Wednesday, December 23, 2009

TNM Launches W-CDMA/HSDPA Network

Malawian telecoms operator Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM) has launched its W-CDMA/HSDPA network enabling subscribers to access services such as videocalling, mobile TV and high speed internet offering download speeds of up to 3.6Mbps, local daily Nyasa Times reports.

Charles Kamoto, head of TNM's Commercial Services division, said the service is initially only available to post-paid subscribers but pre-paid customers will soon have access to the service. Kamoto added: 'Most less developed nations do not have this service on board for their customers but in Malawi we are very aggressive, we believe that our customers need quality, they need top-notch services and that is why we had to bring [them] this 3.5G technology.'

TNM is Malawi's second largest cellco by subscribers with a market share of 32% at 30 September 2009. The company's sole rival in the market, Zain Malawi, took the remaining 68% share of customers at the same date, and was awarded a 3G concession last month.

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Namibia's MTC Upgrades Its 3.5G Network

The Namibia Economist reports that cellco Mobile Telecommunications (MTC) has launched an HSDPA/HSUPA 3.5G upgrade on parts of its network, enabling maximum theoretical download/upload speeds of 7.2Mbps/1.4Mbps.

The operator has also this week announced the launch of a project to implement a Single Radio Access Network (SRAN) which combines several technologies in the same hardware, and is designed to generate energy and maintenance savings whilst improving quality of service. The 3.5G/SRAN network upgrade programme will cost around NAD183 million (USD25.5 million) in total.

MTC says SRAN architecture will also allow it to introduce '4G' technology smoothly in the future. The cellco added that in terms of data and internet access, its network upgrade is critical to meet the levels of bandwidth demand expected in Namibia by September 2011 following the launch of the WACS submarine cable.

MTC and Telecom Namibia have each invested USD15 million in the cable project, which will significantly reduce prices of international IP transmission with a knock-on effect on local internet access. The SRAN and 3.5G upgrade is being rolled out initially in the capital Windhoek, with a wider deployment across the country in the second quarter of 2010.

MTC launched commercial 3G/3.5G W-CDMA/HSDPA services in December 2006.

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Malawi: GAIN Fails to Meet Roll-Out Deadline, To Request Extension

Malawi's third licensed mobile operator, Global Advanced Integrated Networks (GAIN), which intends to provide services under the G-Mobile banner, has admitted it will not be able to meet the 31 December 2009 deadline for the rollout of its network as stipulated by its licence, local daily The Business Times reports citing the firm's director, Limbani Kalilani.

Instead the company plans to request an extension to the deadline from the regulator, the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA), and will make up for the delay by combining rollout phases outlined by the concession. GAIN has also announced a new deal with Chinese equipment vendor ZTE for the construction of its wireless network. In a statement, G-Mobile said its project partners Beryl Telecoms South Africa and Beryl Telecoms UK are financing the building of a 'modern hybrid cellular mobile network' under a Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) funding arrangement.

According to TeleGeography's GlobalComms Database, GAIN won the tender for Malawi's third wireless concession in July 2008 beating rival bids from two other firms, Global Telecom and Zimbabwe's Econet. A year later the cellco signed a USD90 million partnership deal with Beryl Capital and Telecoms for the supply, installation and commissioning of G-Mobile's mobile network in the country.

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Zambia Under Pressure To Release Zamtel Valuation Report

Civil society organisations in Zambia have called on the government to release the valuation report it commissioned as part of its plans to sell off a majority stake in fixed line incumbent Zambia Telecommunications Company (Zamtel).

Fackson Shamenda, former Zambia Congress of Trade Union president, said that the release of the information would clear up potential concerns over the sale, noting: 'We want to know the evaluation and its outcome, up to now, very few people are privileged with the information. There hasn't been transparency in the sale of Zamtel. Maybe [the] government is right to sell Zamtel, but without the valuation report, we won't know the truth.'

Having decided to sell a 75% stake in Zamtel earlier this year, the government appointed RP Capital to evaluate the telco's assets, but never released the report, leading to complaints that the process lacked transparency.

The government has reiterated its stance however that it cannot make the report public, with Dr Buleti Nesmukila, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry, saying: 'The decision not to disclose the value of the company is the right one, and an important tool for negotiations for the sale.'

The Zambia Development Agency (ZDA), which is legally mandated to dispose of state enterprises, has revealed that eight companies – including Orascom Telecom, Portugal Telecom and Vimpelcom – have pre-qualified for the stake sale, and those firms are due to complete due diligence today, with bids due by midday. Dow Jones Newswires reports that the identities of those companies that have submitted bids for the stake will be released later today at a public ceremony by the ZDA. The ZDA will subsequently review the bids, announcing shortlisted candidates on 11 January.

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Egypt Aims At Increasing Internet Penetration Fourfold

According to Egypt's Communications Minister, Tarek Kamel, the country is currently preparing a USD1 billion plan aimed at boosting internet penetration fourfold in the next four years, Reuters reports. Commenting on the proposals Mr Kamel said: 'Most of the investments...will primarily go in local investment in increasing the local capacity.'

It is understood that such local investment will be ploughed in to a combination of wireless and wired services covering both rural and urban areas, and will follow up the country's investment in international broadband cable systems that is expected to at least double the capacity coming into the country from the current 60Gbps.

The minister also noted that the government is targeting a broadband penetration rate of 20% by end-2013, equivalent to enabling access to connections to around four million households.

As at end-2008 Egypt's broadband penetration stood at just 0.9%, with a total of 696,305 high speed internet subscribers in the country. TE Data, a subsidiary of fixed line monopoly provider Telecom Egypt, dominates the sector, controlling more than half of all broadband subscribers at September 2009, with 479,819.

Etisalat Gets Controlling Stake in India's Genex Exim

Etisalat has increased its holding in its Indian mobile network venture by buying a 5.37% stake from Chennai-based Genex Exim Ventures for around Rs 380 crore (US$81 million), reports the Economic Times newspaper. The transaction will push Etisalat's holding in the company above the 50% mark, giving it effective control of the company.

Etisalat is reported to have applied to the Indian watchdog for foreign investments, the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) for approval to increase its holding to a majority stake.

Etisalat is currently a 45% shareholder in the Indian subsidiary after paying US$900 million for the stake earlier this year. The remaining 55% of Swan Telecom's shares are owned by several entities, including Swan's primary promoter, the Dynamix Balwas Group, a Mumbai-based real estate and hospitality business group.

Etisalat pushed through a brand-name change from Swan Telecom to Etisalat DB earlier this year.

It was also recently reported that Etisalat DB is in merger talks with fellow greenfield operator, Allianz Infratech.

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Nigeria To Require Prepaid User Registration

­Nigeria to to start requiring prepay SIM cards to have their ownership details registered with the network operators next year, the regulator has announced. The registration process will start next March and will last six months. SIM cards that are not registered after then will be shut out of the mobile networks.

The Head of Consumers Affair at the Nigerian Communications Commission, Lolia Emakpore said "The SIM card registration is in line with complaints that the commission had gotten that mobile phones are used to aid crimes and government has instructed the commission to adopt a mode to help stop crime."

"Nigeria does not have an effective database and that is why we think six months is enough to cover the six geo-political zones in the country and even get to the local government areas," she said.

Telecoms operators are, however pessimistic about whether the process will be well conducted.

According to Ms. Emakpore, the process will require subscribers to produce their National Identity card. Biometrics will also be taken, to curb fraud, during the process of registration.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Egyptian ‘triple-play’ licence bidding deadline Pushed to March 2010

The Egyptian telecoms regulator, the National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA) has announced that the deadline for bids for two geographically-restricted triple-play concessions has been pushed back by two months. According to Reuters, the NTRA has said that bids for the licences will now be due by 15 March 2010, while it also revealed that 18 interested parties had purchased bid documents so far.

The delay is understood to have been spurred by requests from those companies considering bids, with a number reportedly asking for more time to allow for the formation of consortiums and the preparation of bids; companies that have confirmed their interest in the licences include local mobile operators MobiNil and Vodafone Egypt, as well as Egypt-based Orascom Telecom. In addition, potential bidders have also requested that the NTRA increase the 5,000 connections per residential compound maximum, although the regulator has yet to rule on this issue. The government does not plan to charge an upfront payment for the two licences, which it expects will attract investment totalling USD1 billion over a five-year period, but will instead take 8% of revenue per annum.

