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Congo Dem Rep: Telecom operators reject tax increases in the sector

In a letter sent October 29, 2015 the Minister of Finance and the Governor of the Central Bank of Congo, Airtel mobile phone operators, Orange, Tigo and Vodacom were offended by the institution Ministry of Post , Phones and IT, new taxes in the sector. In this letter, they estimate that these new charges will increase the tax burden on their shoulders and adversely affect their operations in the country.

The opposition telecom operators specifically addresses the increase in the annual fee relating to revenues they pay to the Treasury. This annual fee which was 2% of the turnover is expected to rise to 3% according to Articles 31 and 38 of the Finance Bill for the year 2016 before the National Assembly.

For Airtel, Orange, Tigo and Vodacom, the annual fee revised upwards will negatively impact double-edged.First on consumers. Telecom operators are concerned that the increase in income tax forces them to increase their prices on a widespread telecommunications. The impact will also be done on operators who fear that consumption fall subscribers.

The other opposition point of telecom operators concerning the tax on the transfer of funds to be collected by the Ministry of ICT-PT. According Airtel, Orange, Tigo and Vodacom, the tax will make a duplicate with that already fee the central bank that manages the Mobile Money.

Source: EcoFin

Congo Dem. Rep. : Samsung unveils Digital Village in DRC

Samsung Electronics Africa has launched its Digital Village in the community of Kasenga, 250 kilometers away from Lubumbashi.

The Digital Village will provide access to communication technologies, and education and health services to under-resourced areas, bridging the digital divide and serving as a catalyst for local business development and government service delivery.

The components of the Samsung Digital Village include: a Solar Powered Internet School, built to accommodate up to 24 learners; a Solar Powered Tele-Medical Centre; and a Solar Power Generator that powers up the Admin Centre, which can be used as office space for local entrepreneurs and any other nearby school or community centre personnel with limited electricity supply.

In addition to providing the appropriate technologies, Samsung is also working to ensure that the community takes ownership of the Digital Village and receives adequate training to optimise use of the facilities.

The multi-purpose solution aligns very well with the communities need for improved standards of living through using sustainable answers to problems faced by African people.

The Samsung Digital Village model addresses one of Africa’s largest economic challenges – electrification. Power poverty results in limited access to education, healthcare and connectivity – all of which are key to socio-economic development.

Mr. Bill Kim, Managing Director of DRC Branch for Samsung Electronics East Africa said: “The Digital Village demonstrates our innovative approach to investing in people and their communities. This initiative offers a complete educational infrastructure, comprehensive healthcare solution and power generation capabilities that will spur the growth of small businesses and harness the energy of the sun to minimise running costs, among others.”

“The United Nations says being online is now seen as fundamental to human development, and access to the Internet may soon become a basic human right, like access to water. We also understand that success in Africa requires commitment to creating the market and infrastructure around it – not just entering it,” he adds. “That’s why we are putting resources into a variety of initiatives across the continent that are designed to address the unique needs and conditions of the continent.”

Source:IT News Africa

Congo Dem. Rep: Smile to launch LTE in DRC in early 2016

African 4G provider Smile Communications plans to introduce LTE services in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in January next year, RCR Wireless reports, citing the company’s COO Tom Allen. At launch, the 4G network will be available in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, but services will gradually be expanded to six other cities in a second deployment phase. ‘The DRC is not well served by the current mobile operators and we will launch there as a full mobile network operator (MNO). We anticipate a very good acceptance of the Smile services,’ Allen was quoted as saying.
TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database states that Smile was founded in 2007 and launched East Africa’s first 4G LTE network in Tanzania in March 2012, while services were introduced in Nigeria and Uganda in 2013. The company expects to launch voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) in those three markets by the end of the year.

Source: TeleGeography

Congo Dem. Rep. is preparing the construction of its first telecommunication satellite

The Democratic Republic of the Congo would be counted among the leaders of telecommunications in Africa. To achieve this goal, the country is preparing the construction of its first telecommunications satellite. The called Congo-SAT project is valued at up to $ 320 million. It is the result of a partnership between the country and the Chinese company specializing in satellite projects, China Great Wall industry Corporation.

