Thursday, January 28, 2010

Orange Kenya Ends Year With 1.2 Million Users

According to a report by Reuters, which cites company CEO Mickael Ghossein, Telkom Kenya ended December 2009 with 1.2 million mobile subscribers, adding 428,000 net new customers in just three months.

Despite impressive growth in the latter part of the year the operator still fell short of its target of two million registered users by year-end. Meanwhile the company ended 2009 with 250,000 customers on its ‘Orange fixed-plus’ fixed-wireless CDMA-450 network, up from 236,700 a year earlier. Ghossein added that Telkom, which is backed by France Telecom, invested around KES18 billion (USD225.3 million) on network expansions and upgrades in both 2008 and 2009.

The company plans to spend between KES10 billion and KES16 billion in 2010, with the introduction of a mobile banking product and possible entry into the country’s 3G market on the firm’s agenda.

Telkom is currently trialling 3G services across parts of its network, but the country’s USD25 million licensing fee could prove prohibitive to a commercial rollout.

Artel Dishes UTL For Rwanda Government Network

State-owned ISP New Artel Rwanda has said that it will now deliver high speed internet access from SEACOM’s fibre-optic cable through the national backbone, local daily The New Times reports. The company had in November planned to land the submarine cable through Uganda Telecom's (UTL’s) Point of Presence (PoP) Rwandatel that month.

However, officials have since discovered that incumbent telco Rwandatel does not have the capability of delivering the 155Mbps capacity. ‘In order to have a more reliable connectivity, the capacity will be delivered through the national fibre-optic backbone by UTL from Gatuna to Kigali,’ commented Francis Karemera, CEO of New Artel.

The Rwanda Development Board (RDB)-ICT expects to deliver the national backbone to the Gatuna border by the end of February to route the data to Kigali. New Artel plans to provide 155Mbps to the Kigali Metropolitan Network to connect government ministries, universities and districts. The network aims to connect 97 government agencies in Kigali and 226 in the districts, linking 36 main nodes nationwide.

Cell C Inks USD378m Contract With ZTE

Chinese equipment vendor ZTE has announced that it has entered into a network supply and a managed services contract with Cell C, South Africa’s third largest mobile operator by subscribers.

Under the USD378 million contract ZTE will provide Cell C with GSM-based equipment while supporting the cellco’s ongoing network expansion.

Cell C is planning to invest heavily in its networks over the next twelve months, spending a total of ZAR5 billion (USD659.98 million) on network upgrades, including the deployment of a 3.5G HSPA+ network.

Somalia's Hormuud Telecom Orders Harris Stratex radios

Wireless network solutions provider Harris Stratex Networks has announced that Somali telecoms operator Hormuud Telecom has placed an order for 100 of its high capacity Eclipse radios to extend its microwave backbone.

The new deployment forms part of a long standing relationship between the two companies; Harris has already installed over 200 Eclipse series radios for Hormuud. ‘We are happy to sign this expansion agreement with Harris Stratex Networks, and we are looking forward to building upon our existing relationship,’ noted N. Olo, Hormuud Telecom's chief procurement officer, adding, ‘We work well with the regional team of Harris Stratex Networks in Nairobi, and find their service and support capabilities a crucial aspect of partnership and operational success.’

Hormuud Telecom was founded in 1992 and today provides fixed and mobile telephony, as well as data services in Southern and Central Somalia.

Neotel Plans Individual Fixed Line Number Portability

South African second network operator (SNO) Neotel has announced plans to implement individual fixed line number portability in April 2010.

Angus Hay, executive head of technology at Neotel, said: ‘The porting of numbers in blocks of 10,000 or 1,000 has been available for some months now. Unfortunately that excluded many businesses, as it is only relevant to very large corporations. We are already testing 100 block porting, and as of April will be able to do 100 block and individual porting for any customer.’

Neotel believes that the introduction of individual number porting will increase competition in the sector, challenging fixed line incumbent Telkom South Africa’s dominant market position. Hay added: ‘This is what South Africans have been waiting for, the ability to port their individual fixed line telephone numbers. This truly puts consumers in charge of their own destiny when it comes to service providers.’

