Friday, February 26, 2010

MTN and Telkom SA Target Stakes In Zim's NetOne & TelOne

The government of Zimbabwe confirmed this week that South African cellco MTN and fixed line operator Telkom South Africa are persisting with advances to buy stakes in two Zimbabwean state-run companies, mobile operator NetOne and incumbent PTO TelOne, respectively.

Local newspaper The Herald reports that the South African firms are amongst several foreign companies that have expressed interest in buying stakes in the two operators. A senior state official was quoted as confirming that MTN and Telkom had made formal bids for the cash-strapped pair, adding that the government was in the process of considering the bids and that the respective investment proposals would soon be presented to Cabinet. According to the unnamed official: ‘Several firms have expressed interest in [NetOne and TelOne] and we are in the process of conducting due diligence on these bids. They will soon be presented to Cabinet before we choose the winner.’

An injection of foreign capital into the underfunded networks of TelOne and NetOne would further the aims of the Zimbabwean government in the communications sector. At the beginning of this week the Ministry of Information Communication Technology unveiled its new National Information Communication strategic plan that will run from 2010 to 2014.

ICT minister Nelson Chamisa said the strategic plan would address issues of infrastructure development and management, assist in the establishment of a governance regime, ICT utilisation, e-business and e-government, cyber security, ICT investment and partnerships. In addition, the plan would also focus on promoting research and development in ICT and also mobilisation of resources to achieve the ministry's mandate of transforming the sector.

‘This strategic plan... promotes the emergence and convergence of information and communication technologies... to transform Zimbabwe into a knowledge society, and pulls the entire nation around a single vision,’ said Mr Chamisa on Monday. The Ministry has already finalised its ICT Bill and is awaiting approval from Cabinet before the legislation goes to Parliament for further scrutiny; Chamisa announced that efforts were being made to pass the bill to the legislature ‘soon’.

Bharti CEO Says Africa Has Potential

While explaining the rationale for buying Zain, Africa was described as a potential emerging market by Sunil Bharti Mittal, founder Chairman and Group CEO, Bharti Enterprises.

The need of globalisation for Bharti has also been explained by him as Indian operations were generating free cash flows. While defending his decision to enter into talks with the Kuwait telecom major, he made it clear that competitive intensity is low for Zain in most countries and the valuations offered are fair and reasonable.

According to Bharti officials, Africa had good growth opportunities among emerging markets, given its high population, lower mobile penetration and relatively less competition and the tariffs too, in Africa are more than 10 times India.

Maroc Telecom Completes Fibre Link to Western Sahara

Moroccan communications group Maroc Telecom has reached 60% completion in the first phase of a plan to roll out a fibre-optic backbone network linking Morocco with West African countries, reports Dow Jones Newswires quoting Middle Eastern daily Asharq Al Awsat.

Phase one of the network will link the capital of Mauritania, Nouakchott, to El Ouyoun in Western Sahara, revealed Maroc Telecom's president Abdulsalam Ahizoune, whilst the finished route will link Mauritania, Gabon, Mali and Burkina Faso, he said.

Mobiles Help Church Growth In Africa

A mobile phone suspended on a belt round the waist, or from the neck, is a common sight among members of church congregations in Africa. Now, church leaders are heaping praise on mobile phones, sometimes called cell phones, because they say the instruments help congregations grow.

Mobile phone use increased rapidly in Africa about 10 years ago. At that time, however, some Christians on the continent criticised the phones for being "marks of materialism". Now, that has changed.

"It is as if cell phones have come to revolutionise everything, even Christianity," says Anglican Bishop Charles Gaita of Nyahururu in central Kenya. "They are making things happen quickly."

Gaita says mobile phones make it easier and cheaper for the church to spread word about its activities, such as Bible studies and meetings. The phones also make it quicker to get information, and help improve lives.

The bishop says Kenya's mobile phone boom is inspiring creativity among Christians. They are sharing Bible verses through text messaging services (SMS). Young people are using the phones to discuss religious matters on social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, and downloading Gospel tunes to use as ring tones.

Connecting the phones to microphones to record sermons that can then be sent to congregations in remote areas may sound strange but the churches are doing it, according to Archbishop Mweresa Kivuli, chairperson of the Kenyan Chapter of the Organization of African Instituted Churches.

"If there is a preacher the congregations consider important elsewhere, we connect them to the pastor through this means," Kivuli told Ecumenical News International. "We have at times linked our churches to overseas preachers."

Africa's mobile phone subscribers total nearly 300 million, according to latest International Telecommunication Union statistics. The figure is projected to double by 2020.

South Africa, where about 80 percent of the estimated nation's 50 million population are Christians, leads the continent's mobile phone subscription level. Nigeria is second, with Kenya third.

"The Church sees the mobile phone as a blessing and a gift from God," says the Rev. Martin Wanyoike, national secretary of the Social Communications Commission of the Roman Catholic Church's Kenya Episcopal Conference. "We must use it for the service of the world."

Recently, mobile phone companies introduced money transfer services, which some Christians now use to tithe or give offerings. The churches only need to inform the congregation of the required cell-phone number for this service.

"We get money through the mobile phones once we give out the account details. We have realised there are many Kenyans who do not earn a monthly salary. So, to facilitate their offering, we use the money transfer service," says the Rev. Wellington Mutiso, an evangelical church pastor and general secretary of the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya.

Mutiso says the phones have proved useful as a follow-up tool for converts to Christianity.

"If we do not see them in church [after their conversion] , we call them or send an SMS. The response is immediate," he says. "I can assure you they [the phones] are helping the Church to grow."

At the same time, money transfer services are providing an extra way for churches to raise relief funds. In January, for example, following the earthquake in Haiti, the Catholic Church in Kenya appealed for donations for Haiti to be sent through one of the phone money transfer services.

"The response has been good. We managed to collect 500 000 [Kenya] shillings (US$6500) in a short time. The money was sent to us through the mobile phones. This is a beautiful service," says Wanyoike.

-Ecumenical News International

Thursday, February 25, 2010

MTN Uganda Sues UTL Over Interconnection Fees

MTN Uganda is suing Uganda Telecommunications Ltd (UTL), seeking UGS7.2 billion (USD3.55 million) for unpaid interconnection fees. In a case filed at the Kampala High Court's Commercial Division, MTN accused UTL of breach of contract.
It claims that in February 2001 its management entered into an agreement with UTL to interconnect their respective networks, as required by their respective telecoms licences awarded by the Uganda Communications Commission. According to MTN, in accordance with the interconnection charges that were detailed in the agreement its management issued invoices to UTL, but that the state-owned telco failed to pay them. MTN has asked for a court order compelling UTL to pay the owes plus interest, damages and costs.