On 23 June 2015, in Kinshasa, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Posts, Telecommunications and IT, Thomas Luhaka Losendjola, has also presented a model of the first Congolese telecommunications satellite to the press. The Deputy Prime Minister said that with its own satellite, Congo will know exactly what is happening on its borders. The project also is expected to contribute to improving and securing strategic communications. It may also be used to ensure and provide public telecommunications services, especially in areas with low population density.

To carry out this project, the Congolese engineers will be trained in satellite technology. With Congo-SAT, Thomas Luhaka Losendjola is certain that the DRC will increase its political and economic influence. In telecommunications, he stressed that the country will be ” the center of Africa . ”

Source: EcoFin

Congo Dem. Rep. The return of the ATU in DR Congo is on track

According to the Ministry of Posts, Telephones and New Information and Communication Technologies (PT & NTIC) of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the return to Kinshasa headquarters of the African Telecommunications Union (ATU) is on track. The country would not have to wait until 2018 to see this dream realized.

Invited to the 16th Ordinary Session of the Board of ATU held in Durban, South Africa from 17 to 19 June 2015, Thomas Luhaka Losendjola, the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of PT & IT, exchanged a Again on the subject with officials of ATU who agree that the institution moved to Nairobi in Kenya. She was temporarily established there in 1990, because of political instability and institutional disorder that reigned in the country. One of the conditions for the return of the headquarters of the UAT in Kinshasa was also the clearance of arrears of contributions of the DRC to the African organization.

On instruction of the Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo, DRC has already conducted the clearance of the debt which amounted to almost 450 000 USD. It therefore remains only the DRC, on the recommendation of the Board of ATU, to continue discussions with the General Secretariat of this institution on practical arrangements for the return of the headquarters in Kinshasa and wait meeting of plenipotentiaries of the ATU for the final decision.

Source; EcoFin

Congo Dem. Rep: The workers express their expectations to the new SCPT the Management Committee

Plagued by financial difficulties that have undermined its survival for several years, the Congolese Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (SCPT) has been given a new management committee. Led by Didier Musete, he will coordinate the rebuilding of this company. Workers who have grazed the edge of the abyss now have to present their profit expectations.

Jean Makayanga, the vice president of the trade union Solidarity, one of the representative unions SCPT, proposed the committee to first solve the employees salary arrears, estimated at more than 80 months. Jean Makayanga, ” some telecommunications companies are connected to the optical fiber and regularly pay the former OCPT charges which border about 5 million US dollars a month. With these monthly revenue, we can regularly pay people . ” There are also social security. Jean Makayanga proposed in the new SCPT officer team set up a medical insurance system and rehabilitate the pension.

Finally, with regard to finances, the union referred to the construction of the landing station of fiber optics in Moanda (Bas-Congo), to allow the company to have more capacity to let telecom operators and to earn more money.

Source: EcoFin

Congo Dem. Rep: Airtel announces interconnection service Airtel Money with Rwanda and Zambia

The subsidiaries of Bharti airtel group in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Zambia have agreed to interconnect their money transfer service by mobile phone, airtel Money.

Airtel, through this interconnection, will be an important mobile financial market between mobile subscribers in these three countries Bharti airtel group. Given the large number and continues to grow financial transactions airtel Money in these 3 countries, a new page will therefore opens in trade between airtel operations in Africa.

This interconnection between services airtel Money from different countries marks a new chapter in the history of Mobile Banking in Africa. Cross-border financial transactions between companies and individuals will be now easier.

It will be recalled that M-Falanga airtel (generic name airtel Money DRC) is the first mobile banking service launched in Democratic Republic of Congo since 20 March 2012 and rises ahead of Mobile Banking in Democratic Republic of both number of users that distribution. There is little, airtel Money celebrated crossing the milestone of one million users in the DRC, the first operator to have done in the country.

