the skills and experience of its team."

Zain Nigeria CEO Urges for Less Regulations

The CEO of Zain Nigeria has urged the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to relax the regulatory obligations of operators to enable the industry take full advantage of the growth opportunities in the country's burgeoning telecommunications market.
Ligali, who was addressing the opening session of the 2009 West and Central Africa Com conference in Abuja, last week, expressed concerns at the simultaneous imposition of certain regulatory measures, which he feared might affect the cash flow of the operators and stultify the pace at which the industry is growing.
He specifically mentioned the plan to implement the registration of pre-paid customers and number portability at the same time, saying that it would be more beneficial for the regulator to conduct a comprehensive regulatory impact assessment before embarking on such major interventions.
The Zain CEO, whose paper was entitled "Adapting an operator's strategies to new economic conditions and increased competition", also lamented the situation where the various levels of government impose different kinds of taxes on telecommunications operators
According to him, streamlining and harmonizing the functions of the various levels of government with regards to taxes and levies will create a better enabling environment for operators to perform on their licenses and deliver efficient service to the customers. He advocated the establishment of a framework to minimize multiple taxation and regulation, which have been a source of frustration for operators.
Mr. Ligali also canvassed the allowance of holidays on some charges, especially the Operating Levies, Numbering and Spectrum Fees, which operators pay; adding that this will free up resources for reinvestment in network expansion and other core initiatives that will boost the delivery of services to customers.
The Zain boss posited that the liberal interpretation and application of policy and regulatory prescriptions that impose financial obligations, as well as the arrest of unstructured scale of fees and charges levied by various Authorities on telecommunications infrastructure and operations, will not only result in better service delivery but also give operators much needed relief to sustain growth with attendant multiplier effects on the economy.
He promised that Zain would consistently take steps to reduce operating costs, innovate in the area of products and services and also transform its operations to improve efficiencies without compromising customer satisfaction.

Telkom Kenya Names New CEO

Telkom Kenya has named Michael Ghossein as its new CEO. Ghossein, who served as CEO of Orange Jordan, will lead the company through the next strategic phase. He replaces Dominique Saint-Jean, who will take up a new role as senior advisor for France Telecom in East Africa.
Ghossein, a Lebanese national, brings over 23 years experience in the telecommunications industry. He has worked with France Telecom affiliates in Reunion Island, France, Romania, Bahrain and Jordan. Speaking at a media briefing, Ghossein commended his predecessors' leadership during the first phase of Telkom Kenya's strategic plan following France Telecom's acquisition of a majority stake in the national operator.
The new CEO joins a newly revitalized management team including Jane Karuku, head of support services; Stephen Kiptinness, head of regulatory affairs; Angela Ng'ang'a, head of corporate communications; and Mary Kita, head of human resources.

France Telecom and Divona Wins Tunisia Licence

France Telecom and Tunisian partner Divona were awarded a 15-year fixed and mobile phone licence in Tunisia after submitting a EUR 137.65 million winning bid, the country's communications minister, Haj Klai, announced at a press conference on 26 June.
The ministry previously issued a statement explaining that Divona and France Telecom had presented a better technical offer than the other short-listed bidder, Turkcell. Klai said the government would sign a contract with the consortium within two weeks, with the licence fee to be paid immediately.
Klai added that the winning bid was 46 percent higher than anticipated by international advisors. France Telecom-Orange will own 49 percent of the joint venture, the remainder to be held by Divona, a company owned by Tunisian businessman Marouene Mabrouk, who is the son-in-law of the country's president, Zine El Abine Ben Ali. The partners plan to invest EUR 580 million over six years and to create between 1,000 and 2,000 direct jobs.

MTN Uganda Partners With Google and Grameen to Introduce New Application

Grameen Foundation has announced the launch of a suite of mobile phone applications developed with Google and MTN Uganda (MTN) that deliver services and information that were previously unavailable to Uganda's poor and disadvantaged communities.

This launch makes available the first suite of applications resulting from an endeavor initiated by Grameen Foundation 18 months ago called the Application Laboratory (AppLab). The five mobile phone applications provide real-time health and agricultural information and a virtual marketplace for buying and selling goods and services. This field-based program in Uganda is based on an innovative partnership that strategically combines the resources and experience of Grameen Foundation, Google, and MTN.

The suite of five mobile services, provided using Google SMS Search technology and the MTN network, includes Farmer's Friend, a searchable database with both agricultural advice and targeted weather forecasts; Health Tips which provides sexual and reproductive health information, paired with Clinic Finder, which helps locate nearby health clinics and their services; and Google Trader, which matches buyers and sellers of agricultural produce and commodities as well as other products. The services are SMS-based and designed to work with basic mobile phones to reach the broadest possible audience. Users can access the services quickly and privately at the time of their choosing and search relevant content on-demand, like someone with access to the Internet.

AppLab Uganda, which is located in Kampala and directed by Grameen Foundation's Technology Center, focuses on creating opportunities for poor people to share and access essential information through innovative uses of mobile phones which are in the hands of over four billion people around the world. The new services in Uganda can be accessed by existing Village Phone Operators (VPOs) who extend service to people without mobile phones as well as by people who have their own phones. VPOs and other trusted intermediaries serve as a bridge between communities who lack access to essential information and the sources that can provide it. Building on the pioneering work of Grameen Telecom in Bangladesh, Grameen Foundation and MTN Uganda launched Village Phone in Uganda in 2004 to expand telecommunications access to poor people.

"AppLab is a great example of innovation from and for the base of the pyramid, bringing relevant, actionable information to communities where access to the Internet is unavailable," said Alex Counts, president of Grameen Foundation. "Through an approach including sector research, field-based rapid prototyping, extensive interaction with target users, and carefully structured field pilots, we have been able to gain deep insights from the people who benefit directly from using these applications. We are excited to take the next big step -- going from an innovative product development approach to scaling proven and sustainable applications across Uganda for the benefit of the poor and poorest."

The information in the applications was developed in collaboration with key local partners. The Busoga Rural Open Source Development Initiative (BRODSI) provides locally-relevant and actionable agricultural information created and tested by small-holder farmers and designed to meet their needs. For the health application, AppLab works with Marie Stopes Uganda, the local affiliate of a leading service provider for sexual and reproductive health, and Straight Talk Foundation, a Ugandan NGO which specializes in health communication.

Using the Google Trader application, local buyers and sellers, such as small-holder farmers, are able to broaden their trading networks and reduce their transaction costs. AppLab worked with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, TechnoServe and SNV Netherlands Development Organisation to hone the concept with banana and pineapple farmers in southern Uganda (Mbarara region).

