Telecommunication news for Dubai and Africa.

Dubai: Customers in the UAE will soon be able to order an item from a supermarket or food from a restaurant without leaving home or office.

This is going to become a reality in the first half of the year as etisalat is set to launch mobile wallet services for a variety of payments and transactions, including domestic and international money transfers, bank account management and purchase of tickets for transport.

Sifiso Dabengwa, MTN Group President and CEO. (Image: Charlie Fripp)

“We are waiting for approval from the UAE Central Bank to launch mobile wallet and hope to start this in the UAE in April,” Saleh Abdullah Al Abdouli, CEO of etisalat UAE, said in an exclusive interview with Gulf News.

The new service, being showcased at the Mobile World Congress 2013, Barcelona, is developed in conjunction with MasterCard and Oberthur Technologies.

“We will be launching it in two phases. First in the UAE and then in other countries. We are in talks with certain top retailers in the UAE to launch this service,” he said.

Etisalat is already offering NFC (near-field communication)-enabled services to Metro passengers.

NFC has been around for more than five years but the devices were not readily available. Now most smartphone manufactures are launching NFC-enabled devices.

NFC has been a buzzword at the Barcelona event and GSMA is stressing on this service throughout the event. “Now you can see NFC taking off in a big way locally and internationally,” Al Abdouli said.

To avail a NFC service, subscribers need to first buy a SIM card which supports NFC. You can have the same number. “Now we have to approach restaurants, retailers and service companies to develop an application for the NFC service,” he said.

When asked about opening of voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), Al Abdouli said: “We are working on a business plan to open it in the UAE. It is only a matter of time. Of course we have to work with TRA to offer a good package.” But he did not say when it will be launched.

           Africa results positive for MTN Group

While acknowledging the impact of legal issues, including the Hoffmann Commission and the management of US and EU sanctions against Iran and Syria, MTN Group management is satisfied with the company’s results and is confident of growth in key regions throughout Africa.

Speaking at the announcement of the company’s results for the year ended 31 December 2012, Group President and CEO, Sifiso Dabengwa, said the company has focused on strengthening its position in terms of service delivery within a digital world, investing in 3G and the modernization of its networks.

Amid significant competition within the South African market, the MTN Group was “satisfied” with the performance over the period in review and the capex spent.

Dabengwa mentioned the delivery of 281 LTE sites and rollout of 1300 fibre-to-site installations as positives for the company.

In an overview of business operations in Nigeria, Dabengwa said that although the year started slowly, as a result of aggressive competition and network constraints, it quickly gained momentum.

Nigeria remains one of the company’s “key pillars”, with an established subscriber base of 47,4million.

However, the inflation rate of more than 10% has had an impact on operations, particularly in terms of staff costs said Dabengwa.

According to the company revenue in rand grew by 10.9% to R38,7 billion compared to R34,8 billion in 2011.

Executive management of the MTN Group said the company is well positioned in other areas including Cameroon, Ghana and the Ivory Coast, despite the lost of 400 000 subscribers in the Ivory Coast, as a result of that country’s SIM registration process.

“Uganda is one of the most competitive of markets and the best performing market as far as mobile money is concerned,” Dabengwa added.

In terms of its strategy to drive sustainable growth, the company stated that over the past year, billed traffic volumes increased 24,6% while voice revenue grew 4,0% on a constant currency basis as tariffs continued to decline.

Looking ahead, Dabengwa reiterated the company’s focus on data and data related service revenue. He anticipates that this will be an important revenue driver as the rate of increase in voice penetration slows and competition intensifies.


About Inna Lyulicheva

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