News in Brief 6 November 2019

Africa:

Africa: Local distributors - The OTT service Demand Africa (DA) announced that M-Net Studios, Cote Ouest, eTV, BBC and SABC have joined the list of African distributors on its streaming platform. These deals will deliver over 1,500 hours of African lifestyle, films and TV shows, many of which have never been available outside Africa.

Africa & Middle East: Internet safety - MTN Group has launched a Child Online Protection initiative and is to work with the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF). MTN is the first Africa-wide telco to partner with the IWF. The deal will offer support services from IWF to MTN. These include alerts to MTN Group if a domain under MTN's control is found to host child sexual abuse content. Such domains will be blocked automatically. 

Cameroon: High-level intervention - On 1 November Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue met with the Cameroonian Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute. The Vietnam delegation stressed the need to conclude negotiations and the signing of agreements for the protection and encouragement of investments, and for double taxation between the two countries as soon as possible. It was also proposed that the number of delegations on all levels should be increased. Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute responded that his country would like to intensify its full cooperation with Vietnam, especially in politics, economy, trade, investment, agriculture, processing industry. As would be expected, the two leaders discussed support measures for Vietnamese companies, including Nexttel, a joint venture between the Vietnamese telecommunications group Viettel and its partner in Cameroon. It will be recalled that businessman Baba Ahmadou Danpullo is reported to have recently restarted talks with Vietnamese partner Nexttel for the settlement of the two-year dispute regarding the control of the mobile operator.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Fibre enhancements - On 29 October the Minister of Posts, Telecommunications and New Technologies of Information and Communication (PT-NTIC), Augustin Kibassa, attended a ceremony to accept equipment intended for the first phase of the national backbone network which is due to start at coastal Muanda and run to the capital in Kinshasa, the mediacongo Website reported. Minister Kibassa completed the process by formally handing over the Huawei-sourced equipment to the Director General of the Congolese Post and Telecommunications Company (SCPT), Patrick Umba. The first phase will see the capacity on the link expanded 5-fold from the current 20 gigabit capacity.

Guinea: Smart meeting - The second meeting of the Council of Ministers of Telecommunications of the Smart Africa Alliance member countries was held in Conakry on 31 October. Guinea's Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, Moustapha Mamy Diaby, said that the meeting had brought together ministers from 30 countries to discuss the drafting of a number of documents, including rules of procedure, for the proper functioning of the Council of Ministers.

Kenya: Money momentum - Safaricom said 1 November that its earnings before interest and taxes rose 12.7 percent to USD 482.79 million in the first half year ending September 2019. It attributed the growth to increased revenue from its mobile financial service, M-Pesa, and its internet access provision.

State of Digital - Angola: February 2018

Kenya: Solar solution - The use of solar power has been expanded by Africa Data Centres, having ordered the installation of a 1.2 MW plant at its facility in Nairobi, Bloomberg reported. The plant is to be installed by Distributed Power Africa and adds to solar installations at its Cape Town and Johannesburg centres. Africa Data Centres also has facilities in Harare and Kigali. The DPA's CEO Norman Moyo noted that the power needs of data centres tend to be large and sensitive, particularly in countries with regular grid outages.

Mayotte: 4G launch - Telecom Reunion Mayotte (Telco OI), which is controlled jointly by Iliad Group of France and Axian Group (previously Hiridjee Group), has launched 4G LTE services with speeds of up to 70Mbps in Mayotte. The operator operates under the Only banner, and has introduced three pre-paid 4G plans; Massama Plus, Massama Maxi and Massama Mega. These offer 2GB (USD 16.67), 4GB (USD 27.70) and 20GB (USD 44.30) of data, while post-paid subscribers can choose between the Silver and Gold suites of plans (with a 24-month contract). According to the Agence Nationale des Frequences (ANFR), Telco OI is authorised to operate 100 4G-enabled sites in the 800MHz and 1800MHz bands; the company is understood to be able to provide 4G services to 99 percent of the population.

Nigeria: Easy listening - MTN Nigeria is launching a music-streaming platform dubbed MusicTime! It was developed in partnership with Simfy Africa and offers access to Nigerian and African music. MusicTime! is available on Google Play Store. Customers can download the app and enjoy free 60 minutes' worth of streaming. Subscribers can stream music even if they have no data on their phone. It has no subscription cost and all that is paid for is the time spent listening to music on the platform. The interface offers playlists and trending music, allows the sharing of personal playlist with friends and allows the pausing of music.

another fine mess for african telecoms

South Africa: Cloud deal - The State Information Technology Agency (SITA) and Microsoft South Africa have signed a memorandum of understanding allowing government departments to move their services to Microsoft's Azure cloud platform. The MOU endorses Microsoft as a key partner to enable the state's digital transformation. SITA acting CEO, Ntutule Tshenye, said there will be other agreements to modernize and digitally transform government. Microsoft South Africa's MD, Lillian Barnard, said Microsoft had launched its first South African data centres nearly six months ago.

