News in Brief 12 September 2018

Africa:

Africa: Reading habits - Opera and Worldreader have said that Africans spent more than 4 million hours reading books on their mobile phones in 2018. This is an increase of 32 percent over the same period last year. Opera and Worldreader started their partnership in 2015 to bring free e-books to millions of mobile users in Africa through Opera Mini. 65 percent of mobile readers are men and 35 percent are women. However, women tend to spend 11.5 minutes reading on average while men read for 6.5 minutes per session, making women the more frequent readers.

Algeria: Bigger bonuses - On 5 September 2018 state-owned mobile operator Mobilis launched its PixX1000 promotional plan for Mobtasim pre-paid plan members. For DZD 1,000 (USD 8.38) users get 30-days of 2X more calls and SMS bonuses to other networks in France; calls + SMS unlimited access to the Mobilis network; DZD 4,000 bonus for all national networks; 13 GB and free Facebook access.

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Egypt: Data focus - Mobile network operator Etisalat Misr invested some EGP 2.5 billion (USD 139.7 million) in 2017, and in 2018 intends to increase the investment to EGP 3.5 billion (USD 195.6 million). The increased spend is being used to improve the network to meet the growing demand for Internet connectivity. Etisalat Misr's Director of Commercial Affairs Khaled Hegazy told the Daily News Egypt that data transmission services now account for 25 to 30 percent of the revenues of the telecom sector. Hegazy noted that despite the difficult economic conditions faced by users there had been significant growth in data. However voice will continue to play its role.

Egypt: New directors - Orange Egypt has appointed two new independent Board Members, Sheriff Samy and Eng. Hesham Mekawi. Samy is the former Chairman of Egyptian Financial Regulatory Authority with experience in the fields of financial markets, investment and governance as well as being a member of the Investment Board of the State Pension Funds and of the International Advisory Board of the UAE Securities & Commodities Authority. Hisham Mekawi is the regional head of BP North Africa and has over 25 years of experience in business, economic analysis and business development in Houston, Chicago and London. The move follows the company’s capital increase of EGP 15.3 billion (USD 855 million), which is claimed to be the largest capital increase for an Egyptian company in the recent years.

Guinea: Office furniture - The Autorite de Regularisation des Postes et Telecommunications (ARPT) in its 2018 Action Plan included the acquisition of office equipment and supplies. It is now seeking bids from eligible candidates for two lots. Tenders must be submitted no later than Friday, 28 September 2018 at 4:00 pm, and should be valid for 30 days. The documentation can be downloaded here.

Kenya: Data control tool - Safaricom has announced new data management tools, including one allowing the choice of a preferred speed, in order to help manage data usage better. Chief Executive Bob Collymore said it had received numerous complaints that data is being depleted too fast, so new tools are being piloted to improve transparency on data usage. Speaking after the AGM the CEO said Safaricom it is aiming to give more control to users to choose and track data usage in a transparent manner, Business Daily reported. The tool will alert users of abnormal spikes in data usage, and in cases of data being depleted unexpectedly, Safaricom said that it would reimburse the data bundle in certain cases.

Kenya: Diaspora destination - European digital money transfer service Azimo says that it has seen 80 percent growth in transactions sent to M-Pesa wallets in Kenya since the start of 2018. There were over 20 million monthly active M-Pesa users at the end of March 2018 and 101,000 active merchants. Azimo has been working with cross-border payments hub Homesend, the joint venture of Mastercard and eServGlobal, to enable the instant payment of money transfers to the Kenyan mobile wallets. Transactions originate from the UK and main European countries, where the Kenyan diaspora resides. According to the latest census, there are more than 160,000 registered Kenyans living in the UK and that send USD 590.97 million in inward remittances.

Kenya: Director drops-out - Safaricom's independent director Susan Mudhune has stepped down after serving on the board for nine years, Business Daily reported. Mudhune is a corporate governance consultant holds 51,200 shares. She retired as director with effect from the Annual General Meeting of the company held on 31 August 2018. Mudhune served as chairperson of lender KCB Group for five years from 2003 and was the first female director at industrial gases manufacturer, Carbacid Industrial Investments when she joined its board in July 2017. She also sits on the board of Nairobi Securities Exchange-listed insurer Sanlam as well as Safaricom';s board audit committee. In June 2018, she was sworn into the Kenya Revenue Authority board alongside chairperson Francis Muthaura and fellow members Charles Makori Omanga and Leonard Ithau.

