Friday, July 31, 2009

Maroc Telecom Revenues Up 1.9%


Moroccan incumbent Maroc Telecom has reported its consolidated group results for the first half of 2009. Revenues were up 1.9% year-on-year to MAD14.6 billion (USD1.84 billion) in the six months ended 30 June, whilst EBITDA rose 1.0% to MAD8.6 billion and net income attributable to the group climbed 2.6% to MAD 4.6 billion.
The total customer base reached 19.6 million at mid-year, up by 5.3% from June 2008, with growth fuelled by subsidiaries in sub-Saharan Africa which saw their combined customer bases increase by 44.1% year-on-year to 3.2 million customers. In the second quarter revenues stood at MAD7.46 billion, up 1.8% versus the same period last year.
The results incorporate Maroc Telecom's domestic fixed line, broadband and mobile operations, and its subsidiaries Mauritel (Mauritania), Onatel (Burkina Faso) and Gabon Telecom (including cellco Libertis) as well as the Mobisud France and Mobisud Belgium MVNO companies. Mobisud France was withdrawn from Maroc Telecom's consolidated financials as from 1 June 2009.
The Moroccan operator also released a 2009 full year outlook, predicting revenue growth of around 2% and an operating margin of around 45% (compared to 44.9% in H1).

MTN Rwanda Introduces 3G Services


Rwandan mobile operator MTN Rwanda is set to launch 3G services, writes local newspaper The Business Times, citing Yvonne Manzi Makoro, the cellco's senior marketing officer.
Makoro said the technology is already up and running, but a commercial launch of the service will happen in the near future, although no specific date was mentioned in the report.
MTN began trialing a pilot W-CDMA network in the country's capital Kigali at the end of 2008.

MTN Nigeria Introduces Wireless Internet Service

Nigerian mobile operator MTN Nigeria has introduced a wireless internet service dubbed MTN HyConnect Wireless Internet, writes local newspaper This Day.
 
According to MTN Nigeria's chief enterprise solutions officer, Derek Appiah, the new offering is a pre-paid service providing download speeds of up to 1Mbps, running on MTN's WiMAX network with coverage of select locations in Lagos and Abuja. 'MTN HyConnect Wireless Internet is ideal for SMEs that require reliable, stable and easy to set up internet connectivity for their offices.
 
There is no need for wires, and it offers multi-user functionality, such that the entire staff of a company need not cluster in a single room in order to access the internet. They simply access the Internet directly from their offices wirelessly,' commented Appiah.
 
MTN was Nigeria's largest cellco by subscribers at 31 March 2009, with a wireless customer base of 25.9 million, corresponding to 20.8% market share.

Orange Kenya Launches New Product

Telkom Kenya's commercial brand Orange on Friday unveiled its new broadband offer under the product name Orange Internet Everywhere (IEW) 3G+.
 
This offer is set to provide users with the widest 3G+ coverage in the country through a simple reliable and easy to use internet connection.
 
The new product will be particularly useful to frequent travelers and company executives who need to log onto their company intranets wherever they are.
 
Internet Everywhere 3G + is one of the channels Orange is set to use to target a wider broadband subscriber base once it connects to the Teams cable later this year.
 
"The Orange IEW 3G+ offers speeds are unprecedented among telecom providers, and we're proud to be the first to offer a product we believe will change internet standards across the widest coverage area in Kenya," said Mr. Jean-Michel Chanut, head of marketing and strategy.

Zain, Vodacom Sign Deal for Water Bill M-Payments in Dar

The Dar es Salaam Water and Sewerage Corporation (Dawasco) and two cellular operators have signed agreements to enable customers pay water bills through their handsets.
 
The payments will be done through M-Pesa for Vodacom and Zap for Zain. Zain said yesterday in a statement that paying the bills using mobile phones via the Zap service was as simple as sending a text message and would cost as low as Sh150.
 
Zain chief commercial officer Chiruyi Walingo said the initiative was part of the strategy to retain customers and improve services.
 
Vodacom said it would continue to work with other institutions to build on to the number of services Vodafone M-Pesa could provide to its customers.
 
Dawasco chief commercial officer Raymond Mndolwa said settling water bills had become more convenient. "Vodafone M-Pesa was introduced early last year as a money transfer service from person to person.
 
This service continues to grow and now also allows Vodacom customers to pay their utility bills, school fees, make donation payments, settle DStv subscriptions and repay loans.  "Vodacom marketing director Ephraim Mafuru noted in a statement.

Starcomms in 3.6b Naira H1 Loss Up from 1b a Year Ago

Nigeria's biggest fixed wireless telecoms operator Starcomms recorded a 3.68 billion naira ($24.63 million) net loss in its second quarter to June 30, 2009, compared with a loss of 1.01 billion naira a year ago.
 
Starcomms said in a filing to the Nigerian Stock Exchange on Friday that gross earnings in the period rose to 16.92 billion naira from 15.80 billion naira a year earlier. ($1 = 149.75 naira).

Vodacom Users To Use M-Pesa To Pay Power Bill in Tanzania


Vodacom Tanzania subscribers are now able to pre-pay for their electricity via the M-Pesa mobile payments service. This project is a joint venture between Vodacom Tanzania and the electricity generator, Tanesco.
Vodafone M-PESA is an electronic (e-money) account that provides customers with a means of converting real money into electronic money and to then use this electronic money in various ways. It is through this e-money that Vodacom customers are now able to pay for LUKU (Prepaid electricity), specifically for those wit digital LUKU meters.
During the announcement, Vodacom Director for Vodacom Business, Dylan Lennox said, "we are very proud to provide this service to our customers. We believe with the busy lives may of us lead this product comes at an ideal time. Vodafone M-PESA has revolutionised the way many Tanzanians mange their money, and progressively pay for their daily expenses."
Vodacom is also working on a number of other projects including facilitating the payment of school fees.
Speaking on the project, Tanesco Acting Managing Director, Mr. Declan Mhaiki, said "This project is a sign of our joint commitment for maximizing customer satisfaction based on the need to attend to ever increase demand for LUKU recharge centres especially in the rural areas where customers had to travel long distances to look for the service,

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Zain Customers In Kenya To Pay for DStv Using Zap

Zain Kenya and Multichoice Kenya have entered into a partnership that will see the pay TV customers pay their bills through Zap. Speaking during the launch, Managing Director Rene Meza said DStv customers will not be charged for paying through Zap.
 
He said the transaction will be reflected on the DSTV subscriber's account immediately the payment is made. "This partnership marks yet another milestone in the fast evolving world of mobile commerce. We are constantly upgrading the features on Zap to ensure that our customers experience the real benefits of the technological revolution," said Mr. Meza.
 
Since it was launched three months ago, Zap has registered more than 300,000 customers and has 3,000 dealers countrywide. Currently customers can pay electricity bills and perform a host of banking transactions using Zap. He disclosed that Zain Kenya was in talks with other financial institutions to increase the penetration of the service especially in rural areas.
 
"Mobile commerce is going to be the way of life in future. We will continue partnering with more players in order to enhance our offering and bring convenience to our subscribers," he said.
 
Zain customers can sign up for the Zap service by sending an SMS with the word Zap to 455 after which they are provided with a virtual bank account, which allows them to use their mobile phone in much the same way as a debit card. Multichoice General Manager Stephen Isaboke lauded the new partnership, saying it will provide additional touch points for DStv subscribers countrywide. "For a long time, DStv has been exploring for the most convenient way for our subscribers to make their monthly subscription payments. We are glad that Zap from Zain has delivered that solution which will be most welcome to our customers.
 
