News in Brief 15 May 2019


Africa: Cost of fraud - Kaspersky Lab's annual Cyber Security Weekend held in Cape Town, highlighted the recent SIM swap fraud wave, which it noted was very common in Africa and the wider region. In South Africa this type of fraud more than doubled in the last year, according a report of South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC). At the end of 2017 there were some 135 live mobile money services across the Sub-Saharan African region, with 122 million active accounts. The Kaspersky Lab research shows that mobile payments and the banking system are suffering a wave of attack, mostly powered by SIM swap fraud. The total money lost in the attacks varies: there are extreme cases, in the United Arab Emirates one victim lost USD 1 million, while in South Africa another lost USD 20,000. Kaspersky Lab's Senior Security Researcher. Fabio Assolini, noted: "In average fraudsters can steal USD 2,500 - 3,000 per victim, while the cost to perform the SIM swap starts with USD 10 - 40".

Africa & Middle East: Quarterly growth - MTN Group gained 4 million subscribers in the first quarter of 2019 to reach 236.6 million at the end of March, following strong operational performances in South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana. Active data subscribers rose quarter-on-quarter by 2.6 million to 81.3 million, and mobile money customers by 1.2 million to 28.3 million. The group delivered 10 percent year-on-year service revenue growth to ZAR 33.21 billion (USD 2.3 billion), supported by the three key markets. The growth in service revenue was supported by a 5.9 percent upturn in voice revenue, an 18.3 percent rise in data revenue and a 30.6 percent increase in financial technology (fintech) revenue.

Egypt: Fixed future - Mobile network operator (MNO) Etisalat Misr is to invest more than EGP 4.5 billion (USD 262.3 million) in 2019, of which EGP 3 billion (USD 174.9 million) will be spent on updating network infrastructure. The plans were outlined by Etisalat Misr's CEO, Hazem Metwally, in an interview with Reuters. It also expects to offer a commercial fixed line service by 2021, having already reportedly activated hundreds of lines 'experimentally'. In October 2016 the operator acquired a licence enabling it to 'provide a fixed service using the core infrastructure of licensees to set up and establish the infrastructure of telecom networks', valid for 15 years. This included a 4G licence at an additional cost of USD 11.3 million.

Ghana: Payment notification - Vodafone Ghana has launched a reference message feature on Vodafone Cash, Nextvame reports. It will enable all people registered on the service to send a short, personalised message to recipients when sending money. Subscribers interested in using this option should dial star 110 hash and follow the on-screen prompts.

Ghana: Support strengthened - Glo Mobile has recruited the first tranche of customer touchpoint operators. The 25 recruits will improve the customer interface network, with outlets spread across the country and will complement the services offered to customers in Gloworld shops. This includes SIM sales, SIM swap, phone configurations, purchase of airtime (credit), etc.

Guinea: LTE latest - Orange Guinea's LTE service is now available in all areas of Conakry following an initial launch in the Kaloum district in mid-April. A second phase will see the network rolled out to other areas of the country, in line with the operator's licence obligation to provide coverage to at least 90 percent of the population. Orange won a 10-year 4G licence in March 2019, the first to be granted in Guinea.

State of Digital - Angola: February 2018

Kenya: 4G BTS boost - Safaricom is to double its 4G network coverage to 5,000 base stations by March 2020, covering every major town and 80 percent of the population, according to CEO Bob Collymore. Collymore made the comment when he released the financial results for the year ending 31 March 2019. Collymore said Safaricom expects to spend over KES 36 billion (USD 350.7 million) on additional 4G coverage, which will see some 2,030 4G and 4G+ base stations commissioned. Safaricom became the first to deploy a 4G network in Kenya in 2014, and in June 2017, it was the first in East Africa to upgrade a section of its 4G network to 4G+. The 4G network provides customers with service at up to 100 Mbps, with Safaricom's 4G+ network supporting double the 4G speeds.

Kenya: Development centre - Microsoft plans to establish a technology development centre. The company's Vice President for Gaming, Phil Spencer, said the Africa Development Centre will serve the Eastern Africa region, telling President Uhuru Kenyatta that the centre, the seventh globally, will be the corporation's gateway to the region and have potential for jobs and business opportunities for young people in various ICT specialisations. Initially the corporation will absorb 100 local engineers, in vacancies that were announced in March. Microsoft has also earmarked Nigeria as the other beneficiary of a similar facility to serve West Africa.

