Monday, May 31, 2010

MNP To Begin In Nigeria During H2

Nigeria's tele­coms regulator, Nigerian Com- munications Com- mission (NCC) has confirmed that the delayed Mobile Number Portability will be introduced in the second-half of this year, confirming earlier statements about the issue.

Mr. Stephen Bello, the acting vice-chairman of the Commission, told IT News Africa that  it had become necessary to introduce MNP because of the high telecom subscriber base in the country.
Mr. Earnest Ndukwe, former CEO of NCC, had set May 2009 as the date for the announcement of a timetable for MNP takeoff. On the mode of implementation, he said that the NCC would engage the services of an independent company to oversee the process. He also revealed that the local operators were on board and ready.

Earlier this year, the NCC retained the services of KPMG Consultancy Services as consultants for the development of Regulatory and Technical Framework for implementation of number portability in Nigeria.

According to figures from the Mobile World analysts, the country ended last year with 73 million mobile subscribers, representing a population penetration level of 50%. The market shares of the operators are: MTN Nigeria (42.2%), Glo Mobile (22.5%), Zain (20.2%), Etisalat Nigeria (4.7%), Visafone (3.7%), Multi-Links Telecommunications (2.7%), Starcomms (2.3%) and Reliance Telecommunications (1.7%)

South Africa Plans to Ban Porn on Phones and Internet

South Africa's Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Hon. Malusi Gigaba has proposed a bill that would impose a total ban on pornography on the internet and mobile phones. The Internet and Cell Phone Pornography Bill proposes that pornography be filtered out at the tier one service providers to avoid it entering the country - in effect a Great Firewall of South Africa.

The current legislation, particularly the Film and Publication Act, provide of the ban of child pornography whereas the proposed Internet and Cell Phone Bill provides for the total ban of pornography on these electronic channels using the wider definition of pornography already available in the Sexual Offence Act.
Graham Cluley of security firm Sophos said previous attempts by other nations to ban pornography had not been successful.

"One wonders how on earth a democracy like South Africa would be able to introduce such a system, as it's not as though the state has 100% control over telecommunications," he told BBC News.

"Although their intentions may be honourable, it's barking mad to think you will be able to completely outlaw pornography from the web which, is after all, the modern equivalent of the wild west."

The Deputy Minister has also briefed the Justice Alliance of South Africa (JASA) about the request he had made to the Law Reform Commission (LRC) to provide advice on the possibility of legislating against pornography on the internet, television and mobile phones. The Deputy Minister awaits the response of the LRC, who are currently doing research on the matter.

Mr Gigaba said, "Cars are already provided with brakes and seatbelts, it is not an extra that consumers have to pay for. There is no reason why the internet should be provided without the necessary restrictive mechanisms built into it."

It was agreed that JASA will have another meeting with the Film and Publication Board (FPB) to explore the matter of the draft Bill further. The draft Bill will provide input to the process already underway at the LRC towards the total ban of pornography on the internet.

MTN Wants Interconnection Fees Investigated

MTN's Zambia subsidiary has submitted a request to the Zambia Competition Commission (ZCC) to investigate the interconnection charges it pays for terminating calls onto other networks. MTN's chief marketing officer, Ernst Fonterne­l told the Zambian Chronicle that the ZCC should determine the causes of high interconnectivity costs in Zambia, to help to come up with solutions on how to reduce the costs.

"We have put up an application through ZCC to look into the high connectivity rates within Zambia between the local players," he said. He added that  PricewaterhouseCoopers was also conducting a study on the high interconnectivity rates which would be completed by the end of next month.

The country currently has three mobile network operators with the following market shares; Zain (70%), MTN (20%) and Zamtel (10%) - based on statistics from the Mobile World subscriber database.

Ghana To Assemble Mobile Phones

Ghana based rLG Communications has made the bold boast that it will create 30,000 jobs within a year with the opening of the first mobile handset assembly plant in the country. rLG phones recently signed a US$2.5 million contract with Huawei to produce 100,000 phones in Ghana.

