Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Orascom Reports Losses of US$170 Million

Egypt’s Orascom Telecom has posted a net loss of USD169.53 million in the last three months of 2010 on the back of both the depreciation of the local currency against the US dollar and increased pressure in foreign markets.

The company noted that as its primary accounts are held in Egyptian pounds the appreciation of the US dollar against the local currency had ‘had a significant effect on the mark to market value of the US dollar denominated debt at Orascom Telecom Holding of approximately USD3.5 billion.’ 

For the twelve months ended 31 December 2010 Orascom posted a net profit of USD781.45 million, more than double the USD378.63 million reported for 2009, which the company attributed predominantly to gains recognised as a result of its revised agreements with France Telecom regarding the ownership of Egyptian cellco MobiNil.

In terms of turnover, in 4Q 2010 Orascom reported revenues of USD980 million, while full-year revenues totalled USD3.825 billion, up 2% year-on-year; Orascom noted that it was not including results from Orascom Telecom Tunisia, which the company agreed to sell in January 2011.

All of the group’s subsidiaries reported revenue growth bar Algerian operator Djezzy, which Orascom noted had endured ‘the persistence of an adverse operating environment.’ Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) in 4Q10 stood at USD402.24 million, while in FY2010 it was USD1.584 billion, up 4% y-o-y. 

At end-December 2010 Orascom’s consolidated subscriber base was 101.683 million, with its Pakistani unit, Mobilink, accounting for the largest number of those, some 31.794 million, up 3.2% against end-2009. MobiNil reported a wireless subscriber base of 30.225 million at the end of the year, up almost 20% against end-2009, while the largest percentage increase was reported at Telecel Globe – which comprises the group’s operations in Namibia, Zimbabwe, the Central African Republic and Burundi – where customer numbers increased by 77.8% to 3.242 million.

Bangladeshi unit Banglalink meanwhile reported a subscriber base of 19.3327 million at 31 December 2010, up almost 40% compared to the same date a year earlier, which Orascom said was the result of aggressive acquisition and strong customer retention strategies.

Commenting on the results Khaled Bichara, Orascom’s Group CEO, said: ‘The year 2010 has proven to be a year of significant milestones aiding the growth of Orascom Telecom Holding on an operational and strategic level.’

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Vodacom Announces 43.2Mbps HSPA+ Deployment

Mobile operator Vodacom South Africa has confirmed that it has exceeded 1,000 active 43.2Mbps HSPA+ sites on its network, the South African media reports.

Although the deployment has taken place over time, Vodacom stressed that it did not want to publicise the improved speeds until they had achieved ‘significant’ HSPA+ coverage.

CEO Pieter Uys commented: ‘We have actually had the technology up and running for some time, but we wanted to have a critical mass of at least 1,000 base stations before flipping the switch to allow consumers access at up to double the speed. We wanted to make sure that we had the service available in more than just one city’.

According to Vodacom currently has over 4,300 3G base stations in South Africa, of which 2,650 are 21Mbps enabled, with the remainder supporting transmission speeds of 14.4Mbps.

Further, Vodacom chief technical officer Andries Delport has disclosed that Vodacom plans to have a total of 2,000 HSPA+ towers upgraded to support transmission speeds of 43.2Mbps by May 2011. Vodacom CEO Pieter Uys had previously indicated that Vodacom intends to roll out an additional 1,000 3G base stations during 2011. Despite the increase in peak speeds Vodacom has said that it is focusing on increasing the average performance of its overall network, and will connect 2,000 mobile sites to fibre by the end of the current financial year. 

However, Delport tempered the announcement by conceding that speeds of up to 43.2Mbps are strictly theoretical, and depend on how many people are using the towers, and their proximity to the base stations; in a live HSPA+ test staged on Friday Vodacom demonstrated peak download speeds of around 37Mbps. There will be no increase in costs to existing subscribers, and compatible 43.2Mbps HSPA+ dongles are now available in Vodacom retail stores. Although precise rollout details are unknown, it is believed that most major metropolitan areas will be covered from the outset. 

Vodacom’s announcement came just days before rival Cell C was set to officially inaugurate its own 43.2Mbps HSPA+ network, in Port Elizabeth, on 19 April.

WACS Arrives Near Cape Town

Submarine communications cable the West Africa Cable System (WACS) has landed in Yzerfontein, near Cape Town. The 14,000km cable, which is expected to dock at 14 different landing points along the Western coast of Africa, before linking to the Canary Islands, Portugal and the UK, is set to commence commercial service in 1Q12. The total capacity of the system is 5.12Tbps, and at least 500Gbps will be lit at launch.

Investors in the WACS cable include South African telcos MTN, Vodacom, Telkom South Africa, Broadband Infraco and Neotel.

Angus Hay, head of strategic business development at Neotel, commented: ‘This is the dawn of a new era in the South African telecommunications industry. 

Since the launch of SEACOM and later EASSy, international bandwidth to South Africa has increased. The landing of WACS sets Neotel ahead of its competitors, as it is the only telecommunications operator that has direct access to all five undersea cables landing in South Africa: WACS, SEACOM, EASSy, SAT-3 and SAFE. 

For Neotel this means that our customers are highly unlikely to experience downtime since the traffic can be moved from one cable to another in case of any cable failure. The level of redundancy, reliability and security will now increase’.

Mauritius Telecom Reports 17% Growth In Profits

Mauritius Telecom (MT) said pre-tax profits rose 17% year-on-year to MUR2.4 billion (USD89.1 million) in 2010, driven by strong growth at its mobile division. MT added that net profits rose 16% from MUR1.4 billion to MUR1.7 billion, and revenue climbed 5.6% from MUR7.1 billion to MUR7.5 billion. The company’s chief executive officer Sarat Lallah said the mobile segment grew by 10.4% in FY2010 compared with 6.7% in FY2009, while the internet segment also grew strongly. 

