Wednesday, June 30, 2010

France Telecom Resolves Kenya Duspute Over Missing Assets

A stand-off between the Kenyan government and France Telecom - its fellow shareholder in Telkom Kenya - has been resolved after three months of disputes, reports the EastAfrican newspaper. France Telecom, which purchased 51% of the previously state-owned Telkom Kenya for USD390 million back in November 2007, threatened to withdraw its investment after a failure to trace certain assets that were in the books at the time of purchase.

A joint statement from Treasury Permanent Secretary Joseph Kinyua and Michel Barre of France Telecom read: ‘The Government of Kenya and Orange East Africa SA, a subsidiary of France Telecom SA, are pleased to announce that they have resolved the outstanding shareholder issues regarding the privatisation of Telkom Kenya in December 2007’.

The shareholders said they will now focus on enhancing their partnership, in order to make the company a world-class player for the benefit of its customers and other stakeholders. The statement added: ‘France Telecom Group further confirms its commitment to Kenya as a long-term strategic investor through its participation in Telkom Kenya, which it continues to support through its global ‘Orange’ brand. The Group will continue to provide strategic and technical expertise in order to transform the company and develop innovative products and services’.

QCell Shareholder Selling Off It's Stake

Uflex, an Indian manufacturing group, is planning to sell its entire 40% stake in Gambian mobile operator QCell, according to a report on citing Indian-based business news channel CNBC-TV18.

QCell, Gambia's fourth and newest cellular communications provider, is controlled by domestic ISP QuantumNet's CEO Muhammed Jah, a local entrepreneur, and launched its commercial 2G/3G mobile network in July 2009. It is the country's only 3G operator.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

We Are Not Talking With Zain, Says Etisalat

UAE telecoms operator Etisalat has said it has not submitted a bid or made a proposal to purchase a stake in Kuwait-based Zain Group, cellular-news reports.

The statement followed a recent report from Kuwaiti newspaper al-Seyassah, which said that Zain had entered into talks to sell a majority stake in the group to Etisalat.

Earlier this month Zain's chief executive, Nabeel bin Salama, said the firm was not in talks to sell further assets, after it completed the sale of its African assets to Indian telecoms group Bharti Airtel, in a deal valued at USD10.7 billion.

MTN Rumuored To Be Eying Another Indian Cellco

According to local newspaper the Business Standard, South Africa-based wireless company MTN is in talks to buy a stake in Indian cellco Loop Telecom. MTN is reportedly considering acquiring up to a 45% stake in the company.

The African firm has made three previous attempts to enter India – twice failing with Bharti Airtel and once with Reliance Communications. A spokesman for MTN has however denied that formal talks have taken place with Loop.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Zain In Talks To Sell sTake to Etisalat

Kuwaiti telecoms firm Zain Group has entered into talks with Etisalat to sell a majority stake in the group to the UAE-based operator, Reuters reports, citing Kuwaiti newspaper al-Seyassah.

Without providing details about the size of the stake or the price, the report states that both firms held meetings last week to discuss the potential deal.

Earlier this month Zain completed the sale of its African assets to Indian telecoms group Bharti Airtel, in a deal valued at USD10.7 billion.

Meanwhile, though Etisalat has yet to confirm the Zain reports, the Abu Dhabi-based operator has admitted it is looking at options in India, including a 26% stake in telco Reliance Communications.

Zain Kenya Gets 3G Licence

Kenyan mobile operator Zain Kenya has been awarded a 3G licence by the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) for a fee of KES815 million (USD10 million). The CCK cut the price from USD25 million earlier this month in order to boost competition. Zain and rival cellco Orange had sought the reduction for some time. CCK managing director Charles Njoroge said that the purchase of the 3G concession by Zain would ‘increase competition in the telephony industry, and ultimately benefit the consumers’.

Back in 2007 Vodafone associate and Kenya’s largest wireless operator by subscribers Safaricom paid USD25 million for the country’s first 3G licence. It is now planning to seek a partial refund in the wake of the CCK’s decision.

Societe Generale Introduces Mobile Banking In Senegal

Financial service group, Societe Generale, in partnership with Obopay, a leading mobile banking and payment provider, have launched a new mobile banking service in Senegal for anyone with access to a mobile phone.
The service christened “Yoban’tel by Obopay”, is a carrier-agnostic, mobile money transfer and bill payment service that is available to all the people of Senegal with a mobile phone. Using SGBL’s wide spread branch network in the country and other dedicated outlets, users can enrol for a mobile payment service and load or pick up cash throughout Senegal. They can also use the service to send money to anyone throughout the country, or to pay a bill.