Source: EcoFin

Congo Dem. Rep. Africell DRC inks interconnection agreements with Orange, Vodacom

Africell’s Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)-based subscribers are able to make calls to Vodacom and Orange customers for the first time in more than two years, BizTech Africa reports. Highlighting ‘intense negotiations’ between the trio, the new agreement effectively breaks a long-standing interconnection ban enforced by the Autorite de Regulation des Postes et Telecom (ARPTC). It is not yet clear whether DRC’s other mobile operators will now follow suit and lift their respective interconnection bans.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Vodacom, Oasis and Airtel all terminated their respective interconnection agreements with Africell on 8 November 2012 over a pricing-related dispute; the trio complained that the newcomer was enticing subscribers away from them with the promise of free on-net calls. In August 2014 the company confirmed that the interconnection freeze remained in place, with Africell stubbornly refusing to alter its cut-price tariffs, effectively meaning that its entire user base were limited to on-net calls.

Source: TeleGeography

Africa: Vodafone reveals Instant Classrooms for refugees

The Vodafone Foundation has announced the Instant Classroom initiative, a digital ‘school in a box’, which according to Vodafone, can be set up in a matter of minutes.

The initiative is intent on helping pupils in refugee camps as well as offer them the opportunity to continue their education. The Instant Classroom has been designed for areas where electricity and internet connectivity are unreliable or non-existent, and will be deployed in partnership with UNHCR’s Innovation and Education units.

The Instant Classroom comes in a 52 kg case which contains a laptop, 25 tablets ready-loaded with educational software, a projector, loudspeaker and a hotspot modem with 3G connectivity. After six to eight hours of charging, the Instant Classroom can be used for a full day.

Over the next year, the Vodafone Foundation Instant Classroom will be deployed to twelve schools in refugee settlements in Kakuma in Kenya, in the Nyarungusu refugee settlement in Tanzania and in the Equatorial Region in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Instant Classroom will provide up to 15,000 children and young adults aged 7 to 20 years with advanced teaching aids that are currently only available in a minority of schools in developed nations.

Source: IT News Africa

Congo Dem. Rep.: Mobile Internet is back in Kinshasa, but access to Facebook and Twitter remains blocked

Since February 9, 2015, mobile Internet is accessible again in Kinshasa. After 18 days of restriction, subscribers can indeed again surf the web from their phone, write emails or send text files, audio and video Whatapps and Viber. But access to social networks Facebook and Twitter was still blocked.

According to Radio Okapi, who joined the mobile phone company Orange , February 8, 2015, one of the operator responsible explained this block with ” a list of restrictions “received the Congolese authorities on a number of web site. Several people also denounced this situation.

The return to normal SMS intervened February 8, 2015.

Lambert Mende, the Minister of Communication and Media, said that the suspension of mobile Internet was justified because of doctored images retrieved from archives of other countries and even television series, began to be sent to social networks and could fuel a civil war. However, on behalf of the government, apologized “for any inconvenience caused to users of new technologies.”

Source: EcoFin

Congo and Congo Dem. Rep. : Google is preparing its entry as ISP in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo

US computer firm Google , will settle soon in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The information was confirmed by Thomas Luhaka, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Posts, Telecommunications, New Information Technologies and Communication, during an audience granted to Tidjane Deme, head of the French office.

During this exchange, Tidjane Deme learned to Thomas Luhaka that Google intends to provide a broadband connection once installed in Kinshasa in order to support the country effectively in economic development. Before DRC Tidjane Deme had already met with Thierry Lézin Moungalla, the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications of Congo, and with the general manager of the Regulatory Authority for Post and Electronic Communications (ARPCE). Tidjane Deme justified the reasons for this ” exploratory process “in the Congo by the will of the group will also develop business opportunities in the Internet sector.

Since 2013, Google has come out of its classical global market for Internet services to more interest in the telecommunications market. He is currently conducting several projects focused on access to broadband Internet in limited or no coverage areas at all. Africa is a continent where the company is planning seriously in the future.

Source: EcoFin

Congo Dem. Rep.: Internet in DRC partially restored after three-day blackout; SMSremains blocked

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has experienced a three-day internet blackout during anti-government protests this week. According to The Wall Street Journal, late on 19 January the government ordered telcos to block broadband and SMS services after anti-government protests spread from the capital Kinshasa to the eastern Kivu provinces.
Information minister Lambert Mende confirmed that ‘two radio stations were closed and the Ministere des Postes, Telephones et Telecoms temporarily [shut down the] internet because they were being used to spread violence.’ BBC reporter Maud Jullien has confirmed that fixed line internet connections were restored yesterday afternoon but mobile internet and SMS services remain cut.
The protests erupted in response to a potential extension of President Joseph Kabila’s time in power beyond his constitutionally mandated two, five-year terms. Mr. Kabila’s second term expires in 2016.

