Wednesday, September 30, 2009

MTN Deal Off As Bharti Blames SA Government



­India's Bharti Airtel and South Africa's MTN have called off their merger talks after they were unable to secure the necessary permissions from the South African government.

In a statement to the Bombay Stock Exchange, Bharti said that "the alliance planned between Bharti and MTN was a vision based on solid fundamentals, which had the potential of creating an emerging markets telecom giant and the third largest telecom company in the world. Substantial synergies could have been captured with this proposed transaction."

"The broad structure being discussed by the two sides had taken into account the sensibilities and sensitivities of both companies and both their countries."

Bharti said that the proposed deal took into account their position in their local markets - including listing, tax residences, management and brands. The transaction would have been the single largest Foreign Direct Investment into South Africa and one of the largest outbound FDIs from India.

In its statement, Bharti said that the proposed structure needed an approval from the South African government, which has been refused. Bharti added though that it hopes the government will review its decision and is open to concluding the deal as it currently stands.

Bharti concluded by saying that it will continue to seek overseas investment opportunities.

This is the second attempt by the two companies to try and forge an alliance and the current round of talks had been extended on several occasions. A merger would have created a telecoms giant with more than 200 million customers across India, Africa and the Middle East.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Morocco's Meditel To List 25% Stake on Local Bourse

The management of Morocco's second largest mobile network operator Meditel have approved a plan to sell a stake of more than 25% via the local stock exchange before the end of this year, reports Reuters quoting three Moroccan newspapers.
 
Finance.Com and state-run fund CDG, which led the domestic group of companies which recently bought out all foreign held shares in Meditel, are also considering selling a stake to 'institutional investors', likely to be telecoms firms from the Middle East and North African region, the Al Jarida Aloula, Al Massae and Akhbar Alyoum newspapers said.
 
The UAE's Etisalat, Qatar's Qtel, Bahrain's Batelco and Egypt's Orascom Telecom are amongst the companies interested in buying a stake. The three dailies added that Meditel sought to increase its capital through a partial flotation. Telefonica and Portugal Telecom earlier this month sold their minority shares in Meditel to the company's other shareholders.

MTN Launches HyConnect In Calabar

MTN Nigeria has launched its HyConnect fixed line and internet service in Calabar, the regional capital of Cross River State, reports local news source Compass News.
 
The service offers high speed internet via fibre-optic cables to both residential and SME customers. HyConnect was first launched in Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State, in August 2008 and has since been expanded to Port Harcourt, Abuja and Lagos.
 
'We are committed to adding value to the lives and businesses of our people. And this we are doing in very many ways, including delivering tailor-made, productivity enhancing solutions to every part of this vast country,' commented MTN Nigeria's corporate services executive, Wale Goodluck.
 
The network will be extended to other major cities in the country, including Kano and Aba, by the end of the year.

Econet To Expand To All Zimbabwe Towns And Tourist Areas

Econet Wireless Zimbabwe has revealed that the ongoing network expansion work being carried out by ZTE of China and Sweden's Ericsson will include the expansion of its 3G network to all major cities and tourist resorts.
 
3G is currently available in parts of the capital Harare. The two equipment suppliers began installing GSM/W-CDMA equipment in July 2009 under contracts worth a total of around USD200 million, aiming to expand the network capacity of Zimbabwe's largest cellco from three million subscribers to over five million.
 
Econet set a target of three million active subscribers by the end of the year; at end-March it had 1.2 million and current estimates from local reports put the total in the region of two million.

Kenya Orders ISP's to Cut Charges

The Kenyan government has given local ISPs one month to lower bandwidth prices or risk regulatory intervention from the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), ComputerWorld Kenya reports.
 
Despite the launch of the SEACOM submarine cable system in July, ISPs have continued to maintain high prices, citing contractual agreements with satellite companies, meaning that the benefits of the fibre cable have not been passed on to the end-user.

Bitange Ndemo, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Information and Communication, said: 'The ISPs are being mischievous. The cost should be lower than KES600 (USD8.29) per megabyte; it should be closer to KES200. We have many options but it is always good to leave the competition to push the pricing down, but if it does not the regulator can step in.' Some ISPs, such as Kenya Data Networks (KDN), have reduced prices, but have limited coverage.
 
Others have offered to double the bandwidth for the same cost, which suits corporate clients but not the residential market. Ndemo said: 'If few Kenyans could afford the bandwidth, who are you doubling for? For the economy to grow broadband has to be available to Kenyans.'

Econet Lesotho Launches Mobile E-Mail Service

Econet Telecom Lesotho (ETL) has partnered with ForgetMeNot Africa, a specialist in unified messaging for telecoms operators, to launch a two-way e-mail service across ETL's entire wireless subscriber base. ForgetMeNot's Message Optimiser will bring e-mail to rural and urban areas across Lesotho via any mobile phone, without the end user requiring internet access, or the need to upgrade their device or download a specific application.
 
The vendor claims that this will more than double the population's access to email. 'Currently Lesotho's population has to share access to a little over 2,000 PCs connected to the internet, most of which are in urban areas.
 
Availability of smartphones, laptops and even fixed line internet connections is very low for this highly literate country,' said Jeremy George, COO of ForgetMeNot Africa, adding, 'Using ForgetMeNot's Message Optimiser, ETL will bring mobile email to the entire subscriber base of both post- and pre-pay customers across Lesotho. The service will transform the country's low grade mobile phones into a stepping stone across the global digital divide.'

France Telecom Staff Suicides Now Hits 24 Mark

Officials say a France Telecom employee has killed himself, becoming the giant phone company's 24th worker to commit suicide in 18 months.
 
Officials in the eastern Haute-Savoie region said the 51-year-old man jumped off a bridge onto a highway on Monday. In a note found in his car, the father of two blamed his act on the "atmosphere" at his workplace.
 
Earlier this month, French Labor Minister Xavier Darcos ordered an official to monitor France Telecom's health and safety meetings following the spate of suicides.
 
Unions say the once-state-run company's restructuring could be to blame for some of the suicides by company employees. The company laid off some 22,000 employees in 2006-2008.
 
-AP News

Friday, September 25, 2009

East African Fibre-Optic Summits Takes Off

Kenya is hosting the first East African Fibre Summit which is assessing industry developments as well as the impact this will have on the region.
 
The two day summit has attracted ICT professional from across the world.
 
Grace Gathoni of AITEC East Africa told the media, "The East African Fibre Summit will provide a platform for all stakeholders to assess the exciting developments, the impact they will have on their organizations and the optimum technical implementation strategies to gain maximum benefit from the opportunities they represent."
 
The undersea cable is expected to spur different developments in region once it goes live currently different Internet Service Providers are involved in testing the faster Internet and laying cables within different towns.
 
Governments and corporate users in the region need to prepare for the transition from a predominantly satellite-based communications infrastructure to a fibre cable-based communications infrastructure.
 
"By providing a platform for regulators, policy-makers, vendors, service providers and users to network and share knowledge, the Conference will act as a catalyst to stimulate take-up of the right technologies to multiply connectivity across East Africa," she noted.
There is also an urgent need for new approaches to financing and building out information and communication infrastructure.

Bharti MTN Deal Hits Snag Over Dual Listing

The proposed $23-billion Bharti-MTN merger has received yet another knock after the Indian government announced today that dual listing is not possible unless there is a radical shift in policy, according to media reports.
 
The South African government is seeking dual listing but India through industry minister Anand Sharma said unless there is a change in policy this will not happen. The policy needs a change on rupee convertibility.
 
A report by ENS said a policy change on full convertibility of the rupee on capital account is not possible at present.
"At this stage nobody is in a position to talk about the policy change on convertibility. However, the government will always be supportive of the initiative by an Indian company for an overseas transaction and acquisition," Sharma said.
The two telecoms giants have until the end of September to seal the deal.
 
On the issue of new FDI rules permitting companies to exceed the foreign investment limits in different segments, Sharma is quoted in the report saying that the sectoral caps cannot be breached. "When the decision was taken was by the empowered group of ministers, we were very clear that the sectoral caps will not be breached in sensitive sectors."
 