Plans to offer a second national fixed line licence meanwhile remain unlikely to move forward in the short term, according to comments from the head of the NTRA. Amr Badawi, commenting on the matter, said: 'It's not on the table right now...We'll see how these licences develop and keep our options open later.'

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Another Deadline For Sale of Nitel

The federal government of Nigeria has approved an extension for the sale of ailing incumbent telco Nigerian Telecommunications (NITEL) and its mobile unit M-Tel to a new core investor, local newspaper The Guardian reports. Under the new arrangement, prospective bidders now have until 22 January 2010 to submit their financial and technical bids for the two operators.

The National Council on Privatisation (NCP) has also given the go-ahead for NGN3 billion (USD19.8 million) to be borrowed from the accounts of NITEL's pension fund to pay employees' salaries and outstanding rent for the telco's offices. The payment of staff wages will be staggered into three tranches covering five months' of salaries, while the remaining arrears of twelve months will be paid from the proceeds of the sale of NITEL and M-Tel.



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Mweb Takes On Telkom As It Lowers It's Call Rates

South Africa's largest internet service provider (ISP) MWEB has revealed that as of 15 December 2009 it will offer national calls to enterprise customers at lower rates than incumbent operator Telkom, aiming to bring genuine competition to a PTO-dominated voice market.

MWEB Business said in a press statement: 'Targeted at businesses of all sizes that are hungry for real savings and an alternative to the incumbent telcos, the new offering will take effect from 15 December this year.

MWEB will offer calls to national exchanges (011, 012, 021, 031 and 051) for less than the cost of a Telkom local call, during both peak and off-peak periods, a first for any telecoms provider… Using our IP-based interconnect agreements with all the major operators, we are able to offer real cost-saving as well as a full spectrum service to clients.

For business customers we can offer every aspect of their voice requirements, from the PABX hardware, to the trunk links to the routing of calls, without the client having to deal with another provider.' MWEB added that voice customers will also see additional savings on calls to mobile numbers when new mobile termination rates (MTRs) come into effect in early 2010.

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Zim Regulator Finally Provides Funds For Network Expansion

For the first time in more than ten years, the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has availed USD5 million from a pool of operators' contributions to the Universal Services Fund (USF) to be used for network expansion in underserved areas.

Operators have not received funds for projects from their joint contributions since the creation of the USF in 1998, despite handing over 2% of their gross annual revenues for the past decade. Alfred Marisa, POTRAZ acting director general, confirmed the availability of the money, whilst some operators have already received approval for their USF expansion plans from the Ministry of Information Communication Technologies.

Marisa revealed that the funds became available between February and October 2009 following the dollarisation of Zimbabwe's economy. POTRAZ began consulting with operators in May 2009 to identify underserved areas and their findings gained ministerial approval in early November, he said. Another current priority for the government is to complete a project to deploy fibre-optic infrastructure linking all areas on the routes between the capital Harare, Mutare and Beitbridge.

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Orange Kenya Readies For 3G Service

Telkom Kenya (Orange) has announced that it will conduct a series of 3G trials across its mobile network as it looks to enter Kenya's fast-growing mobile data market, Business Daily Africa reports.

Mickael Ghossein, Telkom Kenya CEO, said: 'This is a major strategic shift in our revenue model. 3G presents the opportunity to achieve fast growth for our mobile business.'

Telkom ended September 2009 with 772,000 mobile customers, up from 697,000 a year earlier, and the company intends to build on this growth by investing in the burgeoning data market.

With the arrival of submarine cable systems, such as SEACOM and TEAMS, boosting network capacity and bandwidth availability, the demand for data services in Kenya is growing and the country's cellcos are keen to capitalise.

Rival operator Safaricom was first to roll out 3G services, obtaining a licence in October 2007, and launching W-CDMA-based services in 2008. The firm was seeking a means to explore new revenue streams as profits from its voice business started to fall due to competition. Safaricom said its data revenues had increased by 93.6% over the year ended 30 September 2009, with internet representing 17.7% of its revenues.

In October 2009 Zain Kenya followed suit, purchasing its own USD25 million (KES1.8 billion) 3G concession in preparation for a network rollout.

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Maroc Telecom Choses Alcatel-Lucent For New Customer System

Morocco's Maroc Telecom has chosen Alcatel-Lucent as their billing and customer care system integrator to evolve its mobile billing platforms towards a new fully converged and integrated version.

This project includes the installation, deployment, project management, integration and maintenance for the migration of Maroc Telecom mobile billing and customer care platforms BSCS version 7 towards BSCS iX Release 2.

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Smartphone Market To Be Boosted By Sales in Emerging Markets

The smartphone market will climb to 37 percent of global handset sales in 2014 with emerging markets as the key growth engine, calling on operators and vendors to make the most of the opportunity, according to a new report from Pyramid Research.

Pyramid estimates that smartphones will account for a growing share of total handset sales, expanding from 16 percent in 2009 to 37 percent in 2014, and will represent an enormous sales opportunity for vendors and service providers across the globe, particularly in emerging markets, notes Omar Salvador, senior analyst at Pyramid Research and lead author of the report.

"Although the U.S. continues to lead the globe in 2009 in smartphone sales, Pyramid expects China to capture the number one position in 2010, driven by operators' aggressive promotion of smartphones using wider portfolios, more attractive pricing for services and new initiatives," says Salvador. "Brazil, India, Turkey, and Nigeria will be the fastest growing markets over the next five years with CAGRs of 43 percent, 39 percent, 37 percent, and 34 percent, respectively. Latin America will be the fastest growing region at a compound annual growth rate of 48 percent, followed by Africa and the Middle East with a 39 percent CAGR," he adds.

"With smartphone and data ARPS growth at the center of the strategies of operators and handset vendors, the two will need to work together to make the most of the opportunity," says Salvador. "Understanding local conditions will be vital for operators, smartphone vendors, and OS developers, as operator strategies differ substantively across markets based on the method of payment (postpaid or prepaid), the prevalence of subsidies, the level of competition, as well as the market shares of operating systems," he explains.

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

BSNL Puts Zain Purchase On hold



Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) has put its plan to be a part of the consortium looking to buy a stake in Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications Co, on hold. The decision was taken as the information sorted by Vavasi Group has still not been received.

Vavasi Group which is not yet listed in India had tied up with Al-Bukhary group of Malaysia to buy a 46% stake in Zain.  It was trying to add state-owned Indian telecommunications firm like BSNL and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd., to the consortium. By joining the consortium, BSNL and MTNL seek to widen its horizon beyond India.

Earlier, Gurudas Kamat, India's junior telecom minister had said that both MTNL and BSNL are not very serious about joining the consortium.

The state owned telecom companies are facing stiff competition from private sector companies. According to BSNL Chairman Kuldeep Goyal, BSNL's revenue is going to be severely hit by the latest tariff war in the current financial year.

The company is planning to add 20 million working lines to its present 50 million on the global system for mobile communication platform, over the next six months. Besides, it is also planning to spend INR140 billion in the current fiscal year to expand its mobile services.

Makerere University To Help Develop Mobile Innovations In Third World


UK mobile phone experts are visiting Uganda to work with staff and students from Makerere University, in order to improve mobile phone innovation in the developing world.

Academics from Makerere University in Kampala have been working with counterparts at Sheffield Hallam University to improve teaching techniques over the design of mobile phones, ensuring that the next generation are equipped to benefit from the technology.

After the Ugandan academics visited Sheffield in November, Professor Andy Dearden, E-Reader in Social Action at Sheffield Hallam, and Professor Ann Light have made the return trip to Kampala this week.

The project will see students at Makerere working with academics at Sheffield Hallam to develop projects that will boost Ugandan knowledge of the mobile phone industry, where subscriber numbers have rocketed to 10 million, almost a third of the population.

Plans for a sustainable mobile phone innovation centre in Kampala where graduates can work with local and international businesses are also in the pipeline.

The 18-month partnership, supported by a British Council grant, Education Partnerships in Africa, will improve teaching methods in mobile phone innovation and entrepreneurial skills.

Dr Dearden, who has completed a similar project in rural India, said: "This is the first project undertaken between Makerere and Sheffield Hallam, and will see both of our reputations for excellence and innovation enhanced.

