Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wananchi Launches Wi-Fi In Nairobi

Wananchi Group in collaboration with Google and Aptilo Networks announced the launch of the Wazi Wi-Fi service in Nairobi, Kenya. 

The network already delivers high-speed internet access at Nairobi's Junction Shopping Mall area. The service is free for the first ten minutes of use per day on each device. 

Users can then purchase a single day pass for KES 50 per device or a monthly pass for KES 500. Customers can pay for the service online using credit cards or via local mobile money services including M-Pesa, Airtel Money and PesaPal. Wazi Wi-Fi uses the Aptilo Service Management Platform for service management and policy control and is delivered via Aptilo Cloud Services, a hosted platform.

Wananchi said it's in talks with local businesses on expansion plans, and the company sees opportunities to use Wi-Fi technology for mobile data offloading and providing high-speed unmetered access away from home.

Uganda Has Largest Number of Fake Nokia Phones in East Africa

Uganda has the highest number of substandard mobile phone devices in East Africa, The Daily Monitor reported.

Analysts blamed the delayed enactment of the anti-counterfeit law by the county's parliament.

Kenneth Oyolla, Nokia general manager for East and Southern Africa, said 30 percent of all mobile phones sold in Uganda are counterfeits, compared with 10 percent in Kenya.

Nokia loses about USD 15 million monthly in the Kenyan market while the figures are higher in Uganda and Tanzania, he said.

The Kenyan government passed an anti-counterfeit law in June 2010 that provides for anyone caught selling counterfeits to pay three times the retail value of the device and up to five years in jail if implicated again.

Oyolla said the law has reduced trade in counterfeits in Kenya and should be replicated in all EAC countries as it is a common market.

Traders dealing in counterfeits can easily cross to other countries in the region where there is no deterrent law, he said. A genuine E71 costs USD 230 while the fake one goes for about USD 50.

Uganda's anti-counterfeit bill was not passed into law after the eighth Parliament closed before the bill's second reading.

Oyolla, who was speaking at the launch of the Nokia 101 and Nokia 100 mobile handsets in Nairobi, said the firm has partnered with retailers in the sale of genuine devices as one of the ways to reduce revenue loss.

Airtel To Terminate UTL Calls

Airtel Uganda has announced that starting 5th September 2011 its subscribers will not be able to receive calls from or make calls to Uganda Telecom (UTL) lines.

In a statement published on Wednesday Airtel states that the decision follows the expiry on 15th August 2011 of the interconnection agreement between itself and UTL.

Earlier reports had indicated that UTL owes Airtel over 8 billion shillings in interconnection fees.

UTL has been battling a court case in which MTN Uganda is demanding over 20 billion Uganda shillings. Last week a court in Kampala ruled in favour of MTN but UTL has appealed against the decision .

69% of UTL is owned by the Libyan government through its investment vehicle, Libyan Africa Portfolio (LAP), with the remaining 31% owned by the Ugandan government.

UN sanctions in March required the freezing of Libya’s assets for the duration of its on-going civil war, but in order to prevent the loss of jobs, the Ugandan government took over complete control of the company.

Early this year Uganda’s Media Owners Association reportedly ceased any advertising for UTL, citing unpaid fees of 3 billion Uganda shillings.

Airtel Kenya Launches Quiz Cash Give Away

Airtel Kenya has launched a promotion that will see one customer win KES 100,000 daily for 90 days.

Under the name Airtel Cashmania, customers can answer questions and be entered into a daily draw for a chance to win the cash prize.

For every correct answer a customer sends, the customer will receive 20 chances or more. For every incorrect answer the customer will receive 10 chances.

To participate in the promotion customers need to send a SMS with their first name to the short code 888. Every SMS is charged at KES 25.

A similar competition was launched by Airtel Uganda last month dub be "Kyaba Too Good!

Orange Extends Closing Date For Africa Social Award

Orange has extended the deadline for submitting projects for the Orange African Social Venture Prize by two weeks until 30 September.

The prize will be awarded to three entrepreneurs or start-ups that offer solutions based on mobile networks or IT systems that are designed to address various social and welfare issues faced by Africans across the continent.
Projects may range from banking or payment services to applications in essential areas such as healthcare, education and agriculture. In addition to the prestige of winning the award, Orange is committed to financially supporting and offering expert assistance to the winning entrepreneurs or start-ups.