The Bharti-MTN deal has attracted the attention of the respective governments. A six-member South African (SA) team spent over two-and-a half hours yesterday flagging off its concerns on a host of issues, including the latest change in the rules governing takeovers in India.
 
South African officials, who met the Securities & Exchange Board of India, or Sebi, the Reserve Bank of India, or RBI and finance ministry officials in Mumbai, sought an exemption from a clause that mandates purchase of a 20% stake from minority holders if an entity's stake in a company touches 15%
 
The SA delegation, comprising officials from the national treasury and the country's central bank, met Indian officials, including KP Krishnan, joint secretary in the finance ministry, who is also on the board of Sebi, to overcome the potential stumbling block.
 
Under the proposed scheme of arrangement announced in May, MTN will hold a 36% stake in Bharti Airtel through Global Depository Receipts to be listed in Johannesburg.
 
The South African government has also sought dual listing of the companies which is not favoured by RBI, as it would require the full convertibility of rupee. Under dual listing, where the shares are listed on different exchanges (Indian/Johannesburg) it allows investors an option where they want to trade besides it provides liquidity.
 
South Africa wants Bharti to be allowed dual listing in Johannesburg so that its shares, and not depository receipts, can be traded in South Africa. The problem here is that dual listing is linked to the full convertibility of the rupee which is not allowed in India. The Indian rupee is partially convertible with entities free to exchange it to pay for trade in goods and services

MTN Swaziland Gets New Chairman


THE MTN Swaziland Board has appointed David Dlamini as the new Chairman for the next two years.

Dlamini takes over from Senator Winnie Magagula who served two terms as Chairman of the Board since 2005. He is not new as Chairman of the Board of MTN. He Chaired the Board from 2002 to 2005.

Dlamini is the longest serving member of the Board having joined MTN as a Director in 1999.
The new chairman is running a consultancy company in Information Technology and Public Finance.


He Holds a Bsc. Degree in Business Administration and a Master in Business Leadership (MBL).
Dlamini also sits in various other Boards in the country as Director. Observer

Rwanda Reaps Benefits of SEACOM

Rwanda is already reaping the benefits of the SEACOM fibre optic cable project and internet subscriber base is expected to grow by 10%, The New Times said today.
 
Rwandatel signed a partnership deal with SEACOM and its sister company in Kampala called Uganda Telecom to have SEACOM's connection a month ago. This new partnership gives Rwandatel's 2G, 3G and ADSL customers uninterrupted high speed connectivity with bandwidth provided by SEACOM.
 
According to the company's CEO, Patrick Kariningufu Internet users will even double if the service is well marketed and after the undersea cable is fully connected to Rwanda.
 
Kariningufu said that there is no doubt, "it is an exciting and truly transformation time for Rwanda. Education and the internet are the two synonymous aspects in life." "As a company, Rwandatel is firmly committed to advancing quality-person to person community network through this technology," he added.
 
Kariningufu also explained that after the landing of the SEACOM fibre optic cable in Mombasa, Rwandatel immediately went in to negotiations with SEACOM and today they have the internet users have started enjoying the super fast internet.
 
With the connectivity to SEACOM, Rwandatel acquired 155 Mbps and they are planning to buy more from the company.
 
Kariningufu also explained that Internet prices will not immediately go down but they are expecting them to go down early next year.
 
He also added that the company is still connected to the satellite and they will be using SEACOM's connectivity and satellite but they will abandon the satellite connection by the end of the year.
 
Rwandatel has been paying $2,000 (Rwf1.3 million) for every Mbps while using the satellite but now they are buying it at $200 (Rwf112,950) for the same amount of bandwidth.
 
"Business will drastically grow in Rwanda and the region as a whole, connecting to SEACOM means we are connected directly to the world, e.g. now it just takes 40 milliseconds to connect to Kenya and 300 milliseconds to connect to the USA," Kariningufu explained.
 
Internet users can now expect near-instant e-mail downloads, streaming of real-time multimedia content and quick access of web-based services to be part of their day to day lives.
 
It is expected that education in the form of e-learning will become more widespread and accessible, cost-effectively and efficiently.
 
According to the recent AEO report released by the African Development Bank (AfDB) in Kigali, Rwandatel still remains the dominant Internet provider in the country.
 
"Rwandatel has 62 percent on its ADSL network compared to MTN's 35 percent on the GPRS (32KBps) and WiMAX network (64 KBps, 256 KBps and 1 MBps). Artel and ISPA share the remaining 3 percent," the report says

Multilinks Launches Broadband Service in Lagos

Nigerian CDMA operator Multilinks Telkom has commercially launched a CDMA2000 1xEV-DO Rev A service dubbed 'Blue Broadband' in Lagos, reports local daily Leadership Nigeria.
 
According to the company's sales and marketing officer, Dipuo Msimang, the features of the new wireless broadband service include instant internet access, the ability to download and stream large multimedia files, dual function EV-DO Rev A and 1x data rates, and download speeds of up to 900kbps.
 
'The Blue Broadband service works on the same cell sites as mobile phones,' said Msimang, adding, 'It allows you to be connected to the internet wherever you are. You can download large work files, photos, spreadsheets and email with incredible ease.'
 
The service has been deployed in a number of areas of Lagos, including Victoria Island, Apapa, Festac, Surulere, Ikeja, Ogba, and Ilupeju.

Malawian Court Allows G-Mobile To Get New Investors

The Commercial Court in Blantyre has ruled that Malawian cellco Global Advanced Integrated Networks (GAIN), which intends to operate under the G-Mobile banner, is allowed to engage Berlyl Capital and Telecoms to invest in its mobile network, reports Nation Online.
 
Two of G-Mobile's directors, Harris Chinguwo and Ewen Hiwa, sought the court's relief after it reportedly emerged that current investor, Botswana-based Peter Lamplough, did not have the funds to invest in G-Mobile's network rollout. It was also claimed that Lamplough was not cooperative with South African Berlyl, which signed a deal with Chinguwo and Hiwa to buy majority shares in the cellco.
 
The South African company also inked a USD90 million partnership deal with the cellco in July of this year for the supply, installation and commissioning of its mobile network to enable it to launch Malawi's third wireless service by the end of the year.
 
Justice Michael Mtambo ruled that the two directors could continue with their agreement with Berlyl, allowing the South African company to buy majority shares in G-Mobile, with Chinguwo and Hiwa holding 5% in the firm. G-Mobile won the tender for Malawi's third wireless operators licence in July 2008, beating rival bids from Global Telecom and Zimbabwe's Econet.
invest up to USD150 million in three years if the conditions are favourable,' he said.

Botswana SIM Registration At Just 13%

Only 13% of Botswana's pre-paid mobile phone users have registered their SIM cards, despite the deadline of 31 December 2009 fast approaching, writes local newspaper the Sunday Standard, citing the Botswana Telecommunications Agency's (BTA's) public relations officer Twoba Koontse.

According to Koontse, only 267,113 pre-paid cell phone subscribers have registered since the BTA made the process mandatory from 15 September 2008. 'I am obviously not happy as the numbers of those who have registered now are by far below what we expected to have registered by now,' he commented.

The BTA has asked the country's three wireless operators, Mascom Wireless, Orange Botswana and beMOBILE, to launch campaigns to inform customers about the importance of registering their phones, and has warned users that it maintains its stance to disconnect all unregistered pre-paid mobile lines after 31 December.

Orange Kenya Targets 2 Million Users By Year End

Telkom Kenya CEO Mickael Ghossein has announced that the company has attracted over 1.38 million mobile customers in its first year in operation under the 'Orange' banner, and expects the number to rise to over two million by the end of 2009.
 
Ghossein, speaking at an event celebrating the anniversary, stated that the company had a consolidated customer base of around 1.8 million and had spent approximately KES8 billion (USD109 million) on network expansion over the twelve-month period, a figure the company plans to match in 2010.
 
The CEO also said that the telco is focusing investment on higher value services, such as its W-CDMA and broadband networks, claiming that Kenyan customers have little interest in price wars between service providers, but instead are concerned about quality of service. France Telecom acquired a 51% stake in Telkom from the government in late-2007 and integrated the operator into its international Orange brand on 17 September 2008.