As a pioneer of pay-TV in Africa, MultiChoice Africa has continued to deliver cutting-edge technology and unrivalled premium content focused on building an innovative and sustainable business that offers reliable service making it Africa's leading entertainment platform. Through the partnership with Zain, DStv subscribers countrywide will conveniently pay for their DStv services from the comfort of their Zain Mobile phones to ensure they continue enjoying superior viewing experiences of the latest movies, world class sports, news and documentaries.
 
Through this technological partnership, Kenyans will start enjoying the fruits of the newly landed broadband connectivity since the Zain Zap – DStv pay-bill system will all be automated with data signals confirming payments and connecting DStv subscribers without any human interface. DStv subscribers can expect to get reconnected/ restore their services within maximum of an hour after paying via Zap on a 24 hour basis.
 
Only last week MultiChoice marked another a significant milestone in making premium pay television an everyday reality for homes in Africa by introducing a 25 channel bouquet for only KES800.
 
 

Zain Expands Its Fibre Cable In Nigeria

Zain Nigeria is expanding its 4,000-kilometer fiber-optic cable backbone network in Nigeria in order to consolidate its market share in West Africa.
 
Zain said that it is extending its contract with Nokia Siemens Networks to expand its fiber network by 600 kilometers. Be extending its fiber cable, Zain hopes to increase the number of subscribers and double its profits.
 
The announcement comes only a week after French telecom company Vivendi halted its bid to buy Zain's African operations, claiming a deal would not be profitable.
 
The expansion of the fiber network means that Zain Nigeria will grow to become the company's biggest operation in Africa. Zain also has operations in the Middle East.
 
Due to an increase in subscribers, Zain has experienced network congestion problems that forced the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) to penalize the company last year.
 
Zain said that it is creating the fiber capacity to handle Nigeria's growing number of subscribers who are demanding high quality broadband services.
 
"Zain will now be able to maximize network security and will greatly improve the quality of the network and services," said Ahmed Othman, Nokia Siemens Network business team head.
 
The first phase of the project was awarded to Nokia Siemens Networks in 2007 and was successfully completed in February this year. Nokia Siemens Networks is expected to complete the second phase of the project within six months.
 
 

ITS Signs Deal With Namibia's Cell One

Leading IT solutions provider International Turnkey Systems (ITS) has signed an agreement with CELL ONE, a leading GSM operator in Windhoek –Namibia. The deal comes in line with ITS' strategic partnership with Orascom Telecom, a major player in the global telecommunications market and the mother company of CELL ONE.
 
 ITS shall provide a package of services and products of core billing, correlated infrastructure, hardware and software, and multi-dimensional smart reporting. ITS' solution to CELL ONE is based on SOA (Service-Oriented Architecture); a design pattern which helps business owners respond more quickly and cost-effectively to changing market conditions. With SOA, business changes can easily be made at the solution interface level rather than the solution infrastructure, making it easier to quickly implement changes without requiring radical system modifications. ITS' SOA-based solution also simplifies interconnection with and usage of existing IT assets at CELL ONE, which facilitates integration with existing systems at CELL ONE and increases their interoperability.
 
 "Our full spectrum solutions & services will enhance CELL ONE's positioning and evolution in the Namibian market. The reduction of operational expenditures and the attraction of new customers while retaining existing ones at the most cost effective investment are two key priorities of Telecom operators today and our tailored products and services made ITS the partner of choice for major telecom operators in the region" said Khalid Faraj Al-Said, Managing Director and General Manager, ITS.
 
ITS service offering will ensure CELL ONE remains agile and highly responsive to its growing customer base in Namibia, where the telecom industry is rapidly evolving and customer needs are changing dramatically "Our new-born partnership with ITS and the benefit from its ample expertise in the Telecommunications Industry will be to our absolute advantage, contributing to the realization of our vision, our corporate marketing strategy, and our short-to long-term growth plans," Cell One's CEO, Soban Pasha said.
 
ITS will help develop the competencies and independency of Cell One's team with their staff of IT professionals who have a wide service delivery expertise in the region and understanding of telecom operators needs in Africa. ITS has been providing Orascom Telecom with end-to-end business support solutions at various locations since 2001.
 

Msabi And Mi-Pay Introduce M-Payment Service For Africa

An SMS-based mobile payments system designed to work in remote regions of Africa with limited communications infrastructure has been launched by Masabi and Mi-Pay.
 
The vendors say their Street Vendor application allows mobile operators, banks and other providers to offer their services in remote regions without additional investment in infrastructure or hardware, using the existing mobile phone base.

The technology works in any part of the world that has SMS reception, which means that unlike mobile operator-led payment services, it does not require new SIM cards to be issued or integration with local network infrastructure.
 
In addition, the application is compatible with many standard handsets, up to seven years old, and doesn't rely on smartphones or 3G and GPRS connectivity which are not always available in rural areas.

The application enables handsets to act as an electronic point of sale terminal, enabling street vendors to use their phones to offer people services such as international remittances, micro-loans and insurance.
 
According to Ben Whitaker, COO, Masabi, the system will allow mobile operators and retail providers to create new sales channels for services in areas with limited communications infrastructure and accessibility.

"A 'Street Vendor' with even old handsets can now offer international transaction and retail services to local consumers, without the need for vast technological infrastructure," says Whitaker.

For transactions, the handset communicates with a central server for authentication and approval over encrypted SMS in areas where other data connections are unavailable. The system complies with all international anti-fraud and money laundering guidelines, says Masabi.
 
Norman Frankel, CEO, Mi-Pay, adds: "In developing countries, such as those in Africa, where there is insufficient payments revenue to justify the capital expense of rolling bank branches out across large geographical areas, mobile initiated domestic financial services have the potential to transform the retail sector and, therefore, the economy as a whole."
 
Street Vendor is already live in Sudan with other roll-outs planned across the Middle East and North Africa.
 
Rapid adoption in the developing world will fuel a boom in mobile payments over the next three years, with global transaction volumes reaching $250 billion in 2012, according to a recent report from Arthur D Little.

In February the GSMA, which represents the interests of the worldwide mobile communications industry, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a programme that aims to expand the availability of financial services to millions of people in the developing world through mobile phones.
 

 

SMS Media Introduces Bulk SMS in Rwanda

SMS Media, a Short Message Service (SMS) content and wireless application service provider has introduced bulk SMS advertising to facilitate businesses in the country.
 
"This service will help improve the way the business community keeps in touch with customers. It can also help them to control and market products and services cheaply," Jeff Gasana, the Company's General Manager told Business Times in an interview on Tuesday.
 
Currently ITEC, a company dealing in computer hardware and accessories is running a promotion for 60 days that will see lucky winners walk away with a grand prize of a car (Mahindra Scorpio Model 2006), win a trip to Brussels for 2 people, and an HP laptop with a printer among other computer gadgets.
 
According to Gasana, the service is not only cost effective with each SMS charge at Frw30 but also efficient for the users compared to other forms of advertising like Radio and Television.
 
"We are introducing SMS based promotions to ease doing business. SMS delivers the message directly even when the receiver is busy, they will read the message," he said.
 
He also mentioned that while the service is already popular in countries in the region, it is the first time the service has been launched on the Rwandan market.
 
 

Angola Sells Off 80% of Movicel

The government approved the sale of 80 percent of Angola's second largest telecoms group Movicel to several companies in one of the country's biggest post-war privatisations.

The price paid and location of the purchasing firms was not disclosed in Thursday's government statement which was approved at a cabinet meeting late on Wednesday.
 
The statement said Porturil-Investments will buy 40 percent of Movicel, Modus Comicare-Comunicacoes e Imagem Lda will hold 19 percent and I pang-industria de Papel e Derivados will own 10 percent.
 
