Thursday, September 30, 2010

Telkom Kenya Cuts Broadband Rates By 50%

Telkom Kenya has announced that it has reduced broadband costs by 50% as part of a one-month promotion. The telco claims that the new promotion has been informed by market research pointing to an increase in demand amongst students and young professionals. Telkom Kenya CEO Mickael Ghossein commented: ‘If you were spending KES150 (USD1.78) to buy an internet bundle of 50MB you will now be able to get 100MB for the same amount; for KES850, you will get 1000MB instead of the 500MB that you got previously’. Industry insiders view the move as an attempt to secure its leadership in the burgeoning broadband market. Based on retaliatory trends exhibited in the past, rival Safaricom, which recently entered the Kenyan broadband market, is expected to announce a similar move in the near future.

In other news, Telkom’s move has increased the pressure on Kenya’s long-standing internet provider AccessKenya, which has focused on corporate leased lines and high-end residential customers since its inception. AccessKenya announced this week that its turnover dropped by 17.5% to KES876 million at the end of 1H10; this year the firm opted to increase bandwidth capacity to its customers but freeze its prices. A company spokesperson said that growth of the firm's revenues would depend on ‘strong growth in both the corporate and residential customer base, driven by higher speeds and lower costs offered to customers’. However, Telkom’s move suggests that if AccessKenya does lower its charges, its income may well be diminished even further. According to AccessKernya, the corporate leased line segment is currently its core source of income, accounting for 92% of the firm's revenues in 1H10.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Competitors Follow Warid as Price War Rages In Uganda

Graphic: New Vision
ZAIN, MTN and Uganda Telecom yesterday announced a reduction in call rates as the tariff war took a new front in Uganda, one of Africa’s fiercest telecom markets.  Last week, Warid drew first blood by dropping call rates to sh5 per second across all networks.  The move by Warid set the stage for a furious price war as the telecom firms tried to outpace each other.

On Tuesday, MTN and UTL declared lower call rates between sh4 to sh5. But Zain quickly outmaneuvered the three by announcing sh3 per second to all networks, including Zain to Zain. It now means that Zain is the cheapest operator, charging sh180 (USD0.082) per minute to all networks. The offer applies to both prepaid and postpaid customers.

Levi Nyakundi, the Zain marketing manager for usage and retention, said the drop was permanent.  “It is a 66% price drop on the most popular tariff plan - Zain Flexi - which has been sh9 on-net and sh11 off-network,” said Nyakundi.

It was expected that Zain, bought by India's Bharti Airtel, would adopt a drastic pricing model largely on heavily discounted call charges, as happened in Kenya about two months ago, where calls are as cheap as sh81 (Ksh3).

 Uganda Telecom
Uganda Telecom had also turned the barrels to the other operators, announcing a rate of sh4 for calls from UTL to UTL and sh5 for calls to other networks.  According to a statement from UTL’s chief marketing officer, Mohamadou Konkobo, UTL customers will now spend a maximum of sh240 to make a call within the network and a maximum of sh300 to call other networks.

On its part, MTN announced a “celebration promotion” at sh3 per second on the per-second billing tariff plan and sh160 for calls within the MTN Yellowmax tariff plan. Isaac Nsereko, the MTN chief marketing officer, explained that clients on the per-minute plan will pay sh320 per minute for the first 10 minutes of the day. For the rest of the day, calls will cost sh160 within the MTN network.

On the MTN per-second tariff plan, customers will pay sh6 for the first five minutes, then sh3 per second for the rest of the day within the MTN network. Calls from MTN to other networks remain at sh6 per second all day, which remains one of the highest in the market.

Warid  Telecom
Warid CEO Madhur Taneja, whose firm sparked off the price war last week, said he was pleased that other telecoms were responding to the price reduction. “Reducing call rates is the way to go and the consumers will get value for their money and I hope that every player in the market does so,” he said. Officials from the other mobile telephone companies; Orange, Smile and i-Telecom were not available for comment yesterday.
The current price war is seen as a result of growing competition in the market as well as industry regulator Uganda Communications Commission’s recent reduction of the ceiling of interconnection fees from Shs180 to Shs130 per minute where firms fail to agree bilaterally.

It has been a feverish seven days in which telecoms have spied on each other for tariff structures booked with advertising agencies and letters to the regulator, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), with cancellation after cancellation before final tariff plans were agreed upon.

MTN boasts of about 50% of the market share. It means there are still more calls from MTN to MTN. But the telecom giant now faces stiff competition on voice that will be compounded when Bharti adapts its Asian model, where it has over 100 million subscribers.

In a letter to the UCC dated September 28, 2010, the MTN chief executive officer, Themba Khumalo, said the network had introduced the tariff to celebrate its 12 years of existence in Uganda.   “During these 12 years, we have been at the forefront of making telecommunications affordable and accessible,” Khumalo wrote.  The new MTN tariffs have been launched under the umbrella campaign labelled ‘Yarriba’.

