Telecoms News - In Brief


- African operators scooped many of the prizes at the GSMA 15th Annual Global Mobile Awards in Barcelona this week. The list includes: Best Mobile Money Service

Safaricom – M-PESA (bulk payment & utility bill) extension to service; Best Use of Mobile for Social and Economic Development: Grameen Foundation, MTN Uganda, and Google – The Grameen Foundation Application Laboratory (AppLab): Best Mobile Money for the Unbanked Service: Zain for ZAP; Green Network Award: Mocambique Celular S.A.R.L (mcel) – Eco Naturalmente (Naturally Thinking Green); and Government Leadership Award: Kenya

- Egypt's Orascom Telecom may sell its Algerian operations, says the Wall Street Journal. Orascom chairman Naguib Sawiris says: "We are keen to stay in Algeria; it's one of our main assets and until this incident we were very happy there. But we need to understand if our investment is welcome there or not. If not, we will consider other options.” Orascom's Algerian subsidiary has been contesting a $600 million tax bill going back to 2005. The company is also locked in a long-standing dispute with France Telecom SA over a Mobinil joint venture in Egypt.

- South African regulator ICASA has given the green light to cellular operators to cut interconnect rates by 36c from next month, which it says will benefit consumers. This week, MTN, Cell C and Vodacom agreed independently with each other to voluntarily cut the peak interconnect rate from R1.25 to 89c. The off-peak cost remains at 77c. The agreements were filed with ICASA on Tuesday and, late last night, it approved the revised proposal.

- 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 company suggest it is not looking to start operations next month.

- Tunisiana, the only private telecommunications company in Tunisia, is upgrading to a Nokia Siemens Networks’ unified charging and billing solution, which will give its subscribers the freedom and flexibility to opt for more than one payment scheme within a single subscription. Tunisiana is the first private telecom operator in Tunisia , launched in May 11th 2002 with a capital of $330 million. It became the leader in the industry in August 2008 achieving a market share of 53 percent.

- Zimbabwe’s third largest mobile cellular company, Telecel, is hoping to increase its subscriber base before end of this year. Telecel was allocated 3G frequencies recently and the latest development would boost the target. Chibesa said Telecel would roll out its 3G network before June and hopes to increase its current subscriber base of 650,000 .

- An International company called Celltrust, following the Kenyan model of mobile payment servies, has introduced iSecureSMS Mobile Banking and Payment Pilot into Nigeria. The company expects that the new Secure SMS/Text Mobile Banking program launched through its Global SecureSMS Gateway will be adopted at high rates within the first few months of operation. After the introduction of the platform in the region, end-users will be able to make mobile cash transfers, payments and securely access other microfinance banking products.