"These sustainable and scalable models put critical information and knowledge directly into the hands of poor people who have access to mobile devices, in an effort to further alleviate poverty," said Joseph Mucheru, Google's lead for Sub-Saharan Africa. "This work is significant both for individuals and for the broader regional economy."

"These services represent the first of what will be many initiatives reaching the segment of our market that has been underserved for a long time," said Noel Meier, CEO, MTN Uganda. "We are hoping to reach people in rural and disadvantaged communities while we build up a new line of business for the company."

With the nationwide launch, Innovations for Poverty Action, with the support of and AppLab, will also conduct a social assessment to determine the effectiveness of the Health Tips service in changing the knowledge, attitudes and behavior of users.

Looking ahead, the Grameen Foundation Application Laboratory will continue to develop applications and related services tailored to the needs of poor communities. It will work on a project basis with technology partners such as Google, mobile operators such as MTN, NGOs, foundations and government entities to develop new applications and innovative services for the poor in Uganda and beyond -- working to transform lives through innovation in information access.

Etisalat Nigeria Hits 1 Million Subscribers In 9 Months

Mobile operator Etisalat Nigeria announced that it has hit the one million subscriber mark. The company said the feat was achieved in less than one year of operations in Nigeria.
Controlled by UAE-based telecoms operator Etisalat, the mobile operator started operations in Nigeria last October. The Nigerian mobile market is dominated by African groups MTN and Zain and local operator Glo. Etisalat has been focusing on the quality of its services in its marketing, as well as value-added services such as homezone pricing and missed call alerts.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Egypt Hopes Orascom, France Telecom Can Solve Mobinil Dispute

Tarek Kamel, the Egyptian minister of communications and information
technology reportedly said that he hopes France Telecom and Orascom
Telecom can work out their row over the ownership of Egyptian mobile
operator Mobinil.

"I hope they come to an understanding and work together," he said.
He further said that he wants them to continue investing in Egypt
getting greater value to the economy

New CDMA Network Launched in Tanzania

A new network has launched in Tanzania, as Dovetel started its CDMA
network in Dar-es-Salaam. The network, branded as Sasatel will expand
its network in several phases over the next few years. The company is
65% owned by PME African Infrastructure Opportunities, an investment
company established to invest in sub-Saharan African infrastructure
and infrastructure related industries.

Dovetel bundles its broadband offering with fixed voice services and
offers limited mobility voice services to the low-end of the
residential market in order to increase penetration beyond the
traditional GSM target market for mobile voice.

In a recent statement, the company said: "The arrival of the
international sub-sea fibre optic cables to the East coast of Africa
this year is expected to accelerate the already rapidly growing
broadband market in East Africa. Dovetel is well positioned to
capitalise on this opportunity and is seeking to become the leading
broadband provider in Tanzania."

ZTE is the supplier of the network infrastructure.

PME African Infrastructure Opportunities is also setting up a WiMAX
network in Uganda and invested in the GSM network in Burundi being
built by Econet Wireless.

The country already has five active mobile networks, and according to
the Mobile World figures, Vodacom (42%) and Zain (30.4%) dominate the
market, along with Tigo (19.7%). Zanzibar Telecom (8%) does not
operate in the mainland. HiTS Tanzania has not launched yet, while
CDMA operator, Benson Informatics has a negligible customer base.

Somali Court Orders Amputation Over Phone Theft

A court under the control of a Somali Islamist insurgent group
al-Shabab has ordered four young men suspected of stealing guns and
mobile phones to have a hand and a leg amputated, but the punishment
was postponed.

An al-Shabab spokesman told the Associated Press the sentence would be
carried out but was delayed because of fears the men could bleed to
death in the hot weather. The human rights organization Amnesty
International has condemned the amputation sentences as a violation of
international law.

The four young men were sentenced on Monday to cross-amputation
(amputation of the right hand and the left foot) by an "ad-hoc" court
set up by Al-Shabab in their military camp in northern Mogadishu. They
were accused of stealing pistols and mobile phones from Mogadishu

Tawanda Hondora, Amnesty International's Africa Deputy Director said
that "these sentences were ordered by a sham Al-Shabab court with no
due process or guarantees of fairness." The four men allegedly
admitted to the robbery, but have not been represented by a lawyer,
nor are they allowed to appeal against their sentence.

In May, 2009, al-Shabaab, along with allied grou Hizbul Islam launched
a major offensive in the city of Mogadishu to take over the city
leaving hundreds killed and injured and tens of thousands displaced.
The group made large gains, taking over most of the capital.

Creflo Dollar Accused of Theft Over SMS Deal

A US religious televangelist Rev. Creflo A. Dollar, his son and
ministry staff have been accused of stealing a "devotional" text
message business concept that the ministry then marketed to his
television audience, according to three law firms representing a
California businessman in a lawsuit filed in California state court.

Devone Lawson, of Marina del Rey, Calif., alleges that the World
Changers ministry and its employees worked with Lawson's company, The
Giant Killers, for more than a year on the business venture before the
ministry violated a non-disclosure agreement and formed another
company controlled by Rev. Dollar's son, Jeremy, to launch the text
message service in 2006. After Lawson discovered the theft, and
attempted to resolve the matter amicably, he was told by the ministry
to just "sue us."

The lawsuit alleges that in 2004, well before the explosion of SMS
text messaging and subscription daily text message services, Lawson
and his company developed a business idea to create an SMS text
messaging service that would enable subscribing members of various
church congregations to receive daily devotional or inspirational SMS
text messages from the church organization or church leaders

According to the lawsuit, the ministry's "Word on the Go" text
messaging service, which was launched in late 2006, was Lawson's
proprietary business idea. The service sends paid subscribers daily
devotional text messages from Rev. Dollar and is believed to generate
in excess of US$50 million per year in revenue to the ministry.

Quentin Williams, of The Butler Lappert Williams Firm PC, noted, "Our
clients allegations against Rev. Dollar and the other defendants are
very disturbing, especially since Rev. Dollar controls one of the most
successful and lucrative television ministries in the world. Mr.
Lawson put his trust in the defendants, but as we allege, they stole
his ingenious and lucrative business idea."

The allegations include breach of non-disclosure agreement, fraud,
unjust enrichment, civil conspiracy, breach of contract, and
misappropriation of trade secrets.

The case is "The Giant Killers, Inc., and Devone Lawson v. Rev Creflo
A. Dollar, et al.," (Case No. BC 416392 in the Superior Court of the
State of California for the County of Los Angeles).