The UCC public relations officer, Isaac Kalembe, said the development is good for the industry.  [Personally] I think we are moving in the right direction because it is the wish of UCC that the rates are reduced,” said Kalembe.

Analysts also believe this plays into the hands of the consumer who has been paying an exorbitant price compared to other regional markets, largely because of the high interconnection fees.

There has not been a response yet from Orange Uganda.  Orange is the most recent entrant to the country's mobile telecom market.

Zain Kenya Rebrands As Bharti Airtel on October 15

Zain Kenya will commence its re-branding exercise on 15 October, taking up the identity of its new owner, Indian telecom giant Bharti Airtel.

Zain has said that unlike previous re-branding exercises, when its predecessors entered the market using expensive above-the-line (ATL) strategies, Bharti Airtel will adopt corporate social responsibility (CSR) as its entry strategy, prioritising community empowerment as a key part of its branding drive. Zain has reportedly enlisted the assistance of vendors and street traders in rural markets to increase brand awareness.

A Zain Kenya official commented: ‘This is the first time a telecoms firm will be launching in the country with less activity recorded in the above-the-line strategies and more emphasis on ground activities.’ The shift to Bharti Airtel marks the fourth time that Zain Kenya has changed its brand name during its ten year operating history.

The operator entered the Kenyan wireless market as Kencell in 2000, before changing to Celtel Kenya in 2004 and Zain Kenya in 2008. As at June 2010 Zain Kenya reported 1.89 million subscribers, giving it a 9.4% market share.

Telecom Egypt Mulls MVNO Option

Egypt’s fixed line incumbent Telecom Egypt (TE) is reportedly mulling the option of setting up a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), according to Reuters, citing local press reports.

hile TE already holds a 45% stake in the country’s second largest cellco by subscribers, Vodafone Egypt, it is believed that it is considering the MVNO venture as a way to become more involved in the country’s mobile sector, prompted in part by continued fixed to mobile substitution.

TE had earlier this year looked to increase its stake in Vodafone Egypt, but the cellco’s UK-based parent company, Vodafone Group, ended negotiations in June 2010 over a possible divestment of its interest in its Egyptian subsidiary – little more than two weeks after the parties first began discussions.

TE had approached the British group in April 2010 to sound out the possibility of a possible deal, which had been valued at between GBP3 billion and GBP4 billion (USD4 billion-USD7 billion).

Mozambique SIM Registration Deadline Set For 15 November

Users of pre-paid mobile phones in Mozambique have until 15 November to register their SIM cards, state-controlled Radio Mozambique has reported, citing Transport and Communications minister Paulo Zucula. The minister has indicated that those users who fail to meet the deadline will have their SIM cards ‘blocked’.

Additional regulations are thought to include the prohibition of selling SIM cards to persons under the age of 14, and a limit of three SIM cards registered to any one subscriber.

The push for SIM card registration comes in the wake of widespread riots in Maputo and Matola earlier this month over a 30% rise in bread prices; the riots were reportedly co-ordinated by a widespread text message campaign. In the aftermath of the riots the INCM imposed a controversial three-day text message suspension on all mobile operators.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bharti's Bid For Zain Zambia Rejected By Bourse Regulator

Zambia’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has rejected Indian operator Bharti Airtel’s latest bid for the publicly listed stake of its majority-owned mobile subsidiary Zain Zambia, The Post reports.

According to the local newspaper, the SEC turned down a bid by Bharti Airtel of ZMK710 (USD0.144) per share for the 22% stake, with the offer refused on the basis that it was too far below market estimations.

This is the second time that Bharti has had an offer for the stake rejected; last month it put forward a ZMK675 per share proposal. It is believed that most commissioners at the SEC believe that the lowest acceptable price for Bharti to proceed with a mandatory offer would be ZWK1,126 per share.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Telkom SA Prepares to Spread Into the Rest of Africa

SOUTH African Telecommunications operator, Telkom, has secured operating licences in east, south and west Africa, the company revealed on Monday in an interview.

Responding to questions, Telkom spokesman Pynee Chetty said the telecoms giant had secured operating licences in Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Swaziland and Namibia.
“Telkom’s ambition is to become a significant Information Communication Technology (ICT) player in Sub-Saharan Africa, focusing on the enterprise market.

“Apart from the satellite-based (SAT3) cable system, Telkom has invested in the new WACS, EASSy and SAFE submarine cables systems to further strengthen its position with regards to connectivity on the African continent,” said Chetty.

He said the operations in those countries consisted of consumer and enterprise solutions within the respective markets.

Chetty said Telkom would continue to service all these markets and acquire capabilities, through partnerships or own assets, to meet the demands of the local African enterprise and global multinational customers.
“The company continues to investigate opportunities in Africa and endeavours to expand into countries where customer demand warrants such actions.
“As far as the specific products and services are concerned, it is logical to utilise existing skills and capabilities acquired in the domestic market as far as possible when entering new markets,” said Chetty.

