Saturday, October 31, 2009

Neotel Academy Graduates 24 Students

South Africa's first converged telecommunications operator Neotel today announced the graduation of 24 students from its Academy. The Academy was launched in 2007 in response to South Africa's continued skills shortage in the telecommunications industry and to bridge the gap between what the industry is delivering and what is truly needed in terms of skills development. During the graduation ceremony, which is taking place at Neotel's Midrand Campus, the students will be addressed by Deputy Minister of Communications, Dina Pule.

The academy in conjunction with National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa (NEMISA) was designed to develop a pool of expertise in the ICT sector in response to the current skills shortage and competency gaps of the growing telecommunications market in South Africa. It is run in close collaboration with and is accredited by ISETT Seta.

It was launched in 2007 with 10 students as part of a pilot programme. The full academy was launched in March 2008 with 27 students enrolled. Entry requirements to the academy are Grade 12 Certificate and N6 from technical college in Electrical Engineering.

According to Ajay Pandey, MD and CEO of Neotel, the National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa (NEMISA) and Neotel worked closely in aligning the course to ensure the qualification is equivalent to NQF5 as there is currently no telecommunications qualification at that level. "Today is yet another milestone in the short history of Neotel in South Africa as we graduate 24 learners from the first full-time Neotel Telecommunications Learnership Programme," says Pandey.

"The course is designed to prepare graduates to be effective from the day they enter the work place," he says. "We are planning on increasing the level of collaboration with Further Education and Training Colleges (FETs) to allow them to eventually offer the course nationally. This project is much broader than the scope of our licence obligations to increase the impact we have on society." The Academy is aimed at establishing and maintaining a centre of excellence for the development and advancement of telecommunications skills in South Africa. "As the innovative telecommunications challenger, we know that the right high-quality skills are critical to us in achieving our objectives in the market," says Pandey. "We therefore established this Academy to develop a broad pool of telecommunications skills and are actively working to create sustainable employment opportunities for learners by equipping them with everything they need to operate effectively in the sector."

Neotel plans to expand the academy to include entrepreneurial development, which in turn will empower them to run projects such as internet cafes and sell community phone services.

"The academy is part of Neotel's strategy to create and develop local talent. It is profoundly sustainable, with a strong emphasis on technical and professional training, mentorship and on-the-job training and reiterates our commitment to incubate skills and develop local top talent that will respond to the needs of the market immediately," says Pandey. "We are confident that the Neotel Academy will make a meaningful contribution by accelerating access to new technologies, empowering the people of South Africa and creating a better life for all its citizens," he concludes.

MTN Attributes Fall In SA Growth To Sim Registration

­South Africa's MTN Group has announced that it had a shade under 108.5 million subscribers at the end of September. This is a 5% increase for the quarter from 103.2 million subscribers recorded at the end of  June 2009 and a 19.6% increase for the year to date.

The South and East Africa (SEA) region increased its subscriber base by a very modest 0.5% for the quarter. This was primarily due to the disappointing negative movement of the South Africa subscriber base which contributes 64% to the region. South Africa's subscriber base declined from 17.23 million at the end of June 2009 to 16.42 million at the end of September. The main reason for the movement is the significantly lower number of gross connections following the implementation of RICA in August, which requires PrePay SIM cards to be registered with the operators. Given the current market uncertainty following the RICA implementation there are challenges with South Africa achieving its revised target of zero net additions for the full year.

Uganda increased its subscriber base by 11% in the quarter following the continued success of MTN Zone which now constitutes 95% of the total prepaid base.

The West and Central Africa (WECA) region increased its subscriber base by 5% for the quarter driven mainly by Nigeria which accounts for 58% of the region's subscribers. Nigeria recorded a 5% increase in its subscriber base to 28.76 million mainly due to continued network rollout, innovative product offerings and the effectiveness of the distribution channels implemented earlier in 2009. Ghana maintained its market share and increased its subscriber base by 2,6% despite aggressive competitor activity. Both Cameroon and Cote d'Ivoire increased their subscriber bases by 4% and 5% to 4.19 million and 4.21 million, respectively.

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region recorded a 9% increase in subscribers for the quarter. This was largely due to continued growth from the Iran operation, which contributes 62% to the region's subscribers and increased its base by 8% to 20.7 million. Iran's growth was attributable mainly to expanded network coverage and continued promotional activity. Syria increased its subscriber base by 13% to 4 million, well above expectations. Afghanistan, although a relatively smaller operation, has been steadily contributing positively to the region's growth and has gained No. 1 position in the market from No 3 at the beginning of 2009.

MTN has revised its subscriber net addition guidance for the year for South Africa to zero and for Syria to 550,000 while other individually disclosed country guidance remains the same. MTN expects to achieve the total group subscriber net addition guidance for 2009 of 22.6 million.

Orange Kenya Announces New Internet Tariff Plan

ORANGE has announced a One Kenyan Shilling per MB tariff to become the most affordable internet bundle in Kenya.
This announcement by Orange is one of the first genuine offers in the market, coming in the wake of anticipated lowering of costs by service providers as a result of the landing and commissioning of fibre optic cable networks in Kenya.
According to the recently released 2009 ICT Facts and Figures report, the high price of internet has been highlighted as the major hindrance to this technology penetration in Africa. The continent has the lowest penetration and highest cost of broadband in the world.
Benefiting immensely from existing and recently refurbished fixed and wireless infrastructure in addition to investments made over the last two years in the mobile network, Orange internet now covers 70% of the Kenyan landscape.
Its ability to provide coverage across various technologies has given the company versatility that is currently unmatched in the country.
"Globally, Orange is the leading provider of data services and today I am glad to confirm that locally Orange will now commence a steady but sure process of securing data leadership due to our unmatched ability and capacity to deliver real broadband experience to our customers through a
variety of solutions to suit the dynamic needs of the market," said Mickael Ghossein, Telkom Kenya's chief executive officer.
"In setting the pace, our goal is to ensure more subscribers are able to access faster and high capacity internet through accessing the company intranet for travelling executives, quick email communication for business practitioners or email correspondence between family and friends," said
He revealed that to complement the company's current distribution channels in a bid to increase availability and accessibility, strategic partnerships with key outlets and supermarkets had been signed across the country.
With immediate effect, the wide array of Orange plug and play internet solutions are now available at major supermarkets in Kenya.

Nigerian Court Halts Spectrum Auction

Nigeria's Federal High Court has stopped the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) from re-auctioning spectrum in the 2.3GHz frequency range, local daily Times of Nigeria reports. The court ruled that the process must be put on hold pending the determination of a lawsuit initiated by the previous winner of the spectrum, Mobitel.
Mobitel, Spectranet and fixed-wireless operator Multilinks beat off around 40 other applications for slots in the 2.3GHz band after each of them paid NGN1.368 billion (USD9.33 million) in May 2009 for the frequency used to support to WiMAX technology.
Later that month, Minister of Information and Communications, Dora Akunyili, issued a directive for the cancellation of the licensing and the implementation of a new auction, after operators faulted the commission on how the whole process was conducted, especially the one week timeframe given to pay the necessary fees. Mobitel, alleging contractual breach, has challenged the government's position in court, saying it had fulfilled the requirements. The matter will be heard in court on 17 November 2009.

Econet To Introduce Prepaid Roaming

Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, the country's largest mobile operator, says it has been working for more than six months to implement pre-paid international roaming, and expects to introduce roaming services for its Buddie and Libertie pre-paid users by the end of this year.
Company CEO Douglas Mboweni confirmed that the work was now at an advanced stage following 'heavy' investment, and that testing would begin in early December, adding that roaming capability was expected to have a huge positive impact on the pre-paid business.
Econet's customer base is approximately 97% pre-paid; back in March 2008 the figure was 91%, but post-paid services were temporarily suspended later that year at the height of the country's economic collapse, and since relaunching its services over a newly expanded network this year, the demand has been overwhelmingly for pre-paid lines.

