News in Brief 20 March 2019

Africa:

Africa: Azure in Africa - Liquid Telecom (LT) is providing Microsoft Azure across its pan-African network which spans 70,000 km and offering a direct terrestrial high speed fibre link across the continent. Using local Microsoft Azure Stack deployments in LT's African data centres connected via Microsoft ExpressRoute, customers will be able to access a hybrid cloud service on the African continent. Microsoft Azure Stack hybrid cloud will consequently be available in five African countries.

Africa & Middle East: Executive evolution - Ericsson's head of Middle East and Africa, Rafiah Ibrahim, is to step down on 31 August 2019, and will take on a role as advisor to CEO Borje Ekholm. Ibrahim has held the post since 1 April 2017. A recruitment process has been initiated to appoint a successor, the statement added. Ibrahim joined Ericsson in 1996 and has held various managerial positions. Ericsson merged its Middle East and Africa business following a regional consolidation in 2017, when it also appointed a new head for the GCC region.

Angola: Finnish focus - Angola is to accelerate cooperation and partnerships with Finnish telecoms companies with a view to extending its networks nationally. Angolan Minister for Telecommunications and Information Technology Jose Carvalho da Rocha met with Finnish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Timo Soini, Angop reported. A business delegation from Finland is expected during 2019. The Ministry would also like to see Finnish infrastructure deployed.

Angola: Forum membership - Mobile network operator Unitel is the first company from the Southern African country to be included in the World Economic Forum (WEF) exclusive network of Partner level companies. It joins the Dangote Group, as the only other partner from the continent. Unitel will support the mission of the WEF in Africa, get actively involved in the projects and be represented at the 2020 Davos Annual Meeting, Annual Meeting of the New Champions in China, as well as the Regional Summits in Africa and in the Middle East. Unitel's chairman Isabel dos Santos, said that partnering WEF was a big achievement for the company.

Equatorial Guinea: Regulatory review - The Vice Minister of Transport, Postal Services and Telecommunications, Hipolito Ondo Nvo, chaired the opening of the first workshop examining the activities of the Organo Regulador de las Telecomunicaciones (ORTEL) on 14 March, Equatorial Guinea's Press and Information Office reported. Representatives of international organizations, the directors of the regulator and of some ministerial departments and representatives of operators participated. Director General of ORTEL, Jose Eko Owono made an introductory speech. Subsequent papers addressed the current regulations of the telecommunications sector; ORTEL as regulator and the five approved ministerial orders that have been submitted.

Kenya: Enhanced customer service - Safaricom has opened a new call centre in Eldoret town, and was constructed at a cost of KES 900 million (USD 8.9 million) and will employ over 800 people. It will enhance Safaricom's efficiency in handling the over 150,000 calls received daily and help resolve customer queries much faster. 300 interns will be recruited from various local universities in Uasin Gishu County. Eldoret town currently has two fully operational Safaricom retail shops. Rift Valley has over 21 customer service desks and nine retail shops spread across the region, Safaricom said.

State of Digital - Angola: February 2018

Kenya: Payment options - Safaricom and Ant Financial Services have partnered so that AliExpress shoppers can pay with M-Pesa. Micro-traders sourcing goods and other supplies from manufacturers in China are one of the primary beneficiaries. AliExpress users selecting M-Pesa for payment will have the total cost displayed in Kenya shillings with standard Lipa Na M-Pesa Paybill charges applicable for each transaction. The service is already live on the AliExpress app and will be available on AliExpress.com in coming weeks.

Morocco: Custom system enhancements - The government is to invest some MAD 5.4 million (USD 560,000) to develop new features for the digital customs system 'BADR' used by customs to clear goods at border posts. These will see the system accessible and usable by new players in the tax chain, including 5,200 customs officers. The platform will see improved quality of the service as well as greater transparency of the maritime and air agents, the consignees and the depoteurs, the freight forwarders and the heads of companies as well as the carriers. Also, the platform will allow bankers to validate bank guarantees.

Morocco: Interoperability in the Fall - Interoperability of mobile payments will not be implemented before September 2019 according to Digital Business Africa. The solution has been ready since July 2018, but the telecom operators have not yet completed all the operational tests internally and with the partner institutions. At the same time, several operators have said that they have not yet completed the design of a specific offer dedicated to this type of service.

another fine mess for african telecoms

Namibia: Reluctant rises - MultiChoice Namibia will increase its DStv subscription fees from April; following MultiChoice Zambia which raised its DStv subscribers of up to 10 percent along with South Africa. Namibia said that, just like South Africa, it will not change the fee of its DStv Premium offering. MultiChoice Namibia's MD Roger Gertze said that over the past two years, MultiChoice had made efforts to either decrease or freeze DStv prices and had committed to keeping costs at the same level, even through extreme challenges such as the devaluation of currency or other economic obstacles. Unfortunately, due to inflation and the increase of programming and operational costs, MultiChoice has had to review its pricing so that it can remain sustainable as a business. Namibia will see increases in its DStv Compact Plus, DStv Compact, DStv Family and DStv Access packages.