Friday, September 24, 2010

France Teelcom In Bid For LION2 Cable

Click For Larger Image - Source France Telecom
France Telecom and the other members of the LION2 consortium have signed an agreement to build a new submarine cable in the Indian Ocean. The agreement comes less than a year after the inauguration of the LION (Lower Indian Ocean Network) submarine cable linking Madagascar to the rest of the world via Reunion Island and Mauritius.

With this latest agreement, France Telecom enters the second phase of its Indian Ocean development plan, pursuing its strategy for the regional expansion of broadband internet.

The 3,000km LION2 cable will extend the LION cable to Kenya via the island of Mayotte. The cable will provide Mayotte with access to a broadband internet network benefiting from a transmission capacity and service quality equivalent to those available in Europe. For Kenya, LION2 is an important project that will strengthen its connectivity to international networks and cover its capacity requirements for years to come. The project is being conducted by a consortium of France Telecom and its subsidiaries Mauritius Telecom, Orange Madagascar and Telkom Kenya, along with carrier companies Emtel, Societe Reunionnaise du Radiotelephone and STOI Internet.

The construction of the LION2 cable represents a total investment of around EUR56.5 million, about EUR31.25 million of which will come from France Telecom. Service is scheduled to begin in the first half of 2012.

LION2 relies on wavelength division multiplexing (WDM), enabling capacity to be increased without additional submarine work. The maximum potential capacity is 1.28Tbps. Two new landing stations will be built, one in Kaweni for Mayotte and the other at Nyali near Mombasa for Kenya. The second of these is doubled up with existing stations and will be used to redirect traffic if needed.

Mozambique Urges Firms to Share Infrastructure

In an interview with independent daily O Pais, Mozambique's Minister of Transport and Communications, Paulo Zucula, has urged the country's two mobile phone operators, mCel and Vodacom, to share their mobile phone masts in order to reduce costs, protect the landscape and ultimately enable increased coverage in remote areas.

Zucula commented: ‘The fact that each operator has its own infrastructure demands huge investment, which takes a long time to carry out. Furthermore, if we don't adopt this measure, we shall fill the country with redundant, unnecessary masts. It's a question of rationalisation’.

He indicated that both Vodacom and M-Cell are in favour of the idea, whilst conceding that financial disputes may yet cause a stumbling block: ‘I think that they're in favour. Sharing will allow better use to be made of their infrastructures, and so I doubt that they'll reject it. Since it's a business, problems could arise, but I think they agree with the principle’. He added that sharing infrastructures would make it easier for new operators to enter the market.

Three out of 22 interested parties were shortlisted to become Mozambique’s third mobile phone operator in July 2010. The three in question are TMN (the cellular unit of Portugal Telecom), UNI-Telecom (a joint venture between Angolan cellco Unitel and Mozambique’s Energy Capital) and a Vietnam-backed bidder named Movitel. The winner is expected to be announced in November. Mozambique is currently home to mCel with an estimated four million customers in June 2010 and Vodacom with 1.57 million at the same date. Wireless penetration stands at 25%, leaving plenty of room for growth.

TNM Withdraws Cautionary Statement

Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM) has announced the removal of the cautionary statement it issued to shareholders in March pending the outcome of negotiations with potential strategic partners.

The mobile operator said it had decided to suspend the process until the completion of the on-going business expansion programmes which are aimed at increasing company value, despite what it described as ‘a considerable level of interest from several potential strategic partners.’

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Warid Tariff Cuts Could Open Price War in Uganda

The mobile telephone industry in Uganda appears headed for a new price war after Warid Telecom announced it was slashing the cost of its cross-network calls to Shs5 (USD 0.023) per second.

Warid Uganda CEO Madhur Taneja said yesterday that the new rate, which is half of what the company charged previously, was aimed at reducing the cost of telephone calls.

“High mobile cross-network tariffs have been a barrier to mobile users but we want to break that obstacle by offering the lowest rate in the market,” he said.

The industry average for cross-network calls, which means calls made from one network to another, is around Shs10 per second or Shs300 (USD 0.13) per minute and Warid’s new price, which the firm says is permanent and makes it the cheapest in the market, is likely to draw a response from other players.

Rival firms were non-committal about what kind of response would be forthcoming. Isaac Nsereko, the chief marketing officer of market-leader MTN Uganda, told Daily Monitor  newspaper in a telephone interview that the Shs5 tariff was not a “big deal” and that MTN charges as low as Shs4.5 per second for calls within its network on its discount promotion and Shs5.5 per second to other networks.

Ms Cesear Mloka, the marketing director of the second-largest player Zain Uganda/Bharti Airtel, declined to comment when contacted.