Lambda-Investment, another private company, will buy 6 percent while Novatel S.A. will hold 5 percent. State-owned firms Angola Telecom and Correios Telegrafos de Angola will retain the remaining 20 percent.
 
Angola's biggest mobile operator is Unitel with more than five million subscribers. Unitel's shareholders include Portugal Telecom and Sonangol SA, the state-owned oil company, each with 25 percent.
 
With a population of 16.5 million, Angola is recovering from an almost three-decade long civil war that ended in 2002. The country rivals Nigeria as Africa's biggest oil producer.
 
--Reuters

France Telecom Could Consider Bidding For Zain Africa

­France Telecom says that it would consider bidding for some of the assets owned by Kuwait based Zain should the company look at breaking up its African division. Zain is currently understood to be looking for a single trade buyer for its ex-Celtel networks across Africa.

"As far as I know, no sales process for single assets of Zain's African operations is ongoing, but if this was the case, we would look at it," Chief Financial Officer Gervais Pellissier said in a conference call discussing the company's financial results.

France's Vivendi was in talks with Zain, but suspended the discussions last week.

In related news, citing unnamed sources, Al-Qabas newspaper said that the state owned Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) has asked Zain to keep it more closely informed of talks the company is having regarding its proposed African sale.

The KIA, which owns 24.6% of Zain has also previously suggested that it might sell its stake in the company if a suitable offer was made.

Mobinil Reports 11% Increase In H1 Revenues

Egypt's Mobinil has reported an 11% rise in its first half revenues of EGP 5.2 billion (US$943 million), with with 2Q revenues of EGP 2.73 billion representing 9% growth over 1Q 2009. Net income reached EGP 960 million (US$174 million) representing an increase of 9% over the same period last year, EGP 424 million in 1Q and EGP 536 million in 2Q.
 
The subscriber base rose by 30% to 22.853 million. Subscribers' additions reached 2.738 million subscribers, 1.064 million in 1Q and 1.674 million in 2Q.t
 
Commenting on first half 2009 results, Alex Shalaby, Chairman said: "I am very pleased to celebrate the 11th anniversary of Mobinil where we now achieved around 23 million subscribers, and continued our growth and success in a tight economy through our creative offers and the breakthrough services we are providing to the Egyptian market. I am also delighted to witness this sustained growth year over year given the tough market conditions"
 
First half blended ARPU reached EGP 40 with a decline of 15% over the same period last year mainly driven by the change of subscriber mix as we continue to penetrate lower market segments.
 
Capital expenditure for the first half reached EGP 994 million vs EGP 1.3 billion in 1H 2008.
 

Mobile Manner Could Soon Become Mass-Market

­Mobile Money could reach a one-third penetration rate within 5-years, says a new report from Ovum. The report finds the market is still in its infancy, yet it has the potential to become a mass-market service. However, much will hinge on how well the industry addresses various market barriers, and its ability to nurture user demand with clear, simple and attractive propositions.

The mobile money market has accelerated in the last two years in emerging markets, mostly in more mature markets.

"The success of Vodafone's Kenya subsidiary Safaricom with its mobile money service M-Pesa has underlined the potential for mobile money services," says Angel Dobardziev, Emerging Markets practice leader and co-author of the report. Yet, despite more than 100 launches of mobile money services by both service providers and banks globally the market remains in a fragile state with few well-established services.

Whilst there is a range of alternative scenarios, Ovum predicts that the most likely scenario will be a market where service penetration reaches between 30% and 40% of the emerging market's mobile users in 2014. Where the industry resolves the market barriers more quickly than envisaged, an optimistic scenario is possible where strong user demand propels mobile money services to penetrate between 60% and 70% of the mobile users in the emerging market by 2014.

One of the key factors influencing market uptake of mobile money services is the relatively low penetration of access to financial services compared to higher (and fast-growing) penetration of mobile services.

Service providers along with banks will need to target unbanked and connected customers as they are the key demand driver for the market today, says the report. "Recruitment, training, incentivising and support of networks of mobile money agents will be key to service providers' mobile money strategies, particularly when it comes to targeting unbanked customers", says Dobardziev. "Without access to an extensive distribution network for the users to deposit and withdraw cash as they make use of the service, users will be prevented from making the most of the service."

In order to ensure early user disappointments do not extinguish the market, services providers must get the basics of the service right. "This means not losing sight of the fact that telecoms and banking have very different volume, size, margin and error tolerances on their core transactions. As the two worlds draw closer with mobile banking, this will mean a different mindset and approach to service provision, reliability and security," Dobardziev concludes.

France Telecom Reports Fall in Revenues for H1

France T­elecom has reported that its first half revenues fell by 0.5% in the first half of 2009 on a comparable basis to EUR 25.5 billion (US$36 billion), against the backdrop of a 2.9% decline in GDP across the Group's footprint.
 
Net profit fell to EUR2.6 billion (US$3.67 billion) from EUR 2.68 billion a year ago. On comparable basis, net profit actually rose from EUR 2.52 billion a year ago. CAPEX was 2.528 billion euros in the first half of 2009 (9.9% of revenues), compared with 3.069 billion euros in the first half of 2008 (12% of revenues) on a comparable basis.
 
Commenting on the first half results, France Telecom Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Didier Lombard stated: "In an economic environment that deteriorated more than expected over the course of the first half of 2009, the level of revenues reflects the strong resilience of our business compared to GDP and our ability to maintain our competitive position. The first results of the cost saving and transformation plans of Orange 2012 helped mitigate the impact of the economic slowdown, which was more or less pronounced depending on the country. "
 
Operations in France grew 1.5% with activity particularly buoyant in mobile services which rose 6.4% compared with the first half of 2008. At the same time, revenues from operations in Africa and the Middle East increased 5.8%, driven chiefly by Egypt (+11.1%) and new operations in Africa (+27.8%).
 
These favourable trends largely offset the downturn in operations in Romania (-15.4%), impacted by the deterioration in the economic environment, in Poland (-6.1%), Spain (-4.8%) and the United Kingdom (-2.6%), partly due to rate cuts for call terminations and roaming.
 
The Group had 186 million customers (excluding MVNOs) at 30 June 2009. The first half of 2009 was very buoyant, with 3.7 million customers added, particularly during the second quarter when 2.6 million new customers were added. The second quarter of 2009 benefited from new prepaid offers recently marketed in Europe while contract customer numbers continued to grow steadily. In all, contract customer numbers rose 7.9% year on year, while prepaid rose 10.8%.
 
 

Internet in West Africa Goes Off Due to Cable Fault

Large parts of West Africa are struggling to get back online following damage to an undersea cable.

The fault has caused severe problems in Benin, Togo, Niger and Nigeria.

The blackout is thought to have been caused by damage to the SAT-3 cable which runs from Portugal and Spain to South Africa, via West Africa.

Around 70% of Nigeria's bandwidth was cut, causing severe problems for its banking sector, government and mobile phone networks.

"SAT-3 is currently the only fibre optic cable serving West Africa," explained Ladi Okuneye, chief marketing officer of Suburban Telecoms, which provides the majority of Nigeria's bandwidth.

"So all West African countries have to use it."

Companies were being forced to use alternatives - such as using satellite links - to maintain connections to the rest of the world, he said.

Telkom South Africa, one of the shareholders of SAT-3, has not said what caused the problems but said it was aware of "a cable fault on the Benin branch that is being investigated".

The 15,000km (9,300mile) SAT-3 cable lands in eight West African countries as it winds its way between Europe and South Africa.

"The rest of the system is unaffected by this fault," a Telkom South Africa representative said.

Nigeria has been badly hit because around 70% of its bandwidth is routed through neighbouring Benin.

The network, run by Suburban Telecom, was set up to bypass Nigeria's principal telecoms operator Nitel which runs the SAT-3 branch cable which lands in Nigeria.