"Courses that focus on user-centred products and designs are sparse in most of Africa despite the rapid rise in mobile phone technology and usership.

"This project aims to address this project in Uganda and to develop a university to industry partnership model that can be used throughout sub-Saharan Africa."

EASSy In Mozambique

Installation of the first cable landing station of the East African Submarine System (EASSy) will commence this week in Mozambique, according to an announcement by the consortium's largest investor The West Indian Ocean Cable Company (WIOCC).

The twelve-telco strong consortium will roll out landing stations in nine African countries and provide high speed terrestrial connectivity to around a dozen landlocked nations. Cable laying is scheduled for completion in April 2010, with a ready-for-service date set for end-June.

Telkom SA Eying Zim's TelOne




Zimbabwean newspaper ZimOnline reports that a 60% stake in the country's state-owned incumbent telco TelOne is being targeted as a potential purchase target by its larger fixed line counterpart in South Africa, Telkom SA.

TelOne spokesperson Collin Wilbesi confirmed the firm was negotiating with a foreign partner, but was not at liberty to identify them. 'We are currently engaged in discussions with some party that we cannot disclose at the moment because of the non-disclosure agreement that we have signed with them. Our negotiations are at a very advanced stage such that we would not wish to jeopardise them by divulging details in the press,' Wilbesi said.

South African government sources said Telkom had already conducted due diligence on the loss-making TelOne, which is bereft of funding for network improvements. The report continued however, that the Zimbabwean government is thought to be reluctant to offer Telkom a controlling stake in the telco, in line with a law preventing a foreign company from owning more than 49% of TelOne. However, Indigenisation Minister Saviour Kasukuwere has said the state was open to discussions on the controversial Empowerment Bill.

Vivendi Eyes Orascom Algeria

French media conglomerate Vivendi is considering a move for Orascom Telecom's Algerian unit, Reuters reports, citing French daily La Tribune. A member of Vivendi's board of directors, Mehdi Dazi, was reportedly in Algiers last Saturday to meet with local businessmen, including Issad Rebrab, the head of local group Cevital, which holds a 3% stake in Orascom Telecom Algeria.


Vivendi had a USD10.5 billion bid for Zain Group's African assets turned down, but has continued to pursue acquisitions in emerging markets as it seeks to expand its mobile operations.

The company, which also owns operations in France, Morocco and Brazil, could unite with Cevital to launch a takeover of Orascom's local subsidiary which serves more than 14 million mobile telephone customers in Algeria and reported revenue of over USD2 billion last year.

iBurst Launch Plans on Course Despite Delay In Legislation

Despite the news that the implementation of local loop unbundling (LLU) legislation in South Africa is to be delayed until November 2011, broadband operator iBurst has continued with its plan to launch its first ADSL2+ service regardless, according to IT News Africa.
 
The report, which cites company CEO Jannie van Zyl, reveals that the firm will instead use privately-owned copper infrastructure within multi-tenant environments such as gated communities, shopping centres and offices parks to cover the last-mile and reach subscribers.
 
Van Zyl said: 'iBurst Business threw caution to the wind with the rationale that a technology that is already ubiquitous throughout the world should be available when the world comes to South Africa for the 2010 Soccer World Cup. We simply cannot wait any longer if we are to meet expectations and provide ADSL services of a global standard.' The CEO added that innovation in the LLU sector will result in lower prices thanks to increased competition while also seeing a range of new products being released into the market.
 
iBurst Business is currently deploying the DSLAM routers required for access to ADSL2+ technology within two proof of concept networks in Gauteng. The routers will be connected to iBurst's core network via its own fibre and microwave infrastructure.

KPLC To Enter Fibre Market As KDN, Telkom Claim Sabotage

As Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) prepares to enter the telecoms market in 2010 as the country's seventh fibre operator, incumbent telcos are increasingly concerned that network sabotage will become more prevalent as competition intensifies, Business Daily reports.
 
Telkom Kenya and Kenya Data Networks (KDN) have been the most vocal about the alleged acts of sabotage, with each saying their networks are now attacked around ten times per month, up from around four instances six months ago. Mickael Ghossein, Telkom Kenya CEO, said: 'There are too many fibres and competition is becoming stiff. We would urge the government to step in and resolve these issues to protect our national resources and investments.' It is estimated that each instance of sabotage costs up to KES500,000 (USD6,640) to repair.
 
KPLC, meanwhile, is in the midst of preparations to launch its network in the next month, joining Telkom, KDN, Jamii Telecom, Wananchi, Access Kenya and the government in the country's fibre market.

Motorola To Upgrade MTN Rwanda Network

US telecoms equipment supplier Motorola has signed a three-year contract with MTN Rwanda to upgrade the cellco's wireless network. Motorola will deploy its multi-vendor intelligent optimisation service (MVIOS) to optimise MTN Rwanda's entire radio access network, enabling the firm to improve its customer service levels and efficiently manage its infrastructure.
 
'Motorola's optimisation service will accelerate improvements in the quality of MTN's end customer experience,' commented Eric Pradier, vice-president of Motorola Home & Networks Mobility Services EMEA and Asia Pacific, adding, 'Our services have been designed to improve performance in multi-vendor, multi-technology environments to ensure that networks operate at a peak performance level.'
 
The Rwandan mobile market is home to three cellcos: market leader MTN; Rwandatel, which is owned by Libyan government investment vehicle LAP Green Networks (80%) and the Social Security Fund of Rwanda (20%); and latest entrant Millicom Rwanda, which launched last week under the Tigo banner.
 

Bouygues Denies Plans of Sale to Orascom

French construction-to-telecoms conglomerate Bouygues Group says it has no plans to divest its telecoms division, despite rumours that Egypt's Orascom Telecom has expressed an interest in merging with the company.
 
The chairman of Egyptian communications group Orascom Telecom, had earlier told the French paper La Tribune he was interested in acquiring Bouygues Telecom if its parent was willing to sell. The French paper said that while no formal discussions had taken place, Sawiris would be interested in a tie-up in order to reinforce its presence in the Mediterranean and create other synergies.

Africell Buys Tigo Sierra Leone

Africell Holding, a subsidiary of Lebanon-based telecoms group Lintel, has announced it has completed the acquisition of Millicom SL, Millicom International Cellular's (MIC's) mobile division in Sierra Leone, following final regulatory approval.
 
Africell Holding already operates in Sierra Leone through its wholly owned subsidiary, Lintel SL, which provides mobile services under the banner Africell SL.
 
The new owners claim that the acquisition and the ensuing merger of Africell SL and Millicom SL will further consolidate Africell's leading market share to more than 55% of the total GSM telephony market.

MTN Rwanda Gets US$17.8 Million for Network Upgrade

Rwandan mobile operator MTN Rwanda has secured a RWF10 billion (USD17.8 million) syndicated loan from seven local banks to upgrade its wireless network, the New Times reports. Led by the Commercial Bank of Rwanda (BCR) the loan is reportedly the largest commercial transaction by a group of local lenders in Rwanda.
 
The operator's CEO, Khaled Mikkawi, said the money forms part of the USD100 million that MTN plans to invest in the market this year alone. The company is spending the money on new infrastructure and the expansion of its sales outlets across the country as competition in Rwanda's mobile market strengthens.
 
A third cellco, Luxembourg-based Millicom International Cellular (MIC), has just launched operations in Rwanda's mobile market under the Tigo banner.
 

Rwanda Finalises SEACOM Deal

The government of Rwanda has finalised negotiations with submarine fibre-optic cable operator SEACOM regarding connection to the system via the Synchronous Transport Module (STM-1), local daily the New Times reports.
 
The initial 155Mbps capacity will be delivered later this week to state-owned ISP New Artel Rwanda through Uganda Telecom's (UTL's) Point-of-Presence (PoP) Rwandatel. It is understood that SEACOM will deliver an extra 620Mbps broadband capacity after ten working days.
 
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.

Six More Operators Join Ace Cable

Six new telecoms operators have joined the ACE consortium which is rolling out a submarine cable system from France to South Africa.
 
The new operators are Etisalat Nigeria, Expresso Telecom Group (the international investment arm of Sudanese telco Sudatel, present in Malawi, Mauritania, Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria), Globalink (Sierra Leone), Mauritius Telecom, L'Office Congolais des Postes et Telecommunication (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Sierratel (Sierra Leone).
 