Source: TeleGeography

Congo Dem.Rep.: Vodacom told to halt Congo services

Vodacom Group said it’s been ordered to switch off all internet and text message services in the Democratic Republic of Congo amid protests against proposed changes to the country’s electoral code.

Mobile operators and Internet Service Providers yesterday received orders from Congolese officials instructing them to suspend the services, the phone company said in an e-mailed response to questions today.

“The deadline for the implementation of this was midnight, and all companies complied,” according to Johannesburg-based Vodacom, a unit of Vodafone Group Plc and the biggest provider of mobile-phone services in South Africa.

Protesters, who surrounded parliament on Monday and continued to demonstrate on Tuesday , are seeking to prevent the Senate from voting on the law, which includes requiring the world’s largest producer of cobalt to conduct its first census in about three decades before the next national elections. Opposition parties say that may delay the vote and may extend President Joseph Kabila’s 14-year rule.

Lambert Mende, a government spokesman, said two civilians and a police officer were killed yesterday when security guards opened fire to stop crowds from looting shops in the capital, Kinshasa.

Source: Bloomberg News

Congo Dem. Rep: Airtel money service in DRC passes one million customers

Indian-backed operator Bharti Airtel has reached one million revenue-earning Airtel Money customers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to BizTech Africa. The mobile money service was launched by Airtel’s DRC subsidiary in February 2012, allowing subscribers to pay, send and receive money via their mobile phone, and in August 2014 Central African financial firm BGFI Bank Group partnered with the telco, expanding services to allow customers to transfer money between their BGFI bank account and their Airtel Money account.
Managing director at Airtel DRC, Alain Kahasha, said: ‘This is a key milestone for Airtel Money…the service is fast becoming helpful to driving DRC’s economy and empowering people…DRC remains one of the markets where mobile money is making a socio-economic impact, pioneering services such as civil service salary payments in partnership with the government.’

Source: TeleGeography

Congo Dem. Rep: Airtel appoints COO as MD of DRC operations

Telecommunications firm Bharti Airtel has appointed Alain Kahasha as its new managing director for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) business.
Kahasha, who was recently named chief operating officer in the DRC, will now head the company’s operations as MD effective immediately.
The Indian telcos’ new MD for the DRC holds an electrical engineering degree from Ecole des Sciences Appliques de Mons and a master’s degree in telecommunications from Mons, Belgium.
Before joining Airtel he worked in various commercial and technical roles at the Coca-Cola Company and British American Tobacco and Vodacom in DRC.
Kahasha is also the former MD of Airtel Niger.
In his new role Kahasha will be responsible for the transformation and turn-around of the business in the African country, it has been reported.
He is also expected to work with a team to deliver a superior network and customer experience to the communities across the vast land area of the DRC.
Kahasha will report to Airtel Africa chief executive officer, Christian de Faria.
Commenting on the appointment de Faria said, “Alain replaces Louis Lubala who will be leaving the company to pursue personal interests. During his tenure as MD for the DRC, Louis has worked hard to stabilise the business by refreshing our systems and processes and spent quality time strengthening the relationships with our external stakeholders.”
Bharti Airtel has over 300 million customers across its operations. The telecoms firm has operations in 20 countries across Asia and Africa.