MTN Says It Won't Make Losses in Iran

South Africa's MTN has denied reports that its Iranian subsidiary
would lose at least a month's worth of operating income due to the
ongoing political strife in the country. The networks have been
ordered to shut down their SMS services and it is reported that voice
calls are sometimes being restricted in some cities.

"MTN network is running in Iran and there is nothing wrong with it,"
MTN Group spokeswoman Nozipho Januray-Bardill told the Reuters news

MTN holds a minority 49% stake in the Iranian network, while 51% was
allocated to the Iran Electronic Development Company (IEDC).

Iran has two main networks, the incumbent state operator, TCI - which
the Mobile World estimates ended Q1 '09 with just over 30 million
customers and 60% of the market. Irancell ended the month with 18.3
million customers. There are also a few small regional operators with
negligible subscriber bases.

Plans by the Iranian government to award a third mobile license was
thrown into confusion last month when the original winner was
disqualified and the regulator claimed to be talking to other

SEACOM Project Delayed by Pirate Activity

The submarine telecoms cable being built around the Eastern coast of
Africa is being delayed by increased pirate activity in the area over
the past few months. SEACOM now says that its planned "ready for
service" date has been pushed back to 23 July 2009. The planned route
required the ship to transit an area of increased pirate activity
where other ships had been attacked or seized.

The cable deployment in the troublesome waters has since been
completed and splicing to connect the section of cable from Mumbai to
Africa is expected shortly. Testing of the larger cable system will be
finalised shortly thereafter. The cable section from South Africa
(Mtunzini) to Kenya (Mombasa), including all south and east African
landing stations, has already undergone successful testing.

In the meantime, SEACOM is working with its contractor, Tyco
Telecommunications, to find ways of accelerating the outstanding works
and bring forward the ready for service date ahead of 23 July 2009.

Brian Herlihy, SEACOM CEO, said: "Due to sensitivities around piracy
issues, their impact on the project timeline was only fully
established recently and whilst I am personally truly disappointed by
the delay, it was imperative that strong measures be put in place to
guarantee the successful completion of the cable system and the safety
of the ship and its crews.

"This setback should however be seen against the herculean efforts
made by the team to see this project come to fruition over an
incredibly tight schedule of only 18 months. We remain extremely
excited and look forward to witnessing the huge difference that
affordable, high quality and plentiful bandwidth will have throughout
eastern and southern Africa."

Tunisia Awards Third Mobile Licence

A consortium made up of France Telecom and Divona Telecom has been
provisionally awarded the third mobile license in the North African
country of Tunisia. The license covers both GSM and 3G services, and
includes a landline service.

A statement from the regulator warned that the award is temporary
pending the completion of the provisions included in the procedures of
the international call for tender. The final decision should be
confirmed next week.

There are currently two mobile network operators in the country - the
state controlled Tunisie Telcom which is the sole landline operator,
and Tunisiana, which just operates a mobile phone network. It is not
immediately clear if Tunisiana will be offered a landline license,
otherwise it would be commercially at a disadvantage to the other two

Figures from the Mobile World analysts show that both operators ended
the first quarter of this year with some 4.3 million customers,
although Tunisiana has shown faster growth over the past few months.
The population penetration level stood at 82%.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Mobile Money Democratizes Banking In Uganda

A growing number of Ugandans are starting to utilize a service called
"Mobile Money" to transfer millions of dollars via text message on
their mobile phones. The phenomenon is democratizing banking in Uganda
and changing the country's socioeconomic landscape.

Like the majority of Ugandans, Margaret Okello has never had a bank
account. But thanks to an incident involving her mother's cow, the
Kampala housewife recently learned that she could use her mobile phone
to transfer cash.

Okello says the cow was crossing the road in the Bukwali village in
Western Uganda when a motorcyclist crashed into it and damaged his
bike. With zero savings, Okello says her mother was stuck in a serious
legal predicament.

"According to the regulations the owner of the cow has to pay because
the cows don't have right of way, so the owner of the cow has to pay,"
said Okello.

Moments after the accident, Okello visited a MTN service center in the
capital, Kampala, one of 600 service centers the regional telecom
company operates in Uganda. There, an agent converted Okello's $20
into electronic funds. In less than 5 minutes, Okello's mother
received a text message listing a special pin code which she used to
retrieve the funds at a MTN service center in her village.

In east Africa, the mobile banking system was first introduced in
Kenya a few years ago. Now, one out of every six Kenyans uses the
service to transfer money. In the past two months, telecom providers
such as MTN, Uganda Telecom, and Zain have cooperated with local banks
to expand this service into Uganda.

In the case of MTN, Ugandans are using their phones to send allowances
to their aging parents in outlying villages. Others use it to pay off
their children's' school fees, and more than 20 percent of subscribers
are using their mobile phones as a substitute for a savings account.

Uganda has only three million bank account holders, but close to 10
million mobile phone subscribers. Traditional banks are sparse in most
parts of rural Uganda. MTN's Mobile Money head, Richard Mwami, says
mobile phones have created a new "battleground" for banking.

"The power of the mobile phone [is] we have taken our financial
services to people who before have not been exposed to these services.
In fact, what we see happening is a lot of growth has been registered
in the central part of the country," said Mwami.

Mwami says subscribers are sending an average of $35 each transfer,
which he says means low-income people are using the service most. He
attributes this to the minimum 40 cents MTN charges per transfer as
compared to the $5 charged by traditional banks.

Although it is too soon to weigh the full economic impact of mobile
money on rural Uganda, the ease of the service has inspired people
like Kampala tour guide operator Timothy Sekanwagi to do something he
would not have considered doing before.

Sekanwagi recently bought property in the Ugandan countryside. The
businessman saved himself a 90-minute drive each way to the village
and high fuel charges by using his mobile phone to transfer a payment
to a local contractor.

"I bought a piece of land so I'm trying to put up a structure there so
instead of going there I can just send the money, so it is very cheap
and convenient," Sekanwagi said.

Mwami adds that this is only the start of an emerging money transfer
culture that could significantly boost economic development in Uganda
in the coming decade.

Mobile money transfers are popular in several other African countries
as well, including South Africa and Nigeria. Telecom operator Zain is
now piloting projects across the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Statistics indicate the developing world will use their mobiles to
transfer more than $5 billion in the next three years. Some analysts
are already dubbing mobile companies like Zain the "biggest bank in
East Africa."