16 Bid For Egypt's Triple Play Licences

Egypt's National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (NTRA) has said that sixteen firms have purchased bid documents for its upcoming 'triple-play' licence auction, according to Reuters.
Those companies that have confirmed their interest in the concession include existing players in the Egyptian telecoms markets such as mobile network operator MobiNil and full-service telecoms group Orascom Telecom. UAE-based Etisalat meanwhile, which has been widely rumoured to be mulling a bid, has yet to confirm its interest.
Commenting on the terms of the tender, Olfat Abdel Monsef, vice-president for policies, research and development at the NTRA, confirmed however that successful bidders will not be able to lay new infrastructure, even within the residential suburbs the licences cover, noting: 'It is an access network, it is an access solution to stimulate growth.'
The regulator announced its plans to offer the licences last month, and the licences will allow the sale of fixed line voice, high speed broadband and pay-TV services in upscale suburbs outside the capital which contain between 50 and 5,000 housing units; provision of these services outside these areas will remain restricted. The bidding deadline for the licences has been set as 12 January 2010.

MTN Rwanda Ends Expansion

MTN Rwanda has spent the USD100 million it had earmarked for the improvement of its operations during 2009, local daily the New Times reports.
According to the company's CFO Richard Tusabe, MTN would have spent more had it not been for the lack of liquidity during the year. 'There have been huge hindrances this year, like the unwillingness for the banks to loan money to the public hence borrowing some from abroad,' he commented.
MTN raised USD18 million of the investment budget from local banks and USD30 million from German bank KfW IPEX-Bank. Tusabe added that the cellco invested 70% of the funds in growing the company in 2009, while 11% of the total was spent on improving and expanding its network in rural areas.
Compared with this year's large investment, the firm spent USD40 million in 2008 and expects to invest less than USD50 million next year.

Malawi Suspends Issuance of Two Licences

The government of Malawi has suspended the issuance of two mobile licences awarded to Lacell of Singapore and Dubai-based Expresso Telecommunications Group by the Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority (MACRA) in April 2009.
According to a report by, the government came to its decision after concerns were raised when MACRA issued a pair of concessions having only advertised one for sale. The matter was subsequently investigated by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), with former Information and Civic Education Minister Patricia Kaliati reportedly at the centre of the probe.
The minister is alleged to have ordered MACRA to award what would have been the fourth mobile licence to Expresso when it was Lacell that was chosen as the winner. Instead of leaving out either of the two, MACRA awarded concessions to both companies. The ACB is expected to investigate the two cellcos as well as MACRA board chair Thengo Maloya, who told the bureau that it was Kaliati that approved the awarding of both licences.

Algerie Telecom to Spend US$6 Billion in Network Upgrade

­Algeria's state-owned Algerie Telecom has outlined plans to spend US$6 billion over the next few years upgrading both its landline and mobile networks. Plans to privatise the company were put on hold last year pending the upgrades.
"From 2009 to 2014, we will invest $6 billion to upgrade both fixed and mobile operations," firm's deputy chief executive, Cherif Yaici told Reuters on the sidelines of a telecoms conference in Cairo. "We will invest the money in overhauling our technology and buying new equipment for our entire networks," he added.
Algerie Telecom seeks growth of 5 percent in its fixed-line subscriber base and 20 percent growth in mobile subscribers in 2010.
Algeria's fixed and cellular revenues are projected to exceed US$4.7 billion in 2011, growing from around US$4.1 billion in 2007 reported the Arab Advisors Group late last year - although they said that was conditional in part on the privatisation of Algerie Telecom.
Algerie Telecom remained the monopoly fixed operator till 2005. The monopoly status ended in May 2005, when the ARPT awarded the Consortium Algerien des Telecommunication (CAT) a 15-year renewable license to provide fixed, international and rural services. However, Orascom Telecom and Telecom Egypt liquidated their landline joint venture in Algeria last year, citing competitive problems with the incumbent operator.
According to figures from the Mobile World database, the country has three mobile network operators with the following market shares, Djezzy (51.5%), Moblis (28%) and Nedjma with 20.5%. The country itself ended the first half of this year with just under 28.3 million subscribers, representing a population penetration level of 84%.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

TTCL Needs US$ 150 Million Bail-Out

Tanzania's Parliamentary Committee on Infrastructure has requested that the government bail out its ailing national fixed line PTO Tanzania Telecommunication Company Limited (TTCL), arguing the company could be close to collapse.

Committee spokesman Prof Philemon Sarungi told reporters that the telco, which is a joint venture between the government and Zain Tanzania, needs an urgent cash injection of USD150 million, almost double its own liability portfolio of USD80 million.

The state controls 65% of the operator with the remainder held by Zain, however the two partners have a strained relationship and the latter is reportedly seeking to exit the company. Unconfirmed reports say an unnamed Chinese bank is willing to provide the loan subject to it receiving the necessary guarantees from the government.

MTN Rwanda Selects Balton & Wavion For Wi-Fi Network

Rwandan telecoms operator MTN Rwanda has selected Wavion and Balton Uganda for the deployment of a large scale Wi-Fi network in Kigali.
The new network is based on Wavion WBS-2400 base stations, which will provide high speed wireless connectivity to SMEs and residential users in the capital.
In the first phase of the project, around 100 base stations will be installed on rooftops and at MTN's existing cellular sites.
'We are proud to be selected by MTN Rwanda for their first large scale metro Wi-Fi deployment,' said Eran Kaplan, EVP of sales and marketing at Wavion, adding, 'Our superior performance in terms of range and indoors penetration is a key enabler to cost effective city-wide deployments. Our cooperation with Balton Uganda will ensure the customer with a complete and successful turnkey project and ongoing support.'

Vodafone Admits Error Over CDMA/GSM MNP Claim

Vodafone Ghana has admitted to its error when it claimed that mobile number portability (MNP) was not possible between GSM and CDMA networks. The company's Head of Corporate Communications, Major Albert Don-Chebe, told the GNA: 'We have since called almost all the media house represented at the workshop and retracted the error.'
Vodafone technical supremo Eric Valentine told reporters that MNP between rival GSM and CDMA networks was not possible but this assertion was quickly challenged Mr. Bob Palitz, the managing director of the country's sole CDMA operator Kasapa Telecom, who pointed out that 'the ability to move phone numbers between CDMA and GSM networks is well established.'
In an attempt to move the debate along, Don-Chebe said Vodafone's own checks had confirmed Palitz's comments, but added that since both firms were fighting on the same side vis a vis the implementation of MNP, 'the common goal should not be sacrificed on the altar of protracted claims and counter claims'.

Telecom Egypt Says It's to Remain Sole Fixed Line Operator

Egypt's monopoly fixed line provider, Telecom Egypt, has claimed that it will remain the country's sole fixed line voice provider despite the recent announcement that the country's regulator was preparing to offer two new triple-play concessions, Reuters reports.

The clarification comes after recent reports that the National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (NTRA) will offer two triple-play licences allowing the sale of fixed line voice, high speed broadband and pay-TV services in upscale suburbs outside Cairo which contain between 50 and 5,000 housing units.
'Maybe triple-play is not the accurate word, although that was what was announced. Triple-play includes voice, data and video. What's on offer does not include fixed voice at all,' Telecom Egypt's CEO Tarek Tantawy said, adding, 'The two new licence operators will not be allowed to provide voice services, they will have to give us access to their network to provide voice services.' Operators reportedly interested in the concessions include local companies Orascom Telecom and Vodafone Egypt, as well as UAE-based Etisalat.
In separate but related news Bloomberg reports that Telecom Egypt would consider increasing its stake in Vodafone Egypt, were the Vodafone Group to offer an increased stake in the cellco. Additionally, Mr Tantawy has indicated that the company is 'keeping its eyes open' for acquisitions, both in Egypt and in other regions.

Eight Make It To Zamtel Bid Shortlist

The Zambian Development Agency (ZDA) has revealed that it has shortlisted eight companies interested in acquiring a stake in fixed line monopoly operator Zambia Telecommunications Company (Zamtel). Those operators understood to have made the shortlist include South Africa's Telkom, Indian state-owned pair Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) and Portugal Telecom.
Rounding out the shortlist are four joint bids; a consortium of Russia's Vimpelcom and the telecoms arm of the Alfa Group, Altimo; a consortium of Egypt-based Orascom Telecom and its subsidiary Telecel Globe; Angola's UNITEL – a consortium of Unitel and Angola Cables; and a consortium of Libya's LAP Greencom and LAP Green Networks.
The Zambian government will offer between 51% and 75% of Zamtel, and said that it received expressions of interest from more than 30 parties. The eight selected are now expected to start due diligence procedures on 2 November, with the sale process likely to be concluded in the first quarter of 2010. The long-planned privatisation of the telco has come in for criticism by opposition politicians, who argue that Zambians should hold a bigger stake in the company.