Source: IT News Africa

Democratic Republic of Congo: Orange using O3b ‘Fibre-in-the-Sky’ network via African satellite provider Raga Sat

Raga Sat, provider of African satellite services, has announced it is now live on O3b’s ‘Fibre-in-the-Sky’ satellite network. Based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Raga Sat is in turn providing O3b connectivity to wholesale customer Orange DRC, which served 7% of the country’s mobile subscribers at end-June 2014. O3b’s satellites orbit closer to earth than other geostationary satellites, allowing for increased internet data rates and improved voice and video quality. Thibaut de la Barre de Nanteuil, project manager at Orange DRC said: ‘Now that [we are] using Raga Sat services over the O3b satellite constellation, we can provide higher speed and better performance through the Orange 3G and data networks. Orange customers can play HD video without stopping, participate in multiplayer gaming and social media and businesses can take advantage of sophisticated cloud based services. Our customers are thrilled.’ Although O3b connection deals have previously been announced in other African countries including South Sudan and Somaliland (Somalia), a joint press release from O3b and Raga Sat claims that the DRC-based service provider is the first African client to launch commercial services on the O3b network since it commenced commercial operations in the continent earlier in the year.

Source: Telegeography

Congo Dem. Rep. Vodacom Congo outgoing, new boss meet DRC Prime Minister

Outgoing Vodacom Congo Managing Director, South African-born Godfrey Motsa, last week went to the Office of DRC Prime Minister Matata Ponyo to say good bye and thanks as his term at the helm of the mobile operator ended this month.

Motsa is heading back to South Africa after five ‘good’ years at Vodacom Congo, where he is said to have helped reposition the company as a leading mobile network in this market of 80 million people located at the heart of the continent.

Motsa, who received a gift from Matata, said he was honoured but ‘sad’ to leave the DRC, which he described as acountry full of opportunities.

Motsa-Ponyo meeting came against the backdrop of a three-day high-level investment encounter between South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which took place last week at the Grand Hotel in the capital Kinshasa.

The South African delegation, which was led by Trade and Industry DDG Yunus Hoosen, was joined at the meeting by more than 30 South African companies that came to seek business opportunities in this mineral-rich Central African nation.

Potential investment sectors included ICTs, telecommunications, agriculture and mining.

Vodacom Congo, a subsidiary of Vodacom South Africa, has already invested close to US$1-billion in the DRC. The company announced two weeks ago that it had appointed Murielle Lorilloux as its new MD in replacement of Motsa.

Lorilloux, who was introduced to the DRC Prime Minister by Motsa, vowed to continue leading Vodacom Congo on the path of growth. The new Vodacom boss stressed that her company might possibly undertake more investmentshere in the coming years.

All DRC towns and villages should develop with the help of the Vodacom Congo network through 3G, fibre optic,M-Pesa, among others, she said, adding that other new technologies will be leveraged to support an emergent DRC.

Source: BizTech Africa

Congo Dem. Rep.: Vodacom Congo to extend coverage to Central DRC

Mobile operator Vodacom is preparing to extend its network coverage to the central regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where it is set to install over 61 antennas in the remote areas of the Western Kasai and diamond-rich Eastern Kasai.

Both provinces of Kasai represent a population of about 15 million people. Vodacom currently covers 10 and 20 remote areas of Western Kasai and Eastern Kasai, respectively.

The project’s aim is to improve the lives of local communities by offering them the opportunity to enjoy products and services available on the Vodacom network, the company said this week.

And it is not only any ordinary infrastructure that the company will build in these areas, the antennas are from a new generation of telecommunication technology exclusive to Vodacom Congo.

The company said the special feature of the antennas is that they were adapted to rural areas which are difficult to access.

The project also forms part of the company’s long term ambition to see almost all most remote areas of this vast, ill-equipped Central African nation fully covered by its network.

The project kicked off in October 2013, and has seen more than 300 aerials already installed in various parts of the DRC, covering more than 1000 cities and villages.

Once the antennas installed and the communities connected in teh two Kasai, the company is also expected to aggressively roll-out its products, which include mobile money Vodacom M-Pesa and internet 3G.

Many Kasai natives currently living and working in the capital Kinshasa told Biztechafrica that they would be the happiest people in the world the day their villages are covered by the Vodacom network.

“Calling home is a challenge for most of us. We can’t wait for that day to happen,” Willy Ntumba said.

Vodacom’s investment in the DRC currently stands at over US$75 million. The company has been operating here since 2002.

Source: BizTech Africa

Congo Dem.Rep.: 80 million people, few ISPs

Due to the lack of fresh and reliable data, the number of internet service providers (ISPs) operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is estimated to be about 20, out of a population of about 80 million living in a country of 2.345 million square kilometres.