However, Zain today introduced a bonus offer where prepaid subcribers earn bonus credit equivalent to 50% of credit recharge.  The bonus can be used only for calls to another Zain line.

Zain Kenya recently led a price war in that market that was followed by a swift cutting of call rates to as low as Uganda Shs75 per minute across all networks. The uniform call rate in Rwanda is about Uganda Shs270 per minute while in Tanzania it’s about Uganda Shs7.5 per second.

The local telecoms industry has already been rocked by the slashing of call rates within networks with different firms charging a flat fee of between Shs1,500 – Shs2,000 for 24 hours of unlimited calls.

Dual phone craze
The higher cross-network call charges have, however, forced many subscribers to buy more than one sim-card to allow them call cheaply within one network and then swap cards when they need to call other networks. It has also boosted the sale of dual sim-card phone handsets.

Warid, Orange and Uganda Telecom are currently offering new subcribers phones whith dual-sim capability.

Uganda Communications Commission, the industry regulator, recently announced a reduction in the ceiling of interconnection fees from Shs180 to Shs130 per minute where firms fail to agree bilaterally.

The industry has also seen a dramatic fall in data prices following the landing of undersea cables on the East African coastline which brought broadband internet, but the competition here has mainly been between MTN and Orange Telecom.

--Daily Monitor

CCK Extends SIM Registration Deadline, Again

The Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK) has granted Kenya’s mobile phone operators a further two week reprieve in their drive to register the details of the nation’s mobile phone users. The most recent deadline passed on 31 August, and the CCK insisted that the country’s four mobile phone operators - Safaricom, Zain Kenya, Telkom Kenya and Essar Telecom Kenya - file their subscriber listings by 16 September. In the wake of another missed deadline, the CCK has once again extended the exercise, allowing operators until the end of September to lodge their subscriber lists with the regulator. The operators have defended themselves, arguing that the government is still seeking a parliament-approved legal framework to give force to the registration requirement.

According to CCK reports, a total of 12.42 million mobile users have registered their details to date, representing 61.6% of the country’s 20.8 million subscribers. Market leader by subscribers Safaricom is leading the registrations with 13.8 million registered subscribers out of its client base of 16.24 million (85%), followed by Zain with 1.96 million of its 2.8 million subscribers (70%). Rene Meza, managing director of Zain Kenya commented: ‘The exercise is going on well and data is currently being compiled and will be submitted to CCK on September 30, 2010. The figures will then be released by the regulator accordingly.’

Econet Cuts Ineternational Rates by 50%

Econet Wireless Zimbabwe has cut its international call rates by up to 50%, meaning users can phone destinations including the UK and South Africa for as little as USD0.004 per second (USD0.24 per minute). Aiming to boost previously flagging international voice revenues, Econet stressed that mobile calls from Zimbabwe to South Africa are now cheaper than the reverse. Zimbabwe’s three cellcos – Econet, Telecel and NetOne – recently introduced a universal per-second billing system for all mobile calls.

Separately, an Econet spokesperson announced that the South African mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) owned by the Econet Wireless Group (EWG) has sold more than 500,000 SIM cards in the last twelve months to Zimbabweans living in South Africa, piggybacking on Cell C's network under the 'Call Home' banner. The spokesperson predicted that Econet Wireless South Africa’s SIM card sales would exceed one million ‘within a few months’. EWG recently set up a similar MVNO service in the UK targetting people calling African countries.

Tunisie Telecom Awarded 3G Licence

Reuters reports that the Tunisian government has awarded a 3G licence to state controlled telco Tunisie Telecom (TT) for TND116 million (USD 80 million), putting it in competition with France Telecom's local unit, Orange Tunisia, which launched a joint 2G/3G network in May this year. TT is 65% owned by the state, while Emirates International Telecommunications (EIT) owns the remainder.

 Tunisia was home to 11.42 million wireless subscribers at the end of June. TT and Tunisiana, the local arm of Orascom Telecom, each control 48.7% of the market, while Orange had a 2.6% market share with 297,000 customers after two months of operation.

MTN Ghana Deploys Blade Cluster Technology

MTN Ghana says it is investing in advanced switching technology, dubbed ‘The Blade Cluster’, as part of efforts to improve network quality across the country.

A spokesman for the cellco, Bright Girentsi-Annku, told reporters that the new switching technology will result in higher capacity and enable MTN Ghana to process calls at a significantly higher speed.

The MTN official went on to say that the firm is also in the process of deploying two additional switch centres in the capital to give it ‘the most advanced and world class switching facilities in the country’.

Elsewhere, MTN Ghana is rolling out a new internet protocol (IP) network based on multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), to increase transmission speed and capacity, and has also laid 1,800km of fibre-optic cabling, with an additional 500km due to be deployed soon. Girentsi-Annku claims that MTN Ghana currently enjoys a 55% share of the mobile market, carrying 60% of Ghana’s local and international call traffic.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mozambique Plans to Introduce SIM Registration

Mozambican telecoms regulator Instituto Nacional das Comunicacoes (INCM) has proposed compulsory SIM card registration for the country’s mobile phone subscribers.

