News in Brief 9 January 2019

Africa:

Algeria: Cheaper Internet - Algeria Telecom has reduced Internet subscription rates for 2 Mbs, from DZD 2,100 (USD 17.57) to DZD 1,600 (USD 13.39) per month with effect from 1 January 2019. The services affected are Idoom ADSL and Idoom Fibre’s residential customers.

Benin: Focus on quality - The Autorite de Regulation des Communications Eletroniques et de la Postes' Matin Libre has said that "the regulatory authority has organized a hearing for the leaders of these two networks [Moov and MTN] to warn them against poor service offered to the people.", the Better informs that "following the dysfunctions observed in the provision of GSM networks, the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Communications and Mail Post challenges operators", apanews reported. MTN is apparently accused of the unavailability of the platforms, making it almost impossible to activate the packages, the erroneous sending of the notification notes for reloading the activation credits for the packages and false claims in advertisements.

Benin: Increased cooperation - There will be increased cooperation between Benin and China in 2019 in a variety of fields such as politics, economy, culture, infrastructure, health, agriculture and telecommunications, according to the Chinese ambassador to Benin, Peng Jingtao. The Sino-Beninese cooperation will be marked with the start of the eight major initiatives launched by China at the end of the 2018 summit on China-Africa Cooperation, to help African countries in general and Benin in particular, the African Daily Voice news site reported.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Internet interupted - The government closed down the Internet in major cities on 31 December, the day after the presidential election, the BBC reported. The government was accused of ordering the shutdown to avoid broadcasting the results. However Minister of Telecommunications Emery Okundji said he was unaware of the situation. It was reported that the Internet was not working in the capital Kinshasa, or in the eastern cities of Goma and Lubumbashi. Internet provider Global said in text messages to customers that the government had ordered the shutdown, AFP reports. Vodacom also said that it had been ordered it to shut down the Internet.

Egypt: Faster fibre deployment - The government is aiming to replace 95 percent of its copper network with fibre by the end of 2020, Agence Ecofin reports. Deputy spokesperson for the Ministry of Communications & Information Technology (MCIT), Ahmed Zidane said that 60 percent of state-owned operator Telecom Egypt's copper network has been replaced with fibre to date, but rate of replacement will be accelerated with a view to improving broadband penetration. The fibre-optic manufacturing plant established in Badr in March 2018 will be utilised.

Ghana: 4G spectrum - The National Communications Authority has awarded 2x5MHz to Vodafone Ghana in the 800 MHz band for USD 30 million, allowing it to launch its own 4G mobile services. The process commenced in September when the NCA called for applications for three lots of spectrum in the band. Two operators submitted applications, and Vodafone was the only successful applicant following financial negotiations. MTN has already acquired 2x10MHz in the band in December 2015, and the NCA divided the remaining spectrum into two 2x5MHz slots plus an additional 2x5MHz released following the digital migration. MTN and others who already have slots in the 800MHz band were excluded from the auction. There is currently four major teleco operating in Ghana, namely Vodafone, MTN, AirtelTigo and Glo.

Kenya: Collymore coerced - The government has appointed Safaricom's CEO Bob Collymore to the Vision 2030 delivery board. He will serve a three-year term from 14 December 2018. The Plan was initiated started in 2008 by the government to drive further industrialisation and increase income levels, with the board made-up of advisors from the private sector. KCB's CEO Joshua Oigara also joined the board with Collymore.

Kenya: Island link - Safaricom has commissioned a 2G mast serving Mkwiro village on Wasini Island, 2 km off the southern Kenyan coast, and only reachable by boat from Shimoni in Kwale county. The island has no police post. Safaricom Regional Network Manager Paul Gakiria said: "We realised that even with a network on the mainland we still had a lot of customers far offshore. One of the reasons we came so far is to minimise the pain of residents."

Maldives: Mobile rising - The national mobile subscriber base rose to 842,534 subscribers in October, compared to 840,425 in September. Mobile penetration also rose to 231.4 percent in October from 230.8 percent in September, according to figures from the Communications Authority of Maldives. Of the total mobile subscribes, 143,204 were post-paid and 699,330 pre-paid. Fixed lines (including payphones) fell to 18,915 in October from 19,538 in September, while fixed-line teledensity also fell to 5.19 percent in September from 5.37 percent in September. The mobile broadband subscriber base grew to 275,142 users in October from 266,957 in September, while the fixed broadband user base fell to 44,047 in October from 45,770 in September.

Mozambique: Tax haven? - The Tax Authority is readying to declare an amnesty on fines, interest and taxes due from state-owned entities, which in total owe about MZN 9 billion (USD 145 million), reports Lusa. The entities concerned are TV de Mozambique (TVM), Petroleos de Mocambique (Petromoc), Eletricidade de Mocambique (EDM) and Mocambique Celular. However, the pardon will not be extended to the net debt of companies, which if not paid will give rise to tax enforcement. The measure aims to enable debtor entities to alleviate their tax burdens.