Comzatel Partners With Airspan For Mozambique Rollout

US-based Airspan Networks has announced that it has been selected by Mozambican operator Comzatel to provide equipment for the company's upcoming mobile WiMAX rollout in Maputo. Comzatel plans to offer a variety of next generation broadband services to business customers throughout the capital.
The network will be based on Airspan's 802.16e advanced WiMAX solutions and will operate via the 2.3GHz frequency band. 'Comzatel has a vision where every business and residential user will be able to access next generation technology at an affordable price,' said Mlungisi Hlongwane, the general director of Comzatel, adding: 'We are working quickly to complete our initial coverage of Maputo and we will soon expand the network nationwide. We are extremely pleased with the equipment and service Airspan has delivered. In cooperation with the Mozambican government, we will ensure that, in addition to corporate users, ordinary citizens and education institutions have access to high speed data services at affordable costs.'

Etisalat Spends US$2 Billion In Nigeria Rollout

Nigerian mobile operator Etisalat Nigeria has spent over USD2 billion on the rollout of its GSM network in the year since the cellco launched operations, Daily Trust reports, citing the company's chairman Hakeem Belo Osagie.
Etisalat has constructed over 500 active cell sites nationwide, providing coverage to around 40% of the population. According to TeleGeography's GlobalComms database, Etisalat's network was launched commercially in seven cities in November 2008 and by the end of the year had just under 400,000 subscribers, boosted by its offer of free network-to-network calls for a six-month period.
According to the company's chairman, Etisalat's mobile subscriber base currently stands at over two million.

Cell C Rejects Interconnection Rates As MTN, Vodacom Agree

South African cellcos Vodacom and MTN have reportedly reached an agreement regarding interconnection rates, although the country's third operator Cell C has rejected the proposal, local daily Business Day reports. The three companies have been debating a reduction in mobile termination rates (MTRs) following an order by the government to implement a cut by the end of November.
A state committee proposed that rates should be cut to ZAR0.60 (USD0.08) per minute during peak times and then by a further ZAR0.15 annually until 2012. Operators currently charge each other on average ZAR1.25 per minute during peak times. However, carriers have opposed the cut, describing it as 'drastic' and 'below cost.'
Cell C CEO Lars Reichelt said that the ZAR0.60 proposal was 'too strong and not rooted in reality.' MTN and Vodacom also opposed the cuts, claiming that to implement the proposed measures they would have to also cut jobs. Instead the two companies have agreed to reduce MTRs by around 19% immediately, with further reductions planned year-on-year for the following three years.
The two companies have applied for regulatory clearance from ICASA to implement the cuts. Cell C, however, said that it would not support the decision, calling the bilateral cut in interconnectivity prices 'too small'. Cell C had previously proposed an asymmetrical system which was not supported by MTN and Vodacom.

Zain Nigeria Hires Nokia Siemens For Network Management

The Nigerian unit of Kuwait's Zain Group has announced that it has it has entered into a managed services and care contract with Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN). The agreement covers full network management, operations and maintenance, aiming to ensure network availability at all times across Nigeria.
The management of the network will be handed over to NSN in mid-October. As part of the agreement, NSN will provide managed services for Zain's 4000km multi-vendor fibre and Dense Wave Division Multiplexing (DWDM) network. Corrective and preventive maintenance will predict and prevent potential network problems to provide ongoing network quality along with efficient management for fibre repairs within guaranteed response times.
Khaled Khorshid, COO, Zain Nigeria, said: 'It is our commitment to deliver the high standards of service that have allowed us to give Zain customers the most reliable and high quality communication experience. Reliability and coverage of our network is therefore key to ensuring customer satisfaction and growth. Our agreement to have Nokia Siemens Networks manage and maintain our network not only allows us to benefit from their competencies in ensuring network availability and minimising potential revenue losses but also enables us to aggressively pursue our growth plans.'

Zain Kenya Applies for 3G Licence

Zain Kenya has applied to buy a 3G licence from the telecoms regulator, making it the second operator in the country, after Safaricom, to hold a 3G licence. The company is expected to pay $25 million for the licence.
"We shall be rolling out a 3G network in the first half of next year. The procurement process is already in place," said Zain Kenya CEO Rene Meza.
Zain Kenya also unveiled an offer that will see subscribers make free calls and SMS within the network based on the airtime top up. Through the campaign, customers will be able to call and SMS up to three Zain numbers for free for a period of seven days. The offer is open to only prepaid subscribers and will run until the end of the year.
In related news, plans by the regulator to reduce the 3G licence fee to encourage new entrants has been opposed by Safaricom, who originally purchased their licence back in 2007.
"From a fairness point of view, everybody should pay $25 million (Sh1.9 billion) for that licence. If they (other operators) are going to be given a special dispensation, then I believe that dispensation should be applied to us as well," he told Capital Business.
Mr. Joseph was reacting to remarks by his competitor Zain Kenya's Rene Meza who had expressed confidence that the regulator would lower the licencing fee for 3G services to enable them penetrate the market.
Mr. Meza had told reporters that the Sh1.9 billion as spectrum cost was high and had delayed their plans to introduce the technology in the market.
"The $25 million does not make business sense for three of the mobile operators in the market today. After discussions with the CCK, we concluded that the spectrum costs will be revised downwards to allow the operators to launch the services in the market," he said then.
Based on figures from the Mobile World analysts, Safaricom had 13.8 million subscribers at the end of June, compared to 2.4 million for Zain.

GT Sale to Vodafone "Was Useless" To Ghana

A review of Vodafone's purchase of Telecom Ghana has concluded that the sale was not beneficial to the Ghanaian state. The sale was opposed by the opposition politicians, who now form the current government, and they ordered an enquiry into the sale by the previous government.
The review, carried out by an Inter-Ministerial Review Committee has recommended that the government find a way of renegotiating the sale, which was completed in August 2008.
Although the sale of 70% of the company was was for a headline figure of US$900 million on a debt-free, cash-free basis, the review claimed that just US$267.6 million from the sale due to "complicated financial arrangements", and that the sale might be illegal in Ghana due as it was managed through a Dutch holding company.
The Committee noted that Telekom SA had offered US$947 million for the lower stake of 66.67%.
Complicating the investigation, the former Minister of State for Finance Dr. Akoto Osei and the immediate past Chief Executive of Ghana Telecom, Dickson Oduro Nyaning refused to assist the Committee with information. In addition, it criticized the former President, John Kufuor, for interfering in the transaction, describing his action as "highly irregular, unconventional and did not rely on expert advice".
Although the Committee heard testimony that various politicians had been bribed to vote in favour of the sale, it felt that it lacked the resources to investigate the criminal allegations. The review also criticized a clause in the transaction that prevented the government from bringing corruption charges against any member of the enlarged Telecom Ghana company.
The Committee said, that despite several requests, Vodafone could not provide information to enable the Committee confirm the expected US$200 million capital injected into Ghana Telecom after the sale.
While Vodafone claimed that, between August 2008 and May 2009, it paid Huawei GH¢61 million (US$42 million) from the bridge facility, documents submitted by Huawei indicated that they had invoiced and received only GH¢37.29 million and not GH¢61million. The Committee considered it a breach of the warranty provisions in the SPA. The Committee was of the view that Government may want to confront Vodafone and ask them to account for the difference of GH¢23.71 million.
The government is to make a decision on how to proceed within a couple of weeks. Vodafone said that it couldn't comment until it received a copy of the report.

