Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bharti, MTN Bosses Meet Indian Finance Minister

Indicating a smooth negotiation process between them, Bharti Airtel and South African MTN are understood to have apprised the Finance Ministry of their proposed deal structure.
Bharti Chairman Sunil Mittal and MTN Group President and CEO Phuthuma Nhleko had met Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee yesterday.
The two telecom majors extended the deadline for exclusive talks for their proposed $23-billion deal to the end of next month recently.
Bharti and MTN, the largest telcos in India and Africa respectively, have been engaged in exclusive talks since June 24 to create the world's third-largest communications firm.
The deal present a complex structure in which both firms would pay cash and equity for stakes in each other as per which Bharti Airtel will get 49 per cent in MTN and the South African telco and its shareholders will get 36 per cent economic interest in Bharti.
Although no official comment was available on the agenda of the meeting, sources said may have centred on accommodating more FDI within the 74 per cent FDI cap as per the new norms.
The new FDI norms consider a company Indian if Indian promoters hold a majority stake in it and the investments made by foreign companies in any joint venture or downstream venture will be treated as Indian.
Bharti Airtel, which had close to 72 per cent foreign equity as per the old guidelines, has only about 43 per cent FDI under the new norms as SingTel's 31 per cent holding in the company as well as Vodafone's four per cent stake are routed through majority-owned Indian companies.
Bharti is learnt to have told the Minister that even after the deal, the emerging entity will, therefore, have FDI within the prescribed limit.

Orascom Algeria Denies Sale of Company to Vivendi

Tamer El-Mahdi, Director-General of Orascom Telecom Algeria (OTA), on Sunday denied speculation that the subsidiary company was beings old to the French group, Vivendi.

Speaking at a press conference in Algiers, he said Orascom had no intention whatsoever of selling the most cost-effective of its 12 subsidiaries, which was expected to see a 7 per cent growth in 2009.

OTA has nearly 14 million subscribers and is in competition with the Mobilis and Watanya Telecom Algeria, belonging to the Kuwaiti Group, Kowetien Qtel.

Zain Kenya Targets SME's With New Zap Products

Zain Kenya has introduced three new products to its Zap money transfer service that targets small and medium enterprises as well as corporate clients.
The mobile phone firm has added Zap Distro, Zap Master Pay and Zap Tranzact to its menu in a move that is expected to heighten competition in the cash transfer market.
Zap Distro, a web portal tool, will enable dealers and large chains, which have other agents under their flagship, to manage their accounts.
Monitor deals
"It is envisaged that this tool will assist the distributors to manage better their Zap dealership businesses by enabling them to monitor their daily transactions, check their account balances, allocate and de-allocate money to their agents," Zain Kenya managing director Rene Meza said on Monday.
Through the system, dealers will also be able to draw funds directly from their bank accounts and store them on their virtual Zap accounts as float for onward allocation to their agents network.
The cash transfer service is said to boast of more than 3,000 agents countrywide.
The Zap Master Pay solution, according to Mr Meza, will ease cash administration process especially for SMEs. This will enable organisations to send funds to up to 1,000 Zap accounts at a time.
"Master Pay is expected to reduce the cost of processing payments via cheque or other methods and also address the risk of transporting cash to and from the bank and internal fraud," the managing director said.
Needs of players
The third service, Zap Tranzact, is aimed at meeting the needs of players in the service industry such as insurance companies and distributor enterprises as a remittance solution to enhance efficiency of the cash collection process.
Using the solution, organisations will be able to collect funds from their clients spread throughout the country. The money will then be transferred directly to their bank accounts. 
Mr. Meza also said that an additional interface for merchants has been included on the platform to enable organisations collecting revenues through the Zap service to monitor customer transactions in real-time

"Our key partners like Kenya Power and Lighting Company and MultiChoice Kenya, who have had huge success in subscription payment services through Zap, can now monitor their transactions online as well as bank reconciliations," he said.

Zain, MTN Agree on Register of Stolen Phones

Nigeria's two largest mobile network operators, MTN and Zain have agreed to sign up to a centralised stolen handset database after a funding agreement was brokered by the telecoms regulator. The Central Equipment Identity Registry (CEIR) service provider, Netvisa GSM Secured will operate the database independently of the operators.
Under terms of the agreement, the operators will pay the management fees to Netvisa, but then reduce their annual numbering fees paid to the regulator.
The deal lasts for two-years, and it is presumed that when the contract expires, that the operators will levy the charge direct to the subscriber bills.
Based on official statistics obtained by Technology Times, active mobile subscriber base on GSM and CDMA mobile networks in the country reached 66,418,011 lines at Q2, 2009, a development that will see Netvisa raking in some N3.2 billion (US$21 million) in monthly and annual earnings from subscribers when all other mobile operators join MTN and Zain in interconnecting the CEIR network.
"That is money earned from doing absolutely nothing", an executive of a telecoms company who is conversant with the development told Technology Times on condition of anonymity at the weekend while also citing that operators have come under pressure to connect the controversy-ridden CEIR service provider, Netvisa.
The regulator pegged the rate of 40 kobo per subscriber for the phone blocking service after Netvisa's proposal for a higher price was resisted by operators, who also expressed dissatisfaction with the selection process that saw the emergence of Netvisa as the preferred candidate to provide the single database of blacklisted phones in the country.

Net*One Considers Listing On Harare Bourse

Zimbabwe's second largest mobile network operator, Net*One is reported to be looking at listing on the local stock exchange, if the the government approves a financing model. An alternative is to seek an outside investor.
Whichever plan is carried out, the government will not reduce its holding below 60 percent, ICT Minister, Nelson Chamisa told the The Financial Gazette. The investment will be used to recapitalise the company and funding its network expansion.
"Net*One is one of the four parastatals that the government is planning to recapitalise as soon as possible. We are looking at a number of recapitalisation models," Chamisa said.
South Africa's MTN Group was recently reported to be seeking an investment in a Zimbabwean operator, although the presumed target, Telecel denied the reports.
The country currently has three mobile network operators. According to figures from the Mobile World analysts, Net*One is estimated to have ended last year with around 340,000 subscribers - representing a market share of around 18.6%.

Friday, August 21, 2009

AccessKenya To Upgrade Network For $6.55 Million

Data service provider AccessKenya has announced that it has invested KES500 million (USD6.55 million) over the course of 2009 to upgrade its networks in preparation for the arrival of two fibre-optic submarine cables, SEACOM and TEAMS. SEACOM, which launched in July, has already enabled AccessKenya to double internet speeds for its 3,000 corporate customers.

Group MD Jonathan Somen said: 'In terms of the guidance that we are giving people, we are still on course. The guidance for the revenues is more than KES2 billion… The bottom line, there is growth in there but it is very much dependent on when the fibre (TEAMS) lands. If we get to turn off our satellite in September, that will be a significant improvement for us.'