Netcom Africa Signs Deal With SES World Skies

Satellite and wireless broadband equipment supplier Netcom Africa has signed a multi-year deal with SES World Skies to expand the delivery of its telecoms and television services throughout Nigeria and West Africa.
 
Under the agreement, Netcom will be able to enhance its existing capacity using multi-transponders on Ku band, and meet increasing demand for its telecoms services from consumers. 'We have depended on the reliability and reach of SES World Skies for years to interconnect our global teleports in Nigeria, London and the US and offer our diverse customer base the best worldwide network access possible,' said Yen Choi, vice-president and chief technology officer for Netcom.
 
The firm is utilising a layer of satellite capacity from SES World Skies to provide services such as dedicated broadband for schools, and high speed IP backbone connections for mobile phone companies. According to TeleGeography's GlobalComms database, Netcom Africa launched VSAT high speed internet services in Nigeria in July 2005, using the IPWireless-based Axity3G non-line-of-site (NLOS) broadband wireless access.

Africa's Main One Fibre Network For Launch Next Year

The Main One cross-continental submarine fibre-optic network which will connect Africa with the rest of the world is set for launch by mid-next year. The first phase of the project, which spans 7,000km, extends from Seixal in Portugal to Lagos in Nigeria and Accra in Ghana.
Using dense wave multiplexing technology of 1.92Tbps with two fibre pairs, Main One Cable promises to deliver more broadband internet capacity to the West Africa sub region than any other existing or proposed submarine cable projects.
According to Funke Opeke, CEO of Main One Cable Company: 'We are particularly delighted that our desk top research, marine survey, wet plant and dry plant designs have been successfully concluded while our wet plant and dry plant manufacture, respectively, have progressed considerably.
We are also recording considerable progress with regard to the construction of our cable landing stations.' She added that with the Main One project having secured commitments for the entire funding of its first phase, 'practically everything' is in place to ensure that the new cable will be ready for service in June 2010.

Labour Body Asks Vodafone to Put Off Lay Off Plans

Ghana's Labour Commission, the body tasked with overseeing matters of labour regulatory affairs, has called on Vodafone Ghana to suspend its plans to cut 950 employees from its workforce.
 
In a statement the regulator said it has asked the management of the Vodafone Group's majority owned company 'to stay off the redundancy action for now … to provide both parties further opportunity to go back and hear each other and reach some agreement.' Depending on the outcome of planned talks between workers and the company, the Labour Commission intends to make a ruling on the redundancy programme early next month.
 

Dangote Denies Plans of Selling Off It's 3G Licence

The management of the Dangote Group, one of Nigeria's largest conglomerates, has denied plans that it is looking to sell the 3G licence it owns via its telecoms subsidiary Alheri Engineering, reports local news source NEXT.
 
Earlier, an unnamed source told NEXT that the company could not afford to keep hold of the licence, which was awarded by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in April 2007 for USD150 million.
 
According to TeleGeography's GlobalComms database, the NCC said it was launching a probe into Alheri Engineering's lack of 3G rollout plan in August 2008. Shortly afterwards Alheri said it planned to launch next generation services in December 2008. However, of the mobile market's four 3G licencees, Alheri still remains the only operator that has not rolled out the relevant services.

Mauritius to Lay Another Cable System

Mauritius Telecom (MT), which has already connected to the South Africa Far East fibre-optic cable system to increase its international connectivity, has revealed its intention to lay a second cable, the company's chief executive officer Sarat Lallah said last Friday.
 
The investment for the Lower Indian Ocean Network (LION) fibre-optic cable is being supported by a consortium made up of Orange Madagascar, MT and France Telecom, Lallah said. For its part, the Mauritian fixed line incumbent has invested around EUR7 million in phase one of the project which is expected to cost a total of EUR37 million.
 
The CEO went on to say the second phase of the LION project will connect the cable with the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa where it will then be connected to the South Africa-East Africa-South Asia-Fibre Optic Cable (SEACOM), a 17,000km cable which reaches up to Marseilles in France.
 
LION will also be connected to the 4,500km fibre-optic cable TEAMS (The East African Marine System), a Kenyan government partnership with the Emirates Telecommunication Establishment which links Mombasa to Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates.
 
In the future LION is envisaged to be connected to the East African Submarine Cable System (EASSy), a 10,000km link which, once completed, will connect some 13 African countries, Lallah said.

CCK Publishes new regulations For Kenya Operators

According to a report by Business Daily Africa, the Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK) has published a set of draft regulations covering licensing, frequency allocation, universal access and tariff regulation, giving telcos until 25 September to respond to the new guidelines before they are rendered binding.
 
The regulations cut across the entire ICT sector and seek to address outstanding consumer issues not considered previously, such as tariff reviews, the publication notes: 'The purpose and objective of these regulations is to monitor and control the manner in which tariffs, promotions, or special offers are imposed on consumers so as to promote fair competition and encourage the provision of affordable services.'
 
On behalf of the country's operators Joshua Chepkwony, the chairman of Telecommunication Network Operators Forum (TNOF), has requested more time to review the publications, arguing that the regulations are critical to the industry and members needed to peruse them individually before coming up with an industry position. Among the new guidelines is the requirement of telcos to submit any intended change of tariff to the CCK for approval.

KDN & Wananchi Secure Funding For Expansion

Two Kenyan broadband operators have announced that they have secured additional investment in their operations, funding future expansion of their respective networks.
 
According to a report by news agency Reuters, South Africa-based firm Allied Technologies (Altech) announced that it was raising its economic stake in Kenya Data Networks (KDN) from 51% to 60.8%. Altech revealed that it would invest USD39.5 million in KDN's fibre rollout, adding a further USD7.5 million to build a data centre in Nairobi, in conjunction with its co-shareholder in KDN, the Sameer Group.
 
The group said the data centre would offer disaster recovery, virtual application hosting, data and application backup, and an ethical hacking centre and data archiving facility to clients in the areas that will be connected by undersea cables, such as SEACOM and TEAMS. Altech CEO, Craig Venter, said: 'KDN is central to our strategy and our gateway to East Africa. Our further investment in this business is evidence of our confidence that the continent and in particular East Africa is poised for massive growth.'
 
Meanwhile, theafricareport.com reports that US-based private equity group Emerging Capital Partners (ECP) has invested USD25 million in Wananchi to expand its network infrastructure, funding an upgrade which will allow the operator to offer integrated digital pay-television, high speed internet and IP telephony services.
 
ECP chief executive, Tom Gibian, said: 'Following on the tremendous growth in African mobile penetration over the last ten years, we view broadband and related services as the next 'game changer' in African telecoms.'

Oni to Enter Angola Early Next Year

Portuguese telecoms operator Oni has announced plans to set up a local subsidiary in Angola in the first quarter of 2010 to build on its existing 100 or more corporate clients with branches there, Macauhub reports.
 
The broadband operator's CEO Xavier Rodriguez-Martin was quoted as saying, 'We are considering having a local operation to provide services to large companies in Angola. I expect that it will be launched in the first quarter of 2010, with projects for integration of telecommunications services and equipment.' He also said Oni was looking at moving into the Brazilian IP-based telecoms market through acquisition.
 
Another Portuguese operator, cableco Zon Multimedia, intends to enter the Angolan market soon, and has bought 30% of a company called Finstar through another acquisition, Teliz, via which it reportedly intends to set up a local venture in Angola.
 
Portugal Telecom (PT) is already well-established in the country (which gained independence from Portugal in 1975), via a 25% stake in mobile market leader Unitel and a 40% stake in corporate data and internet provider Multitel, a joint venture with incumbent Angola Telecom.
 
Another Portuguese firm, Visabeira Group, partners Angola Telecom in their 50/50 joint venture TV Cabo Angola (TVCabo), a digital cable TV and cable broadband internet access provider in the Luanda area. The potential entrance of Zon to the market could give TVCabo its first direct competition.