This article was originally published by Voice of America.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Rwanda to Open 18 More Telecentres Countrywide

The government of Rwanda will open a further 18 telecentres nationwide
within one month to help enable access to ICT services, the minister
of ICT, Romain Murenzi, told Rwandan daily The New Times. Murenzi
added that there are currently twelve fully functional telecentres in
the country providing services such as internet, telephony and money
transfer, while work on a further 18 is underway.

The government plans to provide the whole country with access to the
internet by 2012, with the aim of closing the digital divide between
rural and urban areas. Soon after the announcement the state began
rolling out the first phase of the telecentre project. Poor telecoms
infrastructure has stifled ICT growth in Malawi; according to
TeleGeography's GlobalComms database, the country had only 126,000
fixed lines at the end of 2008, representing a teledensity of just
0.9% of the population, while the number of broadband subscribers
stood at just over 1,000.

Rwanda Plans to Join Kenya's TEAMS

The Rwandan government is negotiating a deal to connect the landlocked
country's telecoms network to The East African Marine System (TEAMS)
international submarine cable, which landed at Mombasa earlier this
month. Science and technology minister Romain Murenzi told Rwandan
newspaper The New Times that he had delegated officials from the
Rwanda Development Board (RDB) to discuss with Kenyan authorities the
possibility of establishing a cross-border fibre-optic link to the
cable system.

Last month Rwanda received a USD24 million regional infrastructure
grant from the World Bank to improve network capacity and broadband
connectivity and to lower the cost of international transmission. In
October 2008 the government awarded a USD40 million contract to South
Korean telco KT Corp to construct a national fibre-optic backbone.
Cellco MTN Rwanda and telco Rwandatel are already represented in
another ongoing East African submarine cable project, the EASSy

Econet Blocks Sale of Zain Nigeria

Econet Wireless Group (EWG) of South Africa has started moves to block
the sale of Kuwaiti-based Zain's interests in Zain Nigeria until a
ruling on a dispute over ownership of the company is passed. Last week
media reports indicated that the Zain Group, a mobile telecoms company
with operations in 22 countries in the Middle East and Africa, may
agree to a deal to sell its African operations to French company
Vivendi for up to USD12 billion.

According to TeleGeography's GlobalComms database, Zain Nigeria was
founded as Econet Wireless Nigeria (EWN) in 2001, named after the
South African holding company Econet Wireless International (EWI)
which held a 5% stake and a contract to run the cellco. Following a
takeover attempt by Vodacom of South Africa in 2003, a protracted
boardroom dispute ensued, with EWI unwilling to relinquish its stake
or its management control. Eventually in 2004 EWN was renamed Vee
Networks and its brand name changed to Vodacom. Barely six weeks after
taking over the cellco, Vodacom pulled out of its contract and walked
away from Vee Networks, citing 'irregularities' in the payment of the
brokerage fees. Management of the company was handed to Dr Gamaliel
Onosode, of the Delta State Ministry of Finance, and services were
rebranded again, this time under the V-Mobile banner. Celtel
International, a division of Zain, purchased 65% of the company in May
2006. EWI has since surfaced to try and gain a court ruling to
overturn the sale to Celtel, claiming its pre-emption rights were
breached when its predominantly Nigerian partners decided to sell
their shares in V-Mobile to Zain in 2006.

Orascom Settles Tchad Mobile Dispute

Reuters reports that Egypt's Orascom Telecom (OT) has announced that
it has received USD4.9 million from Chad in a settlement over
ownership of a Chadian mobile operator. Chad's telecommunications
ministry, the Office Tchadien de Regulation des Telecommunications
(OTRT), invalidated the transfer of a 51% stake in Tchad Mobile from
fixed line incumbent SOTEL, which would have given OT outright

The Chadian Ministry of Telecommunications questioned the validity of
the transfer, despite the fact that a valid agreement was entered into
in late 2002 between the two companies. As a result the Egyptian firm
suspended the operations of Tchad Mobile in July 2004. OT took the
case to the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in March 2005,
which ruled against SOTEL and the Chadian government

Nigeria Sspends Sale of NITEL

Nigerian newspaper Vanguard reports that the federal government of
Nigeria has deferred the sale of the country's incumbent telco NITEL
and its mobile arm M-Tel, opting instead to introduce a project team
charged with bringing the two back to life before they are sold to a
new core investor. Additionally, Lagos-based Daily Independent writes
that the chairman of the technical management board of NITEL, Alhaji
Abubakar Mohammed, has tasked the staff of the company and its
wireless unit to ensure their networks are in operation within ten
weeks. Staff have called upon the technical board to address the
problem of funding, theft and vandalisation of equipment as well as
the payment of outstanding salaries.

According to TeleGeography's GlobalComms database, the federal
government sold its 51% stake in NITEL to local company Transcorp for
USD750 million in November 2006, retaining a 49% interest. Since then
the telco's initial 500,000 fixed lines in service have dropped to
about 45,000, its workforce has declined from 12,000 to just 2,000 and
the company is USD500 million in debt. In February 2009 Transcorp
agreed to divest part of its shareholding in the telco and in late
March the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) announced it was offering
a 51% stake in the fixed line operator and 100% of its mobile unit. In
late May Nigeria's anti-corruption police charged the head of
Transcorp and two other employees with fraud for embezzling around
USD110 million belonging to NITEL and the following week the
government revoked the sale of the incumbent to Transcorp.

Safaricom Partners With Jamii For Broadband Service

Safaricom has announced that it has entered into a strategic
relationship with Jamii Telecommunications Limited whereby Jamii will
become Safaricom's preferred broadband infrastructure provider.

Safaricom's CEO Michael Joseph says "This relationship is key to the
success of the company's overall data strategy and is an integral part
of our commitment as management to continually enhance the value
proposition for our shareholders. As you know, Safaricom has now
formally migrated to the Communication Commission of Kenya's new
technology-neutral, unified licensing regime and can therefore
effectively offer a broader spectrum of data services using any
technological platform available to it."

Jamii Telecommunications is one of Kenya's leading broadband
infrastructure providers and this alliance effectively gives Safaricom
access to its over 1,000 kilometers' of state-of-the-art metro fibre
network in cities such as Nairobi and Mombasa, with planned
deployments in other key towns around the country.

Mr. Joseph further commented: "We have opted to partner with Jamii due
to a number of considerations such as their proven technical expertise
in the area of managed fibre services, the design and quality of their
network and the fact that this relationship will allow us to make
significant savings on both our operational and capital expenses. We
expect to realize these savings as we replace our legacy micro-wave
transmission network with fibre and to exploit the time to market
advantages that the Jamii fibre footprint gives us in terms of
accessing large corporates, homes, small and medium enterprises so as
to offer them cutting edge "last mile" communication solutions".