MT, which is 40% owned by France Telecom and is the country’s dominant fixed line and mobile operator, has revealed plans to invest as much as MUR4.3 billion, or 50% of its reserves, in international projects in the short term. It claims to have ‘sufficient reserves’ and that it is in talks with unnamed telecoms providers in Uganda and Vanuatu.

It is also looking to start trading its shares on the Indian Ocean island nation’s bourse, pending approval from the government, Chairman Appalsamy Thomas has said. ‘We are waiting for the decision from the Ministry of Finance,’ he added, ‘Once it’s obtained, it will take us four months before listing.’ Under the plan the government, the State Bank of Mauritius and the National Pension Fund will reduce their stakes in the company through the listing. About 10% to 15% of shares will be traded on the nation’s exchange, CFO Cyprien Mateos said.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Al-Lu To Prepare Tunisiana For 3G and LTE

Alcatel-Lucent has announced that it has signed a deal with Tunisiana to upgrade the cellco’s network to IP as it prepares for 3G and LTE. 

The operator says migrating to an all-IP infrastructure will allow it to offer a full range of converged services, along with increased reliability, scalability and speed. 

No financial details have been disclosed. Tunisiana, formerly part of Orascom Telecom, became a subsidiary of Qatar Telecom in January 2011.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Libyan Rebels Launch Mobile Network

According to the UK's Daily Telegraph, rebels in Eastern Libya have set up their own independent mobile phone network, less than a month after they were cut off from the country's centralised infrastructure, which required all calls to be routed through the international gateway in Tripoli. 

The new network, called 'Free Libyana', is the brainchild of UAE-based telecoms executive Ousama Abushagur, a Libyan national who was raised in Alabama. He admitted that the the move was necessitated after humanitarian convoys that he had organised suffered logistical problems because the Gaddafi government was broadcasting jamming signals to cripple the satellite telephones used by the rebels.

Free Libyana was supplied with the necessary telecoms equipment by UAE telecoms giant Etisalat, which stepped in when Chinese telecoms manufacturer Huawei rejected Abushagur's approach; an unnamed Libyan businessman based in the UAE bankrolled the project.

 The network was rolled out by a team of international telecoms engineers – three Libyans and four Westerners – who flew to Egypt before crossing the border into Libya and commencing work in the rebel-held capital Benghazi. 

The rebels were reportedly aided by Benghazi-based employees of Libyana, the country's largest mobile phone operator by subscribers. According to Abushagur the new network launched on 2 April, and currently has 750,000 active SIM cards in operation. Although the network is widely available in the east of the country, international calling is limited to selected senior rebel figures.

BPE Asks Omen to Confirm It's Interest in NITEL

Nigeria’s Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) has given Omen International, the reserve bidder for state-run telco Nigeria Telecommunications (NITEL), two weeks to confirm it is still interested in buying the ailing former telecoms monopoly, Reuters reports, citing BPE director general Bolanle Onagoruwa. 

Last month the British Virgin Islands-registered Omen consortium, which includes China Unicom and Fiber Home Technologies Limited, was invited by the BPE to re-register its interest in buying NITEL, after preferred buyer New Generation Telecommunications repeatedly failed to meet the payment deadlines for its bid of USD2.5 billion. 

Omen offered USD956.9 million for a 75% stake in NITEL and its mobile arm M-Tel during the latest attempt to privatise the company, held in February 2010, however the company has so far failed to revalidate its interest in buying the operator. 

The BPE has stated that other options for the telco include setting a minimum price for NITEL and offering it to the remaining bidders, as well as liquidating the company, or restarting the whole bidding process again. The government began seeking a buyer for a minimum 75% of NITEL and 100% of M-Tel in July 2009 after previous majority shareholder Transcorp divested its stake earlier in the year.

Potraz to Disconnect 30% of SIMs Over Non-Registration

The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has completed compiling a register of all mobile phone users in the country, state-run newspaper The Herald writes. 

The confidential database was completed following the regulator’s order last year for all cellular network users to register their personal details or be disconnected in the interests of curbing criminal activity. 

The registration deadline was 28 February 2011. The report says that by that date, state-owned cellco NetOne had registered 90% of its subscribers, whilst rival Telecel Zimbabwe had registered 80%, but market leader Econet Wireless only 60%.

With Econet controlling over 60% of the wireless market, the reported figures give a combined average of around 70% registration, indicating that around 30% of the country’s approximately nine million activated mobile SIM cards will now be disconnected, leaving a market of an estimated 6.3 million subscribers, or roughly 54% of the population.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Rwanda Begins winding Up Libyan-Owned RwandaTel

The Rwandan government has reportedly begun insolvency proceedings in the country’s commercial courts against telecoms operator Rwandatel, which is 80% owned by Libyan government investment vehicle LAP Green Networks. 

According to a report by local daily The New Times, which cites Registrar General Louise Kanyonga, the decision to liquidate Rwandatel – in which the state holds the remaining 20% stake – comes after audited reports found that the company is in financial difficulties.

‘We were in receipt of their audited financial statements for the financial year 2009/10 in which the auditing firm concluded that the company was technically insolvent,’ Kanyonga said, adding: ‘Based on the powers given to the Registrar General by the Insolvency law to institute insolvency proceedings, an application was made to the commercial court in Nyarugenge [on Monday 11 April].’ 

Earlier this month telecoms regulator Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA) revoked Rwandatel’s mobile concession due to its failure to meet licence obligations, though the operator’s fixed telephony and ISP permits remain operational. In a separate development, the government last month froze all Libyan-owned assets in Rwanda to enforce United Nations (UN) sanctions following unrest in the North African nation.