The number of ACE members is now 25.

NITEL Sale Faces House Probe

Nigeria's House of Representatives has finalised plans to investigate the privatisation process of ailing incumbent telco Nigeria Telecommunications (NITEL) and its mobile unit M-Tel, local newspaper This Day reports. The committee has reportedly submitted a proposal calling for a public hearing on the state of affairs of the company in the wake of three failed attempts to privatise it in the past, and current efforts in finding a new core investor which has been characterised by delays.
 
According to head of the committee, Abass Buraimoh, the planned investigation is aimed at adding value to the current efforts to sell the company. 'Every effort must be made to ensure the successful privatisation of NITEL this time around, because [the company] is currently in a very bad operational state. Workers are owed over 15 months' salaries. There are huge outstanding liabilities that are mounting daily since little or no revenue is being earned to resolve them according to the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE),' Buraimoh noted.
 
The federal government sold its 51% stake in NITEL to local company Transcorp for USD750 million in November 2006, retaining a 49% interest. In February 2009 Transcorp agreed to divest part of its shareholding in the telco and the following month the BPE announced it was offering a 51% stake in the fixed line operator and 100% of its mobile unit. In early October the BPE extended the deadline for the submission of technical and financial bids from 2 October to 26 October due to the complexity of the process. The successful bidder is now expected to be announced in January 2010.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tigo Goes Live In Rwanda

­Millicom says that it has officially started its mobile operations in Rwanda today. Millicom was awarded its license in December 2008 and will be the third operator in the Rwandan market. The service is launching with approximately 50% coverage of the population, with plans to extend coverage significantly over the next three years.


In addition, the operator has deployed 3G infrastructure in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, and other key urban centres.

Mikael Grahne, President and CEO of Millicom, said "With a population of 10 million, mobile penetration of less than 20%, and a rapidly developing economy, Rwanda is a highly attractive market for Millicom. With our focus on affordability and our strengths in distribution and innovation, we believe we can make mobile voice and value-added services a reality for the mass market in Rwanda."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pan-African Tower Company Formed

­A new pan-African tower investor has been formed, based on an existing model being used in Nigeria. Helios Towers Africa (HTA) is being backed by group of investors including Soros Strategic Partners, RIT Capital Partners and Lord Rothschild's family interests, Albright Capital Management, and funds advised by Helios Investment Partners.

The new company has an initial equity commitment of $350 million upon launch.
 
HTA will build and maintain telecommunications towers and lease space on those towers to wireless telecommunications services providers across Africa. The company will execute a business plan that has been successfully deployed in Nigeria by Helios Towers Nigeria, which was also formed by HTA's lead sponsor, Helios Investment Partners. Helios Towers Nigeria recently secured a $250 million IFC-led investment to increase its Nigerian network to 2,000 tower sites nationwide.
 
The company will continue to focus its own operations on the Nigerian market where opportunities remain significant.
With the launch of HTA's operations across Africa, operators will be able to outsource non-core activities and passive infrastructure, allowing them to focus capital and managerial resources on improving their core products and services.
 


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Zain East Africa Awards Management Deal To NSN

­Nokia Siemens Networks says that it has secured a five-year network management contract from Zain covering its networks in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. NSN said the contract is its biggest multi-vendor outsourcing case in the region and it's one of the first supplier swap Managed Services deals of its kind in Africa.

NSN's off-grid site solution combined with Energy OPEX management are key components included in the deal.
As part of the agreement, approximately 350 Zain employees who work on networks operations in these three East African countries are planned to transfer to Nokia Siemens Networks.
 
"This deal is unique as it's the first mobile network outsourcing contract in East Africa and with this we are able to capture strategic market share in the Managed Services arena that further strengthens our leadership position in this business," said Joerg Erlemeier, head of the Middle East African region, Nokia Siemens Networks.
 
"We will also modernize the network with our state-of-the art equipment for a sustainable and robust network that has the required capacity to capture the expected high customer growth within the next five years."
No financial details were provided.
 


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Ericsson Awarded Deal To Upgrade Libya's Al-Madar Al-Jadid Billing System

­Ericsson has announced that it is to provide Al-Madar Al-Jadid, Libya's leading mobile operator with a convergent charging and billing solution. Ericsson will also supply related systems integration services.

The solution provides a single revenue management solution for all subscribers and services and includes key features such as discount and promotion handling, real-time rating, segmentation, pricing and promotions.
 
For consumers and business users, convergent charging and billing provides full control over all communications costs as users have one point of contact and a single invoice for all their services and gives users access to the services they want independent of their subscription type, as well as the ability to pay however they choose.
 
Convergent charging and billing provides end-users with real-time information on their spending and credit level, so that they will never spend more than they intend to. End users can also be kept fully update on their bundled minutes, bonuses and rewards.
 
This is a one-year contract and Al-Madar Al-Jadid is expected to launch the new services in 2010.
 


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Friday, November 27, 2009

Libya To Dispose of Stake in Phone Companies

­The Libyan government has announced plans to sell small stakes in the country's two mobile phone networks as part of a wider plan to sell off state owned corporations. The IPOs will offer shares in the government's two mobile telephone operators, al Madar and Libyana, as well as in Iron and Steel Company and National Commercial Bank.

 

The government also announced details of tax breaks to make trading on the local stock exchange more appealing to investors.

"The trading volume remains small because we are still at the start, but I expect that with new regulations ... the Libyan stock market will become one of the most active in North Africa and the Arab region," Seleem Naas, chairman of Libyan brokerage Sarab Foreign Exchange and Financial Services told the Reuters news agency.

Earlier this year, Etisalat said it had submitted a bid for Libya's third mobile phone license, although nothing further has been heard.

 

According to figures from the Mobile World, Libyana is the dominant operator with 83% of the market, followed by Al Madar. The country has a population penetration level of 134%.



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MTN NIgeria Plans to Cut 65 Jobs

MTN Nigeria has announced plans to cut 65 jobs of which the majority are from the company's customer care division. One of the redundancies affects a manager who was already suspended from work. The company said that job cuts followed an internal performance review of the staff affected.
 


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Friday, November 20, 2009

Smiles Launches as Uganda's Seventh Phone Operator


Smiles Communications Uganda has launched its WiMAX network in the capital city of Kampala, with plans to cover the entire country by the end of next year.

'We bring to the Ugandan market a WiMAX platform that uses voice over internet protocol (VoIP) to make calls, the first of its kind on the African continent,' the company's CEO, Mr. Philip said.

Mr. Phillip said the firm would begin with wireless table phones that would be located in public places including markets, taxis and bus parks. 'We are informed of how the competitors operate and we are going for the bottom of the pyramid business,' he told the Daily Monitor.

The other operators in Uganda are MTN, Orange Uganda, Uganda Telecom, Warid Telecom, Zain and the recently launched I-Telecom.

NITEL Sale To Be Concluded In January

Director general of Nigeria's Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Dr Christopher Anyanwu, has stated that the sale of ailing incumbent telco Nigeria Telecommunications (NITEL) to a new core investor will be concluded by January 2010, local newspaper Daily Trust reports.


He added that those companies that have submitted a bid for the operator are currently undertaking due diligence on its facilities. In early October the BPE extended the deadline for the submission of technical and financial bids from 2 October to 26 October due to the complexity of the process.

The winning bidder was expected to be announced on 9 November. However, the 60-day deadline set by the federal government for the completion of the sale was not met due to the difficulties experienced by foreign investors to get visas to visit the country and assess the operator's assets.

Vavasi To Continue To Pursue Stake In Zain

Despite reports that Indian state-owned firms Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) have withdrawn from talks to join an investment group looking to buy a stake in Zain Group, consortium leader Vavasi has revealed that the group will still invite the telcos to partake in the due diligence process.
 
Vavasi managing director, Farid Afruddin, said: 'We are going to do the due diligence on Zain Telecom from next week. We will write to BSNL and MTNL to take part in the process along with us… We are keeping our options open.' If the two companies decline Vavasi's invitation, the investment group is expected to look for new partners to help fund the bid for a 46% stake in the Kuwaiti mobile group.
 

Mauritius Hopes To Raise USD50 million From MT Sale

The Mauritian Finance Minister Ramakrishna Sithanen has, in his budget speech, said the government hopes to raise MUR1.5 billion (USD50 million) from the listing of the nation's largest telco, Mauritius Telecom (MT).
 
