News in Brief 16 May 2018

Africa:

Cameroon: Dues discussed - On 7 May 2018 Cameroon Mobile Telecommunications' (Camtel) Director-General David Nkotto Emane had a meeting with Caisse Nationale de Prevoyance Sociale' (CNPS) Alain Noel Olivier Mekulu Mvondo Akame, and, according to Business in Cameroon, one of the topics discussed was the payment of monies owed to the CNPS. The amount is put at some XAF 7 billion (USD 12.7 million) of social contributions that could be cancelled in favour of Camtel. In October 2016 CNPS opted to forcefully collect the social contributions owed by public and private institutions by launching a campaign.

Democratic Republic of the Congo: LTE launch - Vodacom has announced that it has become the first network operator in the country to offer LTE services, initiating a 4G marketing campaign on 11 May. The primary mobile networks were granted an LTE licence on 10 May, with Orange DRC noting the fact on Twitter, posting a video of CEO Gerard Lokossou saying its subscibers would soon benefit from LTE services.

Eastern Africa: Anti-poaching programme - A project being managed by Cisco and Dimension Data focusing on Connected Conservation is to enter its second phase. The service has significantly reduced response times for game rangers and secures the land that wild animals roam through. DiData and Cisco now plan to take the anti-poaching programme into Zambia, Kenya and Mozambique to protect both rhinos and the African savanna elephants. The on-site is being provided as a managed service, using cloud for data analytics and back-up. The equipment includes a reserve area network, IT infrastructure, Wi-Fi and LANs, as well as biometrics and CCTV at every entrance gate.

Gabon: Ministerial appointment - On 4 May Minister of State Guy-Bertrand Mapangou was named as the new Minister of Communication and the Digital Economy. His predecessor, Minister of State Alain Claude Bilie By Nze, is now Minister of Sports and Culture, in charge of Tourism. Mapangou was Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, and is the author of several reforms. He has been Chairman of the CNC's National Communication Commission since May 2012.

Gambia (The): Election app - The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has introduced a mobile election application which will provide access to information regarding election results and activities. IEC's Information Director Joseph Colley made the announcement on 9 May. The founder of Gambia Participates' Executive Director Marr Njang said it had developed the application in partnership with the IEC and funded by the International Republican Institute through the US Embassy in Banjul.

Ghana: Interoperability inauguration - On 11 May AirtelTigo commended the Bank of Ghana, the Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems Limited (GhIPSS) and all stakeholders following the launch of Mobile Money Interoperability. AirtelTigo's CEO Ms Roshi Motman: "We believe this implementation will play a key role in enhancing the use of mobile financial services and deepen financial inclusion."

Kenya: Flexible tv - Flexible subscription payments for daily, weekly or monthly access are being offered by StarTimes Kenya. Subscribers can now pay a daily fee of KES 22 (USD 0.22) on its Nyota bouquet; KES 50 (USD 0.50) on the Basic bouquet; KES 83 (USD 0.83) for the Classic bouquet or KES 125 (USD 1.25) for the Unique bouquet. A mobile app has also been launched to enable television viewing on mobile devices offering over 60 premium television channels, and is compatible Android and iOS systems.

Liberia: Women-manned kiosks - Through a partnership, Orange Liberia, UN Women and the Liberia Market Association will prioritize the employment of women as operators and supervisors of 500 Orange Money kiosks due to be rolled out in Liberia in 2018. The collaboration was announced on Monday at a programme held at the Ma Juah Market in Monrovia when Orange Liberia's CEO Mamadou Coulibaly presented the first kiosk. The vice president of the Liberia Market Association Abraham Barchue commended Orange and UN Women for the initiative and asked for more kiosks to be deployed, especially in the vicinity of markets. Madam Catherine Sackie is the first market woman employed as a kiosk operator. The kiosks will offer SIM cards, e-recharge and sale of a wide range of mobile devices.

Madagascar: Financial services - Orange Madagascar has launched two 'M-Kajy' financial products, a pico loan charging a fixed rate of 7 percent and a saving account paying 2.5 percent interest annually; launched in partnership with Premiere Agence de Microfinance (PAMF), a micro-loan specialist created by the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). Customers can request a 7 percent pico loan via the Orange Money mobile application for amounts of up to MGA 300,000 (USD 92) to be repaid within 30-days.

