News in Brief 11 July 2018

Africa: Support for innovation - Liquid Telecom has partnered with AfriLabs, the largest network organisation of 100 innovation centres in thirty African countries, to explore new ways to support local start-ups and promote sustainable innovation across Africa. The two will launch a series of joint programmes to accelerate growth within the region's tech start-up communities. AfriLabs was founded in 2011 to build a community around rapidly emerging tech hubs. Liquid will provide connectivity to AfriLabs innovation centres within its fibre footprint, which includes Nairobi Garage in Kenya, Bongohive in Zambia and BUNI in Tanzania. It will also provide start-ups with access to the Microsoft Azure platform, as well as the software developer platform, GitHub, which Microsoft recently acquired.

Algeria: Satellite medicine - The Minister of Health, Population and Hospital Reform announced on 7 July 2018 that some 4,000 health facilities will shortly be interconnected by satellite, Agence Ecofin reported. It is seen as an extension of the telemedicine network of Algeria, officially launched on 5 April 2016 and currently formed of the Internet interconnection of five university hospital centres, twelve public hospitals and hospitals. The National Agency for Health Documentation acts as the technical piloting platform.

Eritrea: Peace dividend - The governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea have reached a joint agreement. signed on 9 July. This states that the state of hostilities between Ethiopia and Eritrea has now formally ended; and the two governments have greed to 'forge intimate political, economic, social, cultural and security cooperation that serves and advances the vital interests of their peoples'. More crucially transport, trade and communications links between the two countries are to be restored, and diplomatic ties and activities will restart. The border between the two countries will be implemented.

Egypt: Debt dividend - Telecom Egypt (TE) said that Vodafone Egypt's annual General Assembly on 28 June approved the distribution of dividends with a total value of EGP 1.1 billion (USD 61.4 million) from its retained earnings. With its 45 percent stake, TE will receive a payment of some EGP 499 million (USD 27.9 million) which will be used to repay a portion of its existing short-term debt.

State of Digital - Angola: February 2018

Egypt: Roaming revision - Telecom Egypt and Etisalat Misr have amended their national roaming agreement from July 2017, giving better financial and service quality terms, and providing better commercial conditions for Telecom Egypt. This follows the development of the volume of Telecom Egypt's data traffic. Telecom Egypt has national roaming on Etisalat's network for voice and data traffic, and runs until December 2022. The two also signed a letter of intent (LoI) regarding mobile termination rates, which include a preferential termination rate for Telecom Egypt.

Kenya: API now available - Finserve is to open up its platform to over 2,000 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to leverage its application programming interface (API), Business Daily Africa reported. Finserve Africa Managing Director Jack Ngare at the Fintech Summit 2018 said that it would continue to offer developers the flexibility to devise innovative products using its APIs. One of the products developed is EazzyChama, which allows investment groups to manage financial activities. Launched in September 2017, Finserve's APIs have been used by businesses including those managing airtime sales, logistics, payments, cash management services among others. The Eazzy API allows developers to seamlessly integrate their Websites and apps with Equity Bank's payment platform. Safaricom opened up M-Pesa in 2015 to third party developers.

Nigeria: Consent required - The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has warned service providers not to force the subscriptions of data service and other Value Added Services (VAS) without prior the consent of the subscribers concerned, the Nigeria Communications Week reported. NCC's Consumer Affairs Bureau Deputy Director lhaji Ismail Adedigba gave the warning at the 39th edition of Consumer Town Hall Meeting (CTM), held in Akpabuyo LGA, Cross River State. The directive was implemented on 21 May, and Adedigba said that the NCC had been 'inundated' with complaints including the failure to roll over data at the expiration of data bundles by service providers, automatic renewal of data services upon expiration and activation/subscription to data and other value added services without prior consent of the subscribers.

Nigeria: Infrastructure inadequacy - Main One Cable's Chief Executive Officer Funke Opeke has suggested that the submarine cables on Africa's west coast are probably operating at 20 percent of capacity or less. The comment was made in an interview with DatacenterDynamics. It was suggested that the problem is the lack of neutral or open data centres, as well as the lack of robust infrastructure to move traffic across countries and the West Africa region.

Nigeria: IPO formalities awaited - At the start of this week the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said it had still not received an application for MTN Nigeria's planned initial public offering (IPO), Reuters reported. This followed local reports that the mobile market leader was ready to list its shares. In July 2016 it announced it would list its shares on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), subject to suitable market conditions. The IPO forms part of a settlement arrangement with the government regarding a NGN 330 billion (USD 913 million) fine in October 2015 for missing a deadline to disconnect some 5.1 million unregistered SIM cards.

