South Africa round-up: Afrihost-MTN deal secures regulatory approval; ICASA writes off part of WBS debt; BitCo launches 100Mbps fibre service

7 Nov 2014

MTN South Africa’s proposed acquisition of internet service provider (ISP) Afrihost has been approved by the country’s Competition Tribunal on the recommendation of the Competition Commission (CompCom). ‘This marks the continuation of the successful collaboration between the two companies in providing industry-leading DSL, mobile data, and web hosting services to Afrihost’s clients’, the ISP said in a press release. Afrihost highlighted that the partnership with MTN would bring more opportunities to its clients, by leveraging MTN’s significant investment in broadband and other technologies, with CEO Gian Visser adding: ‘We want to assure all our clients that nothing will change at Afrihost, operationally. Our management and systems will remain in place and Afrihost will continue to play the innovative role our clients expect in the industry’. In June 2014 it emerged that MTN was in the process of acquiring a 50% (plus one share) stake in Afrihost for an undisclosed sum, while existing shareholders, including the company’s management, would retain the remainder.

According to TechCentral, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has written off ZAR75 million (USD6.71 million) of the licence fees owed to it by the iBurst parent company, Wireless Business Solutions (WBS), which is currently considering a takeover offer. The technology website notes that WBS and the regulator have come to an out of court agreement, which has seen the telco’s long-standing bill for expired licences slashed in half from ZAR151 million to ZAR76 million.

South African wireless service provider Altech Autopage, which recently acquired a number of Cell C accounts from solutions provider Nashua Mobile, is allegedly experiencing technical difficulties in migrating the users to its platform. MyBroadband writes. According to a message on Altech’s webpage the operator is ‘currently working’ to rectify the issue and it is understood that the technical problems will be resolved by 10 November. In April 2014, JSE-listed ICT group Reunert, the parent company of Nashua Mobile, agreed to offload its 750,000-strong subscriber base to Vodacom South Africa, Altech Autopage, and MTN South Africa and cease operations as soon as the subscribers were migrated.

Independent telecoms service provider BitCo has successfully completed its fibre ring in the Gauteng province, thus increasing its redundancy and capacity in the area. The fibre ring expands the telco’s coverage around greater Johannesburg, reaching from Isando through Johannesburg Central Business District (CBD) to Midrand and Centurion; the operator is also planning to expand its footprint to Durban North and Rondebosch in Cape Town. Jarryd Chatz, business development director at BitCo, said: ‘We are now able to offer 100Mbps links on fibre … By rolling out this ultra-high capacity network we are in-line with our trend of more than doubling our data traffic year-on-year’.

South African internet service provider (ISP) Neotel is planning to launch new wireless broadband services at rates of up to 45% lower than current prices. MyBroadband cites Sunil Joshi, CEO of Neotel, as saying: ‘Neotel is delighted to announce a technology agnostic wireless broadband service that gives a similar experience regardless of the wireless technology being used, such as LTE or WiMAX’. The upgraded NeoBroadband Wireless service will be available from 10 November 2014 and will offer uncapped broadband access with downlink of between 1Mbps-10Mbps at ‘affordable rates’ – a 2Mbps unlimited service will cost ZAR699 (USD61.73).