Togo Telecom Chooses Xtera For Fibre Network

Togo Telecom has contracted Xtera Communications, a global provider of optical and IP networking solutions, to deploy a high capacity fibre-optic network across Togo. Phase I of the work was completed in January 2010. When completed, the deployment will migrate the current Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH) long-distance domestic network to a new optical layer relying on advanced broadband optical amplification technology for higher capacity, providing enhanced network resilience and availability. The new network will also create a high-capacity, reliable backhaul system, connecting landlocked countries in the west sub-Saharan area to international submarine cable systems via Togo Telecom's cable landing station, which is part of the West African Cable System (WACS).

'Togo Telecom's advanced nationwide optical network combined with the WACS infrastructure will offer landlocked countries in the sub-region and Togo access to the rest of the world,' said Sam Bikassam, general manager of Togo Telecom. 'This will free landlocked countries from the exclusive use of microwave radio systems and satellite connectivity for international communications, enabling them to offer more reliable, higher capacity broadband services to their residential and business customers' he added.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ghana Court Adjourns Vodafone Case

Ghana’s Supreme Court yesterday announced its decision to adjourn to 9 March 2010 the case concerning the sale of national PTO Ghana Telecom (GT) to the UK's Vodafone Group. The decision was taken by a nine-member panel which ruled the High Court, which handed the case to it, had not fully complied with the rules of the court, GNA reports. In a statement the Supreme Court said: ‘We find that the trial High Court did not comply with rule 67 of CI 16. We hereby order the High Court to comply within 14 days.’

In October 2009 CommsUpdate reported that the committee set up to investigate the sale of a 70% stake in GT to Vodafone recommended that the government consider renegotiating the Sale and Purchase Agreement. At the time, Dr Valerie Sawyerr, the Deputy Chief of Staff of the committee said that Ghana’s government should in particular reconsider Parties to the SPA; compliance or otherwise of the SPA with the laws of Ghana, particularly the NCA Regulations and the Internal Revenue Act 592; value for money/ Transaction consideration; retention of the National Fibre Optic by the Government of Ghana as a strategic national asset; decoupling of the Ghana Telecom University from the transaction (already done); and return of GT investments to the Government of Ghana such as the Telecom Emporium.

Earlier the same month a leaked Ghanaian government report claimed that last year’s sale of the incumbent fixed line operator was ‘unconstitutional and illegal', and did not represent good value for money.

Wana Launches Inwi In Morocco

Moroccan fixed-wireless, 3G mobile and broadband operator Wana has launched commercial 2G mobile services over its new GSM network on schedule, under its new Inwi brand.

The GSM network has an initial capacity of two million subscriber connections, whilst at launch the company announced that it had 75% population coverage.

Alongside the GSM launch, Wana is offering 3G mobile broadband services, based on its existing national CDMA2000 1xEV-DO network, but now also rebranded under the Inwi banner, with double-play mobile voice and internet bundles including USB wireless modems offered to pre- and post-paid consumers and business users. Aiming for a basic range of low-cost voice and SMS packages to quickly soak up remaining mobile demand, Inwi's initial GSM-based offerings include pre-paid services with per-second billing and a range of post-paid packages with inclusive on-net calls, as well as BlackBerry services.

Having contracted China's Huawei last year to roll out a GSM/W-CDMA network with at least 1,500 2G/3G base stations, Wana is expected to eventually introduce a range of 3G W-CDMA-based services over the new network such as video calling, videoconferencing, streaming media and HSPA-based mobile internet.

Maroc Telecom Profits Down 1%, Revenues Up 2.8%

Moroccan full-service telco Maroc Telecom, majority-owned by France’s Vivendi, has posted a 1% year-on-year fall in 2009 net income to MAD9.43 billion (USD1.15 billion) on consolidated revenues that climbed by 2.8% to MAD30.34 billion, as it increased spending, especially in the mobile segment. Group EBITDA for the year rose by 2.9% to MAD18.15 billion.

Operations in Morocco generated net revenues of MAD25.76 billion in 2009, up 0.1% versus 2008, EBITDA of MAD16.16 billion, down 1.5%, and earnings from operations of MAD13.08 billion, down 3.5% year-on-year, chiefly due to the impact of promotional initiatives deployed to stimulate the market and maintain its leading position. Maroc Telecom’s domestic mobile subscriber base grew by 5.6% in twelve months to 15.27 million at end-December 2009, whilst it had 1.234 million Moroccan fixed lines in service at year-end, down 5% year-on-year, due mainly to shrinkage in the residential customer base (down 8.8%) resulting from mobile substitution. At end-December the telco had 469,000 ADSL subscribers, down 1.7% compared to the same date in 2008.

However, it also signed up 174,000 3G/3.5G mobile broadband customers on its W-CDMA/HSPA-based cellular network by year-end, up from less than 30,000 a year earlier.

Group-wide, the operator had a total of 21.7 million customers at end-2009, up 12.6% year on year, reflecting the inclusion of Malian operator SOTELMA, the resurgence in domestic mobile growth and continued year-on-year expansion of other subsidiaries’ mobile customer bases in Gabon, Mauritania and Burkina Faso. A statement from the company read: ‘Based on current market conditions, and barring any unforeseen disruptions to the group's operations, Maroc Telecom will achieve moderate growth in revenues in 2010, driven mainly by growth of subsidiaries.’

MTN Silent On Dubai Relocation Claims

No comment has been made by South Africa’s MTN on the rumors regarding the moving of its headquarters from the country to the Middle East. The refusal came after it was reported that the company plans to move its group operations out of the country and eventually delist its shares from the Johannesburg Securities Exchange.

According to MTN executive director Nozipho January-Bardill in late January, the planned relocation of the technical services support team to Dubai is part of the group’s ongoing response to the challenges of the changing global telecommunications industry and it is also intended to address the logistical challenge of supporting the group’s networks in the Middle East in particular, and certain parts of Africa.

Using Dubai as a regional hub offers significant benefits to the company for tax and transport options even though MTN doesn’t have any operations in the UAE.

Zain Launches International Top-Up Service

Zain has unveiled an International Airtime top up service that will enable people living in Europe, USA, and Canada to purchase Zain airtime for friends and family living in countries where Zain operates.

The new service is now live 'to Kenya' with further roll-outs to Uganda and Tanzania, and other countries planned over the coming months. Those using the service will be able to top-up each specified mobile phone with defined airtime values ranging from Kshs 1500 to 3500. Top up will be through credit cards which are functional in the 16 participating countries.

The service will be accessed online through the Zain website. "To buy a top up, users will be required to register on the website and select up to three numbers which they may directly send airtime to," said Rene Meza, Zain Kenya Managing Director. With 30 million members of the African diaspora currently contributing approx $40 billion annually in remittances to Africa, Zain and Mi-Pay anticipate high demand for the service.

Under the contract, Mi-Pay is providing Zain with full-service delivery which includes Zain branded front-end web designs; settlement and reconciliation; merchant acquisition; and system monitoring and reporting.