Nigeria: New tower chief - Pan African Towers (PAT) has appointed Wole Abu as its new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) with effect from 1 July 2018. Abu was previously Airtel Networks' (Nigeria) Vice President Indirect Sales. Pan African Towers is described as a new player in the telecom infrastructure sharing industry that has a collocation and infrastructure sharing license from the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) in 2017. It has over 1,000 towers in Nigeria and Ghana within its first 12 months of operations and has started constructing collocation towers in Nigeria, and plans to construct over a thousand towers in the period 2018 - 2019.

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Rwanda: Cross-border payments - MTN Rwanda has opened its mobile-to-mobile remittance service between Rwanda and Tanzania. Users in Rwanda can send money to Airtel Tanzania subscribers using the MFS Africa Hub, which connects mobile wallet customers across networks and countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Transfer fees start from RWF 3 (USD 0.003).

Senegal: Teleoms tax - The government has approved an increase in the taxes paid by network operators as part of the latest budget. A Special telecommunications contribution is to be levied at 5 percent of revenues excluding tax and net of interconnection costs per quarter, Agence Ecofin reported. This replaces a 3 percent payment of revenues net of interconnection costs levied in 2017; this was a reduction from the previous universal service contribution of 5 percent.

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South Africa: Better bundles - Telkom has announced its new FreeMe Promo All-Network voice bundles which are available for both pre- and post-paid subscribers on FreeMe and FreeMe Family. They are billed per second and are valid for 31 days, and are available from 5 July 2018. The bundles range from 100 minutes for ZAR 40 (USD 2.95) through to 500 minutes for ZAR 150 (USD 11.06).

South Africa: Cellular city deal - Telkom/BCX have signed a service agreement with the city of Tshwane which will see all councillors for the city receive a mobile phone with unlimited data, Businesstech reported. The deal is effective from 27 June and will run for three years. In a release, the authority noted that councillors often run out of airtime and data when on official business when they have to escalate issues or address emergency matters. It was reported that Telkom was chosen over other competitors, based on the package and pricing.

South Africa: Digital hearings promised - Last week the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) said it will convene public hearings into a digital sound broadcasting services. The discussion document was published on 29 March, and called on interested stakeholders to submit their written comments. Some twenty-three submissions were received. Digital Sound is an audio broadcasting technology providing superior quality sound broadcasting using digital technology.

South Africa: Empowerment done deal - Vodacom has said that its YeboYethu broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) transaction was valued at ZAR 16.41 billion (USD 1.21 billion), IOL reported. The deal was announced in June. The final B-BBEE transaction share price was ZAR 143.35 (USD 10.58). Vodacom will issue 114.45 million shares to YeboYethu. The maximum special dividend to be paid to YeboYethu shareholders was ZAR 3.2 billion (USD 236.1 million).

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South Africa: LTE data deals - Telkom has announced its Big Deal for July 2018, offering users two uncapped LTE packages with a Huawei B525 router. The deals are Uncapped LTE Business Hours at ZAR 599 (USD 44) per month for 24 months; and Uncapped LTE All Hours for ZAR 899 (USD 66), also for 24 months. The Business Hours package is available from midnight to 17:00 hrs each day. On the first of each month, users will receive 150GB of data at up to 10Mbps speed. Once the 150GB is depleted, an additional 50GB of data is provided at speeds up to 4Mbps. When this 50GB/4Mbps bundle has been depleted, the service then provides uncapped data at up to 2Mbps for the remainder of the month. Peer-to-peer and NNTP type protocols are further speed restricted. The packages are available until 31 July 2018, or while stocks last.

South Africa: Racing certainty - Vodacom partnered with Nokia to provide a virtual reality viewing experience for the Durban July on 7 July 2018. The demonstration leveraged the high speed and low latencies of 5G technology to stream live 4K footage from the Greyville racecourse. VR cameras broadcast a live, 360-degree video feed to the Vodacom hospitality suite, where guests viewed the race through VR headsets. The video feeds were streamed in real-time over a Nokia Airscale 5G base station, using 100MHz of Vodacom's spectrum in the 28GHz frequency band. Vodacom erected 12 4G+ base stations at the Greyville racecourse to cope with the crowds on the day which were foecast to exceed 50,000 visitors.

South Africa: Storage expansion - Teraco Data Environments, a Liquid Telecom subsidiary, has announced an investment of ZAR 1 billion (USD 73.8 million) for the expansion of its neutral data storage infrastructure. Chief Financial Officer Jan Hnizdo has said that the financing comes from a credit facility of ZAR 1.8 billion (USD 132.8 million) provided by Barclays Africa Group. By 2019 it will spend ZAR 4.5 billion (USD 332.1 million) on building data service centres in South Africa. It upgraded the storage capacity of its Johannesburg and Cape Town facilities in January 2018.