The SAT-3 consortium is in the process of sending a ship from Cape Town in South Africa to the area to investigate the fault.

Mr. Okuneye said that by the time the relevant paperwork was done, it was likely to be "two weeks" before the ship arrived off the coast.

Meanwhile, Benin has been able to reroute its net traffic through neighbouring countries to get back online.

Mr. Okuneye said his company was hoping to do the same but said the process would be slower because its bandwidth requirements were so much larger than those of the small republic.

Togo and Niger, which are not part of the SAT-3 consortium, remain offline.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Egypt's Mobile Penetration hits 50% Mark

The Egyptian market surged through the 50% penetration barrier in Q1 09, finishing the quarter with a rate of 52.7%. In real terms, the total customer base grew to 43.57m. Quarterly net additions stood at 3.01m, making Q1 09 the third successive quarter in which the gain has exceeded 3m. On an annual basis, there was an increase of just under 12.50m - the highest figure ever recorded in the Egyptian market.
 
Proportionate annual growth stood at 40.2%, down from 52.9% for the prior twelve-month period. In fact, this was the second lowest growth rate of the past eight quarters, the lowest being the 39.0% recorded in Q4 08. This may seem to present a somewhat ambiguous prospect for future growth; however, the graph on the right suggests that the decline in proportionate growth may have bottomed out for the time being, and that actual growth should remain above 10m per year for some time to come.
 
Market leader Egyptian Company for Mobile Services (ECMS) - a joint venture between Orascom and France Telecom - finished the quarter with 21.18m customers. Annual growth stood at 21.0%, down from 51.5% a year earlier. On a quarterly basis, ECMS, which markets its services as Mobinil, added 1.06m customers. This meant that second-placed Vodafone took top spot for net additions for the second successive quarter. It added 1.33m to finish on 18.94m, with an annual growth rate of 34.6%, down from 45.8%. However, in terms of annual net additions ECMS still managed to lead the way with a gain of 5.02m, compared to 4.87m for Vodafone.
 
Both ECMS and Vodafone lost market share on an annual basis, ECMS losing 1.2pp to finish Q1 09 on 47.1% and Vodafone shedding 1.8pp to finish on 43.5%. The reason for this, of course, was third player Etisalat, which added 3.0pp to finish on 9.4%. In real terms, this translates to a customer base of 4.11m. Although it did well to maintain a triple-digit annual growth rate with a 107.3% rise in the twelve months to 31st March 2009, a market share of less than 10% after eight quarters of commercial service in what was a relatively under-developed market is somewhat disappointing.

Africell Buys Millicom Sierra Leone

Africell Holding, a member of the Lintel group, has agreed to buy Millicom's GSM operations in Sierra Leone.
 
Completion of the transaction is subject to certain regulatory approvals and procedures. Africell Holding, through its wholly owned subsidiary Africell (Sierra Leone), has been operating in Sierra Leone since 2005 and is the leading mobile operator in Sierra Leone.
 
This acquisition will contribute to domestic consolidation, and further enhance Africell's market leadership in Sierra Leone. Millicom, which operates under the brand Tigo, has classified the Sierra Leone operation as an asset held for sale since Q4 2008. No financial details of the takeover were released.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Orange Clinches Eight Year CAF Deal

A new deal will see telecommunications company Orange will sponsor all major competitions organised by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) over the next eight years.

The deal was brokered by the Sportfive agency.

Orange will title sponsor CAF's flagship competition the Africa Cup of Nations, will receive television and mobile rights in France for CAF competitions, and will broadcast CAF events on mobile in 55 African countries.

The new partnership begins with the 2009 CAF Champions League, which begins this month. Orange has taken over from rival company MTN, which had a four-year deal that ended last year.

The competitions covered by the agreement are: the Africa Cup of Nations (held every two years), the African Nations Championship (held every two years), the African Youth Championship (held every two years), the CAF Champions League (annual), the Confederation Cup (annual), and the CAF Super Cup (every year).

 

Balachandran is Visafone's New CEO

Visafone, Nigeria's fourth largest mobile operator is repositioning its management and operations to meet the challenges of a vibrant and constantly evolving telecom industry. In this light, the company has appointed a new CEO and CFO. They are Mr. Ramachandran Balachandran and Mr. Ross Clewley. The new CEO replaces Mr. Ninan Thomas, the pioneer CEO who is leaving the services of Visafone after successfully completing his 2-year contract. Thomas, a thoroughbred professional returns to his Chicago, USA base to continue his career.

The new CEO brings to Visafone a wealth of experience of over 27 years in top-notch telecom firms like Reliance, which is one of the most successful mobile phone companies in India and the World, and Suntel in Sri Lanka.

Balachandran comes to Visafone after his stint as President of Reliance Retail, India's largest green-field retail venture, and one of the biggest start ups in the world. With 27 years post-MBA experience, Balachandran's impressive career has seen him hold sway at different times as CEO/President/COO/CMO/Director. He has held extensive roles in operations, project management, marketing and sales, products and service development, customer service delivery and overall strategy planning.

He is expected to lead Visafone into a new era of growth and profitability. His excellent management pedigree bears eloquent testimony to the feats he is expected to perform at Visafone.

The new Chief Financial Officer, Mr. Ross Clewley is no stranger to Nigeria, having acted in the same capacity at Econet, where he held sway from 2002 to 2004. A chartered accountant, Clewley holds an MBA from Herriot Watt University of Edinburgh, Scotland and has had extensive management experience at Chief Finance Officer/Finance Director and Board levels with international experiences in 14 countries, spanning the Europe, Asia, Middle East, Australia and Africa.

Ross Clewley has multidisciplinary experience in telecoms (Mobile/GSM), media/advertising, financial information services, IT consulting/engineering, amongst others.

The two key appointments are expected to help Visafone actualise its dreams of becoming one of the top 3-telecom companies in Nigeria, and spreading the joy of communications across Nigeria.

The company, which commenced commercial operations on February 22, 2009, has notched up an impressive number of industry firsts and awards, including Telecom Company of the Year at the 2009 edition of the Thisday awards.

As the company gears up to step into its second year of operations, it is promising its current and potential subscribers a new era of excellent quality service, superb clarity and wide coverage across the 36 states of the federation.

Visafone which recently launched a partnership deal with globally renowned phone makers, Nokia is set to continue its aggressive expansion drive across Nigeria while introducing a new range of value added services and innovative products to delight its numerous customers, and provide them a passport to reach the world.

Essar Takeover of Warid in Africa Could Take 14 Weeks

DISCUSSIONS between the Dhabi Group, the owners of WARID Telecom Uganda, and the Essar Group on a possible takeover of Dhabi's African interest are expected to last up to 14 weeks.

WARID Telecom Uganda has denied reports that a deal, allowing Essar to take over control of WARID and Dhabi's other African interests had been reached.

Last week, the Dhabi Group announced that it had agreed to enter into exclusive discussions in relation to an investment by Essar Group into the telecommunications portfolio of the Dhabi Group's African assets.

Haider Hussain, WARID head of marketing and customer care, said over the weekend that it was still early to predict the outcome of the discussions.

"They are still talking to us. They want to give us money but they may chose or not to invest in the group," said Hussain.


According to a statement issued early last week, the transaction would involve an equity infusion into these businesses as growth capital as the basis of a partnership to create a significant presence in Africa.

Essar holds a 33% interest in Vodafone Essar, which is a joint venture with the Vodafone Group.

The Group is one of India's largest cellular service providers, with over 75 million subscribers.

Essar Telecom Kenya has also recently launched Kenya's fourth mobile cellular network under the brand "Yu."