'While the fiscal deficit for 2010 is projected at 4.5%, government borrowing requirement will only be 4% of GDP. This is mainly due to the sale proceeds of Mauritius Telecom shares which is expected to raise at least 1.5 billion rupees,' Reuters quotes the minister as saying. The government sold a 40% stake in its national operator to France Telecom (Orange) in 2000 and retains a 60% stake along with the State Bank of Mauritius.
 
MT reported post-tax profits of MUR1.9 billion (USD51 million) in 2008, down 5% year-on-year, on the back of increased interest payments, but confirmed its plans to list on the Indian Ocean island's stock exchange. Full year turnover climbed 6.5% to MUR6.8 billion in 2008, driven by 12% growth at its mobile unit Cellplus Mobile Communications.
 
In May 2008 the government of Mauritius imposed new taxes on local phone firms, including a 5% levy on profits and 1.5% on revenues as part of a wider plan to keep the budget deficit in check. MT had planned to list last year but postponed the event in the wake of the global credit crunch. At the time it stopped short of providing a date for the listing, although its chairman Thomas Appalsamy confirmed it was still on. 'The company has completed its due diligence exercise and now shareholders are working on the price and the number of shares that will be floated on the Stock Exchange,' he said in June 2009.

Paltel cancels Zain Deal


Palestine Telecommunication Co (Paltel) has announced that it has canceled a deal which would have seen Kuwait-based telecom group Zain take gain a majority stake in the Palestinian operator, Reuters reports.

Paltel claimed that commitments made as part of the deal had not been fulfilled within the agreed time frame, although it declined to provide details on what these commitments were.

Zain has confirmed that the plug has been pulled on the acquisition, although it claimed that its inability to secure the required government approvals was the reason for the deal’s cancellation, although again no further details were provided as to what these approvals were or why they had not been granted.

The two companies announced the deal back in May 2009, with Zain agreeing to take a 56.53% stake in Paltel. Under the terms of the agreement the two companies entered into a share-for-share exchange, which would have seen Zain take the majority stake in Paltel in exchange for Paltel taking 100% ownership of Zain Jordan; the merger would have set Paltel shareholders’ equity position in both Paltel and its newly acquired subsidiary at 41.43%.

SEACOM Disappointed By South Africa Response

Submarine cable operator SEACOM has revealed that it has been disappointed by a lack of take-up in South Africa following the launch of the 15,000km, 1.28Tbps cable system in July 2009, MyBroadband.co.za reports. Company spokesman, Suveer Ramdhani, revealed that of the full SEACOM design capacity, ten wavelengths have been lit, supplying 100Gbps of bandwidth.
 
The company believes take-up has been slow as anticipated price decreases brought about by the arrival of SEACOM have to a large extent not been realised; with the advantages of added bandwidth being slow to filter through to consumers.
 
Ramdhani said: 'The limiting factor is backhaul. There are those on the consumer side that want bandwidth, and there is us on the undersea side that want to give it – we just cannot seem to connect. It is kind of disappointing… The people who are willing to reduce prices in the market do not necessarily have their own access network. It really comes down to our channels to the market. The big boys that have direct access to customers, and have access to the national backhaul, need to start dropping their prices as well. Whilst there is some competition in the national leg, with Broadband Infraco and Neotel coming online, there is a lot of capital being pumped in, the price reductions that come with that national backhaul will only emerge a few years later.'
 
Ramdhani also criticised the lack of local access provision, adding: 'The other major point is the access network… Even if you do solve national backhaul bottlenecks, how do you actually get to the consumer in his house or office? Local Loop Unbundling (LLU) is still many years away. These issues need to be addressed before consumers really begin to see the benefits of the cable initiatives.'

Tigo Launches As Rwanda's Third Operator

Luxembourg-based telecoms group Millicom International Cellular (MIC) has launched mobile services in Rwanda under the Tigo banner, becoming the country's third wireless operator.
 
'We are here to compete. We want to increase penetration and accessibility to telephone services that are affordable,' commented Alex Camara, chief executive of the company. MIC won the tender for a 15-year wireless licence with a bid of USD60 million in November 2008, beating competition from Telecel Globe, Zain and Larrycom-Expresso.
 
The company has invested over USD100 million in the rollout of a 2G/W-CDMA/HSDPA network across around 13 districts of the central African country. Tigo joins two other cellcos in the market: MTN of South Africa, which had a market share of around 79% at 30 September 2009; and Rwandatel, which is owned by Libyan government investment vehicle LAP Green Networks (80%) and the Social Security Fund of Rwanda (20%) and launched commercial GSM/W-CDMA services in December 2008.

Tunisia's Hannibal Cable Goes Live

Tunisie Telecom has inaugurated its first wholly owned submarine fibre-optic cable, known as 'Hannibal.' With an initial capacity of 40Gbps, expandable to 3,200Gbps, the cable, which connects Kelibia to the Italian city of Mazara, runs 180km and has been built at a cost of TND16 million (USD12.6 million).

Libya's LAP Green Secures U$300 Million Loan For African Assets

Libyan investment company LAP Green has signed a USD300 million loan agreement with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China to allow it to fund capital expenditure in its telecoms investments in Uganda, Rwanda, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Niger and Togo.
 
The USD300 million is part of the USD10 billion that China has pledged to lend Africa in low interest loans.

NITEL Sale Date Could Be Extended Again Over Visa Delays

According to Nigerian news source NEXT, the deadline for the sale of ailing incumbent telco Nigerian Telecommunications (NITEL) looks set to be extended further, due to the inability of foreign investors to get visas to visit the country and assess the operator's assets.
 
Earlier this year the federal government gave the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) and the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) 60 working days to find a buyer for the company, but the 17 November deadline looks set to pass without a sale taking place. BPE spokesperson, Chigbo Anichebe, told NEXT that the delay is not a major issue for the bureau, which would rather see the process carried out thoroughly and the right investor found. Rather it is the government that is pushing for a quicker sale due to the depreciating value of NITEL and increasing competition in the telecoms market.
 
In early October the BPE extended the deadline for the submission of technical and financial bids from 2 October to 26 October due to the complexity of the process. The winning bidder was expected to be announced on 9 November.

Gabon Orders Azur To Suspend Its Service For Three Weeks

Gabon's Minister of Communication, Laure Olga Gondjout, has met with Ibrahim Alkharboush, Executive Director of Bintel, the Middle Eastern owner of the African country's newest mobile operator, USAN Gabon (branded 'Azur'), following which a statement was released which apparently orders the newcomer to suspend its operations for three weeks while it fully complies with regulations.
 
The text of the statement included the following: 'This meeting enabled both sides to better suit the regulatory [conditions] of the mobile [market] in Gabon... In recent weeks, Azur made a brilliant and equally thunderous entrance into the Gabonese market. However, all conditions... are not completely satisfied. For that to happen, the government of Gabon has temporarily suspended Azur so that the operator complies fully and honourably [with] the specifications.' The statement did not say which specific regulations have not been complied with.

TelOne Awaits Funds To Expand WiLL

Zimbabwe's national PTO TelOne is 'at an advanced stage' in its plans to expand its coverage of CDMA-based wireless in the local loop (WiLL) services countrywide, but can only proceed when the necessary funds become available.
 
TelOne has already begun expanding CDMA network coverage from Harare's central business district to high-density suburbs of the capital, but TelOne spokesperson Colin Wilbesi says the state-run operator faces 'financial challenges' if it is to increase the footprint further.
 
'Plans to expand the product to other parts of the country are at an advanced stage. However, due to financial limitations the rollout of the programme has been limited to the capital for now. As soon as funds are available, other parts of the country will be included in the rollout programme,' Wilbesi said, without specifying how much money was required or a likely timeframe.
 
Early this year the telco revealed that it required a total of more than USD270 million to upgrade its national fixed network, including the completion of a cross-country fibre-optic backbone.
 

Essar Buys Warid In Congo and Uganda

India's Essar Group has agreed to buy majority stakes in the Dhabi Group's telecoms businesses in Uganda and Congo, Warid Telecom Uganda and Warid Congo. 'The Essar Group has committed growth capital to both telecoms operations to facilitate network expansion and marketing. Upon completion, the Essar Group will acquire a majority stake in both the assets. The partnership is also expected to bring operational efficiencies to the African operations,' the company said in a statement.
 
