Telcos

UPDATED: Tangazoletu hits ten years, seeking partners to bring financial services to ten million unbanked Kenyans

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Kenya’s mobile money integrator for merchants Tangazoletu has marked ten years of its existence with an ambitious target to bring ten million unbanked Kenyans in the informal sector through financial technology solutions.

According to Chief Executive Officer of Tangazoletu Mr.Chris Gathingu the firm will collaborate with more than 70 partners such as Safaricom, banks, Saccos and Microfinance Institutions to reach the unbanked population in the informal sector in Kenya.

“Our solutions have already reached over five million Kenyans in the last ten years. In our next phase of growth and partnerships, we target to reach another ten million Kenyans and bring them to financial inclusion with our solutions. We are also committed to a Pan-African vision to spread our solutions to other African countries. We shall deepen and expand our social responsibility programmes to support causes in the region,” said Mr. Gathingu.

Tangazoletu was founded ten years ago in a local university when Chris Gathingu, the founder, was still a student. The company has developed Spotcash (used by most Saccos in Kenya), M TIBU, a groundbreaking solution for managing TB in the country (in partnership with Safaricom, Ministry of Health and USAID).

Mr. Bob Collymore, the Chief Executive Officer of Safaricom, committed that Safaricom will work with local technology partners such as Tangazoletu to continuously innovate solutions that transform lives of Kenyans. Today, the M-PESA system processes two loans every second and has ensured that over 26 million customers are rarely more than a kilometre away from an agent. M-PESA has been responsibie for lifting just under 200,000 people (predominantly women) out of poverty in Kenya. We commit to work with local partners such as Tangazoletu to deepen our financial inclusion agenda,” said Mr. Collymore.

The Chief Executive Officer of NIC Bank Mr. John Gachora said that banks in the region should view financial technology (Fintech) companies in the region as partners and not disruptors or competitors. “There is a tendency by companies in the financial sector to look at Fintech companies such as Tangazoletu as a threat to their businesses. They are not. They should be viewed as innovation partners that will enhance their business models,” said Mr. Gachora.

Goodbye Etisalat Nigeria, Welcome 9Mobile

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Etisalat Nigeria has changed its brand name to 9Mobile according to the demands of its investors.

Mubadala Group had given Etisalat 3 weeks to drop the Etisalat which must have prompted this name change. The United Arab Emirates company owns a 45% in Etisalat Nigeria.

The Etisalat crisis started because it failed to service it 541 billion debt which prompted a consortium of banks to take over the company.

 

Learning from MainOne’s Outage, Infrastructure sharing and consolidation are the solution to industry distress-Suleiman Arzika

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While the Nation was still reeling from the effects of the outage of the dominant international fiber cable operator Main One, we were hit with the news of the financial/commercial crisis at one of the 4 dominant telecommunications operators Etisalat Nigeria. The crisis was so severe that it looked for a while that the company may go into receivership. This seems to have now been averted by the unprecedented intervention of the industry regulator- the Nigeria Communications Commission and the banking regulator Central Bank of Nigeria. For now, the banks have been allowed to take over the management and board of the company to keep it afloat while they work out a long term solution to the survival of the 4th largest telco in the country.

In an economy that has been more than 18 months in recession, this was just the latest blow from one of the hitherto lucrative industries that were considered the most bankable and cash rich sectors of the Nigerian economy. Since the successful liberalization of the telecommunications industry in the early 2000s, it rapidly became one of the fastest growing business segments in the world growing from less than 1 million customers in 1999 to more than 100 million customers as at 2015. This follows the distress we have seen in Aviation- where the 2 largest carriers Arik Airlines and Aero Contractors have been in receivership and various tales of distress we hear from the financial sector. It is fair to say that these are not the best of times for corporate Nigeria and something needs to be done urgently to stabilize the economy.

That said, what went wrong in the telecommunications sector and could the current distress have been avoided or minimized? I will say yes from my perspective. And much more efficiency and margin can be created with some innovative and forceful consolidation. The telecommunications landscape today is littered with massive inefficiencies that are very costly and have distorted the structure and increased costs. If these are eliminated or reduced, it will create a better playing field and reduce the chokehold on the operators.

Typically, the telecommunications industry comprises of upstream and downstream segments. The upstream segment comprises of wholesalers which include international cable operators, national cable operators, international voice and data gateways and national voice and data gateways. This also includes colocation and data center providers. The customers for these providers are other telcos, large corporates and government.

In the downstream segment, we have the retail services. The players here are the telcos (GSM and other telephony operators), Internet Service Providers (fiber to the premises, wimax and 4G) and application service providers (whatsapp, Facebook, skype, etc). There are of course ancillary providers who fall into the downstream such as recharge card distributors, installers and contractors. The customers for these providers are individual subscribers, homes, small and medium offices, etc.

Because of the way telecommunications have evolved, there are some integrated players who are basically shaped by their history more than any other factor. These integrated players are mostly the former incumbent national operators like AT&T in the US, BT in the UK, France Telecom in France, DT in Germany, NTT in Japan and so on. These integrated players built from the ground up because they had to create the facilities for their services to run on because in the days when the industry was tightly regulated, no other operator was allowed to compete with them. NITEL in Nigeria would have been in this category if it had survived.

