News in Brief 13 June 2018

Africa:

Egypt: Bill shock - Parliament has now passed the development fee bill which will be applied to the billing for mobile lines and consumption. The bill has categorised mobile services as recreational, while no fee is to be imposed on other goods and services, such as alcohol, cigarettes, gambling, or other services and recreational goods. Prices of mobile lines currently do not exceed EGP 20 (USD 1.12) on average, whereas the bill will see the charge rise to EGP 70 (USD 3.90). Linatel's CEO Hamdy Ellaithy told the Daily News that the decision to impose development fees will have a negative impact on market growth, adding that Telecom Egypt will be the most affected as it is the newest mobile player and needs to achieve sales to be able to compete with the other companies.

Ghana: Pension payments - Some 100,000 people are now making personal pension contributions through MTN Mobile Money and United Pensions Trust's personal pension scheme dubbed 'My Own Pension'. Over 80 percent of the labour force are classified as being in the informal sector, 'My Own Pension' which is a tier 3 mobile pension and savings product provides a structured pension system. The service was launch in Accra in May 2018 in partnership with Fidelity Bank and Bora Capital Advisors. MTN Ghana's Mobile Financial Services General Manager Eli Hini said: "We are very satisfied with the response received so far from the public, and this tells us that we are gradually achieving success with our quest to drive financial inclusion in Ghana". Contributions start from GHS 1 (USD 0.21) daily, GHS 5 weekly and GHS 20 monthly.

Kenya: Data protection - A draft data protection law wil be published in June to set safeguards for personal data held by mobile phone-based lenders, Reuters has reported. Cabinet Secretary for ICT Joe Mucheru said the legislation would outline how data can be stored and shared and will take into account standards set by data protection regulators outside Kenya, including in the EU. On 24 May the EU implemented its General Data Protection Regulations which affected the way consumer data is collected, stored, and used, and in particular that harvested from Websites. The government estimates that mobile phone-based financial businesses are lending more than KES 15 billion (USD 147.2 million) daily. The draft Bill be published within two weeks, with input sought from industry and the public before the final version is placed before Parliament.

Kenya: Tower developments - American Tower has now received approval India's Department of Telecommunications to acquire almost 9,000 towers from Idea Cellular for a total of INR 40 billion (USD 584 million), DevelopingTelecoms has reported. The company has completed the second and final stage of its acquisition of 20,000 towers from Idea and Vodafone India. Just last month, the government approved American Tower buying around 11,000 towers from Vodafone for a sum of INR 38.5 billion. American Tower is also set to acquire 723 towers from Telkom Kenya and the Kenyan market will represent the company's fifth in Africa and the 17th globally; it is also active in Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda.

Liberia: Less taxing platform - The Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) in collaboration with Lonestar Cell MTN, USAID Revenue Generation for Governance and Growth Project (RG3) and the United Bank for Africa (UBA), officially launched the Lonestar Cell MTN Mobile Tax Payment Service on 8 June 2018. The platform is expected to facilitate easy payment of all taxes and fees by eliminating the need to travel to make payment. It will cover tax collections for Business Income Tax, Corporate Income Tax, Personal Income Tax, Excise Tax, Goods and Service Tax, Withholding and Real Estate Tax. The platform will also be used to pay non-tax fees for Birth, Marriage, Travel Clearance, Fire Safety and Business Registration Renewal Certificates.

Nigeria: 622 for complaints - The Nigerian Communication Commissions (NCC) has urged mobile subscribers to record their complaints of unsatisfactory services using its 622 Toll-Free-Line, NAN reported. The NCC's Executive Vice Chairman Umar Danbatta said it was concerned with the complaints, which include unsolicited text messages and calls, and the failure/refusal to roll over unused data services at the expiration of data bundled by service providers. Others include the automatic renewal of data services upon expiration and activation, subscription to data and Value Added Services (VAS) without the consent of subscribers. Danbatta said that the Consumers Outreach Forum was an NCC initiative to bring together consumers in urban areas with network operators and regulators to discuss and offer solutions to consumer's related issues.

Nigeria: Major market - StarTimes Overseas Public Relations Director William Masy on 7 June said that it had some 3 million Nigerian subscribers across the country's six geo-political zones, out of a total 10 million in Africa. The comment was made to a delegation of journalists at the Corporate Headquarters in Beijing, New Stage reported. Masy noted that StarTimes, which was founded in 1988, now has established subsidiaries in more than 30 countries, including Rwanda, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique, Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Africa and others. He said that Nigeria is currently the largest market for its products and services.

