News in Brief 11 April 2018

Africa:

Botswana: Local store - Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) has opened its newly refurbished store in Ghanzi, the Daily news reported. BTC Customer Care Manager, Goitseone Tshiamiso, noted that BTC was a local brand and that its operations were local and totally run from Botswana.

Egypt: Integrated bundle - Telecom Egypt has launched Indigo for its post-paid subscribers, an integrated bundle for its mobile service, WE, with both a mobile line and ADSL. Users will get a bundle of units, with the choice of using them for minutes, SMS, mobile data and/or DSL. They will also get mobile data packages from 1 GB to 35 GB, the choice of a special number, control of billing with the 'bill limit' feature, ADSL packages with speeds to 15 Mbps, affordable roaming and international rates, and unlimited calls to WE one preferred number.

Egypt: New HQ - The Minister of ICT Eng. Yasser ElKady visited Orange Egypt's new HQ in the Smart Village, which it expects to occupy from April. Orange Egypt's CEO and Managing Director Jean Marc Harrion formally welcomed the Minister, before showing him Orange's Network Operations Centre from which national network activity is monitored. Plans to open more Fab Labs following the launch five mini facilities were shared. Smart Village is a high-technology business district in the city of 6th of October, with activities starting in 2001. It is located on the Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road, slightly west of Cairo.

Ghana: Insurance incentive - MTN Ghana has introduced its 'Yo Recharge with Care'; insurance product which will offer its subscribers all the benefits of its insurance packages in a convenient form. Users will be able to buy life cover up to a maximum of GHS 3,000 (USD 670) for a subscriber and a family member and a hospitalization cover of a maximum of GHS 50 per night for subscriber only, anytime they top-up their airtime. MTN Ghana's Acting Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Noel Ganson noted: "The amount of airtime to be deducted as premium is automatically set up at enrolment. The minimum and maximum premiums are set at GHS 0.50 and GHS 2 respectively. This makes it possible for more people to get on board while significantly increasing the insurance penetration of the country which is rather lower than expected."

Kenya: Marginal counties - The Institute of Economic Affairs is calling on the Communications Authority (CA) to compel Safaricom to share its infrastructure in seven marginalized counties, the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation has reported. IEA's Executive Director Kwame Owino said such a move would partially address the dominance issue. The counties highlighted are Garissa, Turkana, Marsabit, Mandera, Samburu, Wajir and Isiolo.

Kenya: Pesa Pay - PayPal and Safaricom have announced a collaboration that enables users to seamlessly move money between their M-Pesa and PayPal accounts. The new service is intended to reduce barriers that have hindered consumers and businesses from taking full advantage of global eCommerce. TransferTo operates a global Cross-Border Mobile Payments Network for emerging markets and is the technology partner. TransferTo's CEO Peter De Caluwe said: "This service is a major milestone in the evolution of cross-border mobile payments, in that TransferTo's technology is creating a fundamental link between M-Pesa users in Kenya and PayPal's global network, and seamlessly connecting Kenyan shoppers and businesses to the global eCommerce world."

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Namibia: Compensation promised - Following a network outage over the Easter holiday, MTC is to reimburse data subscribers, The Economist reported citing the Chief Human Capital and Corporate Affairs Officer, Tim Ekandjo. Ekandjo said that some 54,595 data subscriptions and 56,877 SMS customers were affected, as their bundles were terminated and who still had bundles which they could not use on 2 April. All customers will receive 24-hour use of the data that will be reimbursed, and customers will also receive preference of usage above the existing bundles. The outage was attributed to an operating system malfunction.

Nigeria: Greater reach - Terragon Group, an African mobile marketing company, has closed a USD 5 million funding round led by Africa-focused TLcom Capital. The funding will be used to develop its proprietary Adrenaline marketing platform which connects online and offline mobile channels to provide African brands and SMEs with greater customer reach, engagement and conversions with self-service access. Terragon is pioneering the platform with MTN Nigeria. CEO Elo Umeh said the new investment will drive business development efforts across industry verticals and solve unique mobile challenges.

Nigeria: ISPs increasing - Seven new Internet services providers (ISPs) have been licensed by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), CommunicationsWeek reported. The seven companies, licensed between January and March, are Bava Network and Technologies, Netzplan Resources, Sentient Networks­, Standard Communications, Service Aggregation and Distribution, Passage Telecommunications Nig, and IP Express. The total number of ISPs now stands at 99. The NCC records that between 1996 and 2001, there were over 170 ISPs licensed to provide Internet services, but from 2002 to date, the number has fallen.