According to a report in Mediafax, the INCM sent a draft bill to the Secretariat of the Council of Ministers requesting that it becomes obligatory for mobile phone operators to register anyone who purchases a pre-paid SIM card.

The calls for SIM card registration come in the wake of widespread riots in Maputo and Matola this month, which were reportedly co-ordinated by text message.

In the aftermath of the riots the INCM imposed a controversial three-day text message suspension on the country’s mobile operators.

INCM Managing Director Americo Muchanga commented: ‘There are several advantages. For example, without registration you can't have access to mobile phone banking and other financial services. Registration is advantageous for anybody who is not a criminal’.

Malawi cancels GAIN's Licence

The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) has said it has revoked the wireless licence of Global Advanced Integrated Networks (GAIN), which intended to provide services under the G-Mobile banner.

According to local news source Nyasa Times, the cellco’s concession was withdrawn because of its failure to meet specific rollout targets stipulated under the terms of its licence. GAIN was awarded Malawi’s third mobile licence in July 2008.

The cellco received an extension to its network rollout deadline in March 2010, after it admitted that it would not be able to meet the original condition of its licence to rollout by end-2009. After the operator failed to meet the new deadline of 12 April 2010, the local press reported that MACRA had started the process to revoke GAIN’s concession.

Reacting to MACRA’s decision to withdraw GAIN’s licence, the firm’s lawyer Ralph Kasambara said the regulator acted in contempt of court, because the matter is undergoing judicial review.  On 20 May 2010 GAIN was given 30 days to pay a USD6.9 million fine issued by regulator MACRA for failing to deploy its wireless network.

However, the cellco took the matter to the High Court in Mzuzu and gained an injunction against the penalty until a judicial review could be carried out. Since then, GAIN said it has begun to deploy its infrastructure; the cellco partnered Telkom Management Services of South Africa to help it plan and deploy a network and said it was using ZTE of China as an equipment supplier.

In August the company announced that it would invest USD150 million in the next three years and earlier this month revealed that South African private equity investor Musa Capital would invest around USD30 million in the firm. Musa Capital owns 50% of South Africa’s Beryl Telecoms, which holds the majority stake in GAIN.

Kenya's Digital Village Project Gets IBM Boost

Kenya’s Digital Village initiative, which was rolled out in 2008 with the purpose of narrowing the digital divide between rural and urban areas, and accelerating the growth of ICT in Kenya, received a boost when a team of IBM Corporate Service Corps consultants (CSC) from seven different countries arrived in Nairobi for a one month project aimed at defining a rollout strategy for the project.

Under regulations introduced by the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) in 2009, each constituency in Kenya should have at least five digital centres, complete with computers and internet connectivity. IBM’s eleven-strong team will start work in Machakos, joining forces with the ICT Board and the Ministry of Information and Communication.

The IBM-guided initiative will run alongside similar programmes that are currently being rolled out by other Kenyan telcos as they seek to meet new regulatory requirements.

IBM CEO Samuel J. Palmisano commented: ‘People are on the ground in Machakos to help the government realise its aim of extending the reach of digital services to rural areas. This will form part of our drive to boost ICT use in countries like Kenya.

IBM is well known for helping public and private sector organisations around the world to leverage technology to drive innovation and do things smarter. The Kenya initiative is part of a programme in Africa which began in 2008 through which IBM has deployed teams to Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa’.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Zain Introduces Low Price Vouchers As Price war rages On

After reducing its calling rate by 50% just a fortnight ago, Zain Kenya, the second largest mobile telephony operator in Kenya, has introduced Sh5 and Sh10 denomination airtime vouchers to the market.

Zain Kenya Managing Director Rene Meza said the move was aimed at complementing its recent 50% reduction on call charges.

“We are offering a wide range of scratch card denominations to suit the needs of all individuals. Access to telecommunication services is no longer a luxury but an integral part of each Kenyan’s socio-economic needs,” said Meza.

Meza said the lowering of tariffs was only the first ace up Zain’s sleeve, adding that the operator would be able to match any move its competitors made.

The Kenyan mobile telephony industry is currently experiencing cutthroat competition, with networks introducing various incentives to lure customers.

According to the Communications Commission of Kenya’s latest statistics, Zain was closing in on the two million-subscriber mark.

Zain becomes the second operator to introduce the Sh5 and Sh10 vouchers after Safaricom made a similar move in November 2009.

“We would like to enable our subscribers to enjoy our new low calling rates without hindrance. The low denomination scratch cards that we have introduced onto the market underpin our continued commitment to make access to telecommunication services in Kenya more affordable,” he said.

Meza said Zain Kenya would continue enriching the customer experience through providing affordable and flexible services in line with changing market needs.