Kenya: Mobile money high - The volume of mobile money transactions in the first quarter of 2019 rose 10.7 percent to KES 1.1 trillion (USD 10.7 billion), data from the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) showed. Transactions in March rose by 12.3 percent to KES 368.39 billion (USD 3.6 billion), an all-time high in a single month. The number of transactions grew by 16.89 million to 161.38 million in the month, and reached 460.1 million in the first quarter. At the end of March the number of agents facilitating mobile money transactions had risen to 226,957 from 205,745 at the close of 2018. The number of accounts stood at 50.36 million, up by 2.67 million in three months. The number of active registered mobile money transfer subscriptions was 1.63 million at the end of December 2018.

another fine mess for african telecoms

Kenya: More mobile numbers - The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) has released a new mobile numbering prefix 01xxx in addition to the existing 07xxx. CA Director General Francis Wangusi, said that the new prefix will be effective immediately and was necessitated by increased demand for SIM cards, mobile data and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications. Wangusi said that Safaricom and Airtel had already been issued with 2 million and 3 million numbers respectively utilising the new prefix. The new prefix is inline with National Numbering Plan developed in 2002.

Kenya: Office opening - Toshiba is readying to open a new branch office in Nairobi under Toshiba Africa, the its main subsidiary launched in South Africa in 2014, and will start operations in May.

Liberia: Political partying - Lonestar Cell MTN has been directed to distance itself from Benoni Urey, the political leader of the opposition All Liberian Party (ALP), or risk repercussions, which Mulbah Morlu, chairman of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) termed 'citizens' withdrawal from the company services', FrontPageAfrica reported. On 1 May Morlu told journalists that Urey is allegedly using the operator to 'spy' on political opponents by recording subscribers' conversations, which, when handed to media practitioner, are using them for 'smear campaigns'. No evidence was provided. Urey is reported to have been a shareholder in the company until selling his stake in 2017.

Mali: Expanding footprint - TV operator TNT Sat Africa is to launch its services in Cote d'Ivoire and Guinea, Nextvame reported. It has now received regulatory approval and will be able to start deployment. TNT Sat Africa has some 150,000 subscribers in Mali and hopes to sign-up some 4 million subscribers by 2023 in several African countries. It offers 50 African channels and is targeting the continental free-to-air television market. TNT Sat Africa recently introduced the Africawood channel to offer films and series produced by local creators.

Nigeria: 4G expansion - Airtel Nigeria has extended its 4G network to Enugu and Uyo. Airtel announced the commercial launch of 4G LTE services in Ibadan in February 2018, using spectrum in the 1800MHz band. The network was expanded to Abuja in May 2018 and reached around 60 towns and cities in 16 states by October 2018, including Lagos.

Nigeria: New CTO - MTN Nigeria has named Mohammed Rufai as its new Chief Technical Officer. He holds a Bachelor of Technology degree in Computer Science from Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi as well as certifications from the General Management Program at Cranfield University, the Global Advance Programme at Duke Corporate Education, India and the Senior Management Program at the Lagos Business School. Prior to this appointment, Rufai worked with MTN Group where he was the General Manager responsible for Technology in the South East Africa and Ghana region.

South Africa: Better broadband - Liquid Telecom South Africa (LT) has signed a deal with the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) to deliver broadband services to hospitals, schools, clinics and provincial offices in the Eastern Cape, and so enhance service delivery to the public. LT's partnership with SITA and the Eastern Cape Provincial Government will see network expansion which, under normal circumstances, would not have been commercially feasible. With the ECPG as an anchor customer, broadband can now be delivered to ECPG designated points of access and presence. The partnership will connect 2,700 government facilities initially with 100 Mbps Internet, increasing to 1 Gbps at most sites over the contracted period.

South Africa: Hotspot access - Mobile network operator Cell-C has signed a deal with the Free State Provincial Government for public access Wi-Fi for the province. The Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) sets-out how access will be provided to Cell-C's public access hotspots in the province, supported by Facebook's Express WiFi platform. Cell-C said the platform allows government to reach its constituents and that more than 20,000 skills transfer hours will be shared with young people in the province.