Mauritania: Boycott called - Mobile operator Mauritel, a subsidiary of the Maroc Telecom group, is currently the target of a social media campaign by subscribers. Poor quality of service and high service costs are cited. It is claimed that the national call time at Mauritel is significantly more expensive than its competitors Mattel, a subsidiary of Tunisie Telecom and Chinguitel, a subsidiary of Sudatel. A boycott was due to start on the first day of Ramadan, 16 May 2018.

Nigeria: Advertising assessment - On 8 May the Senate Committee on Communications opted to invite the four leading GSM operators; MTN, Airtel, Globacom and 9Mobile in order to comment on what were described as intrusive and unsolicited adverts being sent by the operators to their subscribers. Others to be called to appear are the Nigerian Communications Commissions (NCC), the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) and the Association of Advertising Practitioners of Nigeria (AAPN), Nigeria Today reported. The move followed a resolution 'Need to Check Intrusive and Unsolicited Adverts by Telecom Companies and Service Providers'.

Nigeria: Local focus - MTN Group is to borrow up to NGN 400 billion (USD 1.11 billion) to fund local investment and replace existing debt, Bloomberg has reported. MTN plans to sell bonds and take out long-term loans as well as list its local unit on the Lagos stock exchange by the end of 2018. MTN's Chief Financial Officer Ralph Mupita said it wants to gear up MTN's debt on an operational level away from the holding structure. The debt 'must be where the EBITDA is' and as much as possible will be raised in naira. MTN's net debt rose to ZAR 57 billion in 2017 from ZAR 52 billion the previous year. MTN plans to move the focus from dollar-denominated debt to debt in local currencies where it operates.

Nigeria: Service breaks - The Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) has instructed mobile network operators to publish their quality of services (QoS) performances in the public domain or face sanctions CommunicationsWeek reported. Head of NCC Umar Garba Danbatta said the NCC is concerned about QoS, including coverage gaps it has identified. He added that the NCC is also seeking a review of the National Economic Council's (NEC) recommendations on the elimination of multiple taxation and regulations that have created provisioning bottlenecks in different states.

Senegal: Improving Internet - Director General of the Telecommunications Regulatory Agency and Posts (ARTP) Abdou Karim Sall said that over 9.6 million people have Internet access, accounting for 62.9 percent of the 15.73 million. Of these, 88.6 percent access it via their mobile device, representing an Internet penetration rate of 62.9 percent, Journal du Cameroun. The comments were made at the official opening of the 5th African Internet Summit (AIS) in Dakar from 29 April - 11 May 2018.

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South Africa: Experienced executive - Vumatel has said that Dietlof Mare is its new CEO. Mare was previously CEO for Vodafone in the DRC, Tanzania and Albania. Niel Schoeman, current CEO of Vumatel, will now take up the post of executive chairman. Mare's appointment is effective from 7 May.

South Africa: Free-ride failure - South Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) says that the must-carry regulations, which require DStv parent MultiChoice and other satellite pay-television providers to carry the SABC's three free-to-air channels, are unfair and commercial broadcasters are exploiting the situation to their advantage, and to the financial detriment of the public broadcaster, TechCentral reports. In its submission at the 8 May public hearings, the broadcaster said its must-carry channels have commercially benefited MultiChoice Africa and other subscription broadcasters at the expense of the public broadcaster. SABC wants DStv, StarSat and others to pay to carry SABC 1, 2 and 3 on their platforms. It said that MultiChoice is getting a free ride, and that many of the most popular programming on DStv is produced by the SABC. ICASA is holding oral hearings as part of its inquiry into subscription TV broadcast services. The inquiry was launched in August 2017 with the publication of a discussion document and public consultation. It received 18 submissions and all indicated that would make presentations. The hearings are being held 7-11 May in Sandton.

South Africa: Greater 4G coverage - MTN South Africa has said that its 4G coverage now covers over 80 percent of the population, MyBroadband reported. MTN South Africa's CTO Giovanni Chiarelli made the claim during a live outdoor 5G trial in conjunction with Huawei, adding that it now has some 9,212 4G sites across the country, and that its 3G coverage has also increased marginally to 97.6 percent.