Mr Roland Agambire, Chief Executive Officer of the company, told the Ghana News Agency, "rLG Communications has already concluded plans for the construction of a state of the art multi-purpose mobile phone assembling plant in Ghana, the first of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa."
"We are looking forward to capturing 80 per cent of the market by the close of the year, particularly because of the feedback we get from patrons of our r-72 phone, which looks very much like Nokia E72." he added/

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Only Gets Mobile TV Licence as Others Fail in Bid

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has awarded domestic terrestrial TV broadcaster a licence to provide broadcast mobile TV, but disqualified all three other bidders, reports Broadband TV News.

Two bids were rejected due to mistakes in their applications: Multichoice Africa’s submission was late whilst Super5Media simply failed to bind all copies of its papers.

Meanwhile, an application from The Mobile TV Consortium was deemed ineligible as it does not currently hold a broadcast licence, a pre-requisite for a mobile TV concession. MultiChoice has been piloting a mobile TV service in collaboration with South African cellco MTN for the past few years.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Mobile Money Transforms Lives In Developing World

Mobile banking has transformed the way people in the developing world transfer money and now it is poised to offer more sophisticated banking services which could make a real difference to people's lives.

Currently 2.7bn people living in the developing world do not have access to any sort of financial service. At the same time 1bn people throughout Africa, Latin America and Asia own a mobile phone.

As a result, mobile money services are springing up all over the developing world. According to mobile industry group the GSMA there are now 65 mobile money systems operating around the globe, with a further 82 about to be launched.

Most offer basic services such as money transfers, which are incredibly important for migrant workers who need to send cash back to their families.

M-Pesa in Kenya is perhaps the most famous of these and it has attracted 9.4 million Kenyans in just under three years.

Now it is ready to move to the next stage. M-Pesa, has recently partnered with Kenya's Equity Bank to offer subscribers a savings account, called M-Kesho.
Money Matters

It means their M-Pesa accounts will no longer be just about money transfer. Instead, they will become virtual bank accounts, allowing customers to open saving accounts, earn interest on their money and access credit and insurance products.

It is an extension to an earlier agreement with Equity Bank to allow M-Pesa customers to access their funds at ATMs around the country.

CGAP, a financial think tank based at the World Bank, was at the launch of M-Kesho.

"Kenya is sending a message to the world: poor people want savings accounts. Mobile banking is a powerful way to deliver savings services to the billion people worldwide who have a cell phone but not a bank account," said CGAP chief executive Alexia Latortue.

Meanwhile in Uganda, MTN, a mobile firm that runs a similar mobile money service has ratcheted up 890,000 users in its first year of operation. This is double what it forecast.

Richard Mwami, head of mobile money at MTN predicts the service will have 2m users by the end of the year, and 3.5m by 2012.

He admits that one of the biggest challenges of setting up the system was regulating the agents that provide the cash.

"We have had liquidity problems where customers walk into the shop and there is no money," he said.

And fraud is also a problem, running to one or two cases every couple of weeks. Some 60% of users live in rural areas, where literacy rates are low and agents are often local shopkeepers, authorised to take deposits and issue cash.  "There is ignorance about how the service works," he said.

MTN has now begun an education programme, promoting and explaining the service on national radio.
Uganda, mobile money Only 38% of Ugandan citizens have a bank account. Micro-economy

Gavin Krugel, head of mobile money at the GSM Association (GSMA) believes agents are more trusted than traditional banks.

"Banks have revolving doors and armed security guards. Consumers believe they are for the rich only," he said.

By contrast, agents tend to be trusted retailers who have been selling airtime to the same customers for the past ten years.

"Every one of the agents are trained and those that misbehave are taken out of the system," he said.

Aletha Ling, executive director of Fundamo, the platform behind MTN Uganda's mobile system, said the challenges are worth it because it is easy to see how it is benefitting customers.

"Money gets sent from the cities to the rural areas where it is required. Less cash passes hands so it is much more secure. Previously people were travelling with huge amounts of money," she said.

"In one fishing village I visited it had created its own micro-economy," she said.

In Uganda the banking population is low with only 38% having a bank account and only 7% using more than one banking product.

Mobile banking can also provide a route out of poverty, according to the newly-appointed UK International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell.

