Telecoms News - In Brief


- According to the Nigerian newspaper This Day, the Federal Government is planning a new round of licensing for GSM licences, and hopes to issue new concessions in 2006. Although details of the planned awards are not yet known, the Government is keen to introduce competition when the five-year exclusivity of the current providers of mobile telephony services ends in February 2006.

- Luxembourg-based VoIP service provider Skype Technologies has announced it has signed up more than a million users to Skype-Out, the company’s first premium service which offers global calling to PSTN numbers at local call rates. Skype has around 29 million registered users and claims to be adding more than 155,000 new users every day. It says it hopes to add more premium services to its portfolio in the near future.

- Telkom Kenya announced recently a record one million telephone calls into Somalia per month, with a new government in Mogadishu. The firm's managing director, John Waweru, said the business was likely to expand in the future as the Somali government consolidated its power. He said with charges of Sh72 per minute, the company was in a position to do good business with the neighbouring country. Telkom Kenya will embark on an intensive restructuring programme beginning June this year, it was announced last Tuesday. Information and Communication Permanent Secretary James Rege said the Government was only awaiting an assessment report from consultants in order to embark on the task."Once they give us their recommendations, we'll get down to work immediately," he said.

- Telkom Kenya has signed an interconnection agreement with alternative telco Bell Western, enabling the latter to offer telecoms services in the north east of the country over Telkom’s network. Bell Western was the first company to offer alternative fixed line services in Kenya when the local telephony market was liberalised in 1999, but its services were geographically limited. The new agreement has improved its reach. Meanwhile mobile operator Safaricom is in the process of testing out a text-banking service, which will enable users who do not have bank accounts to build up credit on their mobile phones and then pay bills via text message. The project is being funded by Vodafone, which owns 40% of Safaricom.

- Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (ETC) has signed a USD48.5 million contact with Sweden’s Ericsson for the supply of its GSM Expander solution. The deal will increase the coverage and capacity of ETC’s network in Addis Ababa and other regions of Ethiopia. The expansion project will completed by the middle of 2005.

- Ghanaian mobile operator Spacefon has expanded capacity for its subscribers in the Upper West Region, in an attempt to stave off threats of legal action following complaints about network congestion. Last month Spacefon subscribers in the Wa municipality threatened to take the operator to court over concerns that the company’s radio-base station (RBS) in the area was unable to cope with demand. Spacefon, which is under the management of Scancom Ghana Limited, has now installed a high capacity RBS to remove the bottleneck.

- Nigerian Mobile Telecommunications Limited (M-Tel), last week unveiled a new consumer product, which makes it possible for subscribers who have enoughcredit to transfer part of it through a short message service (SMS) to another subscriber of his choice. The Value Added Service (VAS), which comes in a product named 'share de talk,' enables a subscriber to transfer a minimum of N300 to another person. The product works by " accessing the SMS, the number of the beneficiary, a star sign, the money being transferred, the number 7979 and send or Ok sign." The sender of the message is immediately informed of a reduction on his credit, while the beneficiary is immediately informed about the increase. Each transfer, however, attracts a surcharge of N20 to cater for the SMS and cost of handling.

- Telecom Namibia has announced a disruption in telephone, data and mobile services in the Caprivi Region as a result of an underground optical fibre fault between Nyangana and Bagani. The company said a lightning strike on Monday night damaged the underground optical fibre transmission system, affecting all fixed-line and mobile phone users in the areas of Bagani, Omega, Kongola and Katima Mulilo. The cable was damaged at several points.

- It would appear that the new frontier for competition between mobile phone service providers in Kenya is introduction of new top-up options. Celtel Kenya has just come up with a Sh100 physical recharge voucher, in a bid to improve the liquidity of low denomination talk time. It comes uniquely packaged in a strip with tear-off perforations.