"We operate in many prime remittance corridors where people living in rural and remote regions rely on family and friends abroad for additional financial support," said Chris Gabriel, CEO, Zain Africa. "We believe this international top-up service will provide a new way to channel this support through the provision of airtime. We chose Mi-Pay, because of its proven expertise and capability," he added.

The scalable and flexible solution will allow Zain to quickly create, implement and roll-out the international top-up facility; creating valuable new revenue streams and vital new services for its customers. Norman Frankel, CEO of Mi-Pay said: "We are delighted that Zain has agreed to work with Mi-Pay on an exclusive basis, using our International Airtime platform to deliver remote airtime top-up. Given the high numbers of Africans now living abroad and their desire to ensure contacts at home have access to crucial mobile communications, we believe this will prove a popular service. Our world class platform is designed to accommodate rapid growth allowing us to 'go-live' in both recipient and sending countries in quick succession - with minimal cost and risk to Zain."

The service is now live and available from the following 16 key sending countries: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America.

Nigeria Dispute Could Curtail Bharti Zain Deal

Minority shareholder Broad Communications Ltd, which owns 14% share in Zain Nigeria, will seek to enforce its rights in any potential transfer of ownership in the company. The announcement came after Bharti Airtel entered into exclusive talks with Zain until March 25 to buy most of Kuwait-based Mobile Telecommunications Co. or Zain’s assets in Africa in a deal that could be worth up to $10.7 billion.

According to the largest minority shareholder in Zain Nigeria, Broad, the company has not been formally informed by the Zain Group of its intention to sell its 65% shareholding in the Nigerian entity and the company intend to fully exercise its pre-emption rights as directed by the courts and as guided by the company’s shareholders’ agreements entered into between the company’s shareholders.

The dispute over ownership of the largest unit in Nigeria might disrupt Bharti’s third attempt to enter the African market. Econent Wireless Holdings Ltd., a South African telecommunications company is attempting to overturn a 2006 deal in which Celtel, now known as Zain, bought a controlling 65% of the business that had been founded at the beginning of that decade by a group of government, institutional and private investors.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"The Vodafone Way" Introduced In Ghana to Make Staff More Customer Focused

“The Vodafone Way”, a new business model has been launched by Vodafone Ghana to create a significant shift in the work culture of employees and partners of the telecom giant to make it more customers oriented.
According to Isaac Abraham, Corporate Communications Manager of the Company, new business model was designed to make the company’s customers’ expectations real by investing in programmes that would help it understand what motivated customers and it will ensure that Vodafone, its staff and partners do business with speed, simplicity and trust.

The service is also expected to assist in making the company the number one communications network in the country not only in terms of total mobile numbers but in terms of quality of voice and data services and finding solutions to telecommunications problems.

SingTel Could Buy Into Bharti To Help Finance Zain Acquisition

Shares of Bharti Airtel might be sold to Singapore Telecommunications by the operator to partly fund its purchase of Zain’s African assets and avoid taking on too much debt.
According to SingTel, it is premature to talk about funding as the transaction is subject to ongoing discussions, due diligence and customary regulatory approvals and as a strategic investor, the company has significant governance and shareholder rights besides having involvement in key decisions, including major investments.
Bharti Airtel is in exclusive talks to buy most of the African assets of Kuwaiti telecoms firm Zain for $9 billion.

Angola Mobile Lines Hit 8.7 Million Mark

The mobile market of Angola continued to grow steadily and the number of subscriptions reached 8.7 million at the end of December 2009, up from 6.8 million twelve months previously.
Even the fixed line telephone connections reached a modest total of 303,000 at the end of 2009. This represents a significant growth from a figure of 218,000 at end-2008.

Unicom Now Says It's Interested In Nitel, Maintains It's Not Part of New Generation

After denying any involvement in a consortium which became the preferred buyer for struggling incumbent telco Nigerian Telecommunications (NITEL), Reuters reports that China Unicom has now stated it would be interested in joining New Generation Telecommunications, but noted it never entered formal negotiations with the group. In a bid to clarify confusion over reports of its participation in the consortium, Unicom said in a statement its UK-based division Unicom Europe had been in contact with bidders taking part in the privatisation process and indicated an interest in providing technical and managerial support for the bid. The company also said it had expressed a potential interest in taking an equity stake in NITEL if certain conditions were fulfilled.

Nigeria’s Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) announced on 16 February that New Generation Telecommunications had become the preferred buyer for a minimum 75% stake in NITEL after beating four other firms with a bid of USD2.5 billion. Other companies with an interest in New Generation were named by the BPE as Dubai-based Minerva Group and local company GiCell Wireless. The reserve bidder was announced as Omen International (BVI), which offered USD956 million.

Bharti Ratings To Go Down On Zain Acquisition

Fitch Ratings has placed Indian telco Bharti Airtel on Rating Watch Negative (RWN) and expects that the ratings might go down by one mark if its deal with Zain  is completed and substantially debt funded. Bharti has been included in the list following its potential acquisition of Zain’s African assets for around US$10.7 billion.
The potential costs associated with any bid for a 3G license and related CAPEX can further downgrade the rating. The uncertainties surrounding the targeted turnaround of the loss-making operations of Zain’s African assets have been taken into account by RWN.

Fitch expects the combined entity to assume the net debt of US$1.7 billion present at end-September 2009 on Zain’s balance sheet at end-September 2009 relating to its African operations.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Econet Subsidiary Plans Wireless Network

Liquid Telecom, a majority-owned subsidiary of Zimbabwean cellco Econet Wireless, has revealed ambitious plans for building an international and national fibre-optic transmission network. In an interview with BalancingAct, Liquid’s CEO Nic Rudnick listed the company’s aims. These include: building its own links to international submarine fibre-optic cables (with bandwidth allocations on SEACOM and EASSy systems pending); a 7,500km domestic fibre networks linking all major cities; an international fibre network linking to eight other countries (Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia and Namibia in a first phase, and a proposed second phase reaching Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo and Malawi); metro fibre networks in Harare and Bulawayo; and proposed metro networks in two other southern African countries. The network infrastructure is being built by Huawei Technologies of China.

Rudnick indicated that most of the traffic on the network would be Econet’s initially, but that third-party traffic could account for the majority in due course. Econet Wireless set up Liquid Telecom in an attempt to achieve lower international transmission rates than those possible via third-party links to South Africa. The cellco’s development plans for Liquid, which currently operates via satellite bandwidth, were put on hold during Zimbabwe’s economic crash.

Econet Wireless Zimbabwe’s internet subsidiary Ecoweb already operates a fibre-optic backbone covering Harare and Bulawayo, whilst the country’s incumbent PSTN operator TelOne is pursuing a project to build a nationwide high speed fibre network, but has faced obstacles raising the necessary funding. Meanwhile the commercial launch of the EASSy consortium international fibre system has suffered delays and is now expected to be operational in August 2010.