Speaking at the GSMA's mobile money summit in Rio de Janeiro this week he said:

"Access to basic financial services - the ability to save, transfer and invest even small amounts of money - can make a huge difference to people around the world. It can help a farmer to survive a bad harvest, or provide a slum-dweller with the vital capital needed to start a small business,"

This is a view echoed by Mr Mwami.  The mobile phone is demystified. People are confident about using it and the market is there for the taking," he said.
Disruptive technology

Last year Bill Gates pledged $5m to help the world's poor access banking accounts. The Mobile Money for the Unbanked Fund is being administered by the GSMA Foundation.

It has announced the projects which will benefit from the money.

It includes Bangladesh's Grameenphone which hopes to enhance its mobile money service with services such as a mobile ticketing service for Bangladesh Railways.

Money will also go to Orange Money to introduce more advanced financial services in Western Africa, where less than 4% of the population have banking.

Safaricom, the mobile firm behind M-Pesa, will get a grant to help non-government organisations and the Kenyan government get much-needed money to vulnerable households in informal settlements in Nairobi.

In Cambodia, the majority of payroll is given in cash and Cellcard is hoping to set up money transfer, bill payment and airtime top-up to urban migrants desperate to send money home to famiies in rural areas.

Similar projects in Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and Fiji will also also benefit from the fund.

Mobile banking is a slow burn, said Mr Krugel, but a potentially revolutionary one as long as it is born from what consumers ask for.

"In many of these markets offering a fully-fleged bank account would be a waste of time. Consumers need to understand the basics first," he said.

"At first they don't trust the system. Then they can see that it works and eventually they start to leave some money in their account. This is how they start lifting themselves out of poverty," he said.

The next stage is more sophisticated services such as funeral or hospital insurance.

"In African culture, for example, they believe strongly in respect and funeral insurance is extremely important," he said.

Traditional banks are now beginning to wake up to the threat posed by mobile services and are increasingly partnering with the mobile firms to tap the potential of a whole new market.

"M-Pesa was sufficiently disruptive that it forced the banks to respond. If the banks do see these services as a threat they will realise there is opportunity at the base of the economic pyramid and that is a job well done by the mobile industry," said Mr Krugel.

- BBC Online

MTN Mobile Money Helps Revolutionise Money Transfer

Few Ugandans have access to a bank branch or an ATM. But most do have a cellphone within easy reach - and this reality is driving the world's fastest-growing mobile payments service, MTN's Mobile Money.
Launched in March 2009, the service has attracted 890 000 MTN subscribers, says MTN Uganda's head of mobile money, Richard Mwami. The number of users will hit 2m by year-end and 3,5m - more than one in six MTN Uganda subscribers - by 2012, he predicts.

MTN's benchmark is UK mobile network operator Vodafone's M-Pesa service, offered by Kenyan operator Safaricom. With 9,5m users - 40% of Kenya's adult population - M-Pesa is described by GSM Association, the global mobile network operator body, as the world's most successful mobile payments service.

After one year, adoption of MTN Uganda's payments service exceeds that of M-Pesa at the same stage, says Reg Swart, senior vice-president of Cape Town-based Fundamo, technology supplier to MTN's project. Over US300m in transactions have already been processed, he adds.

A key factor in the Uganda success is marketing through 2500 representatives, says Mwami. Direct contact and educating subscribers are critical to growing the service. Also vital is easy access to cash remitted to users, or enabling them to convert cash into e-money, he says. This is achieved through agents such as village shop owners. Mwami says it is "a good proposition" for agents. He explains they earn commission on transactions and receive liquidity management assistance from MTN's banking partner, Standard Bank's Stanbic Bank Uganda unit.

Tanzania's Broadband Backbone Goes Live

The Citizen newspaper reports that Tanzania has activated its National Information Communication and Technology Broadband Backbone (NICTBB), making it available in 16 regions after the completion of the first phase of its construction. The NICTBB is the terrestrial continuation of the fibre-optic submarine cable link that recently landed in Dar es Salaam, and which it is claimed, has already led to a sizeable drop in internet capacity charges.