Nigeria: New appointment - MTN Nigeria has named Funsho Aina as its new Senior Manager in charge of External Relations. Previously he was Public Relations Manager at MTN Nigeria. He joined the operator in January 2009. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History (University of Ilorin, 1992) and a Masters degree in International Relations (Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, 1998) and is an Associate of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR).

Nigeria: USSD surveys - MTN Nigeria, in partnership with Communication and Marketing Research Group (CMRG), has launched a USSD survey platform. Survey respondents are rewarded with NGN 100 (USD 0.27) of airtime. Branded as MTN Smart Survey, targets subscribers that have been profiled based on specific attributes, such as age, gender, location. Chief Enterprise Business Officer Lynda Saint-Nwafor said clients are provided with analysis, reports and recommendations based on the feedback of the respondents through an accredited research agency.

another fine mess for african telecoms

Rwanda: Free Facebook - MTN Rwanda is to partner with Facebook to launch Facebook Flex, enabling subscribers to access the platform without charge, The New Times reported. MTN has said that if users will have options to switch between free and paid modes allowing them to control their data usage. Facebook Head of Connectivity & Access for Africa's Kojo Boakye said that they also aim at giving people the power to undertake community initiatives.

Rwanda: Internet initiatives - MTN Rwanda has seen 25 percent year-on-year growth of its Internet user base. Internet usage almost tripled, from 5.7 million gigabytes in 2017 to 14.5 million gigabytes in 2018. MTN Rwanda's CEO Bart Hofker said that it had invested over RWF 22 billion (USD 24.6 million) in network expansion and modernization, which he described as being key in the acceleration of Internet penetration with the completion of network modernization that had seen a tripling of the average Internet access speed. Internet (out of bundle) prices per megabytes were also reduced from RWF 51 (USD 0.06) to RWF 10 (USD 0.01).

South Africa: CIO confirmed - Telkom's new Chief Information Officer is Althon Beukes, and took up the reins in mid-December. Beukes has extensive leadership experience in the ICT industry and in the Telkom Group, having previously assumed roles such as Managing Director: Cybernest; Chief Operations Officer: BCX; Chief of International Business: BCX and most recently Chief Commercial Officer at Openserve, Telkom said. Smangele Nkosi will continue to act as Openserve Chief Commercial Officer.

South Africa: Compliant Cell-C - In mid-December Cell-C said that it was 'fully compliant' with the End-User and Subscriber Service Charter regulations. Cell-C’s CEO Jose Dos Santos said: "We are proud to have completed these complex and costly developments in a manner that is beneficial to our customers and in record time and well before the deadline". MTN said at the same time that it was implementing the first phase of the new data rules as required by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA). ICASA's new data expiry regulations will be effective from 28 February 2019, following a settlement with Cell-C and MTN on the implementation of the rules.

South Africa: Small satellite - The ZACube-2 nanosatellite has been successfully launched on 27 December, TechCentral reports. Launched from the Vostochny spaceport, the cube-satellite was launched together with small satellites from the US, Japan, Spain, and Germany and is orbited as secondary payload in a launch mission designed for live monitoring of natural and man-made disasters and other emergencies. Minister of Science and Technology Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said that ocean traffic will be monitored as part of oceans economy and monitor veld fires and provide almost instant fire information for disaster management teams. The satellite is South Africa's second nanosatellite. It is a precursor to the MDASat, a constellation of nine nanosatellites that will be developed to provide very high frequency data exchange communication systems to the maritime industry. The Department of Science and Technology (DST) has invested ZAR 16.5 million (USD 1.2 million) in the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) for the project which is managed by the DST's South African National Space Agency (SANSA), in cooperation with the University of Montpellier, the French Embassy and the Paris Chamber of Commerce.

Sudan: Presidential protests checked - Access to popular social media platforms is being blocked on the basis that they are used to organise anti-government protests triggered by the economic crisis, Reuters reported. Authorities have not repeated the Internet blackout they imposed during protests in 2013 but the head of the National Intelligence and Security Service, Salah Abdallah, said the government had discussed blocking social media sites and in the end decided to proceed. It is reported that there have been almost daily demonstrations over the past two weeks, calling on President Omar al-Bashir to step down.

Tanzania: Rural expansion - Mobile network operator Halotel Tanzania is to expand its rural coverage from the current 13,000 villages by an additional 328 new villages in 2019. Halotel's General Manager Nguyen Van Son said that it will also commission some 500 4G sites and nearly 200 3G sites. Some of the new equipment is being financed by the Universal Fund for Access to Communication Services (UCSAF), for TZS 9.3 billion (USD 4.04 million). Halotel has forecast that its subscriber base will consequently rise to 5.5 million by the end of 2019. According to the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA), Halotel has some 4,400 towers erected since 2015, and 18,348 kilometres of fibre following an investment of some TZS 1.1 trillion (USD 478 million).