Jamii's Chairman and CEO, Joshua Chepkwony confirmed the agreement
with Safaricom, terming it a milestone for the Kenyan information
communications technology (ICT) industry. His company had made a
significant investment in developing its fibre network, he noted, and
expressed confidence that Jamii would be able to comfortably handle
Safaricom's demanding requirements.

The announcement by Safaricom and Jamii of this partnership is made as
the country awaits the coming into commercial service of the 1.28 TB/s
TEAMS (The East African Marine Systems) undersea cable in which the
two companies own a 20% and 3.75%

Samsung Launches "The Star" In Egypt

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., a leading mobile phone provider, has
announced the launch of its newest full-touch screen mobile in the
Egyptian market - the S5233 also known as the Star. With this latest
product, Samsung is able to enhance its position as a leading player
in the hugely popular touch screen mobile market.

"The Samsung Star is a significant product in our full-touch screen
mobile portfolio, bringing stylish designs and intuitive user
interfaces. We are committed to strengthening our portfolio of
full-touch phones by introducing a variety of handsets to suit every
lifestyle," said Mr. Duke Park, Samsung Cairo Branch Manager. "The
Samsung Star will continue to bring the exciting experience of touch
to mobile phone users and will further enhance Samsung's leadership in
the full-touch market."

Zain in Deal With Globitel for Roaming Solutions

Globitel announced today that Zain Group has officially extended its
relationship to provide an advanced set of Roaming Solutions to all
Zain Group mobile operations in Middle East, GCC and Africa.

Zain's Group relationship with Globitel started a few years ago with
the signing of agreements for Zain Group subsidiaries in Jordan,
Bahrain and Sudan.
After demonstrating its commitment to products and service quality, in
addition to the unmatched flexibility and swiftness in implementation,
Zain Group has decided to extend its agreement with Globitel to
include all remaining subsidiaries in the Middle East & Africa.

"We were impressed with the experience we had with Globitel in the
past years," said Mohammed Rafi, Group CIO. "The initial decision we
made has been sustained and boosted by the ability of delivery"

Friday, June 19, 2009

Telecom Egypt's CFO Quits

Telecom Egypt, the landline monopoly and major shareholder in Vodafone
Egypt, has announced that its Chief Financial Officer, Tarek Tantawy
is to resign to pursue another career opportunity. No replacement has
been named yet.

Since joining Telecom Egypt, Tarek was a key player in several
landmark transactions that were done by the company including listing
the company on the Egyptian and London Stock Exchanges in one of the
largest international equity offerings out of the Middle East ,
acquisition of a 45% shareholding stake in Vodafone Egypt and issuing
Egypt's largest ever corporate bond.

Commenting on Tarek's departure, Mr. Akil Beshir Chairman & CEO of
Telecom Egypt said "During his seven years with Telecom Egypt, Tarek
has made a significant impact on the company. His hard work and
dedication has been instrumental in establishing a corporate culture
of transparency and openness, which has garnered us respect from
investors both at home and abroad. I would like to express my
appreciation to Tarek's achievements with the company and we wish him
well in the future and look forward to announcing a replacement in due

Nigeria's GiCell Wireless To Boost Rural Coverage

Nigerian CDMA network operator, GiCell Wireless says that it plans to
spend over US$700 million over the next three years to expand its
rural coverage. The company is already covering five of the country's
thirty-six states and expects to create nearly half a million direct
and indirect jobs.

GiCell Wireless' CEO, Usman Gumi told the local Business Day newspaper
that the company has already spent US$50 million and secured a subsidy
of US$5 million from the World Bank.

He said: "We intend to cover the country within three years but we are
taking off from these five states to meet the World Bank requirement
having been selected as the first Universal Access Service provider in
Nigeria to provide telecommunication to un-served and under-served

According to him, the company was awarded the contract to provide
telecom service to three routes, which include - Yola-Biu,
Ilorin-Yasika (through Oyo State ) and Calabar-Obura Routes, out of 24
routes mapped out by the World Bank for rural telephony.

Ghana Now Requires EIA For New Phone Towers

Ghana's phone networks will be required to seek environmental permits
for all proposed mast sites before installation under new rules
announced by the Ministry of Environment Science and Technology.

A statement signed by Miss Sherry Aryittey, Minister for Environment
Science and Technology said each investor must complete an
environmental assessment registration form and submit to the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a site plan duly signed by
licensed surveyor, block plan, evidence of neighborhood consultation
and a lease agreement.

"This directive has become necessary because investigations conducted
indicate that the installation of most of these masts were mounted
without the necessary permit from the EPA and these have resulted in
numerous complaints concerning potential public health risks and
safety of such installations particularly those located in residential
areas," the statement said.

The statement also warned land owners not to permit the construction
of towers on land which is not approved for that purpose. The warning
was particularly aimed at residential properties in towns and cities
where space for towers is in already short supply.

The country has five mobile networks, with a sixth due to start
shortly - and estimates from the Mobile World analysts shows that the
country ended Q1 '09 with just under 11.8 million customers,
representing a population penetration level of 50%.

Econet Gets Funding for Zim Expansion

Zimbabwe's Econet Wireless has secured the funding to expand its
capacity from 2.5 million to 5 million by the end of next year, CEO
Douglas Mboweni has said. Making the announcement at the company's
annual results presentation, Mr. Mboweni said: "I am pleased to
announce that we have secured the resources, through our parent
company, Econet Wireless Group (EWG), to expand capacity further, from
the current 2,5m expansion program, to go to 5 million."

Currently, Econet has a connected capacity of about 1.2 million and
expects that number to exceed two million by the end of this year.

He said that at the beginning of the year, group chairman Mr. Strive
Masiyiwa had put in place a task force to mobilise resources for the
expansion of the Zimbabwe network. The task force comprises executives
from the head office, as well as the local company. Mr Mboweni said
the team which has traveled around the world has had "spectacular
success", and they are now turning away some funders, as they now want
to focus on implementing what they have.

Meanwhile, at the results presentation, Mr Mboweni said Econet has
returned to its core business of telecommunications, following the
dollarisation and the end of sub-economical tariffs. "As you all know,
the hyperinflation caused us to focus on investment activities in
order to keep the business alive, but now we are back to our core
business," he said.

Whilst this time last year Econet Wireless' income came almost
exclusively from investments, the income statement this year has
almost no investment income. The revenue for the year was $87.9
million, and the earnings before interest, depreciation, tax, and
armortisation was $26.6 million, or 30% of revenue.

