Telecoms News - In Brief


- 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.

- Kenya’s Permanent Secretary of Information Bitange Ndemo has hinted that the government may be considering a reduction in the cost of 3G licences, following sustained pressure from operators. Ndemo has again raised expectations for a reduction, telling a local radio station: ‘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. If we decide that we are lowering, we would have some mechanisms to ensure that Safaricom does not lose its money.’ Ndemo added that a final decision should be made in the next three weeks.

- The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) said that it would open financial bids for the privatisation of Nigerian Telecommunications Plc (NITEL) and its mobile arm, M-tel, on February 16, 2010. Six out of 14 pre-qualified consortia that submitted bids for the acquisition of 75% stake in Nitel have been shortlisted by the Bureau of Pubic Enterprises (BPE). They are: Brymedia (WA) Ltd; AF21/ Spectrum Consortium; MTN Nigeria Communication Ltd; Globacom Nigeria Ltd; Omen International Ltd (BVI); and New Generation Telecommunications Ltd  (formerly Telefonica Consortium).

- Orange Tunisia has announced that its 3G network has carried its first call. According to IT website Tekiano the official technical inauguration of the network meets the new operator's obligation to have the network up and running within six months of obtaining its licence last August. The full commercial launch of the mobile network is expected in April.

- According to local newspaper, the Nigerian Compass, Singapore Telecommunications is eyeing acquisitions in Asia and the fast-growing markets of Africa and the Middle East to boost growth after it reported quarterly earnings in line with estimates. CEO Chua Sock Koong said the telco will not close its eyes to the fertile telecoms landscape of emerging markets. The company earns about three-quarters of its core earnings from outside Singapore. “Our focus remains in Asia. That’s unchanged. We are also looking at some adjacent markets including Africa and the Middle East,”Koong said while speaking about the likelihood of acquisitions to shore up earnings and operations.