These include, among others, Vodacom, Orange, Standard Telecom, Microcom, Iburst, and International Technology Management.

DRC’s ISPs face serious challenges in their day-to-day mission to satisfy their customers, and their limited number also means that their products are expensive and browsing seems to be sometimes slow and frustrating, Biztechafrica has found.

Many services such as Skype and Youtube do not even work in some of these connections.

Biztechafrica has run several tests through various Congolese ISPs and found that many of these operators advertise aggressively, but in reality their end-products appear not to match the content of their adverts, meaning they appear to be misleading the people.

The dawn of the fibre optic in the DRC seems not to have brought major changes in their operations, including the speed and the price.

Nevertheless, Vodacom Congo, Airtel DRC and Orange DRC have been at each others’ throats for some time through billboards and other forms of adverts, triggering an aggressive advertising ‘war ‘, in which each one claims to be the best internet network in the DRC.

But consumers disagree, saying actions speak louder than words. Chantal Omatuku, university final year IT student, told Biztechafrica. “None of these ISPs, mobile or otherwise, can really stand stall to say that it is the best. My classmates and I have tried them all in terms of our online research, we always get mixed results.”

Clarisse Luyeye, Omatuku’s classmate, echoed her sentiments. “The DRC has one of the worst internet connections in the world. It’s very moody, when it’s smooth you smile. But there are days, even weeks that it goes very slow or wouldn’t even move. It can be very frustrating.

“I think the problem lies with the lack of good telecommunication infrastructure, an area which the World Bank agreed to help us but seems to be dragging its feet.”

Internet café manager Moise Mulumba also slammed some ISPs for not attending to their customers’ problems on time. “When your shop has a technical problem, you have to wait for almost a week before they do something about it.

“A steady and fast internet connection is a luxury in this country. Unless many players, especially from the West, come to invest here, we’ll still be doomed,” he said.

Source: BizTech Africa

DRC, Malawi: Afrimax Group plots TD-LTE launches in DRC, Malawi

Netherlands-based Afrimax Group, which was founded in 2013 by a trio of former Millicom International Cellular (MIC) executives, is planning to deploy Time Division-Long Term Evolution (TD-LTE) networks in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Malawi. The start-up, which claims to hold licences and spectrum in 14 countries across sub-Saharan Africa – with plans underway to secure a further seven concessions – is currently hiring Radio Access Network (RAN) technicians to deploy its TD-LTE networks in the aforementioned markets, although no prospective launch date has been divulged by the company.
TeleGeography notes that Afrimax currently boasts a pair of active wireless broadband networks in Uganda (Afrimax Uganda) and Rwanda (4G Networks Rwanda). The networks were deployed following assistance from the International Finance Corporation (IFC). In addition, the company has Netherlands-registered businesses in Ghana, Mali, Guinea, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Zambia, Central African Republic, Togo and Burundi. According to the company’s website, it is actively seeking partnerships with existing African ISPs who hold frequencies in the 2.3GHz, 2.5GHz or 2.6GHz spectrum bands.
Based on documents provided by the IFC, Afrimax appears to boast a wealth of behind-the-scenes experience: chairman Jay Metcalfe was formerly President, CEO and founder shareholder of Millicom International Cellular (MIC), while Peter Langkilde was MIC’s senior VP for Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa. Both men went on to co-found Virgin Mobile Latin America and Virgin Mobile Middle East and Africa. Chief financial officer Rob Philpott previously worked for MIC and Orascom Telecom Iraq.

Source: TeleGeography

Congo Dem. Rep: Africell DRC’s star performance makes headlines

‘Africell rivals down on their knees’, Africell subscribers surpass 5 million’, Africell neutralises old guns of mobile telephone’, ‘Africell subscribers say no to interconnection’. These translated headlines, seen in front page of Congo-Kinshasa newspapers, have irked rivals who may be wondering what the mobile operator has done to suddenly become the darling of print media.

“I think the company’s performance is being overrated because I don’t see anything special about them that deserves to make headlines. Well, that’s my point of view,” a source close to one of the DRC’s five mobile companies told Biztechafrica on Sunday.