Zain Expands Zap Service in East Africa


Zain has announced an upgrade to its mobile banking service, Zap to enable customers to receive money from any bank account around the world and send money to any bank in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
Dr. Saad Al Barrak, Zain Group's Chief Executive Officer said: "This enhancement of Zap is another world first from Zain. It means that our customers in remote towns and villages as well as those in the cities can receive money from wherever in the world their business colleagues or family and friends are. Ability to send money from the mobile phone to any bank account in East Africa will enable businesses to perform more efficiently."
The service has been used by more than 5 million people since it was launched.
Zain customers can sign-up for free for the new Zap services by completing an application form and handing it over to registered Zain agents in tens of thousands of villages, towns and cities across East Africa. Zain will then provide the customer with a mobile wallet, which will allow them to use their mobile phone in much the same way as a bank account debit card and manage their money through their handset.
Zain and its international and regional banking partners are confident that Zap will increase access to banking services in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, where formal banking services are largely restricted to urban populations. Eighty per cent of Kenya's and ninety-five per cent of Tanzania's and Uganda's populations do not have currently have access to banking services.
Currently over US$10 million worth of airtime transfers take place in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda each month.
Standard Chartered Bank's Head of Consumer Banking, East Africa, Kariuki Ngari said, "This service will enable families and businesses to access funds from around the world very swiftly and very securely. It has the potential to transform banking in Africa and will help overcome many of the obstacles presented by providing banking services to remote and rural communities who are now able to access global funds swiftly."

Malawi: TNM Reports Fall In Profits Due to Forex Shortage

Malawian mobile operator Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM) has reported a 32% fall in profit for the six months ended 30 June 2009 to MWK448.6 million (USD3.25 million).  The company attributed the decrease in net income to a shortage in foreign currency, which in turn hindered its investment plans.
 
'In the current challenging economic environment, earnings targets will not be achieved,' the company told local newspaper the Daily Times, adding, 'We have taken steps to reduce capital and operating costs and to minimise exposure to foreign currency related expenditure.'
 
TNM was awarded a licence to operate wireless services in 1995 and launched a GSM-900/1800 network in December that year, becoming the third wireless network in southern Africa.
 
With an estimated 753,000 customers at 30 June 2009, it is Malawi's second largest cellco by subscribers to Zain Malawi.

Zimbabwe Issues VoIP Licences

The Zimbabwe Chronicle reports that eight companies have been granted licences to operate international voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) telephony services.
 
Gideon Magodo of the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) told the newspaper that the regulator had received applications from eleven organisations seeking Internet Access Provider Class A licences (allowing data, internet and VoIP services), including six new applications and five wishing to upgrade from Class B (data and internet only) to Class A concessions.
 
Magodo said POTRAZ had granted new licences to Aquiva, Dandemutande and Taurai Zimbabwe while it had agreed to upgrade licences held by state-run incumbent telco TelOne (which owns ISP ComOne), data network operator Africom, ISP Ecoweb (owned by cellco Econet Wireless), Powertel, the telecoms wing of the state electricity utility, and ISP Telecontract.
 
Regulations dictate that licensees must be at least 51% Zimbabwean-owned. The watchdog announced earlier this week that it would now place a moratorium on issuing VoIP licences because the sector was 'saturated.'
 
Until the recent licensing, companies were restricted to providing domestic IP-based services whilst international VoIP calls were not permitted, although it was previously reported that Africom was allowed to offer the service for corporate customers.
 
Furthermore, it was reported that POTRAZ had approved an international calling card service from Econet which used an IP platform.

Tigo Commits to Rwanda Launch By Year End

Millicom has committed to launch its Tigo branded mobile phone network in Rwanda by the end of this year. The company was granted a license by the regulator last November. The company paid US$60 million for the 15 year license.
 
Tigo Rwanda's Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Alex Kamara, told The New Times that the telecom company which rolled out an investment package of about US$100 million for its operations in Rwanda, is still committed to what was submitted during the negotiation for the licence last year.
 
"I can't tell you the exact time but what I can say is that we have been working extremely hard ever since we arrived. We are going to launch before the end of this year; that is our goal," Kamara said. "There is no deviation from the expectations that were set. Our strategies are focused on the service delivery and what we intend to bring.
 
Millicom holds 87.5% of the joint venture company in partnership with Marathon Corporation, an established local company with numerous business interests in Rwanda.
 
The country has two incumbent operators. According to figures from the Mobile World, at the end of Q1 2009, Rwandatel had an estimated 260,000 customers, compared to 1.3 million at the only other operator, MTN.

Uganda Retains High Taxes on Mobile Services

Uganda's politicians have voted down a proposal to scrap a sales tax on mobile phones following concerns from the government that it needs the revenues the taxes generate.
 
"I request Parliament to reject the proposal to scrap taxes on mobile phone because it will affect our revenue," Finance Minister, Ms Syda Bbumba said.
 
The opposition politicians who proposed scrapping the taxes had argued that expanding mobile phone usage into rural areas would be affected by the tax.
 
Mr. Oduman MP said, "The issue of losing revenue doesn't arise because the government will be charging more taxes on airtime used by mobile phone users, hence widening the tax base."
 
Phone dealers have long argued for the tax to be scrapped, citing increased levels of grey imports and smuggling from the neighbouring countries. The concerns were heightened with neighbouring Kenya lowered its taxes on mobile phone handsets earlier this year.
 
The GSM Association has long called for a lowering of taxes on mobile phone handsets and airtime, arguing that the lower costs boosts the user base and hence leads to a net increase in revenue for governments.
 
A recent report from the GSMA said that mobile subscribers across East Africa are taxed at some of the highest levels world-wide. Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania impose mobile-specific taxes which when added to VAT can result in their respective consumers facing taxes as high as 30% in Uganda and Tanzania, and 27% in Kenya, considerably the highest rates in Africa (and among the highest across the world as a whole).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Global GSM Markets To Continue Growing Till 2014

Global GSM shipment increased from 2,600,000 TRXs to 3,438,000 TRXs from 2004 to 2008. It is expected to continue to rise in the next 4-5 years, and the global GSM market is likely to continue to gain ground with lower price until 2014, reports Frost & Sullivan.
 
With regard to the mobile subscriber base, global GSM accounts for 83.5 percent of global mobile subscribers, and this preponderant proportion has been stable for a long time. The scale economies effect of global GSM market is not likely to change until 2014. With the rich application of 3G, the share of GSM subscribers is likely to decrease to 56.4 percent by the end of 2013.
 
Emerging markets, such as China, India, and African countries, are likely to witness an incremental trend of capacity expansion of the GSM and EDGE applications. By the end of 2008, China had 641 million mobile subscribers and 47.3 percent of mobile penetration rate. With a population of 1.33 billion, the country's mobile market looks promising for the next 3 years.
 
"With respect to data service, certain mobile entertainment services, such as mobile music, mobile games, and mobile TVs, are seeing increasing demand in China GSM market", says Fox Hu, Research Manager of Frost & Sullivan, China Operations.
 
The Indian GSM market is witnessing a fierce competition in accordance with its rapid market growth. The internal drivers of the GSM market in India are its large population, open and fully competitive market, increasing mobile subscribers in rural areas, and rising mobile penetration. The mobile subscriber base in India is forecast to reach 493 million by the end of 2009 and 683 million by 2010.
 
Price of GSM device is likely to drop continually and professional maintenance services are expected to gain importance gradually. In particular, GSM carriers will emphasize on complete design ability and provision of customized maintenance services, especially for data business operations.
 
During the past 5 years, ZTE and Huawei gradually became the mainstreaming equipment providers in the GSM market because of localized operation, customized invention, and strong cost competitiveness. In the future, Huawei is likely to seek more market opportunities and demonstrate its competitive strength. ZTE is supposed to continue to find more opportunities and exceed one of the early starters to become one of the top 3 GSM equipment providers by the end of 2009.

Gates Foundation To Help The Poor With Banking

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, best known for its work combating malaria, AIDS and other diseases, this week announced an effort to bring banking, including savings accounts, to the poor.  The initiative includes the carrying out of money transfers via mobile forms.
 
It may be hard to understand how savings is even an issue for the people who live on less than $2 a day, said Bob Christen, who directs the Gates Foundation's financial services initiative. However, access to a safe place to store money is a top priority of poor people around the world, he said.
 
That's why the world's richest charitable foundation announced a $35 million grant to help facilitate agent banking services already being developed in Africa, Asia and South and Central America.
 
