News in Brief 15 March 2018

Africa:

Africa: Relief renewal - Plan International has signed a new three-year contract with global satellite communications provider ITC Global. The agreement will see the establishment of continuous provision of remote communication services and the upgrading of electronic systems at the 24 sites in West and Central Africa. ITC Global's Vice President Yagnesh Rajendren said: ".. by establishing vital connectivity for front-line people, we are making operational excellence possible through reliable and permanently established communications; whether to respond to natural disasters or to improve the quality of life of vulnerable individuals or the environment ".

Cameroon: Passports please - Cameroon Telecommunications Network's General Manager David Nkotto Emane has been barred from leaving the country pending investigations of alleged financial misappropriation, the Journal du Cameroun said. Also reported to be under investigation are his deputy as well as former Finance Director.

Ghana: 4G auction - The National Communications Authority (NCA) is expected to issue a second 4G spectrum via an auction in June 2018 according to Minister of Telecommunications Ursula Owusu Ekuful. MTN secured the first one when it December 2015 when it paid USD 67.5 million for a 15-year 4G/LTE license in the 800 MHz spectrum band, and so outbid four other contenders.

Nigeria: Do not disturb - According to NCC (Nigerian Communications Commission) Executive Vice Chairman Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, some 9 million subscribers have enabled the Do-Not-Disturb (DND) code to halt receiving unsolicited messages, suggesting that the number has more than doubled the 4 million subscribers that activated the facility in 2017.

Kenya: Cellular cover - Mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) Equitel is now offering its subscribers a mobile-based insurance product, branded Riziki Cover. The policy will provide for the lost daily income should the user be admitted to hospital and be unable to work. The cover is being provided by a partnership of Equitel, Equity Insurance Agency, Britam and technical service provider, Inclusivity Solutions. It is available to Equitel subscribers who use airtime from KES 100 or make Mobile Banking transactions worth KES 1,000 or more per month. The cash payout will be KES 400 per night and will double to KES 800 for a subscriber who uses airtime from KES 100 and makes Mobile Banking transactions worth KES 1,000 or more per month.

Kenya: m-Pesa management - Safaricom has named Vodacom Tanzania M-Commerce director Sitoyo Lopokoiyit as its Financial Services Chief, the Business Standard reported. The move follows the departure of Ronald Webb in July 2017. The operation was managed by interim m-Pesa boss Brian Wamatu. Before joining Vodacom in September 2015, Lopokoiyit spent almost four years as Safaricom's head of m-Pesa strategy.

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Kenya: Technology promised - Addressing the 3rd Sub Saharan Africa Spectrum Management Conference that is drafting items to be discussed at an International Telecommunication Union conference in Geneva, Communication Authority Director General Francis Wangusi said Kenya will start rolling out 5G network by 2019 once the ITU allocates the necessary bandwidth next year.

Mauritania: Connectivity consultant - The National Coordination Project Coordination Unit (WARCIP-Mauritania) is looking to recruit a Senior Engineering Technician as a consultant for a year, with the potential for the contract to be renewed. The post is being funded by the World Bank (WB), and will come under the responsibility of the Mauritania WARCIP Project Coordination. The application deadline was 13 March.

Rwanda: Hospital cover - Tigo and Airtel Rwanda, in partnership with Radiant Insurance Company, Inclusivity Solutions, and Access to Finance Rwanda, have launched a new insurance enabler called Ingoboka Cash. Airtel and Tigo have some 1.4 million active mobile wallets. Ingoboka Cash consists of two insurance products developed for Tigo Cash and Airtel Money customers that cover them in case they stay in hospital for 3 nights or more in a row.

Somalia: Regulatory remit - The National Communications Authority (NCA) took control of the country-code top-level domain (dotSO) from the Somali National Information Centre (SONIC) and Cloudy Registry, who ran the operations and the management of the Domain Registry. With immediate effect SONIC will become a functional unit within the NCA and its technical operations personnel will report to the NCA management. The NCA signed an Addendum to the Master Supply Agreement with Cloud Registry, which provides registry-hosting services to the DotSO Domain. The Addendum establishes a contractual relationship between the NCA and Cloud Registry.

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South Africa: First footsteps - Spotify has launched its first venture in Africa. It has some 159 million active users globally, with over 71 million subscribed to its paid-for Premium service. It offers a choice between an ongoing free ad-supported music service and a fully-featured, ad-free subscription option. The Premium service will costs ZAR 59.99 (USD 5) per month. It is advert free and offers offline listening, unlimited skips, high-quality audio, shuffle play. A 30-day free trial of Spotify Premium is being offered. It can be downloaded from the Apple App Store, Google Play Store, and Microsoft Store. It also works on Xbox and PlayStation consoles, TVs, and smart speakers.