South Africa: Cell tower compliance - The High Court has ruled that Telkom cannot erect towers where it wants to, after the operator argued that a Cape Town mast should not be subjected to municipal planning rules, Business Insider reported. The court concluded that the zoning of land is exclusively the domain of municipalities, and Cape Town has 'the constitutional power and right to regulate the zoning of land to determine whether it may be used for masts'. Telkom tried to erect a tower in Heathfield, Cape Town, on a residential stand. It applied for rezoning of the land but started construction before the application had been processed. Instead of paying a fine that would allow the application to be considered, Telkom went to court.

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South Africa: IoT interim - Vodacom South Africa's Internet of Things managing executive Deon Liebenberg is departing to join a company in Australia at the end of June, MyBroadband has reported. Liebenberg has held posts with BlackBerry in Africa; Samsung (as Managing Director in 2012), Telkom Business Mobile and finally CEO of Vodacom Business Africa in February 2013. Subsequently he was Vodacom executive VP for Africa until March 2016, and then managing executive for Internet of Things. William Mzimba, Chief Officer at Vodacom Business, will fill the role in the short term.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Billion mobile broadbanders - The total number of mobile SIMs in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is forecast to exceed 1 billion by 2023, from around 750 million in 2017, according to the latest study by Dataxis. This growth follows a steady increase observed in the SSA mobile market for many years and will mainly be driven by Internet enabled SIMs; 3G and 4G subscribers are expected to rise from 35 percent of all mobile users in 2017, to 57 percent in 2023. 4G's share will rise to almost 40 percent of Internet mobile SIMs.

Togo: Ministerial milestone - Minister of Posts and Digital Economy, Cina Lawson, has been given approval to sign decrees to increase the duration and coverage area for 2G and 3G licenses awarded to Togocel and Moov, so making licences valid till 2032. Approval has also been given to award them both 4G licences, in line with digital strategy, Togo First reported. The aim is to have a 4G penetration rate of 40 percent by 2022.

Zimbabwe: Stake to be strengthened? - The government, which has a 60 percent stake in Telecel Zimbabwe, has now decided not to sell part of its stake, but, in a reversal of policy, buy out the minority shareholders. According to The Zimbabwe Independent, Minister of Information Communication Technology (ICT) Supa Mandiwanzira has told the cabinet that it is now resolved to buy out the minority shareholders. A number of options are now being considered.

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Zimbabwe: VoD permit - TelOne, the state-owned fixed and Internet operator, has been issued with a broadcasting licence for Video-on-Demand (VoD) services. TelOne is the second telco to be awarded a VoD licence after the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe issued a similar permit to Econet Wireless. It plans to offer VoD nationally. ITWebAfrica reports that TelOne has a broadband capacity of 105,000 ADSL and Fibre to the Home lines combined, and this capacity is expected to expand by more than 100 percent in the next few years to reach 250,000 by 2020.

Middle East:

Bahrain: Global ministerial mesh - Batelco and Avaya are to upgrade the communications and collaboration capabilities of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with an ICT implementation to connect the entire ministry's staff globally. Batelco worked with Avaya to overhaul public services by integrating and digitising communications through a two-phase project. With no interruption in the first phase, Batelco and the Ministry's IT team deployed the latest Avaya services, linking all regional offices and the ministry in Manama. The second phase will be extended to all ministry staff and embassies.

Bahrain: Smart service - Viva Bahrain has introduced self-service machines and a smart queue management service at its outlets. The machines are now installed at all outlets and offer payments and services such as add-ons, prepaid vouchers, international credit transfer and SIM card replacement. Customers can now book a priority queue ticket at any of the eighteen outlets using a mobile app, powered by Viva's partner Skiplino. In the event of a delay, the service allows users to update their status through the app and hold their spot for an extra 10 minutes. Customers can also rate and submit instant feedback.

Iran: An ill wind - European businesses operating in Iran will have 'only' months to wind down their presence in the country or face US sanctions, National Security Adviser John Bolton has warned. Bolton specified that companies would face immediate sanctions for new deals and have a maximum of six months to wind down current operations in Iran. Separately, the US ambassador to Germany has said German businesses should immediately halt their operations in Iran. In 2016 German exports to Iran were valued at EUR 2.6 billion (USD 3.1 billion), up 26 percent on 2015, according to the Ministry of Finance in Berlin.

