News in Brief 13 March 2019

Africa:

Afghanistan: Contract extension - Afghan Wireless Communication Company (AWCC) has contracted for the Optiva Charging Engine, Voucher Management and Policy Control products. AWCC needed a portfolio offering that would position and ready it for a future public cloud platform. The upgrade provides a roadmap to the public cloud and equips AWCC with the functionalities to tap into growth potential and gain functionalities for targeting new customer segments. The upgrade will also allow the AWCC to eventually run its BSS stack, including real-time charging, through remote operations and management. This will improve AWCC's resiliency and operational challenges compared to running the stack via the traditional, on-premise deployment models.

Africa: Singtel subscription - Singtel has said that it will subscribe to 170 million new shares in the INR 250 billion (USD 3.57 billion) rights issue by regional associate Bharti Airtel at an issue price of INR 220 (USD 3.14) per share, for a total consideration of INR 37.5 billion (approximately USD 525 million), representing the rights entitlement for its direct stake of 15 percent. Singtel and Airtel's major shareholders Bharti Group and Bharti Telecom intend to subscribe to their full entitlement, except for a renunciation by Bharti Telecom in favour of GIC Singapore, which will commit INR 50 billion (USD 713.1 million). Together with Airtel's major shareholders and GIC, a total of 67 percent of the rights issue has been committed. Singtel's effective interest in Airtel will be 35.2 percent and it continues to be the single largest shareholder in Airtel. The issue of a INR 70 billion perpetual bond is also planned. Airtel is in the process of appointing banks to manage the issue. The rights issue remains subject to regulatory approval.

Africa & Middle East: Expanded collaboration - MTN and Huawei have signed a joint business innovation MoU. Huawei has a 17-year working relationship with MTN and is the company's most important network products provider. Active data growth, rich media services, mobile financial services, enterprise and wholesale businesses will all be expanded, from their traditional voice and data service cooperation.

Angola: Rate rise challenge - The Angolan Association for Consumer Protection (AADIC) has asked the Attorney General's Office (PGR) to open a civil case against the satellite television operator ZAP, for having increased its prices, and INACOM. In a press release sent to OPAS, AADIC stressed that it is not against price increases as such, as long as they do not exceed 15 percent. AADIC also requested an administrative action from the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology against Zap, as it considered that it acted 'in a truncated and coarse manner, advancing with the announced intention'.

Ghana: Imminent 4G - Vodafone Ghana is expected to launch its 4G services in April 2019, Citi Business News has reported. MTN won its licence just over three years ago, paying USD 67.5 million, whilst Vodafone spent USD 30 million, after extensive negotiation to acquire its 4G licence. In a separate development, Vodafone Ghana's new CEO is Patricia Obo-Nai who takes over as President and CEO on 1 April 2019. She replaces Yolanda Cuba, who has completed her three-year term, returning to Vodacom Group in South Africa.

Ghana: New focus - Huawei intends to make Ghana a key market for its developments in Africa according to Liu Xinwu, head of the West African sub-region Huawei Group, who said that the vendor will intensify its investments in the country, according to Digital Business Africa. As well as more smartphones, the group also announced its investment in the full telecom sector chain in Ghana, including major technical projects. The announcement comes as the vendor is linked to espionage on behalf of the Chinese government, notably in the US.

State of Digital - Angola: February 2018

Ghana: SME support - AirtelTigo Business has launched 'Flexi Business' developed for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and corporate firms, enabling them to customise their package according to their needs. The product has no data expiry for SMEs and offers unlimited on-net calls to corporate customers. Additionally, SMEs and corporate firms will get 40 percent more data and 30 percent more on voice calls. Once a business signs up, it can pay its staff through AirtelTigo Money for free.

Kenya: Cashless counties - Cashless systems adopted by county governments have diminished leakages and boosted revenues by up to 30 percent, Safaricom has said. Safaricom's Chief Enterprise Officer Rita Okuthe, said that it has partnered with 43 counties to enable cashless payment systems, of which 17 have integrated their systems end to end. Okuthe said the collection system is backed by an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system that is used for reporting as the payments go into a Paybill, and then through Real-Time Settlement (RTS) into the bank account. The county runs the ERP, which is integrated into the M-Pesa system, enabling the money to go straight to the bank.