Minerva Group Backs Nitel Consortium

News agency Reuters reports that Dubai’s Minerva Group is the main financial backer of New Generation Technology, a consortium selected last week as the preferred buyer for ailing incumbent telco Nigerian Telecommunications (NITEL) with a bid of USD2.5 billion. After revealing the results of the bidding process, Nigeria’s Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) announced that New Generation was a consortium involving China Unicom, Minerva and local firm GiCell, but the Chinese company was quick to deny any involvement in the bid. GiCell’s managing director, Usman Gumi, told Reuters that China Unicom’s involvement only extended to an interest in offering technical and managerial support. ‘We have a firm commitment from our investors and partners, the Minerva Group, that we are working with. We did not pull all this out of the air,’ Gumi said in a telephone interview, adding, ‘We believe NITEL is worth the amount because of the infrastructure and potential that it has.’

The Nigerian government began seeking a buyer for a minimum 75% of NITEL and 100% of its mobile unit M-Tel in July 2009 after previous majority shareholder Transcorp divested its stake earlier in the year. Prospective investors were invited to acquire either at least 75% equity in the entire NITEL conglomerate or a stake in one or several of its components, including M-Tel, submarine fibre-optic cable division SAT-3, the company’s domestic fixed line infrastructure, its national fibre-optic transmission backbone, and its CDMA network. Financial bids opened on 16 February 2010, but only six of the 14 pre-qualified consortia met the 5 February deadline for the submission of technical and financial proposals: Brymedia; AF21/Spectrum consortium; MTN Nigeria; Globacom Nigeria; Omen International; and New Generation Telecommunications.

MTN "Could Be Planning Move to Dubai"

No confirmation or denial has been given by mobile operator MTN regarding its plans to abandon SA in favor of Dubai, a location closer to its higher revenue earners.

It has been speculated that company plans to move its group operations out of the country and eventually delist from the Johannesburg Securities Exchange. It may leave the local business as a subsidiary of the company, or even up for sale.

MTN is already registered in the Middle Eastern country which is said to be the head office for its Middle East and North African operations.

Several MTN groups operation unit has been quietly moving its operations without making any local splash about the plans.

Zain, Bharti To Sign Letter of Intent

A letter of intent (LoI) will be signed between Bharti Airtel and Zain for the proposed USD 10.7-billion deal for the African assets of the Kuwait-based firm by the end of this week.
An exclusive talk is carried out between the two companies till March 25 for the proposed deal as per which Bharti would buy Zain’s African assets except those in Morocco and Sudan.
USD 9 billion for the assets would be paid by Bharti and the rest would be towards the debt of the Kuwaiti firm.

Friday, February 19, 2010

MTN Injects ZAR7.1 Billion In World Cup

South African cellco MTN has announced that it invested in excess of ZAR7.1 billion (USD928.9 million) in the expansion of its mobile data networks as it prepares for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, reports, citing company CTO Sameer Dave. In 2009 496 2G sites were activated, together with 659 3G sites, providing around 50% of the population with third generation network coverage. Part of the investment has also seen MTN complete the coverage upgrades at all of the FIFA 2010 stadiums around the country. The network upgrades have already passed an early test as mobile data traffic jumped by an unprecedented 75% between 25 December 2009 and 1 January 2010, compared to the same period a year earlier.

MTN stated: ‘MTN SA added 540 HSPA sites in 2009. This additional capacity led to enhanced subscriber experience with respect to data speeds during the period of extraordinary expansion.’ Dave added: ‘As we move into our final implementation stages for the 2010 World Cup, it is encouraging to note that, having handled the increase in traffic over the festive season, the network is ready to process the huge volume increase in both voice and data traffic that we are anticipating during the event. Our investment in the upgrading of our network is finally paying off.’

MTN also revealed that its fibre deployments are progressing well, claiming that the national long-distance fibre network between Johannesburg and Durban has 217km trenched, while the development of two fibre rings in Gauteng is nearing completion with a commercial launch scheduled for May 2010.

Etisalat Hits 100 Million Mark

UAE-based telecoms operator Emirates Telecommunications Corporation (Etisalat) has revealed that its subscriber base has exceeded 100 million customers across 18 markets in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, covering two billion people. The announcement follows Etisalat’s acquisition of the remaining 18% of its West African venture Atlantique Telecom (AT) it did not already own for USD75 million earlier this month.

Etisalat operates AT as part of a ten-year management contract ending in 2015; the company holds majority stakes in seven operators in Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Niger, Togo, and Central Africa Republic. At the same time, the UAE incumbent revealed it had filed an application with the Indian Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) in December 2009 to obtain approval to raise its 45% stake in its Indian subsidiary Etisalat DB to 50% plus one share. The company has said it is targeting majority stakes in its subsidiaries and associates for greater operational and financial synergy.

Unicom Denies It's Involved In NITEL Bid

China Unicom has denied that it or its state-run parent Unicom Group has any involvement in a USD2.5 billion bid for struggling incumbent telco Nigerian Telecommunications (NITEL), Reuters reports. ‘There is no involvement of this project from the parent company, the listed company or any subsidiary of the company,’ Unicom spokeswoman Sophia Tso said in a statement.

Nigeria’s Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) announced on 16 February that New Generation Telecommunications, a consortium involving China Unicom, had become the preferred buyer for a minimum 75% stake in NITEL after beating four other firms with a bid of USD2.5 billion. Other companies with an interest in New Generation were named by the BPE as Dubai-based Minerva Group and local company GiCell Wireless. The reserve bidder was announced as Omen International (BVI), which offered USD956 million.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

China Unicom Consortium Wins Nitel Bid

Nigeria’s Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) has announced that New Generation Telecommunications, a consortium involving China Unicom, has become the preferred buyer for indebted incumbent fixed line operator Nigerian Telecommunications (NITEL), after beating four other firms with a bid of USD2.5 billion. Other companies with an interest in New Generation have been named by the BPE as Dubai-based Minerva Group and local company GiCell Wireless.

After the bid is approved by the privatisation council, the group will have ten days to pay 30% of the purchase price and a further 50 days to pay the remaining sum. The reserve bidder has been announced as Omen International (BVI), which offered USD956 million.

Financial bids for the privatisation of NITEL opened on 16 February 2010, but only six of the 14 pre-qualified consortia met the 5 February deadline for the submission of technical and financial proposals: Brymedia; AF21/Spectrum consortium; MTN Nigeria; Globacom Nigeria; Omen International; and New Generation Telecommunications.

The federal government began seeking a buyer for a minimum 75% of NITEL and 100% of its mobile unit M-Tel in July 2009 after previous majority shareholder Transcorp divested its stake earlier in the year. Prospective investors were invited to acquire either at least 75% equity in the entire NITEL conglomerate or a stake in one or several of its components, including M-Tel, submarine fibre-optic cable division SAT-3, the company’s domestic fixed line infrastructure, its national fibre-optic transmission backbone, and its CDMA network.