“We are very happy with the way the Kenyan market has received our new approach to business. We are confident that we will be able to reclaim a significant portion of the market share as we pursue our goal of attaining market leadership,” he said.

He revealed that Zain had embarked on an upgrading programme for its infrastructure to cope with growing call traffic.

Last month Bharti Airtel announced that it had released Sh24 billion in capital investment into the Kenyan operation following acquisition of the company.

Zain Nigeria Enables Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo Via SMS

Zain Nigeria has introduced a new service that enables mobile phone users to keep connect with leading social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo via SMS (short message service).

The new Social Networking services will help users rise above the barrier of internet data access and enjoy a quick link up with friends, former school-mates, colleagues and notable personalities amongst others, on Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo simply by sending SMS to specified numbers

According to Deepak Srivastava, Zain Nigeria’s Chief Operating Officer, the new services demonstrate the company’s commitment to enhancing customers’ lifestyles by providing alternate means of blogging and social networking irrespective of the availability of internet data access on the PC or on data-enabled handsets.
Zain’s Twitter SMS service is designed to create direct access to tweets from customers’ mobile phones especially where there is no data access or they do not have data-enabled handsets. With Zain’s twitter SMS, subscribers can receive TWITTER notifications, tweet and update their profiles directly on their phones via SMS.

Yahoo Open Chat is an SMS-based service which enables customers to send and receive Yahoo chat messages, without the need for internet access. This service is exclusive to prepaid customers who have valid existing and operational yahoo accounts i.e. valid Yahoo user name and password.

To enjoy the Facebook SMS service, customers are expected to send “ON” to 40405 to activate the service on their phones, and follow all subsequent instructions.
On how to connect to the Twitter Service, he said, customers are required to send an SMS with the word, ‘START’ to 40404.

Srivastava said that customers can connect to the Yahoo Open Chat service by sending the letter L followed by Customer’s Username space Password to the short code: 38660, that is, L haykay2005 XXXXX to 38660, saying that customers are advised not to include at the end of username.

The first three days of activating Yahoo Open Chat is free while customers are billed N100 for subsequent three days. Twitter and Facebook SMS cost N9 and N10 respectively per SMS.

Bharti Seeks Bids For New Towers

Bharti Airtel, which acquired the African Zain’s African assets a few months ago is seeking bids to set up towers in Nigeria, Kenya and Tanzania. The Business Standard reports that the company would award contracts for infrastructure equipment and turnkey projects to build towers sometime next month. 

Bharti, which acquired Zain’s African assets for $10.7 billion in the largest deal this year, is under pressure to cut costs and turnaround its African assets. It also plans to implement its minute factory model, a success in India. Bharti has outsourced the company’s networking and information technology backbone, and targets low usage customers in addition to high-end customers.

Minute factory model allows the company to add network as and when the user numbers increase. It does not require Bharti to invest heavily in network infrastructure and reduces fixed costs.

“The company says the average minutes of usage (MoUs) per subscriber in Africa are lower than 100 (one-third of Indian MoUs), and there is, therefore, potential for exploring usage elasticity and replicating the minute factory model,” said HSBC in a report released during the Zain acquisition.

Algeria Hires Experts to Value Djezzy

­The Algerian government will be hiring international consultancy firms to put a valuation on Orascom Telecom's local subsidiary, Djezzy and expect the process to be completed by the end of this year.

Orascom Telecom has previously indicated that it puts a valuation of $7.8 billion on the company, although analysts doubt the government would offer more than US$5 billion.

"We have a ministerial committee. We have also an Algerian consultancy firm working with foreign consultancy firms to determine the financial value of Djezzy," Telecommunications Minister Moussa Benhammadi told the Reuters news agency.

Finance Minister Karim Djoudi, also present at Thursday's session of parliament , said on the latest developments over Djezzy: "We are still ready to buy it. We have started the evaluation to prepare for the acquisition talks."

The future of the Algerian network has been under discussion for several months, with the Algerian government unwilling to let Orascom sell the company, while also suggesting that it wants to buy the firm itself.

Vimpelcom Announces 23% Grouth In Revenues, Confirms Wind Bid

Russia-based telecoms group Vimpelcom has announced revenues of USD2.64 billion for the three months ended 30 June 2010. This figure represents an increase of 23.1% from USD2.15 billion one year earlier. However, net income for the same period slumped from USD700.5 million to USD334.7 million, a drop of 52.2%.

The group’s domestic unit saw revenues increase 4.4% to RUB61.74 billion, of which RUB51.83 billion (USD2.01 billion) was derived from Vimpelcom’s mobile unit, a rise of 5.3% year-on-year.