The company re-valued its assets in US dollars, showing the growth of
its balance sheet to have increased to $176.4 million. However the
revaluation in the assets resulted in a depreciation charge of $18.4
million, which contributed significantly to a net loss of $2.1 million
for the year. Management was not unduly concerned with this number,
given the turmoil in the first 10 months of trading. Finance Director,
Mr Kris Chirairo, said it was clear that Econet was one of the first
large companies to fully dollarize, adding that the company was now
"doing very well" as would be shown in the half year figures, which
would be based on fully dollarized earnings. "It is difficult to
imagine there is a stronger public company out there than Econet
Wireless at the moment. We are operating at full capacity, and
expanding rapidly. Our revenues are strong and growing, and cash flow
is very good."

Both Mr Mboweni and Chirairo stressed that there had been a "lot of
cleaning up" during the first few months post-dollarisation. The
company has paid foreign creditors, and restored normal supply and
contractor relationships which had been impaired by lack of access to
foreign exchange. Services that had been suspended have all been
restored, and new ones have been introduced. The company undertook a
major study of salaries in the region of cell phone operators, and is
now paying its staff based on that study, as a result the hemorrhaging
of staff to other countries has stopped, and many are now coming back
to rejoin. Obsolete systems and equipment are being updated, even as
the expansion is taking place.

Mr Chirairo said the use of multiple currencies and the collapse of
the Zimbabwe dollar had essentially made the accounting process for
the first 10 months of the trading year an "academic exercise". He
said what was important to the company is what had happened in the
last two months when dollar tariffs were introduced.

Those two months contributed almost 32% of the total revenue realized,
despite the early challenges of implementing a new USD distribution
system for its products, which had been hampered by the requirement
for licensing of dealers to receive payment in US dollars.

Mr Chirairo said that beyond the two months, revenue continued to
grow, but would not state the actual numbers, saying such information
would be made available at the half year results in August.

Mr Mboweni said whilst the process of mobilizing funds, placing orders
with suppliers for equipment, as well as local construction, created a
lead time on delivery of new capacity, the company has now begun to
release capacity for pre-paid lines. In the last two months, the
company has been selling about 5,000 new lines per day, and expects
this to increase dramatically over the months as more and more
equipment is received and installed.

Vodacom Names New CFO

South Africa based Vodacom has announced that Mr Rob Shuter is to take
over as Chief Financial Officer of the Group and director of the Board
with effect from 1 July 2009. He replaces Mr Johan van der Watt, who
has been the acting Chief Financial Officer since Leon Crouse resigned
last year.

Rob is a Chartered Accountant with over 17 years senior financial
experience. He spent 9 years with the Nedbank Group holding various
director positions, latterly as Managing Director of Nedbank Retail.
He was formerly the Chief Operating Officer of Computer Configurations
Holdings and Head of Investment Banking at Standard Corporate &
Merchant bank. In addition to core financial functions, Rob will also
assume responsibility for company secretarial, investor relations,
internal audit and business development.

Mr Pieter Uys, Chief Executive Officer of Vodacom Group in welcoming
Rob to Vodacom said "I am delighted we have appointed Rob to the
position of Chief Financial Officer at this important time in the
history of the Vodacom Group. A company the size of Vodacom Group
demands an experienced and effective strategic finance executive such
as Rob."

Vodacom listed on the Johannesburg stock exchange last month following
a deal for Vodafone to increase its holding to 65%, while fellow
shareholder, Telkom divested its stake to a stock market listing.

Kenya Cuts VAT Tax on Mobile Phones

The cost of buying a mobile phone in Kenya has dropped sharply after
the government waived the import duty on mobile phones. Kenya's
Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta cut the 16% VAT on new phone handsets
in the government's budget statement - along with reducing import
duties on a whole range of other products.

"Let not anyone make it seem like it will not be done. It is in our
interest to do it, which is why we were lobbying. Nokia and its
partners are already implementing this," Nokia East and Southern
Africa Communications Manager, Dorothy Ooko told the Daily Nation
newspaper. "Gray products will no longer to be brought into our
country. The playing field is now level for all. The penetration rate
will double and the GDP will grow. It was a win-win for everyone," she

However, a 10% tax on airtime vouchers remains in place, so the cost
of calls and text messages themselves remain the same price.

The GSM Association has long called for a lowering of taxes on mobile
phone handsets and airtime, arguing that the lower costs boosts the
user base and hence leads to a net increase in revenue for

A recent report from the GSMA said that mobile subscribers across East
Africa are taxed at some of the highest levels world-wide. Kenya,
Uganda and Tanzania impose mobile-specific taxes which when added to
VAT can result in their respective consumers facing taxes as high as
30% in Uganda and Tanzania, and 27% in Kenya, considerably the highest
rates in Africa (and the among the highest across the world as a

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Mozambique Plans to Partially Privatize mCel

Mozambique will partially privatize state-owned mobile operator mCel.
The government will initially sell a minimum stake of 5 percent in
mCel, Paulo Zucula, minister of transport and communications told
independent newspaper O Pais.

According to Zucula, the initial stake will be exclusively available
to Mozambique investors, but subsequent stake sales will be open to
international buyers as well. mCel is currently developing a sale
proposal, which will be submitted for government approval within a

The proposal will include the price per share, the amount of the stake
to be sold, as well as details on the sale procedure. mCel reported
around 2.3 million customers at end-2007, and a net profit of around
USD 13.2 million.

The privatization of mCel was scheduled for roll-out in 2008, however,
the process was delayed due to organizational problems, Zucula added.
The minister also said the government aims to boost mobile
communications in Mozambique, and gradually withdraw from the market.

Malawi Regulator Clashes With Zain Over High Taxes

Malawi's Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) and the local arm
of Zain have clashed over plans to lower phone tariffs in the country.
The regulator wants to open the market up to more networks, while Zain
blames high taxes and says increased subscribers would lead to lower

"We believe more players would increase competition on the market and
this will force the companies to reduce their tariffs for them to
remain competitive. We are sure that consumers would be the ultimate
beneficiaries from the increased numbers of players on the market,"
Macra Acting Director General Mike Kumtiya told the Daily Times

The country currently has two mobile networks, Zain and former
incumbent, (Telekom Networks Malawi) TNM - while a two more networks
have been licensed. Globally Advanced Integrated Networks (Gain)
expects to launch its network within the next couple of months, while
G-Mobile is still waiting to announce a launch date.