According to Reuters the firm spends USD750,000 per month on satellite bandwidth suppliers and the company is hoping that the savings brought by the new cable systems will aid its move into the residential sector.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Warid Signs Deal With Microsoft

Warid Telecom, a telecom asset of UAE-based Abu Dhabi Group, has reportedly inked an Enterprise Agreement with the world's leading software company Microsoft, demonstrating the telco's commitment and respect for intellectual property rights (IPR) by using only genuine Microsoft software.
As per the agreement, Warid will be offered new and upgraded version of software, technical support directly and online and onsite training for users from the Microsoft. It will also be provided with consulting services to deploy latest Microsoft technologies following the internationally proven best-practices.

Under the agreement, Microsoft will deliver different applications, servers and systems software to Warid for standardisation of its computers with Windows operating system, office applications and server-client management tools.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

MTN Asks Airtel to Raise Offer By $1 Billion

MTN, the South African mobile operator, wants Bharti Airtel, the Indian mobile operator, to raise its offer by more than $1 billion, if the planned possible merger has to be successful.
The two operator have been talks from past two months for a deal worth $23 billion, and have extended their exclusivity period until the end of August. A further extension in the merger is anticipated. According to a media source Bharti is "willing to go some way to increase the offer", but the deal may still collapse.
The further $1 billion sought by MTN is mostly cash and would account for around a 9% premium to the original Bharti offer.

Vodafone To Restructure Ghana Operations

UK-based mobile powerhouse the Vodafone Group plans to restructure Vodafone Ghana, formerly Ghana Telecom, in line with its best practice model.

In a statement to the press, the company said the reorganisation of the unit will streamline the Ghanaian business and provide it with increased flexibility and strength to compete in the local market.

Vodafone intends to continue ongoing network expansion work in Ghana, where its majority owned subsidiary offers fixed line and mobile telephony, internet and data communications services, as well as improving overall quality utilisation there.

Since its takeover in mid-2008, Vodafone Group claims to have created more than 7,000 new direct and indirect jobs in sales and distribution in Ghana. Going forward, Vodafone intends to increase current network capacity of 30% to 100% by the year end.

Glo-1 Cable Launch Postponed to November

West African undersea fibre-optic cable system Glo-1 has reportedly delayed its commercial launch until November, after missing previous target dates of March and May, CommsDay writes.

Globacom, which is building the network connecting Nigeria to Europe, says Glo-1 has run into technical difficulties, including licensing issues with governments, and a lack of skilled staff.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Cameroon: MTN, CamTel Dispute "Settled"

Cameroonian newspaper Le Messager is reporting that the country's telecoms regulator, Agence de Regulation des Telecommunications (ART), has settled a dispute between state-owned incumbent telco CamTel and mobile operator MTN Cameroon regarding the cellco's deployment of an 81km fibre-optic cable in Douala.

Decision No 000113/Art/Dg/DajciI of 11 August 2009 signed by the director general of ART, Jean-Louis Mbeh Mengue, requests MTN to halt deployment of fibre-optics in the city, and subjects the cellco to a penalty of CFA10 million (USD22,000) per day of delay from the date of service.

According to the report, ART said that the cellco did not obtain approval from the relevant state agencies for the deployment of its network, stating that amongst other things, MTN has not met 'technical specifications for civil engineering of telecommunications networks in Cameroon' and has not complied with 'provisions of Decree No. 77/526 of 23 December 1977 on the protection of cables or electric, water pipes or gas, sewage or equipment of the same nature.'

CamTel objected to MTN's project, claiming that it holds exclusive responsibility for the installation and management of optical fibre for intercity and urban areas.

Tanzania's TTCL Now On SEACOM

Tanzania Telecommunications Company Limited (TTCL) says it is now hooked up to the SEACOM international submarine fibre-optic cable system and able to provide its customers with some of the fastest communication services in the country.
TTCL chief executive officer Said A Said told local press late last week that the company's internet traffic has been switched entirely to the cable effective 28 July 2009 – less than a week after the system was officially launched.
On 23 July, SEACOM reported that its 1.28Tbps, 17,000km submarine fibre-optic cable linking South and East Africa to global networks via India and Europe had been completed and commissioned

mCel Annual Profits Up 58%

Mozambique's incumbent mobile operator, mCel, has posted net profit of MZN548 million (USD20.76 million) for the full-year 2008, up 58% year-on-year from MZN348 million in 2007.
mCel CEO Gomes Zita said: 'With the exception of the 2004 financial year, when net profits of MZN660 million were posted due to currency exchange gains, 2008 was our most successful term in the last five years.'
Revenues jumped from MZN5.83 billion in 2007 to MZN7.09 billion a year later. The operator's subscriber base grew 36% over the course of the year to 3.1 million compared to just over 2.3 million at the end of 2007.
The company estimates that its market share at the end of 2008 was 69%, up 3% year-on-year.

African Countries Push for Mobile & Internet Growth In Rural Areas

Zambia, Rwanda, Kenya and Nigeria are among the countries in Africa that say they are making a determined push for rural mobile-phone and Internet connectivity.
After years of failed promises, African countries now seem poised to heavily invest and ensure that in rural areas more people will be able to use mobile and Internet services.
For more than 10 years, mobile-phone and Internet communication in Africa has been concentrated in urban areas. But because the mobile and Internet markets in towns have become saturated, operators in Africa and governments are moving to rural areas, where millions of people are still not connected to mobile and Internet services.
It is also expected that the rural business community will now be able to get market information on mobile phones and sell products online.
The Zambian government has said it has set aside more than US$10 million for cell phone connectivity throughout the country, while the federal government in Nigeria has directed operators to invest in the National Rural Telephone Project. The government is expected to spend more than $150 million on the program.
Zambian Vice President George Kunda said the Zambian government is now determined to facilitate the existence of a mobile network throughout the country.
Kunda said the Zambian government wants to give priority to cell-phone accessibility in rural areas to allow people to communicate everywhere at anytime. The Zambian government has acknowledged for the first time that many people in rural areas are not able to access mobile-phone services that service providers in the country are offering.
"There is need for people in rural areas to start using mobile phones to access other services, such as the Internet, to enable them to obtain vital information as well as get connected to the rest of the world," said Zambian Minister of Communications and Transport Geoffrey Lungwangwa on Aug. 12.
The Rwandan government has also said it has secured information and communication technology (ICT) buses for the ongoing e-Rwanda project that is aimed at taking Internet connectivity to people in rural areas. In a more publicized move to take ICT to people in rural areas, the Rwanda Development Board in charge of ICT (RDB/IT) introduced ICT buses with telecenters.
The Rwandan government said the move is aimed at bridging the digital gap between the rural and urban areas and comes into force as one of the backbones of the ongoing e-Rwanda project that will see Internet taken closer to people in rural areas.
The ICT buses are also meant to provide additional ICT services that include printing, photocopying, scanning and basic ICT training for people in rural areas. The Rwandan government said this is a pilot phase, which will last for a year -- after which the services will spread to all rural areas throughout the country and provide Internet services to rural schools.
As many rural areas in Africa are not connected to the national grid, the ICT buses have generators to power them. Rwanda's vision is to become the ICT hub in the East African region. The ICT bus innovation comes as an addition to the introduction of 30 telecenters around the country.
Three-quarters funded by the World Bank, the e-Rwanda project has also seen the country introduce telemedicine and e-treatment.
Amos Manyarara, bank communications officer for Southern Africa mobile communications, said providing mobile connectivity to rural areas will increase the revenue base for mobile service providers.
"Rural areas have for a long time been neglected by service providers, and the governments have realized more people in rural areas still have no access to mobile-phone and Internet communication," Manyarara said.
The Kenyan government also has announced that it has set aside 16.3 billion shillings (more than US$210 million) for mobile computers, digital villages and a One Million Computers program. Similar to a cybercafé, Kenyan digital villages are small ICT centers in each parliamentary region that are designed to create business hubs and expand economic opportunities in rural areas.
As in Rwanda, the Kenya program is a partnership with the World Bank, and more than 16 ICT centers have already been rolled out. The One Million Computers program will try to distribute 1 million laptops and desktop computers to university students and people in rural areas in Kenya. The program is designed to work with broadband providers, who are expected to reduce the cost of Internet connections.
Like Zambia, Kenya currently has a computer penetration of less than 3 percent. The Kenyan government is expecting that the One Million Computers program will significantly add to the number of people who will own and be able to use a computer to receive and disseminate information through the Internet.