Nigeria: VAS spotlight - The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has warned that any operator failing to comply with the Do-Not-Disturb (DND) order will be fined NGN 500,000 (USD 1,380). The NCC's Deputy Director, Licensing and Authorisation Philip Eretan made the comment at the 83rd Telecoms Consumer Parliament held in Lagos. The event, branded 'Value Added Services (VAS) and its Benefits to Consumers' was convened due to the many complaints by subscribers over unsolicited messages by telecoms consumers on Value Added Services (VAS). NCC Executive Vice-Chairman Prof. Umar Danbatta said that the NCC had engaged the industry on the subject due to low participation of the targeted stakeholders, and in particular VAS providers. On 15 March 2017 the NCC launched a major awareness campaign. The Do-Not-Disturb (DND) code now enables subscribers who do not want to receive unsolicited text messages to text STOP to 2442 on any networks.

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South Africa: April appointments - Telkom-unit BCX has appointed Jonas Bogoshi as its Chief Revenue Officer and Michael Buttner as Chief Operating Officer. Bogoshi previously served as Channel Sales Director for South Africa and SADC at Dell EMC. He has also worked for companies including T-Systems, Gijima, SITA, Cisco and IBM South Africa. Buttner joins BCX from T-Systems, where he served as Vice-President of Sales and Service Management and VP of Service Delivery. Buttner also spent three years in the Netherlands with T-Systems International. The appointments are effective from 1 April.

South Africa: Tax hike - Telkom has reminded subscribers that product and services prices were being updated to reflect the new Value Added Tax rate between 31 March - 6 April 2018, in line with the increase announced by the Minister of Finance. An additional 1 percent has been added to the original 14 percent tax rate, and this will be shown on bills issued on and after 1 April 2018. Telkom Mobile said that it would absorb the extra tax on SMS and MMS charges. All Out of Bundle changes, however, have been adjusted accordingly.

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South Africa: TV hearings - The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa has said that it will convene oral hearings on the Inquiry into Subscription Television Broadcasting Services in accordance with Section 4B of the ICASA Act. It published the discussion document in Government Gazette 41070 Government Notice 642 of 25 August 2017. The closing date for submissions was 31 October 2017 which was extended to 4 December 2017. The Authority received 18 submissions and all indicated that they are interested in making oral presentations. The hearings will be held on 7-11 May at the ICASA Block C Presentation Room, at Pinmill Farm in Sandton.

Tunisia: Internet quality - The Instance Nationale des Telecommunications (INT) in partnership with Prisma-J3Tel, is conducting a quality evaluation project of fixed Internet access services. The project was initiated on 15 June 2017, and is to run for some 24 months. The aim is to establish a state of the quality of the fixed Internet jointly offered by the Internet Service Providers and Tunisia Telecom on nominal bit rates of 4 Mbps with ADSL technology. The project is as per INT decision 107/2015 of 11 November 2015. A report summarizes the measurement results for the level 2 of all ISPs on all governorates during the period 1 - 31 December 2017 is available here.

Middle East:

Afghanistan: Links strengthened - National operator Uztelecom is to cooperate with Afghan Telecom Corporation, Uzreport.uz reports. The companies have expressed their interest in expanding the mutual provision of telecom services after a new road map on ITC cooperation was drawn up. The two will analyse the needs of both entities in the ILD-telephony field, as well as on the need to develop links between the two networks.

Bahrain: Promoted partnership - Etisalcom is now Huawei's first Channel Service Partner (CSP) in Bahrain, allowing it to offer vendor-backed services such as the design and deployment of Huawei products and certified after-sales support.

Bahrain: Racing certainty - Zain Bahrain provided extra capabilities with 4G+ services at the Bahrain International Circuit during the Formula 1 Gulf Air Grand Prix. The event was held between 6 -8 April, and sees high demand for mobile broadband services.

Bahrain: Standards confirmed - Batelco has been presented with a new ISO Certificate in Information Security (ISO 27001:2013) after an audit conducted by Certification Bureau Veritas of its telecom network and IT; retail operations; data centres; wholesale operations and cyber security operations. Batelco GM Cyber & Corporate Security Shaikh Khalid Al Khalifa noted: "..Batelco is also keen to comply with international standards and regulations announced by the TRA."