Changes in 2 major factors have always and will continue to determine fortunes in the telecom business- they are changes in technology and changes in consumer behavior. The 2 factors don’t necessarily go hand in hand. A lot of the time, the technology runs ahead of consumer behavior while in some cases, technology has to catch up with consumer demand (when this happens, it is a jackpot). Some examples may be helpful here, When 3G services were launched in the late 2000s, equipment manufacturers and telcos were eager to show customers the wonder of video calling. Suddenly, you could see the called party on a video on your phone. It turns out that people were not ready for this yet, they didn’t want to see the people they were talking to for all sorts of reasons including the cost of the call. The manufacturers and telcos had to beat back a retreat and focus on the larger data capabilities of 3G networks and allow OTT (over the top) providers like Skype to fiddle with video calling until they found the right fit. Up till today the telcos are not able to find customers for video calling in the way that OTT providers are. On the other hand, per second billing of voice calls was one instance where the consumer demand was ahead of the technology and it took a while before the manufacturers and telcos were able to meet this. One of our local telcos who was first to provide this made it a game changer and reaped massive benefits back in the day.

So with rapidly evolving technology and consumer behavior, the operators are forced to continuously innovate and adapt in order to remain profitable. While they are making profits today, they are forced to envision where these 2 factors are going and how to respond to them. In most cases it involves tearing down the entire network and rebuilding it which may be cheaper but not feasible because services cannot be interrupted for so long. This makes the older operators who have to adapt to new technology have much higher switching costs than newer operators- legacy problem. This is probably the only industry where history is a liability.

So with such a situation, the odds are always in favor of the operator who is nimble, agile, ruthless and focused on the value proposition. It is always against the heavier, legacy laden and deeply entrenched player. This is one of the mistakes of the Nigerian telcos. While they are fairly new operators, less than 20 years old in most cases, they have been in a rush to acquire heavy assets including fiber optic lines across international and national boundaries, towers, switching and transmission equipment, land and buildings and so on. They have also developed these in parallel to each other thereby replicating costs across the industry and building huge operating costs. A classic example of this is in the building of towers. It is common to see 3-4 telco towers in a 100 sq.m area because according to the radio spectrum planning, that location is ideal for the towers but instead of one tower that everyone will share, every operator has erected their own. The set up cost and operating cost over time is accumulated and passed on to the customer eventually which leads to avoidable higher prices.

The inability to envision and adapt to new technology has also caught the telcos in severe slumber and led to avoidable problems. At Suburban we saw this clearly when we adopted Internet Protocol( IP) technology far ahead of the industry and made huge gains throughout the period we were a wholesale transmission provider. While other operators were still investing in soon to be obsolete circuit switching or SS7 technology, the smarter operators went for IP. Today the entire ICT architecture the world over runs on IP and those who adopted early had a stable foundation to build on. Today, the telcos are being taken to the cleaners by Over the Top(OTT) operators like WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, Amazon, Google, etc. This is due to their inability to perceive that customer behavior will shift in that direction. Today the traditional voice and sms revenue that made the telcos extremely profitable has been totally eroded by these free services that actually run on their networks. Unfortunately they are relegated to just being internet/data services providers. Internet/data services are more complex to run and provide lower margins than voice and sms which has led to the current distress the telcos find themselves in.

While it will take individual efforts at each telco to change their approach and attitude towards perceiving and responding to customer demands, it is easier to take steps to reduce waste by some practical steps. If operators across the entire spectrum craft their value propositions by defining their markets and focusing on them, they can create room to maneuver. So there is no need for Main One to be a downstream ISP competing with its customers when it does not have redundancies and alternative routing to secure its main investment ie the international cable. Likewise Globacom does not need to be a national carrier building everything everywhere to provide facilities that it cannot monetize. The international and national cable operators need to to share and swap their cable capacities. They need to define and streamline their customers so that they don’t end up competing with and killing their customers. When they do this, they trigger a price war that they cannot sustain and hence a race to the grave. The proper industry structure needs to be agreed to protect operators investments and customers.

This may not be easy for players who have made careers out of antagonizing each other, so the regulator NCC may have to step in to get this done. The opportunity presented by the distress of Etisalat has presented the perfect excuse for the NCC to do just this. The template of banking consolidation by the Chukwuma Soludo Central Bank may provide the framework for this much needed intervention. Along with this consolidation, the regulator needs to establish strict corporate governance guidelines that will help ensure that the massive investments in the sector are properly secured. The Federal Government itself needs to be take this very seriously as it can be seen that the failure of such a huge institution like Etisalat can cause a financial crisis that will affect the banks and other financial institutions and derail foreign investment required for diversification of the national economy. Let this be a wake up call for all of us.

US-based mobile game publisher GameMine partners with South Africa’s Vodacom Group for game distribution

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GameMine, a US-based mobile game publisher has partnered with South African’s Vodacom Group to provide a selection of its ad-free mobile games free of charge to Vodacom subscribers.

During the promotional trial period, millions of Vodacom subscribers will enjoy GameMine’s more than 175 titles spanning all major mobile gaming genres.

“GameMine recognizes the distinct value and importance of South Africa’s thriving mobile carrier market as an appropriate demographic region for our company’s product, as well as an early trend indicator for the African continent’s entire mobile industry,” says Daniel Starr, CEO of GameMine.

Vodacom is particularly a good partner for GameMine due to its over 65.2 million customers in South Africa in Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, and Lesotho and Uganda. The Group also recently acquired a stake in Kenya’s leading mobile telco Safaricom with  plans to across various markets. The partnership makes GameMine’s entry into Africa easy and even though the games are free during a promotional period will help it acquire permanent and paying users.