Kenya: Instalment plan - Huawei Mobile Kenya is now selling the Y6 2019 for KES 13,499 (USD 135). Buyers will receive a gift hamper containing a selfie stick, foldable bags and Bluetooth speakers or mugs in selected stores. Huawei has also partnered with Lipa Later to offer a credit facility.

another fine mess for african telecoms

Kenya: Pension payments - Mobile network operator Safaricom has partnered with the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) on a programme to fully adopt cashless payments. NSSF is to implement a totally cashless system at all its branches nationally. NSSF members can now remit their contributions and other payments to the organisation through the M-Pesa PayBill system. Contributors key in their NSSF account number and complete their transaction over the mobile money platform, without visiting the NSSF offices. Employers with 20 and fewer employees can also make their staff contributions through M-Pesa. NSSF has also enabled its members to use a self-service portal or the NSSF Mobile App available on Google Play Store, with which they can track their contributions and register new members.

Kenya: Public-private partnerships - Safaricom is promoting public-private partnerships, saying that the private sector should go beyond profit making, paying taxes and creating direct and indirect employment, by contributing to the social stability necessary for national development. Safaricom's Chief Special Projects Officer Joseph Ogutu said with the implementation of the Big Four Agenda there is an opportunity for partnerships between the private sector and both levels of government.

Malawi: Guaranteed installations - MultiChoice has devised Internet installation applications to be used by its certified system installers to provide new subscribers with standardised and cost-effective connectivity. The application is an Internet system to register, track and verify new DStv decoder connections and allocates its accredited installation engineers new connection jobs. MultiChoice Malawi's Communications Manager, Chimwemwe Nyirenda told the Malawi News Agency (Mana) that it aims to provide customers with improved television picture quality, deter the use of sub-standard installation materials and enable easy and fast connections. All completed installations by an accredited technician has a six-month guarantee.

Malawi: SME service - TNM has launched its Office in a Box, a package with Internet connectivity, digital voice landline and email hosting, developed for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to enhance their business efficiency. It is available in a number of subscription packages that provide different sets of features at different price points.

Namibia: Fibre launch - Utility provider NamPower has launched 'The Grid Online', a new fibre-optic broadband service for telecoms service providers and wholesale clients. At the launch, NamPower's chairman, Kauna Ndilula, observed: "Our new product offering will provide Namibia with much needed additional national telecommunications bandwidth, creating an openly accessible framework for all service providers to make use of the available fibre-optic asset, regardless of whether they may be start-ups or established businesses."

Rwanda: New phone - The Ikosora 3G feature phone has been launched by MTN Rwanda for RWF 19,800 (USD 22). Chief Marketing Officer Richard Acheampong said that it will be available at MTN service centres and subsequently in different phone shops nationally. The Ikosora promises fast Internet access on 3G and Wi-Fi, with a My MTN App to follow soon. The device has Bluetooth connectivity and GPS for navigation, a mobile hotspot, two cameras, as well as music and video streaming services and 2000mah battery life. MTN Rwanda's Marketing Operations Senior Manager, Desire Ruhinguka, said that the device was introduced under a partnership with a Chinese mobile company.

South Africa: Automatic renewal - MTN South Africa's subscribers can now automatically renew their data bundle once it is used up or expired. The new bundle will be of the same size and validity and will be charged from their pre-paid airtime balance, or their contract usage limits. To use this feature, customers must select the auto-renew option when purchasing their bundle. MTN has also designed notifications to give users warnings and recommendations, such as a network-issued USSD message to notify customers who have opted out of out-of-bundle usage, but have sufficient funds available to purchase a bundle. It aims to ensure that MTN complies with ICASA's new end-user regulations from 1 March.

South Africa: Funding sought - Blue Label Telecoms is considering offers for potential new investment in Cell-C, after posting a first-half loss partly caused by its interest in the mobile operator, Bloomberg reported. Blue Label said Cell-C knocked ZAR 1.05 billion (USD 72.7 million) off Blue Label's first-half core headline earnings. Cell-C needs additional funding, and Blue Label is considering a number of potential transactions that would build on last week's deal with investment firm Buffett Group, according to CEO Mark Levy. Telkom is reported to be interested in making an offer. Blue Label needs to boost Cell-C's balance sheet, renegotiate interest terms on debt, as well as consider any offers from investors, Levy said.