Morocco: Roaming rates approved - ANRT has published a decision approving Orange Morocco's first technical and pricing offer for national roaming to enable universal service provision in areas covered by its mobile network. A similar ruling on the terms submitted by Maroc Telecom was issues by the regulator in August 2018. The offer covers LTE, as well as 2G and 3G services.

Nigeria: Free chat - Mobile network operator 9mobile has said that subscribers can now use WhatsApp chat free of charge on its network, with the use of a special code. The offer is available to 9mobile subscribers on both pre- and post-paid/hybrid packages.

Nigeria: Investment total - MTN Nigeria says the its total investment in Nigeria now stands at some NGN 2.5 trillion (USD 6.9 billion), ThisDay reported. CEO Ferdi Moolman said it had invested NGN 184 billion (USD 509 million) in network expansion in 2018 alone. As previously noted by AMETW, Moolman told a media briefing that MTN Nigeria's 'revenue-generating' subscribers currently stand at 58 million and not the 68 million as reported by industry regulator, NCC. MTN Nigeria covers about 154 million Nigerians on its 3G network and 57 million people via 4G.

Nigeria: New numbers - Airtel Nigeria is now offering number in the 0901 range: its eight number series. Airtel Nigeria's Chief Commercial Officer, Dinesh Balsingh, said Airtel is positioned as the network of the first choice for voice calls and mobile Internet.

Nigeria: Weather forecasts - 9mobile's Iska Weather service, launched in partnership with weather forecasting portal Ignitia, now has more than 135,000 subscribers since its launch in October 2018. The weather forecasting portal has had an average of 450,000 daily views on its landing page. Service packages cost NGN 10 (USD 0.03) per day, NGN 35 (USD 0.10) per week or NGN 100 (USD 0.28) per month. Access to Ignitia's daily two-day weather forecast of rainfall risk, timing and intensity is provided, along with the monthly and seasonal outlooks. It claims an accuracy of 84 percent.

South Africa: Multiple devices - Vodacom RSA is supporting eSim devices along with a new related dubbed OneNumber, which allows the use of a single mobile phone number across multiple devices. The first devices with support out of the box will be Samsung's 42mm and 46mm Galaxy Watch (the LTE editions). Vodacom said the technology is used by Apple's iPhone Xs range, in addition to a physical SIM slot, allowing for dual-SIM functionality. The OneNumber platform supports the ability to store multiple profiles without the use of a traditional SIM card in a SIM slot. Users can link the eSim in their device to their master number by scanning a QR code when they purchase the device. Vodacom also said it will launch an exclusive eSim-enabled Samsung Galaxy Watch. Users will be charged a ZAR 25 (USD 1.74) monthly fee for data sharing on the LTE connection; and a one-off ZAR 98 (USD 6.81) connection fee.

South Africa: New numbers - Telkom has received a new number range for its mobile service, in the '067' group. The new sub-range is 800-0000 to 999-9999, giving the operator 2,000,000 new numbers. Telkom operates in the 0670-0672 range.

South Africa: SIM swop scams - Some 8,254 incidents of SIM swop fraud were reported in 2018, up from 4,040 incidents in 2017 according to SA Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) Chief Executive Kalyani Pillay. Pillay noted that: "In 2017, 13,438 incidents across banking apps, online banking and mobile banking cost the industry more than ZAR 250 million (USD 17.4 million) in gross losses, and incidents from January to August last year, showed a 64 percent increase".

Tanzania: Gender gap - The GSMA's report on the Internet in Tanzania finds that the industry is losing significant potential revenue due to the gender gap in mobile ownership, which can be addressed by simply making phones more affordable to women. In Tanzania the GSMA 2019 report reveals that the gender gap in mobile ownership and Internet use stands at 11 and 52 percent for women and men, respectively. To close the gap and ensure that there are more women players in the mobile economy, the GSMA recommends a raft of measures, including a review of the sector-specific taxes to ensure handsets are sold at lower prices. Local savings groups and financial institutions could also chip in with soft loans.