South Africa's MTN was among the bidders, but only for a stake in the SAT-3 underwater cable, for which it offered USD25 million. According to local daily Leadership, Globacom was disqualified from the process as it already holds a licence as Nigeria’s second national carrier.

Mobinil Reports USD 1.9 Billion Revenues

Egyptian cellco MobiNil has posted revenues of EGP10.8 billion (USD1.9 billion) for 2009, up 8% year-on-year, on the back of strong subscriber growth. EBITDA grew by 9% during the period to EGP5.1 billion while net income came in at EGP2 billion, up 3%.

At 31 December the active subscriber base stood at 24.1 million, up from 19.2 million twelve months previously. Average monthly ARPU across the year fell from EGP46 in 2008 to EGP39 in 2009 in light of fierce competition between MobiNil and rival cellcos Vodafone Egypt and Etisalat Misr (Nile Telecom).

Orange Partners With Alca-Lu In Multimedia Deal

Alcatel-Lucent has announced that Mauritius Telecom (MT), an Orange/FT Group partner, has deployed interactive mobile multimedia services (IMMS) powered by the Alcatel-Lucent Mobile Interactive TV (MiTV). MiTV will allow Orange to establish mobile multimedia services throughout East Africa and Indian Ocean, enabling each affiliate to quickly launch its own dedicated content offering and commercial bouquets while sharing the same software platform.

Alcatel-Lucent offers a complete turnkey mobile multimedia package, which provides Mauritius Telecom's customers with a large range of customised services. In total, end-users are able to access 20 live channels, eight near-live channels and eight playlists. With this solution customers can also access program information via an intuitive graphical user interface and can watch TV whenever and wherever they want.

‘With the Alcatel-Lucent mobile interactive TV, Mauritius Telecom has the opportunity to establish a dominant position in the Mauritius mobile TV market and create a new growing revenue stream from their investment in high capacity networks,’ said Amr El Leithy, head of Alcatel-Lucent's activities in Africa and the Middle East. ‘It is the first deployment of the MiTV Compact platform in an emerging country – highlighting this solution's ability to deliver quick market entry at a low cost.’

EASSy Arrives At Kwa-Zulu Natal

South African mobile group MTN has confirmed that the East African Submarine System (EASSy) landed at Mtunzini on the north coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal in South Africa this weekend. MTN Group's Trevor Martins, who is also the EASSy management committee chairman, said the completion of EASSy will boost broadband capacity and facilitate ongoing efforts to provide its customers with more affordable access to broadband.

Martins added: ‘Over the past years MTN has been a pioneer in pursuing opportunities by investing in technologies, businesses and licences which enhance our delivery of services in data and internet protocol connectivity.

As part of a larger strategic portfolio, EASSy is one of such investments and we are excited about the cable landing in Mtunzini. The increased bandwidth that will be available as a result of our investments in these submarine networks will capacitate both ISPs and our mobile operations in markets largely serviced by costly satellite bandwidth, thus enabling MTN to open up large-scale access to international broadband to our valued customers.’ The network is scheduled for a commercial launch in the second quarter of 2010.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Court Delays Ruling On Mobinil Case

An Egyptian court has pushed back the date for a decision on the shareholding dispute between Orascom Telecom and France Telecom (FT) related to mobile network operator Egyptian Company for Mobile Services (MobiNil), Reuters reports. The court has set a date of 6 March for the next hearing in the matter, after lawyers for the two sides put forward their cases on the back of a ruling by the same court earlier this month that rejected a bid from FT for the shares in MobiNil it does not currently hold.

In separate but related news, Bloomberg reports that an Egyptian judiciary committee, in a recommendation to the court, has said that the original verdict preventing the French company from acquiring the shares at the price put forward should be upheld. In line with previous criticisms of this, and other earlier offers, the committee argued that the EGP245 (USD44.65) per share offered by FT in December 2009 was too low and was ‘unfair’ to minority shareholders. In addition, the committee’s report claimed that the Egyptian Financial Services Authority (EFSA), the country’s financial regulator, did not provide ‘sufficient reasons for agreeing to France Telecom’s per-share offer of EGP245 per share.’

Glo Launch Date In Ghana Not Certain

Ghana’s Minister of Communications Haruna Iddrisu says the government is doing all it can to ensure mobile newcomer Globacom can launch commercial operations on 6 March 2010, the nation’s Independence Day.

Iddrisu said he had taken it upon himself to order the telecoms regulator, the National Communications Authority (NCA), the National Bureau of Communications and Globacom’s appointed equipment supplier, ZTE Corporation of China, to ensure that everything was in place to allow Globacom to use the necessary 800MHz spectrum within 14 days.

However, sources close to the start-up suggest the firm is not looking to start operations next month. A report in quotes an unnamed person familiar with the situation as saying only that the company was planning to launch its services this year.

Gamtel Awards Alca-Lu Fibre-Optic deal

Gambia’s incumbent PSTN operator Gamtel has awarded a contract to Alcatel-Lucent to roll out a terrestrial fibre-optic transmission network under its 'Cross Gambia Project', reports Afrique en Ligue.

A release from the telco’s Banjul office said the joint venture project with Senegalese counterpart Sonatel will extend fibre links from Dakar through Kaolack, Karang, Barra, Banjul, Serrekunda, Yundum, Brikama to Seleti in Casamance to terminate on Sonatel’s fibre network.

The new infrastructure will provide an alternative route to the fibre link between Basse in Gambia and Velingara in Senegal, which was implemented in 1996. As well as eliminating the serious problem of disruption to bilateral international traffic whenever the older fibre is cut, the rollout will also increase Gamtel’s international internet bandwidth. The telco said it spent EUR1.2 million (USD1.65 million) on the initial stage of the Cross Gambia Project in 2009.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Zambia Plans To Transfer Fibre Lines From Zesco to Zamtel reports that the Zambian government is planning to put a number of fibre pairs currently controlled by state-owned power company Zesco in to the hands of Zambia Telecommunications Company (Zamtel). It is understood that the move is part of the state’s plans to make the telco more attractive to potential buyers, as the privatisation process of the operator moves forward.

Under the proposals the government will transfer seven of twelve fibre pairs that Zesco has; of the remaining five, two are used by Zesco to manage its power network, one is used by South Africa-based MTN, which owns a mobile operator in Zambia, while the last two are not currently in use.

Local ISPs have voiced their concerns about the proposals however, with one unnamed market operator stating: ‘All the ISPs don't want this to happen. We have a good relationship with Zesco and we put a lot of capacity through their link. If it happens, I'll have to lay fibre routes and that's not my business. We're looking at VoIP offerings because the current prices of international calling are still USD1.10-USD1.50 a minute.’