The partnership will significantly boost GameMine’s global subscriber base as well as its exposure within international mobile carrier markets while providing Vodacom’s South African iPhone and Android users with access to GameMine’s best-in-class mobile games, all of which are being provided in a fully-unlocked, ad-free manner.

According to Nyimpini Mabunda, Chief Officer Consumer Business Unit,””Vodacom is excited to have partnered with GameMine in the MegYourDay promotion. MegYourDay is the product of numerous conversations with customers, and really listening to what they’re wanting as added value for being part of the Vodacom family.”

Safaricom’s Be Your Own Boss reality show refuses to die, launches more verticals to immerse the youth

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Safaricom’s youth focused sub-brand Blaze has launched the second season of  its youth focused reality show BLAZE Be Your Own Boss (BYOB) to reach more youth to join and remain loyal to its network.

“We are glad that the first edition of BLAZE BYOB was a success. We now want to build on the learnings we picked to improve the second edition. Key among the changes, we will be introducing three new areas that will help participants in building successful businesses and appreciating the need to give back to the society,” said Sylvia Mulinge, Director -Consumer Business, Safaricom.

Themed Greatness Requires Internal Toughness (G.R.I.T), the second season of BLAZE BYOB aims to mentor and train youth by giving them the tools required to be successful at BYOB Creation Camps. Safaricom will link the youth to mentors at its various  BLAZE BYOB Summits.

BYOB will also introduce BLAZE CSR Fridays, a session aimed at teaching the youth to give back to the society.

The creation camps aims to have 350 participants with a pre-screening in Meru where youth will have the chance to give a 5 min elevator pitch about their business ideas to a panel of category experts with an aim to impart tangible skills onto the youth.

As the final part of the Creation Camp and ahead of the summit, all participants, mentors and performing artists, will go into five pre-identified high schools and have a 1-hour mentorship session, giving out a donation as part of the CSR projects.

Jibril Blessing-producer and videographer, Njugush- Comedian and actor, Abel Mutua- content developer, Julian- musician, Wycliffe Waweru- entrepreneur and bicycle manufacturer and Caleb Karuga, an Agribusiness entrepreneur will be among the mentors at BYOB’s first regional summit scheduled for this weekend in Meru County.

The first season saw 43% of Kenyan youth join the BLAZE platform and 44,000 young people under the age of 26 attend the countrywide summits.

Safaricom-backed mSurvey launches Consumer Wallet to mine SMS & mobile money data for customer spending habits

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Getting reliable data on consumer spending is almost impossible in Kenya and other informal markets across Africa, as there is no data collected on how  informal consumers spend, who else is serving that same market and if there are any changes in customer spending  behaviors.

Instead of letting businesses by buy data which might be out of date or conducting their own study which is expensive and time consuming, Safaricom-backed mSurvey, an SMS surveys platform has launched Consumer Wallet to quantify offline consumer spending habits and trends.

The mobile platform was first piloted in March 2017 with potential clients and corporate partners in Kenya and after several months it has been launched to the general public.

The platform works simply.

mSuvey leverages SMS to measure the cash based spending drawn from Safaricom’s mobile subscribers. The data is then fed into the Consumer Wallet database benchmarking preferences and expenditures of various items. With these data clients can tell how consumers in their target segment spend, know what else they are spending on and how or when is their spending behaviour expected to change.

With the data FMCGs among others will know what their target customers are buying, how much they spend on the commodity and how did they pay. With these data clients will know customers monthly average amount, spent per person, method of Payment Purchases made with cash, mPesa or credit card,  the Wallet Share among others. A company can truly understand the dynamic consumer and know how much a client spends on food,  how much goes toward bills, transport, airtime, alcohol, entertainment, appliances among others and what trade off does she make.

Supporting this initiative Sylvia Mulinge, Director – Consumer Business, Safaricom said, “Consumer Wallet addresses a pressing business challenge by providing real time collection, assessment and analysis of data. With the world currently undergoing an information revolution, it is essential that businesses in Kenya have the tools that offer the same advantages as those in Silicon Valley.”

And though Safaricom hasn’t updated its user terms and conditions that customer data will be used and sold to clients, Consumer wallet will empower businesses with the requisite insights to arrive at more strategic decisions, and with deeper understanding of their customer needs. The service will be available on both a subscription and license basis.

Consumer Wallet will open up a majority of the country’s consumer spending happens at informal businesses, which presents an information gap for businesses looking to explore business opportunities in the sector. Consumer Wallet plugs this gap by providing unprecedented insight into the spending habits of such “offline” consumers.

Telkom Kenya expands 4G presence to 19 more towns across the country

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Telkom, formerly Orange Kenya is expanding its 4G network to 19 more towns giving Kenyans an alternative to experience faster Internet speeds.

Telkom subscribers with 4G enabled devices will now enjoy the 4G service in major Kenyan cities and towns following its network upgrade and commissioning of 4G sites across the country.

This follows the initial announcement made of 4G ready towns: Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Eldoret, Nakuru, Nyeri, Machakos, Kiambu and Kisii.

Fast growing Kitengela, Naivasha, Kericho, Limuru, Meru, Thika, Ngong, Embu, Nyahururu, Narok, Kitui and Voi join the expanded list as Telkom deepens its data presence in the market.