Tanzania: Payment app - A mobile app is to be launched by Visa in Tanzania that will allow free-of-charge and cross-border transactions. The app is a global payment system which enables users to access their funds directly from their bank accounts through a mobile banking app to pay merchants, send money to individuals, and deposit or withdraw cash at any Visa agent. The funds move directly from the consumer's bank account into the merchant's account and provide notification to both parties. Visa East Africa's Director for Merchant Sales and Solutions, Kennedy Luhombo, said Visa will collaborate with 15 banks including CRDB, Barclays, Access Bank Tanzania, Akiba Commercial Bank and Azania Bank. CRDB, NMB and Exim bank will have Visa on mobile enabled on their banking apps from the start. Tanzania is the fourth country to launch the app after Kenya, Ghana and Rwanda.

Zimbabwe: Fibre flagged-off - State-owned operator TelOne's fibre optic line in Beitbridge on stream. Minister of Information Communication. Technology and Courier Services, Kazembe Kazembe, said the commissioning of the fibre linking Beitbridge with Harare and Bulawayo was a milestone as it links Zimbabwe with South Africa, along with other neighbouring countries. Kazembe said the commissioning almost completes the fibre loop, noting that the remaining link is Makuti-Chirundu link, which is part of its next 100-day programme, with preliminary work already under way. Apart from the Beitbridge-Harare and Bulawayo links, TelOne also has the Mutare-Harare link running up to Plumtree.

Zimbabwe: Outsourced services - Econet Wireless has launched OmniContact, a business process outsourcing (BPO) unit, to offer specialised, outsourced services to both private and public local and foreign businesses. The outsourced services include product sales, contact centre support, loyalty and retention programmes, social media analytics, subscription renewals and other services. Econet Zimbabwe Group CEO Douglas Mboweni said OmniContact would use digital technology to help organisations enhance customer service and manage their costs. OmniContact Head and Chief Customer Service Officer, Otis Makahamadze said the centre already has a number of local and international clients and deploys scalable technology to provide services tailored to client needs.

Zimbabwe: Rate rises - The Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (POTRAZ) is considering an increase in the prices of telecom services, according to Agency Ecofin. This follows the decision by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) to float the exchange rate of the local currency. With an uncertain monetary value, POTRAZ fears an undervaluation of the cost of telecom services and wants to avoid losses being wrached-up in the national telecom industry. Since the action of the RBZ, the cost of goods and other services have risen.

 

Correction: Last week we inadvertently tagged the item highlighting the trial of POTRAZ D-G Gift Machengete as being in South Africa, when it should, of course, have been filed under 'Zimbabwe'. Many thanks to the observant readers who drew our attention to the error.

Middle East:

Bahrain: Cyber security solution - Viva Bahrain is to provide managed cyber security services to Yusuf Bin Ahmed Kanoo Group (YBA Kanoo), the Middle Eastern family-owned multinational. The deal includes providing 24/7 cyber security monitoring of YBA Kanoo facilities and businesses in Bahrain, KSA and UAE. Viva's security operations centre and Viva Threat Intelligence platform, the operator's certified cyber security team of experts will provide YBA Kanoo full visibility on cyber threats and potential cybercrimes, before they happen.

Bahrain: Home hub - A managed Wi-Fi service for home users has been launched by Batelco, which provides secure coverage coupled with high quality service. Internet at up to 500 Mbps is supported and it features a simple plug-and-play, zero-touch provisioning and security control. The Smart Home Wi-Fi service uses mesh technology. Subscribers have access to the Batelco Smart Home Wi-Fi mobile so they can manage their Wi-Fi networks at home or on the go. The app enables viewing network status, Website and device blocking, time-based access control, configuring guest Wi-Fi networks and running self-diagnostic connectivity tests.

Bahrain: Tier 1 interface - Viva Bahrain has signed Etisalat to use its SmartHub. Viva Bahrain acting CEO Mohammed Al Khushail said: "Such agreements are important milestones to our global expansion strategy where we strengthen Viva Bahrain's position as a dynamic carrier with global reach." The deal will enable Viva to connect directly with Tier 1 international carriers. Etisalat SmartHub is a carrier grade data centre located at Etisalat's submarine cable landing in Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, and offers IX and IPX exchanges for carriers and content providers, as well as mobile network operators.