Safaricom Launches Solar-Powered Phone

Kenyan­ mobile network operator, Safaricom has launched a solar-powered mobile phone. Branded Simu ya Solar and manufactured under a partnership with ZTE, the handset is made from recycled materials and has an in-built solar panel.
Simu ya Solar, which also comes with a conventional charger, will be retailing at all Safaricom shops countrywide at a price of Shs2,999 (US$40).
Speaking during the launch of the phone, Safaricom Chief Executive Officer Michael Joseph said the company has always been keen on embracing business processes and products that are environmentally-conscious.
"Solar power is definitely the way to go as it is cheap, green and renewable. This solar-charged phone will come in handy particularly in the rural parts without grid electricity and even urban areas, for those who are keen on saving on phone maintenance costs," he said.
"Our subscribers will not have to take their phones to merchants for charging and wait all day for their handsets to charge in order to make calls. They can now talk all day and night without worrying about the level of charge and charging costs."
Safaricom already has over 60 Base Transmission Stations (BTSs) that are operating on renewable energy sources - wind and solar-driven turbines in various parts of the country. Safaricom House, the firm's head office, is also fitted with motion-sensitive light bulbs to minimize the use of electricity within the office environment.

Mauritius Mobile Users Hit 1 million Mark

­The Mauritius government's statistics office has reported that the number of mobile cellular subscribers went up by 11.3% to reach 1,033,300 in 2008 from 928,600 in 2007. Similarly, the number of prepaid subscribers increased by 1.3% to 969,800 in 2008 and that of mobile cellular postpaid subscribers grew by 11.0% to 63,500 in 2008.
Mobidensity or the number of mobile cellular phones per 100 inhabitants increased by 10.6% reaching 81.2 in 2008 from 73.4 in 2007.
At the end of last year, 99% of the population was covered by mobile cellular telephony, which is unchanged from 2007.
The number of fixed telephone lines was 363,400 in 2008, 0.6% higher than the 2007 figure of 361,300. It is noted that with the availability of the mobile cellular prepaid service, the number of fixed telephone lines registered low growths since 2003.
Teledensity defined as the number of fixed telephone lines per 100 inhabitants which was 28.6 in 2007 remained the same in 2008.

­Fitch Affirms MTN Rating as Stable Outlook

­Fitch Ratings has today affirmed South Africa based MTN Group's National Long-term ratings at 'AA-(zaf)' with Stable Outlook. The affirmation reflects strong subscriber growth in MTN's markets that have relatively low mobile penetration. This has driven MTN's strong operating cash flow generation and underpinned its profitability, which in turn contributed to an improved net leverage (adjusted net debt/EBITDAR) of 0.4x in FY08 (FY07:0.6x).
However, Fitch expects elevated capex in 2009 to reduce free cash flow generation in the short-term and potentially lead to an increase in net leverage, albeit still consistent with its current ratings.
The Stable Outlook reflects Fitch's view that MTN's business profile remains well-positioned in the medium-term to weather the industry's challenges, including increasing competition in its core markets. Nevertheless, the group's financial profile benefits from strong operating cash flow generation, relatively low leverage and a healthy liquidity position.
The ratings also incorporate the relatively high country risk - political and regulatory - in the markets in which MTN operates. Consequently, the group's ability to repatriate cash flows to South Africa from certain jurisdictions remains a concern to Fitch, even though the company has so far demonstrated its ability to successfully repatriate cash flow to South Africa.
Fitch recognises that the potential merger with Bharti may benefit MTN's business risk profile through geographic diversification and increased scale of operations. At the same time, any potential merger transaction is likely to result in increased leverage. Nevertheless, Fitch views this possible transaction as event-risk and has not factored this into the current ratings.
MTN is one of the leading mobile operators in Africa and Middle East. It has a presence across 21 countries with a total of 90 million subscribers in 2008 (2007: 61 million).

Zain Plans to Review Shareholder Restrictions Rules

­Speculation about the future of Kuwait based mobile operator, Zain was heightened when the company posted notices seeking changes to shareholder restrictions. Shareholders will be asked to vote on the amendment to lift a ban on any single shareholder owning more than two percent of the listed shares in the company.
Zain's shares surged on the Kuwaiti stock exchange as speculation rose that the move could allow an outside investor to take a large stake in the company.
Zain's largest single shareholder, the Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) recently said that it would consider selling its stake in the company if the right offer came along. Zain is itself trying to sell its African assets, and although later denied, it was rumoured that UAE based Etisalat was interested in buying the whole company.
Zain's chairman, Saad al-Barrak has said that he wants to see the KIA sell its stake in Zain as soon as possible. "I wish they would leave tomorrow, and I am working on this," he said. He added that the motivation was to ensure the company could operate without political interference.
Zain has recruited Swiss bank UBS to carry out a "strategic review" that could lead to a sale of its former Celtel division - which includes most of its African assets.