Nigeria: Rainy season relief - The World Food Programme's Emergency Telecommunications Sector (ETS) reports that in view of the coming rainy season, all ETS equipment has been transferred to solid prefabricated structures in Gwoza, Bama and Dikwa. It also reported that the Ministry of Communications has granted the ETS the requested radio frequencies for the use of ETS security telecommunications services by the humanitarian community in North-East Nigeria.

another fine mess for african telecoms

Nigeria: Regulatory roll-over - The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has given directives to network operators to start providing data rollover from 26 June 2018. The directive was issued in the name of NCC's Executive Vice Chairman Umar Danbatta, through the Head of Information and Reference Unit, Ismail Adedigba at the 95th Consumers Outreach Programme in Dutse, Jigawa State, the Daily Trust reported. It was reported that any operator that fails to comply with this directive will pay a fine of NGN 5 million (USD 13,800) on the first rollover failure and NGN 500,000 (USD 1,380) for each subsequent day, for every subscriber whose data was not rolled over.

Nigeria: VOD arising - According to GFK's 2018 international ViewScape survey, some 92 percent of Nigerian adults with Internet access now use some form of free online video service, while 55 percent of them pay to watch digital online content. The launch of Multichoice's DStv in 1993 saw the gradual shift of many households to satellite TV. DStv in Nigeria still boasts of over 11 million subscribers in Nigeria, about 40 percent of its total subscribers in Africa, and is still the lead provider in the African Pay TV market even after the launch of Kwese TV (and TSTV). However VoD services such as Netflix, iROKO, Showmax and iFlix are seeing growing success in Africa.

State of Digital - Angola: February 2018

South Africa: Biggest BEE deal yet - Mobile operator Vodacom has announced a new multibillion-rand black economic empowered (BEE) deal, which it claims is the biggest so far in the ICT sector, Business Live reported. The proposed ZAR 17.5 billion (USD 1.4 billion) transaction replaces the existing BEE deal that is scheduled to unwind in October and will give YeboYethu shareholders a more direct holding in Vodacom. The existing BEE scheme, which is made up of Vodacom SA shareholders, will be consolidated into a new YeboYethu vehicle, which will then acquire between 5.8 and 6.25 percent of the shares in the Vodacom Group. YeboYethu shareholders will vote on the transaction on 17 August. Vodacom says the new transaction, which also incorporates the newly formed employee share ownership scheme, will take its BEE shareholding to 20 percent of the group.

South Africa: FttH connections - The Department of Telecommunications has released its latest presentation on the South Africa Connect policy, which aims to increase Internet connectivity. Statistics from the FTTX Council show that 280,000 homes are now connected to fibre in South Africa as of March 2018, up from 191,000 more homes since 2017. The number of home passed by fibre has also increased, up from 439,000 in March 2017 to 933,000 in March 2018 a year-on-year growth of 112 percent. Telkom recent announced that it has connected some 109,336 homes with Openserve fibre. 4G/LTE coverage was 77 percent in 2017, up from 53 percent in 2015. 3G coverage was flat at 99 percent in 2017 and 2016.

South Africa: Keen pricing - Vodacom has partnered with Google to launch the Android Go smartphones, MyBoradband reported. The new Vodacom Vaya programme was launched at an event in Sandton, Johannesburg. The Android 8.1 Go Edition is a streamlined version of the Android 8.1 operating system, which retains the interface and core features while offering a smaller installed size and less performance overhead. Google's Director of Android Platform Partnerships for Google in Africa Mahir Sahin said Android devices have to work well at all price points, and hence the creation of the Android 8.1 Go. The devices are priced below ZAR 1,000 (USD 78) and are part of the company's plan to migrate customers to 3G and 4G handsets; Vodacom said that of the 30 million sub-ZAR1,000 smartphones sold in South Africa, only half a million are 4G-enabled.

South Africa: LTE launch - Broadband group Rain (previously known as Wireless Business Solutions) has LTE service priced at ZAR 50 (USD 3.97) per 1GB. The data packages are offered without contracts, regular monthly fees or expiry period. It is offering up to 90 days of free unlimited data, after which users will be charged for their consumption at the end of each month. An unlimited off-peak data add-on costs ZAR 250 (USD 1983) per month.