The three prize winners will receive an endowment of between EUR 10,000 and 25,000, and will benefit from six months of support from management and ICT experts at Orange. 

The operator has also announced that the award will be part of the AfricaCom awards, with the prize giving to take place in Cape Town, South Africa, on 9 November.

Glo Partners With UBA's Afripay For Mobile Money Service

Nigerian operator Glo Mobile has signed a memorandum of understanding with mobile payment specialist Afripay paving the way for the nationwide launch of a mobile money service.

Afripay is part of UBA Group, which earlier obtained a mobile money licence from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The MoU will allow Glo Mobile's mobile subscribers to open a mobile money account to store electronic money on their mobile phones and to use their mobile number as account number.

It will also allow users to transfer money to any mobile number, spend money directly from their mobile money account, and buy airtime for themselves and others. Afripay's mobile money product, which is branded as U-Mo, has been successfully test-run through select agents.

CCK Gives KES 2.5 Million Towards Famine Relief

The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) has contributed KES 2.5million towards the Kenyans for Kenya famine relief kitty.

CCK's Director of Finance and Accounts Peris Nkonge said CCK was happy to join other corporate organizations in assisting fellow countrymen who are in dire need of food aid in Northern Kenya.

Kenyans for Kenyans is an initiative of the Kenya Red Cross in conjunction with the Kenya Commercial Bank, Safaricom Foundation and the Media Owners Association aimed at raising funds to feed Kenyans in the north of the country.

The initiative, which wound up on 27 August, raised more than KES 600 million through contributions from corporate Kenya, civil society and Kenyans of all walks of life.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

79% of SIM's In Kenya Get Registered

The Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK) announced that 79 percent of SIM cards have been registered since this was made a requirement last year to curb mobile phone crime. 

Acting Director General Francis Wangusi said this was an achievement, especially as there is no law in place to enforce it. He said the regulator believes m-transactions are going to help a lot, because unless customers register, they will not be able to carry out m-transactions on any of network.

Nigeria Working on New NITEL Privatisation Bid

Nigeria’s Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), the agency tasked with overseeing the privatisation of fixed line incumbent Nigeria Telecommunications (NITEL), is finalising the process for a negotiated sale of the telco, after the latest attempt to privatise the ailing company was cancelled earlier this year.

Nigerian newspaper The Punch cites a spokesman for the BPE, Mr. Chukwuma Nwoko, as saying that the bureau is working out the details for the sale of NITEL and its mobile arm M-Tel. He also confirmed that a number of potential core investors had shown interest in the exercise but declined to disclose the identity of the firms.

In the last month, initial bidder Brymedia Consortium, local firm Syntel and Microfone Telecom Nigeria, an initiative of the Nigerian Capital Development Fund, have all reportedly expressed an interest in acquiring NITEL and M-Tel.

Meanwhile, Mike Adenuga, executive chairman of Nigeria’s second national telecoms operator Globacom, allegedly approached the government to purchase a stake in NITEL via a vehicle established especially for the deal.

Earlier this month that the BPE was given government approval to embark on a negotiated sale of NITEL, after the latest attempt to privatise the firm was cancelled in June 2011 when the reserve bidder, British Virgin Islands-based Omen International, failed to meet the deadline to pay a bid security. Omen was invited to re-register its interest in buying NITEL in March 2011, as preferred buyer New Generation Telecommunications repeatedly missed the payment deadlines for its bid of USD2.5 billion.

Omen offered USD956.9 million during the latest attempt to privatise the company, held in February 2010. The government began seeking a buyer for a minimum 75% of NITEL and 100% of M-Tel in July 2009 after previous majority shareholder Transcorp divested its stake earlier in the year.

KDN Appeals Court Verdict Over YU Interconnectivity

Kenya Data Networks (KDN) has taken steps to overturn a May 2011 court order which prevented it from switching off mobile phone operator Essar Telecom Kenya’s backhaul transmission connectivity.

KDN has argued that the order made on 25 May by Justice Muga Apondi is injurious, as it forces the wholesale operator to continue providing the cellco – which operates under the ‘Yu’ brand name – services which are no longer being paid for.