“In Senegal, traditional banking services are typically very limited; people can spend an entire day each month standing in line to pay for things like their utility services in cash,” said Richard Hababou, managing director of Societe Generale Innovations Group. “Yoban’tel by Obopay allows us to establish innovative and convenient mobile money transfer and payments for those Senegalese who have previously not had access to such services.”

“Partnering with one of the world’s leading banks, Societe Generale, enables them to put mobile money at the heart of their accounts,” said Obopay CEO Carol Realini. “Their reach will bring new mobile money access to millions. Furthermore, this latest offering extends our experience in meeting the needs of four different sets of regulatory environments and market dynamics – including the US, India, Kenya and now Senegal – and gives us the expertise, robust platform and service offering needed to expand into new markets very quickly.”

Friday, June 25, 2010

Safaricom Plans Two Acquisitions

Safaricom released a statement today, expressing their intention to acquire ownership of two information communications technology (ICT) companies, namely IGO Wireless Limited and Instaconnect Limited.

This intended acquisition by Safaricom is subject to receipt of shareholder approval at the next Annual General Meeting and to statutory approvals from the Communications Commission of Kenya, the Monopolies and Prices Commission and all other relevant approvals.

IGO Wireless Limited is a licensed Public Data Network Operator engaged in the operation of fixed wireless data services while Instaconnect Limited is licensed as an Application Service Provider engaged primarily in the integration of data solutions.

Both companies are active players in the ICT market and the intended acquisitions are pursuant to Safaricom’s stated strategic objective of enhancing its ability to grow its data business.
Safaricom expects to finalise these acquisitions this financial year.

Bharti to Invest USD150 million in Zambia

India’s Bharti Airtel has revealed it expects to invest around USD150 million in Zambia, with the bulk of the funds being put towards enhancing both 2G and 3G coverage across the country.

According to the Lusaka Times, Bharti, which earlier this month finalised its USD10.7 billion deal to acquire the majority of Kuwait-based Zain’s African operations, has said that the investment will be made over a two- to three-year period. In addition, Manoj Kohli, Bharti Airtel International’s CEO, said that the company would look to make 3G services more affordable through measures such as tariff reduction, with such price changes likely to be introduced in the next six months.

Zain Zambia, which will eventually be rebranded with the Airtel moniker, is the country’s largest mobile network operator by subscribers.

At end-March 2010 the cellco had a subscriber base of 3.12 million, representing a market share of 68.8%.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Telkom Kenya To Get Loan For 3G Licence Fee

Reuters reports that Telkom Kenya will get a shareholder loan from the Kenyan government to enable it to pay the USD10 million 3G licence fee.

‘We are giving them a shareholder loan through which they will pay [for the 3G licence] so it is actually funded by Telkom itself through a shareholder loan by the government,’ Esther Koimett, investment secretary at the Ministry of Finance, told Reuters.

Although she did not say how much the loan will be, the communications regulator charges operators USD10 million for a 3G licence, under a new fees structure unveiled this month.

Bharti To Invest USD100 In Malawi Expansion Plan

Indian telecoms group Bharti Airtel has said it will spend USD100 million on network expansion in Malawi over the next three years, news agency Reuters reports. Earlier this month Bharti finalised the acquisition of the African assets of Kuwait-based Zain Group, in a deal valued at USD10.7 billion. The company has taken over Zain’s operations in 15 countries, including Malawi, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Uganda.

The Indian company expects to introduce the Airtel brand across its new units by October 2010.

‘We plan to invest USD100 million in Malawi in the next three years to improve coverage and reach out to Malawi's rural farmers ... and help the country's economy grow,’ chief executive officer of Bharti Africa, Manoj Kohli, told a news conference. Kohli added that Bharti plans to increase the number of its subscribers in Malawi from the current 2.5 million to seven million, although no date has been given for the company to reach its target.

Korea Inks WiBRO Deal With Angolan

The Korea Herald reports that the Korea Communications Commission (KCC) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Angola's Institute of Communications (INACOM) to cooperate in rolling out wireless broadband services in Angola based on the Korean-developed WiBro platform.

