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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