Christen said the Gates grant will provide assistance to numerous organizations through the Alliance for Financial Inclusion, whose efforts are historic in the world of banking, and will help people climb out of poverty, save for their children's education, build their businesses and plan for the future.
 
The ideas for bringing savings accounts, insurance and other financial services to the poor include transferring money by way of mobile phones and setting up banking kiosks in markets and post offices.
 
The Gates Foundation has invested a total of $350 million so far in other financial services for the poor, including micro-credit, which involves small loans for poor entrepreneurs.
 
Christen says savings accounts are a more basic need of many people. An estimated 2.5 billion people — more than half the world's adult population — do not have access to savings accounts and other financial services.
 
People are forced to buy and pawn jewelry or make other poor investments to keep their money safe.
 
Foundation research identified this as an area that is not getting investment dollars and turned its attention in this direction.
 
"It became very obvious that the single service that is least developed that most people need is savings," Christen said. "People really want to be able to save in a safer place."
 
The Gates Foundation is providing an infusion of cash to facilitate the sharing of ideas among the innovators and to make sure the new systems offer a wide range of financial services.
 
Alfred Hannig, executive director of the Alliance for Financial Inclusion, said banking innovation is happening in developing countries without the foundation's help, but the money will help speed implementation.
 
The alliance has a goal of reaching 50 million of the world's "unbanked" by 2012.
 
In a phone call from Nairobi, Kenya, where the alliance was hosting a meeting for representatives of 42 countries, Hannig said that plans are being made for a delegation from Kenya to go to Brazil to learn about that country's efforts to bring banking services to small villages along the Amazon River.
 
"People were waiting for this," said Hannig, who works for the German Technical Corporation and is based in Thailand. "This was very timely. They have been waiting for such a mechanism for such a long time."
 
Hannig said 60 percent of the money from the Gates Foundation will be redistributed in smaller grants to groups like the delegation from Kenya to Brazil, and the Bank of Thailand, which wants to measure banking access around the world through a survey.
 
He predicted that the ideas percolating in Africa, Asia and South and Central America will leap frog existing systems in Europe and the United States.
 
For example, banking in industrialized nations is paper-based — people still use checks and cash for most of their financial transactions. The new technologies being tried out in the southern continents will lead to a paperless, cashless system.
 
 

Developing Markets Facing 55% Rise in Power Costs For Base Stations

­Mobile base station electricity costs could rise by nearly 55% over the next five years unless operators address network inefficiencies and reduce reliance on non-renewable energy resources, according to a new report from Juniper Research.
 
The green base stations report utilised scenario-based models to derive estimates of base station power consumption, CO2 emissions and implied electricity costs. Under the incremental model - wherein operators and vendors would not be markedly proactive in pursuing green policies - global base station electricity costs would exceed $9bn by 2014, with operators dependent on off-grid electricity hit particularly hard.
 
However, the green report found that a transformational approach - wherein operators invest substantially in power reduction in the base station, and migrate from diesel to renewable energy to power off-grid generators - total base station electricity costs would peak in 2011 and by 2014 would have fallen to 10% below their current levels.
 
According to report author Dr Windsor Holden, "Operators in Africa and Asia who continue to rely on diesel for off-grid generators will find margins increasingly squeezed as their networks expand and diesel prices rise. We believe that unless a transition to generators powered by renewable energy is effected, then many such networks may no longer be financially viable within a few years."
 
Other findings from the green base stations research include:
Text Box: •	Base stations are responsible for more than 70% of CO2 emissions in the mobile use phase
•	Operators should increasingly seek to utilise feederless sites and distributed site architecture as means of reducing inefficiency
•	Adopting measures suggested under the transformational model will enable operators to reduce base station CO2 emissions by up to 30%

Zim Woman Found Guilty Over Taunting Txt Messages

A Zimbabwean woman escaped six months imprisonment for taunting her lover's wife through text messages.
 
Media reports said, Melody Moyo was found guilty of breaching Zimbabwe's telecommunications laws by a Bulawayo magistrate who postponed sentence for three years on condition of good behaviour.
 
Magistrate Shepherd Munjanja, sitting at the Western Commonage Magistrate's Courts, heard how Moyo snapped when her lover who had made her pregnant cooled their affair.
 
Moyo, of Runyararo West suburb in Masvingo, began sending her lover's wife a string of test messages, claiming in one that she was "not good in bed", adding that this was the reason for her husband's infidelity.
 
In one, sent on August 5, she mocked: "You are not good in bed that is why your husband runs away from you. I was respecting you but I saw that you don't want to be respected. You are married but you don't have a peace of mind with your husband and you have a lot of stress."
 
She was arrested after her lover's wife went to the police.
 
Moyo admitted breaching section 88 of the Postal and Telecommunications Act which criminalises sending telephone messages which are "grossly offensive … (and) of indecent, obscene or threatening character or sending by telephone any message that one knows to be "false for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to any other person".

Safaricom Introduces Discounts For Pre-paid Users

Kenya's Safaricom has launched a tariff system that allows its subscribers to benefit from discounts based on time of calling and location.

The tariff, branded Supa Ongea, is backed by a technology known as Dynamic Discounting Service (DDS), and presents another ground-breaking innovation from Safaricom.


"This great invention will give our prepay customers real value for money through exciting discounts in these tough economic times when everyone is looking for authentic bargains," said Michael Joseph, Safaricom chief executive officer in a statement.

The tariff, the first of its kind in Kenya, gives subscribers various discounts on the go, depending on their location and the time of calling.


MTN Uganda has a similar pre-paid tariff system called MTN-Zone where discounts are offered based on volume of traffic at the location of the caller .

Altech Increases Stake In KDN to 60.8%

Altech has invested a further $39.5 million to increase its stake in Kenya Data Networks (KDN) to 60.8%, the company announced on Tuesday.
 
The technology company which previously held 51% stake said the capital injection will be used to roll out the KDN fibre optic network, increasing its footprint as the key provider of broadband in East Africa.
 
"The additional equity shares in KDN to be subscribed for by Altech will be non-voting, thus preserving the strong minority shareholder local influence in KDN through our strategic partners, the Sameer Group. This local influence is essential for retention of expertise and knowledge of the region," said Altech's CEO, Craig Venter.
 
Last week Altech and SEACOM announced a strategic alliance for the mutual acquisition of bandwidth capacity on two cable systems. The agreement sees Altech procuring two STM-16s from SEACOM (equivalent to 5Gbps) with the option to upgrade, within three years, to double this capacity, to an STM-64. The huge increase in bandwidth, through these undersea cables, is a major focus of Altech's strategy.
 
"KDN's fibre optic network and the undersea cables will provide more affordable international bandwidth to many East African countries, which, until now have been totally reliant on expensive satellite bandwidth. In addition, KDN will also provide centralised capacity management and cross border customer services," said Venter
 
To further compliment these expansionary aims, Altech and its co-shareholder in KDN, the Sameer Group have also invested an additional $7.5 million in KDN to build a data centre in Nairobi, Kenya. The data centre will offer disaster recovery, virtual application hosting, data and application backup, and an ethical hacking centre and data archiving facility to clients in the areas that will be connected by the planned undersea cables. It is anticipated that the data centre will be completed in approximately 12 months.
 
"KDN is in a strategic position to provide data warehousing services to East Africa and the Middle East with its access to the undersea cables. Under the Altech banner we now have end-to-end data service capabilities. Our strategic alliance with SEACOM and KDN's equity stake in TEAMS will supply ample bandwidth for KDN to supply additional services such as call centers, data centers and IP video on demand.
 
We have abundant terrestrial fibre linking the East African undersea cables to Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda; and also interests in various ISP's throughout East Africa, which take the cheaper and enhanced broadband service to the client. The data centre will add further services of data warehousing, disaster recovery and hosting to our Group's capabilities," Venter added.
 
KDN has established itself as the leader in provision of commercial leased lines, constituting 75% of Kenya's outbound traffic and currently provides the majority of the backhaul traffic for Kenya's three cellular network operators Safaricom, Zain and Essar. It boasts a nationwide Kenyan fibre optic network of over 4,000kms from Mombasa to the Ugandan border.
 