The NICTBB project was launched in 2008 and is expected to cost about TZS251 billion (USD167 million) when it is completed countrywide by the end of 2010. Its operational management will be handled by national PTO Tanzania Telecommunications Company Limited (TTCL). The first part of the project covers three routes, Northern Ring I that has points of presence (PoP) in Babati, Arusha, Moshi and Tanga. And Nothern Ring II covering Dar es Salaam, Morogoro, Iringa, Dodoma and Singida. Meanwhile, the third route (Western Link I and II) will have PoPs in Shinyanga, Mwanza, Geita, Biharamulo, Rusumo and Kambanga.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Safaricom Profits Up 44%

Safaricom, Kenya’s largest mobile network operator by subscribers, said full year profit jumped 44%, as revenue from data services - including its mobile money transfer service MPESA - increased. Net income climbed to KES15.15 billion (USD190 million) in the twelve months to 31 March 2010, from KES10.5 billion a year earlier.

Sales climbed 19% to KES83.96 billion. Safaricom, which is 40% owned by Vodafone, competes with Telkom Kenya, Zain and Essar Telecom Kenya; at the end of March it claimed 15.79 million customers.

Orange Money Launched in Senegal, Mali & Madagascar

Orange has launched its mobile payment service, Orange Money, in three additional African countries - Senegal, Mali and Madagascar - in recent weeks. These launches mark a turning point in the Group's ambition to launch Orange Money across its footprint in Africa. Orange Money is an innovative, mobile phone-based payment system that allows customers to carry out simple banking operations and transactions in total security. Such services offer a huge potential in Africa where less than 10% of the population have access to a bank account and yet over a third have a mobile phone.

The service allows mobile customers to deposit and withdraw money, to transfer money, to easily buy call credit, to pay for goods at certain retail partners and to pay bills. The service is available for all Orange customers whether or not they have a bank account. The Orange Money account is activated free of charge and without any minimum deposit. Orange Money is built around a system that guarantees transactions against the risk of theft or fraud and that is fully compliant with the regulations.

The launch of Orange Money in Senegal, Mali and Madagascar follows on from the launch of the service in the Cote d'Ivoire in December 2008 after extensive trials. Commenting on this launch, Marc Rennard, Orange’s executive director for the Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific Region, said: ‘Orange Money is a very important part our strategy in Africa and emerging markets.

Mobile payment services have the potential to bring cost-effective and secure access to banking services to people with low-incomes, who often live in rural or remote areas. By providing our customers with the means to save money, pay bills and run their businesses, we are not only reinforcing customer fidelity but we are also able to play an active role in the economic development of the country’.

Orange Money will also be launched in Niger and Kenya in the coming months, and will eventually be extended across the Group's entire footprint in Africa and the Middle East.

Vodafone Considers Pulling Out of Egypt Subsidiary

British mobile group Vodafone is understood to be examining the possibility of selling its controlling stake in its Egyptian subsidiary, the Financial Times reports. According to the broadsheet, citing people familiar with the matter, Vodafone has already started initial negotiations regarding the potential divestment of its 55% holding in Vodafone Egypt, with fixed line incumbent Telecom Egypt (TE) mentioned as the interested party in a deal that could be worth up to GBP3 billion (USD4.3 billion). Despite claims that talks have been ongoing for around a month though, Vodafone declined to comment on the matter, while TE said that it was unaware of any discussions.

The revelation comes after Tarek Tantawy, CEO of TE, which already owns 45% of Vodafone Egypt, said that the fixed line operator was mulling its options for a full entry into the domestic mobile sector; it is believed that if no agreement is reached between Vodafone and TE that the latter may consider trying to secure its own wireless licence, should the government as rumoured offer a fourth mobile concession in the future.

Additionally, should a deal be reached it would also underline the willingness of Vodafone Group CEO Vittorio Colao to streamline his company’s portfolio, in line with comments made by the executive earlier this month stating that the group was looking to focus on developing its European units, alongside its interests in sub-Saharan Africa and India.