Tigo Ghana Sells 750 Towers To Helios

Millicom Ghana (trading as Tigo) has agreed to sell approximately 750 towers to Helios Towers Ghana, a direct subsidiary of Helios Towers Africa. As a result of the transaction, Tigo Ghana will retain a minority interest in HTG.

Additionally, Tigo Ghana and Helios Towers have entered into a long term leasing agreement where Helios Towers will provide Tigo Ghana with wireless communications towers, including a build-to-suit agreement to support the company's wireless networks. Helios Towers will seek similar agreements with other operators in Ghana. The transaction is expected to create savings in both capital and operating expenditure for Tigo Ghana.

Mikael Grahne, President and CEO of Millicom, said: "This agreement marks our first substantial commitment to outsourcing passive infrastructure, and is entirely consistent with our strategy of improving both our capital and operating efficiency by focusing on our core activities. Operators around the world are increasingly recognising that owning and operating all of their own network infrastructure does not confer a competitive advantage. The new venture will allow Tigo Ghana to focus on areas of genuine differentiation: sales, marketing, distribution, service innovation and customer care."

The specific number of towers and final purchase price will be determined at closing. First closing of the transaction, subject to customary closing conditions, is expected to take place in approximately 90 days.

Egypt Mulls Over 4th Mobile Licence

Eygpt may consider offering a fourth mobile operator licence, reports the Reuters news agency, citing the local al-Mal newspaper. The tender for the license is being a Damoclean Sword being held over the incumbent operators if they do not adapt recent rulings on the tariffs they charge to customers.

"There are no obstacles to issuing a fourth mobile licence in Egypt ... but offering the licence will mainly depend on market demand in the coming period," the paper quoted Amr Badawi, head of the National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (NTRA), as saying.

The newspaper added that the operators have objected to recent pricing policies issued by the regulator.

"Before setting these rules and regulations, we sent queries and surveys to the mobile operators but we received no replies from the companies ... (They) have the right to approach the administrative court to object about the authority's decisions," Al Mal quoted Badawi as saying.

Egypt currently had three operators, and based on figures from the Mobile World analysts, their market shares are: Mobinil (45.2%), Vodafone (42.6%) and Etisalat Misr (12.2%). The country has a population penetration level of 62%.

The regulator is already planning to issue two fixed line licenses aimed at triple-play operators outside the capital, Cairo.

Mobile Phones Now Used to Bring Health Services to poor

Epidemiologist Joel Selanikio has used the explosion in mobile phone technology and the World Wide Web to deliver more effective public health services throughout the developing world.  Dr. Selanikio and his organization are making a difference by improving the medical information available to public health programs in under-served areas of the world.  VOA's Natalia Ardanza has a profile for this week's "Making a Difference" series.

In Africa there is  another use for mobile phones.  Public Health workers in Kenya are now using mobile phones to gather health information from patients in remote areas and upload it to the internet for instant analysis at distant centers.

And it is all happening thanks to Dr. Joel Selanikio. "You can really make a difference using just common modern information technologies," he said.

Dr. Selanikio first noticed the need to better use information technology for health care while working as a disease outbrake investigator for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"I began to take the first steps toward using things like pocket computers or PDAs [i.e., personal digital assistants] for doing field work," Selanikio said.

Dr. Selanikio left his position five years ago to co-found with partner Rosa Donna -- as a non-profit organization dedicated to providing sustainable information technologies in poor areas.  And with financial support from the United Nations Foundation and the Vodaphone Foundation, Selanikio developed EpiSurveyor -- a free, mobile, Web-based and open-source data collection tool that is transforming the way public health is practiced in under-served areas of the world.

EpiSurveyor replaces cumbersome and costly paper-based data collection that can take months, and sometimes years to produce results.

"Instead of collecting data today to plan for a campaign next year, changing from that to collecting data today to plan for what we do tomorrow," Selanikio explained. "That is a pretty radical change."

Public health relies on the rapid collection of accurate data to track disease outbreaks, monitor vaccine supplies and other similar functions.

"The issue of flexibility, we need that," Data Manager Yusuf Ajack Ibrahim said. Ajack is with Kenya's Health and Sanitation Ministry and saw EpiSurveyor at work when a polio outbreak in 2006 was quickly contained, saving the lives of perhaps hundreds of children. "If you are to respond to an outbreak, I cannot wait for somebody to come all the way from the United States," he said.