The debt owed to KDN currently stands at around KES133 million (USD1.4 million), and is increasing on a monthly basis. In legal papers filed last week, KDN stated: ‘Yu has been unable to even pay the undisputed amount as required under the agreement showing their unwillingness to meet their part of the bargain’.

Nairobi-based KDN has claimed that, as a result of Yu’s non-payment, it is currently operating at a loss.

Starcomms Announces Growth Startegy

Nigerian CDMA network operator Starcomms is working on two business models in order to enhance the value of investment of its existing shareholders, local newspaper THIS DAY reports, citing a statement from Starcomms’ newly appointed chief executive officer Logan Pather. 

According to the executive, the company is looking to acquire more spectrum to facilitate a complete nationwide rollout of its network and to make it fully ready for Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology. 

To achieve a nationwide rollout, Pather said that Starcomms would require investment of around USD60 million.

Fortis Mobile Money Hires Fundamo For Nigeria Deal

Nigeria's microfinance bank Fortis Mobile Money, which has been granted a licence to roll out mobile money services, has engaged Fundamo, a Visa company, to help deploy its mobile money offerings throughout the country. 

 CEO of Fortis Money Henry Nwawuba said the company would leverage Fundamo's understanding of 'bottom of the pyramid' mobile money services to provide low-value and high-volume mobile financial services to Nigeria's huge underserved population.

 With a population of over 140 million people, only 28 million bank accounts and over 70 million mobile subscribers, Nigeria offers a platform for growth in mobile money. 

Fundamo's platform will enable the company to deliver secure, convenient and easily accessible financial services to consumers, such as mobile money transfers, remittances, mobile bill payments, micro savings and prepaid phone top-up services.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Orange Launches 3G Network In Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa

Telkom Kenya (Orange) has announced that its long-awaited 3G network has launched commercially in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu, with plans for additional regional deployments as demand for data-related services increases.

The KES4 billion (USD42.6 million) network deployment will offer subscribers theoretical download speeds of 21Mbps, and CEO Mickael Ghossein has described it as Kenya’s ‘best-in-class network’. 

Meanwhile, residential users will also be able to benefit from 3G connectivity, as Telkom has unveiled a new version of its ‘Internet Everywhere’ modem which supports the higher speeds; the new modem will retail for KES6,999. A shared Wi-Fi router for business users has been introduced simultaneously, allowing between six and ten users to connect to Telkom’s 3G network at any one time.

Mascom Unaware of MTN Take Over Plans

Botswana’s largest mobile operator by subscribers, Mascom Wireless, has denied having any knowledge of alleged plans by South African telecoms group MTN to fully acquire the company. 

An industry insider told Botswana newspaper Gazette Business that takeover discussions between the two parties were at an advanced stage, with a full takeover and rebranding likely to take place in the next two years. 

MTN already indirectly holds a 53% stake in Mascom.

 Responding to the claims, Mascom’s communications and public relations manager, Tebogo Lebotse said in a written statement that ‘Mascom can, however, confirm it is not aware of any plans or developments of a takeover and therefore cannot comment on the consequent impact on the operational structure of Mascom.’

Airtel Connects Western Zambia

Mobile network operator Airtel Zambia has reportedly started rolling out infrastructure in the more remote parts of Zambia’s Western Province, as it looks to fend off competition and maintain its market share. 

Airtel Zambia managing director Fayaz King was quoted as saying that  contractors are already at work on extending the cellco’s coverage with a view to attracting increased numbers of rural subscribers. 

‘We are now going in areas like Mutomena, Lukena, Liuwa, Libonda Palace and Mishulundu in Western Zambia. Some of these areas can only be accessed by water. This is our commitment to addressing Zambia’s telecommunications needs,’ the executive noted.

 Further, Mr King said that the network expansion formed part of an initiative that his company had undertaken over the previous ten months aimed at bringing services to some of the country’s most rural regions. 

According to the report Airtel has connected 88 isolated rural areas and communities in Zambia as part of the project, in provinces including Luapula, Northern, North-Western, Eastern, Southern and Central as well as in some rural parts of the Copperbelt like Lufwanyama, Masaiti, and Mpongwe districts.