Tanzania: Transit payments - Tanzania Telecommunications Company (TTCL) is in the final stages of integrating its payments system with the Dar es Salaam Rapid Transit (Dart) using the government electronic payment gateway, The Citizen reported. TTCL's Operation's Officer Fatuma Bali said it has won the tender and signed a contract with Dart to start the GePG system. TTCL is now waiting for Dart to reconcile the contract with Maxmalipo shortly, for it to integrate its developed payment systems.

Tunisia: Digital developments - The Tunisian Institute for Strategic Studies (ITES) said on 3 July that Tunisia and China had signed a partnership agreement for the development of the digital economy. The deal was signed during the Belt and Road Digital Economy conference held in Beijing. Young Tunisians will benefit, particularly in areas such as telecoms, fibre optics, network computing and e-commerce. Proposed by China in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Africa and Europe along the trade routes of the ancient Silk Road.

Uganda: Social media tax mediated - Smile Telecom is to pay the UGX 200 (USD 0.05) daily social media tax on behalf of its subscribers for the first three months, The Observer reported. The tax was applied from 1 July at the start of 2018-19 financial year, and also include a 1 percent charge on all mobile money transactions. However, users of virtual private networks (VPN) can access the affected sites and so avoid paying the tax. Consequently the Government has asked Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) to ensure that VPN usage is blocked. The social media tax affects over 50 platforms including Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Viber and Skype. Smile claims to have 50,000 subscribers with coverage of Wakiso, Mukono, Mbarara, Masindi, Fort Portal, Kabale, Gulu, Lira, Soroti, Mbale, Jinja, Tororo, Masaka, Entebbe and Kampala.

Zambia: Cyber constraints - On 5 July the government said it intended to regulate social networks which are accused of contributing to the rise of 'dangerous' social behaviour, and Minister of Communications Brian Mushimba said that cybersecurity laws are now being drafted, which will come into effect in 2019.

Zambia: Privatisation path - President for Patriots for Economic Progress (PeP), Sean Tembo, has called for the government to break Zamtel into three component businesses, namely mobile, fixed and fibre before it is privatised. Tembo said each should then be privatised with a listing on Lusaka Stock Exchange (LuSE). Zamtel experienced a mobile network disruption on 5 and 6 July after a power surge at Lamya House blew a number of transmission components.

Middle East:

Bahrain: Bogof app renewed - Batelco has renewed its partnership agreement with the Entertainer, a provider of loyalty and reward solutions. The co-branded mobile App gives users access to a wide range of 'Buy One Get One Free' offers from local merchants and global hotel offers. Batelco's Al Dana members, loyal high usage subscribers and those subscribed to selected Batelco services, will be eligible for the range of special offers and discounts available in the App.

Israel: Planning relaxation - Cellcom Israel announced on 5 July that the Ministry of Communications has said that its 850MHZ frequency allocation will expire on 1 February 2022 and be replaced by 900MHZ frequencies no later than 22 March 2021. The operator will be notified of the schedule, including interim frequencies allocations as required, in due course. The Ministry has also said that Cellcom may replace base stations and towers without the need to obtain a building permit under certain conditions.

Dubai: Call centre shift - Regional pay-TV provider OSN is to relocate its Dubai-based call centre operations, according to its Chief Executive Martin Stewart. He told The National last week that in 3Q 2018 it will transfer its call centre operation from Dubai to Jordan and Egypt, where operational costs will be are significantly lower. He claims that the same quality of service can be delivered. Dubai-based staff will have the option to relocate to either Jordan or Egypt. OSN is majority owned by Kuwait-based Kipco, which has not published OSN subscriber numbers since 1Q 2016 when subscriptions fell from 1.15 million to 1.03 million.

Kuwait: LTE latest - Voice over Long Term Evolution Plus (VoLTE) Plus has been launched by Viva Kuwait users of iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X and iOS 11.3 or higher (both caller and receiver). Users will be able to get combined voice and Internet traffic  simultaneously and make high-quality calls and video calls with no buffering and less background noise.

United Arab Emirates: Add-ons announced - Mobile network operator Etisalat has launched the region's first 'Annual Add-on' packs, which provide post-paid subscribers bulk data allowances on a 12-month instalment scheme starting from AED 100 (USD 27.22) per month. Users can choose from a variety of options ranging from 50 GB to 1 TB, and all data packs come with a one-month validity. The new 'Annual Add-on' is valid for a year from the date of subscription, which Etisalat claims is the first of its kind in the region. For AED 100 (USD 27.22) per month, subscribers get 50 GB and 2,000 flexible minutes or 100 GB, or there is 500 GB for AED 500 (USD 136) per month or 1 TB for AED 1,000 (USD 272.22) per month.