Warid Telecom Uganda was awarded Public Infrastructure Provision (PIP) and Public Service Provision (PSP) licences in December 2006. On receipt of the concessions, Warid immediately announced plans to roll out a GSM-based network, adding that it would invest USD200 million in its network to give it capacity for 1.5 million subscribers and coverage of 70% of the population.
 
Test calls were completed in September 2007 and the network was launched in February the following year on a pre-paid-only basis. Within three days of launch the company claimed to have signed up 150,000 customers and by the end of December the figure had increased to 1.3 million. Meanwhile in the Republic of Congo Warid has invested around USD90 million and has some 300,000 customers.

Angola To Complete Southern Fibre Network By Year End

The installation of fibre-optic cable links across Angola's southern provinces of Huila, Namibe, Kuando Kubango and Cunene is on target for completion by the end of this year, according to Angola Telecom's regional director, Manuel Octavio.
 
Speaking to news provider Angop, Octavio said that fibre links between Namibe and Huila are complete, adding that the company's technicians are doing their best to reach Kuando Kubango and Cunene by the end of this year, to provide better quality, high speed communications with cheaper prices.

Zim's TelOne Admits Blocking Calls To Keep Debts Down

Zimbabwe's incumbent national PSTN operator TelOne has admitted for the first time that it restricted fixed-to-mobile calls in an effort to keep its debts from mounting.
 
The telco owes USD22 million in interconnection charges to mobile operators, its acting managing director Hampton Mhlanga told the Parliamentary Committee on Media, Information and Communication Technology last Thursday.
 
Mhlanga explained: 'There was a time that the liabilities increased so much that we took a business decision... we were not allowing 100% of calls to mobile operators, especially to [the largest network] Econet, so that we [could] reduce our liability. However, we have since had discussion with the operators, and we said to them, we will pay you 10% of our collections, until such a time as we are able to collect 100%.'
 
Mhlanga also said that the Cabinet decision to force TelOne to slash its tariffs earlier in the year had plunged the PTO deeper into debt. Its obligations to other telecoms operators and the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority had ballooned following the directive, Mhlanga told the committee, whilst he added that the company had been collecting only about 15% of its bills from customers, yet the Revenue Authority demanded tax returns to be based on bills rather than actual money collected. In a statement TelOne said it would end an 'amnesty' on disconnecting defaulting customers as from 1 December.
 

Alcatel-Lucent Deploys End-to-End Communications for Angola Gas Plant

Alcatel-Lucent has secured a USD12 million contract with engineering firm Bechtel for the deployment of integrated telecoms infrastructure to support a new liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in Angola.
 
Under the contract, the French-US supplier will design and implement a fibre-optic cable network, satellite communications, data and voice LAN supporting VoIP telephony, UHF radio and VHF marine radio systems for the onshore and offshore operations of Angola LNG Limited's new plant, scheduled for launch in early 2012.
 
Angola LNG's part-owner, national oil company Sonangol, has its own telecoms division, MSTelcom (including Nexus), which provides fixed line and broadband services in addition to owning a 25% stake in Angola's largest mobile operator Unitel as well as a share in the Angola Cable fibre-optic consortium.

BTC Chooses Ceragon For Network Upgrade

Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) has selected wireless backhaul solutions provider Ceragon Networks to upgrade its nationwide wireless backbone and the backhaul network of mobile unit beMobile. Ceragon's FibeAir solutions will enable the operator to meet its service expansion plans and support rapid subscriber growth.
 
The deployments will help BTC work towards completing the Botswana Telecommunications Authority's (BTA's) Rural Services Improvement and Expansion project, network deployments for which are expected to be finished by year-end.
 
'In order to succeed in the dense telecom market of Botswana, it was important for us to select a backhaul solution that will ensure high quality service delivery at a competitive price,' a BTC spokesperson commented, adding, 'Ceragon has proven to be a great partner, combining superb technology with excellent customer support. With a high-capacity wireless network that we can depend on, beMobile is set to meet the goal of doubling its market share in Botswana.'

Moody Warns Orascom Ratings Could Fall

­Debt ratings agency, Moody's Investors Service has placed Orascom Telecom Holding's ratings on review for possible downgrade. Moody's said that the decision related to an announcement from the Algerian government regarding taxes and penalties alleged to be owing by Orascom Telecom Algeria (OTA) in the amount of approximately US$596.6 million.
 
Orascom Telecom said that the assessment is unfounded, and the Group intends to take all necessary legal steps to challenge the assessment through all available administrative and judicial channels.
 
At the same time, Moody's downgraded the Corporate Family Rating (CFR) of Orascom Telecom to B2 from B1, and the rating of the US$750 million senior notes due 2014 issued by Orascom Telecom Finance S.C.A. to Caa1 from B3.
 
The rating action reflects Moody's view that Orascom's potential inability to repatriate 2009 dividends from OTA (which is the company's primary source of cash inflow) until any resolution with the tax authority, or the payment of US$596.5 million to DGE would put significant pressure on Orascom's already weak liquidity profile. The rating action also factors in the challenging operating and regulatory environment in Algeria, and its impact on Orascom's business and financial risk profile in the medium term, particularly considering that Algerian operations generated 51% of the Group's EBITDA during the first 9 months of 2009.
 
As part of its review process, Moody's will focus on the company's action plan, including any asset disposal. Moody's aims to conclude the review promptly.
 
The last rating action on Orascom Telecom was implemented on 23 September 2009, when Moody's downgraded the CFR to B1 from Ba3, with negative outlook, reflecting -- amongst others - Orascom Telecom's current difficulties in repatriating 50% of the 2008 dividends (to the amount of US$257 million) from its subsidiary in Algeria, OTA, until the local tax authority issues a clearance certificate in relation to the tax position of OTA; and the potential negative impact of a delay on Orascom Telecom's liquidity profile, particularly considering the heavy equity investments planned in Canada in Q4 2009 and the debt repayments coming due in 2010.
 
Moody's understands that if OTA makes the payment of US$596.5 million to the tax authorities, the local tax authority will issue a clearance certificate in relation to the tax position of OTA, which would then allow Orascom to repatriate the remaining 50% of the 2008 dividends (i.e.US$257 million).
 
Orascom Telecom is a holding company with controlling interests in mobile operators in Asia and Africa. In 2008, the company generated US$5.33 billion in revenue and USD2.38 billion in reported EBITDA, on a consolidated basis

Telecom Egypt in 13% Q3 Profit Fall

Egyptian fixed line incumbent Telecom Egypt (TE) has revealed a 13% year-on-year decline in net profit for the three months ended 30 September 2009 to EGP826 million (USD151 million), considerably ahead of analyst expectations. Revenue for the company in the three-month period also declined, down 5.5% y-o-y to EGP2.54 billion, while earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) after provisions fell 11.2% compared to the same period a year earlier to EGP1.25 billion.
 
Despite the quarterly drops, the company's fiscal results for the nine-month period ending 30 September 2009 were more impressive, with TE posting a 17.7% increase in net profit against 9M 2008 to EGP2.58 billion, while nine-month revenue for end-September 2009 was EGP7.74 billion, up 3.3% against the corresponding period in 2008.
 
Fixed line subscribers continue to decline for the telco however, with TE reporting that at end-September 2009 it had 9.63 million subscribers, down some 15%, or two million, against the same date a year earlier. Uptake of the company's ADSL services has continued to climb though, with TE reporting a 68.4% increase in its broadband subscriber base to 571,819 at the end of the reporting period.
 
Commenting on the results, Tarek Tantawy, chief executive officer of TE, said: 'I am pleased to report a nine-month performance which is testament to TE's resilience and determination. Reporting revenue growth of 3% over the last nine months is a solid achievement, particularly when our top and bottom line performance has delivered against intensification in the land grab for mobile subscribers, something which is now attracting regulatory oversight. While such aggressive marketing promotions are being felt at the revenue level, we have protected our margins which remain some of the strongest in the industry.'
 

Zain Malawi Gets 3G Licence

The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) has awarded a licence to provide third generation mobile services to Zain Malawi, Bizcommunity.com reports.
 