Tourism-rich towns of Diani and Malindi and the agriculture-rich Western circuit of Bungoma, Kakamega, Kitale, Siaya and Maseno have built a viable case for 4G roll-outs.

Speaking in Kisumu when he announced the expansion, Telkom’s CEO, Aldo Mareuse says: “In this competitive digital era, Kenyans need a choice of data provider. We are not only guaranteeing that our subscribers across the country will enjoy better quality of service and unbeatable offers, but value for their money.”

Over the last one year since the change of ownership and management, Telkom has invested Sh.5billion in upgrading and densifying its network. The firm has already unveiled affordable data plans that are expected to energise the use of the new 4G network.

Existing and new Telkom subscribers are set to enjoy free 4G data daily upon purchase of any data bundle and free daily access to WhatsApp.

Telkom subscribers can also swap their current SIM cards for 4G SIM cards at any Telkom retail shop across the country.

On the 4G network, subscribers can enjoy smoother live streaming, faster downloads and uploads, and sharing of video and audio content.

 

Safaricom ditches its mobile telco look as it starts journey as an enabler platform for all things digital

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Bob Collymore, CEO Safaricom

On the surface, there might be nothing much from the new Safaricom logo but deep in its realms the telco is inching closer to its dream of becoming a raft or an enabling platform for just about everything away from its old mobile telecommunication roots.

As we all know, a raft or an axle is a central shaft for a wheel or gear either fixed or rotating. Safaricom’s CEO Bob Collymore speaking in an earlier interview said the firm was moving to becoming a raft.

“We don’t want to become a company for everything, we want to become a platform for everything. And in fact we’ve even moved on from using the word platform. We now use the word raft because platform is something which sits still. A raft is something which moves. And the world that we’re in today is moving at a particularly rapid pace,” Collymore told Business Daily. “So we want to be the raft that people can climb onto to get them where they want to go. We have stopped thinking about mobile phone companies being our competitors.We don’t want to think of ourselves as a telecommunications company. In fact pretty much every Friday afternoon I interview incomers to the company and we hardly get any with telecommunications background now. They’re coming from all sorts of other backgrounds.”

The first thing Safaricom did was act as a platform for mobile financial services M-Pesa then it went to power Little, an Uber competitor and Sendy, a courier firm which has since pivoted from peer-to-peer services to B2B. As a platform, Safaricom also powers Eneza Education and M-Survey and M-Tiba, a mobile health wallet and M-Kopa, a fintech firm lending solar systems to off-grid communities in Kenya.

As a pipeline model, Safaricom was acting as an airtime vendor investing in hardware and software infrastructure to make sure people could easily and conveniently make calls so it can sell more airtime. It needed a robust network capable of serving millions of customers. It did. However, with the advent of OTT platforms such as WhatsApp and Viber, Safaricom realized selling airtime won’t be dope in the next decade as voice which still its biggest revenue earner-close to 75 percent of its total revenues was headed to this VoIP applications.

As a platform, Safaricom provides Internet for these apps but sees its future beyond being just a platform as anyone can provide Internet for these apps. Therefore Safaricom is moving into M2M communications where it can power heavy automated industries which earlier wouldn’t need telecommunication services such as robust irrigation systems, video-on-demand school system, energy and water sensors, transport communication systems among others.

Safaricom’s Old Logo

With partners such as Huawei, Safaricom aims to power smart cities, the government of the future, starting with the government data center and the national police control center among others. Safaricom is repositioning itself for all these with its new brand from a telecommunications brand to a digital lifestyle enabler through a new brand campaign titled Twaweza: when we come together, great things happen.

The firm says its new brand position seeks to connect Kenyans to each other and also connect them to knowledge and information in a bid to democratize technology to bring out the best of their trademark resourcefulness, creativity and enterprising spirit.

With an over 70 percent network coverage across the country and over 28 million subscribers providing over 200,000 touch points for its customers and offering over 100 different products under its portfolio, Safaricom is so close to its dream of becoming part and parcel of Kenya’s every individual and sector and government or private agency. It was time for the mobile communications better option brand, which was launched to beat competitor Kencell, to be dropped and forgotten.

Telkom selling its 4G “poster boy” image with free SIM swaps countrywide

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4G is the new language of the telcos and Telkom is not playing any chances with the youthful segment with its launch of 4G to the home and daily free WhatsApp to all its subscribers.

The firm has also promised all its users to go and swap their  SIM cards for 4G SIM’s at any Telkom retail shops across the country so that they can enjoy smoother live streaming, faster downloads and uploads, and sharing of video and audio content. Telkom also brought together youthful tech entrepreneurs to talk about their internet experiences and readiness to move with Telkom.

Telkom says its 4G network is available in all major cities and towns in Kenya. In order to enjoy the free data, subscribers need to have 4G SIM cards, compatible devices and be in an area with the network’s coverage. So far, Telkom has commissioned about 160 4G sites across the country. Just how free this data is we are yet to establish.

Speaking when he announced the new brand, Telkom’s CEO, Aldo Mareuse said: “We are living in a digital era. Kenyans constantly need fast and reliable data to connect their lives. This is the reason why we are continuously investing in cutting edge technology such as 4G and aggressively rolling out our network across the country. We are committed to not only connect the people that make Kenya move but also deliver a rich experience”.