Tunisia: Tax reduction - The value-added tax (VAT) applied to fixed domestic Internet services has been reduced from 19 to 7 percent, as per the 2019 Finance Act, which came into force after its publication in the Official Gazette. The reduction is intended to reduce the digital divide between regions and facilitating consumer Internet access.

Uganda: Growing interoperability - MTN Uganda's subscribers can now send mobile money across all local networks, after it concluded interoperability with Uganda Telecom's M-Sente service. MTN customers could already send and receive money with users of the Airtel and Africell mobile money services. MTN was the first operator to comply with the Bank of Uganda's order to make mobile money transfers possible across all domestic networks. The operator also supports transfers to MTN Rwanda and Safaricom in Kenya and plans to add Tanzania in early 2019.

Uganda: Back-up power - MTN Uganda has launched a two-in-one Mi-Fi device and powerbank to allow users to stay connected to its 4G service, with their devices charged up. Customers had complained about carrying bulky power banks and Mi-Fi devices separately. It retails at a UGX 189,000 (USD 50) and comes with 3 GB valid for 30 days at all MTN shops, Banana Shops, partner dealer shops and on Jumia online shopping website.

Middle East:

Bahrain: Managed Wi-Fi - Batelco has partnered with Cisco Meraki to provide small and medium enterprises with a managed Wi-Fi service. Based on the Cisco Meraki Access Points, a wide range of high-speed Wi-Fi coverage options, zero-touch provisioning, location analytics, business-grade firewall, bandwidth control, multi-SSID support, and application control are provided. It also includes a customised landing page and Wi-Fi monetisation feature for businesses. The service includes a subscriber portal from which customers are able to view usage reports and statistics and additionally operate and manage the device, should it be needed.

Bahrain: Payments for purchases - VIVA Bahrain is now offering users the option to pay for purchases in the App Store and for Apple Music and iTunes directly from their mobile account. The service will be available to all post- and pre-paid mobile plans.

Bahrain: VAT readiness - Zain Bahrain participated in the Value Added Tax (VAT) implementation workshop held by the National Bureau for Taxation (NBT) earlier in December as part of Zain's preparations for the introduction of VAT on 1 January 2019. It covered VAT core and sector specific concepts, VAT processes and timelines, as well as taxpayer readiness assessment.

Iran: Ballooning Wi-Fi - Emergency communication balloons are to be launched in a number of provinces during 2019, ISNA reported citing the Space Transportation Research Institute's Director Rahim Ehsani. There is now a new plan to design and produce at least 20 balloons to provide communication and monitoring services in emergency conditions. The project is part of a plan called Space Ship, which aims at enabling communication, monitoring and photography applications. The balloons offer Wi-Fi to users and in 2017, during the Arba'een pilgrimage, a balloon was deployed near the border with Iraq to provide free Wi-Fi Internet for pilgrims.

Israel: Netflix alternative - Partner Communications Ltd. announced on 1 January that it was subsidizing six months of Netflix service on Partner TV for new triple package subscribers and Partner TV bundle subscribers. Over 118,000 households are now using the television service, and a joint campaign by Partner and Netflix is now being initiated. The offering is built into the pricing for Internet service (provider and infrastructure) or to Internet service (provider and infrastructure) in combination with a fixedline starting at ILS 129 (USD 35) for a bundle or triple service on Partner's fibre infrastructure, or starting at NIS 139 (USD 37) on the infrastructure of Bezeq Israeli Telecommunication or HOT Telecommunication Systems. The new offering replaces the years-worth of premium sports channel content.

Kuwait: Bourse back-up - Ooredoo will manage Boursa Kuwait's disaster recovery (DR) data centre, and so help the stock exchange safeguard mission-critical data with the highest level of security and operational reliability. A secure colocation area, high speed connectivity between the main and DR site, highly available Internet connectivity, and available market participant connections will be provided. There will also be multi-redundant links for uninterrupted connectivity between the main and DR sites in case of a main circuit failure.

Oman: 4G progress - Omantel claims that its market share now stands at 56 percent, the Oman News Agency reported, without specifying a specific period. CEO Talal al Mamari said Omantel's 4G network now covers 92 percent of the inhabited areas and that its 4G technology will service the needs of individuals for the next three years.  Omantel's investment in LTE over the past three years has reached OMR 120 million (USD 311.3 million) or 24 percent of total revenues of the operator during the same period.