South Africa: Hearing held - ICASA held its public hearings on the Draft End-User and Subscriber Service Charter Regulations on 1-2 March 2018 at its head office in Sandton. Presentations were made by Vodacom; Liquid Telecom; Telkom; MTN; Cell-C; MWEB; Free Market Foundation South Africa (FMFSA); Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA); National Consumer Commission (NCC); Amandla.mobi, Wireless Access Providers' Association (WAPA) and Crystal Web.

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Uganda: Card readers required - The sale of new SIM cards has been stopped by MTN Uganda until it has direct access to the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) database. In a statement on 8 March MTN Uganda said it was responding to new guidelines put out by the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) for the sale of new SIM cards. MTN Uganda intends to acquire and install card readers at its service centres to enable the validation of national identification information before the activation of a new SIM card. This will allow the information to be immediately verified by the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA).

Zambia: Money movements - Airtel Zambia now has some 1.3 million mobile money customers, placing it ahead of MTN Zambia, with a million. Airtel Corporate Communications Manager Yuyo Kambikambi said: "Mobile money is a key catalyst that is helping accelerate financial inclusion in Zambia." ITWeb Africa reported MTN Zambia acting Head of Mobile Money, Ruth Chuunka, as saying that MTN has erected more than 3,000 booths and had 12,000 active agents nationally. Bank of Zambia data shows that only 40 percent of the population has a bank account.

Zimbabwe: Broadening banking base - Telecel subscribers are now able to register for EcoCash, TechZim has reported, and follows the earlier opening of the facility to NetOne subscribers. For now EcoCash is only available through the EcoCash application and not the USSD codes.

Zimbabwe: CEO confirmed - State-owned mobile network operator NetOne has named Lazarus Muchenje as its new Chief Executive with effect from 1 April 2018. The former Vodacom executive takes over from Brain Mutandiro, who has been acting since June 2016 after the then CEO Reward Kangai was suspended.

Zimbabwe: Compensation completed - Some 177,000 OneFusion have been compensated for the disruptions they faced in February, when users started complaining about the rapid depletion or even deletion of data. NetOne has now compensated users with 150MB each, in compliance with POTRAZ's order.

Zimbabwe: Streamlined service - Kwese TV is to remove 6 channels from its subscription service, the Zimbabwe Mail has reported, with effect from 12 March. The broadcaster said that it is undertaking a staggered review of its branded/owned channels to streamline already existing and new content to give viewers a more targeted viewing experience. The channels being removed are Kwese Movies 1, Kwese Movies 2, Kwese Movies 3, Kwese Family, Kwese Know and Kwese Inc.

Middle East:

Afghanistan: Safe SMS - Roshan has contracted for Mitto AG's A2P SMS firewall solution to protect subscribers from unwanted SMS traffic. Roshan's Director of International and Roaming Faiz Hassan said: "For a while now we have been thinking about how best we can optimise our A2P SMS business, to maximise our A2P SMS Revenues, secure our SS7 network, spot potential revenue leakage and simplify reporting and invoicing." Roshan claims to have over 6.5 million mobile subscribers and a network that covers 287 districts and cities in all 34 provinces.

Lebanon: Start-up support - Mobile operator touch has announced that under the patronage and in the presence of HE Prime Minister Saad Al Hariri, the MIC Ventures telco investment fund has been launched to invest in ICT start-ups. On 19 February touch said that it would serve as a strategic partner for start-ups invested in by MIC Ventures. MIC Ventures will raise funding and collaborate with experts. Zain, which has a management contract for touch, will support touch and focus on digital services, corporate venturing, and smart cities.

Oman: Bonds for bridging loan - Oman Telecommunications Co has appointed Citigroup and Credit Suisse Group to raise some USD 1.5 billion from the sale of dollar bonds, according to Bloomberg. It has also mandated HSBC Holdings, Bank ABC, Bank Muscat and Standard Chartered for the sale that could happen in March. The proceeds will be used to repay a bridge loan it raised in October 2017 to buy a stake in Kuwait’s Mobile Telecommunications Co (Zain). Omantel become Zain's second-largest shareholder in November when it acquired a 12.1 percent stake in Zain after a public auction on Boursa Kuwait. It also bought a 9.84 percent stake in August, paying USD 2.19 billion in total.

Saudi Arabia: Youthful focus - Virgin Mobile KSA says its subscriber base stood at just over 2.8 million at the end of 2017 and expects to be close to 3.5 million by the end of 2018. The MVNO was launched in November 2014. Virgin Mobile registered over 50 percent growth in revenue in 2017 and said it had positive EBITDA and net results.