This year, Joel Selanikio received the prestigious Lemelson-MIT Award for Sustainability in recognition of these innovations.  EpiSurveyor is being used by more than 500 organizations in more than 100 countries, and it is being adopted for use in areas such as agriculture and public opinion polling.

- VoA

Egypt's Grand Mufti Issues Fatwa Over Ring Tone

Egypt's top cleric wants Muslims to answer the call to prayer, but not when its ringing on their cellphones.

Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa issued a fatwa, or a religious edict, on Wednesday urging Muslims to do away with a popular fad — Quranic verses or the five daily calls to prayer as cellphone ringtones. The government-appointed cleric says such ringtones are inappropriate, misleading and demeaning to God's words.

"God's words are sacred. ... He ordered us to respect them and glorify them," Gomaa said.

Muslims are required to pray five times a day, and the time for this is announced solely with calls to prayers from mosques, Gomaa said. "The calls to prayer are to announce it is time ... using it as a ringtone is confusing and misleading."

Edicts, or fatwas, serve as advice for the pious who observe them closely. Gomaa's edict, published on the official web site of Dar al-Iftah, one of Sunni Islam's earliest institution for interpreting religion, is not binding.

Islamic ringtones are ubiquitous in this country of 80 million. They are also making the rounds in Baghdad, Saudi Arabia, the West Bank and to a lesser degree, multi-sectarian Lebanon. A group of Saudi clerics recently made a similar plea to Saudis not to use Quran for ringtones.

In Egypt, verses or calls to prayer from the holy book of Quran are not only popular as ringtones. They have become the rage with screen savers and text messages in holiday greetings. The tones can be downloaded from the Internet, mobile phone company Web sites and are advertised on TV stations.

With a rising tide of Islamic conservatism, Egyptians are increasingly peppering their lives with religious symbols, and turn to fatwas to regulate their day-to-day lives.

Head scarves are predominant among the country's Muslim women and men increasingly sport traditional beards. Quranic verses can be seen plastered as posters or stickers on cars, offices and homes. Even daily greetings have become Islamized, with people starting and ending their conversations by invoking God's name or words.

The majority of Egyptians are Sunni Muslims. There are nearly 50 million mobile phone subscribers.

For those insisting their ringtones have an Islamic character, he suggested they use Islamic hymns or religious prose.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Niger Reduces Zain, Moov's Licences Duration Over Poor Service

Niger’s communications ministry, Autorite de Regulation Multisectorielle (ARM), has reduced the duration of two mobile operators' licences in a row over quality of service, Reuters reports.

The 15-year concession awarded to Kuwait-based telecoms firm Zain in 2000 was reduced by five years, according to ARM, until a return to the stated levels of service quality is achieved. Meanwhile, a 15-year licence awarded to Moov, the brand name of West African company Atlantique Telecom, also in 2000, has been cut by three years.

ISP's Support Infraco Over Telkom Monopoly

The Internet Service Providers Association of South Africa (ISPA) has released a statement backing state-owned cable operator Broadband Infraco to break Telkom’s stranglehold over national infrastructure, reports. According to ISPA, the award of an individual-electronic communications network services (I-ECNS) licence from state regulator the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), along with its extensive fibre network which Broadband Infraco inherited from Transtel and Eskom, will allow the operator to realise its mandate of boosting the country’s broadband connectivity and bandwidth availability while lowering the cost of communications nationwide. The crippling cost of bandwidth has held back the South African data market, leaving Africa’s largest economy with a broadband penetration of just 2% at the end of September 2009.

In a press statement, ISPA said: ‘Broadband Infraco, provided it sticks to its mandate as a supplier of wholesale infrastructure to other operators and service providers, could redress this problem and help to spur greater competition in the market. At the same time, given the history of state-owned enterprises in the telecoms industry, ISPA will keep a vigilant eye on Broadband Infraco's activities to make sure that South Africa derives the maximum benefit from its activities… We believe that it is of great importance to ensure that this promising new venture does not eventually evolve into a partially privatised company with a profit motive and unfair advantages that competes against the private sector. Given the challenges facing the South African telecoms industry, we simply cannot afford to get this wrong.’