South Africa: Recycled decoder - MultiChoice Group has launched its DStv HD Decoder Six, which replaces the five-series decoders. The new HD Decoder is made of recyclable components whilst retaining the same functionalities and features as the old series and retains most of its features. The decoder includes a micro-SIM and is XtraView compatible with all DStv Explora models. MultiChoice said customers who own an HD Decoder 4 or 5 will not need to replace or upgrade their device. The new decoder retails at ZAR 399 (USD 28) as a standalone product, or ZAR 599 (USD 42) including installation.

South Africa: Self-renewing bundle - MTN South Africa has launched a 1 MB auto-renewing data bundle, according to MyBroadband. In concept, it is similar to Vodacom’s data refill service, and will apply to all customers who have not opted out of out-of-bundle billing (OOB). MTN has messaged its subscribers to tell them that they will be automatically subscribed to the service, and will be available to pre-paid subscribers from 16 May and post-paid from 7 June. Subscribers can opt out. The self-renewing bundle is claimed to be allowable under the ICASA End User and Subscriber Service Charter (EUSSC). The expiry window for the auto-renewing 1 MB bundle has not been stated.

Towers: Upward revenues - Total revenue rose 4.1 percent to USD 1.813 billion in 1Q19 for American Tower. Property revenue grew 4.4 percent to USD 1.786 billion, net was up 45.4 percent to USD 408 million, adjusted EBITDA up 4.9 percent to USD 1.114 billion, and consolidated adjusted funds from operations (AFFO) increased 6.7 percent to USD 861 million. In 1Q19 total capital expenditures were USD 231 million, of which USD 32 million was for non-discretionary capital improvements and corporate capital expenditures. It began 2019 with strong global leasing activity, 8.2 percent Organic Tenant Billings Growth in the US, the construction of more than 700 new sites and a 20 percent dividend increase.

Zimbabwe: Base station initiative - The Ministry of Communications has commissioned the Dendera Moran base station in Midlands Province, TechMag reported. This is the second Moran Base station to be commissioned in the same province. A Moran base station allows all mobile networks to share one tower transporting the same signal to the last mile, under an infrastructure sharing initiative sponsored by the government via USF funds. So far POTRAZ has set-up fourteen Community Information Centres, with two of the centres providing training in basic computer skills. This has resulted in 1,925 people having being trained in the Midlands Province. The two Moran base stations complement the other 644 base stations in the Midlands province.

Zimbabwe: Bundles on the up - Econet Wireless Zimbabwe has raised its data bundle prices by 150 percent after state-owned rivals NetOne and Telecel made adjustments in April. There are now more bundles to choose from, including Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook data combined with Snapchat, and there are still daily, weekly and monthly bundles. The new rates are 40 MB for RTGS* 1; 250 MB for RTGS 2.50; 1 GB costs RTGS 5 and 2 GB will be charged at RTGS 8 respectively. For a monthly data bouquet worth RTGS 10, a subscriber will get 270 MB, which is 32.5 percent less than the 400 MB that they got before. Econet used to charge RTGS 5 for 200 MB but following the changes, this will now purchase 130 MB, a 35 percent decrease. * Real Time Gross Transfer dollars.

Middle East:

Iran: Fibre stake - ISP HiWEB has acquired a 23 percent stake in Iranian Net (IN). IN has been tasked by the government to roll out fibre-to-the-home (FttH) infrastructure in the major cities. The Financial Tribune reports that HiWEB has bought its shares from the ICT arm of the Mobin Trust Consortium (Etemad-e-Mobin), which is also the majority shareholder in fixed line operator Telecommunications Company of Iran (TCI). HiWEB uses a mix of fixed and fixed-wireless networks to offer Internet access in Iran. Iranian Net is part-owned by South Africa's MTN Group.

Iran: Wholesale fibre - The state-owned fibre networks are to be opened-up to third-party service providers. The Financial Tribune reports that the Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA) is inviting licensed operators to apply to utilise spare capacity on networks which have been deployed by the Telecommunications Infrastructure Company (TIC). Broadband providers include MobinNet, MTN Irancell, Pars Online, Telecommunications Company of Iran (TCI) and Shatel.

Israel: Cellular credit - 018 Xfone, which operates under the We4G branding, is expecting to be the first mobile fintech operator to provide credit to its customers, Globes reported, citing sources. The controlling shareholder Hezi Bezalel has hired former Dun and Bradstreet Israel CEO Hayim Cohen to manage the implementation. Development of the app is reported to be in the advanced stages, as is assembly of the system that will manage the banking operation. The company expected to provide the platform is Tarya, a technology services provider which is authorised to operate such a platform in Israel.