Zain Malawi's Managing Director Fayaz King countered the claim, saying
that "Imagine at Zain, we have mounted a network that could take up to
5 million users but we currently have only 1.5 million customers. We
believe that if at least 3 million people started using the Zain
network, we could start enjoying the benefits of economies of scale
and we can be able to extend the same to consumers through reduce

The Mobile World subscriber database estimates that Malawi ended Q1
'09 with just over 2 million subscribers - representing a population
penetration level of just 15%. Zain is the market leader with 66.7% of
the customer base, with Telecom Networks Malawi (TNM) taking the

Monday, June 8, 2009

"EASSy Project on Course"

The East African Submarine Cable (Eassy) management committee has
assured East Africans that it will not reschedule the timeframe of
finalising the project that will help to bring reliable and affordable
communication in the region.

A statement released after the committee�s meeting in the Comoros said
the ongoing undersea telecommunication infrastructure project would be
completed towards the end of next June as planned.

The undersea cable system, linking East Africa to the rest of the
world with a fibre optic network, is being constructed by Alcatel

"This project remains on track for completion as planned and the
upgrading of telecoms infrastructure in East Africa will lead to a
welcome increase in the development of the economy and empowerment of
the region," Zantel Tanzania's CEO, Mr Noel Herrity, said in a

Comoros President Abdullah Ahmed Sambi chaired the meeting.

Marine survey work that commenced in December, last year, has been
completed and all permits at the landing stations have been obtained.

The work to manufacture cables for the project started in February,
this year, and has been completed by 40 per cent.

EASSy is a consortium of 27 operators that seek to build an open
access to the international fibre optic submarine cable. They include,
among others, Tanzania's Tanzania Telecommunications Company Limited,
Zantel and Vodacom.

The nine cable landing stations namely � Port Sudan, Djibouti,
Mogadishu, Mombassa, Dar es Salaam, Moron, Toliary, Maputo and
Mtunzini � are in final stage of construction.

Zim Cabinet Approves Privatization of TelOne

Zimbabwe's cabinet has approved a commercialisation and privatisation
plan encompassing state-held assets in industries including telecoms,
energy and infrastructure. Minister of Finance Tendai Biti told the
Zimbabwe Independent that the approved plan took into consideration
timing, overall objectives and appropriate processes to be used,
whilst state enterprises had been divided into categories depending on
their potential and current state.

The category of high value, high potential businesses (but needing
capitalisation and better management) includes national PSTN operator
TelOne, power stations and the national railway operator, according to
the minister. It is estimated that the country needs USD10 billion to
carry out necessary transformations to revitalise its economy, but has
so far raised around USD1 billion. CommsUpdate previously reported
that the government intended to put state-run mobile operator NetOne
up for sale, but last month it was revealed the sale attempt would be
suspended until the global economy improved.

Also in the news, Zimbabwe's Minister of Information and Communication
Technology Nelson Chamisa has ordered TelOne to make heavy cuts to its
fixed line tariffs and to match billing systems used in other
countries in the region. On Thursday Chamisa issued a ministerial
order barring the telco from cutting off any customers unable to pay
their bills, until the matter is resolved by cabinet.

Zain Kenya Introduces Toll-Free Calling

Zain Kenya has launched a toll free service, Zain 0800, that will
allow customers to call corporate clients without being charged. By
calling through the Zain 0800 service, the cost incurred from all the
incoming calls will be borne by the corporate client.

The calls rates will be billed to the corporates at different rates,
between KES1 and KES5, depending on the specifications chosen by each
organisation. The service, which is only accessible to Zain customers,
will be limited to local calls only.

Corporates who subscribe to the Zain 0800 service will be accorded a
six digit number of their choice preceded by the 0800 prefix. "This
service will enhance interaction between corporates and their
customers and also increase response times," said Mr. Rene Meza,
Managing Director Zain Kenya.

"The market response to the various value added initiatives has been
very promising. The growth in mobile telephony in Kenya is quite
fast-paced as customers continue to seek for new applications and uses
available in the sector," Mr. Meza said.

Since rebranding late last year, Zain Kenya has been focusing on
rolling out value added services in a bid to build up its market
share. During the period, Zain has launched an m-commerce platform
Zap, a caller Ring Back Tone service, Ziki and a loyalty programme
dubbed Rewardz.

"MTN & Bharti Airtel Could Merge Operations by Mid-July"

Bharti Airtel, the Indian mobile operator and MTN, the South African
mobile group could experience a rise in debt levels taking the
combined total to USD 6.3 billion if the deal goes ahead. Bharti's
debt is likely to hike to around USD 3.6 billion and MTN's to around
USD 2.7 billion, although Bharti is likely to see additional net debt
of USD 4 billion and MTN an additional USD 2.9 billion.

The deal on the merger between the two giants could be inked by
mid-July. "The two parties are conducting due diligence and at this
point there are no concerns about the deal being derailed," a source
revealed. "If it continues like this there should be a final agreement
by mid-July, if not earlier."

Econet Zimbabwe Enters South Africa With Cell C Partnership

Econet Wireless, the Zimbabwean mobile operator, has sold nearly
100,000 starter packs in the South Africa. The Econet Call Home SIM
card offers low-cost calls between South Africa-based Zimbabweans and
their loved ones in Zimbabwe. The Call Home SIM is powered by Cell C's
network in South Africa. Additional to the lowered rates to Zimbabwe,
it offers free calls to other Call Home Sim subscribers when they
recharge for ZAR 10 or more. The card is available at a retail price
of ZAR 25.

Econet has also launched a service called Zim Call Me Backs which
allows Econet subscribers in Zimbabwe to send free Call Me Back
messages to Call Home subscribers in South Africa.

Nigeria's Visafone Plans Major Expansion of its Wireless Network

Nigerian newspaper The Guardian reports that Visafone Communications,
Nigeria's fourth largest mobile operator by subscribers, will spend
between USD300 million and USD400 million over the next two years on
expanding its wireless network. According to the report, Visafone
plans to plough the majority of the funds into deploying a 3,000km
nationwide backbone covering all of Nigeria's 36 states.

Construction of the network will begin in the south-east, and then
move towards the south of the country, before being extended to the
city of Lagos in the south-west. Deployment of the cable will then
head north via the capital Abuja.

In a separate story, Visafone has recently upgraded its network to
bring its core switch capacity to six million subscribers, aimed at
improving service quality. The upgrade will also ensure that the
cellco can continue its rapid expansion of network coverage and
customer acquisition without fear of congestion on the network. At
present, Visafone covers 170 towns and cities in 22 states, though the
company's CEO Ninan Thomas revealed plans to provide coverage to all
36 states by 2011.