Standard Chartered Bank is acting as exclusive financial advisor to the Dhabi Group. The Dhabi Group has several business interests, which focus on emerging market opportunities in financial services, telecommunications and real estate. The group also has banking interests in Asia.

Other business interests include hotels, oil-related services, and
manufacturing.

The Group aims to strengthen its reach and diversify its portfolio through a series of strategic partnerships that will help optimise its potential in the emerging markets.

Essar has significant interests in telecommunications services, spanning mobile telephony, telecom tower infrastructure, telecom retail and IT/telecom-enabled services.

India's BSNL In Talks Over Essar Kenya Stake

India's state-owned BSNL is in talks to take a stake in Essar Group's Kenyan subsidiary as part of previously reported plans to expand into the African market. Citing unnamed officials as BSNL, the Economic Times said that the two companies are in talks over a 10-15% stake in Essar Telecom Kenya.

 

 "Valuations are being discussed. We are doing the due diligence," the official told the newspaper, requesting anonymity. The Essar Group declined to comment

 
A couple of months ago though, Econet Wireless Kenya, which trades under the Yu brand name, refuted media reports that South Africa's MTN has offered US$450 for a stake in the company.
 
In January 2008, Econet Wireless International (EWI) sold a 49% stake in the company to India's Essar Communications Holdings (ECHL). The companies said that the move would significantly benefit Econet Wireless Kenya (EWK), which is 70% owned by EWI, from a rollout as well as product offering perspective. EWI owns 70% of EWK with the balance held by local investors.
 
The network operator was recently reported to have signed up 200,000 subscribers since it launched last November - and is aiming for one million customers by the middle of the year.
 
Figures from the Mobile World database subscriber database reports that Safaricom is the market leader with a market share of 82.3% with Celtel coming in at 17.6%. Telkom Kenya (Orange) has just started a "mobile" type service. The country itself has a population penetration level of 36%.
 
The regulator has recently announced that it will make a second attempt at launching mobile number portability - which traditionally benefits new entrants into markets.

Zain Tanzania Begins Registering Prepaid Users

Zain Tanzania has deployed personnel in strategic areas to help customers register their Sim cards as required by the regulator.

The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority set December 31 as the deadline for registering the cards.

Chief commercial officer Chiruyi Walingo said in a statement in Dar es Salaam yesterday that the initiative had been undertaken to ensure the registration is completed within the stated time.
The registration is being done free of charge.


''Our customers also have an option for enrolment to the Zain Zap service and enjoy the added benefits of our Zap service which include money transfer, paying bills such as water and electricity recharge to mention a few'' he said.

He assured customers that the national Sim card registration would not affect Zain's borderless 'One Network Service'.

Quintica Signs Up Zain Kenya On to Service Management

Service management specialist Quintica has successfully assisted Zain Kenya to boost its ability to provide aligned and cohesive technical support across its core disciplines of operations and ICT.

 

The result is the better use of technology assets and driving improved organisational performance. Zain Kenya, which is a part of the Zain Group, that serves more than 65 million customers across more than 20 countries in Africa and the Middle East.

 

According to Ingo Tuschardt, Quintica CEO, the two individual service desks within Zain Kenya required a strategic realignment. "In the complex technical environment characteristic of a telecommunications operator, services are provided by a combination of individual technology - or application services spanning both operations and ICT," explains Tuschardt.

 

"What appears to be a simple outage to a customer can be caused by any of these underlying services and it is often very difficult to quickly pinpoint the cause." It was this sort of issue that Quintica sought to solve for Zain. "Before, when an incident was logged, two 'tickets' would be separately assigned to both engineering and IT for individual analysis and resolution," Tuschardt explains.

 

Like many mobile operators of today, Zain faced the challenge of finding a helpdesk solution which would align and consolidate both its IT and operations services into sets of bundled business services, to be managed via a single service desk environment. "Our approach was the delivery of a centralised model for the holistic management of all assigned and allocated requests, whether these came from internal staff with IT issues, from external customers with requests relating to their Zain telecommunications service, or issues relating to both. Simultaneously, we sought to implement a platform on which to standardise and optimise the customer experience," he said.

 

For ICT, Quintica instituted processes based on ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) Service Management methodologies and best practice principles. With operational processes based on eTOM (enhanced Telecom Operations Map) Tuschardt explains that the consulting team worked towards aligning both disciplines by designing a comprehensive service catalogue

 

"IT and eTOM processes were overlaid with ITIL service management methodologies; ITIL is ideally suited for this application as it focuses on efficient communication rather than the detail of the technical process. The result is that that requests are effectively communicated, monitored and resolved," he notes. A key benefit of the integration of the two service desks is a major cost saving in terms of staff as well as licensing.

 

Furthermore, through a holistic overview of the end-to-end service delivery environment, management gains a clear view of metrics, including:

 

* Staff resource usage and performance
* Service deficiencies
* Service performance results and target achievement
* Training needs

 

"Any requirements are quickly highlighted, equipping the Zain Group to comprehensively benchmark its operations and carry out comparative analysis, easily identifying abnormalities from which to learn, or act upon," Tuschardt adds. Mr Mulonga, Operations Director for Zain, notes that successful service management is driven by efficient communication.

 

"Through the creation of a single system, Zain executives and managers can quickly view certain technical information and reports through a variety of communication modes," he says. For example, real-time snapshot status reports are delivered by SMS and e-mail. "These reports are extremely useful as they present a complete overview of the state of the operation at any particular time.

 

Further, priority and SLA-based escalations keep senior management informed of the major issues and thus removes all the 'noise', which is handled by line managers. The SMS feature is particularly useful to expedite escalations to engineers in the field, giving them information to understand the problem and address the matter appropriately without delay," Mulonga adds.

 

All calls are channeled through the service desk, which provides for structured, classified and managed closure. Call categorisation and online incident status tracking further improves the handling of support calls.

 

"Clear processes are essential to ensure that from the moment a call is logged, it is processed predictably - assigned to the correct person for resolution and resolved as soon as possible. This supports the delivery of customer service," notes Zain IT Director Mr Fedriani. Enhanced focus was put on the people component of the project, introducing the system to the support teams and the knowledge transfer necessary to ensure that it would be put to use. "We derive immense value from being able to co-ordinate and align our activities with our operational colleagues. This has drawn our two departments closer together, whereas previously there were two cultures," Fedriani adds.

 

Both Mulonga and Fedriani concur that the experience of the Quintica team has brought immense value to both their divisions. Despite initial apprehensions, they note that Quintica was able to simplify what is undeniably a complex business. That success is mirrored by Fedriani's comment: "The executive overview and architecture of our business has been attractively summarised and graphically displayed on a poster, which my management team keeps referencing when having discussions with their staff."

 

Dangote GSM Roll-out Faces Hitches

The plan of the Dangote Telecommunication Company to roll out its GSM network has run into hitches. The Dangote Telecommunication Company, a subsidiary of Dangote group said in Lagos yesterday that it cannot roll out its Global System Mobile (GSM) now because of inherent problem associated with carrier of 3G network.

 

The company's chief operating officer Boye Olasanyan said since the company did bid and secured 3G license in 2006 ,efforts have been on to bring the network into full operation but the market is not yet mature, adding that the company would have to acquire another company with 2G capability and license in order to roll out and function effectively

 

"We have looked at various option to get 2G license and the only option for us is to acquire a company with 2G system but this option also has its challenges", he said

 

Olasanyan explained that the company is already working out relationship with another player in the telecommunication sector as this; he said would allow Dangote company to deal effectively with 3G system. "In the next few weeks, we will come out on how we intend to roll out and utilize 3G system effectively", he said

 

Zain to Commission New Abuja Call Centre


The newly built ultra-modern, multi-million dollar Call Centre established by Zain Nigeria in the nation's capital, Abuja, has commence operations.