The cellco's marketing director, Enwell Kadango, confirmed that discussions over licensing between the two parties were first initiated in 2006. Without elaborating, he added that the concession has only just been awarded, because the cellco's licence conditions have been changed.
 
Zain is reportedly close to finishing the deployment of a 3G-compatible network across the country, which will offer download speeds of between 2Mbps-8Mbps, television services and videocalling.
 
Without mentioning a specific date, the report adds that Zain's sole competitor in the mobile market, Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM), has already been awarded a 3G licence, and is currently testing the technology.

Telma Mobile Launches Madagascar's First HSPA+ Network

Madagascar's Telma Mobile has announced the launch of the country's first HSPA+ network. The company also said that it will maintain pricing at the same level as it charges for its existing EDGE services. The network was provided by Ericsson.

Mobinil Signs Up Zain One Network Deal

Zain has expanded its international roaming agreement, known as One Network to include Egypt after signing a partnership with Mobinil. The One Network platform offers roaming across the Zain network with call costs and services charged at the same rate as the home network.
 
As in any other "One Network" country, while in Egypt, Zain customers can recharge their pre-paid lines with locally purchased top up cards.
 
"'One Network' is unstoppable," said Zain Group CEO Dr Saad Al Barrak. "We have reached an enormous milestone by reaching Egypt, a country that embraces both the Middle East and Africa. In every new country in which we plant the "One Network' flag, we are redefining the concept of mobile coverage and roaming by delivering on our brand promise of 'A wonderful world'".
 
Since its introduction in September 2006, "One Network" has been recognized by the international community for significant innovation and raising industry standards, attaining many awards. Most recently at the Middle East World Telecom Awards held last Tuesday, 'One Network' was named "Telecommunication Innovation of the Year".

MTN To Lay Off 400 Staff IN South Africa

­South Africa based MTN is reported to be planning job cuts of over 400 staff, or around 8% of its total headcount. The redundancy plan, which The Times newspaper has seen, is dubbed the "Headcount Reduction Project Plan".
 
The plan is reported to involve 120 staff from MTN service centres, 71 from customer operations, 70 from distribution, 40 to 50 from finance, 41 from corporate sales, 21 and 20 from human resources and marketing and 10 from the technology department.
 
Employees have been asked to take voluntary termination packages.
 
It was also reported that an unspecified number of the mobile network operator's contract employees would also be cut.
 
The company recently reported a substantial drop in its subscriber base, largely due to prepay subscribers refusing to register their identities with the operator as required by a new law.

Orascom Q3 Profits Double

­Orascom Telecom Holding has reported a near doubling in its 3rd-quarter profits to US$180.9 million, compared to $90.5 million in the same period a year ago. Revenues were US$1.29 billion in the quarter.
 
The total subscriber base approach 89 million, an increase of 12.1% over September 2008.
 
Third quarter revenues performance improved over the previous quarter in all major subsidiaries, with the exception of Pakistan where a slight devaluation of the currency and Ramadan negatively impacted revenues. Q3 09 was particularly strong in Tunisia, with revenues up 13.9% over Q2 09, and was also positive in Egypt and Bangladesh with single digit increases over the previous quarter. In OTA, revenues were flat over the previous quarter mainly as a result of increased competition and slower subscriber growth. It is worth noting that the Holy month of Ramadan took place entirely in the third quarter of this year with a negative impact on revenues.
 
Naguib Sawiris, Chairman and CEO of OTH, commented on the results: "The performance of Orascom Telecom in the first nine months of 2009 has seen an improving trend over the course of the year as local currencies in most of our key operations have stabilised against the US$, after the sharp devaluation of the currencies in Algeria, Pakistan and Tunisia. While the economic environment has improved in recent months the competitive environment remains challenging; in this context OTH has continued to perform well, although 2009 will be a year of slower growth than 2008, in line with our forecasts.
 
In the first nine months of 2009 Orascom Telecom continued to grow its customer base approaching the 89 million subscribers mark, a 12.1% growth over the same period of the previous year. Growth was particularly strong in Egypt, up more than 30%, in Bangladesh, up almost 20%, and in Tunisia, up almost 16%. In Pakistan overall subscriber growth was 4% lower than the previous year as a result of the substantial inactive customer base clean-up performed up to Q1 2009; since then growth has resumed and in the six month period spanning Q2 and Q3 2009 Mobilink achieved over 1.8 million net additions.
 
Growth in Algeria remained positive in Q3 2009 with a 2% growth over the same period of 2008. A significant contribution to customer base growth was also delivered by Telecel Globe, with subscribers rapidly approaching the 1.5 million mark, and North Korea based koryolink which counts over 69,000 subscribers as of September 30, 2009. The management contract of Alfa in Lebanon continues to perform strongly with subscribers approaching 1 million.
 
On the company's Canadian investment, Sawiris commented "Concerning our investment in WIND Mobile (previously Globalive Wireless) we are very surprised and disappointed by the CRTC decision that comes 14 months after the end of the AWS spectrum auction and a few weeks ahead of WIND Mobile's intended launch date, also in light of the approval received in March 2009 from Industry Canada confirming the compliance with the Canadian ownership and control rules. We will support WIND Mobile's management in its efforts to explore all avenues to obtain clearance to operate in Canada and launch operations at the earliest possible time in order to enable the Canadian consumers to benefit from a truly competitive market."

Zain Q3 Profits Fall By Half

Kuwait based Zain has reported a 53 percent drop in its 3rd-quarter profits to KWD 41.19 million (US$144.3 million) from KWD 87.2 million a year ago.
 
For the first nine months of 2009, Zain Group recorded consolidated revenues of KWD 1.78 billion (US$6.169 billion), an increase of 24% compared to the first nine months of 2008. The company's consolidated EBITDA increased by 37% for the same period to reach KWD 757.3 million (US$2.624 billion). Consolidated Net Income reached KWD 195.7 million (US$677.1 million), a decrease of 17%.
 
Year-on-year customer growth on the two continents across which Zain operates was 28%, whereby the company is serving 71.8 million managed active customers as of September 30, 2009.
 
Chief Executive Officer of Zain, Dr Saad Al Barrak commenting on the nine months results, said: "The Company continues to post impressive growth in several key operational and financial indicators as is evident by the increases of our customer numbers, consolidated revenues, EBITDA, EBITDA margin and EBIT. This is a result of our vast and capital intensive network expansion and marketing programs that are attracting new customers and further enhancing our young award winning Zain brand".
 
Dr Al Barrak also noted however, that, "the global economic crisis, unfavorable foreign currency fluctuations, particularly in many of our African operations coupled with reduced interest income and investment income plus higher financing costs, have had an significant impact on the company's overall profit. Adding to these challenges are the associated 'start-up' capital and operational expenditures in two large and promising operations that were launched in the last 12 months, namely the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Ghana, as well increased fixed costs charges as a result of network expansion in many of our markets".
 
During this nine months period, foreign currency fluctuations have negatively impacted net profit by US$130 million.
 
Dr Al Barrak further added, "The nature of the nine months 2009 net income result is all the more impressive when one takes into account that during this period in 2008 we had an extraordinary gain of KWD26.6 million (US$99 million) from the successful Zambia IPO. This is an indication that operational net income growth is better than indicated for this period."

South Africa's Operators Agree to MTRs

South Africa's communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda has revealed in a statement to parliament that an agreement had been reached with mobile operators Cell C, Vodacom and MTN to cut mobile termination rates (MTRs), lowering communication costs nationwide.
 
The three companies have been debating a reduction in MTRs; a state committee proposed that rates should be cut to ZAR0.60 (USD0.08) per minute during peak times and then by a further ZAR0.15 annually until 2012. Operators currently charge each other on average ZAR1.25 per minute during peak times.
 
However, operators opposed the cut, describing it as 'drastic' and 'below cost', and following further negotiation have agreed to implement a new payment structure, to be introduced in early 2010. Nyanda said: 'The agreed reduced MTRs are the following, peak ZAR0.89, off-peak ZAR0.77. We have therefore agreed with Vodacom and Cell C that the effective date for reduction would be February 2010. This excludes MTN who will implement on 1 March.'
 

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Zain Tanzania Forecasts More Subscribers But No Growth In Sales


Zain's Tanzanian mobile venture expects full-year turnover to be flat for 2009 on the back of a cut in consumer spending caused by the wider economic slowdown, although it also reports it hopes to continue to see strong gains in terms of subscribers for the rest of the year.