Meanwhile, the group’s fixed line operations generated RUB9.91 billion, and increase of 0.1% from 2Q09. In operational terms Vimpelcom recorded 50.91 million mobile subscribers as at 30 June, a rise of 1.9% year-on-year. Of these, 1.3 million used the company’s Russian 3G network, up 70.4% from 763,000 in 2Q09. Vimpelcom saw fixed broadband subscriber figures increase 33.8%, from 896,000 to 1.2 million as at end-June.

Alexander Izosimov, Vimpelcom’s CEO commented: ‘Our second quarter results show positive dynamics, reflecting economic recovery in major markets and seasonal trends. Revenues increased substantially as a result of both Kyivstar consolidation [in Ukraine] and strong organic growth across all key segments of our business. The mobile segment in Russia delivered its highest ever quarterly rouble revenues. Quarterly revenue and margin dynamics in Ukraine improved substantially on a like-for-like basis. In Kazakhstan, our largest market in the CIS segment, the strong quarterly results also reflect the macroeconomic recovery.’

Isozimov also confirmed reports that Vimpelcom is in talks with Egyptian businessman Naguib Sawiris' holding vehicle Weather Investments to buy a majority stake in Egypt-based telecoms group Orascom as well as Italian full-service operator Wind. The CEO said, 'We are in talks with them as well as others,' without giving further details.

Zimbabwe Extends SIM Registration Deadline Indefinitely

Zimbabwe's telecoms regulator, Potraz has announced an extension to the deadline for pre-paid SIM card users to register their details with the telecoms networks. The deadline which should have come into effect on Wednesday has now been extended to an "indefinite date".

A new deadline will be established within the coming weeks, Nelson Chamisa, the Minister of Information, Communications and Technology told The Herald newspaper.

"People have been worried and concerned about issues of security, issues of privacy, secrecy and confidentiality. But when one weighs issues of the demerits and the merits, using the cost benefit analysis, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages," he added.

However, despite the minister's assurances, the registration remains controversial because not all mobile phone users may be willing to turn over personal information to the mobile networks.

This is because of fears that the personal information collected could be used for government or security surveillance purposes. Under Zimbabwean laws, it is a criminal offense to spread falsehoods using a mobile phone, especially those deemed prejudicial to the state.

eFive Choses Alcatel-Lucent For Undersea Cable

South African telco eFive Telecoms has selected Alcatel-Lucent to build a new submarine cable network linking the west coast of Africa to South America, the French/US equipment vendor has announced. The network will consist of two trunks – the first one connecting South Africa to Angola and Nigeria, and a second trunk linking Angola to Brazil.

Alcatel-Lucent has confirmed that it will be in charge of the project end-to-end, with responsibility for the system’s design, manufacture and installation. The cable will be maintained by Alcatel-Lucent through its Atlantic Private Maintenance Agreement (APMA), which currently covers over 100,000km of submarine cable infrastructure from the west coast of Africa to the Caribbean and as far north as Greenland.

Lawrence Mulaudzi, managing director of eFive Telecoms commented: ‘We believe that high-growth areas such as the African continent require the development of new projects. The planned submarine network will also provide cable route diversity to South America, making the most economical and operational sense in the current landscape’. Philippe Dumont, head of Alcatel-Lucent’s submarine network division added: ‘Growth in African internet and mobile telephony is driving service providers’ demand for more connectivity options to ensure higher reliability, as well as increased widespread access to bandwidth.

This project will further position Africa as a major hub for broadband connectivity’.

Cote d'Ivoire Gets First Tower Company

Cote d'Ivoire's first independent tower company "SWAP Technologies and Telecomms Limited" (SWAP) has gone live with its first cell sites built for co-location. SWAP commenced telecoms services operations in Abidjan in 2009 with the objectives of providing infrastructure support services to the industry in Cote d'Ivoire by construction of BTS and managed services.

According to Dammy Olarinde, Country Director & Head International Operations of SWAP CI: "This is a very exciting time for the mobile industry in Cote d'Ivoire, which is set for rapid growth. We are open for business now and ready with our extensive expertise and local experience to partner further with mobile operators."
"We'll manage their towers and help them rapidly roll out new sites so that they can focus on their customers whilst reaping the compelling economic benefits of tower sharing without having to make any additional capital expenditure."

SWAP is an African-focused tower company that owns, builds, manages and maintains telecom towers for mobile operators.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

SIM Registration Deadline in Kenya Ends, Users Given Upto 16th September

Kenya’s four mobile phone operators will be required to disconnect any subscribers that have not registered their SIM cards by 16 September, it has been announced. The ruling follows the conclusion of the national SIM card registration exercise, whose deadline expired on 31 August.

Information and Communication Permanent Secretary Dr Bitange Ndemo has confirmed that operators have been given 15 days to compile updated subscriber databases following the two-month exercise.

Although disconnections are technically left to the operators’ own discretion, Dr Ndemo suggested that it is in their best interests to do so: ‘If I was to report that someone perpetrated a crime against me and the police went to the operator and find the number is not in their register, then the operator will be held accountable’.