Choi See-joong, chairman of the KCC, said that state-run incumbent Angola Telecom had already expressed interest in building WiBro networks during a working-level meeting. Choi has visited Angola, Egypt and South Africa to promote Korean technologies including WiBro and Digital Mobile Broadcast (DMB) television. The Korean-Angolan MoU also covers the development of DMB and IPTV, KCC officials said.

WiMAX-based wireless broadband services are currently offered by Angola Telecom via its business internet subsidiary Multitel, whilst MSTelcom, a unit of Angolan national oil company Sonangol, operates 802.16e (mobile-ready) WiMAX networks in the country, as does another local telco, Mundo Startel.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Telecel Shareholders Disagree Over Zimbabwe Listing

Members of Zimbabwe's Empowerment Corporation (EC) consortium, which holds a 40% stake in mobile operator Telecel Zimbabwe, have denied reports that they agreed with proposals from the cellco's 60% owner Telecel International to list an 11% stake on the local stock market. State-backed newspaper The Herald reports that Telecel International, a holding company owned by Egypt's Orascom Telecom, claimed it had agreed with EC to float the shares on the Zimbabwean bourse to reduce the foreign-held shareholding to 49% in compliance with ‘empowerment and indigenisation' laws and telecoms regulations, but several EC members wrote to Transport, Communications & Infrastructure Development Minister Nicholas Goche and Youth Development, Indigenisation & Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere denying any involvement in the proposal. Venturas and Samukange, lawyers representing Dr Jane Mutasa, head of the Indigenous Business Women's Organisation, a 17% shareholder in EC, issued a statement saying: ‘It has been brought to our attention that Telecel Zimbabwe has placed a notice in local newspapers alleging that an agreement has been made between shareholders of Empowerment Corporation and Telecel Zimbabwe ... That statement is false. There is no such agreement between the shareholders and in particular Dr Jane Mutasa.’ The lawyers added that Mutasa had not participated in any negotiations related to the planned divestment since 18 March, and asserted that any discussions and agreements entered into without her participation were ‘null and void.’

‘Our client denies participating in the alleged proposal to have the company listed on the local stock exchange. Our client has not participated in the [proposed] alleged issuing of new [Telecel Zimbabwe] shares,’ the statement continued.

Telecel Zimbabwe is owned by Orascom Telecom’s Telecel Globe division (60%, registered to Telecel International), and EC (40%), itself comprising Kestrel (23%), IEG (18%), Indigenous Business Women's Organisation (17%), National Miners' Association (14%), Zimbabwe Farmers' Union (14%) and Magamba eChimurenga (14%). EC was originally given pre-emptive rights to acquire an 11% stake from Telecel International by the government.

The state gave Telecel a deadline of 30 June 2007 to comply with ownership rules; after failing to meet the conditions – largely because of the hyperinflation that paralysed Zimbabwe’s economy – the cellco has technically been operating without a valid licence ever since.

BTC Privatisation Plans On

The government of Botswana has reaffirmed its goal of privatising incumbent telecoms operator Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC), local newspaper The Sunday Standard reports. Presidential affairs minister Lesego Motsumi told parliament that ‘the cabinet has now taken a decision on the privatisation structure of BTC and the information will soon be communicated with all stakeholders.’

Motsumi added that the process was delayed because the government had to carry out lengthy consultation activities with all of the telco’s stakeholders in a bid to minimise risks and maximise benefits.

The privatisation of BTC was first mooted in June 2006, with initial plans envisaging the sale of between 40% and 49% of the telco to a strategic investor and a 5% share to BTC employees. The remaining shares would be retained by the government for a future stock market listing.

The first stage of the privatisation began in January 2007, with a tender put out for 'advisory services'. In February 2008 the Public Enterprises Evaluation and Privatisation Agency (PEEPA) signed a contract with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to act as transactional advisor in the privatisation. The IFC completed due diligence in November 2008 and in 2009 the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (Transition) Bill was enacted in parliament.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New ICT Investments Rules Issued In Kenya

Kenyan regulator, the Communications Commission of Kenya’s (CCK), has rolled out new regulations aimed at tightening its grip on multimillion dollar telecom deals in the country. The new directive will require owners of ICT firms to get the regulator’s approval for any planned share sale.