In order to enjoy the free data, subscribers need to have an active data bundle through *544#.

Over the last one year, Telkom has invested US$50 million in upgrading and intensifying its network. In addition to the newly launched 4G network, the telco has also enhanced its 2G and 3G footprint. Telkom’s 2G footprint is currently at 95 per cent while 3G is at 55 per cent.

“Today, the capacity of our network is double what it was about a year ago. We aim to continuously and aggressively grow and optimize our network to ensure that our subscribers across the country enjoy better quality of service and unbeatable offers.,” added Mr. Mareuse.

 

Telkom gets into home data market with a home plan on 4G & free daily WhatsApp

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Telkom has entered the home broadband segment with the introduction of a home data offer dubbed the ‘Home Plan’ for its home users with 4G after rebranding and leaving the Orange Telecom ghosts behind.

The firm says its Home Plan on 4G will be available in all major cities and towns in Kenya. Telkom has so far rolled-out about 160 4G sites across the country in a US$50 million network and upgrading investment. Safaricom has over 1100 sites and recently launched 4.5G in 100 of its sites.

Telkom’s 4G is supported by significant investments in fiber optic undersea cables. It has stakes in TEAMs, a 5,000-kilometre undersea fibre optic cable (through Fujairah in the UAE), in LION2, a 2,700-kilometre cable (through Mayotte in Mauritius) and in the East Africa Submarine System cable.

It also manages the governments National Optic Fibre Backbone, a national inland fibre optic cable network. Telkom subscribers are set to enjoy free daily access to WhatsApp, as part of celebrations to mark the launch of its new brand.

With the free access to WhatsApp, subscribers can call, chat and share videos on the platform without any charges to their data consumption. This offer is valid throughout the launching period.

The offer underlines the firm’s commitment to delight its subscribers through unbeatable offers and rewards with the launch of the new consumer-facing brand – Telkom.

“We are committed to staying true to our mission of connecting the people that make Kenya move. WhatsApp is a popular platform for conversation, calling and sharing in Kenya today. By facilitating these conversations we are connecting Kenyans,” says company CEO, Aldo Mareuse.

To enjoy the offer, subscribers will need to dial *544# and select the ‘Free WhatsApp’ option.

 

 

Orange is now Telkom, introduces 4G network and new logo

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Orange Kenya was today rebranded to Telkom. This change followed the purchase of 60% stake of the company by Helios and the government of Kenya increasing their stake from 30 to 40% one year ago.

The official rebranding today marked the official exit of Orange from the Kenyan market.

 

Under the Orange management, the company had gone through troubling times, most costumers in Kenya were opting for its rivals mostly due to network coverage and reliability. Telkom has realized this and they today announced that they had invested Kshs. 5 Billion to expand and improve their network infrastructure. They also doubled the number of agents around the country for better customer support. Perhaps the most important upgrade was to the 4G network which will cover 9 major towns in Kenya namely Nairobi, Nyeri, Nakuru, Eldoret, Embu, Meru,Mombasa, Kisumu and Kakamega.To lure customers, the company is giving 4G internet data access for free. This offer will only be available to those in 4G coverage areas.

As part of the rebranding, the company changed its logo to a blue and yellow themed design; it’s slogan also changed to “Moving with you”. In addition, a lot of the management roles have been switched with new people in the days leading to today’s rebranding. Some Safaricom executives joined Telkom as well as Chris Senanu from Access Kenya who will be the Managing Director of the Enterprise Division.

The company is also planning to get an overhauled mobile money platform that will come to fill the void left by the termination of Orange Money. This solution, however, is to be implemented in the coming months.

Safaricom’s 4G crosses over 1,100 sites | firm activates 4G+ on 100 sites to remain competitive

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Safaricom has introduced 4G+ or 4.5G aka LTE-A (LTE-Advanced) which is a faster version of 4G with capacity to allow carrier aggregation or allows any 4G phone to receive data from multiple bands in the 4G spectrum unlike ordinary 4G which only uses one band at a time.

4G+ is also more than six times faster than standard 4G and yes, it costs more too.

In December 2014, Safaricom was the first operator in Kenya to roll out 4G trials and two years later acquired its 4G licence. Since then, the firm has grown its 4G footprint to over 1,100 sites across Kenya.

In a move to beat out the competition, such as Airtel and the recent entry of Jamii Telecoms,Te the firm has activated 4G+ at 100 sites in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, as well as parts of Kisii, Naivasha, Kitui, Machakos, Kakamega and Kericho, with more territories scheduled to be switched on in coming months.

Technically, 4G+ technology allows peak download speeds of 150Mbps, while 4G enables top speeds of between 60-100Mbps. In practical terms, this means that a 30-minute HD video should take a little over two minutes to download on 4G+, while the same video would take around eight minutes to download on standard 4G, such as that being trialed on other networks in the country.

The 4G+ stations will supplement the existing 4,677 2G sites, 3,517 3G sites and 1,103 4G sites on Safaricom’s network and will complement its proactive fibre rollout strategy that has seen over 50,000 homes and 1,500 commercial buildings passed by its high speed fibre links.

Though businesses need 4G for faster speeds, misinformation among consumers has been a major setback to 4G uptake in the country. The launch of 4G+ services in major towns will need the firm to accompany it with massive user awareness for its efforts to bear any fruit. Most firms tend to use social media campaigns to target SMEs forgetting that unlike fast moving consumer goods where 50+ year-old decision makers ask their 20-30 year old kids on what to buy; SME owners tend to ask peers in their industry and don’t trust social media.