Ericsson Wins Deal to Manage Zain Nigeria Network

Middle East and Africa operator Zain and Ericsson have entered a
five-year managed services agreement under which Ericsson will operate
Zain's nationwide GSM/WCDMA networks in Nigeria. Ericsson will be
responsible for the network and field operations, including
optimization, third-party vendor management for Zain's networks and
business support systems.

As part of the agreement, about 450 employees will be transferred,
under their existing terms and conditions of service, from Zain to
Ericsson, where they will undergo further training in the latest
wireless technologies. The contract gives Ericsson its first major
managed services footprint in Africa, and reflects its continued focus
on high-growth markets, where most subscriber growth is expected to
take place during the next five years.

Zain's agreement with Ericsson is expected to improve network
availability and capacity, make the most of Zain's network investment
and reduce operating costs for its 4,000 sites across Nigeria. The
contract is part of the mobile operator's Drive11 strategy to reduce
operating costs and further subscriber growth.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Telecel Zimbabwe Plans Major Expansion

Zimbabwe's smallest mobile network operator, Telecel says that it is
planning for a significant expansion of its network coverage. The
company says that it has already boosted capacity thanks to upgrading
existing base station towers. Telecel Zimbabwe is owned by Egypt's
Orascom Telecom.

The company recently released an additional 100,000 SIM cards onto the
market following the network capacity upgrade.

"We will be targeting selected new geographic sites to extend out
geographic coverage to most highway corridors, service centres and
rural areas in addition to all major cities, towns, commercial and
mining centres. (This) will result in even more lines being released
onto the market," the company said in a statement.

The SW Radio Africa news recently said that the cost of SIM cards has
fallen to around $25 each.

The country currently has three mobile network operators. According to
figures from the Mobile World analysts, Telecel is estimated to have
ended last year with around 232,000 subscribers - representing a
market share of around 15%.

South Africa's MTN Group was recently rumoured to be interested in
taking a 60% stake in Telecel.

Nigeria Gov't Takes Over Control of Nitel

The Nigerian government has taken back control of the country's former
telecoms monopoly Nitel, citing a lack of investment and unpaid debts.

Local firm Transcorp paid $500m (£304m) for a 51% stake in Nitel in 2006.

But state officials said Transcorp had breached its contract and the
government would control the company until a new investor was found.

Nitel has been hit hard by a decline in both fixed line and mobile
phone subscriber numbers.

The government said Transcorp had failed to meet its obligations to
invest 8.9bn naira ($60.7m) within 100 days of the takeover and had
racked up debts of 17bn naira.

"The government is considering a technical board to manage Nitel until
a new core investor emerges," said Christopher Anyanwu, director
general of the Bureau of Public Enterprises.

Since 2001, Nitel has seen its number of fixed lines plunge from more
than 500,000 to about 100,000.

Subscribers to its mobile phone subsidiary Mtel have also fallen from
1.3m to a few thousand.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo first tried to sell the firm in
2001 before Nitel bought its majority stake five years later.

Mobitel Picks Alvarion for WiMAX Network

Nigeria's Mobitel has contracted Alvarion to deploy a WiMAX network in
under-served areas throughout the country. Using Alvarion's BreezeMAX
solution in the 2.0 GHz, 2.2 GHz and 2.3 GHz frequency bands, Mobitel
will begin to offer voice and high-bandwidth data services, with the
key cities of Lagos, Port-Harcourt, Warri and Abuja being start

Initial rollout of the WiMAX network is planned for Q3 2009, with
20,000 subscribers expected on the network during initial launch.
Alvarion will also provide a range of professional services including
system integration, network deployment, field maintenance,
configuration, training and local support services to ensure
successful delivery of the network.

"This is a great opportunity for Mobitel to bring broadband services
to remote parts of the country. The use of WiMAX technology together
with our existing fixed line network allows us the possibility to
offer converged services to our customers," said Johnson Salako,
President of Mobitel. "WiMAX provides a very good business case to
roll out broadband infrastructure with a much lower upfront investment
when compared to other technologies available in the market. Given our
ambitious goal for Nigeria we need a strong and reliable partner with
a proven track record to ensure our success and we believe Alvarion is
best suited to accomplish this."

During the second phase of the project, Mobitel and Alvarion will
expand coverage to 18 other states in the country, including Kano,
Kaduna, Oyo and Edo. The current population of Nigeria is estimated at
150 million people in 66 provinces with a very low internet
penetration rate of less than 1%.

Monday, June 1, 2009

FoneStarz Wins Deal to Manage Vodafone Egypt Downloads

Mobile content white-label supplier, FoneStarz Media has won one of its most significant deals and is now managing the entire content downloads portal for Vodafone live! in Egypt. The dual-language English and Arabic downloads service has allowed FoneStarz to vertically integrate games, ringtones, video and personalisation products like wallpapers, themes and Flash Lite into one fully managed storefront, using its content management and delivery system, Daius.
The second phase of the site will also involve FoneStarz managing the App Store for the rapidly growing Vodafone network, which has more than 17 million subscribers.
It's the first time the company has created an end-to-end mobile entertainment solution for an operator. FoneStarz will bring its own licensed content and will also host, manage and aggregate content using Vodafone licenses, both local and from Group.
Dave Moreau, Chief Executive Officer, FoneStarz Media, said: "This co-ordinated storefront is at the heart of what we are trying to achieve as a Company. We firmly believe that by pulling together all the different mobile entertainment categories under one properly managed store we can significantly improve the mobile content experience for customers.
"Vodafone Egypt has given us the chance to prove this and in a highly exciting, dual-language market it's a challenge we have relished. Now we have to make sure all the best retailing practices we have developed in the last seven years in this business are put to work to make this downloads portal a huge success."
FoneStarz already works with Vodafone elsewhere, managing the ringtones and pictures business for them in the UK and other on-deck services in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
The company has recently signed up five deals with Hutchison 3 to manage on-portal categories in the UK, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark and Austria.

Essar Acquires GSM Licence in Uganda

A unit of Essar Group has won a licence in Uganda to build a USD 200 million GSM phone network, India's Mint newspaper reported. Unlisted Essar Teleholdings, which obtained a similar licence in Kenya last year, will own 90 percent of the venture, the paper said, quoting a group official.
The company said it has paid USD 3 million for frequency charges to the Uganda Communication Commission and will launch the service in August in a joint venture with Kenyan Telecom Uganda, a local telecom company. It quoted Srinivasa Iyengar, managing director of Essar Telecom Kenya.
Uganda has six mobile phone operators, of which MTN is the market leader with a 45 percent share. Essar Teleholdings has also decided to bid for licences in Tanzania, Congo and Cameroon, the paper said.