Business Daily reports that the recent move by the CCK is aimed at ridding the industry of speculators bent on buying ICT firms with the aim of selling them at a premium. “A licensee shall require prior written consent of the commission, which shall notify the applicant of its acceptance or refusal within 30 days of receipt of the request,” say the legal notice containing the fresh regulations.

CCK can agree to or veto any buyout deal exceeding 15 per cent, according to the regulations published on May 28 and which also require existing shareholders buying additional stake of at least five per cent to seek the regulator’s permission.

“The regulator wants to know the nature and thinking of the investors buying local firms,” says Mr Vincent Mutavi, an independent telecom analyst.

“The intention is to eliminate speculative investors and reduce the ongoing market concentration in the hands of deep-pocketed firms with money to buy smaller rivals,” he said.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Kenya Begins Mobile SIM Registration

Kenya has started to register all mobile phone numbers in a bid to cut crime.Users will have to supply identity documents and proof of address before they get a number.
Any numbers still unregistered at the end of July will be disconnected, the government says.
According to a BBC correspondent in Nairobi, many people support the move, hoping it will make life more difficult for criminals.
Kidnapping gangs often use unregistered mobile numbers to text ransom demands, he says.
Police commissioner Mathew Iteere says that mobile phones must be registered because they could now be used like computers."It has become a tool of banking, it can be used to steal data, [to] transmit unauthorised information and perpetrates huge frauds."
Information ministry official Bitange Ndemo last week said registering the numbers would help the authorities tackle terrorism, drugs-trafficking and money-laundering, as well as the sending of hate messages.
Neighbouring Tanzania has already started a similar exercise, so it is not controversial.

Kenya has about 20 million mobile-phone users - about half the population - and has a well developed mobile-phone banking network.
Between 97-99% of mobile-phone users in Africa use pre-paid vouchers, reports the news agency Reuters.
It is easier to use pre-paid vouchers without registering an address.  However, some analysts say registering people in some African countries may be difficult if they do not live in a house with an official address.

-BBC Online

Telkom Annual Results Reveals Fall In Profits

Telkom South Africa said fiscal 2010 full year profit fell because of increased competition from mobile operators and lower price increases. Revenue for the twelve months ended 31 March 2010 rose 0.7% to ZAR37.029 billion (USD4.887 billion), while EBITDA fell 15.2% from ZAR11.574 billion to ZAR9.809 billion.

The earnings measure excludes a profit from the sale of its 50% stake in Vodacom Group and ZAR5.2 billion (USD698 million) write-down on its Nigerian unit. Low tariff increases, greater competition in its domestic market and Nigeria, coupled with high, ageing handset stocks and above-inflation wage increases, cut margins.

Voice traffic volumes fell 9.3%. Capital expenditure fell by 44.2% to ZAR5.4 billion during the year.

Telecel Zim Plans To Comply With Ownership Rules

Telecel Globe, a part of Egyptian group Orascom Telecom, has submitted its proposals to reduce its 60% shareholding in cellco Telecel Zimbabwe to 49% to comply with the country’s indigenisation regulations. A letter containing the proposals was submitted to Transport, Communication & Infrastructure Development Minister Nicholas Goche and Indigenisation & Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, Zimbabwean Sunday newspaper The Standard reports. Telecel Globe said in a statement that the letter was approved by both of the GSM operator’s shareholders, holding company Telecel International and the local Empowerment Corporation.

The statement added that ‘there are no other shareholders in Telecel Zimbabwe and there never have been any others, although some people seem intent on misrepresenting themselves as being shareholders,’ referring to various claims on the company’s future ownership rights, mostly from individuals associated with groups that make up the collective Empowerment Corporation stake.

Telecel International, as a foreign shareholder, was obliged, both in terms of the Indigenisation Act and the licence that regulator POTRAZ issued to Telecel Zimbabwe in 2002, to reduce its shareholding from 60% to 49%. ‘Section 12.1.3 of the licence states that the licensee shall within five years from the date of signing of the licence ensure that the foreign ownership is reduced to 49%,’ the statement said, whilst clarifying that ‘It has not been possible, due to hyperinflation, to reduce shareholding within the stipulated period through the sale of shares, as nobody in Zimbabwe was able at the time to guarantee international euro or United States dollar loans.’

Friday, June 18, 2010

Zain Kenya Welcomes Cut In 3G Licence Fees

Zain Kenya has said its plans to start offering 3G phone services in Kenya are at a ‘very advanced stage’ now that the country has reduced the cost of a licence.