At present Chinese vendor Huawei is in the process of rolling out a fibre backbone for Zamtel, but it remains incomplete and by comparison to Zesco’s existing infrastructure is significantly less expansive. Zesco’s fibre network spans the economically active central part of the country from Lumwana and Solwezi in the north to Sesheke in the south.

The Zambian government first announced plans to divest a portion of its stake in Zamtel in December 2008. In September 2009 it revealed it would sell 75% of the struggling operator, and one year after initially unveiling its intention to sell, the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA), which is handling the process, announced the shortlist of bidders: India's Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, Unitel of Angola and Libya's LAP Green Networks. Russia’s Altimo was subsequently added to the list, despite submitting its bid after deadline.

MTN To Cut Investment in Rwanda By 55% in 2010

MTN Rwanda has announced that it will cut total annual investment in 2010 by 55% to USD45 million, Rwandan daily The New Times reports.

‘There is no need to invest heavily in building capacity and coverage every year. What we did in 2009 can serve in 2010 and what is required now is to maintain what we built last year,’ noted the MTN Rwanda’s CEO, Khaled Mikkawi. Instead the company will focus on attracting more subscribers through the introduction of new promotions to fully utilise MTN’s network capacity.

In 2009 the cellco invested around USD100 million in the expansion of network coverage and increased capacity to serve three million customers.

‘Currently we have close to two million subscribers and this year we are targeting an extra million subscribers hopefully to make up the three million our capacity can handle,’ Mikkawi added.

South Africa’s MTN Group increased its interest in MTN Rwanda from 40% to 55% for USD40.5 million in March 2008, leaving Tristar Investments with a 35% stake. The remaining 10% is owned by the Rwandan government.

Kasapa's MD Resigns

The managing director of Ghanaian mobile operator Kasapa Telecom, Bob Palitz, is stepping down from the role after nine years in office. In an interview with local press agency Joy Online, Mr Palitz said he believed he had contributed his quota to the company and that it is time to move on. The resignation comes approximately 18 months after Kasapa was acquired by Dubai-based Expresso Telecoms.

‘I’m getting on…and looking for new challenges and I know that the incredible team of Ghanaian managers and staff, some of whom were already there, some of whom joined us after I came [to] Kasapa, know the meaning of operating with integrity and transparently and professionally and I have every confidence they would continue to do that regardless of what happens after I have gone,’ Palitz said.

The announcement was made less than a week after Palitz’s firm reported success in the long-running Kludjeson court appeal. On 4 February Kasapa issued a press release noting that the Court of Appeal had reversed, by a unanimous decision, the 25 April 2007 ruling of the Accra Fast Track High Court, in the case of Kludjeson International Limited versus Robert N. Palitz, Lung Hien Ching (Kasapa’s former CFO), Trustee Services Limited (Kasapa’s former company secretary) and the Attorney General. The court awarded costs to each of the first three defendants.

Google To Build Fibre Optic Network

Google has announced plans to build a number of trial fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) networks in communities across the US, claiming that it will provide broadband at downlink speeds of up to 1Gbps. James Kelly, project manager on Google's infrastructure team, said: ‘We are doing this because we want to experiment with new ways to make the web better and faster for everyone, allowing new applications that aren't possible today. We are going to try out new ways to build and operate fibre networks and share what we learn with the world.’

Between now and 26 March 2010, interested states, cities, towns and communities can file a ‘Request for Information’ in the hope of being selected by Google as a trial community. Google revealed that the trial FTTH networks will be open for use by other service providers, and will each serve between 50,000 and 500,000 users.

David Fish, spokesman for incumbent fibre operator Verizon, revealed that his company would be interested in the results of the trials, saying: ‘The internet ecosystem is dynamic and competitive, and it’s delivering great benefits to consumers. Google’s expansion of its networks to enter the access market is another new paragraph in this exciting story.’

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski also welcomed the move, noting: ‘Big broadband creates big opportunities. This significant trial will provide an American testbed for the next generation of innovative, high speed internet applications, devices, and services.’

Mobile Streams To Supply MTN in South Africa

­Mobile content distributor, Mobile Streams has secured a contract to supply content to South Africa based MTN's operations in 21 countries. The service is being provided via IMImobile.

The agreement between the two companies will give IMImobile access to Mobile Streams' extensive content library which can be powered through its DaVinci Storefront solution to customers in Africa and the Middle East.

Arnd Aschentrup, Chief Operating Officer at Mobile Streams commented: "Mobile usage amongst subscribers in these emerging markets continues to rise and that provides us with a great opportunity to increase the revenues and fan bases of our content partners."

Mobile Streams currently has a global footprint within the UK, Europe, North America, Latin America and Asia Pacific.

Kenya Could Reduce 3G Licence Cost

Kenya's government has hinted that it might lower the cost of 3G licenses, as has been called for by the mobile networks. Currently, only Safaricom holds a 3G license after paying Sh1.9 billion (US$25 million) in 2007.

Information Permanent Secretary Dr Bitange Ndemo told Capital FM, "We will do everything possible to ensure that we have created the necessary competitive environment, even if it means that we revise the cost to reasonable levels,". He added that the decision should be made in the next three weeks.

The remaining operators have argued in the past that this fee is too high and campaigned for a reduction - which was opposed by Safaricom unless it receives a refund of the difference.

"If we decide that we are lowering, we would have some mechanisms to ensure that [Safaricom does not lose its money]," he assured.

Of the remaining operators, only Zain has currently applied for a license, and is planning a network launch in the first half of this year. Based on figures from the Mobile World analysts, Safaricom had 13.8 million subscribers at the end of June, compared to 2.4 million for Zain.

LAP Aquires 80% Stake in Sudan's Gemtel

Libyan government investment vehicle Libyan African Investments Portfolio (LAP) has acquired an 80% stake in Southern Sudanese telecoms operator Gemtel via its telecoms arm, LAP Green Networks, Ugandan news source The New Vision reports.

Gemtel was licensed by the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) in 1996 and launched commercial GSM services shortly after in the cities of Juba and Yei. By mid-2009 the company had expanded its footprint to cover Waw, Torit, Bor and Rumbek.

Gemtel uses the dialling code of Uganda (+256), thanks to an interconnection agreement with Uganda Telecom (UTL) signed in September 2006, which allows the cellco to use the gateway for USD50,000 in interconnection fees per month.

LAP Green already operates in East Africa through its 80% shareholding in Rwandan fixed line and mobile telephony operator Rwandatel and 69% stake in UTL. The company also holds an interest in Sahelcom and Sonitel of Niger, and controls Oricel Green, a mobile operator in Cote d’Ivoire.

According to a statement from LAP Green, the firm has been shortlisted to buy a 75% stake in Zambia’s sole fixed line operator, Zambia Telecommunications Company (Zamtel).

Vodacom SA to Reduce Interconnection Fees

Vodacom South Africa says that it will reduce its interconnection rates as per an agreement last November. There is an ongoing dispute regarding the regulatory powers to set interconnection rates, but the company said that it would push ahead with the earlier announced reductions.