MTN Rwanda Targets to Hit 2 Million Mark By Yearend

­MTN Rwanda has set itself a target of reaching 2 million subscribers by the end of this year. The operator currently has around 1.4 million customers. The company also expects to be able to pick up half of the potential 6 million subscribers  that Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) is targeting by 2012.
"Our plan is to reach the target which we set in our effort to being the leading telecom operators in the country," Yvonne Makoro, Senior Marketing Executive at MTN told the Sunday Times.
The company recently opened a new customer care center and is planning to launch a mobile money transfer service shortly. A low-cost service offers discounts to callers in areas where the network is under-used at the time.
MTN Rwanda is 55% owned by South Africa's MTN, with 35% held by the Rwandan based Tristar Investment Group with the government holding the remaining 10%. The government plans to sell its 10% stake in the company by the end of the year.
Earlier this year, rival operator, Rwandatel said that it had missed its own internal sales targets by 30%. Rwandatel had set a first half subscription target of 600,000 clients but managed only slightly above 420,000 active subscribers on June 30.
According to figures from the Mobile World, at the end of Q2 '09, Rwandatel had an estimated 435,000 customers, compared to 1.4 million at MTN. Last December, Millicom was granted the country's third mobile license after paying US$60 million for the 15 year license.

SABC Chooses Airspan For Live Cup Broadcast

­Airspan Networks says that it has won a contract from Multisource Telecoms, a South African wireless communications provider, for a live pilot radio broadcast. Multisource worked with Siemens and the South African Broadcasting Corp. (SABC), the state-owned broadcaster in South Africa, to cover the event.
The Airspan WiMAX equipment is being trialed with the intention of offering live broadcast for the FIFA World Cup in South Africa next year. The WiMAX equipment was set up to deliver connectivity, allowing the broadcast-quality audio of a soccer game between Manchester City and the Kaiser Chiefs in Durban, South Africa.
Johannes von Weyssenhoff, Siemens' Programme Portfolio Manager for Radio, said, "The SABC had decided to upgrade the equipment in its radio broadcast vehicles from analogue to digital. At present, a broadcast crew runs large, heavy, copper analogue cables from the stadium to the vehicle positioned outside. This enables the commentator, who sits inside the venue, to transmit back to the SABC for broadcasting."
"Airspan's WiMAX technology provides the capacity, security and efficiency to facilitate this kind of application. A high speed data connection was used for the audio link -- compared to the 64kbit/s offered by ISDN lines -- and this provided a high-quality audio performance that was clearly noticeable when monitored off-air," von Weyssenhoff continued.
In addition to the enhanced audio quality, the WiMAX link eliminates the use of cables, improves security and saves costs. For example, a sporting event in South Africa typically involves 11 radio stations, each using an ISDN line to provide commentary. By using WiMAX, all 11 stations can transmit to the SABC on one shared link.
"This has been a very exciting project," said Jacques Jordaan, Manager, Technical Services of Multisource Telecoms. "After the successful trial at the Durban game, we are confident that Airspan's WiMAX is the technology best suited for the broadcast at the FIFA games. The country is extremely proud and excited to host next year's FIFA World Cup and we are committed to improving visitors' and locals' experiences in any way we can, including by offering a quality broadcast of the game for those who are not fortunate enough to attend in person."
Airspan's MicroMAXd, a micro-cell base station with all-in-one outdoor packaging of RF and base-band components, was used for this application.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Zain Nigeria Outsources management of Fibre-Optic Network

­Zain Nigeria has announced that it recently signed a managed services and care contract with Nokia Siemens Networks, which came into effect in the past few days. The contract covers the network operator's fiber backbone network, not the mobile network.
As part of this agreement, Nokia Siemens Networks will provide managed services for Zain's multi-vendor Fiber and Dense Wave Division Multiplexing "DWDM" network in Nigeria which is 4000km long countrywide outside plant network.
"This is our first outside plant managed services contract in Africa and therefore provides us with the opportunity to demonstrate our leadership and success in managed services in the region. This agreement is also a reiteration of the close relationship we share with Zain that is based on trust and our ability to exceed customer expectations. We are confident that we will raise the standards for network reliability and connectivity for mobile customers in Nigeria," says, Ashish Chowdhary, Head of Services, Nokia Siemens Networks.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
Based on numbers from the Mobile World subscriber tracker, Zain ended June with around 14.6 million customers and a market share of 22%. This puts it in third place in the market, behind MTN (41%) and Glo (24%).

Mobile Use Grows Fastest in Africa - UN

­The United Nations has released a report that says mobile phone use is growing faster in Africa than anywhere else in the world. The report also says Internet connections have a long way to go.
The mobile phone industry in Africa has defied the global economic crisis with a monumental boom in mobile subscriptions between 2003 and 2008. In five years the number of subscriptions grew by more than 500 percent.
Torbjorn Fredriksson of the U.N. conference on Trade and Development says the growth in mobile phone use is important in both a social and economic sense.
"Companies can use the mobile phones to obtain information about market developments, farmers can get information about weather forecasts and increasingly we see new mobile services emerging such as banking transactions and new ways of transmitting remittances between people and that has a very strong impact on the way that people and companies can do business in Africa," Fredriksson said.
He says in Gabon, the Seychelles, and South Africa there are 100 mobile subscriptions for every 100 people.
But he says mobile connectivity is not consistent throughout the continent.
In Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia, the mobile industry has only penetrated 10 percent of the population.
And he adds that while mobile phone use is rising, Internet access remains slow and costly.
"African countries are lagging behind not only developed countries, but also other developing regions in terms of fast access to the Internet," Fredriksson said.
The U.N. report says monthly Internet access in Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic and Swaziland is more than $1,300, the highest in the world. And only five countries - Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, South Africa and Tunisia - account for 90 percent of Africa's broadband subscriptions.
Fredriksson says a big problem is that up until now Africa has largely been excluded from the mesh of international fiber-optic cables that would carry telecommunications between Africa and the rest of the world.
But he says that seems to be changing.
"Now in July we saw Seacom, a new cable that links the east coast of Africa with Europe and India and there is another one called the TEAMS cable which will link Kenya with the United Arab Emirates later in 2009," Fredriksson said. "So these are promising signs but it remains a tremendous challenge to get the broadband connectivity up to the levels in other parts of the world."
While Internet access in Africa remains largely elusive, according to the U.N. report wireless Internet is spreading fast in other developing regions. India registered almost 100-million new wireless subscriptions in the first half of 2009.
-- VOA

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Vodafone Pursues Number Portability In Ghana

Vodafone Ghana said yesterday it is pushing for the implementation of mobile number portability (MNP) in the country. The company's head of corporate communications, Albert Don-Chebe, said: 'The claims and counter claims by network operators on which one has the best network quality will all be put to rest when MNP is implemented to give the subscriber the power to decide which network is best.'
The Minister of Communications Haruna Iddrisu had earlier confirmed his commitment to MNP during his vetting in parliament, saying: 'With as many as six mobile operators in Ghana it has become necessary for MNP to be implemented to give customers the choice and flexibility to be on any network they want and I can assure you that I am committed to its implementation.'
However, he noted at the time that the introduction of MNP was dependent on the setting up of the appropriate regulatory and technical environment ready to use it. The national telecoms regulator, the National Communications Authority, said about a year ago that it was standardising the national numbering system before the implementation of MNP, possibly in 2011.

Team Recommends Change In GT - Vodafone Sale Agreement

The committee set up to investigate the sale of a 70% stake in Ghana's national PTO, Ghana Telecom, to the UK's Vodafone Group has recommended the government to consider renegotiating the Sale and Purchase Agreement, according to Ghana News Agency reports.

In a press statement published last Friday and signed by Dr Valerie Sawyerr, the Deputy Chief of Staff, the committee said that Ghana's government should in particular reconsider Parties to the SPA; compliance or otherwise of the SPA with the laws of Ghana, particularly the NCA Regulations and the Internal Revenue Act 592; value for money/ Transaction consideration; retention of the National Fibre Optic by the Government of Ghana as a strategic national asset; decoupling of the Ghana Telecom University from the transaction (already done); and return of GT investments to the Government of Ghana such as the Telecom Emporium.

Earlier this month we reported a leaked Ghanaian government report which claimed that last year's sale of a 70% stake in the country's incumbent fixed line operator GT to the UK's Vodafone Group was 'unconstitutional and illegal', and did not represent good value for money.

In July 2008 Vodafone confirmed that it had agreed to acquire a 70% stake in GT for USD900 million on a debt-free, cash-free basis. The deal implied a total enterprise value for GT of approximately USD1.3 billion, with the state retaining a 30% stake in the company. However, the leaked report alleges that the fixed line operator was undervalued and that the actual price paid by Vodafone was less than USD267 million.