Botswana Extends SIM registration Deadline

The Botswana Telecommunications Authority (BTA) has pushed back the deadline for the nation’s mobile subscribers to register their SIM cards, the Sunday Standard reports.

Pre-paid customers of Botswana’s three wireless operators – Mascom Wireless, Orange Botswana and BTC Mobile (beMOBILE) – were originally given until 31 December 2009 to register their SIMs or face the disconnection of their service, but the deadline has since been extended to 31 January 2010.

According to BTA spokesperson Aaron Nyelesi, 85% of mobile users have registered their details, 45% of which have not yet been processed by the system. ‘We are presently converting information that we captured from paper to electronic database. After the process is complete we will then cut off the customers who have not registered,’ he added.

The BTA hopes that the registration of numbers will help the country better plan and expand the telecoms industry, as well as help curb crime. From 1 January 2010 new pay-as-you-go SIMs will be activated only after electronic registration has taken place.

Zain, Africell Fined in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone’s telecoms regulator, the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM), has fined mobile operators Lintel SL (Africell SL) and Zain Sierra Leone USD50,000 each for violating the Telecommunications Act of 2003, local daily Concord Times reports. The duo were penalised for increasing the price of their recharge cards without first consulting with NATCOM, which is the only body permitted to approve tariff increases, 30 days after an operator has notified it in writing. ‘Section 52 [of the Telecommunications Act] says GSM operators should notify the commission in writing before any increase is made, while 53 says the commission should give approval,’ NATCOM’s public affairs manager, Abdul Kuyateh, explained.

The price hike was reportedly a response to the introduction of a new Goods and Services Tax (GST) tax on 1 January 2010, which led to confusion about pricing and subsequent shortages of calling cards. It is believed that some mobile operators increased the cost from SLL1,700 (USD0.43) for 50 units to SLL2,000 after the introduction of the GST, raising protests by consumers and a rebuke by NATCOM, which ordered cellcos to restore prices to previous rates until legal issues were resolved. Kuyateh stressed that cellco Comium SL does not have to pay the fine because it agreed to reduce its tariffs immediately after a meeting with the minister of information and communication. Lintel SL and Zain have been given until 18 January to pay their respective fines, or face further action from NATCOM.

Togo: Moov Back On Air

Togolese m­obile network operator, Moov has resumed services after being suspended by the regulator last August for non-payment of license fees. The operator has signed an agreement with the Telecommunications Regulation Authority (ARPT) to pay license renewal fees of CFA 25.75 billion (US$48 million) over a twelve year period.

Some 600,000 people lost their mobile phone service as a result of the network closure. During the shut-down, a large number of subscribers moved over to the state-owned operator, Togocel.

When the network was shut-down, there was widespread protests against the move. The local Daily Guide newspaper reported at the time that protesters chanted slogans and carried placards, some of which read "MOOV Forever And Ever" and "Prez. Faure Get Our Phone Connections Back".

Moov is a subsidiary of Atlantique Telecom.

The dominant telco is the state owned Togo Cellular, with around 1.25 million customers. France Telecom's Orange seems to have an operating license but has not started services yet.

Mobinil Denies It's Late In Paying 3G Dues

­Egypt's Mobinil has refuted local media claims that it is late in making payments for its 3G radio spectrum. Although there is a delay in making the payment, the company says that this is due to the late release of radio spectrum by the telecoms regulator, not a failure at its end.

"The payment is ready and we can do it at any time," Mobinil CEO Hassan Kabbani told Reuters, adding that the payment would be made once the firm received the spectrum frequency and other information related to the licence.

The Al Borsa newspaper reported earlier this week that Mobinil had fallen behind on the EGP750 million payment.

The company faced multiple delays in being granted access to its radio spectrum in 2008 when it was originally awarded its 3G license. The company was forced to delay the launch of its network, and at the time, also deferred payments to the regulator until the spectrum was released.

MTN Ghana Deploys UMTS equipment

UMTS900 equipment has been deployed by Huawei in the MTN Ghana network. For the first time in Africa, a successful deployment of UMTS is done for voice, video and data in the 900MHz frequency band.
The network is based on Huawei’s 3900-Series Node B. A bandwidth of just 4.2 MHz is supported by the system to provide UMTS service while working seamlessly with the existing GSM network.
It is intended by the MTN to use the technology as a means of extending its 3.5G network to more rural communities.