Iran: Some success - MTN Group says the US decision to re-impose economic sanctions against Iran may restrict its ability to repatriate cash, both for dividends or loans, from MTN Irancell. It said it had repatriated some EUR 88 million (USD 105 million) from MTN Irancell in the year to date, including EUR 61 million (USD 73 million) relating to the full 2017 dividend due to MTN as well as a further EUR 27 million (USD 32 million) of historic dividends. MTN claims that some EUR 200 million (USD 239 million) is still due but it remains committed to its investment in Irancell. It said that it will continue its attempts to repatriate the balance of legacy cash in the country whilst remaining compliant with appropriate legislation.

Israel: Tighter targeting - MVNO Rami Levy Communications has announced a monthly package costing ILS 20 (USD 5.55) that provides 40 GB Internet usage, Globes reported, following the launch of Xfone's mobile operator We4G. The package is valid for a year, after which the price rises to ILS 30 (USD 8.32), compared with an industry norm of ILS 100 (USD 27.75). The MVNO said that it is looking to recruit 100,000 subscribers in the next 12 months. Previously, it offered 14 GB for ILS 30 (USD 8.32) monthly.

Kuwait: TV app deal - Viva Kuwait has signed with Intigral Company for a strategic partnership for the JawwyTV app-based TV service. The mobile application provides a range of Arabic, Turkish and Western movies, TV series, top documentaries and kids' channels. Viva customers can now subscribe to JawwyTV for KWD 2.50 (USD 8.26) and get a 30-day free trial. It provides access to live TV channels.

Oman: Domestic Mesh - Omantel has launched Wi-Fi Mesh as part of its Home Broadband offering, allowing faster Internet speed and wider coverage for an OMR 15 (USD 39) upfront payment and OMR 3 (USD 8) per month with a 24-month contract. A Home Connect device will be provided, and users can also purchase a Home Connect Pack consisting of three devices for an upfront payment of OMR 35 (USD 91) or a monthly installment of OMR 6 (USD 16) per month with a 24-month contract.

Saudi Arabia: Text take-off - Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) has launched a new onboard feature, allowing passengers to send and receive WhatsApp messages during their flight. The WhatsApp service is free for 10MB of SMS. The service has been launched with Sitaonair, and will first be made available on all domestic flights before being offered on international routes.

United Arab Emirates: Card-handling certification - Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DDS) accreditation has now been gained by mobile operator Du for its payment channels, including Du stores, Payment Gateway, IVR, voice calls, Du mobile app, myaccount.du.ae, WiFi UAE and the Du Dealer Sales Portal. This applies to Du customers with credit and debit cards belonging to Visa, Mastercard, American Express, JCB and Discover. PCI DSS compliance requires mandatory activities to be undertaken by Du staff on a regular basis, and requires certification annually.

United Arab Emirates: Fibre closure - The UAE has high fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) penetration at some 94.3 percent, much of which is provided by Etisalat. Etisalat is now working closely with R&M (Reichle & De-Massari AG) to upgrade and extend its FTTH network with the SYNO dome closure solution. The gel's cold seals conform to IP68 and require no maintenance. At the same time, the modular nature of the cabinet allows technicians to make modifications to the connections easily, and with minimal risk to services of other customers. Consequently Etisalat has now moved the Fibre Distribution Hub (FDH) units underground.

United Arab Emirates: Tourist aid - Huawei’s Consumer Business Group has signed a Global Strategic Partnership agreement with Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism). This will see users of Huawei's SkyTone service connected to Dubai Tourism products and services. SkyTone users will not only receive high-speed Internet access, hotel booking and car rental services, but also be able to acquire customized travel recommendations and travel services from Dubai Tourism through SkyTone, Smart Browser and Smart Assistance.

Device developments:

South Africa: Premium prize - The premium range customer is now in Huawei's sights, ITWeb reported. Huawei Technologies' Consumer Business Group VP of Sales and Marketing Jim Xu said it had appreciated that focusing only on the mid-price to entry-level segment was not enough.  In 2017 Huawei said it had a 16.3 percent market share, and 13.8 percent of the premium market, up from 7 percent in 2016. Huawei has previously said that it invests more than USD 10 billion in R&D annually. Its full-year results show that 2017 annual investment in R&D was USD 13.8 billion, up 17.4 percent compared with 2016.