Telecoms News - In Brief

Telecoms

- Madagascar is set to introduce new telecommunications rules to further liberalise this sector. The reform will see a new regulatory body the ARTEC (autorité de régulation des technologies de la communication) to replace the OMERT (Office malagasy d'études et de régulation des telecommunications). Existing and new activities in this sector will be granted under three regimes: licenses, authorisations and declarations. Under the new regulation, communications and IT equipment retailers and service providers will no longer need an authorisation to start their activity.

- Telecom Namibia is pushing to have restrictions on its mobile operations (labelled Switch) lifted during the course of this year. According to Managing Director, Frans Ndoroma, the company will consult with the relevant authorities to seek their approval to resume its mobile operations.

- Following significant progress in the telecommunication sector (4 millions users at the beginning of 2008 and an annual turnover of 260 billion CFA francs in 2006), Jean Louis Beh Mengue, head of Cameroon’s regulator, the ART, has urged mobile operators to decrease their calling rates. The regulator has threatened to introduce price caps if they don not lower prices.

- Zimbabwe’s mobile operator, Econet is currently awaiting response from government for its request for foreign currency to purchase equipment to be used for spying as mandated under the Interception of Communications Act.

- The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has announced plans to enable a national toll free emergency calling system. Stephen Bello, the Executive Commissioner, Licensing and Consumer Affairs at the NCC said that national emergency toll free centres will be set up in all the 36 states of the federation plus the Federal Capital, Abuja. The system will be financed by the NCC and state governments.

- Telecoms sector regulator, Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), has established a consumer protection arm to deal with customer complaints. John Waweru, the CCK director general, said the division had been necessitated by an increase in the number of players, their non-compliance with licensing conditions as well as violation of consumers' rights.

- In an interview to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Information and Communications Minister, John Odey has confirmed the planned retrenchment of some 3,500 workers of NITEL and Mtel has been suspended by the Federal Government. Meanwhile, Tom Iseghohi, Transcorp’s group managing director said to another newspaper that contrary to insinuations by some interested groups including representatives of labour unions, Transcorp is making progress in working with other stakeholders to restore NITEL and MTEL to enviable positions in the Nigerian telecommunications sector.

- The Kenyan government has given the country’s third mobile license holder, Econet Wireless, a six-month deadline to launch commercial services or risk losing its concession. East African Business Week reports that the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) has imposed the June 2008 limit on Econet which was awarded its licence more than four years ago but has since been delayed by financial problems and shareholder issues.

- Egypt's Orascom Telecom announced this week that it has been granted a 3G licence to roll out and operate a cellular service in The Democratic People's Republic of Korea. It's difficult to see Orascom's WCDMA service taking off under the current regime, however, the firm's CEO Naguib Sawiris reckons the move is a good fit with the company’s expansion plans to move in countries with low mobile penetration rates.

- After buying Westel, Celtel will launch its operations in Ghana in March 2008.

- The Mozambican regulator is conducting a market study to see whether there should be one or more new mobile competitors.