Zain Is Talking to 3 Operators

­Kuwait's Zain is reported to now be in talks with three international telecom operators over the future of its African assets. Citing Chief Executive Officer Saad al-Barrak, the Al-Rai newspaper also confirmed that one of the unnamed companies included one from India.
Talks with the three companies may result in "serious negotiations" leading to the partial or complete sale of Zain's African assets, al-Barrak told the newspaper.
Of the possible Indian bidders, Reliance Communications was a previous suitor for South Africa's MTN Group, indicating an interest in the continent. India's state-owned BSNL has also expressed an interest in African operators, although it has so far limited its talks to minority stakes in individual networks.
France Telecom has previously suggested that it might be interested in some of the African assets, and Vivendi was in formal talks, although it broke off discussions last month.
Zain is carrying out a strategic review of its long term future, and is being advised by investment bank UBS. The company also plans a general meeting at the end of the month to amend rules on shareholder limits that could pave the way for a large investor to take a stake in the company.

Zain Upgrades Fibre-Optic Network in Niger Delta

Nigerian newspaper Leadership writes that mobile operator Zain Nigeria has upgraded its fibre-optic cable network in the state of Akwa Ibom located in the Niger Delta region.
Nse Okponong, MD of Teleputer System, Zain's major distributor in the state, said that the company hopes the upgrade will enable consumers to receive better quality services, and therefore boost the operator's subscriber base in the region.
Zain Nigeria had a mobile subscriber base of 14.6 million at 30 June 2009.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Zambia's Regulator Denies Claim on Zain Licence

The Communications Authority of Zambia (CAZ) has refuted claims by former vice-president Enoch Kavindele that it illegally issued a 3G licence to Zain Zambia. The statement follows claims by Kavindele that by issuing the licence the regulator contravened an injunction granted to Vodacom Zambia in October 2008 over the registration of a fourth mobile phone company in the country.
The clash follows reports last week that Zain had been issued a 3G licence, but the CAZ's public relations and consumer affairs Ngabo Nankonde said that the concession had actually been issued on 13 August 2007, well before the injunction had been granted.
The regulator also added that it had only issued a test authorisation to Zain to conduct trials for 3G services in Zambia, claiming that authorisation issued was principally for the purpose of establishing the usability of the technology in Zambia; the CAZ contends that the trials are being conducted with no commercial value.
Additionally, Nakonde has criticised Kavindele's interpretation of the injunction, noting: 'We do not understand the intention of the former vice-president because the matter at hand is the fourth mobile licence and nothing to do with other licences and spectrum.' Kavindele, who is the chairman of Vodacom Zambia, obtained an injunction from the High Court in October last year prohibiting the entry of a new mobile network operator to the market.
He maintains that this injunction prevents the CAZ from granting any licences relating to telecommunication until the injunction is discharged, and also claims that the government's proposed sale of a 75% stake in the Zambia Telecommunication Company (Zamtel) is illegal.


Kenyan Regulator Plans New Levy

According to a report by local newspaper Business Daily, the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) has outlined its plans for the introduction of a Universal Service Fund (USF).
The regulator plans to impose a levy on the country's operators equivalent to 0.5% of a company's gross annual revenues to finance the USF, and has asked telcos to respond to the proposal by the end of September.
The CCK intends to use the money to cover the cost of network expansion in underserved areas, offer direct subsidies to help consumers offset the high costs of telecoms equipment and to set up 133 telecentres and electronic cyber labs across the country.
The report also speculates that the regulator may use the USF to fund the process of migrating from analogue broadcasting to digital broadcasting, which is scheduled to occur by 2012.

Nigerian Gov't Fresh Order on Spectrum Bids

Nigerian daily Vanguard reports that the presidency has ordered the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to start fresh licensing for spectrum in the 2.3GHz frequency band, declaring the previous contest void.
An official statement by presidential spokesman Olusegun Adeniyi said: 'having carefully reviewed official reports and representations from stakeholders, and after availing himself of competent advice on the recent licensing of the 2.3GHz spectrum band, President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua has come to the conclusion that the letters and spirit of the stipulated rules and guidelines were not adequately complied with.'
Mobitel, Spectranet and fixed-wireless operator Multilinks had emerged as winners out of 41 applicants for the four slots in the 2.3GHz band after each of them paid NGN1.368 billion (USD9.33 million) in May 2009. The trio will have their licences revoked and will receive a refund, although there remains uncertainty as to whether they will be eligible to participate in the new bidding process.
Minister of Information and Communications, Dora Akunyili, issued a directive for the cancellation of the process in May, following a number of complaints from operators faulting the commission on how the process was conducted, especially the one week timeframe given to pay the necessary fees.


QCell Launches In Gambia

QCell, which received Gambia's fourth mobile network operating licence last August, has held a ceremony to showcase its services.

At the event held last month the company announced the launch of packages including 3G video calling services, available to both pre- and post-paid customers, mobile internet access, multimedia messaging and conferencing. Call Promotions include free on-net calls in the daytime and at weekends.

The operator also declared the aim of providing countrywide coverage in the immediate future. TeleGeography's GlobalComms database says that in August 2008 Gambia's communications ministry DOSCIT awarded the mobile operating licence to QCell, a start-up owned by domestic ISP QuantumNet's CEO Muhammed Jah.

It revealed plans to launch a 2G/3G GSM/W-CDMA network using both the 900MHz and 2100MHz bands, originally scheduled for April 2009. The company's website is up but currently contains just a banner saying '3G GSM Services...Coming Soon'. QCell will compete with three existing GSM network operators Africell, Gamcel and Comium Mobile.

New CDMA Prepare to Enter Nigerian market

Nigerian newspaper Business Day reports that two CDMA operators are preparing to enter the country's telecoms market, namely Intercellular under the 'Expresso' banner and O Mobile.
Nigerian fixed-wireless operator Intercellular was established in 1998, providing services over a CDMA IS-95 network in Lagos using the 800MHz band. In May 2006 it was awarded one of the first new unified access service (UAS) licences, allowing the company to operate in both the fixed and mobile arenas.
In December 2007 Expresso Telecom, the international investment arm of Sudanese telco Sudatel, paid USD50 million for a 70% stake in Intercellular in December 2007 and pledged to rebuild the company's operations from the ground up. The new investor also announced it would inject USD100 million annually in the company over the next five years, commencing in January 2008.
Meanwhile, Prestel Satellite Communications, operating as O-Mobile, is also set to launch services. The report states that the company previously operated in Edo State but is believed to have been bought up by a local business family, which has a large stake in one of Nigeria's 25 consolidated banks. The telecoms company is also in possession of a UAS licence and will also deploy a CDMA network.