Further, it accuses parliament of acting unconstitutionally in approving the deal without due process, and alleges that as a result of 'a complicated series of financial arrangements' the actual price released was far less than the stated asking price.

Incumbent Operators Barred From Nitel Sale

The Nigerian government has decided that the country's GSM network operators will not be allowed to buy the mobile assets of state-owned NITEL when it is eventually privatised. Although the government was originally looking to sell the company as a single entity, the government has now agreed to split the company into its component divisions and sell them separately.
Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, Dr. Christopher Anyanwu said that the decision was based on the advice of the National Communications Commission.
The four GSM networks, MTN, Etisalat, Zain and Glo will be allowed to bid for NITEL's landline assets, although Glo will only be allowed to bid for the CDMA and International gateway assets and licenses as it already holds a landline license.
NITEL's mobile division, M-Tel has languished while its private competitors have created a substantial mobile market out of nothing in just a few years. A recent Onda Analytics report on the sale said that under good ownership, NITEL could claw back almost 15% of the Nigerian mobile market by 2015.
Local company, Transcorp bought a 75% stake in 2006 in both companies for $750 million during a privatization sale, but the government reclaimed the stake earlier this year following several years of neglect.
Last week, Nigeria's Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan inaugurated a new interim board of directors to run the affairs of NITEL pending the sale to the new investor.

Etisalat Makes US$1.87 billion In Q3 Profits

Etisalat has a net profit of AED 6.85 billion (US$1.87 billion) the first nine months of 2009, down on the AED 7.189 billion a year ago. That earlier figure was boosted though by an "exceptional income" after federal royalty profit on sale of shares in Mobily of AED 892 million (US$243 million). ­Excluding this exceptional item, the net profit shows an increase of AED 550 million (9%) for the nine months ended September 2009, higher than the same period in 2008.
Etisalat recorded net revenues of AED 22.107 billion (US$6 billion) for the first nine months of 2009. The net revenues for the same period in 2008 were AED20.805 billion.
These results come after Etisalat announced that it has acquired Tigo Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan unit of Millicom International Cellular for $207 million.
"Etisalat is studying the opportunities of growth in some markets across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the wider Arab world. This study includes the population, penetration rates, the possibility of providing added value, as well as measuring the purchase power in these markets. Additionally Etisalat is studying its operational policy, the required infrastructure, and investment appeal for each of these countries."
"At this time, Etisalat is unlikely to look at European countries due to the lack of growth opportunities and limited openings there," Omran added
Omran also pointed out that Etisalat continues its strategic approach which aims at creating affiliations and enlarging the group's business in order to increase the number of its subscribers and market value.
Mohammed Khalfan Al Qamzi, Chief Executive Officer at Etisalat, said: "Etisalat's subscriber base continues to grow and we continue to deploy new policies to help identify new sources of revenue and launching new technologies, this helps in increasing the rates of services usage even through the economic stress and its indirect effect on the company."
"The number of mobile users in the UAE has reached 7.44 million, and fixed line telephone subscribers reached 1.31 million. Etisalat's internet customer base also continuing to grow reaching 1.27 million, showing an increase of 10% over the results of the same period in 2008," Al Qamzi added.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Body Investigates MTN, Vodacom Anti-Competitive Claims

South African mobile operators Vodacom and MTN have denied allegations of anti-competitive activities, following reports that the Competition Commission (ComCom) is investigating three claims of possible collusion over prices in the industry.
Nandi Mokoena, ComCom's manager of strategy and stakeholder relations, told news agency Reuters: 'We have got three cases that we are investigating in the mobile phone industry, all dealing with the same issue. The allegations are that cellular phone companies have agreed on the rates they charge.' Mokoena refused to speculate on when the investigation would conclude, but did say that both mobile operators involved had been notified by ComCom.
The complaints relate specifically to accusations that Vodacom colluded with rival MTN to hike interconnection fees months before Cell C began operating in an attempt to prevent the then new player from establishing itself as a credible rival to the duopoly. Both MTN and Vodacom have publicly denied the allegations, MTN said in a statement: 'ComCom has investigated three complaints against mobile operators, including MTN, relating to interconnection… MTN denies there is any merit in these complaints.'
Vodacom CEO Pieter Uys said: 'There are those who say MTN and Vodacom got together, in smoke-filled rooms and on the golf courses. But that is definitely not what happened. What happened was, initially, when we did not know the market size and what the costs were going to be, we had experts from Australia come over to advise Telkom, Vodacom and MTN how the interconnect regime should be structured. It had nothing to do with Cell C coming in.'
Meanwhile the government has ordered a cut in mobile termination rates to be implemented by the end of November, saying it had been forced to act because the communications regulator would not do so. The committee has proposed that rates should be cut to ZAR0.60 (USD0.08) per minute during peak times and then by a further ZAR0.15 annually until 2012.
Operators currently charge each other on average ZAR1.25 per minute during peak times. However, carriers have opposed the cut, describing it as 'drastic' and 'below cost.' Cell C CEO Lars Reichelt said that the ZAR0.60 proposal was 'too strong and not rooted in reality.' He estimated the off-peak termination rate for the major players to be ZAR0.77, and proposed a flat ZAR0.75 termination rate from the start of the new year for Vodacom and MTN, and ZAR0.65 for Cell C. 'We believe this proposal can potentially gain support from other players,' Reichelt added, however its rivals have not supported the idea of an asymmetrical system.

Ethiopia: BSNL Considers Running ETC

Indian telco Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) is reportedly mulling a bid to run the networks and operations of Ethiopian state-owned monopoly Ethiopian Telecommunications Company (ETC) on a revenue sharing basis, according to the Economic Times.
A successful bid would also likely see BSNL be given a fixed fee for management on top of the funds generated under the revenue sharing agreement. 'BSNL is on the lookout for business opportunities in the African market. We are, at present, keeping all the options open, including taking over operation and maintenance and management control of a telecom company. As a part of the ongoing overseas business activities, we feel that ETC can be one of the operations,' said Kuldeep Goyal, chairman and managing director of BSNL.
It is understood that BSNL's interest in the African operator follows an open request from the Ethiopian government aimed at boosting IT and telecoms services in the country.
Whilst other companies from the Middle East and Africa region are also expected to confirm their interest in ETC in the short term, no other Indian operators have been mentioned with reference to a possible deal. According to sources quoted by the report, BSNL representatives are expected to visit Ethiopia next week to meet with ETC officials.

MTN Rwanda In Talks To Hook-Up To TEAMS

Rwandan telecoms company MTN Rwanda is in talks with The East African Marine System (TEAMS) over access to the submarine fibre-optic cable, local daily The New Times reports, citing MTN's senior marketing executive, Yvonne Makolo. The 4,900km cable system stretches from Mombasa in Kenya to Fujairah in the UAE.
Earlier this month the TEAMS management committee announced that testing across the submarine cable system had been completed and that a formal inauguration ceremony was being planned. According to Makolo, negotiations with the TEAMS authorities 'are on a high level', but she declined to comment on when an agreement was likely to be reached.
In a separate story, MTN Rwanda has said it will launch its MTN Mobile Money service for wireless customers by the end of the year, with pilot tests of the money transfer service to begin shortly.
CEO of the company, Khaled Mikkawi, commented: 'We are proud to be involved in this initiative that is critical to the financial deepening of the Rwandan economy and we are also fortunate that other MTN markets have launched it and we have key learnings to deliver an exciting service to the people of Rwanda.' MTN's Mobile Money service has already been rolled out in Kenya and Uganda and has been piloted in Cameroon, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire and Nigeria.    

BTC To Enhance Botswana's Internet Backbone

Botswana's incumbent fixed line operator Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) will invest around USD5 million over the next three years in the enhancement of the country's internet backbone via subsidiary BOTSGATE, local daily Mmegi Online reports.
The funds will be used to improve network performance and boost capacity. BOTSGATE is the only internet access provider in Botswana with international connectivity to a number of submarine fibre-optic cables.
The report adds that BTC has seen a 40% reduction in the cost of internet bandwidth due to regulatory changes in South Africa; 'The regulatory permutation has created favourable economies of scale for BTC and this cost benefit is being passed on to our customers,' a statement from the telco said.