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Kenya: Disaster alerts - Safaricom and the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) have partnered to provide an SMS based tool to provide timely early warnings of disasters and lessen the adverse effects on communities. The M-Salama platform will be available to all Safaricom subscribers. Each SMS costs KES 1 (USD 0.01).

Kenya: Heavy users targeted - Telkom Kenya has launched a data offering for young, heavy Internet users branded 4G Bomba. In August Telkom expanded its LTE network in Nairobi and its environs of Athi River, Syokimau, Kitengela, Thika, Kiambu town, Kikuyu town, Kiserian and Ngong. The 300 sites in and around Nairobi have been positioned to give a wide coverage around Central Business District stretching to Ruai, Utawala, Kiserian, Rongai, Kiambu, Thika and Kitengela, among others. Telkom's 4G network is now available in more than 30 major towns and urban areas.

Malawi: Fibre stake - Private equity firm Harith General Partners has acquired a majority stake in Malawian fibre-optic cable operator Open Connect Limited (OCL), Bloomberg reports. OCL was created in March 2016 as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Malawi Telecommunications Limited (MTL) to manage, develop and maintain the country's 2,250km national fibre backbone. Harith's other fibre investments in Africa include a 30 percent stake in Dark Fibre Africa (DFA) and a Nigerian data centre company.

Maldives: Discounted deals - Subscribers who commit to a long-term contract for post-paid plans are being offered up to 15 percent discounts by Ooredoo Maldives. This applies to Postpaid 600, Postpaid 800 or Postpaid 1000 plans. Students can also get a 5 percent discount for post-paid unlimited plans including Postpaid 200, Postpaid 400, Postpaid 600, Postpaid 800 and Postpaid 1000.

Mauritania: Interim interconnect - Interconnection/access catalogues for electronic communications operators for the period 2018-2019 where published by Autorite de Regulation on 24 July 2018. This records the regulator's decision on the extension of the validity date of the 2017-2018 regimes until 31 December 2018. The decision is available here.

Mauritius: Spectrum session - On the opening day of the Commonwealth Spectrum Management Forum’18, Mauritius' Minister of Technology, Communication and Innovation Yogida Sawmynaden, ICT Authority Chaiman Mahmad Aleem Bocus and Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation's (CTO) Acting Secretary-General Mrs Gisa Fuatai Purcell led calls for Commonwealth contributions in advance of the world radiocommunication conference - WRC-19, to promote efficient use of spectrum utilisation to achieve universal broadband access and support growth of current technologies. The forum will be held at the Intercontinental Hotel, Balaclava in Mauritius on 4 - 6 October 2018. The event is convened to enable international bodies, policymakers, telecoms regulators and experts from across the Commonwealth to share spectrum management experiences.

State of Digital - Angola: February 2018

Mozambique: Soccer support - Vodacom signed a memorandum of understanding with the Mozambican Football Federation (FMF) on 23 August in Maputo to support the activities of the Federation and the National Soccer Team, the Mambas. The operator will supply various telecom services, and will also be able to mount marketing and promotional campaigns which will also support the Mambas.

Senegal: Cyber-threat centre - NEC XON opened a cyber-defence operations centre in Dakar on 11 September 2018. The centre is part of the NEC XON African expansion programme and is the result of collaboration with the local company La Colombe Group. NEC XON has also planned the installation of a cyber security centre in Nigeria and Mauritius. NEC XON's head of Cyber Defence Operations Centre, Vernon Fryer said that the three centres are part of the global implementation of NEC's Cyber Security Cyber Security Centres, complementing the facilities located in Japan, Australia, Singapore, South Africa, Brazil, Vienna and the USA.

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Senegal: Internet enhancement - Sonatel (National Telecommunications Company of Senegal) have been trialling 4G+ since 6 September 2018. The complete network of major cities by 4G, including all the regional capitals of Senegal and the most populated cities, will be fully connected from October 2018. Sonatel's General Manager Sekou Drame said that it aimed to facilitate quality Internet access for the largest population and at affordable prices. Sonatel said that in 2017 the broad coverage in 4G has enabled the majority of the population to benefit and in 2018 it was intending to cover all of the regional capitals by November. In parallel it had reduced Internet rates by some 20 percent; and in January 2018, rates fell to 50 percent on both mobile and ADSL.