The facility, which has already started taking calls from customers, will be formally commissioned in the coming weeks.

Already, the Telco operator has recruited over 700 young graduates (out of a projected 2,000) to man the ultra modern, digitalized call centre in a bid to increase its service level and further boosts its average-speed-of-answer (ASA) to customers' requests.

The new facility, which is estimated at about $25 million, is expected to revolutionalise customer service delivery in Nigeria's telecommunications landscape as it will enable the company provide up-to-the-minute solutions to its customers.

Chief Operating Officer of Zain Nigeria, Khaled Khorshid explained that the speedy completion of the new call centre in Abuja is an attestation to Zain's commitment to improve the quality of customer experience across major touch points in the country, adding that the move further demonstrates the company's desire to meet the demands of all its customers.

According to Khorshid, the establishment of the new call centre is in line with Zain's core objective of creating a wonderful world for its customers. "The customer is king and in Zain, we strive to cater for customer' needs by providing superior customer care experience. This is our focus and the core of our business. We are not a technology company, we are here to serve our people", he said.

He further revealed that the Abuja call centre staff have been equipped with first-rate training to enable them provide top of the line solutions, which will meet the needs and desires of customers.

The COO also disclosed that Zain's passion for customer service since its inception in 2001 has enabled the company to dominate the customer care category in industry awards. Recently, Thisday readers, in a poll, rated the company the Most Consumer-centric Network, citing its free customer care line and excellent handling of customer complaints.

East Africans Await to "Feel" Effects of Seacom

Consumers in East Africa are anxiously waiting for a new high-speed fiber-optic cable to finally be switched on for general public use. The cable is expected to usher in a new era of faster, cheaper internet access. As VOA reports from its Nairobi bureau, the new fiber-optic cable and the planned addition of other cables, are anxiously awaited in the last major region in the world to rely on satellite internet.


For more than a year now potential customers in East Africa have heard of the Seacom cable with a mix of wary caution and hopeful relief. In a country like Kenya, where citizens have been disappointed by undelivered political promises and an undeveloped infrastructure, much of the public took a wait-and-see approach to the reports that high-speed internet would soon be available.

Although the cable is now "live," the public is still awaiting the broadband revolution to reach their computers. Now that the question of "if" has been answered, the question of "when" is still hanging in the air.

According to a regional spokesman for Seacom, Solomon Mahindi, as of the end of last week only three Internet service providers in Kenya could be confirmed to have finished negotiations with Seacom to get connected to the cable.

Managing Director of Internet Services Chris Senanu of Access Kenya, one of the country's major internet service providers, said although his company has finalized access to the cable, it will probably be another two weeks or so before the high-speed fiber optic line will be available to its consumers.

"If during the tests we have some major issues, then obviously we are not going to put it right to the public," Senanu said. "But if it goes well, if we have steady links for a week, then we will put it through."

Seacom's Mahindi said that for most service providers it would likely be another two to three months before access to the cable could be passed on to its clients.

When the cable does come online, some of the promised effects will be more immediate than others.

According to Mahindi, the upfront investment needed for each service provider to hook up to the Seacom cable will mean that the estimated 80 to 90 percent reduction in internet costs the cable offers will not likely be passed on at once to costumers.

"Realistically, these ISPs have to somehow recoup their investment costs and any other infrastructure costs - because it is quite an investment to get in terms of the personnel, in terms of the infrastructure, in terms of the equipment," Mahindi said.

Senanu says that although he expects some of his customers to maintain their current bandwidth and switch to a lower-priced package, he predicts that most will instead choose to keep the same-priced package with the increased speed.

"Some customers are going to prefer to have a price discount, because the economic times here are a bit tough. But most people in Kenya are not buying what they need, they have been buying what they can afford," Senanu adds. "So what you are going to see is that a lot of people maintaining budgets for Internet and just taking up more capacity - two times more, three times more, four times more - in order for them to actually be able to leverage the technology to be able what they need to do."

For many clients, the additional speed will not be readily available soon either. While the undersea cable does offer much greater capacity, local providers will have to build broadband capability within the local loops that bring the service to clients. If a service provider has not upgraded its local infrastructure, its clients will be severely limited in the capacity they can access.

Although depending on the service provider the additional cables will not necessarily increase internet speed greatly beyond what Seacom can provide, experts say the greater significance of the other cables lies in the extra connection stability they will give the region. Until the other cables are operational, any issue with the Seacom cable will cause problems across all of connected East Africa.

For now, though, East Africans are still waiting to see what changes the new high speed cable will bring to their homes and businesses.

For those who have never known anything other than unreliable, very slow Internet connections at often unaffordable rates, the revolution most of the rest of the world has already undergone is still a bit of a mystery.

 

--Voice of America.

Safaricom Wins Award for M-PESA Innovation

LISTED KENYA TELECOMS firm Safaricom has won yet another global award for its innovative mobile financial service, M-PESA.

M-PESA, which was developed in association with Vodafone and commercially launched in Kenya in March 2007, won the Habitat Business Award at a ceremony held in New Delhi, India last week.

Safaricom was awarded for its M-PESA service which judges noted clearly demonstrated the role and impact of innovative IT solutions for sustainable urbanization.

The Habitat Business Award for sustainable urbanization, which is organized by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), aims to recognize and publicize outstanding achievements contributing to sustainable urbanization through responsible corporate practices.

This is the first time the awards are being held.

Safaricom Chief Executive Officer Michael Joseph said the M-PESA service had become a welcome necessity to millions of Kenyans who have no access to banking facilities in the country.

"We are delighted by this recognition. M-PESA continues to impact positively on the millions of Kenyans who traditionally have no access to banking services. We have and will continuously innovate to stretch the product's menu beyond cash transfer," he said.

An acclaimed global first, Safaricom launched M-PESA in March 2007 and the service continues to register steady growth with more than 10,000 new users being registered daily.

The service has more than 6.7 million registered users and has moved Sh152 billion since launch.

Speaking at the award ceremony, UN-HABITAT Executive Director Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka said given the recognized tremendous contribution of the private sector to urban shelter and basic infrastructures, cooperation with the private sector is increasingly seen as a necessity and not an option.

Judges said the M-PESA money transfer service showed the diverse ways a mobile phone could be engaged to serve, not only for voice and data purposes, but also as a money transfer tool.

The service allows Kenyans to transfer money fast, safely and affordably using the mobile phone. Through M-PESA, a customer can send money to another mobile phone user, withdraw cash, buy airtime for themselves or another prepaid subscriber, pay bills and make loan repayments.

The judges further noted that even in uncertain economic times, mobile telephony is seeing continued growth, with more than 4 billion mobile connections globally driven by innovation in new services, applications and richer mobile content.

M-PESA boasts a crowded trophy cabinet. Its past awards include Kenya Banking Awards for product innovation won last year. In the same year, it bagged the Global Mobile Awards and was feted during the World Business and Development Awards for contribution to the attainment of Millennium
Development Goals (MDGs) through core business.

SA Operators to Be Probed For Over Charging Users

SHAN Ramburuth, South Africa's Competition Commissioner, said he has opened investigations amid allegations that the country's telecommunications companies are overcharging customers.

She was responding to last week's letter by Independent Democrats President Patricia de Lille who lodged a complaint over the high costs of mobile phone calls in South Africa.
 
"The Competition Commission shares your concerns about the high costs of telecommunications in South Africa and indeed we have initiated a few investigations in the sector," Ramburuth said in his response.
 
De Lille welcomed the news that the Commission had already initiated investigations in the telecommunications sector and says she will be setting up a meeting with the Commissioner in the next few weeks.
 