Rwandatel Fibre-Optic Line Reaches Kigali By April

The 900km fibre-optic cable of Rwandan fixed line operator Rwandatel is expected to land in the capital Kigali by April this year, local daily New Times reports.

According to the operator’s CTO, Basilio Sadindi, the cable had been slated to land in Kigali by January 2010, but sister telco Uganda Telecom (UTL) has encountered delays in laying the cable from Ugandan capital Kampala to Masaka in the south of the country. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, UTL and Rwandatel, which are both subsidiaries of Libyan government investment vehicle LAP Green Networks, contracted Green Future in September 2009 to deliver SEACOM's fibre connection to Uganda and Rwanda.

After a full connection to the submarine cable, Rwandatel's internet subscriber base is expected to increase by 10% in the first year. After signing a contract in August last year, UTL and Rwandatel also agreed to purchase an additional 155Mbps of capacity from the SEACOM submarine cable.

Warid Acquistion Won't Affect Bharti Ratings

­Fitch Ratings has commented that Bharti Airtel's acquisition of a 70% stake in Bangladesh's Warid Telecom will not have an impact on the former's ratings. Fitch has a Long-term Issuer Default Rating of 'BBB-' with a Stable Outlook on Bharti, and notes that the incremental capex and Warid's existing debt will not materially impact Bharti's credit profile. However, the agency is currently monitoring the negative impact on Bharti's revenues stemming from irrational pricing activity by the operators in India during October-December 2009, and the pending cost of 3G pan-India license fees and its impact on Bharti's credit profile; details of India's 3G auction is expected to be announced sometime in 4QFY10.

Under the agreement with Warid, the acquisition will be partly funded by the purchase of existing shares held in Warid by the Dhabi group for a nominal consideration and the balance by way of an issuance of fresh shares at par. The acquisition will give Bharti the management and board control of the company. Bharti will make a fresh investment of USD300m to expand the network coverage and capacity of Warid in Bangladesh. Although, Bharti has yet to confirm the period over which such capex would be made, Fitch expects the same to occur over a period of 2-3 years. Fitch does not expect the incremental capex to significantly change Bharti's capex plans. Further, Fitch notes that the maximum existing debt on Warid's balance sheet is USD300m, and accordingly the same is unlikely to materially impact Fitch's forecasted net leverage expectations for Bharti.

According to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BRTC), Warid is the fourth-largest telecom operator in Bangladesh, with 2.92 million subscribers and a 5.8% subscriber market share at end-November 2009. It offers mobile services in all 64 districts of the country. At end-November 2009, the total subscriber base in Bangladesh was 50.55 million, with a penetration of 31.6%.

Bharti is one of India's leading private sector telecommunications providers, with integrated and diversified operations across mobile, fixed-line access, consumer broadband, direct-to-home television, long-distance and enterprise services. At end-November 2009, Bharti had a subscriber market share of 22.9% and a revenue market share of 33%. Bharti's FY09 reported revenues, EBITDAR and net income were INR373.5bn, INR170.6bn and INR78.6bn, respectively.

Four Listed For Zamtel Acquistion

Four bidders have been shortlisted to take a 75% stake in the state-owned telco, Zamtel. The bidders who shall proceed to the next round are India's BSNL, Libya's LAP Greencom, Unitel /Angola Cables of Angola and Russia's Altimo Holdings/VimpelCom.

The ZDA Board at meeting held on January 11, 2009 approved the recommended shortlist after detailed analysis conducted by an Evaluation Committee.

Commenting on the shortlist at a press briefing to announce the successful bidders, Mr. Muhabi Lungu, Acting Director General of the ZDA said he was happy with all four participants who have gone through to the next stage of the process. "The bids submitted were compelling, and set the stage for an exciting next phase," he added.

The four bidders will now be invited to participate in the next round of bidding, which is expected to begin during the week commencing 18 January, 2010. At the begining of this phase shortlisted bidders will be given details of the requirements and timing for the next phase of the process. Details of the bids will not be disclosed at this stage as doing so would prejudice future phases of the privatisation process.