South Africa: Public sector perk cuts - Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni, has said that the government will stop buying mobile phones for public representatives and senior managers in the public service, SANews reported. Mboweni said that this area of expenditure will be looked at with a view to compelling public servants to buy their own phones and subsequently claim for official calls. Mboweni said that an audit had found that the government spends some ZAR 5 billion (USD 341.0 million) on mobile phones annually. The review is to also look at expenditure on ministerial cars and mobile phone benefits, and ensuring that everyone, including ministers, provincial executive and mayors, travels economy class for all domestic flights.

South Africa: Ransom attack - Liquid Telecom and ISP Webafrica are victim to distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, ITWeb has reported. This follows the City of Johannesburg and South African banks being the target of cyber attacks last week. Liquid said the attack, which relates to a specific customer, is re-occurring sporadically, and noted that the cyber response team is actively responding to each attack. The upstream provider has implemented additional mitigation controls on the volumetric DDoS attack and traffic returned to normal at 10.20 pm. According to the ISP, services have returned to normal, and engineers will continue to monitor the network. The cyber criminals gave the city until 5.00 pm on 28 October to pay a ransom of 4.0 Bitcoin.

South Africa: Seasonal promotions - Mobile network operator Cell-C has launched its WIN24Summer, a summer campaign which features new prizes and deals on various handsets. Customers can upload video clips of their summer experiences to the WIN24Summer portal, where they will be curated into daily showreels. Cell-C subscribers will also receive instant prizes in the form of data, airtime, and SMSs when purchasing qualifying bundles. These include daily, five-day or 30-day data bundles, as well as any of its all-in-one bundles and pre- or post-paid voice bundles. The purchases also qualify users for entry to daily, weekly, and monthly prize draws for big-ticket items. Daily draws offer the potential to win items such as smartphone, shopping, and cash vouchers, while weekly draws include bigger cash prizes and laptop vouchers.

South Africa: Upgraded network - Liquid Telecom South Africa has launched a network upgrade to meet the demand for greater bandwidth and improved reliability. It includes regionalised redundancy to overcome network interruptions. It will also provide customers with increased capacity and on-demand bandwidth. A self-service facility now allows users to boost their bandwidth for periods of a day, a week or a month. It has supplied near-unlimited capacity on the new core network and deployed a chatbot.

Tanzania: Own-branded device - Vodacom Tanzania on 1 November announced the launch of its first smart feature phone, Smart Kitochi, operating on KaiOS. Pricing starts at TZS 48,000 (USD 20). The device also comes with a monthly bundle of 4GB data, 100 Mins Talk time and 500 SMS for the first 6 months. Features include Wi-Fi and GPS, as well as a hybrid dual-SIM slot that can support two SIM cards with 4GB + 512MB RAM memory. The 1400mAh battery enables up to 6 hours of talking time. The device will be available in other African countries soon.

Tanzania: Superior support - Vodacare, the revamped customer support channel portfolio, has been launched by Vodacom Tanzania. By dialing *149*04# a subscriber can reverse M-Pesa transactions, check usage information and access services including balance inquiries, Iternet settings and information on various Vodacom products. The eight VodaCare services can be accessed by dialing 100/01 to the call centre, using social media pages, Whatsapp, live chat through the Vodacom website or My Vodacom App, the self-help menu and in all Vodashop and service desks.

Uganda: Better yet - To mark five years of operations in Uganda, Africell has announced a new commercial direction dubbed 'New Chapter', pmldaily reported. This builds on previous achievements including the delivery of a new generation of affordable communication solutions, outstanding customer service and improved data quality on 3G & 4G networks. Africell's holding Chairman and CEO Mr. Ziad Dalloul said at a press conference that the New Chapter places the customers at the heart of its focus. Ziad said that the strategic priorities include enhancing the customer experience by personalizing service and customizing offers, as well as increasing Africell's commercial and social relevance by undertaking a wave of new corporate social responsibility initiatives, particularly in the Education and Security Sectors. This will be achieved through partnerships with government and local communities, to help Uganda realize the ICT aspirations set-out in Vision 2040.

Zambia: No sale - The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), the state's investment arm which has a stake in Zambia Telecommunications Company (Zamtel), has dismissed press reports that the state is planning to sell its stake to India's Bharti Infratel. The Lusaka Times reported IDC's Chief Executive, Mateyo Kaluba, as saying that there have been no discussions with Bharti Infratel, or any other entity, with regard to the possible sale of Zamtel.

Zimbabwe: Stake ratified - Mobile operator Telecel's shareholder James Makamba has won a long-running legal battle over his holding. Makamba's firm Kestrel Corporation is part of the Empowerment Corporation, a consortium of local investors which holds 40 percent stake; the remainder is owned by the government. The Magamba eChimurenga Housing Trust had claimed a 24 percent stake in Empowerment Corporation, but News Day reports that the high court has dismissed its application with costs.

Middle East:

Afghanistan: Interference isolated - ATRA Supervising and Control Team have seized eleven repeaters in cooperation with law enforcement bodies and after technical investigation following interference being detected in Kabul city.