Protests Over Mobile Services InGhana

Thousands of people took to the streets of Ghana's capital city of Accra last week to protest at the alleged poor quality of mobile phone networks in the country. As part of the protest, the Consumer Protection Agency (CPA) lead a call for mobile phone users to switch off their phones on Thursday morning as part of the protests.

The demonstrators, mostly students, danced and sang as they passed through the main streets of the capital city with placards, some of which read "we are tired of your poor services", "stop tricky promotions" and "MTN, Tigo, Kasapa, Vodafone and Zain, the value is the same."

The protest ended at the premises of the Ministry of Communications, where the head of the CPA, Nana Prempeh Aduhene presented a petition to the deputy communications minister, Dr Nartey Siaw Sapore. He in turn assured the protesters that the government would look into the petition and take necessary actions.
Prempeh Aduhene told the Xinhua news agency that the response they got from the public during the demonstration was an indication that Ghanaians were indeed fed up with the poor services of the telecom companies.

Local media estimated that the six-hour switch-off protest would lose the mobile networks around US$6 million in revenues.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Kenya SIM Registration Deadline is July 30

Kenya’s 20 millions mobile subscribers have been given until July 30 2010 to register their SIM cards or risk disconnection.

This comes on the back of a directive from the government, ordering mobile service providers to register all subscribers in a bid to reduce cell phone related crimes.

Speaking at an event on Monday, Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) Director General Charles Njoroge said mobile operators would also be required to regularly update their subscribers’ personal details.
“This exercise is bound to enhance our general security and I would like to urge operators to make the process easy and friendly for subscribers,” Mr Njoroge said.

According to Capital FM, subscribers are now required to furnish their line operators with postal and physical addresses, date of birth and alternative telephone numbers, as well as their identity card numbers.

Information and Communication Permanent Secretary Bitange Ndemo said the ministry was fast tracking the implementation of the Data Protection Bill, currently before cabinet, to ensure the data collected can be used by the police force.

Commenting on this development, Zain Kenya Managing Director Rene Meza said: “We understand the process is very important and will therefore take time. We would like to urge the government and the CCK not to give us a cut-off date because we will have to actively engage with all stakeholders.”

Telkom Kenya Chief Executive Mickael Ghossein echoed Mr Meza’s sentiments adding SIM card registration brings with it a number of challenges.

“The main challenge for the future will be the accuracy of the data because while we register we are not sure whether the data we are given is correct,” Mr Ghossein said.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Glo Fails to Glow In Ghana?

Ghanaian start-up Glo Mobile Ghana is considering pulling out of the country, the Daily Graphic quotes an unnamed ‘authoritative source’ at the company as saying. The would-be operator, a wholly owned subsidiary of Nigeria-based Globacom which is itself majority owned by Nigerian petrochemical firm Conpetro, a venture of the entrepreneur Mike Adenuga, says it faces significant challenges from ‘interests’ seemingly hell-bent on sabotaging its nationwide launch plans.

The unnamed source told the paper that since Glo Mobile was awarded its GSM frequencies by the National Communications Authority (NCA), it has faced obstacles in terms of seeking approval for the swift deployment of its base stations, an encroachment on the frequencies it was awarded by the NCA and the repeated vandalism of its advertising billboards.

The cellco’s officials claim that its efforts to effect a speedy rollout have been undermined by ‘some forces’ which have been ‘deliberately working around the clock to cripple its operation and prevent it from rolling out quickly, to the detriment of the Ghanaian society’.

Mweb Targest SME's With Uncapped WiMAX Service

Mweb has launched an uncapped WiMAX offering targeted at the SME market. Speeds of up to 512kbps will be charged at ZAR299 (USD37.79) per month, speeds of up to 1Mbps will cost ZAR999, and a 4Mbps line will cost ZAR2,795, which is comparable to the costs of an uncapped ADSL package. The WiMAX service will be available in selected areas, including Sandton, Boksburg, Isando and Midrand, in Johannesburg and N1 City and the central business district in Cape Town. The company said it was using an open spectrum band for the service initially, while hoping to obtain spectrum in the 2.6GHz and 3.5GHz bands when the anticipated spectrum auction takes place.