Kuwait: Mobile home maintenance - Zain Kuwait is partnering with MyHome, a mobile application for maintenance services, to give its customers an exclusive discount of 15 percent until the end of May. MyHome offers users a wide range of maintenance services Users can choose the maintenance category required, specify the issue, or request an assessment. Users can also attach photos and a description of the issue if needed for a more accurate service. Users can then choose the time and place, select a payment method via the app.

Middle East: Senior executive shuffle - Batelco Bahrain’s new CEO is Mikkel Vinter, who has replaced Mohamed Bubashait. Vinter founded Virgin Mobile, Middle East & Africa in 2006 and served as its CEO until 2016. Before that, he held senior roles at Nawras in Oman, TDC in Denmark and Singtel in Singapore. Meanwhile Bubashait is now CEO of the National Broadband Network, a newly formed entity that will be responsible for the country's broadband network and providing telecom services to all licensed operators. He has led the separation programme since he joined Batelco in October 2017. Ihab Hinnawi has been named as CEO of Batelco's international investments and will assume new responsibilities, looking at the restructuring of Batelco's foreign operations. Hinnawi has held the role of group CEO since December 2015.

Oman: Digitalised documents - Omantel and the Ministry of Heritage and Culture (MoHC) have launched a platform that hosts 4,000 digitised manuscripts, Muscat Daily reported. People can read the manuscripts online and can obtain a digital copy for a minimal fee. Omantel has provided a platform that is user-friendly and safe, and has an index. Users need to register on the platform for OMR 20 (USD 51.80) annually and a copy of any document for OMR 10 (USD 25.90), with or without the annual subscription.

Oman: Zain consolidated - Oman Telecommunications Company (Omantel) unaudited results for 1Q 2019 including the effect of fully-consolidated Zain Group results. Group revenue stands at OMR 628.7 million (USD 1.63 billion) the first quarter, compared to OMR 470.0 million (USD 1.22 billion) a year earlier, primarily due to the consolidation of Zain's revenue, while turnover from domestic operations fell 10 percent y-o-y to OMR 130.5 million (USD 338.0 million). Group EBITDA rose by 77 percent to OMR 269.9 million (USD 699.1 million) in 1Q19, while net profit grew 34 percent from OMR 45.2 million (USD 117.1 million) to OMR 60.5 million (USD 156.7 million) over the same period. Domestic profit rose 12 percent y-o-y to OMR 19.0 million (USD 49.2 million), on the back of growth in fixed line revenue, improved gross margins and cost optimisation measures.

Qatar: Device readiness - From 14 May Vodafone Qatar started taking pre-orders for the first 5G smartphone on its network, the Xiaomi Mi MIX 3 (5G), built using Qualcomm technology and costing QAR 3,999 (USD 1,086), The Peninsula reported. Initial stocks will be limited, while a launch date for commercial 5G smartphone services has not been announced. Vodafone Qatar recently announcement of a home broadband service utilising 5G technology over its 3.5GHz network and a contract signed with Huawei to expand 5G infrastructure.

Qatar: Weekly scans - Ooredoo Qatar has launched the Ramadan Weekend Surprises promotion which asks subscribers to use their Ooredoo app to scan artwork on its social media pages, on digital screens at Ooredoo shops or on banners and roll-ups around town, in order to receive surprises including data, Nojoom offers and exclusive offers with its partners. Users will be encouraged to scan new artwork as it appears every Thursday, Friday and Saturday during the holy month of Ramadan.

Saudi Arabia: Fast phoning - Zain Saudi Arabia (Zain KSA) has completed one of the first 5G calls in the region on its network. It claims speeds exceeded 1,000 Mbps on its 5G network with various other tests being conducted to determine the average speed that a 5G network offers and ensure full technical readiness. Zain KSA's CEO Eng. Sultan bin Abdulaziz AlDeghaither, said: "This is one of the first 5G call experiences in the region, and one of the first in the world without using voice-call apps. We have managed to tap into unprecedented speeds via 5G technology, demonstrating once again the active role Zain KSA plays in the ICT sector. Zain KSA plans to introduce more 5G services.