Grameen Targets More Farmers In Uganda Thanks To Gates Foundation

The Grameen Foundation is to expand its Community Knowledge Worker (CKW) initiative in Uganda, supported by a $4.7 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The initiative is building a self-sustaining, scalable network of rural information providers who use cell phones to help close critical information gaps facing poor, smallholder farmers. They will strengthen the information link to poor farmers by disseminating and collecting relevant information in these underserved communities.
"Agriculture is the main source of livelihood for poor people in much of the world, including more than 75 percent of Ugandans. Through the Community Knowledge Worker initiative, we are helping poor, smallholder farmers, who may meet with an agricultural agent infrequently, access vital agricultural advice, weather forecasts and other information to improve their lives," said Alex Counts, president of Grameen Foundation. "Equally important, we are providing a business opportunity for Community Knowledge Workers, who will be providing government agriculture programs, NGOs and other entities with relevant and timely information about the on-the-ground needs of poor farmers."
Working closely with and complementing existing government agriculture programs, CKWs are trusted local intermediaries serving farmers who frequently lack basic access to up-to-date information on best farming practices, market conditions, pest and disease control, weather forecasts and a range of other issues.
Upon request from a farmer, a CKW will use his or her cell phone to access actionable information to meet farmer needs. In addition, CKWs collect agricultural information from farmers, providing a vital link between farmers, government programs, non-governmental organizations and other entities focused on improving agriculture in Uganda and beyond. While farmers sometimes have access to a cell phone, this service will greatly expands its availability and also connect farmers to trained professionals tasked with sharing knowledge and information with them.
During a successful nine-month pilot, which concluded in August, 40 CKWs in Uganda's Mbale and Bushyeni districts had more than 14,000 interactions with smallholder farmers. They conducted 6,000 surveys to help organizations such as the World Food Program and IITA better understand farmer needs. IITA also created Geographic Information Survey (GIS) maps showing crop disease outbreaks, the impact of farmers adopting recommended disease control methods, and other important information for farmers and scientists. Throughout the pilot, farmers routinely sought out CKWs to obtain information to help them treat pests, get accurate weather forecasts for planting, and earn more for their crops. For example, a farmer who had lost his groundnut crop because the rains came late and his seeds died contacted his local CKW to access regular weather forecasts so that he could plan the rest of his planting season and preserve his livelihood.
In this next phase of the initiative, Grameen Foundation is building on its experience in the pilot to develop a self-sustaining national network capable of reaching more than 200,000 farmers.
The grant is part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Agricultural Development initiative.

Etisalat Buys Tigo Sri Lanka

Etisalat is buying the Sri Lankan mobile network, Tigo from its current owners, Millicom International for approximately US$155 million in total cash proceeds.
The transaction values the Sri Lanka operation at an enterprise value of $207 million, which represents approximately 7.4x estimated 2009 EBITDA. The transaction is not subject to any conditions and is expected to close on or before October 20, 2009.
Mikael Grahne, President and CEO of Millicom, commented: "We are very pleased to have agreed to sell our Sri Lanka operations to Etisalat. Our management team there has performed very well in establishing a strong market position and I would like to thank all our employees in Sri Lanka for their contribution over the years.
"This agreement represents the final element of our recent divestment program and, upon completion of the previously announced transactions concerning our Cambodian and Laotian operations, will leave the Group well positioned to focus on the significant long term growth opportunities in Latin America and Africa."
According to figures from the Mobile World subscriber database, Tigo had 2.25 million customers at the end of June, representing a market share of 18%.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Leaked Ghana Report Claims Vodafone Deal Was Illegal

A leaked Ghanaian government report, seen by the BBC, claims last year's sale of a 70% stake in the country's incumbent fixed line operator Ghana Telecom (GT) to the UK's Vodafone Group was 'unconstitutional and illegal-, and did not represent good value for money.

In July 2008 Vodafone confirmed that it had agreed to acquire a 70% stake in GT for USD900 million on a debt-free, cash-free basis. The deal implied a total enterprise value for GT of approximately USD1.3 billion, with the state retaining a 30% stake in the company.

However, the leaked report alleges that the fixed line operator was undervalued and that the actual price paid by Vodafone was less than USD267 million. Further, it accuses parliament of acting unconstitutionally in approving the deal without due process, and alleges that as a result of 'a complicated series of financial arrangements' the actual price released was far less than the stated asking price.

Neotel Hires Huawei For Network Expansion

Huawei, a provider of next generation telecoms network solutions for operators, has announced that it has been contracted to expand Neotel's CDMA network.
Huawei will provide a fourth generation base transceiver station (BTS) which can support the current EV-DO Rev A data service and also ensure future evolution to EV-DO Rev B or enhanced technologies such as Long Term Evolution (LTE), with Huawei's leading SDR Technology. After the expansion, both the coverage and capacity will be almost doubled on the network.
Angus Hay, CTO of Neotel South Africa, said: 'We are pleased to engage Huawei on this project, given their extensive experience in deploying CDMA, GSM and LTE networks successfully worldwide. We are confident that this project will produce a positive outcome as expected. We believe this state-of-the-art network will enable us to smoothly evolve to LTE in the near future.'

Telecom Egypt Launches FTTH

Egypt's monopoly provider of fixed line services, Telecom Egypt (TE), has announced the launch of its first fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) services in Qatamiya, a suburb of Cairo.
Commenting on the development, Tarek Tantawy, TE's chief executive officer, said: 'TE is adopting a new strategy to roll out fibre access networks in areas with demand for high speed broadband access that reaches 70Mbps. By connecting residential customers with a direct fibre connection we can offer triple-play services through one single high speed connection.'
It is understood that the operator has begun the rollout of FTTx access networks across a number of suburbs around both Cairo and Alexandria as part of a strategy designed to cater for the needs of high-end residential and business subscribers.
Services available over the new network include voice, data and IPTV, in addition to value added services and online gaming. TE will offer the bundled services in conjunction with its IT subsidiary TE Data, whilst its pay-TV services utilise existing contracts with companies including ART, a leading Arabic content provider.

Telkom Kenya To Add Triple-Play To Revamped Network

Telkom Kenya is planning to revamp its fixed line services to include a triple-play service bundling telephony, internet and fax, as it repositions itself in the increasingly competitive telecoms environment, Kenya's Daily Nation reports.
Telkom launched its first converged service, 'Broadband Nyumbani', on 15 July 2009, offering a broadband connection bundled with a PSTN line. The firm's copper network has faced vandalism, copper theft and dwindling customer figures in recent years, with approximately 252,300 customers subscribed to the PSTN at year-end 2008, down from around 264,800 a year earlier and Telkom hopes that converged services will renew interest in the fixed line sector.
Angela Ng'ang'a-Mumo, head of corporate communications at Telkom, said: 'We will be rolling out a revamped Telkom fixed service that will enable residential and small SME customers to have access to voice, data and internet without interruptions. The platform will also allow for other services among them cable TV.'
Daily Nation reports that the new service will later be expanded to a quad-play offering which will include video services

Kenyans Can Now Receive M-Pesa Funds From UK

­Kenyans can now receive money from friends and family in the United Kingdom directly to their M-PESA mobile banking accounts. The launch of the international component of M-PESA, managed by Safaricom follows a successful pilot project with selected outlets in the UK.
Three Agents have been involved with conducting the pilots for over 3 months namely Western Union, Provident Capital Transfers and KenTV. A total of 19 outlets were carefully selected to cover areas with relatively high number of Kenyans living, including Reading, London, Luton, Wembley & Glasgow. They comprise a variety of shops including forex agents, news agents and grocery shops that are commonly visited by Kenyans and whom are registered with HM Revenue & Customs in the UK as Money Services Businesses.
Registered M-PESA customers are able to withdraw cash at  over 12,000 M-PESA Agents throughout Kenya. They are also able to use M-PESA to pay bills, purchase airtime and to perform local money transfers.
Following authorization by the Central Bank of Kenya, Safaricom shall be increasing the locations in the UK from which money can be sent to M-PESA customers as well as launching services across other popular remittance corridors.
Safaricom CEO Michael Joseph said: "We wish to invite Kenyans living in the UK to take advantage of this service, which presents a real innovation on our M-PESA menu. Through strategic partnerships with Western Union, Provident Capital and KenTV we are giving them an opportunity to convert across two currencies into M-PESA and send money affordably without any hidden costs - directly to the mobile phone of the recipient."
The UK has one of the highest populations of Kenyans living outside the country. This community is also a major source of remittances back to the country.