In July 2009 the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) published draft regulations which outline the procedures and criteria for granting spectrum licences and suggested that four operators will be allocated 30MHz each in the 2.6GHz band, while licences in the 3.5GHz band will be awarded covering specific geographic catchment areas, with each operator receiving a maximum of 28MHz of spectrum per region.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Equity Bank, Safaricom Launch M-Pesa Bank Account

Kenya's Equity Bank and Safaricom have launched a bank account that lets customers transfer money to and from accounts of the mobile operator's money transfer service M-Pesa via their mobile handsets as well as enjoy other benefits that come with a bank account. The new service will target customers who are looking for the convenience of a bank account that uses M-Pesa as the tool to deposit money into their accounts. Customers will not have to go to the bank to check their account balances. The mobile system will allow the customer to check their last five transactions on their linked account.

With the M-Kesho Account, customers will be able to get pre-qualified personal accident insurance, access to short-term loan facilities ranging from KES 100, and interest on the mobile account from as little as KES 1.
The application is built with the ability to score a customer's credit rating using a six-month history of his M-Pesa balances. The customer can request the facility through his phone, and the bank will respond if approved by loading the money into his M-Kesho Account. Customers will also be able to apply for short-term credit from their handsets.

The partners intend to carry out media promotions on these services to educate customers on how to register for the M-Pesa Equity Bank Account. M-Pesa agents will be encouraged to offer these services in their outlets to further supplement their commissions. The product is currently available in four agent locations with plans to roll out to over 5,000 in the next few months. The account targets the over 4.5 million Equity Bank and over 9.5 million M-Pesa customers looking to link the two services.

The two firms have previously offered all registered M-Pesa customers the ability to withdraw M-Pesa from the over 550 Equity Bank ATMs.

Main One Installation To Ghana & Nigeria Complete

Main One Cable Company has completed the installation of the first phase of its high capacity fibre-optic cable system from Seixal in Portugal through the West African coast to Ghana and Nigeria, This Day reports.

Alongside system supplier Tyco Electronics Subsea Communications (SubCom), Main One has finished installing terminal equipment in Seixal, with work underway at the system's landing sites in Lagos in Nigeria and Accra in Ghana. According to Main One’s CEO, Funke Opeke, Phase 1 of the system spans 6,800km and will provide much-needed international capacity into West Africa where rapid growth in telecoms has been blighted by limited global connectivity.

Phase 2 of the project will see extension of the cable to South Africa. ‘We are thrilled to say that the challenge of completing the marine work for the Main One cable system is behind us and that we will soon be able to concentrate on the critical mission of providing high-capacity bandwidth to regions of the globe where it is long overdue,’ Opeke noted, adding ‘together with SubCom, we have met our goals on schedule and we eagerly look towards delivering capacity to our customers and executing plans for expansion of the network.’

The Main One cable system is scheduled to go live in June 2010.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Vodacom Profits Fall By 31%

The Vodacom Group, the African telecoms group 65% owned by Vodafone, has said its annual net profit fell 31% despite higher revenues, largely due to an impairment charge taken in the first half of the financial year. In the twelve months ended 31 March 2010 revenue was ZAR58.54 billion (USD72.3 billion) an increase of 5.6% on the year before. Net profit attributable to equity shareholders was ZAR4.2 billion down from ZAR6.09 billion while operating profit decreased 6.4% to ZAR11.24 billion mainly due to impairment losses of ZAR3.37 billion and a 10% increase in depreciation and amortisation. The group EBITDA margin rose from 32.8% to 33.8% and EBITDA increased by 8.7% to ZAR19.78 billion.

Vodacom reported that customer numbers in its domestic market declined by 4.9% to 26.3 million as a result of a 1.9 million reduction in pre-paid customers following the implementation of legislation in South Africa. Blended ARPU was ZAR132 per month, down ZAR1 on the previous year, while minutes of use was steady at 80 per month. Internationally, Vodacom ended fiscal 2009/10 with 13.63 million customers, an increase of 13.7% year-on-year, with the star performer being Mozambique, which saw its customer base jump 42.5% to 2.33 million.

Zain Q1 Results Excludes Details of Africa Operations