But technology analyst Jean-Albert Longange said the intense media coverage of Africell epitomises the hard work the mobile operator has been doing since launching here.

Africell DRC, which calls itself the ‘network of the people’, launched its operations in this Central African nation in November 2012, and has managed to catch more than five million ‘fishes’ in less than two years, despite the lack of interconnection.

“Honestly speaking, that is a star performance that deserves to be commended in this cut-throat environment where the well-established operators have long dominated,” Longange said.

However, some observers believe Africell could have not gone that far if it did not come up with the smart strategy of lowest tariffs.

“Of course, its lowest prices have won it millions of users who have welcomed its products with open arms. Don’t forget that more than 60% of the Congolese people live below the poverty line,” Longange said.

“Africell has understood this and cut its prices to suit the pocket of the poor of the poorest. And the media who see themselves as the voice of the voiceless have lauded this gesture and have catapulted the company to the summit of glory.”

Besides, the company is being seen as a ‘victim’ by many people due to the refusal of other mobile operators to extend the interconnection to Africell, he added.

Vodacom, Airtel, Tigo and Orange have all sent Africelll packing, confining the operator to Africell-to-Africell isolation. But this did not stop many people from giving the network their unconditional love.

“My parents and most of my friends use Africell. No need of interconnection for me because I’m comfortable where I’m sitting,” Sophie Muyej said.

Africell DRC, which is also a holder of 2G and 3G licences, will soon launch its internet service.

Source: BizTech Africa

Congo Dem. Rep. : Africell DRC waits ‘in vain’ for interconnection

Mobile network Africell, which began operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in June 2012, is said to currently boast some 5.5 million subscribers in this vast Central African nation of 80 million people.

With an Africell sim card costing as little as 100 Fc (about US$1) and its free SMSes, and international calls affordable and said to be counting like a drop of water, the network is believed to be the DRC’s cheapest cellphone service.

However, Africell users have yet to taste the interconnection, a fruit prohibited by the country’s regulator, ARPTC, and rival networks Vodacom, Tigo and Airtel, which insist that the network’s prices are too low, and therefore unacceptable for the market.

In the DRC, the regulator sets the prices of cellphone calls and SMSes in violation of international recommendations and every network has to abide by these rules or face the music.

The ARPTC tried several times to force Africell to increase its prices by brandishing, among others, the resolutions number 067 and 068 of 25 September 2013. But the network has refused to budge, with its board chairperson Mbayo Lufunga describing the resolutions as ‘illegal’.

“Prices must be free because we live in the era of free market economy,” Lufunga said.

But a source close to the regulator told Biztechafrica this week that Africell would wait in vain for the interconnection because it would not happen as long as they did not abide by the rules.

“Dura lex, sed lex (the law is harsh but it’s the law),” the source added, using the Latin proverb to scorn Africell.

Meanwhile Africell, which calls itself the ‘network for the people’, continues to vehemently criticise its rival networks’ bad tactics, urging them to be tolerant and accept competition.

Now, Africell subscribers who might be tired of waiting in vain for the interconnection have taken to the social networks to express their anxiety.

On Saturday, one subscriber asked the network on its Facebook page: “When is the interconnection coming?”, and another one saying on Thursday: “You are sleeping, seek the interconnection.”

Africell replied promptly, saying: “We are victims of the interruption of interconnection by our competitors. Thank you for your understanding.”

Vodacom Congo, one of the companies alongside Tigo and Airtel that cut Africell out of the interconnection scene, has reiterated that Africell’s low prices were disrupting the telecommunications market.

Source: BizTech Africa

Lintel CEO divulges future plans; hopes to add two new markets within next three years

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Ziad Dalloul, the chief executive of Africell’s Lebanese parent company Lintel Holding, has revealed that the company generated annual sales of USD220 million in 2013, up 30% year-on-year. Lintel, which owns operations in Gambia, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), also recently paid USD12 million for the assets of Orange Uganda, and Dalloul is optimistic that he can reverse the unit’s flagging fortunes before too long. While confirming that regulatory approval for the takeover was finalised last week, he told the WSJ: ‘Orange’s board decided to withdraw from some losing operations. For us, it was a good opportunity. They have a very good network, with 3G and Long Term Evolution [technology] … We think that we can turn it around in a year.’ Meanwhile, with regards to the group’s pan-African expansion plans, he noted: ‘We hope to achieve [a footprint in] at least two markets within the next three years … [a target is] any market that has less than 50% mobile penetration.’