Zimbabwe: Fines formulated - The government is to announce new tariffs for the mobile sector, with plans to impose heavy fines on operators that provide substandard services, such as dropped calls and questionable billing, reports The Sunday Mail. Minister of ICT and Cyber Security Supa Mandiwanzira said that the pricing regime followed consultations with operators. He added that POTRAZ is importing equipment to monitor service quality.

Zimbabwe: Money million milestone - NetOne has said that up to a million subscribers are now using its OneMoney mobile money platform. Chief Executive Officer, Lazarus Muchenje said that it now offers a debit card, which is linked to the country's digital payments facility, Zimswitch. He added: "We started seven months ago and already we have one million subscribers." The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) report that the total number of active mobile money subscriptions rose by 42.5 percent to 4.7 million in 2017 from 3.3 million in 2016. TechZim noted that the million subscribers includes users of the discontinued OneWallet, which operated for 6 years, and not solely of OneMoney which has operated for just 7 months.

Middle East:

Bahrain: Speeds showcased - VIVA Bahrain showcased the speeds and capabilities of its 5G technology on 11 June. A number of 5G-enabled devices are now available for public trial such as 4K UHD TV and Virtual Reality (VR) goggles. During the live 5G speed test, VIVA Bahrain achieved speeds of up to 1.5 Gbps using a commercial broadband router. The launch took place at City Centre Bahrain's Central Galleria in the presence of VIVA Bahrain's Chairman, Mr. Abdulla Zmami, CEO of VIVA Bahrain, Mr. Ulaiyan Al Wetaid, and other VIVA senior management members.

Israel: Bezeq via BCom? - Internet Gold - Golden Lines said on 10 June 2018 that it was considering offers to sell part or all of its shares in B Communications, through which it controls Bezeq. It said that a 'few' potential buyers had expressed interest in its 64.78 percent stake in BCom, a company which has a single asset, a 26.34 percent controlling stake in Bezeq. In a statement on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange it said it was 'examining the possibility of advancing any of the offers over the next two weeks and the feasibility of implementing a transaction'. Internet Gold, which is controlled by holding company Eurocom, is also continuing to examine the possibility of an issuance of capital. Potential bidders include US private equity fund Blackstone Group, the news portal Haaretz reported.

Duraline banner advertisement

Kuwait: Global gaming - Global mobile payments company Docomo Digital has launched its unique gaming platform with Zain Kuwait to offer over a thousand games compatible with iOS, Android and Windows operating systems. Brands include Disney, Sega, Bandai, Capcom and Square Enix. The deal will provide Zain's 46.9 million users with access to its mobile entertainment partners and Direct Carrier Billing technology and sees Docomo Digital's gaming platform licensed and used by Zain in what was described as unprecedented scope in the region and will be combined with Docomo Digital's Direct Carrier Billing technology enabling consumers to charge content purchases direct to their mobile phone bills.

Oman: Partners added - Ooredoo Oman's Nojoom loyalty programme now has new partners, including offers on more hotels, restaurants and retail outlets. Customers can exchange points for subscriptions to data bundles, international minutes, and bill payments, as well as a host of non-telecoms benefits and discounts. Nojoom points are earned by making calls, sending texts, paying Ooredoo's bills, or using any of the company's services. New partners include Le Sifah Resort, Juweira Boutique Hotels and Residence, Fauchon Paris French Restaurant, Al Makan Cafe, Karak Gholam and Al Diwaniya for Omani Sweets.

GMS advertising banner

Qatar: Hybrid cloud - Ooredoo Qatar is partnering with Microsoft to enable Ooredoo to be the first telecom provider in the Gulf to provide Microsoft Azure stack hybrid cloud, which will enable digital business growth and digital transformation. Azure Stack is an extension of the Microsoft Azure Cloud. It enables cloud functionality at Ooredoo's local in-country data centres, giving customers the power of the cloud, scalability and control of their data available within Qatar. Ooredoo will offer its customers a wide range of cloud-based solutions hosted out of its world-class Tier 3 certified Qatar Data Centre. Customers will be able to choose from Infrastructure as Service solutions, such as back-up and disaster recovery, data centre modernisation and Platform as a Service solutions, such as mobile and Web applications.

Qatar: Port facilitated - Vodafone Qatar and the Hamad Port Project Steering Committee have signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in early June for the provision of fixed and mobile services. Vodafone reported that it has already starting providing entities in Hamad Port, the largest in the Middle East. It has worked closely with the Qatar Ports Management Company (Mwani) to provide Hamad Port with high-speed mobile coverage services and a high-speed fibre technology network. Hamad Port is one of the world's largest greenfield port developments. The port was officially opened in September 2017 in Umm Al Houl area and covers an area of 28.5 square km.