South Africa: Trial delayed - The trial of Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) Director-General Gift Machengete for alleged criminal abuse of office has been delayed, according to 163Chat. The trial was due to start on 11 March but his lawyer told the court his client was busy elsewhere. Machengete is alleged to have contracted a local company to construct Container Village Information Centres (CVICs) worth USD 1.49 million without going to tender. A postponement to 18 and 19 March was granted.

Uganda: Deportation challenge - Deported MTN Uganda CEO Wim Vanhelleputte is reported to be suing the Attorney General, arguing that his deportation was illegal, the Monitor reported. Vanhelleputte, a Belgian national married to a Ugandan, says in his affidavit that he is entitled to fair and just treatment and due process before an administrative body and/or any person, and has a right to be heard. Vanhelleputte claims to have been a regular visitor to Uganda since 1993 and has been married to Babra Adoso Vanhelleputte, a Ugandan citizen, since 29 April 2000. Vanhelleputte now wants the High Court in Kampala to declare that his deportation by the Internal Affairs minister, Jeje Odongo, was arbitrary, irrational and illegal, and quash his deportation.

Zambia: Price hike - MultiChoice is to increase the price of its DStv subscriptions by 10 percent from 1 April due to inflation of 8.1 percent and increasing operational and programming costs. The previous adjustment was in September 2017, when rates were reduced. Products affected are DStv Access, DStv Family, DStv Compact, DStv Compact Plus, DStv Premium and DStv Access.

Middle East:

Israel: Blockchain developments - A blockchain team is to operate from Facebook's Tel Aviv development centre. It has also said that it is hiring a product manager for the blockchain sector, Globes reported. It said that the small team is a start-up within Facebook. Facebook has been reported as considering plans to issue its own cryptocurrency over the next year to let users send money to their contacts via Whatsapp.

Israel: Competitive cuts - Mobile network operator Golan Telecom (GT) is to offer a mobile package with 100 GB for ILS 29 (USD 8) a month, with unlimited time starting from the first line. The package is available for a week until 14 March, Globes reported. Existing subscribers will have to add a ILS 25 (USD 6.88) one-off payment per line to switch to the new plan. GT's came two days after Xfone's We4G raised the price of its main package from ILS 29 to ILS 33. 012 Mobile also has a mobile package for ILS 29 (USD 8) a month, with 50 gigabytes for a year.

Israel: Staff satisfaction - Partner Communications has signed a new collective employment agreement with staff representatives and the Histadrut New General Labour Organization for the period 2019-2021. The Collective Employment Agreement grants Partner employees an immediate salary increase for employees with a seniority of 1.5 years or more; an additional salary increase contingent on the operator's performance and based on the rate of increase in EBITDA in the first half of 2019 compared to the parallel period in 2018; participation in the company's profits and the terms of eligibility for these grants in the years 2019-2021. In addition, the parties agreed to negotiate at a later time a salary increase mechanism for the years 2020 and 2021. The estimated additional cost of this Collective Employment Agreement for the years 2019-2021 is ILS 11 million not including salary increases for the years 2020-2021 but including the salary increase effect of 2019.

Kuwait: Samsung launch - Ooredoo Kuwait has collaborated with Al Babtain Turnkey Solutions for a second year to launch the Samsung Galaxy S10, Galaxy S10+ and the Galaxy S10e smartphones. The devices were launched with exclusive Shamel plans. The devices are available to customers in Ooredoo's branches in Kuwait and its official distributors, in addition to its online shop.