Seychelles: Second submarine link - Seychelles Cable Systems Company (SCS) has signed with Pakistan East Africa Cable Express (PEACE) network, Huawei International and Huawei Marine Networks for a cable link. Work is expected to start in 2019, with completion expected in 2020. The Department of Information Communication Technology's (DICT) Principal Secretary Benjamin Choppy told the Seychelles News Agency (SNA): "With a second submarine cable link to the country, we achieve our long-desired goal of security in our international telecommunications links. Connectivity to the rest of the world is indispensable for a small island developing state like Seychelles." The 115 islands benefit from the Seychelles East Africa System (SEAS), connecting the main island Mahe to Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania.

South Africa: LTE leader - Vodacom is the fastest mobile network operator in the latest tests by OpenSignal. Vodacom was top performer in the 4G download and upload categories, as well as the 3G download and overall download speeds. It passed the 30 ms threshold for the first time in its latency measurements, with a 4G latency score a full 4ms quicker than MTN. MTN, however, scored on 4G availability with a score of 78 percent, with a lead over Vodacom of over 6 percentage points. There were just 12 percentage points separating all four operators, as LTE availability scores were much closer than those in speed.

Uganda: Tax fall-out - Annual headline inflation for the year ending August rose to 3.8 percent, up 0.7 percent from July's 3.1 percent, which was attributed to new taxes in the telecoms sector. Uganda Bureau of Statistics (Ubos) data indicated that annual headline inflation was largely driven up by an increase in communication inflation which rose to 12 percent up from 5.4 percent in July. Ubos’ Director for Macroeconomics, Dr Chris N Mukiza, cited the new tax measures imposed on mobile money, social media and the increase of Excise Duty in the telecommunications sector. Internet, telephone and teller fax services rose by 16.3 percent.

Zambia: Increased investment - MTN Zambia has invested some USD 35.7 million improving network coverage during 2018. It is currently rolling out new mobile money booths and MTN stores, together with a faster network (3G and 4G), better data access and greater financial inclusion. MTN Zambia CTO Thomas Motlepa said that by the end of 2018 it will have commissioned 290 new sites to improve mobile coverage in remote areas.

Zimbabwe: Copper theft curbs - TelOne has increased its efforts to tackle network vandalism and copper thefts by installing security alarms on its copper infrastructure. The operator has been a victim of increased network vandalism, and since January there have been at least 33 cases, affecting hundreds of clients, according to Communications and Customer Service head Melody Harry. Security patrols have been stepped-up in high-risk areas, and also engaged in massive anti-vandalism campaigns toS educate communities. It is also working with the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority and the police to step up patrols at the borders to stop smuggling of stolen copper.

Zimbabwe: New ministerial mandate - A cabinet reshuffle on 7 September saw Supa Mandiwanzira replaced by Kazembe Kazembe as the Minister of ICT and Cybersecurity. Mandiwanzira was appointed in 2014.

Middle East:

Bahrain: Mall integration - Batelco has signed a partnership deal with the Dilmunia Mall Development Company to provide integrated ICT solutions for the Mall complex. The deal was signed by Batelco Bahrain Chief Executive Officer Mohamed Bubashait and Dilmunia Mall Development Company Chairman Shaikh Khalid bin Mohamed-Al Khalifa at the Dilmunia Mall Development Company headquarters. Batelco will provide network, digital and security solutions, Wi-Fi and mall management solutions.

Bahrain: Registration regime - Zain Bahrain has temporarily suspended all non-registered post-paid SIMs and home broadband lines following the 2 September deadline set by the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA). Suspended accounts have until 2 December to be registered, after which the accounts will be permanently deactivated, Zain said.

Cyprus: Sale settled - MTN said the sale of MTN Cyprus to Monaco Telecom has been completed for a consideration of ZAR 4.5 billion (USD 314 million) paid upfront in cash, which will be used towards the settlement of USD-denominated debt. On 16 July MTN Group said that its wholly owned subsidiary MTN Dubai had agreed to sell all of MTN Cyprus to Monaco Telecom.

Iran: Support for start-ups - The University of Tehran's Faculty of Entrepreneurship has signed a deal with the Telecommunication Company of Iran to support start-ups active in the field of telecommunication, ISNA reported. Faculty of Entrepreneurship Chancellor Mohammadreza Zali expressed his desire that the agreement will provide support for start-ups and they can develop their market in the form of start-up accelerators. Start-up accelerators support early-stage, growth-driven companies through education, mentorship, and financing for a fixed-period of time, and as part of a cohort of companies.

Israel: Data focus - The Ministry of Communications has requested details from Rami Levy Communications of its ILS 1 (USD 0.27) per month mobile plan following concerns that it might harm competition, Globes reported. The operator is offering its loyalty club members packages for ILS 1 (USD 0.27) a month for a year. The complete package includes mobile calls and 8 GB of monthly data. Globes noted that Golan Telecom previously offered a second subscription for ILS 1 a month. The offer is valid until 16 October. Rami Levy normally offers packages without Internet as Haredim want a kosher phone.