Tanzania's Telecoms Industry Is Best Performer

Tanzania’s communications sector was the top performer in terms of the country’s national economic growth in the financial year 2008/09, with a strong increase in the mobile phone user base being the main driver.

Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Mustafa Mkulo, said the overall mobile subscriber base total grew from 9.5 million people in 2008 to 15 million last year, in the process increasing airtime revenues. The communications sector expanded by 19.2% in 2009 he went on to say, eclipsing the next best performance from the mining sector (15.6%), the financial sector (11.9%) and trade and construction, which grew by one percentage point to 10.5%.

Egyptian Court Rules Against France Telecom

With the blocking of France Telecom’s offer for minority stakes in
the Egyptian mobile operator by Egyptian court, all hopes of the
operator to take full control of ECMS were dashed. The decision was
taken after the price of €1.5bn offered by France’s group to for
outstanding stakes in ECMS, due to expire on Thursday was considered to
be too low.
The decision is pronounced as victory of Orascom Telecom, locked in
a lengthy battle with the former French monopoly for control of Egypt’s
largest mobile company. The ownership and strategy of France Telecom,
the largest mobile operator in the Middle East by subscribers will also
loom in uncertainty because of the decision.
ECMS is controlled via Mobinil by France Telecom and Orascom in which France Telecom owns 71.25%, Orascom 28.75% and Mobinil owns 51%.
The two owners have been at loggerheads for years over a strategy for
the Egyptian operator.

Zain Could Be Planning Syria Investment

­Kuwait's Zain is reported to be interested in investing in the Syrian mobile market, either through an acquisition of an operator license, or a stake in an existing operator. The country currently has two networks, locally owned Syriatel and South African owned, MTN Syria.

During 2008, the U.S. Department of the Treasury blacklisted Syriatel due to its links with Rami Makhluf, which the US government has blacklisted due to his connections with the government. Any investment by Zain in the company would have to overcome that political hurdle.

Kuwait's Al Anbaa newspaper reported that officials from Zain have met with the Syrian telecoms ministry to work out a suitable manner for the company to enter the market. However, Zain denied being interested in the market when rumours first emerged early last year.

The Syrian government has also been considering offering a 3rd mobile license for well over a year.

Figures from the Mobile World analysts note that the country ended the first half of this year with an estimated 8.6 million mobile phone users - representing a population penetration level of around 42%.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Kenya To Issue 3G Licences At US$25 million

Kenya's telecoms regulator, the CCK has confirmed that it will hold the fee for 3G licenses at Sh1.9 billion (US$25 million) - despite calls from the mobile networks for the fee to be lowered.

"Please note that the determined 3G license fee is $25 million for any operator who seeks that license," the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) said in an email to Reuters. "It is applicable equally across the board."

Although Safaricom aquired a license in 2007 for the full fee of US$25 million, the other operators have claimed that the fee is too high for the market and been calling for a reduction. Safaricom has said that it would seek a refund on the difference if new operators are offered licenses at a lower rate.

Zain has applied for a license, and is planning a network launch in the first half of this year.

 Safaricom had 13.8 million subscribers at the end of June, compared to 2.4 million for Zain.

MTN Rwanda Deploys Aradial AAA System For Wi-Fi Service

Radius server and billing solutions provider Aradial has announced that Rwandan telecoms operator MTN Rwanda has deployed its Aradial AAA and Policy Control solution to provide Wi-Fi services to the city of Kigali.

The solution integrates with access controllers to manage Wi-Fi base stations and operates with Ericsson's intelligent network over the provisioning infrastructure of MTN to ensure zero charging leakages in the operator's pre-paid billing. ‘As a leading communications provider, we are committed to providing our customers with reliable and affordable services,’ commented Rami Farah, CTO of MTN Rwanda, adding, ‘The new solution will enable us to exercise full control over the usage of our hotspots very cost effectively, while improving our subscribers' service experience.’

The solution will allow the Rwandan operator to offer better internet connectivity to its customers, increasing its profitability while eliminating the overheads associated with customer provisioning, authorisation and accounting.

Ghana Plans To Set Up Clearing House To Monitor IDD Calls

Ghana’s Minister of Communications, Haruna Iddrisu, is quoted by the GNA as saying the country could make an additional USD50 million per annum from incoming international calls if it set up a telephone clearing house to monitor all inbound international calls.