Middle East: New hubs - Newtec, a satellite communications equipment manufacturer, has deployed two Newtec Dialog hubs in the UK and Finland for satellite operator Arabsat. This will enable the company to deliver High Throughput Satellite (HTS) services into the Middle East and African markets. The contract will enable Arabsat to deliver a new suite of services including enterprise and VNO services, IP trunking and mobile backhaul. The deal was signed in September 2018 and the first hub installed in December 2018. The network operations centre recently installed at Arabsat's subsidiary Hellasat, in Athens, will see Arabsat able to reach all platforms and remote sites with its services. In combination with a variety of Newtec's DVB-S2X Wideband modems, the Newtec Dialog platform will enable Arabsat to offer vertical-specific services for any satellite application.

Oman: Business app - Ooredoo Oman has added new features to its application for business customers. Administrators can now manage credit limit changes and check their company's bill history, while individual uses can top up credit for Mosubak numbers, order SIM card replacements, view bill and traffic analysis and manage post-paid lines, among other things. Administrators can manage bundles and add-ons, and bar lines, manage employees' telecom requests, export bills in Microsoft Excel and view network performance reports. Individuals can view their own accounts, pay personal bills, top-up credit, add roaming services and send add-on requests to the administrator.

Oman: Home data - Ooredoo Oman has added 50 percent extra data to its Fast Home Internet package for the same price as the current 12 and 24-month contracts. Users will now get up to 750 GB, or up to 1,000 GB on the new two-year contract package. The value-added plans comprise 12-month packages of 150 GB for OMR 25 (USD 65), 300 GB for OMR 35 (USD 91) and 600 GB for OMR 50 (USD 130) a month. The two-year contracts include 250 GB for OMR 25 (USD 65), 450 GB for OMR 35 (USD 91), 750 GB for OMR 50 (USD 130) and for the first time 1,000 GB for OMR 100 monthly (USD 260). 12-month contracts also provide 200 national fixed minutes, and 24-month contracts 500 national fixed minutes.

Oman: More channels - Ooredoo Oman is now offering YuppTV on Ooredoo TV Go as well as its set-top box. South Asian premium channels and a library of films were first launched on Ooredoo TV as part of Ooredoo's Asian Bundle. With YuppTV users have access to more than 100 live television channels in Hindi, Malayalam and Tamil as well as Bengali, Telugu and Punjabi. Monthly subscriptions cost between OMR 1 (USD 2.60) and OMR 1.90 (USD 4.92) per month for each individual language package. The addition of YuppTV brings the total the number of live TV channels to more than 180.

Qatar: IoT initiative - Ooredoo Qatar has launched an Internet of Things (IoT) platform, IoT Builder, running on Software AG's Cumulocity IoT platform. It enables Ooredooo to develop applications and to integrate connected devices for its business customers. The applications will be hosted in Ooredoo's Qatar Data Centre. Users can benefit from rapidly integrating machines, sensors, mobile devices, and data that Ooredoo integrates into one platform. Organisations can remotely control and manage devices. The IoT Builder platform also provides real-time analytics on one visual dashboard.

Saudi Arabia: Cloud developments - Mobily is collaborating with Huawei and Ericsson to build a cloud network. The deployment of the Ericsson system will provide Mobily's live network with a 5G-ready core and will help the network scale as IoT adoption increases.

Saudi Arabia: Indoor testing - Saudi Telecom Company (STC) and Huawei have completed the first trial of indoor 5G in the 3.5GHz band in the Middle East and North Africa and the second globally. On 20 February STC launched the region's first indoor 5G test with Huawei's multi-band indoor 5G CPE, which supports both 5G New Radio and 4G LTE. The trial included verification of 5G technologies and air interface download peak throughput. During the testing in Dammam, STC used 100MHz in the 3.5GHz band on the 5G network, and achieved a peak user downlink throughput of 1.3 Gbps.

Saudi Arabia: Long-haul upgrade - Mobily and Cisco are collaboration to modernize and upgrade the Saudi National Fibre Network (SNFN). Cisco will modernize and unify the partner's networks by implementing optical, packet technologies and architectures, providing Mobily with improved geographic reach in main cities, rural and remote areas. Mobily's SDH network will be migrated to a high-capacity Gigabit Ethernet-Dense Wave Division Multiplexing (GE-DWDM) network, and will integrate two parallel long-haul networks and build a unified long-haul DWDM network supporting up to 200G and 400G speeds and extending Mobily’s long-haul networks in rural and remote areas.