Bahrain: Better collaboration - At a meeting at Capacity Europe 2019 at InterContinental London from 28 to 31 October Batelco and Gulf Bridge International (GBI) reaffirmed their long-standing partnership. They are to boost their collaboration goals to ensure delivery of accelerated connectivity between Bahrain and Europe for the customers of both companies. The collaborative efforts will also improve competitive prices for customers of both GBI and Batelco. The combination of GBI's network boosted by Batelco's Gulf Network (BGN) supports Batelco's comprehensive plans to deliver a robust national and international infrastructure. Both the GBI and BGN Networks are supported by Batelco's round-the-clock Network Operations Centre (NOC).

Bahrain: Fibre flagged-off - Zain Bahrain is to launch its fibre-optic broadband services for homes and enterprises from 1 November. The service is part of the 4th National Telecommunication Plan (NTP4). Zain has partnered with the national network BNET to develop the telecommunication sector and grow the penetration of broadband services in Bahrain. Registration for fibre-optic packages can be made through the Zain Bahrain E-shop portal. The packages are to offer high bandwidth with easy and seamless upgrades and reliable technology.

Israel: Career progression - Cellcom Israel announced on 30 October that VP of Television and Content Rafi Shauli has been named as Vice President of Marketing, effective from 1 December 2019. Shauli has served as the VP of television and content since June 2019. From 2012 to 2019, he was the head of Private Customers Marketing Department. From 2008 to 2011 he was director of Products and Business Development in the Marketing Division of Yes, and from 2011 to 2012 as Director of Products and Business Development in the Marketing Division of Bezeq. From 2005 to 2008, Shauli served as Director of Communications Solutions for Businesses in the Marketing Department of 013 Netvision.

Middle East: Inter-regional JV - Arc, with a mission to simplify intra-regional connectivity in the Middle East and provide interconnected data centre services for carrier, cloud and content providers and major enterprise companies, has been jointly launched by UAE operator Du and Bahrain's Batelco. Arc minimises the complexities of regional hub connectivity through developing a single platform for developing agile network ecosystems, the companies said. It offers prompt access to data networks and data centre infrastructures across the region. Arc is initially offering connectivity solutions to over 30 points of presence (POPs) in the Middle East, Asia and Europe, integrated with data centres in the UAE and Bahrain, in addition to bridging cross connectivity with major regional cable hubs.

Oman: Discounted cabs - Omantel has partnered with taxi application firm Careem to provide subscribers with a 25 percent discount on rides, The Observer reported. Makasib Gold, Platinum & Al Ufuq members dial 22433# and then using the promotion code on the Careem App. Users receive a Makasib point for every OMR 1 they spend on any of the various Omantel services. These points are valid for two years and participants can redeem them with rewards.

Qatar: Airport enhancement - Vodafone Qatar has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Hamad International Airport (HIA) to provide 5G. HIA is already investing in smart technologies to transform passenger services using biometric, facial recognition. The intelligent 5G-enabled network will be able to support the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence and Big Data to transform passenger service, enhance safety, boost operational efficiencies and generate revenue.

Qatar: In-flight renewal - Ooredoo Qatar has signed a new four-year agreement for the continued provision of onboard Wi-Fi to Qatar Airways. Ooredoo provides its Exclusive Onboard Wi-Fi Sponsor for all Qatar Airways flights equipped with onboard Wi-Fi. Passengers will see the Ooredoo logo on their Qatar Airways log-in screen and on information in seat pockets.

Qatar: Roadmap deal - Vodafone Qatar and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) have signed a MoU that will see the two collaborate to provide enterprises and government in Qatar with advanced ICT solutions. Vodafone Qatar and HPE will jointly draw up an innovation roadmap for government and enterprises to transition from traditional technology platforms to futuristic services. Vodafone Qatar will work with HPE to launch cloud services for mission-critical applications and business continuity services for customers in Qatar. Vodafone Qatar also joins the HPE Partner Ready Service Provider program as a Gold partner for Qatar.

Saudi Arabia: Expanding coverage - The coverage of Zain's 5G network now extends to 27 cities, including Ahad Rufaidah and Wadi Al-Dawasir. The operator is planning a gradual expansion of the network by the end of 2019, with a total of 2,600 towers scheduled to be deployed by December 2019. Zain launched commercial 5G services in October 2019, with the first phase being implemented through a network of 2,000 towers that covered more than 20 cities.

Turkey: Fastest yet - Turk Telekom (TT) reached world record-breaking 5G speeds above 2.9 Gbps per second in a live 5G test network conducted with Huawei. TT said it was also the first operator in the world to test 5G New Radio Carrier Integration technology (NR Carrier Aggregation) with commercial telephones during this trial. It created a live 5G test network in compliance with the international 3GPP standards made by Huawei at TT's Umraniye Teknopark Mobile Network Test Center. The highest 5G speed was reached with the Huawei Mate 20 X 5G smartphone, which has a Turk Telekom 5G compatible SIM card compatible with 3GPP standards.