The Communications Commission Kenya (CCK) last week slashed the cost of a 3G permit by 60% from USD25 million to USD10 million in a bid to boost competition. Safaricom, Kenya’s largest cellco by subscribers and owner of the country’s only 3G licence to date, plans to seek a rebate after it paid the higher amount in 2007 to acquire its permit.

Vodacm Launches LTE Trials

Vodacom has launched a live Long Term Evolution (LTE) trial network in Midrand, the first in Africa.

The South African company has fully integrated the 4G network with its existing 3G/3.5G network and uses the same 2100MHz spectrum. The trial network has a theoretical downlink speed of 150Mbps and a theoretical uplink speed of 100Mbps.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Cel C Joins Zain's One Network

Zain has announced the expansion of its ‘One Network’ platform to South Africa in a strategic partnership with Cell C, the country’s smallest cellco. Over 41 million Zain customers across Zain Africa’s 15 mobile operations may now benefit from ‘One Network’ services when visiting South Africa. The ‘One Network’ borderless mobile phone platform enables pre-paid and post-paid Zain customers when travelling to another 'One Network’ partner country to be treated as a local customer in terms of pricing, while retaining home country service functionalities. Now, in South Africa, Zain customers will be able to make calls, send SMS and access the internet (data) at local rates of the visited country and to receive incoming calls at a minimal charge.

The 15 Zain countries that benefit from this service with Cell C in South Africa are: Burkina Faso, Chad, the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Madagascar, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Main One Goes Live In NIgeria & Ghana on 1 July

Main One Cable Company has announced it will launch its high capacity fibre-optic cable system on 1 July in Ghana and Nigeria. Last month the firm completed the first phase of installation from Accra in Ghana to Lagos, Nigeria, and has begun testing network equipment. According to Main One’s CEO, Funke Opeke, Phase 1 of the system spans 6,800km from Seixal in Portugal through the West African coast to Ghana and Nigeria and will deliver 1.93Tbps of much-needed international capacity into West Africa where rapid growth in telecoms has been blighted by limited global connectivity. In Portugal, it will interconnect to cable systems serving other markets in Europe, the Americas and Asia. Phase 2 of the project will see extension of the cable to South Africa.

Last week Main One signed a deal with Huawei Nigeria to provide it with its Intelligence Optical Switching System (OptiX OSN 9500) to serve as the backbone platform to provide high transmission bandwidths in the region. Main One has also inked a maintenance contract with Alcatel-Lucent for Phase 1 of the system. The agreement will enable Main One to address the need for managing and maintaining the network at the highest level of performance delivered at the lowest operating cost.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Glo Gets Senegal Licence

Nigeria-based Globalcom (Glo Mobile) has reportedly been issued with a mobile operator’s licence in Senegal. If confirmed, the concession, the fourth to be awarded in the West African country, will also allow Globacom to land its Glo 1 trans-Atlantic submarine cable in Senegal, with opportunities to extend the infrastructure to Mali.

Local newspaper This Day quotes the Nigerian firm’s chairman Mike Adenuga Jr as saying that the licence would enable his company to offer ‘world class telecommunications services’ to the government and people of Senegal. ‘In line with our vision, Glo will continue to play a major role in stimulating a new era of prosperity in the sub-continent and build facilities that will offer Africa advanced telecoms services such as teleconferencing, distance learning, disaster recovery, telemedicine, on-line diagnosis and video conferencing during surgery and research,’ Globacom added in a statement.

The Nigerian company also holds operating licences in Nigeria, Ghana, Benin Republic and Cote d'Ivoire, but as reported recently, has threatened to exit the Ghanaian market citing sabotage as the reason.

Cel C Tests HSPA+

Cell C is reported to have started testing its HSPA+ network, capable of offering download speeds of up to 21Mbps, according to local press reports. Cell C announced in late 2009 that it will be investing around ZAR5 billion (USD649 million) to upgrade its network infrastructure, something which will allow it to compete more effectively with Vodacom and MTN in the mobile broadband market.

Cameroon to Licence More Cellcos

Cameroon’s Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, Jean Pierre Biyiti Bi Essam, has announced that the government will license up to two new mobile operators in the next few months, local newspaper Le Messager reports. The Minister hopes the introduction of further competition in the market will lead to lower tariffs and improved quality of service.