Iran: Attack thwarted - A Cisco router software vulnerability, publicized and patched on 28 March, has resulted in Internet service providers and data centres targeted, and with some 3,500 Iranian devices thought to have been affected, the Financial Tribune reported. The attack on Iran's network infrastructure was launched at 20:15 local time on 6 April and was foiled by Iran Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center (Iran CERTCC) within two hours. It is suggested that the release of the patch over Norouz, the Iranian New Year holiday (21 March to 2 April) saw some users slow to apply the fix. Affected devices are reported to have displayed a US flag with the warning 'Don't mess with our elections'.

Kuwait: Cheaper cabs - Viva Kuwait and taxi-hailing company Careem have signed a strategic partnership offering exclusive discounts and promotions to Viva customers in Kuwait, with their first ten trips attracting a 25 percent discount.

Oman: Kiosk kicked-off - Ooredoo Oman has opened a kiosk in the Arrivals Terminal at the new Muscat International Airport. The facility will provide passengers with all the telecom support and technical guidance they need to be connected in Oman and abroad. A Visitor-Pack allows travellers to Oman up to 2 GB of data, 50 local/international minutes and 50 SMS, valid for 10 days for OMR 5 (USD 13). Ooredoo Passport World users will enjoy up to 2 GB of data and 30 roaming minutes for OMR 15 (USD 39) outside the GCC region. For travellers within the GCC, Ooredoo is offering 2 GB of data and 30 roaming minutes at OMR 10 (USD 26).

Qatar: India calling - Ooredoo Qatar's Hala India Packs are to now be a permanent service. Benefits include an out of pack international rate of QAR 0.10 (USD 0.03) per minute to call India, once the packs international minutes have been used. Hala India Packs come in denominations of 10, 30, 45, 60 and 100, and provide international and local calling minutes and data.

Saudi Arabia: Better billing - Virgin Mobile KSA has announced the launch of direct carrier billing service with Google, allowing the purchase of mobile apps, games, books and movies from the Google Play Store by billing purchases to their mobile accounts, post- or pre-paid. Virgin Mobile direct carrier billing will be available from April.

United Arab Emirates: Smart stuff - TP-Link Technologies has announced that Du will offer its range of smart home, smart bulb and smart IP camera products, initially via Du's outlets at Al Salam Tower and Hamdan Street in Dubai and Abu Dhabi respectively. TP-Link MEA FZE's General Manager Lucas Jiang said it had already rolled out store-in-store stands in seven Du outlets, including one at the Mall of Emirates and at Du's headquarters at Al Salam Tower in Dubai.

Device developments:

Nigeria: Camera centric - Tecno has launched the first 24MP clear selfie camera smartphone in Africa. In a statement on 5 April 2018 Transsion Holdings, owners of the Tecno brand, noted that many start-ups depended on the proficiency of their mobile phone cameras to grow their businesses. The latest Camon duos are therefore designed to deliver precision and appeal to the consumer, Transsion Holdings Vice President Andy Yan said in the statement sent to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos. The Tecno Camon X Pro will be shipped into Nigeria in April. Tecno has also teamed with Google to launch a range of smartphones on the Android Oreo System, including the F Series, in Lagos. According to Yan, Tecno has achieved a cumulative sales volume of 100 million units since it was established in 2006. The Jumia Mobile Report Nigeria 2018 reports that there are now some 21 million active smartphones.

Oman: New Nokia - The Nokia 1 is now available for OMR 31 (USD 80), HMD Global announced on 5 April. It is running the latest Android Oreo (Go edition), a version of Android for devices with 1GB RAM or less. HMD Global's General Manager - Middle East, Sanmeet Singh Kochhar, said: "The GCC countries have some of the highest mobile penetration rates in the world, while smartphone penetration among millennials in the GCC is in the high 90s percent."

South Africa: P series launch - The new Huawei P20 series, including the P20 Lite and P20 smartphones, are now offered on Telkom FreeMe contracts from 6 April, and the P20 Pro from 13 April. The devices are available on FreeMe 1GB, 2GB, 5GB, 10GB, 20GB and Unlimited for both new and existing Telkom subscribers, on pre- and post-paid and hybrid plans. The first 2,000 customers that buy the Huawei P20 will receive the Huawei 360-degree VR camera with full HD. The first 500 customers purchasing the Huawei P20 Pro will receive the Huawei E5885 Wi-Fi router which can connect up to 32 users. Pricing starts at ZAR 299 (USD 25) per month for the Huawei P20 Lite on FreeMe 1GB. The Huawei P20 Pro on FreeMe Unlimited costs ZAR 1,499 (USD 125) per month.