According to Bob Collymore, CEO, Safaricom, “These faster speeds not only benefit the customer, they also empower small businesses who can now use the internet for more commercial activities – democratizing data access.”

“These investments lay the foundation for a more digitally enabled, platform economy. We expect that our network will empower more small enterprise to participate in commerce as well as drive more data use by critical sectors in the education, health and agricultural sectors,” said Mr. Collymore.

Somalia, Burundi, Tunisia, Liberia, Sudan, Djibouti, Reunion, Mayotte and Congo already have 4G LTE in Africa.

Liquid Telecom names Former Vodafone Group executive as new Neotel CEO

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Econet Group’s Liquid Telecom has named Kyle Whitehill as CEO at Neotel to oversee plans to make extensive upgrades and expansions to Neotel’s network, enabling more customers to access high-speed, reliable connectivity across South Africa.

Kyle brings extensive international experience and leadership to Neotel, having served as CEO in some of the fastest growing telecoms markets across the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Kyle was with Vodafone Group for almost 15 years, where he most recently served as CEO of Vodafone Qatar, overseeing the successful launch of the country’s fastest 4G+ network and helping to significantly grow its subscriber base. He also spent three years as CEO of Vodafone Ghana, where he established the company as a market leader in both fixed-line and enterprise services, as well as 2 years as Chief Operating Officer in India and almost 7 years in the UK leading one of Vodafone’s biggest enterprise business units. Since leaving Vodafone, Kyle had a brief spell setting up the international arm of Ezdan Holding Group; Qatar’s largest real estate firm.

“This is an exciting time to be joining Neotel, as we look to reaffirm the company’s position in the market through improved services and products for our customers,” said Kyle Whitehill, CEO, Neotel. “As part of the Liquid Telecom Group, Neotel will for the first time become a truly pan-African player with access to an extensive network footprint across the continent, giving us a stronger competitive edge in South Africa and beyond.”

Following regulatory approval for the ZAR 6.55 billion acquisition in December 2016, Neotel officially joined the Liquid Telecom Group in February, and is now focused on delivering enhanced network services to enterprises and consumers

Joining Kyle’s management team at Neotel is Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Michael Allschwang, whose appointment was announced in April.

Orange finalizes the acquisition of Cellcom Liberia rebrands it to Orange Liberia

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Orange has finalised the acquisition of Cellcom Liberia and rebranded it to Orange Liberia, allowing the Group to reinforce its presence in West Africa.

The acquisition of Cellcom was finalized by Orange, through its subsidiary Orange Côte d’Ivoire, on 6 April 2016.

According to Bruno Mettling, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Orange Group and Chairman and CEO of Orange Middle East and Africa: “The launch of the Orange brand confirms our confidence in the country’s ongoing economic recovery and our commitment to bring all the benefits of new digital services to Liberians”.

With over 1.6 million customers at the end of February 2017, Orange Liberia is the leading mobile operator in Liberia in terms of customers. The firm is now targeting to sign up more customers from the 4.6 million people in the country by investing into network expansion and ccelerating broadband deployment and expanding 4G penetration across the country.

Orange Liberia will also tap into the Group’s submarine and international cable networks and two additional secure connection points in Abidjan and Paris to multiply network capacity by four.

Founded in 2004, Cellcom was the first operator in Liberia to launch 3G (HSPA+) services in 2012 followed by 4G-LTE services in 2016. Orange will pursue this strategy and will continue to invest in the development of its network where the company is already a market leader. Orange is present in 21 countries in Africa and the Middle East, where it has more than 120 million customers and recently launched a digital bank to revolutionize mobile money across its markets as its new revenue generator. The Group had 5.2 billion euros in revenues in 2016.

Mamadou Coulibaly, CEO of Orange Liberia, added: “We will invest significantly in network roll-out across the entire country, develop e-recharge in order to ease the constraints of scratch-cards loading, launch Orange Money, a new robust platform to boost mobile banking services in the country. We will as well introduce new highly competitive offers and low cost Smartphones in order to boost digital inclusion. We intend to position Orange Liberia by 2020 as a true catalyst for the digitization of Liberian society”.

Ex-Airtel Kenya MD Adil Youssefi appointed new CEO of Liquid Telecom Kenya

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Mr Adil Youssefi, who is the immediate former MD Airtel Kenya has been appointed as the new CEO of Liquid Telecom Kenya after three years at the helm of Kenya’s second largest telco.

He succeeds Mr Ben Roberts, who will become board Chairman of Liquid Telecom Kenya and concentrate on his role as the Chief Technology Officer for Liquid Telecom Group, a position he has held since 2006.

Prior to that, Youssefi worked for Millicom Group a mobile operator with operations in several African countries in various capacities across its subsidiaries. He started as a Senior Advisor to the Chief Officer Asia in Sri Lanka in 2008, then moved to Chad to take up the Chief Executive position and finally served as the Chief Executive of Millicom Ghana in 2012.

Youssefi was known for picking public battles with Safaricom urging regulator CA to regulate it for its monopoly and allegedly unfair competitive practices among others and at one time threatened Airtel would shut down and leave the market due to that. Some of his complaints were right but his hands at Airtel Kenya were tied as the entire group has to report to Bharti Airtel in India. His biggest failure was the laxity to market Airtel Money to everyone’s noses to take on expensive M-Pesa.