De Lille had called on the Commission to investigate, 'in terms of the Act, whether the operators, particularly the dominant players, were acting anti-competitively or are guilty of any prohibited practices.
 
"The Competition Commission has over the past few years aggressively taken on price fixers involved in anticompetitive behavior and it is up to us as citizens to give the Commission even more teeth," said De Lille.
 
"Ordinary South Africans can no longer be expected to bear the brunt of the actions of those that have scant regard for the daily economic struggles of our people," she added.
 
South Africa has mobile network operators, MTN, Vodacom, Cell C and Virgin Mobile and landline operators Telkom and Neotel in the telecommunications services sector

Monday, July 27, 2009

SA Government Supports MTN Bharti Deal

South Africa's Treasury said on Friday it was broadly supportive of a tie-up between mobile phone operator MTN and India's Bharti Airtel but that the "devil is in the detail".
 
Ministry of Finance spokeswoman Thoraya Pandy said in an emailed reply to questions that the government had met with MTN about merger talks it is holding with Bharti, but that the company had not yet sought formal exchange control approval from the country's Reserve Bank.
 
"We've met with MTN to discuss what specific approvals are required. There may be a number of exchange control-related approvals that the deal would require. They have raised in broad outline their merger plans and what it would involve," Pandy said.
 
"But is is important to state that they have not put in an application as yet. They are in all likelihood still working on the finer details," she added.
 
Pandy said the government supported a tie-up in principal, but that final approval would depend on the structure of any deal.
 
"Broadly speaking, this transaction would be a mutually beneficial tie up between developing countries but of course, the devil is in the detail and until they apply, we can't really comment," she said.
 
The companies said in May they had revived merger talks and were considering a deal under which Bharti would pay cash and shares to end up with 49 percent of MTN, after MTN pays cash and stock for an effective 36 percent stake in the Indian firm.
 
The stake-swapping deal could eventually lead to a full merger, creating the world's No. 3 mobile phone operator, the companies have said.
 
Four sources close to the deal told Reuters on Friday the companies would probably extend exclusive talks by at least two to three weeks beyond an initial deadline of July 31.
 
South Africa's Reserve Bank will probably have to approve any deal. The Bank could not immediately comment on Friday and has previously declined to comment on the talks.
 
 

ICASA Introduces New Minimum Standards

 AFTER 30 months of work and three rounds of consultations, some toned- down regulations demanding certain standards of customer service from SA's telecommunications sector have finally been issued.
 
Under one new rule, operators can be fined up to R500000 if more than 3% of calls are dropped or cannot be connected. That is unlikely to happen, as the operators say their call failure rate is only 2%.
 
The rules are outlined in the End- User and Subscriber Service Charter issued by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) last week. The operators must ensure their networks are available for 95% of the time, and 90% of reported faults must be resolved within three days.
 
Operators must also submit reports every six months to show how well they are meeting those standards. Councilor Brenda Ntombela said ICASA had budgeted R6m this year to monitor the transmission quality of the networks.
 
Icasa's effort to beef up consumer protection began in January 2007 when it formed a committee to set minimum standards for customer service. Regulations were drafted in July 2007 and a workshop was held to get feedback from the industry.
 
ICASA published its regulations in February last year, but quickly withdrew them to allow another round of comments. Concerns had been raised that the regulations were "extremely onerous and would be difficult, if not impossible, to implement", it said.
 
After amended regulations were published in October last year, ICASA received more complaints, and gave the operators and the public another chance to comment when it published the regulations again in January.
 
On Friday, it announced that the rules were now final. ICASA has also issued draft regulations on the allocation of scarce wireless spectrum that the operators need to carry voice and data communications.
 
Its most important decision concerns the spectrum needed for WiMax, a technology that can cover large areas and carry high volumes of traffic relatively cheaply. Initially, ICASA insisted that any operator applying for spectrum must be at least 51% black-owned. That sparked an industry outcry, with players saying the companies black enough to meet that profile lacked the skills or the cash to build a network.
 
Now ICASA has capitulated, and whittled down the black ownership demand to 30%. That still eliminates many experienced players, but does allow more companies to apply or to bid with a black partner.
 
ICASA has also taken the industry's advice by offering the spectrum in larger chunks so the winners will have enough to operate effectively.
 
That will limit WiMax to just four licences. MTN, Vodacom , Altech , Internet Solutions and MWeb have all expressed interest in a licence.
 
One problem is that state-owned Sentech is sitting on spectrum it does not use. Icasa's new rules say that if licensed spectrum remains unused, a principle of use it or lose it will apply. It was not clear how feasible it would be to put that rule into practice.

Safaricom Urges Law to Ensure Prepaid Registrations

Listed telecoms firm, Safaricom has said the orders given by President Mwai Kibaki for the registration of all mobile phone subscribers can only be achieved with the necessary legal framework in place.
 
Chief executive officer Michael Joseph noted that while there was compelling logic for the registration of all mobile phone subscribers, legal and administrative challenges remain which regulators and operators needed to address.

"Safaricom is keen on helping the government implement the new directive but this must be done within the law and without infringing on our subscribers rights, including the right to privacy, as enshrined in its license obligations, an enabling law will certainly give us the much-needed legal muscle to extend this to our entire network..," Joseph said.

Zain, Ericsson, GSMA Connect Lake Victoria Fishermen

Africa mobile operator Zain, and Ericsson, in an initiative coordinated by the GSM Association, continue their efforts to save lives and bring development across the Lake Victoria region, by extending the mobile network coverage of the three East African States and launching a safety and security initiative. The coverage will comprise the area of the lake where 80 percent of fishing activities take place, allowing communication and SMS exchange to and from phones. This enhancement will fuel economic and social development of the lakeside communities and potentially reduce the number of fishing-related deaths each year.
 
Ericsson, Zain and the GSMA have worked together to improve safety and security through enhanced mobile coverage. Thanks to the project, the Lake Victoria region now has an additional 21 energy-efficient sites, with three of them solar powered, and a Rescue Coordination Centre has been established. Local stakeholders supporting the project include the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF) and its local representative the National Lake Rescue Institute (NLRI).
 
Lake Victoria is the second largest lake in the world with nearly 200,000 fishermen, 35 million people living along its shores and a fishing fleet of more than 70,000 boats. This armada of boats, powered by paddling or small engines, is operated with poor safety and security due mainly to a lack of available communication systems.

Weather conditions can change suddenly and strong winds can occur without much warning, boats are often overloaded, most of the people can't swim and buoyancy or life saving equipment is not easily available. As a result many lives are lost due to drowning in the lake (estimated 5,000 deaths per year). It is expected that this intervention will go a long way towards improving conditions on the lake.
 
"Zain is committed to improving the lives of the people in the communities where ever we operate. This is what our brand promise of a wonderful world is all about. The initiative will greatly benefit the communities around Lake Victoria and will substantially improve both the social and economic development in the region; It will offer a foundation for sustainable development in the surrounding communities," said Chris Gabriel, CEO Zain Africa.
 
"Mobile communications play an important role in helping communities to develop sustainably," said Lars Lindén, President Ericsson sub-Saharan Africa. "Building out the mobile networks in this region is a key business interest for Ericsson, but it will also play a vital role in delivering increased safety and security, as well as improved economic viability and livelihoods. Working in partnership has enabled us to achieve what no one of us could have done alone, and if we can reduce, by even one death, of the more than 5000 each year, it will be worth the investment."
 
"As the East African community gets connected to undersea cables for the first time, the communities of Lake Victoria can now access a mobile safety net," said Gabriel Solomon, Senior Vice President GSM Association. "It is now incumbent upon the governments of East Africa to leverage this network by partnering with the private sector and delivering a rainbow of new services."
 