Mr Biyiti Bi Essam also revealed that the government plans to deploy more than 5,000km of fibre-optic cable by 2011 to help the country cope with increased traffic, as well as boost access to broadband services.

Cameroon is home to two wireless operators: market leader MTN Cameroon, which reported a subscriber base of 4.443 million at 31 March 2010, while France Telecom-owned Orange Cameroun followed with 2.829 million customers. The pair have held a duopoly on the market for over ten years.

Tanzania Adamant on SIM Registration Deadline

The government of Tanzania is adamant that the deadline for registering SIM cards in the country is 30 June and warned yesterday that anyone failing to comply with the order will see their service cut off. Local newspaper The Citizen quotes the Communications, Science and Technology Minister Peter Msolla as saying that after the deadline, all new mobile SIM connections will be registered at the point of purchase. Tanzania launched its registration scheme in mid-2009 with a view to completing the process by 31 December, however the scheme was subsequently extended to 30 June 2010. The minister confirmed too that, some 10.2 million people had successfully registered their SIM cards by March.

Tanzania was home to 16.592 million mobile subscribers by the end of March 2010, with the country's five cellcos collectively adding 328,820 net new subscribers in the first three months of this year. Market leader Vodacom claimed a market share of 35.3% at that date, while second-placed Zain had 30.4% of the pie. Third place operator Tigo commanded a further 24.6% of users, and Zantel Mobile — once the nation's fastest growing cellco — had 9.0%. Trailing far behind the big four, the mobile arm of fixed line operator TTCL had 0.7%.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Late Comer Orange Uses Internet To Penetrate Ugandan Market

Internet and data services are the new forces behind Orange’s penetration into the Ugandan market.  This informs the firm’s strategy as it strives for market dominance amid raging price competition.

MTN Uganda boasts of the largest subscriber base estimated at 5.6 million, an achievement anchored on a low pricing penetration strategy, wide network coverage and attractive user services like MTN Mobile Money transfer.  Zain Uganda comes second with more than two million subscribers after a turnaround strategy driven by sharp discounts on calling rates and improved network quality.  UTL has registered about two million subscribers on the back of sharp price discounts. Its favourite packages include UTL Jazz and UTL Extra that provides one of the lowest off net calling rates in the market.

Calls under the latter profile are charged at Ush320($0.15) for the first and second minutes while the rest are charged Ush270 ($0.12) each.

Orange’s approach is driven by its 3G network that boasts high Internet connectivity speeds backed by solid fibre optic links, minimal interruptions and relatively cheap offers. Its bandwidth for instance, goes for Ush0.9 per KB, the lowest charge in the local market.

Experts also argue that the use of dedicated bandwith packages that are strictly allocated to individual users as opposed to shared bandwidth packages offered elsewhere has strongly boosted growth in the Internet and data services segment.

According to the chief executive Phillipe Luxcey, the firm has recorded a remarkable growth with its highly discounted local and international calling tariffs in the midst of widespread discounts by bigger players.  “Our focus is on a multimedia service that offers high quality voice calls, fast Internet speeds and information services,” said Mr Luxcey.

Orange Uganda commenced operations in March becoming the country’s fifth mobile operator after Zain Uganda, MTN, Uganda Telecom Ltd (UTL) and Warid Telecom.  Orange’s minimum Internet access offer comes with a modem priced at $102 for 1 GB capacity with a monthly fee of $25. Prior to Orange’s entry, many consumers complained of low connectivity speeds and high user fees.

In contrast, Orange’s low-priced, high speed Internet packages have attracted several users keen on downloading heavy pictures, videos and playing music for long intervals.  So far, Orange has registered 10,000 mobile Internet subscribers since the product launch and boasts of total installed capacity of 600MB that can be doubled.

In addition, fibre capacity has been increased sixfold to accommodate customer growth but only 20 percent of international Internet capacity has been utilised, with the rest being sold to local Internet service providers, according to Mr Luxcey.

But analysts believe Orange Internet’s biggest undoing lies in limited network coverage though it boasts 450 live sites spread across the country.  Orange has managed to get only 500,000 out of available nine million subscribers in the voice segment. This is partly due to its lucrative local and international calling tariffs and quality voice reception. Currently, it charges as little as Ush200 ($0.09) for on net calls.