Zain Denies Reports on Sale of African Networks

­Kuwait's Zain has refuted local media reports that it had been contacted regarding a sale of its African assets. The Al Anbaa newspaper had reported that Zain was in talks with Vivendi, France Telecom and Vodafone offer a possible sale of the former Celtel networks.

In a statement to the stock exchange, Zain said "There are no current offers and the company will inform the bourse's administration with any new information that may come up regarding this issue,"

The paper, citing unnamed sources said that Zain had been in talks with the other operators for the past couple of months and is seeking US$11-US$12 billion for the networks.

Vivendi was in talks last year to buy the African networks, for a reported US$12 billion - although those talks then broke down. At the time it was suggested that the sale could have been an all-share based transaction, with Zain taking 20 percent of Vivendi, in exchange for 10 percent of Zain Africa.

For its part, Vodafone recently increased its holdings in South Africa based Vodacom to 65%. A merger of the former Celtel, Vodafone and Vodacom assets across Africa could lead to much needed consolidation in several markets.

Celtel was founded by Sudanese-born Mo Ibrahim in 1998 and sold to Kuwiat's MTC (now Zain) in April 2005 for US$3.4 billion.

Vodafone Egypt Introduces HSPA Modems

Vodafone Egypt is to start selling mobile data modems capable of supporting HSPA download speeds of up to 28.8Mbps to the consumer market. It has already started offering the modems for sale to corporate customers.

Helios Nigeria Obtains $150 Million IFC Funding for Development

IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is extending US $150 million in syndicated loans to support Helios Towers Nigeria as part of an overall $250 million initiative to improve access to telecommunications in Nigeria. The initiative seeks to help Helios Towers Nigeria, or HTN, increase its network to 2,000 shared tower communication sites nationwide.

The IFC's earlier $100 million investment in the initiative was announced in September 2009.

The $150 million investment includes $76 million in loans syndicated to the African Development Bank, FMO of the Netherlands, Germany's DEG, and Proparco of France. It also includes a $30 million loan to Nigeria's First City Monument Bank and a $44 million loan from Cordiant Capital, the Emerging African Infrastructure Fund, and Nedbank of South Africa.

Nigeria's telecommunications sector has developed significantly in recent years, but the country's 43 percent teledensity indicates that growth potential remains. With the expansion of the HTN network, operators will be able to outsource non-core activities and passive infrastructure, allowing them to focus on further developing their products and services.

"Access to quality, affordable mobile telecommunications is essential to development, both in terms of its ability to ease basic communication needs and to increase access to knowledge and services," said Mohsen Khalil, IFC Director for Global Information and Communication Technologies. "By promoting Nigeria's access to mobile infrastructure through HTN's network, IFC seeks to strengthen the country's efforts to better serve its consumers and businesses."

Orascom Renews Lebanon Contract with Government

Orascom Telecom Holding (OTH) has extended its management agreement with the Lebanese government to mange one of the country's two state-owned mobile networks. The extension is for a period of 6 months ending on 31 July 2010.

Under this contract, OTH receives a monthly sum of US$2.5 million in addition to 8.5% of total revenues. Out of these amounts Orascom Telecom Holding is liable to cover all the operational expenses (OPEX) of the network and is entitled to keep the remainder as management fees. The Republic of Lebanon is fully responsible for the CAPEX during the contract period.

The mobile network assets of Alfa were transferred to the Republic of Lebanon with effect on August 31, 2002 following the termination of the build, operate and transfer contract under which Alfa was constructed.

"We're happy with the achievements made in the Lebanese mobile market through our management of Alfa during the past year, and are hoping to secure a presence for OTH within the long term plans of the Republic of Lebanon for its mobile communication market" said Khaled Bichara, Orascom Telecom's CEO.

MTN Rwanda Launches Mobile Banking

MTN Rwanda has announced the launch of its 'Mobile Money' service, targeting 100,000 subscribers in 2010, local daily The New Times reports.

MTN invested USD2 million in the implementation of its new offering, which enables customers on the MTN network to carry out financial transactions using their wireless handset through the 120 agents nationwide appointed by the operator. The service also allows non-subscribers of MTN to receive money.

Khaled Mikkawi, CEO at MTN Rwanda, commented: ‘We have a network reaching over 90% or the population and it is only right that we leverage this coverage for a common good product that will go a long way in the financial deepening of the Rwandan economy.’

MTN Rwanda is working with Commercial Bank of Rwanda (BCR) as the partner bank for its mobile money service.

Etisalat Makes Roaming Easier

The UAE's Etisalat has simplified its roaming tariffs with flat rates based on which of three zones the customer is in at the time. The roaming zones are; the GCC (Gulf countries), other Arab countries, and the rest of the world.

Qtel Abandons Africa Plans, Eyes More Middle East Investments

The CEO of Qatar Telecom (Qtel), Nasser Marafih, says the company is looking into increasing its investments in the Iraqi and Algerian telecoms markets because of the potential for expansion in the two countries, according to a report in The Peninsula.

Qtel controls 36.2% of mobile operator Wataniya Telecom Algeria (Nedjma), via a 71% stake held by Kuwaiti-based Wataniya Telecom (NMTC), a 51%-owned subsidiary of Qtel. The Qatari mobile, fixed line and broadband group also holds 30% of the consortium-controlled cellco Asiacell in Iraq. In Algeria, the second national operator (SNO) fixed line licence is currently vacant; in January 2010 previous SNO Lacom’s licence was officially revoked, potentially paving the way for the concession to be reauctioned later in the year.

Dr Marafih was quoted as saying that the global financial crisis had some positive impact on Qtel’s businesses in the sense that the lowering of licence fees worldwide to a ‘more realistic’ level meant it was cheaper to expand into new markets. The lower prices, the CEO continued, will create further opportunities for Qtel’s acquisitions in the future.

‘We now have control of 14 communication companies in 17 countries,’ he said, but added, however, that Qtel has abandoned any plans for expanding into African markets because of the high levels of competition. It is thought likely he was just referring to sub-Saharan countries; Qtel recently indicated interest in entering Morocco’s mobile sector.

Kasapa Wins Appeal In Kludjeson Case

Ghanaian CDMA operator Kasapa Telecom yesterday issued a press release noting that the Court of Appeal has reversed, by a unanimous decision, the 25 April 2007 ruling of the Accra Fast Track High Court, in the case of Kludjeson International Limited versus Robert N. Palitz (Kasapa’s managing director), Lung Hien Ching (Kasapa’s former CFO), Trustee Services Limited (Kasapa’s former company secretary) and the Attorney General.