Israel: Optimised network - Cellcom Israel has selected Dialogic Infrastructure Products to improve its network efficiency. Dialogic announced on 5 September that Cellcom Israel was to install the Dialogic ControlSwitch solution and Dialogic I-Gate 4000 Media Gateway for its international voice services. Cellcom Israel Director of Network Engineering Department Ronen Halali said that the solution included advanced reporting and monitoring tools, whilst all supplied products have integrated seamlessly into its voice network.

Oman: Faster fibre - Ooredoo Oman's Super Fibre Home Internet offered triple speed through to 22 September. New and existing customers on the 20, 50 and 100 Mbps contract plans could upgrade to faster home broadband starting at OMR 5 (USD 13) a month. Users on annual contracts on the 20 Mbps plan could upgrade to 60 Mbps for OMR 5 extra a month, while those on the 50 Mbps can upgrade to 150 Mbps for an additional OMR 6 a month, and the 100 Mbps plan to 300 Mbps for an additional OMR 7 a month.

Oman: Funding for fibre - Oman Broadband Company has signed an OMR 92 million (USD 238.4 million) financing agreement with Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to invest in infrastructure and finance projects, the Muscat Daily reported. Oman Broadband's CEO Said bin Abdullah al Mantheri said that the deal aims to provide high-speed communications services using fibre-optic network expansion projects. Mantheri said that the loan will be used to finance the capital projects to be completed by 2021 under the first phase of the implementation of the National Broadband Strategy. Oman Broadband was founded in 2014 as a joint stock company wholly owned by the Government of the Sultanate of Oman.

Qatar: Mutual meet-up - The Minister of Transport and Communications Jassim Saif Ahmed Al-Sulaiti has met with Somalia’s Minister of Commerce and Industry Mohamed Abdi Hayir. The two discussed bilateral relations and the means of further enhancing and developing them in all fields, but particularly in the transport sector.

Saudi Arabia: Pilgrim protection - Airbus has supplied Saudi-based STC Specialized and House of Invention International (HOI) with secure communication infrastructure for the security staff protecting this year's Hajj pilgrimage. STC Specialized is a national licensed operator offering services and mission-critical solutions as well as instant collaborative wireless communication systems to various industries.

Turkey: Development deal - Nokia has signed a cooperation deal with Turkcell for the development of technologies to facilitate the Internet of Things (IoT), smart automobiles, online medicine and automatisation, MENAFN reports. Turkcell's deputy General Manager for Networks, Gediz Sezgin, said: 'With the project, 5G will be commercialised in Turkey and we will take important steps to produce future technologies.'

United Arab Emirates: Board vacancies filled - Etisalat has appointed Juan Villalonga, the former chief executive of Telefonica, to the last of the seven board seats assigned to the Emirates Investment Authority, which represents the government's shareholding. Villalonga is a co-founder and partner at Hermes Growth Partners, a private equity firm specialising in investments in growth-stage companies. The other six seats were filled in March by Eissa Mohamed Ghanhem Al Suwaidi (chairman), Essa Abdulfattah Kazim Al Mulla (vice chairman), Hesham Abdulla Qassim Al Qassim (member), Mohamed Sultan Abdulla Mohamed Al Hameli (member), Mariam Saeed Ahmed Saeed Ghobash (member) and Salah Abdulla Ahamd Nasser Looah (member).

Device developments:

Qatar: Family friendly - On 9 September Vodafone Qatar launched the Vodafone Smart N9 lite, a 4G smartphone targeted at families and children for just QAR 429 (USD 116). The device has a 5.3 inch display with a premium-level 18:9 aspect ratio offered in White Pearl and Black Ice variants. Parental restrictions on the device allow access and screen time to be set, and also include a new 'force ring' feature, giving parents the ability to call their children at full ring volume, even if the child’s phone is on silent. It is shipped with the Android 8.1 Oreo (Go Edition) operating system, and is powered by a Quad-core MediaTek processor, provides 16GB of internal storage, and a 2460mAh battery. It has an 8MP rear-facing camera with flash and a front-facing 5MP camera. With each device purchased, new and existing post-paid subscribes will receive up to 21GB of free data over three months, and pre-paid users 6GB of free data for 90 days. It comes with a two-year warranty. The Smart series has been designed and tested by Vodafone in Germany.