Israel: Data funding - Lightbits Labs, a data storage centre company, has raised USD 50 million of funding led by Dell EMC and with the participation of Cisco, Micron, Square Peg Capital and Walden International, Globes reported. This is the third financing round after a seed round of several million dollars in 2016 and more than USD 10 million in 2017. It is developing data centres for use by firms such as Amazon, Google, Facebook, Salesforce and Uber, and has developed hardware and software that makes data storage and transferring and managing data faster, cheaper, and more efficient. The LightOS software and LightField storage acceleration card are the first NVMe/TCP solutions to provide a Global Flash Translation Layer (GFTL) running over high-performance standard networks.

Jordan: Car charging - Two car charging stations have been launched by Orange Jordan at its smart store in Abdoun and at its seventh circle store. Orange's car charging stations are under the umbrella of Orange Deals, and subscribers access the service by sending a free SMS. The activation code which can be used at the stations is also sent by SMS. Orange Jordan launched its own project to generate electricity from renewable energy, through the establishment of three solar power plants three years ago.

Oman: More content - Ooredoo Oman has said that its recent collaboration with SPI/FilmBox for Ooredoo TV has been successful. Family Bundle viewers can access FilmBox Live App's more than 300 videos on demand in categories such as independent movies, documentaries, mixed martial arts and fashion for OMR 4 (USD 10.37) per month. Providing new content at a rate of up to 10 percent per month, FilmBox Live App is also available as an add-on package with Ooredoo TV on a month-on-month, rolling basis for OMR 1 (USD 2.60) per month.

Qatar: FI rights - The Middle East media group MBC has won the regional broadcast rights for the FIA Formula One World Championship, it was announced on 15 March 2019. MBC will broadcast the championship in the Middle East and North Africa, from 2019 through to 2023. The rights were held by the Qatar-owned beIN Sports, which charges subscribers for access. This is the second loss for beIN, only a few days after the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) ended its monopoly of broadcasting competition matches in Saudi Arabia. The decision, which ended BeIN's sole control of AFC's Champions League matches in Saudi Arabia, was hinged on communications and legal grounds, including the Qatari company's 'systemic violations it committed against the Kingdom's regulations.' The deal is between MBC Group and the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile).

Saudi Arabia: Spectrum sale - Zain Saudi Arabia has acquired 100MHz of spectrum in the 3500MHz band at a cost of SAR 624 million (USD 166 million), to be paid in equal instalments starting from 1 January 2022. The frequencies will be available for 5G use from 1 January 2020 for 15-years. Zain said it will finance the acquisition from its operational cash flows and current cash reserves. Following the award, its total spectrum holding will include frequencies in the 800MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz, 2100MHz, 2600MHz and 3500MHz bands.

Turkey: Acting CEO named- Turkcell’s CEO Kaan Terzioglu stepped down on 15 March 2019 after nearly four years in post, during which he sought to refocus the company on more profitable digital businesses. Murat Erkan, the executive vice president for sales who joined the company in 2008, is to serve as acting CEO. Before joining Turkcell, acting CEO Erkan served for a decade as an officer in charge of Cisco Systems' technology, sales, business development and channel management.

Turkey: Integrated hospital - Turk Telekom has completed a contract awarded by Ankara City Hospital to modernise its technology infrastructure, and installed subsidiary Innova's 'HICAMP Saglik Cozumleri Platformu (HICAMP Health Solutions Platform).' IT also provided software products and undertook the integration of all hardware, network and other information technology infrastructure. Turk Telekom also provided the Hastane Bilgi Yonetim Sistemi (Hospital Information Management System) service. Some 500 Turk Telekom staff will provide services related to the HBYS data entry procedures for 5 years. The company will also provide management and operation of the hospital's information infrastructure.

Turkey: Travel perks - Vodafone Turkey is continuing its 'World in your hand' (Dunya avucunuzda) promotional programme for Vodafone Red customers who travel abroad and use the 'All inclusive passport - world' option. Some 36,000 kilometres will be visited by the end of September in the second season of the programme. Benefits worth a total of TRY 1.1 billion (USD 201.4 million) were given to Vodafone Red subscribers who travelled abroad in 2018.

United Arab Emirates: Top FTTH - The FTTH Council has been ranked the UAE as the country with the highest fibre to-the-home (FTTH) penetration for a third year in a row. Etisalat plans to invest AED 4 billion (USD 1.1 billion) during 2019 in digital transformation, mobile and fibre network.

United Arab Emirates: Video service - Mobile network operator Du has partnered with Telstra to provide Middle East Broadcasting Centre (MBC) in Dubai with managed video network service. It will be provided on the Telstra Global Media Network, and will facilitate video streaming to Europe. The Telstra Global Media Network is a global network built on a four-fibre path system and is specifically designed for smooth delivery of video content using the latest technological developments.