As the new Liquid Telecom Kenya CEO, he will be in charge of both retail and wholesale broadband expansion and especially the group’s Hai brand which will see him face off another dominant player Zuku, a fibre to the home product operated by Wananchi Group.  Liquid Telecom Kenya acquired the then Kenya Data Networks in 2013 and has laid 5,000km of fibre network across Kenya, with 800km laid in 2016. It has connected 41 of the 47 counties to high speed Internet, and rolled out successive rounds of new technology. At Airtel, Youssefi saw the connection of various institutions to its broadband services, an experience needed at his new job.

Mr Youssefi has over 15 years’ experience in senior management across Africa, Asia and Europe, with expertise in developing markets, leadership, and telecommunications, He contributed to double digit growth in the companies he led in Kenya, Ghana and Chad.

Liquid Telecom Group has grown rapidly in recent years, building an extensive fibre network spanning 11 countries across Eastern, Central and Southern Africa. This network has grown from 13,000km in 2013 to 40,000km by 2017.

The expansion of Liquid Telecom including the group’s recent acquisition of Raha in Tanzania and Neotel in South Africa, has also prompted the group to appoint Willie Fryer as Chief Finance Officer, covering East Africa.  This position was held previously by Mr Raj Jandu who has moved to South Africa to take the role of Chief Finance Officer at Neotel.

Safaricom compensates subscribers with free M-PESA transfers after overriding terrible network failure

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Bob Collymore, CEO Safaricom

After Safaricom’s Monday outage which is reported to have cost the firm and its customers several millions of shillings, the firm has announced a 24 hour lift on M-Pesa transfer costs between its over 26.6 million subscribers.

In a statement, Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore said, “I truly appreciate our customers’ patience and understanding as we worked to resolve the issue and sincerely thank you for staying connected to Safaricom. As a small gesture, from midnight tonight to midnight tomorrow, all our customers will be able to send money on the M-PESA network for free.”

The outage affected voice,  SMS and data, M-PESA and enterprise but M-PESA being the firm’s most popular service with revenues north of Ksh 41 billion and the third biggest telcom revenue earner behind voice at Ksh 90.8 billion and an amalgamation of services at Ksh 177.8 billion.

According to Collymore, Safaricom had two traffic outlets which failed rapidly one after the other. In response, as a priority, the team very quickly started operating the affected functions from its redundant equipment in order to restore services. All services had been restored and the firm is working to ensure that network stability continues.

“Once again, we would like to apologise for all inconvenience caused. Thank you for staying on our network,” he concluded.

Safaricom serves over 26.6 million subscribers and provide over 200,000 touch points for its customers and offering over 100 different products under its portfolio. The Monday morning outage caused panic among the majority of the population in Kenya as Safaricom serves over 61 percent of the country’s adult population and enterprises also rely on it for data, hosting and a number of other services apart from just voice, SMS, data and M-Pesa. The outage is likely to see more Safaricom’s loyal customers get backup plans for Internet, voice and mobile financial services to route their customers in case such an incident recurs.

Panic as Safaricom suffers major countrywide outage on voice, data and M-PESA services

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East and Central Africa’s biggest telco Safaricom serving over 26.6 million subscribers and providing over 200,000 touch points for its customers and offering over 100 different products under its portfolio suffered a major blow Monday morning causing panic among its dedicated users due to 100 percent call drops, zero data, zero M-Pesa transactions and service denials.

Though Safaricom is yet to give any official communication apart from a tweet saying it has suffered an outage on voice, data and M-PESA services and the issue is under resolution, conspiracy theorists can’t keep quiet with several Twitter users claiming the move could be political. Some sources tell TechMoran problems began Saturday evening with failing M-Pesa notifications and delayed texts suspecting the firm might have suffered a major hack.  However, this is just a wake up call to Safaricom’s loyal customers to get backup plans for Internet, voice and mobile financial services as such outages might frequently occur.


Safaricom provides voice, data, financial services and enterprise solutions for a range of subscribers, SMEs and government, using a variety of platforms. With annual revenues in excess of Kshs 150 Billion, Safaricom said it invested Kshs 32.13 billion in infrastructure a few months ago. The firm also provides over 80% of Kenya’s population with 2G and 3G coverage to 95% of Kenyans, there is a reason for everyone to be worried. Even SMEs using its fibre infrastructure could not get online or access their files.

Safricom’s M-PESA, which serves over 24 million customers and over 114,000 M-PESA agent outlets countrywide has not been spared either. TechMoran contacted Safaricom’s internal communications team which sent us a tweet link with no additional communication so guys sorry, deal with it!

 

Update at 12:05PM

POSITION STATEMENT

24th APRIL 2017

NETWORK OUTAGE- PROGRESS UPDATE

We wish to notify the public that starting from 9:30 am today, we experienced a system outage affecting a number of core services in our network. This outage affected Voice, Data, SMS, M-PESA and Enterprise services.

We have identified the root cause of the outage and are working to resolve this in the shortest time possible. In the meantime, Voice, Data, SMS, M-PESA and Enterprise services will be available intermittently until the issue is fully resolved.

We will continue to update customers on the progress to restore services. We apologize for any inconvenience caused.