According to the CCK, approximately 80% of subscribers have complied with the government directive. At 25 August market leader Safaricom had registered 84% of its subscribers, Zain Kenya 65%, and Telkom Kenya (Orange) 50%, whilst Essar Telecom reported the lowest rate for registration, with just 29% of subscribers submitting their details.

Based on total subscriber figures and market share per network, this means that around four million of Kenya’s 20 million mobile phone subscribers could find themselves disconnected later this month. Charles Njoroge, Director General of the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) said that all operators are obliged to inform subscribers before disconnecting them for non-registration.

Rwanda's National Fibre Line Deployment Reaches 50% Mark

Deployment of Rwanda’s 2,300km national fibre-optic backbone is over halfway to completion, with around 1,380km of fibre already rolled out across the country, local daily The New Times reports, citing ICT Minister Ignace Gatare.

According to Gatare, two major regional links – which connect the capital Kigali to Gatuna and Rusumo – are already covered and two more regional routes – linking Kigali and Kanyaru, and Kigali with Rubavu – will be completed by the end of September.

He added that construction of the backbone will be finished by the end of the year, with the network scheduled to be fully operational by April 2011.

The Rwandan government signed a USD40 million deal with South Korean incumbent telco KT Corp in October 2008 to supply and install the national fibre-optic backbone. The network will connect 317 institutions (97 in Kigali and 220 outside the capital) in all 30 districts, and connect all nine of Rwanda’s borders.

The government hopes the infrastructure will boost access to broadband services, including e-governance, e-banking, e-learning and e-health, and facilitate IT-based foreign direct investments in areas such as business outsourcing.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Algerian State TV Stops Airing Djezzy Ads Over Orascom Dispute

­The dispute between Orascom Telecom and the Algerian government appears to have escalated after the country's state-owned television channels all stopped running adverts for the OTH's local mobile network, Djezzy.

Algerian state television, which controls all the country's terrestrial stations, refused to renew an annual advertising contract with Djezzy, an unnamed source with direct knowledge of the situation told Reuters.

"They (state television) are no longer agreeing to run Djezzy's ads," said the source, who did not want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The timing is interesting as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan is typically one of the strongest selling periods for companies operating in the country.

Adverts are continuing to be run on radio and in newspapers, while satellite television networks that operate overseas but are watched in Algeria are also running adverts.

Following a long running tax dispute, Orascom recently confirmed that the Algerian government was in talks to buy Djezzy. A clamp down on advertising could push down subscriber growth, and hence the price that the government would have to pay to buy the company.

Orascom Confirms Talks With Vimpelcom Are On

Orascom Telecom's Executive Chairman Naguib Sawiris has confirmed previous press reports that his holding company Weather Investments is in talks with Russia’s Vimpelcom over possible merger plans involving assets including Weather’s controlling stakes in the Egypt-based Orascom group and Italy’s Wind. Whilst talking to press on a visit to Orascom’s Canadian subsidiary Globalive Wireless (Wind Mobile), the Egyptian entrepreneur also confirmed that he was open to discussions with any potential strategic international partner for Weather/Orascom, Canadian paper the Global & Mail reported. Sawiris said: ‘We are not only talking to [Vimpelcom], we are talking to anybody ... We have two things on our agenda right now – solving the Algerian issue [where the local government wants to block attempts to sell Orascom’s mobile unit Djezzy] and, second, finding a good partner for the group.’ He also declared it was possible that Wind Mobile could eventually acquire other Canadian cellular start-ups such as Mobilicity and Public Mobile.

Safaricom Choses Huawei For 4G Technology

Safaricom, Kenya’s largest cellco by subscribers, has announced that it will begin technical trials of 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology across its network within the next two months.

Safaricom has selected Chinese firm Huawei Technologies to supply its core network requirements, and to facilitate the rollout itself.

The two companies have signed a three-year strategic partnership worth KES12 billion (USD141.2 million). Speaking during the signing ceremony at Huawei’s headquarters in China, Safaricom's CEO Michael Joseph told the Kenyan Broadcasting Corporation: ‘We are going to do a technical LTE trial on our spectrum to see if it suits the Kenyan market and its commercial viability.

This is completely a technical trial and not a commercial trial and we are going to do the trials within our spectrum in the next two months’. Joseph also said that Safaricom is keen to overhaul its billing system and core network, whilst expanding its 3G network coverage across the country. These upgrades are expected to begin within the next six months and will be completed in two phases.

Hits Seeks Majority Stake in Libercell

Local newspaper Al Watan reports that Kuwait’s Hits Telecom is in talks with Atlantic Wireless over the company’s Liberian cellco Libercell.

Hits currently owns 30% of Liberia’s smallest operator by subscribers but is believed to be seeking a majority stake.

According to the newspaper, Hits Telecom’s CEO Barr Erickson has revealed that talks are at an advanced stage and a deal could be reached within a few days.