Advertisement

Saudi Arabia: Nokia network upgrade - Nokia is to modernise and optimise Etihad Etisalat's (Mobily) IP and optical networks. Nokia's next-generation routing and transport platforms will be deployed in the Central, Eastern and Northern areas. The Software Defined Networking (SDN) solution will enable Mobily to address the future bandwidth needs of upcoming technologies such as 5G, Cloud RAN and front-haul technologies. Nokia's products will be deployed in the MPLS and DWDM layers to make the existing network software controlled to reduce complexity, which in turn give greater flexibility. Mobily's CEO Ahmed Aboudoma said: "This modernisation prepares Mobily for 5G technology, quicker expansion of services, and gives our customers enhanced service quality."

United Arab Emirates: Soccer season - beIN Media Group has signed deals with du and Etisalat enabling viewers in the UAE to watch all 64 matches of the upcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup live on beIN Sports channels. The World Cup starts on 14 June runs until 15 July. Four beIN Sports Max channels have been launched for the World Cup. beIN exclusively holds the rights to the FIFA World Cup in the MENA region, and du and beIN have reached an agreement to offer du customers live, and in full HD, 64 matches across four beIN Sports Max channels. The contract with du expired on 31 May 31, and beIN granted du 24 hours to complete the necessary procedures for renewing the contract. beIN also confirmed that it has reached an agreement with Etisalat and the new two-year agreement grants eLife the rights to rebroadcast all four beIN Sports Max HD channels, as well as the beIN 4K channel, to its entire IPTV UAE customer base.

Device developments:

Bahrain: Samsung smartphones - Samsung Gulf Electronics announced on 11 June the launch of the 2018 Galaxy J4 and Galaxy J6 smartphones. The Galaxy J6 gives users nearly 15 percent more display area without increasing the overall size of the device. Featuring an 18.5:9 aspect ratio, the devices provide an end-to-end viewing experience and more browsing space. Additionally, the new Galaxy J-Series devices come with Samsung's Super AMOLED display technology that produces deeper contrasts and delivers the most vivid viewing experience. The J4 and J6 are available at all major retailers and Samsung Brand stores across Bahrain, as well as online at Shop.Samsung.com and are priced at BHD 65 (USD 171) for the J4 and BHD 101 (USD 266) for the J6.

Nigeria: TECNO triumph - TECNO Mobile released its TECNO Spark 2 on 11 June. Speaking at the official launch of TECNO Spark 2 in Lagos, TECNO Mobile's Brand Manager Luke Pan said that the launch of the hybrid smartphone was due to the success that came with the first Spark edition and the high demand by end users. Android Nigeria's Country Manager Teju Ajani said it had teamed up with Transsion through its Android Go programme. The TECNO spark 2 can be purchased from any smartphone store nationally. Meanwhile Tecno Mobile said it had partnered with 9mobile to offer the Spark 2 smartphone in Nigeria. 9mobile customers buying the device will receive a 2GB instant data bonus, plus a 100 percent bonus on all purchased data plans for the first six months after purchase, along with a 50 percent bonus on all data plans purchased for the subsequent six months.

United Arab Emirates: Carved cellphone - Huawei has introduced a handset trade-in scheme allowing customers to exchange their old Android and iOS phones at Huawei service centres for a new Huawei model or accessories. Customers using the trade-in service by 30 June will get a bonus coupon of AED 200 (USD 54) for their old phone, which can be used to buy a new device, a free laser carving voucher (personalised message carved on the device), and a surprise gift from Huawei. The trade-in service can be used to obtain the Huawei P20 Pro or the Mate 10 Pro, with new AI capabilities, or one of a range of Huawei accessories.

United Arab Emirates: Watch offer - On 7 June Etisalat said that it will sell the next generation wearable phone, Apple Watch Series 3. Gulf News reported that the device had starting price of AED 1,364 (USD 370), and will be available from 15 June. Pre-ordering is available. A special introductory trial is being offered, and as a launch promotion, users will get a free subscription for the first three months. Two models are available, one with GPS and mobile, and one with GPS, both featuring a 70 percent faster dual-core processor and new wireless chip. Etisalat is the first UAE operator to offer the eSIM function over Apple Watch cellular. Enabling the Apple watche eSIM will cost AED 25 (USD 6.80).