The network extends to Kampala in Uganda and to Kigali in Rwanda. KDN envisions that the network will soon reach Tanzania and the DRC. KDN currently has the largest WiMAX network in Africa with over 190,000 square kilometers covered. It has been offering turn-key solutions using the different technologies in its bouquet of Wi-Fi, WiMAX and fibre solutions across East Africa.
 
"Through Altech's TMT positioning, we are well placed to achieve overlapping and merging interests in our various businesses, as convergence gathers momentum. KDN is central to our strategy and our gateway to East Africa. Our further investment in this business, is evidence of our confidence that the continent and in particular East Africa is poised for massive growth," concluded Venter.

India, South Africa to Discuss MTN-Bharti Deal At G20 Summit

South African President Jacob Zuma is expected to push for a quick resolution to the MTN Bharti deal during his meeting with his Indian counterpart Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the G20 summit in US this week.

The Economic Times reported yesterday that hopes are pinned on this crucial meeting between the two leaders in Pittsburg where the summit will take place.
 
According to the report the meeting is expected to take place on the sidelines of the G20 summit, President Zuma is expected to raise the issue of dual listed companies (DLCs) with the Indian PM. If Mr. Singh gives an assurance that India will work towards allowing DLCs, the South African government's concerns could be considerably addressed.
 
But though the Indian premier is likely to indicate his government's support for the deal, it is unlikely that he can provide any sort of assurance on a change of legislation to facilitate dual listing.
 
Under the terms of the proposed deal, Bharti would acquire a 49% shareholding in MTN. MTN and its shareholders would also acquire an approximate 36% interest in Bharti, of which 25% would be held by MTN with the remainder held directly by MTN shareholders.
 
The potential transaction between would create a telecommunications service provider group with huge footprints on the Indian sub-continent, as well as within Africa and Middle East. The merged organization would boast a footprint in around 30 countries, with revenues over USD20 billion, and more than 200 million subscribers.

Bharti Makes Management Offer to Sweeten MTN Deal

In an attempt to seal the MTN deal Bharti Airtel is offering to retain the top management of MTN for at least three years, giving the option of an all-cash offer to minority holders of MTN, and more shares in itself for the same money, which would push up the cost of acquisition for Bharti, The Economic Times said today.
 
The report said Bharti Airtel is making a slew of last-minute concessions to sew up a deal with MTN, as it awaits a political push to take the planned tie-up past the hurdle of national pride in South Africa.
 
The deal would lead to MTN's chairman Cyril Ramaphosa, CEO Phuthuma Nhleko and forthcoming CFO Nazir Patel (current CFO RD Nisbet to leave the company next month) retaining their positions for at least three years which may pacify the South African government which is keen on retaining the company's national character.
 
The Indian company will also maintain the status quo of a 49% stake in MTN for at least five years. A Bharti spokesman declined to comment on the revised structure.
 
The report further explained that a delegation from the South African government led by Ismail Momoniat, a senior official in South African treasury, are meeting the Indian government officials on Tuesday to lobby for the deal. Sunil Mittal, chairman of Bharti may meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who is expected to talk to South African President Jacob Zuma during the G20 talks to facilitate the transaction.
 
The latest offer also gives MTN a 27% stake in Bharti Airtel, compared to 25% when the contours of the deal were first unveiled in May. MTN will also pay $2.9 billion in cash to Bharti. The deadline to conclude a deal is Sept 30.
 
MTN's minority shareholders will now have the option to take $13 billion in cash for a 36% stake in the company instead of the earlier proposed $7 billion in cash and $6 billion worth of Bharti Airtel shares.

SEACOM Provides For More Growth In Sub-Sahara Africa

More and cheaper international bandwidth - courtesy of the undersea fibre optic Seacom cable that runs up the east coast of Africa linking southern and east Africa, Europe and South Asia - will provide South Africa and sub-Saharan African countries with enormous opportunity for growth.
 
While the prize for many in South Africa will be a lowering of broadband costs, the availability of greater broadband capacity and choice in the region will in fact have much further reaching consequences - it will create a new platform for economic growth, facilitating the establishment and expansion of businesses, and opening up global markets.
 
In terms of pricing, expect a clear and sizable impact within nine to twelve months as preparation for video broadcast of the 2010 World Cup by local and international broadcasters gains momentum; the rollout of wired and wireless broadband by various operators to more Internet subscribers begins to tip
the scales in terms of bulk pricing; and other, smaller players such as Wireless Internet Service Providers (WISPs) and Internet Service Providers begin to collectively negotiate better rates with wholesalers of broadband (who will in turn be driven by greater competition to lower prices).
 
Corporates, whose broadband bills are on average made up of least 25% international traffic, can expect a price drop of 10-30% on their total bills. For SMEs and those running home offices, the 15% of their total business cost that is usually taken up by their Internet or broadband
connection may well drop to 10% or lower, increasing their ability to stay profitable.
 
The question is: when will we see this uptake in broadband and decrease in cost thereof? Issues such as the economic downturn have hindered uptake as well as customers that are bound by contracts with their service providers who have to wait until they can negotiate with a new supplier. In addition,
the Seacom cable does not provide complete coverage of all regions (it covers most of the East coast of Africa) and the national backbones do not have the reach and capacity to extend the available bandwidth to all regions and remote areas.
 
A catalyst is required to spur the uptake of bandwidth which will have a knock-on effect of driving down costs. The 2010 Soccer World Cup is possibly one of the biggest events that South Africa will host and will surely create demand with the influx of international visitors. This will
drive pricing down and in the wake of the event, more local businesses and individuals will start to avail of this service.
 
Staying local but looking toward industry, the big drive by the South African government to attract BPO offshoring customers may now eventually come to fruition as one of the biggest challenges - the high price of international communications in South Africa — fades. It will also open the BPO market to other countries in the region. However, landlocked African nations who were previously forced to route their international traffic through South Africa, and pay high prices, or use expensive satellite bandwidth, can now follow their own agenda's and attract BPO clients of their own.
 
With a cheaper way to communicate, there will be healthy competition and growth. This may well slowly change South Africa's status as the economic hub of sub-Saharan continent. The reputation of Africa as the 'Dark Continent' may also begin to erode as low connectivity is replaced by a hi-tech capability and a positive spiral is initiated in terms of e-commerce.
 
For many emerging economies, like Korea, Singapore and Malaysia, hi-tech capabilities have proven the key to economic growth. In practical terms, greater bandwidth capacity at lower prices will make it easier for smaller African businesses and industries to enter, and begin to interact in global markets, representing their own direct interests for the first time.
 
Seacom may also stimulate the universal access ideals of government. Long standing initiatives to connect schools, clinics and government services, making them accessible to stakeholders and the public via the Internet, may well now begin to take shape anew.
 
The greater availability and lower cost of bandwidth will also assist organisations that have been newly advantaged by the liberalisation of the telecommunications industry and those that have previously been disadvantaged by regulation and economic status. For example, organisations that have recently been granted licenses that allow them to self-provision - i.e., build out their own infrastructure — will now be able to select who they enable, potentially assisting communities where communications
infrastructure was simply not rolled out because the average revenue per user in that particular area did not merit investment by incumbent fixed and mobile operators.
 
Although the local market has approximately 400 new players that will have the option of building their own infrastructure, they still face the challenge of funding and skills. It is no small undertaking to roll out a network and those that have access to skills and finance will pioneer this new 'wave' of service providers. Until this happens, the situation remains the same with regards to under-serviced rural areas.
 
In addition, there is some discussion to the effect that monies collected via the Universal Access Fund that have not been disbursed, may now be applied to enable organisations that have been granted Electronic Communication Network Services Licences (ECNS), facilitating the establishment of these service providers. Under-Serviced Area Licencees (USAL's) previously failed to get off the ground because the model on which they were built depended on the use of existing infrastructure from the
incumbent fixed and mobile operators whose fees were too costly to support a viable business case.
 
For Spescom Telecommunications this is an exciting time. The company is able to support the growth of industry in a number of ways. It can assist existing players to roll out infrastructure to underserviced areas; help new players access funds and deploy infrastructure and services; provide consulting services; and plan the physical rollout of networks and maintenance services, facilitating the operations of service providers and enabling them to focus on their core business, serving their customers.
 
