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In Brief:Africa to pass 1 bln mobile subscriptions by end of 2016 

Africa is expected to cross 1 billion mobile subscriptions in the fourth quarter of 2016, reaching 1.02 billion by year-end, according to advisory firm Ovum. Ovum also forecasts that the total number of mobile subscriptions on the continent will rise to 1.33 billion at the end of 2021.The growth in new mobile subscriptions is slowing. The average rate of mobile penetration in Africa was 79 percent at the end of June,and mobile voice revenue on the continent is set to decline over the five years 2021. There will be 1 billion mobile broadband connections in Africa in 2021, including 157.4 million LTE connections. Additionally, the number of smartphone connections on the continent will reach 929.9 million at the end of 2021. Non-SMS mobile data revenue in Africa is expected to rise from USD 6.40 billion in 2015 to USD 27.56 billion in 2021, a compound annual growth rate of 27.6 percent.

***Zain Saudi Arabia is expecting to sell its portfolio of 7,776 mobile towers for more than USD500 million in H1 2017, according to the CEO of the operator’s Kuwait-based parent company. Arabianbusiness.com quotes the official as saying that the company has narrowed its prospective buyers down to two bidders, and that the deal is likely to be finalised ‘sometime in the next two quarters.’ The CEO went on to say that the operator would use the proceeds from the sale to pay down its debt and for investments in data services. Further, the cellco – which has not registered a quarterly net profit since its launch in 2008 – is now ‘probably looking at 2018 for profitability,’ said the CEO.

***Brazilian state-owned telecom infrastructure provider Telebras ended the third quarter of 2016 with a loss of BRL 68.8 million, which is 29 percent bigger than in the same period in 2015. In the period July to September 2016, turnover from the sale of goods/services amounted to BRL 13.2 million, down 14.6 percent. Operating expenses increased 20.5 percent in the quarter to BRL 22.1 million.

***India:Vodafone reported a wider first-half net loss compared to last year, after writing down the value of its Indian operation.The U.K.-based telco has become embroiled in a new price war in India, sparked by the launch of Reliance Jio Infocomm, which is offering free calls and cheap data until the end of the year.Vodafone is feeling the pinch, and it revealed that intensifying competition led it to write down the value of Vodafone India by €5 billion.Vodafone recently revealed plans to extend its 4G footprint to 17 circles from nine by the end of its current financial year, which finishes next March.Vodafone India's customer base grew by 2.8 million during the six months to 30 September, topping 200 million in total for the first time ever.

***US-based infrastructure group American Tower Corp (ATC) has unveiled plans to expand into Argentina, with the company already present in Latin America through operations in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Peru. In a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing, the group noted that it has entered into an agreement to acquire a ‘portfolio of urban telecommunications assets ,including wireless sites, equipment and fibre assets located on utility infrastructure as well as a number of indoor wireless sites.’ ATC expects to close the deal by the end of 2016, subject to it receiving the necessary regulatory approvals.

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