The news agency goes on to say the government intends to establish the clearing house this year, designed to monitor all inbound calls in order to check fraud in the operations of the international gateway system. ‘The National Communications Authority has been legally empowered to effectively collaborate with telecom operators to work towards the development of a reliable telephone clearing house database,’ Iddrisu is quoted as saying.

Four ZAMTEL Bidders Submit Bids

Of the eight companies shortlisted in the sale process of a 75% stake in Zambian fixed line incumbent Zambia Telecommunications Company (Zamtel), only three have submitted bids. According to the Times of Zambia the three foreign companies to submit their offers to the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) for the telco are India’s Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), Unitel of Angola and Libya-based LAP Greencom.

A fourth bid, from a consortium of Russia’s Vimpelcom and the telecoms arm of the Alfa Group, Altimo, was understood to have been sent on time, but reportedly arrived at the ZDA offices five minutes after the submission deadline as a result of ‘logistical reasons’. The bid however was still considered, and the ZDA board confirmed that Altimo’s non-binding offer had been accepted today. The four companies that had been shortlisted but chose not to bid were Telkom South Africa, BSNL’s fellow state-owned Indian telco Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL), Portugal Telecom and a consortium of Egypt-based Orascom Telecom and its subsidiary Telecel Globe.

ZDA acting director general, Muhabi Lungu, after opening the bids said the ZDA would now study the offers, while also passing the details on to the board of Zamtel for its evaluation. Mr Lungu has stated that the ZDA will announce which of the companies will move on to the next stage in the sale process on 11 January 2010, where another due diligence would be undertaken before the successful bidder is chosen.

NCC Introduces New Interconnection Rates

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has introduced a new set of interconnection rates for voice and SMS termination with the hope that retail tariffs will be cut by as much as NGN4 (USD4.98) per minute, local newspaper This Day reports.

From 31 December 2009 interconnection rates for mobile voice termination provided by new entrants (defined by the commission as companies which have been operating for less than four years) irrespective of originating network, will be set at NGN10.12. The rates will fall to NGN9.48 on 31 December 2010, NGN8.84 on 31 December 2011 and NGN8.20 on 31 December 2012 (from which date all termination rates will be symmetric).

The NCC hopes the revised interconnection rates will encourage new entrants in the sector to offer services at more affordable rates to subscribers. Operators not defined as new entrants must set a mobile voice termination rate of NGN8.20 from 31 December 2009. Fixed voice termination rates have been set at NGN10.12 from 31 December 2009, NGN9.48 from 31 December 2010, NGN8.84 from 31 December 2011 and NGN8.20 from 31 December 2012.

The SMS termination rate of new entrants will start at NGN1.94 from 31 December 2009 and fall gradually to NGN1.02 from 31 December 2012. Other mobile operators will charge NGN1.02 from the start of 2010.

Sudan: Canartel Acquires i-conX Billing System

Interconnect billing solutions provider i-conX Solutions has announced it has successfully deployed its i-conX system to Sudanese fixed line operator Canar Telecommunication Company (Canartel) to rate and bill the operator’s domestic and international interconnect traffic.

Canartel’s CEO, Ali Bin Jarsh, commented: ‘As the Sudanese market becomes more competitive, so the implementation of a modern interconnect billing solution is recognised as a key requirement for Canartel to maintain its leading status. The i-conX solution has been thoroughly tested, and found to provide a capable platform to support the continued growth of our wholesale business.’

Canartel became Sudan's first alternative fixed line operator, after it won the country’s second national operator licence in November 2004 with a bid of EUR45 million (USD64 million). It launched in November 2005 offering voice, data and broadband internet services based on a 3,500km fibre-optic next generation network (NGN), VSAT and wireless in the local loop (WiLL) CDMA technology, with a strong focus on business clients.

Cameron Acts on Internet Fraud As It's Reported to Have the Riskiest Sites

Cameroon starts the new year as home to the world's riskiest Internet sites according to cyber-security firm McAfee. The government says it is drafting new laws to punish Internet fraud.

Cameroon's place atop the Internet fraud list is partly a result of the alphabet.