 

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Econet Overwhelmed By Demand For 3G

­Econet Wireless Zimbabwe reports that it has been overwhelmed by demand for its new data services, and has virtually exhausted all its initial capacity. This has prompted its parent company to authorise a US$30 million roll-out to speed up the expansion of the 3G service countrywide.
 

Chief Executive Officer Mr. Douglas Mboweni said the demand had completely surpassed all projections, which were based on take up in other countries around the world. Mr. Mboweni said the company had also been surprised by the number of people who have 3G and GPRS phones ready to be activated.
 
He said the company's parent company Econet Wireless Group (EWG), after seeing the figures, had authorised a massive roll out of 3G to all parts of the country by December, and was finalising agreements with suppliers to ship in equipment urgently.
 
"Our current system is very small and it has many limitations. By December, our service will be national, and our speeds will be comparable to Europe," he said. He said the expansion would cost about an additional $30million, and the company already has the money.
 
Meanwhile, Mr. Mboweni said, engineers from the suppliers are still in the country, attending to some of the glitches which have been experienced in the first month of the service. "Our customers have been very helpful in identifying some shortcomings, and we have passed them onto Ericsson, and they are addressing them. Speeds are being increased on bandwidth and we shall release even more capacity," he added.
 
 

Glo Takes to No.2 Position As MTN Maintains Lead In Nigeria

­Nigerian regulator the NCC has released statistics for the second quarter of 2009, revealing that the total customer base stood at 66.42m at the end of June. Annual growth stood at 32.8%, the lowest rate for eight years, although with penetration edging towards 50% (Q2 09: 46.9%) such a slowdown is to be expected.
 
Quarterly net additions stood at 2.52m, down from 5.68m in Q2 08, although up on Q1 09's disappointing 0.91m.
 
Market leader MTN recorded the best figure for net additions for the fourth straight quarter, adding 1.43m to finish on 27.34m. This took its market share to 41.2%.
 
Meanwhile, Glo Mobile stretched its lead over Zain, adding 0.42m to finish on 15.91m, with Celtel suffering its second consecutive quarterly loss (-0.46m) to finish on 14.65m. However, Glo was in third place for quarterly net additions behind Visafone, the largest of the CDMA operators, which added 0.54m to finish on 2.81m.
 
 

Video Call service Reduces Customer Services Costs at Etisalat Egypt

­Egypt based mobile network operator, Etisalat Egypt recently deployed a video call based customer care facility from Genesys that the company says has lifted customer satisfaction levels have risen by 11 percent at a time when it has reduced cost per customer contact by two thirds.

Etisalat Egypt has created a multimedia contact centre, combining video, voice, and SMS, with voice recognition, avatars, and other advanced self service choices. More than 41,000 customers use the new contact centre to activate their services without talking to a live agent.

"Etisalat's virtual customer service system has the capacity to handle 70,000 calls per day through self service, and 25,000 via assisted service," commented Bruce Eidsvik, Genesys Vice President for EMEA. "At the heart of the system is Genesys software, which drives virtually every aspect of customer service, including the voice self service, the video-enabled IVR, proactive contact, the underlying business processes, routing between five sites and workforce optimisation.

Bruce Eidsvik, Genesys Vice President for EMEA: "Etisalat created the video capability because, for some customers, traditional self-service systems are too impersonal and prevent a great customer experience. The idea behind video IVR is to leverage the new generation of smart phones to enable consumers to use pictures, voice activated service, and live interactions all from the same device. They are also leveraging SMS text messaging, which is a new and profitable trend among customer service organisations."

Uganda Gets Sixth Mobile Network

Uganda's sixth mobile network launches its network today(Tuesday) with coverage in 38 towns, reports.  The company, I-Tel has plans to invest US$150 million over the next three years expanding its network.
 
I-Tel will also offer fixed-line telephony, data and research services, Augustus Caesar Mulenga, the chief executive officer, said today in a phone interview from the capital, Kampala.
 
"Our investment will depend on conditions in the market," said Mulenga. "We may progressively invest up to $150 million in three years if the conditions are favorable," he said without indicating the current value of the investment."
 
The company aims to get "as many subscribers as possible in the stiff competitive market," Mulenga said, declining to give targets.
 
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%).
 
 

Botswana Warns On Sim Registration deadline

Botswana's telecoms regulator has warned that the vast majority of prepay SIM cards have yet to register their ownership details before a cut-off deadline at the end of this year. According to the Botswana Telecommunications Authority's Public Relations Officer, Twoba Koontse, just 267,113 subscribers have registered their details.
 

This represents around ­13 percent of the customer base in the country.
 
"I am obviously not happy as the numbers of those who have registered now are by far below what we have expected to have registered by now," Koontse told the Sunday Standard newspaper.
 
He has urged the operators to publicise the need to register their details lest their SIM cards are disconnected in the new year.
 
"We are also doing our part by running adverts in the media and holding road shows around the country," he added.
 
"Our deadline stands. All those who will not have registered on 31 December will be cut off," he promised.
 
He also indicated that the registration was required due to laws from an organisation called the International Telecommunications Federation - which if a reference to the ITU, might surprise the UN body as it hasn't made any policy on the matter, let alone been able to pass laws about it.
 
 

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

SEACOM To Access Burundi Through Rwanda

SEACOM will use Rwanda's national fibre-optic backbone to achieve onwards connection to Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. SEACOM and government-owned Rwandan ISP New Artel are reported to have signed a one-year 620Mbs connection agreement, with a possibility of extending it further at a later date.
 
The Rwandan national fibre optic backbone, which will extend to over 2,300km, aims to connect 97 government agencies in the capital and 226 government agencies in other districts.

MTN Threatens To Block Rwandatel Calls Over Debts

MTN Rwanda says it may block calls made to its network by Rwandatel's 280,000 customers due to the latter's failure to pay interconnection fees. Rwandatel is legally obliged to pay RWF40 (USD0.07) to MTN for every call made from a Rwandatel line to MTN, something which it has failed to do for more than eight months.
 
Officials at MTN have so far refused to comment, saying only that negotiations are ongoing with both Rwandatel and the Rwanda Utilities and Regulatory Authority (RURA).

Angola Chooses ECtel To Manage Fraud

Angola's principal telecommunications service provider Angola Telecom has selected Israel-based ECtel Limited, a leading provider of integrated revenue management (IRM) solutions to provide it with a fraud management solution to protect revenue through real-time detection and prevention of fraud losses.
 
In a press release, ECtel said it will work in partnership with the financial firm LR Group, which has a special focus on Africa, to realise the project.
 
The new solution will help the telco maximise its revenue potential and prevent fraud losses, something that is seen as critical to a fast growing company such as Angola Telecom. The operator currently serves over 110,000 Angolans, and is the country's international gateway for communication.

Vodafone Ghana To Close All But Two Exchanges

Ghana News Agency quotes Vodafone Ghana's head of corporate communications, Major Albert Don-Chebe, as saying the telco plans to reduce the number of national exchanges on its fixed line network from 48 to just two.
 
The move forms part of the operator's ongoing restructuring following its takeover by Vodafone and reflects a trend towards increased uptake of wireless communications. 'In this era of mobile telephony we still have as many as 48 exchanges across the country, most of which are no more needed but we are still running them at huge cost,' Don-Chebe said.
 
When Vodafone assumed control of the Accra-based firm it inherited around 4,300 staff whose job was to route traffic manually in the exchanges, or to carry out other jobs deemed as increasingly redundant in the modern telecoms age. 'This is one of the reasons we kept making losses for a long time whiles competition was making huge profits', he said. Major Don-Chebe added: 'We made a loss of USD264 million last year and we are expecting to make another loss this year, but that will be the end of losses for this company – beginning from next year we expect to start making profit and to become productive'.
 
Over the past five months Vodafone has gained an additional 900,000 subscribers, raising its overall subscriber base to 2.5 million. Vodafone has also announced a reduction in the installation charge of its fixed broadband service from GHC90 to GHC55, in a bid to cut the initial upfront cost for new broadband customers significantly.