The initial Phase of the Lake Victoria Project entailed a feasibility study looking at how the rescue initiative would be undertaken in a commercially sustainable way. Phase II targets the implementation of an operational Search and Rescue facility with a framework to provide the necessary tools to provide valuable services. The GSM network enables voice and data communication on and around Lake Victoria.

Zain has developed Value Added Services that will enable fishermen on the lake to, through SMS and voice calls, find critical information such as fish and commodity prices and receive weather and safety alerts. The expanded network will also make it possible to collect data on daily catch from the more than 1,400 Beach Management Units in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
 
The new network will provide crucial information to enable a vast number of vital services, such as search and rescue, fleet movement and tracking. Ericsson's Mobile Position System will enable emergency authorities to locate the mobile signal of those in distress on the Lake and send the details to the Rescue Coordination Centre, which will be operated by NLRI.
 

Nokia Launches N97 in Nigeria Market

Mobile devices manufacturer, Nokia has  launched its flagship mobile computer, Nokia N97 into the Nigerian market.
 
The new mobile computer comes with a tilting 3.5" touch display screen, QWERTY keyboard and a fully customizable home screen and will offer integrated access to the newly opened Ovi Store.
 
Speaking on the new product, General Manager Nokia Nigeria, Philip De La Vega said that the product is an important step towards Nokia's vision of delivering  highly personalized Internet experience, fueled by a multitude of media and applications through the Ovi Store.
 
He added that Nokia N97 transforms the Internet into an experience that is completely tailored to the tastes and interests of its user.
 
The product, according to him  is the first device to ship with Ovi Store, a one-stop shop for a full catalog of applications, games, videos, podcasts, productivity tools, web and location-based services, and much more.
Ovi Store has paid and free content from a range of global and local content providers and developers, including Facebook, Hi5, Paramount Pictures and Qik, as well as Twitter applications."The beauty of this Nokia device is that taking it out of the box is just the beginning. As with a desktop PC, people can constantly improve and refresh their Nokia N97 with new features, functions and fixes so they can do even more with the device." said Vega.
Also on the product, communications  manager, Nokia, West and Central Africa, Ngozi Anene said "We in Nokia do take our consumers into consideration in all that we do. The heart of Nokia is with them. And it is in line with this commitment that we are launching this  phone, having known that the end users are in desperate  need of it. N97 is all about going to the internet with ease, personalizing your phone and as a mobile computer, it is packaged to  give our customers anything they want."
 
The phone Anene said is a touch screen phone that slides at an angle of 35 degrees. The camera quality according to her is extreemingly high with 5 mega pixel capacity. It also comes with 16 Gigabyte space and another 16 more in the memory space. The battery live is said to be extremely high. It equally comes with navigation features suitable in Nigerian environment. It is DVD enabled with blue tooth. It actually targeted customers who crave for internet access.
 
An exciting roadmap of new features and functions is planned to roll out in the second half of 2009, including software updates for Voice over IP (VoIP) functionality, an integrated Skype  application and extended kinetic scrolling.
 
 

MTN Launches Money Transfer In Ghana

MTN Ghana has launched its Mobile Money service in Ghana. The service allows mobile owners to store and transfer money, and pay for goods, without needing a bank account. The service joins Mobile Money implementations in Uganda and Nigeria. Interestingly, you don't need to be an MTN customer to access certain functions of the service… or even own a mobile.
 
Mobile Money is partnered with with nine different banks. The service is also available on-line, or through authorised MTN Mobile Money merchants.  Through these merchants, non-MTN customers can transfer or receive money, without needing their own phone.
 
From the release:
 
Mr. Brett Goschen, MTN Ghana CEO, said: "The introduction of MTN Mobile Money which is convenient, accessible, safe and easy demonstrates the company's commitment to bring world class mobile services to subscribers in all parts of the country. The secured system and processes conforms to best practices in the industry and highly regulated by relevant authorities."
 
What we think?
 
I'm interested in the functions of this service that don't require an actual phone. If your financial service allows people to walk into an authorised location and perform transactions, then how long is it until you start implementing actual banking services? Mobile Money could in time simply become Money.
 
 

KIA Willing to Sell off Its Stake in Zain

Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA), the Gulf state's sovereign wealth fund, could consider selling its stake in mobile operator Zain if the price is right, newspaper al-Rai said on Monday.
KIA, which owns a 24.61 percent stake in Zain, has not received any offers from Etisalat, to date, the paper added.
"The KIA has no objection to discussing any offer to buy its stake in Zain whether made by the UAE's Etisalat or others under the condition that the offer would be serious and with attractive returns," daily Rai said, citing unnamed sources.
KIA could not immediately be reached for comment.
Last week, Etisalat, or the Emirates Telecommunications Corp, said it has not made an offer to buy Zain or its African assets after the head of Etisalat's international unit told Reuters earlier that it was interested in buying a 51-percent stake in Zain Group, "given the right values."
The Kuwaiti firm has been in the news for the past weeks after it said it is 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.
KIA, which manages the OPEC member state's massive oil-generated assets, sold its 19.8 percent stake in Islamic lender Boubyan Bank in an auction last week.
Kuwait's finance minister, Mustapha al-Shamali, said earlier this month the KIA may sell further stakes in local companies through an auction process.

Zambia Again Plans to Sell 75% of Zamtel


Zambia's government has announced plans to sell three-quarters of its stake in the state-owned Zambia Telecommunications Corporation (Zamtel) to a private investor and eventually float the remaining 25% onto the local stock exchange.
President Banda said the partial privatization of the company was the only way to resolve the financial problems the company is facing.
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.
Although the privatisation will result in the liberalisation of the international call gateway, to the benefit of the other private operators, no new operator license will be offered in the country until Zamtel has returned to economic viability.
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.

Growth In South Africa Boosted by CDMA Uptake

South Africa finished Q1 09 with a penetration rate of 112.0%, but this was not the highest rate in Africa, let alone mainland Africa. The former honour went to the Seychelles with 142.9%; the latter went to Libya with 118.8%. In real terms the South African market finished Q1 09 with 48.87m customers, having grown by 15.5% year on year. This was actually an improvement on the year-earlier figure of 14.4%. Annual net additions were up from 5.32m to 6.54m, with the increase in 3G uptake a key factor in this upturn. At the end of Q1 09, there were 4.7m W-CDMA users, up by 2.3m or 95.0% year on year.
 
Vodacom, the market leader in South Africa, had the majority of W-CDMA connections with a base of 2.8m at the end of Q1 09. Its share of the total was 59.4%, up from 53.8% a year earlier. This compared favourably with its share of the total market, which stood at 51.5%, down 1.1pp annually. Vodacom finished with 25.16m customers. It managed a market-leading annual gain of 2.89m thanks to three successive market-leading quarters, including an increase of 1.22m in Q1 09, the best result it has seen since Q2 07. However, on a proportionate basis it was the slowest growing with an annual rate of 13.0%, although this was at least an improvement on the year-earlier figure of 8.3%.u
 
Second-placed MTN managed a 14.9% uplift, beating its Q1 08 score by 0.1pp. It finished the quarter with 17.43m customers, of which an estimated 1.91m were W-CDMA users. However, Cell C, the third player in the market, was the fastest growing with a 28.4% annual increase. This was despite the net loss of 0.12m customers in Q1 09. At the end of the quarter it had 6.28m customers, giving it 12.9% market share compared to 11.6% a year earlier.
 
Cell C does not report an ARPU figure, but the other operators' results showed MTN on ZAR139 in Q1 09 and Vodacom on ZAR133. The gap narrowed considerably over the course of the year, with MTN dropping from ZAR144 in Q1 08, a 3.5% fall, while MTN was up from ZAR128, a 3.9% gain.