In its ruling, the Court of Appeal upheld each of the eleven grounds of appeal, and, significantly, adjudged that Mr Palitz, Mr Lung, and Trustee Services had all been properly appointed to their respective positions, and that all actions taken, including the change of company name from ‘Celltel’ to ‘Kasapa’ and the acceptance of a shareholder loan, were properly done and completely valid. The court awarded costs to each of the first three defendants.

Back in May 2007 Kasapa Telecom strenuously refuted the Accra Fast Track High Court ruling that the appointment of its managing director and chief financial officer, was done inappropriately and that the name of the company should be changed back to its original name, Celltel.

At the time it published a press release titled ‘The Facts of the Matter’, in which it said it was vital that it responded to the ‘deliberate and malicious spread of misinformation about the judgement of the High Court on 25 April 2007 in the case of Kludjeson International Limited (KIL) vs Robert Palitz and 3 others’.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Nigeria To Open NITEL Bids On 16 February

Nigeria’s Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) has announced that it will open financial bids for the privatisation of incumbent fixed line operator Nigerian Telecommunications (NITEL) and its mobile arm M-Tel on 16 February 2010, local newspaper This Day reports.

According to the BPE, only six of the 14 pre-qualified consortia met the 5 February deadline for the submission of technical and financial proposals, and will therefore be able to submit bids for the minimum 75% stake. The successful candidates are: Brymedia; AF21/Spectrum consortium; MTN Nigeria; Globacom Nigeria; Omen International; and New Generation Telecommunications (formerly known as Telefonica Consortium).

The federal government began seeking a buyer for a minimum 75% of NITEL and 100% of its mobile unit in July 2009 after previous majority shareholder Transcorp divested its stake earlier in the year. The original deadline for the submission of technical and financial bids was 2 October 2009, but this was pushed back to 26 October due to the complexity of the process, and then again to 5 February 2010 to allow for additional time for prospective investors to conclude due diligence.

Prospective investors are invited to acquire either at least 75% equity in the entire NITEL conglomerate or a stake in one or several of its components, including M-Tel, submarine fibre-optic cable division SAT-3, the company’s domestic fixed line infrastructure, its national fibre-optic transmission backbone, and its CDMA network.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

NetOne Wants Fresh Loan Terms From Treasury

State-run Zimbabwean cellco NetOne has approached the treasury to renegotiate terms for a USD28 million loan obtained from international financiers at its inception more than a decade ago, reports, quoting The Zimbabwe Independent. Reward Kangai, NetOne’s managing director, told the parliamentary portfolio committee on media, information and communication technology that the firm had since 2002 failed to service the debt owed to three lenders, among them the UK-based Standard Chartered Bank.

However, Kangai added that NetOne could level the playing field with its privately-run competitors, Econet Wireless and Telecel Zimbabwe, if the government approved the setting up of an independent procurement committee to replace the current state body which, the MD claimed, often took close to six months to procure supplies for the GSM operator.

Kangai said the company had failed to replace its obsolete billing system following a decision by the existing procurement board to cancel bids by prospective suppliers, and as a result subscribers on monthly contracts were shifting to the pre-paid platform, EasyCall.

Meanwhile, the government has received USD53 million in financing from China for expanding NetOne’s network and customer base. The company had been targeting ‘five million subscribers by March this year’; it was reported this month to have less than 500,000 subscribers.

In a separate development, the incoming managing director of Telecel Zimbabwe, Aimable Mpore, revealed to the same parliamentary committee that the Orascom Telecom subsidiary would launch 3G mobile services by June this year after it was granted necessary wireless frequencies by the Post and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) last week.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Gateway To Introduce Wireless Broadband

Gateway Communications Nigeria has announced the signing of a contract with Cambridge Broadband Networks (CBN) for the creation of a point-to-multipoint wireless broadband network in Nigeria. Gateway will deploy CBN’s VectaStar II platform to provision 130 hubs and 5,000 terminal stations to deliver last mile broadband connections across the country. Gateway, which has acquired 10.5GHz spectrum licences for point-to-multipoint, is currently building a pan-African MPLS network covering every major African city.

The company plans to roll out wireless broadband services across ten Nigerian states in 2010, with Port Harcourt and Abuja scheduled to go live in March. It is anticipated that services will be launched in a further 26 states in 2011. ‘Being able to connect to our enterprise customers in their own premises and control the last mile ensures that all Nigerian business will now be able to benefit from carrier grade solutions, no matter what their size,’ noted Guy Clarke, MD at Gateway Nigeria, adding, ‘Gateway has an aggressive rollout plan for last mile access for its wireless broadband networks in 2010 and 2011. We needed an efficient, reliable and high capacity solution that could be deployed quickly, and CBN’s point-to-multipoint solution met those requirements.’

The latest deal follows Gateway’s successful rollout of its Airlink and MetroLink wireless broadband services using 10.5GHz solutions. Both are currently available in Lagos and will, over the next few months, be delivered to all major metropolitan areas across Nigeria.

Ghana Fixes 1 July as Deadline for SIM Registration

Mr. Bernard Forson Jnr, the Director General of the National Communication Authority (NCA) in Ghana, has given subscribers of the country’s various mobile networks have up to 1 July 2011 to register their SIM cards or risk having their line blocked or disconnected.

Mr. Emmanuel Owusu Adansi, NCAs Director of Special Projects said ‘all customers should endeavour to register their chips to get their lines activated before 1 July’, adding that registration would improve security for users and also help in the fight against mobile phone-related crime.

Vodacom Q3 Revenues Up 6%

South African Vodacom Group has reported group revenues of ZAR15.43 billion (USD2.03 billion) for the three months ended 31 December 2009, up 6% from ZAR14.56 billion in the same period a year earlier. The company attributed revenue growth to the January 2009 acquisition of Gateway Communications and a 33.1% year-on-year growth in data revenues. Group data revenue was ZAR1.19 billion for the final three months of 2009, with the company’s domestic operation accounting for ZAR1.16 billion of the total.

Pieter Uys, CEO of Vodacom, said: ‘This has been a positive quarter for Vodacom, featuring solid overall revenue growth and continued progress in building our data business. Despite a challenging economic environment, our South African business posted a 7.5% increase in revenue. The actions we have taken in our international businesses have shown positive results in the form of improved market positioning. Cost management programmes are also gaining momentum and should provide the basis for improved margin management in the year ahead. Careful allocation of capital to investment projects has resulted in continued strong growth in cash flows.’

The group ended 2009 with a consolidated mobile customer base of 40.5 million, a 9.5% year-on-year growth. Vodacom South Africa accounted for 67% of the total with 27.1 million subscribers, up from 26.45 million a year earlier. Three of the company’s international operations also reported year-on-year customer growth. The firm’s Tanzania, Mozambique and Lesotho-based subsidiaries saw their customer bases grow by 28.4%, 61.1% and 30.9% respectively. Growth in other operations helped offset a 12.9% decline in Vodacom’s Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) subscriber base, which stood at 3.52 million following a change in disconnection policy from 215 to 90 inactive days.