Source: TeleGeography

Congo Dem. Rep.: DRC regulator under fire over prices

The telecommunications regulator of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Autorité de Régulation de la Poste et des Télécommunications du Congo (ARPTC), has come under renewed fire for continuing to ignore international recommendations and court decisions not to set the prices of telecom products.

A call between two cellphone networks in this central African nation costs US$ 0.037 for the period of 2013 to 2014, US$0.034 for the 2014-2015 financial year, and US$0.031 USD for 2015-2016.

These prices are set in advance by ARPTC – to the dismay of mobile operators, which insist that telecoms prices should be set by the networks.

The matter was taken to the High Court of Kinshasa last year to force the regulator to set aside these prices and cease any interference in the pricing of telecoms products. The court reprimanded ARTPC, reiterating that the regulator violated the law by setting the telecommunications prices.

Regulating the principles of pricing does not mean in any way setting the prices, because the regulator has the duty to put in place technical and commercial mechanisms that operators would base their pricing on, the country’s High Court said.

But the regulator continued to ignore the court’s decision and insisted that its prices be respected and its instructions about interconnection be followed.

During his recent visit to Kinshasa, the secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Dr Hamadou Touré, issued a plea to the government not to interfere with the telecoms prices, saying this killed competition and obstructed consumers in making their own choice based on the offers.

Dr Touré insisted that pricing of telecoms products should be liberal, competitive and affordable to suit the pocket of consumers.

Many observers said it was not surprising that the regulator continued to ignore everybody’s recommendations because the DRC government is always seen as being above the law.

A government source told Biztechafrica that though the regulator was only taking orders from ‘the top’, the whole matter has embarrassed the organisation and destroyed its credibility.

“In most so-called democratic countries in Africa, governments tend to ignore all court decisions that go against them. How can potential investors put faith in the regulator and other government institutions if the top people bark instructions that hurt the organisation that is supposed to be independent?” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Source: Biztech Africa

Congo Dem. Rep. DRC’s ICT penetration reaches 23%

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) penetration in war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has risen significantly, to 23%, according to figures revealed recently by minister of posts, telecoms and ICTs, Kin-Kiey Mulumba.

In a desperate attempt to show that his government was now taking the ICTs seriously despite the lack of a formal policy, Mulumba also said that the DRC was now connected to the world through the WACS submarine cable landing point in Muanda, adding that the 650 km-axis Kinshasa-Muanda was fully operational.

“Kinshasa is linked to Brazzaville by an undersea cable, we have a 2200 km of fibre optic network laid between Inga and Kolwezi, another major network is being built between Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, 3G is operating and testing of 4G were allowed,” Mulumba said, as the government begins an ICT stocktaking experts believe will help the country benchmark its few technology achievements in the region.

“Mobile banking is a reality and is now contributing to the payment of salaries of civil servants,” he said.

The government of Joseph Kabila has also been praised by industry watchers for paying the country’s 20-year-old debt in contribution fees it was owing to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

However, despite these gains, many believe the mineral-rich nation still has a long way to go to be counted among the continent’s ICT greats.

Bienvenue Matadi, an ICT teacher in the capital Kinshasa, told Biztechafrica that the DRC could not make a real impact in the ICT world as long as it was still carrying a high number of computer illiterates.

“There are just too many people in this country that cannot use computers, and this includes pupils, tertiary students and civil servants. I think the government should open many computer centres nationwide where the population can come and learn basic computer skills at an affordable fee,” he said.

“A lot of ICT centres are being opened but most of them are privately-owned and the fees cost an arm and a leg, which is a huge problem in a country where the minimum wage hovers around US$40,” he said, slamming the government for a lack of political will and vision.

The DRC’s internet penetration rate stood around 1.2% in June 2012, while there were a total of 915 400 internet users and 903 020 Facebook users for the same period, according to the Internet World Stats.

Source: Biztech Africa