Nigerian Cellular Tower Company Gets World Bank Funding For Expansion

Helios Towers Nigeria (HTN) has secured a US$100 million investment from the World Bank's IFC as part of a US$250 million capital injection that will help the company increase its network to 2,000 sites nationwide.
IFC disbursed an initial $50 million in mezzanine financing on August 21, and on September 30, signed an agreement to lend an additional $50 million in senior debt. IFC also is arranging $150 million in senior debt from a number of commercial and development finance institutions.
HTN builds and maintains a network of telecommunications towers and leases space on these towers to wireless telecommunications services providers. The increased coverage will help wireless operators roll out their services more economically and enable the extension of affordable mobile services to semi-urban and rural areas.
"IFC's long-term investment enabled us to leverage additional funding from capital markets, which is often not readily accessible for frontier markets," said Kayode Akinola, HTN Director and Investment Principal at Helios Investment Partners. "Nigeria remains one of the most high-growth telecom markets worldwide and wireless infrastructure sharing will continue to play a critical role in supporting operators in efficiently providing services to customers."
Nigeria's telecommunications sector has developed significantly in recent years, but teledensity at 43 percent indicates there still is potential for growth in the market. With the expansion of the HTN network, operators will be able to outsource non-core activities and passive infrastructure, allowing them to focus on further developing their products and services.
"Affordable mobile telecommunications enable access to knowledge and services, innovation across sectors, and more efficient delivery of government and business services, all of which will contribute to economic growth and opportunity creation," said Mohsen Khalil, IFC Director for Global Information and Communication Technologies. "IFC's partnership with HTN will enable mobile operators to lower their operating costs and improve the quality and affordability of services, which will greatly benefit underserved consumers and businesses in Nigeria."

Telecoms Investments In Africa Could Double By 2013

The African continent continues to attract substantial investments into its telecommunications markets, with the combined fixed and mobile cumulative capex for Africa since the Year 2000 expected to grow from US$76.1 billion in 2008 to US$141.1 billion by 2013, adding cumulative investments of US$68 billion in the period.
Fezekile Mashinini, telecoms analyst at BMI-Techknowledge (BMI-T) and author of the report behind the figures says that the mobile sector is the source of growth, with an estimated 68.5% (US$98.8 billion) of all cumulative investment attributable to this sector as fixed-mobile substitution continues and mobile operators drive infrastructure investments to keep on track with increasing customer numbers.
Africa recorded a year-on-year growth of 31.1%, reaching an estimated 405 million subscribers, with the fixed networks accounting for 7.5%. The mobile networks unprecedented growth over the past few years continued, with an estimated 94 million new subscribers being added during 2008, to end the year at an estimated 375 million subscribers. BMI-T's forecast for the combined fixed and mobile subscriber market in Africa has placed the total number of subscribers at 782 million by 2013, representing a 14.1% CAGR.
Even though the mobile sector is currently leading the charge in terms of investments, the fixed network sector will also witness heightened investments due mainly to the landing of various under-sea cables. 2009 has witnessed the landing of under-sea fibre cables such as SEACOM, Low Indian Ocean Network (LION), The East African Marine System (TEAMS), and most recently Globacom's "Glo 1" cable. The expected spending by operators on terrestrial links to bring the bandwidth inland is expected to run into millions of dollars.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

MTN Uganda Gets US$100 m for Network Expansion

MTN Uganda has raised US$100 million in debt to fund the expansion of its network. Isaac Nsereko, chief marketing officer at MTN confirmed the development to the Reuters news agency.

Absa Capital, the investment banking arm of Absa Group was lead arranger of the  syndicated loan.

"We are using it to invest in the network, different sections of the network really," he told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Based on data from the Mobile World, the country's five current operators and their market shares are: MTN (41%); Zain (22%); Uganda Telecom (19%); Warid Telecom (17%) and Orange (2%). A sixth network, I-Tel launched its network last month.

"Econet Case Will Not Derail Zain Africa Deal"

Kuwait's Zain Group is not concerned that a lawsuit filed by South Africa's Econet Wireless pertaining to the company's 2006 purchase of Nigerian operator Vee Networks (now Zain Nigeria) will derail plans to sell a 46% stake in the group to Indian investors, Bloomberg reports, citing Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai. 'The lawsuit is old and dates back to before 2006,' Zain CEO Saad al- Barrak told the newspaper, before adding that Econet had lost similar lawsuits filed against Zain in British courts over the last four years.

Econet claims that its right of first refusal over the stake was breached when Zain bought out the Nigerian cellco in May 2006, and has said it will continue to pursue arbitration proceedings. Econet has also applied for interim measures to prevent Zain from selling, transferring, disposing of, dealing with or otherwise encumbering the disputed stake until the matter is resolved.

The blocking could disrupt plans by the Al-Kharafi group, which holds an indirect 10.8% stake in Zain, and its National Investments Company to sell a total 46% stake in Zain Group valued at USD13.7 billion to a consortium of Indian and Malaysian investors, including BSNL, MTNL and Vavasi Telegence.

Kuwait's SGC Interested in Zain Stake

According to a report by Reuters, Kuwaiti investment firm Securities Group Company (SGC) is studying a bid to purchase a stake of up to 24.6% in Zain from sovereign wealth fund, Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA).
KIA's managing director Bader al-Saad revealed to Al Arabiya on 5 October that the authority was open to selling part of its stake, although it was not party to negotiations led by the al-Kharafi Group to sell a 46% stake in Zain to an Indian-Malaysian consortium, which includes Indian telcos MTNL and BSNL.
In response to the announcement SGC, which reportedly manages assets worth around USD2 billion in total, revealed in a newspaper advertisement that it was undertaking preliminary studies prior to placing a bid for a stake in Zain.
Chairman and managing director of SGC, Ali al-Mousa, said: 'This is a response to the announcement of KIA saying they are considering selling a stake in Zain... all we are saying is that we are interested.'

Orascom Plans Bid For Triple-Play Licence

Egypt's Orascom Telecom has said it will consider bidding for one of the two triple-play licences that the government recently revealed it would offer early next year, Reuters reports. Orascom's chief operating officer, Khaled Bichara, said of the company's plans: 'We believe we are really well positioned. They [the government] want the local players and international experience, and we believe we won't need to go out of the group to make the bid'. The bid document for the licence is expected to be published by mid-October, with bids due by 12 January 2010.

Orascom is thought to be considering bidding for the concession even if it completes the sale of its IT subsidiaries LINKdotNET and Link Egypt.

Mr. Bichara denied reports that Orascom had halted the sale process for the two companies, but did add that a sale would only be completed if the bids submitted were suitable, saying: 'If we don't get the right price we won't execute the sale'; a final decision on any offers submitted is expected to be made by the end of the year.

Bintel Goes Live In Gabon as Azur Brand

Gabon's fourth mobile operator Azur (the brand name of USAN Gabon) launched commercial GSM services in the capital Libreville on 8 October, reports Gaboneco.
A subsidiary of Middle Eastern firm Bintel, Azur launched over a network of 35 base stations with a capacity of 100,000 lines, whilst it aims to expand to Port-Gentil and Franceville in the next few weeks, before rolling out services nationwide next year.

Azur is aiming to pick up subscribers by undercutting existing operators' pre-paid domestic and international call tariffs. At the end of June 2009 Gabon had over 1.4 million active cellular subscriptions, split between Zain (56%), Libertis (36%) and Moov (8%).