The unit's managing director Khaled Muhtadi told Reuters he expected customer numbers to keep growing but anticipates 'flat revenue growth' in 2009. 'We see 5.2 million customers by the end of this year, up from 4.8 million currently, and aim to reach six million at the end of next year,' Muhtadi said in an interview.

'Revenue ... was USD328 million for 2008. We don't expect much growth in 2009. The revenue has been rather flat and a lot slower than expected because of the world economic situation,' he added.

Muhtadi went on to say his company has invested USD500 million in its Tanzanian network infrastructure over the past five years. And as part of a new consortium with rival operators Simbanet, Tigo and Zantel, he said Zain was ready to pump a further USD100 million to lay a joint fibre infrastructure throughout the country. 

'We're saying either allow us to put down that backbone or allow us to lease it from the government, but up to now there's no visibility on this and we're not being given the right to lay our own national backbone: this is the bottleneck we're seeing,' Muhtadi said.

New Zamtel Owner To Revitalise Company


­Zamtel's new owner could revitalise the company, gaining a 19% share of the mobile market by 2015, up from its current 4% share. According to Onda Analytics, the privatisation will lead to a major operator taking over Zamtel, providing a serious threat to existing Zambian mobile operators, Zain and MTN.

Interested parties, including MTNL, Telecel Globe (a subsidiary of Orascom), Telkom SA and Vimpelcom officially began due diligence this week.

According to report lead author, Daniel Jones (Partner), "The new investor will have to turn around an operator in crisis. A strategy along the lines of a new entrant will be needed, as Zamtel has fallen further and further behind in the mobile market. High mobile tariffs and low penetration in Zambia present an opportunity for the buyer. Aggressive price competition and going after subscribers new to the market will help Zamtel grow its market share and challenge its competitors".

Onda Analytics' new report considers the strategies that a new owner will need to adopt in order to turn the operator into a significant mobile player in Zambia. Under the right strategy, Onda Analytics forecasts Zamtel to grow its mobile market share from 4% in 2009 to 19% by 2015, increasing its subscriber base from 160 000 to 1.8 million. The report also analyses the strategic importance of Zamtel's other assets, including its fixed line network and the WiMAX network currently in deployment.

On top of increasing revenues, Zamtel will need to keep a close check on costs. "Zamtel's bloated cost base, as a result of its large headcount, has led it to insolvency and the current privatisation process" explains report co-author, Tom Harden, Partner at Onda Analytics. "Today, all the operator's unionised staff have agreed voluntary redundancy. A massive staff reduction programme will be need to be carried out by whichever company takes over Zamtel. The union has recognised this, hoping to get the best redundancy packages for its members by negotiating the government now, rather than the new owner later" explains Harden.

History Is Made As Cellcom Becomes First Private Company to Make IPO In Liberia

Liberian mobile operator Cellcom Telecommunication Incorporated yesterday launched an initial public offering (IPO) in the country, promising to offer shares in the company to businesses and individuals alike – the first time a profitable and privately-owned company has offered shares to the Liberian people.
 
Cellcom, which is jointly owned by Cellcom Telecommunications Inc and an internet company in Liberia, officially launched its IPO through a convertible debenture whose minimum price is USD10.00. Up to 500,000 debentures are being offered with a minimum of 10% interest which will be payable semi-annually.

Buyer To Share NITEL Debt With Government

The debt of ailing Nigerian incumbent operator Nigerian Telecommunications (NITEL) will be shared between the telco's new buyer and the federal government, local daily Vanguard reports, citing chairman of the Senate Committee on Communications, Senator Sylvester Anyanwu.
 
The chairman also revealed that the winning bidder of a 75% stake in NITEL will be declared by the end of November, and that interested parties have already been shortlisted. 14 companies have reportedly expressed an interest in NITEL, including Etisalat Nigeria, MTNL of India, Globacom, MTN Nigeria, Telefonica of Spain and MetroPCS Communications.
 
In a separate story, THISDAY reports that Information and Communications Minister Dora Akunyili has said the ministry will make recommendations to the Federal Executive Council to merge the two regulatory bodies of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC), by the end of December. The minister said the move was designed to prevent overlap in the area of spectrum licensing.

Glo Gets Licence in Cote d'Ivoire

Nigerian integrated telecoms operator, Globacom, has announced that it has obtained an operating licence in Cote d'Ivoire. The licence will enable Globacom to take advantage of its trans-Atlantic submarine cable, Glo 1, to provide international data transport services to the West African nation.
 
With the new licence, Globacom will provide international carrier services for telecoms operators in Cote d'Ivoire, aggregate and carry voice and data traffic into and out of the country. The firm will also transport traffic between third party networks in the country for all telecoms operators irrespective of the type of technology deployed, such as CDMA, 3G, 4G and voice-over-IP (VoIP).
 
Paddy Adenuga, Globacom's executive director, said: 'In line with our vision, we are building a network that will provide the most comprehensive international communication services on the continent to bridge the digital divide between Africa and the rest of the world.'

Telecom Namibia Extend Data Service to 6 New Locations

Telecom Namibia has announced that it has extended its 3G CDMA2000 1xEV-DO mobile data service to six additional localities: Katima Mulilo, Oshikango, Ondangwa, Okahandja, Henties Bay and Long Beach (near Swakopmund).
 
Meanwhile, the company reports that it is currently installing new EV-DO base stations in Windhoek to complement the existing eleven base stations in the capital city. Telecom Namibia's 3G services are also available in Oshakati, Ongwediva, Swakopmund, Walvis Bay, Oranjemund, Rosh Pinah, Tsumeb, Rundu, Otjiwarongo, Grootfontein, Luderitz, Keetmanshoop, Aussenkehr, Gobabis, Mariental, Rehoboth and Scorpion Mine.
 
Mobile broadband services are available to individuals and businesses ranging from an entry-level package priced at NAD289 (USD39.5) per month, to a premium plan including unlimited data usage costing NAD999 a month.

Eskom Adopts SMS Voucher Recharge System

­Sybase 365 says that it is providing the messaging platform for an SMS based electricity voucher scheme being rolled out in South Africa.
 
The initial service provides real-time electricity pre-pay meter recharge for Eskom (the South African electricity public utility) and various municipalities using a mobile wallet developed by MoPay. A key element of the service is to facilitate the distribution of Free Basic Electricity tokens (tokens distributed by the government to low-income households), sent by SMS to registered meter owners.
 
"It is very rewarding to be at the forefront of a project which can really make a profound difference to the lives of people in South Africa. So many people are faced with a half day round trip to reach services that they can now access using a network independent, ubiquitous mCommerce service. It would be difficult for a farmer to give up a day tending his farm to go to visit his bank," said Cobus Potgieter, CEO, MoPay. "Our partnership with Sybase 365 enables us to extend mobile-based service offerings to many more diverse, under-privileged and remote communities."
 
As well as providing this payment mechanism, MoPay also facilitates other services vital to thriving villages and communities, such as free communications, free SMS between schools and parents and free content for schools and students.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Gateway Deal Causes Vodafone Profits To Fall By 98.4%

South African mobile group Vodacom has reported net profit of ZAR59 million (USD7.78 million) for the six months ended 30 September 2009, down 98.4% from ZAR3.77 billion in the same period a year earlier. The operator said that earnings were hit by a ZAR3.2 billion impairment loss relating to its acquisition of pan-African satellite firm Gateway in December 2008.
 
Revenues for the period were up from ZAR26.09 billion in 1H08, to ZAR28.67 billion a year later while earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) grew 8% year-on-year, up to ZAR9.35 billion.
 
'If I look at the future, the macroeconomic outlook is uncertain but we are seeing early signs of recovery specifically in South Africa,' Pieter Uys, Vodacom's CEO said in a conference call, adding, 'But it is too soon to be confident in a sustained recovery across all customer segments.'
 
The firm succeeded in adding customers to all five of its operations, ending the period with a total of 28.2 million subscribers in South Africa; 6.26 million in Tanzania; 4.4 million in the Democratic Republic of Congo; 2.1 million in Mozambique; and 586,000 in Lesotho, up year-on-year by 11.7%, 27%, 16.6%, 65.8% and 30.2% respectively.