Criminals are taking advantage of Cameroon's Internet suffix ".cm" to trick careless Web surfers who mistype the popular ".com" suffix. By establishing false ".cm" sites that appear similar to the ".com" Web page people thought they were going to, criminals can acquire personal information for identity theft and spread spyware and malicious downloads.

The U.S. cyber security firm McAfee says more than one-third of Web sites hosted in Cameroon are suspicious, putting the West African nation ahead of China, Samoa, the Philippines and the former Soviet Union as the world's riskiest destination for Internet surfers.

But Cameroon's minister of posts and telecommunications, Jean-Pierre Biyiti Bi Essam, says the McAfee study does not reflect everything that is going on in Cameroon.

Biyiti Bi Essam says Cameroon is still at the beginning of its Internet development, and it is at this moment that McAfee is making its judgment. He says President Paul Biya's government has read the report and is responding, first by moving to improve security.

Biyiti Bi Essam says Cameroon is working with South Korea on a project to improve Internet security. He says the study has been completed and action will soon be taken to boost Internet security, electronic commerce, and electronic banking in Cameroon. The minister says the government is also drafting laws against cyber criminality.

Tougher criminal penalties are a big part of solving the problem as McAfee says cyber-criminals target regions that pose the least risk of being caught and where registering sites is cheap and convenient.

Cameroon's government has its own problems with computer hackers as official government sites were crashed several times last year, preventing people from accessing on-line information. Web sites for Cameroonian newspapers have also been hacked, sometimes to place advertisements for the sale of protected species.

McAfee's third annual report on worldwide Internet security says the countries with the safest domains are Japan, Ireland, and Croatia.

 - Voice of America.

Tunisian Market Prepares for Shake-up As France Telecom Enters

The Tunisian telecoms market is to gain additional competition with the entry of France Telecom in early 2010. However, Onda Analytics believes the dynamics of the Tunisian telecoms market could change further, with many parties interested in the 35% stake in Tunisie Télécom held by EIT, a holding company for telecoms investments made by Dubai Holdings. The increasingly competitive environment in Tunisia may prompt EIT to consider listening to offers from operators interested in joining the market. Meanwhile, the other 65% shareholding is owned by the Tunisian government, which this week announced a privatisation drive for 2010.

As a result of the pressure from both France Telecom and existing mobile operator Tunisiana, Tunisie Télécom must pursue measures to defend its current market position. Report lead author, Daniel Jones, says "many MENA operators have experience of defending against strong competition and are looking for attractive acquisition targets. As a result of the benefits this experience could bring to Tunisie Télécom, these parties' valuations may provoke EIT's interest."

Onda Analytic's latest report, assesses this potential investment opportunity, as well as forecasting fixed line, broadband and mobile markets.

The incumbent, Tunisie Télécom, is likely to suffer most from the entry of France Telecom, given that the new entrant will be present in fixed line, broadband and mobile markets. Tunisie Télécom's mobile market share is forecast to decline from 50% in 2009 to 34% by 2018. Its fixed line business is also set to be put under pressure from France Telecom, with Tunisie Télécom's fixed share to fall from a current monopoly position to 77% of fixed lines by 2018.

Tunisian mobile operators generated total mobile revenues of US$1.6 billion in 2009. As a result of relatively high mobile penetration and with tariffs set to fall with the entry of the third mobile operator, total mobile revenue is forecast to grow modestly over the coming years. Fixed line growth is expected to buck the trend of many markets with a forecast increase in lines of 30% to 2018, from 1.4 million in 2009, driven by the adoption of broadband services.

Orascom Loses Appeal In Case Against France Telecom

An Egyptian regulator has turned down an appeal by Orascom Telecom against its previous ruling that could allow a France Telecom subsidiary to buy up Egypt's biggest mobile services provider.

The Egyptian Financial Services Authority said in a statement published on Sunday that it has upheld its earlier decision approving an offer by Orange Participations to buy up OT's shares in the Egyptian Company for Mobile Services for 245 Egyptian pounds ($45.40) per share.

The dispute stems from an arbitration court ruling in March in favor of the French company. The Paris-based company holds a 71.25 percent stake in Mobinil. The court authorized it to acquire Orascom's 28.75 percent stake in Mobinil.

- AP News