Telecom Egypt Profits Up by 8%

­Telecom Egypt, the local landline operator that owns a 44.95% stake in Vodafone Egypt, has reported an 8% rise in first-half revenues to EGP 5.2 billion (US$942 million). Net profit after tax was EGP 1.75 billion (US$317 million) representing an increase of 41% on H1 2008 and translating to a net profit margin of 34%. The contribution of share of profits from Vodafone Egypt was EGP 632 million (US$114.6 million), up 3.3% on the year before.
Vodafone Egypt was reported as ending June 2009 with 20.37 million mobile subscribers - up from the 15.2 million a year ago. The subscriber base at the end of March 2009 was 18.91 million
Commenting on events in the first half of 2009, Akil Beshir, Chairman of Telecom Egypt, said: "Despite a challenging environment I am encouraged that our diversified business model continues to deliver stable revenue and bottom line growth as today's results show."
As of 30 June 2009, Telecom Egypt's total debt was EGP 1.64 billion, compared to EGP 4.1 billion with the comparative period last year.
At the same time, the company has also announced that its current CEO, Eng. Akil Beshir will resign with immediate effect, although he will retain a position on the board of directors. He is to be replaced by Mr. Tarek Tantawy, Telecom Egypt's current Vice President & Chief Financial Officer. He has been with Telecom Egypt since 2002.
Commenting on the appointment, Mr. Akil Beshir, Chairman of Telecom Egypt, said: "Since joining TE, Tarek has been a driving force in the formation of TE's corporate culture of transparency and openness and has been central to the execution of some of the company's biggest landmark transactions. He has consistently demonstrated strong leadership and a keen knowledge of the telecommunications landscape, both of which instill me with enormous confidence in his ability to drive TE forward."
The company said that several candidates for the role of Vice President & Chief Financial Officer are currently being reviewed and an announcement will be made as soon as possible.

Safaricom To Acquire Local WiMAX Operator

­Kenya's Safaricom says that it has signed an agreement to buy local WiMAX operator, Packet Stream Data Networks for an undisclosed amount. The intended acquisition comes on the back of Safaricom's recent appointment of Jamii Telecommunications as its preferred partner in the rollout of it optical fibre network.
Last year, Safaricom acquired a controlling stake in fixed broadband provider One Communications Limited and has since moved to consolidate its presence in the data market by acquiring an anchor 22.5 per cent stake in the TEAMS submarine optical fibre cable, besides buying significant capacity on Seacom, the other undersea cable venture.
Speaking at the signing of the agreement at Safaricom House, Safaricom CEO Michael Joseph said: "This acquisition is very strategic to Safaricom as it will serve to widen our already growing WiMAX footprint and enable us achieve our goal of providing our customers with a ubiquitous data network over a multiplicity of technology platforms."
Mr. Joseph added: "The move to acquire Packet Stream has in large part been facilitated by the positive changes to the regulatory environment which now allow Safaricom to enjoy the benefits of its newly acquired Unified License."
While commenting on the intended takeover, Packet Stream Director Edwin Wambugu indicated that his company had already deployed its WiMAX resources in various towns around the country and that Safaricom would be in pole position to build on the already established infrastructure.
The completion of the agreement is subject to the company receiving formal approval from both the Communications Commission of Kenya and the Monopolies Commission.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Egyptian Mobile Market Hits 53% Penetration Rate

The global financial crisis has had an impact on Egypt's telecoms sector in that it has led to the postponement of two major events: the licensing of a second fixed network operator, and the sale of a second tranche of shares in Telecom Egypt (TE).
However, both of these processes have received strong interest from the capital markets and are expected to go ahead in 2009 or 2010.
The highly profitable TE is Egypt's incumbent fixed network operator and also holds a share in Vodafone Egypt, one of the country's three mobile networks. Its fixed network rollout, the fastest in the region, slowed in the first half of 2008 but reaccelerated in the second half of the year, while the rapid take-up of ADSL broadband services continued unabated.
Supported by forward-looking government programs, Egypt has become one of the leading Internet markets in Africa in terms of users, international bandwidth and services offered.
The sector is highly competitive with more than 200 Internet and data service providers, which has led to some of the lowest prices for ADSL services on the continent and ADSL2+ services with up to 24Mb/s being widely available.
There will be a shift towards wireless technologies, following the first successful WiMAX deployments in the country. VoIP Internet telephony has been liberalised, and several companies are rolling out next-generation networks to provide converged IP-based voice and data services.
The country is well connected by several international submarine fibre optic cables in combination with a national fibre backbone infrastructure, and the international bandwidth market has been liberalised. An increasing demand for international bandwidth has led to the development of several additional submarine fibre optic cable systems to go online in 2009 and 2010.
Egypt was one of the first countries in Africa to launch 3G mobile services in 2007, following the award of the country's third mobile licence the previous year. The record price that was paid for the licence indicates the potential that is seen in the Egyptian mobile market and the penetration rate has more than doubled since then to reach 53% in early 2009.
The mobile network operators – Orascom/Mobinil, Vodafone and Etisalat – have launched a wide range of advanced services and are set to become dominant players in the Internet and broadband market as well, following the launch of 3.5G HSPA mobile broadband services and the acquisition of controlling stakes in leading data and ISPs.
All of these developments reflect the ever-present convergence of fixed and mobile, voice and data services in Egypt. With mobile and broadband tariffs already among the lowest on the continent, operators will seek to streamline their operations and distinguish themselves from the competition by quality of service and introducing new services, in an effort to develop new revenue streams in an almost entirely prepaid environment with steadily decreasing ARPU.


Ghana Telecoms Earn $5 Per User

Statistics on the earnings of telecom operators in the country indicate that operators made average revenue per user (ARPU) of five dollars a month in the first half of this year.
The ARPU comprised of both what a subscriber spends for calls and data communication on his or her network, plus what the operators make on the average from incoming calls to the subscriber as per the interconnection agreement.
The first quarter report for 2009 on telecom operators at the National Communications Authority (NCA) obtained by the Ghana News Agency showed that market leader MTN made an average of US$8.00 a month per customer, Zain, made US$3.00, Tigo made US$5.3 while Kasapa made US$4.7.
As at March 2009, MTN recorded 54 per cent of the telecom market share (6.8 million subscribers), Tigo came second with 23 per cent (2.9 million subscribers), Vodafone, 13 per cent (about 1.65 million subscribers), Zain held seven per cent, (890,000 subscribers), and Kasapa recorded three per cent (almost 400,000 subscribers).
The report showed that currently an estimated 55 per cent of Ghanaians owned personal mobile phone numbers. This is up from 22 per cent in December 2006, 33 per cent in 2007 and 50 per cent in 2008. The figure is expected to reach 85 per cent in 2013.
It said the impact of mobile telecom on the economy was similar to the other enabling infrastructure such as roads, ports, airports and railways, adding that recent analysis by Deloitte showed that 10 per cent mobile penetration led to a 1.2 per cent increase in annual GDP.
Deloitte noted that the enabling infrastructure stimulated trade, created wealth and enhanced social welfare but mobile communication in particular "takes banking to the unbanked, reaches rural areas with modern communications, encourages entrepreneurship and facilitates social contact among families and friends".
"It also increases productivity and revolutionalises the way business is done and provides continuing employment and income generation for large numbers of people," it said.
MTN, for instance, recently announced that it had so far provided 120,000 jobs, which generated income to support some 500,000 people outside of its core staff in Ghana.