India's MTNL Eyes Stake in Zamtel

India's Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) says that it investigating the possibility of taking a stake in Zambia's sole landline operator, Zamtel. The company also operates a mobile network in a competitive market.
MTNL's Chairman, Mr. R.S.P. Sinha, told reporters that the company had signed a  non-disclosure agreement with Zamtel.
Zambia's government is planning to sell three-quarters of its stake in Zamtel to a private investor and eventually float the remaining 25% onto the local stock exchange. It is estimated that the company needs a capital injection of around US$200 million, which cannot come from the government without affecting other services.
An attempt to sell the stake earlier this year to a private equity group became mired in political controversy after a judicial investigation was ordered into Communications and Transport Minister, Dora Siliya. Shew was alleged to have engaged a private consultancy firm based in the Cayman Islands to carry out an evaluation of the assets of Zamtel without following tender procedures and ignoring legal advice in the process.
The country currently has three mobile network operators with the following market shares; Zain (70%), MTN (20%) and Zamtel (10%) - based on Q1 statistics from the Mobile World subscriber database.

Telecoms Investment In Nigeria Hits US$18 Billion

Telecoms investment in Nigeria has exceeded US$18 billion over the past eight years, the Nigerian Communications Commission has said.
According to a statement from the regulator to the This Day newspaper, the country is keen on attracting more investments so as to expand the needed services in the areas of Internet and broadband services across the country, having made a remarkable inroad into voice telephony services."
Around US$12 billion of the investment in the telecoms industry has been made up of around US$12 billon from foreign direct investments while the balance was from investments made from and within the country since 2001.
The regulator added that the decision by Nigeria to implement a technologically neutral regulation has resulted in investments in both the GSM and CDMA based services and made diverse services available in Nigeria with investors attacking services from different points thereby providing choices for the Nigerian consumer.
According to the Mobile World analysts, the country ended Q1 2009 with around 64 million mobile phone subscribers, compared to just 600,000 at the end of Q1 2002.

Orascom Loses Interest In French 3G Licence

Egypt's Orascom Telecom has announced that it will not be bidding for France's fourth 3G license. The company had previously indicated that it might join a consortium with other French companies for the license.
A spokeswoman for Orascom did not give any reasons why the company decided not to bid. "It was announced today in our analyst day that OT/Weather will not be bidding," she told the Reuters news agency.
According to one analyst present, Sawiris described the regulatory conditions as too difficult. "I think the terms themselves were obviously not attractive enough or value-accretive," said Beltone Financial analyst Shrouk Diab, from Cairo.
In addition to the regulatory issues, there is a concern that the regulator could face legal action over the lower reserve price being set for the fourth licence. The new licence is being offered with a reserve price of EUR 240 million (US$339 million).
According to figures from the Mobile World analysts, the three incumbent operators market share at the end of Q1 '09 was: Orange (47%), SFR (36%) and Bouygues Télécom (17%).
Bidders have until 29th October to submit their bids, with the licence expected to be awarded around June 2010.
Iliad, the parent company of French Internet service provider Free, has confirmed that it will be a candidate for the licence. A previous bid for the licence by Iliad was rejected by the regulator in October 2007. Virgin Mobile France has previously suggested that it might be interested in the licence as a joint venture with Numericable.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Econet Continues To Dispute Zain Nigeria Sale

South African-based telecoms group Econet is continuing to dispute the 2006 purchase of a 65% stake in Vee Networks by Celtel International, which has since been wholly acquired by Zain Group, Reuters reports.
Econet was a founding shareholder in Vee Networks, which has since been renamed under the Zain Nigeria banner. The South African group claims that its right of first refusal over the stake was breached in May 2006, when its Nigerian partners sold their shares to Zain, and has said it is sticking to the pursuit of arbitration proceedings.
Econet said it has appealed to legal authorities, including an international tribunal working under the United Nations, for the transaction to be unwound. It has applied for interim measures to prevent Zain from selling, transferring, disposing of, dealing with or otherwise encumbering the disputed stake until the matter is resolved.

Starcomms Launches International Calls Promo

Nigerian CDMA operator Starcomms has launched a promotion allowing subscribers to call India, Hong Kong, the US, Canada, China and the UK for NGN10 (USD0.068) per minute.
Tushar Maheshwari, COO of Starcomms, said: 'This promotion will make it affordable for Nigerians to make international calls without any worries and has been launched just before the festive season to ensure that more and more consumers can benefit from [it].'
He added that making communications affordable across the country is the CDMA operator's key focus. According to TeleGeography's GlobalComms Database, Starcomms received a ten-year Unified Access Service (UAS) licence from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in August 2006, with the first cellular CDMA services following in February 2007 using the 1900MHz frequency band.

New World Bank Project To Widen Broadband In Central Africa

The World Bank has approved a new project called the Central African Backbone (CAB), which aims to increase the geographical reach and usage of regional broadband network services in up to eleven central African countries, whilst reducing access prices.
The initial phase of the CAB will take place in Cameroon, the Central African Republic and Chad, where the connectivity component of the project will leverage the existing fibre-optic network laid along the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline to form the core CAB network and support the deployment of interconnected networks to establish a regional cable infrastructure.
Aside from the connectivity aims of the CAB, other components include development of e-government, strengthening of regulatory frameworks and assistance in restructuring government telecoms institutions with the aim of liberalising markets.
The World Bank said in a statement that central African countries currently offer the worst quality and most expensive internet service in the continent. Eight additional countries are eligible to take part in the CAB, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, The Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Niger, Nigeria, Sao Tome & Principe and Sudan.
The project, which is being supported by a partnership between the World Bank and the African Development Bank, is expected to achieve its initial aims in Cameroon, the Central African Republic and Chad by 2016, but as its scope widens it is expected to run for ten years, with total investment reaching around USD215 million.
The CAB aims to raise USD98 million from the private sector, with help from the International Finance Corporation. The initial USD26.2 million lending approved by the World Bank is split as follows: Cameroon USD9.9 million, Central African Republic USD7.3 million, Chad USD9 million.

Orascom Plans To Buy Into Numericable-Virgin

Unconfirmed reports claim that Orascom Telecom, backed by the Egyptian entrepreneur Naguib Sawiris through his Weather Investments holding company, is seeking to buy into the Numericable-Virgin Mobile consortium that is seeking endorsement for France's fourth and final 3G licence.
The French journal Challenge writes that following 'fruitless talks' with Iliad (Free) and Bollore Telecom over a possible tie-up, Sawiris is now looking elsewhere in his bid to gain entry into the mature French mobile market. Orascom Telecom was linked with a possible takeover of another French cellco, Bouygues Telecom, in 2007.

New Telco To Emerge After Sale of NITEL

The director general of Nigeria's Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE), Christopher Anayanwu, has said a new wireless operator could emerge from the sale of struggling incumbent telco Nigeria Telecommunications Limited (NITEL), local newspaper THISDAY reports.
According to Anayawu, NITEL currently owns a CDMA network which could fetch up to USD3 billion if auctioned by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). 'If we unbundle [NITEL] fully as we are trying to do, another mobile network must come out of [the company]...There is a CDMA network that covers the whole country and has its own frequency intact.
The licence alone can be sold by NCC and that can yield about USD2 million or USD3 million, but this is a licence with equipment on the ground, so any company can acquire that and run a mobile network,' he said. The BPE hopes that by introducing a new wireless operator, the market will become more competitive and mobile tariffs will be lowered.
The BPE has extended the deadline for the submission of technical and financial bids for NITEL from 2 October to 26 October. Recent reports claims that 14 parties have expressed an interest in NITEL, including Etisalat Nigeria, MTNL of India, Globacom, MTN Nigeria, Telefonica of Spain and MetroPCS Communications.

Safaricom To Expand WiMAX Network Countrywide

Israeli equipment supplier Alvarion has announced that it has been contracted by Kenya's largest wireless operator by subscribers, Safaricom, to deploy a nationwide 802.16e WiMAX network. Using Alvarion's BreezeMAX solution, the network will enable wireless broadband for residential and corporate users, rural areas, municipalities, banks, schools and universities.
The three year, turnkey project will operate in the 3.5GHz frequency band leveraging bandwidth from the newly completed TEAMS undersea fibre-optic cable.
Michael Joseph, CEO of Safaricom, said: 'Our new WiMAX broadband network will enable us to offer high quality broadband services to our customers throughout the country, connecting all of Kenya, and creating new opportunities for business growth for multiple segments. We will rely on Alvarion's proven WiMAX solutions and unparalleled experience in deploying advanced wireless broadband networks of this kind to help us build the network that will establish Safaricom as a broadband leader in the country.'