 

Bob Collymore

Chief Executive Officer

 

 

Orange Group launches Orange Bank to kill mobile money & simplify digital payments

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Orange Group, with operations in Europe and Africa has today launched Orange Bank, its 100% mobile banking offer promising cutting-edge, digital and banking innovations including contactless mobile payments, sending money by SMS, instant bank balances, temporary freezing of the debit card and 24/7 access to a bank advisory service.

Set to be be available in mid-May in France for Orange employees and for the general public from 6 July 2017, Orange Bank will allow customers do bank transactions from the mobile application, online or in one of Orange’s 140 certified stores. Unlike mobile money services like Orange Money, Orange Bank comes with a bank account, a debit card, overdraft protection and an interest-bearing savings account with credit and insurance services launching soon.

Stéphane Richard, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Orange, commented: “With the commercial launch of Orange Bank for the general public on 6 July, we are writing an important new chapter in the Group’s history. From now on, Orange is also a bank. A bank that places customer experience at the heart of its business model. Orange Bank will build on the professional skills of its banking experts, the disruptive capability of its partnerships with start-ups and of course the traditional assets of Orange: its distribution network, its expertise in digital services as well as its financial strength. By bringing together these different sources of energy, we will be able to meet the expectations of our customers in a way that enables us to permanently adapt ourselves as their needs evolve.”
Interested parties may sign up on the www.orangebank.fr page to be contacted when the Orange Bank offer becomes available (website available in French only).

Designed for mobile phones with 100% of the transactions and interactions between the customer and Orange Bank done on over a mobile phone, Orange Bank offers all customers, for free, two completely independent payment methods. They can use the instant, secure mobile payment service, and of course all Orange Bank customers have a customisable debit card.

Orange Bank customers can track their payments in real-time and pay or send money via text messages

Orange Bank aims to have more than 2 million customers in France by end of next year. Orange Bank will replace Orange Money in Africa and the Middle East, and more recently Orange Finanse in Poland.

In Africa, Orange operates in Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Liberia, Madagascar,  Mali,  Morocco, Mauritius (non-controlling equity interest), Niger,  Centrafrican Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Senegal,  Sierra Leone,  Tunisia (non-Controlling equity interest) and Orange Business Services in South Africa.

Telkom Kenya to launch 4G and advanced mobile financial services to take on M-Pesa, M-Shwari

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Telkom Kenya is set to launch 4G services across the country and unveil mobile financial services better than what Kenyans have used before as the firm tries to revive itself from the dead after the French-based Orange Group pulled out of the market.

Speaking at the Connected Kenya Summit 2017, Aldo Maurese, CEO Telkom Kenya said,”We are relaunching in the next few months and we shall have 50 percent more new sites across the country. We have a better network than what is in the market and are launching 4G in the next few months. We will also be unveiling mobile financial services to increase financial inclusion in the country. We will initially start with basic financial services then expand to offer more.”

Though the firm hasn’t stated the timelines yet, Maurese said the telco’s mobile financial services will be better than what Kenyans have seen and used before implying that its services promise to be better than the present mobile money transfer services, merchant transactions and savings and loans offered by competitor Safaricom’s M-Pesa and CBA’s M-Shwari which have successfully signed up millions of users across the country.

Recently, Airtel said it will launch 4G services in the country starting with Nairobi while Safaricom launched its 4G services across the city in various parts across the country and is pushing for its uptake. Telkom Kenya has  a little chance of taking on Safaricom which has over 20 million subscribers and a financial muscle to pull this through. Telkom Kenya recently announced it will roll out free Wi-Fi in 1,160 Constituency Incubation Hubs. The multi-million deal to install Wi-Fi in  government-funded Constituency Incubation Hubs in the 290 constituencies across the country might help the firm revive its operations and on-board customers across the country.

Now in its 9th edition, the Connected Kenya Summit was first held in 2009 and it has been on the forefront of innovations and debates in both the Private and Public Sector. This year’s summit aims to help organizations shape the future through education, ICT and innovations.

Telkom Kenya in March upgraded its Mobile Network in Naivasha to 3G in its long term and wider network modernisation and expansion strategy that began late last year. The telco said it was undertaking service upgrades across its network to enable Kenyans to enjoy an improved experience on Mobile and Data service.  By launching 4G and expanding its 3G network, the firm will ensure consumers are able to enjoy better voice quality and faster Internet speeds.

Safaricom finally announces M-Pesa app for iOS & Android

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Safaricom has today announced availability of M-PESA functionality in the mySafaricom App, which will see the more than 24 million M-PESA customers and especially the 8m smartphone owners enjoy the convenience of transacting from their Android and iOS smartphones.

The app show M-Pesa menu with send money services, withdraw from Agent and ATM, Lipa Na M-PESA and Buy Airtime among other things such as account balance for Airtime, Data, SMS.

Bob Collymore, CEO, Safaricom said, “We trust that this development will boost the attractiveness of the Lipa Na M-PESA platform to more small and medium enterprises while making the service more affordable compared to other alternatives in the market.”

The app enables customers to select contacts from their phone when sending money and has a vastly improved implementation of the name search function Hakikisha — which allows the sender to confirm the recipient before the money is sent.

Customers will also have the convenience of confirming the names of agents or businesses before sending or withdrawing money as they complete Lipa Na M-PESA transactions.

In addition to eliminating the possibility of an error when performing M-PESA transactions, the mySafaricom App now offers a more refined user experience when interacting with M-PESA, enabling faster completion of transactions.