Mr. Brett Goschen, Chief Executive of MTN, said that mobile communication would continue to be the primary means for majority of the population to access voice, data, and internet service, projecting that subscribers would be demanding more of technologies that met their needs in making a choice of network.
He said, for instance, even though Ghana was the first country to launch internet in West Africa in 1993, there were still less than 800,000 internet users in the country, placing Ghana 28th out of 56 countries in Africa in terms of internet penetration.

Mr. Goschen said the challenge for mobile telecom operators now was to focus more on services and technologies that provided customers with an all-in-one affordable voice, data and internet access, preferably, on the voice over internet portfolio (VOIP).

Moov Togo Faces Suspension Over Licence Renewal

A private cellular phone in Togo, Atlantic Telecom, operating on the network Moov, is facing suspension for failing to renew its licence.
According to Mr. Palouki Massina, Chief Executive Officer of the regulation agency of Post and Telecommunications Company (ARTP), Atlantic Telecom must pay 20 billion
CFA by noon on August 10 to renew its licence which expired in June 2008 or face suspension.
The company is said not to have complied with two decrees spelling out the financial conditions of renewal of its licence.
So far, only operators Togo Telecom and Togo Cellular have started carrying out measures in the decrees, ARTP reported in a statement on Saturday.
Subscribers of Atlantic Telecom have tripled between 2006 and 2008 to 600,000 ma king it a serious rival of the state-owned company Togocel, thanks to its techno l logical innovations and marketing strategies.
Since it commenced business in Togo, it has been the official sponsor of Miss To go and several social, cultural and sports activities.

Monday, August 10, 2009

France Telecom Plans To Cut Call Rates With New System

France Telecom (Orange) intends to cut the cost of call services in most of its African markets by implementing a new system it calls ‘Cell Broadcast’, Arnauld Blondet, the director for emerging countries, announced on Tuesday.

‘We launched Cell Broadcast in Botswana under the [local] name Sesolo. With the number of people interested in that offer, we can be optimistic about trying it soon in most of our African subsidiaries,’ Blondet told news agency PANA at the presentation of the technique.

France Telecom operates in 15 African countries including Egypt, Uganda, Mauritius, Madagascar, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Niger, Cote d'Ivoire, Mali, Senegal, Guinea, Kenya and Equatorial Guinea.

Don't Cut Jobs, Zambia Urges Zain

PRESIDENT Rupiah Banda has urged Zain Zambia to avoid the temptation to lay off employees but focus on measures that will ensure vibrant operations in Zambia.

Mr Banda said yesterday, when he launched the new Zain Zambia head office, that the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector had remained resilient to the financial shocks and had maintained the service and employment levels.

"However, I am concerned that while we are still on this recovery path, there is a tendency to make cost-cutting measures that may affect employees in the sector," he said.

The president, in a speech read on his behalf by Communications and Transport Minister Geoffrey Lungwangwa, urged Zain Zambia shareholders to focus on Zambia as it was among the top investment destinations in Africa.

He said the Government had launched the ICT policy to ensure Zambia was an information and knowledge-based society by 2030. He, however, said that could not be accomplished without the private sector.

He said the Government was determined to ensure that the ICT sector performed in line with global trends because its contribution to the national treasury had continued to grow over the years. "It is for this reason that my Government has developed a futuristic policy for the sector. The implementation of this policy has started with the development of a reform process through an appropriate legal and regulatory framework," he said.

He said currently, Parliament was discussing the ICT Bill, Electronic Communications and Transactions and the Postal Services bills all aimed at moving the sector in line with regional, continental and global best practices.

This was also designed to streamline the licensing regime such that operators would be left to determine the best technologies to deploy and at the same time minimise the number of licences in line with the Government's policy of reducing the cost of doing business.

The president commended Zain Zambia's vision to consider Zambians as partners in running the company by listing on the Lusaka Stock Exchange (LUSE) and extending coverage to rural areas where it was almost impossible to communicate in the past.

Zain Zambia managing director, David Holliday said despite the challenges posed by the global economic crisis, foreign exchange fluctuations and a competitive market, the company had managed to achieve impressive revenues and profitability.

Mr Holliday said Zain Zambia employed more that 20,000 people in the sales and distribution functions across the country and with the launch of new products and services, the number would increase.

Uganda Allows Gemtel to Use +256 Code

The Daily Monitor reports that the Ugandan government has cleared a South Sudan network to continue using Uganda’s dialing code (+256), under the condition that the region’s cellcos continue to pay for it.

The decision follows complaints from Ugandan MPs that Southern Sudan mobile operator Gemtel was given leeway by Uganda Telecom (UTL) to use the national code without parliamentary approval. Defending the move, State Minister for ICT Alintuma Nsambu told the country’s ICT Committee, ‘In any case we gain more if there is a bigger clientele in South Sudan using our code, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) will collect more.’

The issue was widely publicised in 2007 after the Parliamentary Committee on State Enterprises learnt that Gemtel was using the country code without paying.

South of Sudan is currently served by two wireless network operators; privately-owned Gemtel, which offers limited coverage of a number of southern towns including Juba, Waw and Yei; and Lebanese-owned Vivacell, which launched commercial wireless services in January 2009.

Gabon Telecom Back On After Strike Is Suspended

Officials of Gabon Telecom and its mobile unit Libertis have announced that all fixed line, mobile and internet connections have now been restored following the suspension of strike action by the communications trade union Synatel.

However, union leaders stressed that the strike could resume following the conclusion of negotiations with management due to end on 30 August.

Synatel said that an agreement on wage levels had been reached, but the core objections of the union to the recent takeover of Gabon Telecom by Morocco's Maroc Telecom had not changed.

Starcomms Wants GSM - CDMA Interconnection Rates Lowered

Nigerian national newspaper Vanguard reports that Maher Quiben, the managing director of fixed-wireless operator Starcomms, has challenged the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to reduce interconnection rates between CDMA and GSM operators.

Quiben said the country’s interconnection rates are high by world standards, adding that a quick reduction would lead to a fairer telecoms industry. The company has written a letter to the NCC compiling interconnect tariff plans of different countries worldwide, with the hope that the regulator will take note.

Starcomms increased its CDMA customer base by 95% in the three months to 30 June 2009, to bring the total to 2.484 million.

Zain Denies It's In Talks With Asian Group

* Zain says unaware of stake sale talks after report

* Shares close 1.6 percent higher

Kuwaiti telecoms firm Zain said on Sunday it was not aware of talks between shareholders and an Asian group after a newspaper reported stake sale negotiations.

The firm said in July that it was still reviewing a possible sale of its African operations -- excluding Morocco and Sudan -- after French media and telecoms conglomerate Vivendi broke off talks on buying the operations.

Kuwait's Al-Rai newspaper, citing unidentified sources, said on Sunday that Zain's largest shareholders were in talks with a major Asian telecoms group to sell more than 40 percent of the firm.

"Zain would like to clarify that regarding what has been published in a local newspaper about negotiations between a major Asian group and shareholders, the executive management of the company is not aware of this subject, which is up to shareholders," Zain said in a statement on the bourse website.

Sovereign wealth fund Kuwait Investment Authority owns 24.61 percent of Zain. Kuwaiti family-owned conglomerate Kharafi Group is Zain's second largest shareholder, with 13.3 percent.

Neither KIA nor Kharafi were immediately available for comment. A Zain spokesman declined to comment further.

Zain ended 1.6 percent higher on the bourse on Sunday.

"There is an enormous amount of rumours about Zain," said Naser al-Nafisi, general manager at Al Joman Center for Economic consultancy in Kuwait. "If there's anything going on between the shareholders, the management should know about it."

The newspaper, which did not identify the Asian group, cited unidentified sources as saying that the biggest shareholders in Zain had "the ability and the suitable mechanism to provide the required majority stake".

Sale talk has swirled around Zain in recent weeks.

The head of the international unit of Emirates Telecommunications Corp (Etisalat) said in July that the UAE firm was interested in buying a 51-percent stake in Zain, "given the right values".

Zain said on July 1 that it was working with Swiss investment bank UBS and other consultants to review its strategy as a result of the global financial downturn.

- Reuters

Rwanda to Sell Its 10% Stake in MTN

The government of Rwanda will sell off its 10 per cent stake in Rwanda MTN — a deal that could be the biggest by the state this year.

Officials say the government is set to transact its shares in three of nation’s biggest companies — which include MTN Rwanda, Bralirwa (the country’s sole brewing company) and Sonarwa (the country’s biggest insurance company), by the end of the year.

“It means that the government will trade off its 30 per cent stake in BRALIRWA, its 20 per cent stake in SONARWA and its 10 per cent share of MTN Rwanda,” said Finance Minister James Musoni.

“We are looking for a adviser to help us facilitate the transaction. The adviser will be outsourced in an open tender,” Mr Musoni said.

He told The EastAfrican that all government shares would be floated on the stock exchange — the Rwanda Over-the-Counter Market — by the end of the year.

Rwanda’s capital market was launched in early 2008.

In June this year, the Kenya Commercial Bank crosslisted on the Rwandan bourse.

Officials said that companies like MTN and Bralirwa had earlier expressed interest in issuing corporate bonds.

Bank of Rwanda Governor Francios Kanimba, while presenting the Monetary Policy and Financial Stability Statement last week, said there will be a listing of government shares of the three companies through one consortium.

Sonarwa is a French acronym for Societe Nouvelle d’Assurance du Rwanda.

It was acquired recently by Nigeria’s Industrial and General Insurance Company (35 per cent controlling stake).

Bralirwa (Brasseries et Limonaderies du Rwanda) is 70 per cent owned by the Heineken Group.

Wana Appoints Huawei to Supply 3G Network

Huawei, a leader in providing next-generation telecommunications network solutions worldwide, today announced that it has been appointed as the sole supplier of Morocco WANA’s GSM/UMTS network. Thanks to that, WANA’s 2 Million subscribers will enjoy abundant 3G services such as video call, video conference, streaming media and mobile internet.

Under a contract signed by Huawei and WANA, Huawei will provide a GSM/UMTS solution with equipment to WANA exclusively, including GSM/UMTS wireless network, core network and value added services (VAS) network, etc.

Huawei’s accurate frequency planning and various anti-disturbance measures are the key to avoiding disturbance problem in the complicated wireless environment and enhancing the usage of spectrum resources whilst protecting telecom provider’s investment. Phase one of the project will utilise over 1500 of Huawei’s industry-leading fourth-generation base stations with the All-IP solution set to be completed by December, 2009.

Mr. Frédéric Debord, General Director of WANA, commented "WANA has the target to become a leading operator in Morocco. And we are delighted to cooperate with Huawei to open a new network of good quality and performance for our subscribers, with best solutions and offers."

Mr. Zuo Defeng, Vice President of West Africa Region, Huawei, said:” This is a significant milestone to Huawei, WANA and WANA’s users. Huawei’s advanced mobile network solution and equipment will help WANA take the lead in mobile telecommunications market in Morocco, and help WANA achieve business success.”

As a core component of its SingleRAN solution, the fourth-generation BTS supports multi-mode radio access networking (GSM, TD-SCDMA, UMTS, LTE, CDMA and WiMAX), and incorporates green optimisation and All-IP technologies, providing a truly convergent solution for network operators. Huawei has shipped over 1.5 million transceivers (TRXs) for its fourth-generation base stations. Huawei’s fourth-generation BTS are being used by more than 20 leading operators in 100 countries.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Warid Uganda In Tax Dispute

THE Commercial Court in Kampala has stopped the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) from collecting over sh160m and enforcing other tax collections from Warid Telecoms, pending the final determination of its main suit.

This followed an application by the lawyers representing Warid Telecoms.
The telecom company is disputing URA's orders to Stanbic Bank to pay sh160,918,869 in taxes.
Justice Geoffrey Kiryabwire of the Commercial Court also ordered the parties to carry out a reconciliation exercise to determine if any taxes were due and payable to the URA and report back to him on August 26.
Warid also sued the URA's Commissioner of Customs for wrongly taxing its duty-free machinery. The firm also asked the court to compel URA to refund with interest a total of sh172,389,883, which it claimed the tax body forcefully paid itself from the company's general purposes bank account.
Warid was referred to as one of the largest investors in Uganda having invested over $200m (over sh400b) in foreign direct investments.
The company further seeks general and punitive or exemplary damages for what it described as URA's illegal and wanton acts that are damaging its operations.
The company told Justice Kiryabwire that the Commissioner of Customs willfully and unlawfully imposed tax on palisade fencing that is part of its telecommunications plant and machinery, which is exempt from import duty.
Warid also asked the court to permanently stop URA from enforcing the "third party agency notice" that requires its bankers to pay taxes on its (Warid's) plant and machinery or any other enforcement measures against it.
The court was told that between September and October 2007, the finance ministry, granted investment incentives to Warid that its plant and machinery was to be imported free of any duty under the investment incentives by the ministry and the East African Customs Union Common External Tariff.
The court heard that the Commissioner of Customs had accepted a list of WARID items to be imported.

Vivendi in Need for Expansion As Maroc Telecom Growth Stalls

For a few days last month Maroc Telecom's parent company Vivendi looked like it might pull off one of the most audacious attempts yet to arrest control of one of the Middle East & Africa's largest mobile operations from the now well-entrenched players.
However, Zain, whose Celtel unit was the subject of the interest, could not agree on price with the French company and the chance of a deal - however unlikely most commentators, including your author, thought that to be - now looks to be dead and gone.
If a transaction had gone ahead it would most likely have had a significant effect on Maroc Telecom's place in the Vivendi group, with the Moroccan incumbent slotting in as part of a much larger overall portfolio.
As it is, the company remains Vivendi's sole venture in the emerging markets, and its sole vehicle for growth in Africa. In addition to its home operation and its long-standing subsidiary in Mauritania, Maroc Telecom has expanded into Burkina Faso and Gabon by purchasing the incumbents in these markets, and this year has followed those deals with the agreement to purchase a majority stake in Sotelma, the incumbent telco in Mali. The talks with Zain indicate, however, that management in France is not entirely content with this slow piece-wise expansion strategy.
The mobile business, which accounts for almost two-thirds of Maroc Telecom's MAD14.6bn strong top line, grew by 25.9% in connection terms in the year to 30th June 2008, but by just 5.9% in the most recent 12 months. Strong performances by the regional operators (+26% in Gabon, +30% in Mauritania, +74% in Burkina Faso) have failed to offset an almost complete arrest of growth in Morocco which grew by just 0.5% in the year. With 14.29m customers, the Moroccan business still accounts for 81% of the overall mobile base of 17.55m, whilst its fixed operation contributes 84% of the 1.5m strong landline total.
In revenue terms, the home business is even more dominant with 86% of the mobile turnover and 85% of the fixed - and it is convincingly the most profitable in both departments. In this light it is perhaps no wonder that Maroc Telecom's acquisition in Mali - involving around 1m customers - has failed to satisfy the appetites of the French owners. The question, if Celtel is off the menu, is where they will turn next?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Regulator Thinks France Telecom's Offer For Mobinil Is Too Low

France Telecom's appeal in its bid to buy the remaining shares in Egypt's Egyptian Co. for Mobile Services has been rejected by the country's financial regulator. The Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority rejected the offers by France Telecom to acquire the remaining shares as too low, saying they were less than the price set by an arbitration ruling for the majority of the company.
"Today it was a decision of a judicial committee, which has decided to reject the claim and approve the decision of the authority," said Khaled Serry Seyam, the deputy chairman of the Capital Markets Authority.
"We didn't think that the regulator would go back on their decision," Marise Ananian, an analyst at Cairo-based investment bank EFG-Hermes Holding told Bloomberg News. "Giving one price to Orascom Telecom in the Mobinil Telecom consortium and offering another to minority shareholders of the Egyptian Co. for Mobile Services was unacceptable to the regulator and France Telecom didn't provide any information to justify it."
France Telecom and Orascom Telecom Holding have been in dispute ever since France Telecom won an arbitration ruling this year requiring Orascom to sell its stake in Mobinil, a holding company that owns a stake in the mobile network operator, also known as MobiNil.

Vodafone Ghana To Cut 950 Jobs

­Vodafone Ghana is to make around 950 staff redundant before the end of the year, as its ongoing voluntary redundancy programme comes to a conclusion. The staff being made compulsorily redundant will be offered the same terms though - being three months salary for each year served with the company.

The lay-off to be implemented at the end of November will affect all departments and could also lead to the closure of non-core departments.

Mr Emmanuel Dakwa, Chairman of the local Communication Workers Union (CWU) of Vodafone, criticized the redundancies, saying that the company was wrong to announce the job cuts without consulting it.

"It was wrong for management to have held a press conference without recourse to internal arrangement with union on how to roll out that redundancy programme," he told the Ghana News Agency.

"It is very sad that whiles we are going round the country educating union members about voluntary redundancy, management decided to hold a press conference in our absence and announced a compulsory redundancy programme, of which we had no prior notice," he added.

Just over 900 staff have already accepted Vodafone's voluntary redundancy programme. The company still has around 3,000 staff.

Since Vodafone brought 70% of Ghana Telecom in August 2008, it has created more than 7,000 direct and indirect jobs in sales and distribution throughout the country.

Etisalat Plans To Enter Sri Lanka

Etisalat is reported to be considering an investment in Sri Lanka now that the military aspect of its decades long civil war has largely concluded. An official from the UAE-based operator is currently visiting the tropical island meeting stakeholders, including the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC).
"I've told the representative from Etisalat that Sri Lanka is open for investments into new or existing operations," TRC director general, Priyantha Kariyapperuma told the Lanka Business. "With the war over in May, there is ample scope for investments into telecom services and infrastructure facilities, especially in the north and east," he added, referring to the area of the island nation that was most affected by the war.
Millicom International, which owns the Tigo mobile network in Sri Lanka has recently expressed an interest in selling the company. According to figures from the Mobile World analysts, the operator ended Q1 '09 with just over 2.1 million subscribers, representing a market share of 18%.
In related news, the regulator has also said that they want to see more tower sharing by the networks as they expand their networks into the former war-torn regions. The operators are rushing to expand thir coverage, and concerns have been expressed that a "forest" of towers could emerge in the region, which is still light on government administration.
There are six mobile networks operating in the country, with a seventh licensed but yet to launch services

Telekom SA Workers Go On Strike Over Pay

Employees of South Africa's dominant landline telco, Telekom SA are striking this week over pay demands. Communication Workers union members in three of its provinces namely Gauteng; Kwazulu Natal & Western Cape intent to down tools by staying away from work from the 3rd to the 4th of August 2009.
CWU members in Gauteng are expected to march to Telkom Head Office on the 4th August 2009 to deliver a memorandum outlining their grievances and demands.
CWU members in other provinces will also be following the strike programme of "Go-Slows" and an ban on overtime working. The union will be staging a national march on the 11th of August 2009 in the event that an agreement with Telkom has not been reached.
The CWU says that its members are still adamant that their salary scales adjustments should precede the 7.5% salary increment and both the adjustment and increment must be implemented retrospectively to the 1st April 2009. Another burning matter was the distribution of Telkom profits to its employees.
It is estimated that around 3,500 employees are complying with the strike.

MTN, Bharti Again Extend Deadline For Talks

In separate statements, India's Bharti Airtel and South Africa's MTN have confirmed that they are extending the deadline for their merger talks. The two companies had entered into an exclusivity agreement regarding the potential transaction until July 31, 2009. As discussions between the parties regarding the potential transaction are continuing, both parties have agreed to extend the exclusivity period up to August 31, 2009.
The statements noted that no decisions or agreement to acquire any shares or implement the transactions outlined above have been made by the Boards of either Bharti or MTN and the discussions may or may not lead to any transaction. The structure and terms of the potential transaction may be adjusted to reflect further discussions between the parties.
The merger talks could lead to a potential US$23 billion deal to create a new phone giant extending across Africa, the Middle East and into southeast Asia. Previous merger talks between the two companies broke down a little over a year ago.