Libyan Airlines To Introduce In-flight Mobile Services

In-flight mobile phone communications vendor, OnAir has announced that Libyan Airlines is to become one of the first African airlines to support mobile phone calls during flights. Mobile OnAir equipment will be installed Libyan Airlines' brand new fleet of seven Airbus A320 aircraft flying routes across Europe and the Middle East. The airline is expecting delivery of the aircraft in 2010.
 
Capt. Mohamed M. Ibsem, Member of Board of Directors and CEO Libyan Airlines said, "Providing this service will help differentiate us from the competition and is part of our ongoing drive to constantly improve levels of service for our passengers. Aboard these brand new Libyan Airlines aircraft, our passengers will be able to stay in touch with colleagues, family and friends while they travel. We selected OnAir because it offers the best service, is the most technologically advanced system, and represents the best way forward to take advantage of ongoing technology development."
 
The Libyan Airlines announcement comes amidst mounting demand for in-flight passenger communications. A growing number of commercial airlines and private aviation companies either currently offer OnAir in-flight communications services or will offer them in the near future.
 
OnAir also serves private VIP and Governmental customers.
 
According to a recent survey, 93% of passengers who have used Mobile OnAir services on selected flights would like these services to be available on every flight.

Orascom gets Approval For Algerian Dividends

Egypt based Orascom Telecom Holding has announced that its Algerian subsidiary Orascom Telecom Algerie (OTA) has received the approval of the Algerian government's tax office to repatriate 50% of its 2008 dividends to its nonresident shareholders.
 
With this approval, OTA is entitled to transfer 50% of the 2008 dividends in the amount of approximately US$257 million to its non-resident shareholders. The remaining 50% of the 2008 dividends shall be transferred by OTA to its nonresident shareholders when the tax office issues a clearance certificate in relation to the tax position of the Algerian subsidiary.
 
Debt ratings agency, Standard & Poors recently warned that difficulties in repatriating the dividends from Algeria could impact the parent group's debt ratings.
 
"We believe that any substantial delays in repatriation of expected dividends of over $500 million from Algeria could have potential knock-on consequences on liquidity management at Orascom Telecom, where most of the group's rated debt sits.", the debt ratings agency wrote earlier this month. "After having paid cash dividends of about $93 million on Aug. 27, 2009, the delay in receipt of dividends from Algeria could cause liquidity pressures for the substantial investment requirements in newer operations in Orascom Telecom's portfolio such as in Canada, or payment of interest and other cash calls at the parent company level."

MTN Optimises Network As World Cup Kick-Off Nears

In preparation for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, network optimisation firm, Arieso has been working with MTN South Africa to implement a major expansion project for its network using its geo-location solution, ariesoGEO.
 
Over the past two years, MTN has made extensive investments upgrading of its core network across the country to ensure its readiness for 2010. "Our partnership with Arieso has enabled us to determine accurately which geographic areas need the most attention, to ensure that our network coverage is up to speed to handle the expected demand for both voice and data services," said Sameer Dave, Chief Technology Officer of MTN SA.
 
He continued, "As Africa's first global sponsor of this major international event, MTN has a responsibility to ensure that our network provides a seamless service to our current customers, and the thousands of international visitors expected in our country next year for the World Cup."
 
Arieso assessed subscriber generated network data to determine exactly where coverage needed improving. By understanding areas of high call density and identifying locations where users experienced dropped calls, drilled down to an individual building or street intersection, MTN has been able to target its investments effectively to achieve maximum benefits for its customers.
 
For this project, Arieso analysed two week's worth of data from MTN's network and assessed the traffic density, coverage, interference and pilot pollution to determine which geographic areas of the network would benefit most from additional investment. The data was collected in mid June, a period that included two major sporting events with the British Lions rugby tour and the FIFA Confederations Cup - a perfect data sample ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
 
ariesoGEO was able to pinpoint exactly where to channel improvements without the need for expensive and inaccurate drive testing. The information will be used to improve mobile broadband coverage country-wide and reduce the number of dropped calls in the network.
 
"As the World Cup approaches, we needed to explore different ways of enhancing our customer experience," said Thaigan Govender, General Manager of Radio Network Planning and Optimisation of MTN SA. "With many thousands of roaming users set to arrive for the World Cup, MTN needed to ensure that its network was running at the peak of its capabilities. ariesoGEO has provided MTN with all the information it needs to make these decisions and puts it in a strong position to provide a high quality user experience ahead of this major tournament."
 
ariesoGEO uses data transmitted by mobiles in the normal course of conducting a call and requires no additional hardware, such as network located probes, or GPS capability in handsets, to provide real time or historical analysis.

Handset Sales In Africa to Outpace Mobile Growth - Report

The mobile handsets market in sub-Saharan Africa will continue to achieve high growth long after the number of mobile subscriptions has started to decline. This will be true particularly for the low-end devices segment, although rising migration to middle and high-tier devices by both existing and new subscribers due to price declines will also support market expansion.
 
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan finds that over 139 million handsets were shipped to sub-Saharan Africa in 2007 and this is expected to reach 400 million by 2014.
 
"High growth in the new subscriber base is currently spurring demand for mobile handsets," says Frost & Sullivan Industry Analyst Spiwe Chireka. "Growth in the low-end devices sector is increasing the availability of relatively affordable handsets."
 
Mobile subscription growth in sub-Saharan Africa is higher than the global average. Several handset vendors have concerted their efforts to expand their low-end device offerings to more effectively penetrate the region.
 
However, mobile network capabilities in the region still lag far behind that of devices. As a result, users in the region are deprived of a complete experience, despite significant improvements in the devices to support various applications.
 
Additionally, most devices are designed to better support data and broadband applications, and the high cost of these services limits the uptake of the devices designed for this purpose. Therefore, low-end devices remain the key driver of growth in this region.
 
Most mobile networks in sub-Saharan Africa offer only voice and SMS-centric services. Though there are various applications on devices that could enhance user experience and encourage usage and adoption, they are very expensive, further reducing the uptake of some middle and high-tier devices.
 
"The current middle-tier devices should become the new low-tier devices in the region, in terms of price and functionality," concludes Chireka. "Through affordable devices that can support a wider range of data applications, vendors can effectively tap into a fast emerging segment in the region while enabling operators to increase their average revenues per user (ARPU) and data services usage, resulting in a win-win situation."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

France Telecom Loses Third Appeal in Mobinil Case

France Telecom's (FT's) latest appeal against the rejection of its bid to buy the remaining shares it does not currently hold in Egyptian mobile operator Egyptian Company for Mobile Services (MobiNil) has failed.

An independent appeal body has upheld the original ruling of the then financial regulator, the Capital Market Authority (CMA), although no reasoning behind the latest decision has been announced. Khaled Serry Seyam, deputy chairman of the Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority (EFSA), which superseded the CMA in July this year, simply noted: 'They have rejected the appeal and approved the Capital Market decision'.

This is FT's third appeal against a rejection of a bid for those shares in MobiNil held by minority stakeholders; the CMA has previously indicated that these offers were dismissed for being 'unfair' to stakeholders.

Nigeria's Starcomms To Power Telecentres

 
Nigeria's CDMA operator Starcomms has launched an offer to provide the country's telecentres with a free solar charger enabling them to recharge their mobile phones. Nigeria operates a large number of public call offices, dubbed telecentres, which enable customers who cannot afford to buy a handset to make mobile phone calls.
 
Starcomms' initiative is the first of its kind in the country according to Tushar Maheshwari, COO of the company: 'This is an initiative to ensure that we increase the accessibility of mobile phone to the public who cannot afford to buy handsets and ensure that a phone at the telecentres is always on irrespective of power cuts. We have received phenomenal response and the chargers can be used to charge all operators' phones.'
 

 

Nigeria's Multilinks Expands Services to Enugu

Nigerian CDMA operator Multilinks has expanded its voice, data and internet services to the federal state of Enugu, reports local newspaper the Daily Independent.
 
At launch, the state government pledged to forge a positive business relationship with the operator by encouraging the people of Enguru to subscribe to Multilinks services to encourage a competitive telecoms market, and promised to 'provide all the necessary encouragement for Multilinks to grow its business in the state.'
 
Multilinks also plans to provide Close User Group (CUG) services to help the government run a low cost internal communications network.