Oman: Double data - Ooredoo Oman has extended a promotion giving Shahry customers twice the data and double the minutes to enjoy the Internet for longer on the weekends. This post-paid offer is available at no additional cost to both new and existing Shahry users on one or two-year contracts. The plans include 4 options starting from OMR 10 (USD 26) a month. Subscribers to the Shahry plans can also take advantage of a number of add-ons including data rollover and device instalment benefits.

Oman: Tower tactics - The Oman Tower Company (OTC) has signed two Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) with Omantel and Ooredoo to build, lease and manage tower assets. The signing ceremony was overseen by Dr Hamad bin Salim al Rawahi, CEO of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA). Eng Majid bin Amer al Kharousi, CEO of OTC, Talal bin Said al Ma'amari, CEO of Omantel and Jim Maxell, Acting CEO of Ooredoo, were the signatories. Kharousi said that the two MoUs is part of the government's framing to unify the infrastructure and pave the way for key agreements to be signed in January 2019. The Oman Tower Company will build towers to be leased to the two operators Omantel and Ooredoo, as well as for a third operator when it is licensed.

Qatar: Innovative link-up - Ooredoo has formed a partnership with Silicon-Valley based 'Plug and Play'. Ooredoo's Director of PR and Corporate Communications Manar Khalifa al-Muraikhi said the partnership would 'offer even more exciting technological innovations to our customers'. Ooredoo said it 'is committed to identifying and implementing new products and services' for its customers, particularly in the areas of 5G, IoT, payment, blockchain, AR/VR, AI and personal assistants'. Qatar is hosting the World Cup in 2022, which is expected to create opportunities for a mutually beneficial relationship leading up to the event and beyond.

Saudi Arabia: Fibre partnership - Zain Saudi Arabia has announced a MoU with Saudi Telecom Co (STC) to extend FttH broadband services to households across the country using STC's infrastructure, Argaam.com reported. Zain has also signed with Dawiyat Integrated Telecommunications & Information Technology Co to roll out fibre services to households and offer telecommunication services to businesses. In related news, CITC has approved the extended scope of the unified licences awarded to STC, Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) and Zain Saudi in 2016. It said in a statement: "The decision will enable the three mobile operators to offer all services under a single licence, including mobile and fixed line services, IoT, artificial intelligence and digital application services."

Turkey: Successful App - Vodafone Turkey’s TV app was been downloaded more than a million times to date. The app can be downloaded free of charge from the Google Play and App Store. Users can pause and resume the streaming of channels and can watch content that is up to 24 hours old. In addition, they can set up programme reminders. Vodafone TV subscribers can choose between 3 different packages which are offered for the first month with a free trial opportunity of TRY 1.90 (USD 0.37), TRY 4.90 (USD 0.95), and TRY 9.90 (USD 1.91) per month.

United Arab Emirates: Airport enhanced connectivity - Abu Dhabi Airports is launching 'Super-Fi', an enhanced Wi-Fi service with speeds up to 200 Mbps. The Super-Fi internet access has been installed and tested in all three terminals. It is free for public use. In October 2018, Abu Dhabi Airports signed Cisco for equipment and support for its digital transformation, including operational efficiency, digital capacity and customer experience.

United Arab Emirates: Cable maintenance - The Construction and Maintenance Agreement (CMA) for the Africa-1 cable system was signed in Dubai in December 2018. The system will utilise 100G technology and will offer ' Terabits of capacity' from launch. The system will have at least a three-fibre pair core extending more than 20,000km and is expected to land at carrier-neutral PoPs in Marseille (France), Mombasa (Kenya) and Durban (South Africa), with planned landing stations in Sidi-Krir and Zafarana (Egypt), Port Sudan (Sudan), Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), Djibouti City (Djibouti), Mogadishu (Somalia), Mombasa (Kenya), Mayotte, Mahajanga (Madagascar), Fujairah (United Arab Emirates) and Karachi (Pakistan). It is expected to be ready for service (RFS) in 2021.

United Arab Emirates: Pakistan property peace? - The deadlock with Etisalat over the USD 800 million payment from the purchase of Pakistan Telecommunication Company Ltd (PTCL) is close to resolution according to the Secretary of the Privatisation Commission Rizwan Malik while briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunications last week. An Etisalat delegation has recently met Prime Minister Imran Khan and a further meeting is due in January. Etisalat delayed the payment after Pakistan failed to transfer all PTCL properties under the agreement. Etisalat paid USD 1.4 billion upfront, but withheld the remaining instalments amounting to USD 800 million until the status of the entire property portfolio was resolved, which has been a bone of contention for some 12 years.

United Arab Emirates: Property improvements - Mobile network operator Etisalat has partnered with property developer Azizi Developments to provide its eLife services to residents of new homes constructed by the company. New residents will therefore have quicker access to home services, signing up for Etisalat services before they move in or at the doorstep.