-The EastAfrican

MTN Ups Capacity to Meet WC Traffic Demands

Sameer Dave, chief technology officer of MTN South Africa, has said his company is ready to cope with the influx of bandwidth-hungry international football fans later this month for the World Cup 2010, saying that his company currently has 120 live 21Mbps HSPA+ sites, in addition to in excess of 2,000 3G/HSDPA sites, of which 1,300 are 7.2Mbps and 14.4Mbps enabled. MTN will continue to invest heavily in its network in 2010, with a planned ZAR4.1 billion (USD535 million) network spend in across the year.

Telecel Zim Plans to Launch GPRS, 3G

Telecel Zimbabwe plans to launch GPRS and 3G services in either August or September, according to The Zimbabwe Standard. Telecel MD Aimable Mpore says the new infrastructure is currently being tested, and that the service will be available in all major cities at the time of launch.

Telecel, Zimbabwe’s second largest cellco by subscribers, will become the country’s second mobile operator to roll out 3G, after Econet.

Sierra Leone To Liberalise International Gateway

Sierra Leonean newspaper Awoko reports that the government will liberalise the country’s international mobile gateway ‘soon’, breaking the monopoly held by incumbent telecoms operator Sierratel. Minister of Information and Communication Ibrahim Ben Kargbo said the move will pave the way for the landing of fibre-optic cables in the country, slated for November 2011, in order to bring higher bandwidth, cheaper tariffs and improved service quality to end-users.

Cellcos Celtel (now Zain) and Millicom SL (Tigo) were issued with international gateway licences in January 2003, only to have them revoked in August 2006 as one of the sector reforms brought about by the Telecommunications Act 2006, which restored Sierratel's monopoly on international connections for a period of two years.

Despite calls for an 'open and transparent' review of the international gateway by the Sierra Leone GSM Operators Association in July 2008, Sierratel's monopoly was extended in August 2008.

Zain Kenya To Launch 3G in July

Zain Kenya plans to roll out a third generation (3G) network in July following an expected cut in licence fees by the regulator, the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK).

‘We are planning to roll out 3G services in July 2010. We expect the regulator to announce new spectrum costs for 3G during the first week of June which are going to be substantially lower than the current USD25 million,’ Rene Meza told Reuters by phone.

Orange Money Now in Senegal, Mali and Madacascar

Orange has launched its mobile payment service, Orange Money, in three additional African countries - Senegal, Mali and Madagascar - in recent weeks. These launches mark a turning point in the Group's ambition to launch Orange Money across its footprint in Africa. Orange Money is an innovative, mobile phone-based payment system that allows customers to carry out simple banking operations and transactions in total security. Such services offer a huge potential in Africa where less than 10% of the population have access to a bank account and yet over a third have a mobile phone.

The service allows mobile customers to deposit and withdraw money, to transfer money, to easily buy call credit, to pay for goods at certain retail partners and to pay bills. The service is available for all Orange customers whether or not they have a bank account. The Orange Money account is activated free of charge and without any minimum deposit. Orange Money is built around a system that guarantees transactions against the risk of theft or fraud and that is fully compliant with the regulations.

The launch of Orange Money in Senegal, Mali and Madagascar follows on from the launch of the service in the Cote d'Ivoire in December 2008 after extensive trials. Commenting on this launch, Marc Rennard, Orange’s executive director for the Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific Region, said: ‘Orange Money is a very important part our strategy in Africa and emerging markets. Mobile payment services have the potential to bring cost-effective and secure access to banking services to people with low-incomes, who often live in rural or remote areas. By providing our customers with the means to save money, pay bills and run their businesses, we are not only reinforcing customer fidelity but we are also able to play an active role in the economic development of the country’.

Orange Money will also be launched in Niger and Kenya in the coming months, and will eventually be extended across the Group's entire footprint in Africa and the Middle East.

ICASA Releases Bids For Spectrum Bands

South Africa’s Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has released its ‘Document on Spectrum Licensing Framework Regulations and Invitation To Apply for 2.6GHz and 3.5GHz Bands’.

Under the new guidelines, bidding will start at ZAR750,000 (USD98,000). ICASA requires 2.6GHz licensees to achieve population coverage of 50% within two years of being granted spectrum.

Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, Neotel and Telkom are all reported to be keen to get their hands on the spectrum, which is suitable for the deployment of Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology.