News in Brief 20 April 2017

Algeria: Better broadband bundles - Djezzy's mobile broadband portfolio now includes an LTE ZTE MF910 router with pre-paid credit of 20 GB selling for DZD 9,990 (USD 90.30), compared to the promotional launch price of DZD 6,990 (USD 63) in November 2016. Valid for two months, the advertised credit of 20 GB is made up of 10 GB offered as standard, plus 10 GB given to new subscribers who purchase the package before 2 May. Djezzy is also offering six different top-up tariffs, from 500 MB valid for seven days to 20 GB valid for six months priced DZD 500 (USD 4.52) and DZD 7,500 (USD 68) respectively. Both the 3G and LTE routers are available without a SIM, while users who already have a device can buy pre-paid SIM-only tariffs, starting from 100 MB of data with a 30-day validity for priced DZD 200 (USD 1.81).

Algeria: Cable conservation - Internet traffic was interrupted from 1 am to 6 pm on the SEA-ME-WE 4 submarine cable on 14 April 2017, Agence Ecofin reported. The Minister for Post and Information Technology, Imane Houda Feraoun, said the interruption was due to work on a new secured landing chamber to ensure 'optimal protection of the cable'. This follows the 'underwater cable dumping and damage to its landing chamber caused by inclement weather on the coast of Annaba on 6 March'. ELETTRA, which is authorized to enter international waters, will carry out the repairs.

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Bahrain: Fast Internet - Batelco has been recognised for its delivery of fast mobile Internet speeds and high customer satisfaction rates. In November 2016, Batelco was recognised by Speedtest by Ookla for its outstanding performance as Bahrain's fastest Mobile Internet provider. Batelco Bahrain CEO Engineer Al Hashemi said: "Batelco's investment in new and upgraded networks ensures that our customers have access to fast speeds and reliable services. Additionally, we have invested in establishing the largest Customer Contact Centre in Bahrain and in training hundreds of staff in handing customer issues efficiently. With the Centre being operational 24/7 every day of the year, our customers can depend on the highest levels of customer care."

Botswana: 4G upgrade - Orange Botswana has launched 4G services in Serowe. Orange Botswana's Sales Operations Manager, Sipho Ntebang, said that the development represents 'an extra mile' from the 3G network launched in Serowe community a few years back. Orange also distributed free 4G SIM cards, branded 'Bua Le Nna' and promoting unlimited calls between Orange users, provided clients had subscribed to the offers currently available.

Central African Republic: SIM shortage - Both new and existing subscribers are having difficulty obtaining Telecel Centrafrique SIM cards. The few dealers who still have a stock are reported to have quintupled prices, with the XAF 1,000 (USD 1.62) are now selling for XAF 5,000. JournaldeBangui.com reported Telecel’s head of social service, Gabrielle Guegbelet, as saying: "If all goes well, SIM cards will be available in our agencies in two weeks".

Nigeria: Campus connectivity - At the third annual conference and fourth annual general meeting of the West and Central African Research and Education Network (WACREN) in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire Globacom's Enterprise Group Commercial Coordinator Folu Aderibigbe committed to employing its telecommunications infrastructure and international partnerships to deploy Internet connectivity to institutions of higher learning in West Africa. Aderibigbe noted that the Glo 1 international submarine cable links European and West African countries.

Egypt: Fruitful meeting - Apple is reported to be considering the local ICT market. Apple's Head of Government Affairs for the Middle East, India and Africa, Khafran Ali, has met with Minister of Information and Communication Technologies Yasser ElKady at the Innovation Summit 2017 in Dubai 11 - 12 April 2017. Apple is interested in the Big Data industry in Egypt, and an Apple team is due in May to consider the establishment of a software and applications development centre.

Ghana: Optional interest - Mobile money subscribers of MTN Ghana can now unsubscribe from automatic interest payments, NewsGhana has reported. The move now means that users can be compliant with Islamic teachings as found in the Quran. Users dial *595* and follow a series of prompts to be exempted from subsequent payments. MTN Mobile Money customers are being paid interest in line with the EMI Guidelines issued by the Bank of Ghana in July 2015 and finally approved in September 2016. MTN has paid over GHS 45 million (USD 10.6 million) to its customers.

Kenya: Rate cuts - The Nation reports that Airtel and Telkom Kenya have cut their tariffs asthey strive to win share from Safaricom. Airtel's 6.8 million users can now call each other free of charge for up to 100 minutes daily, or call rival networks for KES 2 (USD 0.02) per minute; the package is available for KES 10 (USD 0.10) daily or KES 50 (USD 0.50) weekly. Telkom Kenya for KES 19 (USD 0.18) daily fee gives customers free unlimited on-net calls, calls to other networks at KES 1.80 (USD 0.02) per minute, free text messages across all networks, and 20 megabytes of data. Meanwhile Safaricom has also cut the prices of voice calls, SMS and data by a third through its 'Flex' offering. Promotions and special offers are, however, time-bound to ensure that they do not distort the market, and as such, are limited to 90 days.

Kuwait: Technology tested - Saudi Telecom Company (STC) subsidiary Viva Kuwait has tested 5G network technology in its lab, achieving data speeds of nearly 35Gbps, and claiming a 'country first'. In December 2016 Zain Group and Swedish vendor Ericsson entered into a 5G research and development deal, which will allow them to evaluate performance and applicability of potential 5G key technology components.

Mauritius: Internet licence - The Central Electricity Board (CEB) applied on 3 April to the Information and Communications Technology Authority (ICTA) for a wholesale ISP licence. The Express reports that with the licence the utility will be able to fully market its extensive fibre-optic network. It is also a member of the Melting Pot Indiaoceanic Submarine System (METISS) consortium, which aims to improve access to data by 2018. With its current network CEB provides Internet connectivity only to FAI Bharat Telecom.

Nigeria: Tower friendly - The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said that there are no health issues associated with telecom masts and towers. Executive Vice-Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta made the comment in a statement issued at the 2017 Enugu International Trade Fair, the Vanguard reported. He added that there was no 'scientific base' for claiming they were harmful, and there was therefore no reason to deny the 'right of way' for their erection. Such obstruction only contributed to the poor quality of network service.

Oman: Faster fibre - From 16 April Omantel has launched fibre optic services for domestic residences across Ghubra and Azaiba. Customers can experience the service for free in the first month, and will also receive a free Wi-Fi router. In addition, existing ADSL customers can retain their fixed line numbers even if they upgrade to fibre. Omantel's triple play services via fibre provides services at speeds of up to 200 mbps.

Oman: PABX in the Cloud - Ooredoo Oman has introduced Business Reach Mobile, which provides Private Automated Branch Exchange (PABX) or switchboard functionality by hosting it in the Cloud. Features include an interactive voice response system (IVR) to manage and direct all inbound call traffic through a virtual receptionist.

Qatar: Cheap international calling - Ooredoo has launched a new Dawli QAR 5 (USD 1.37) International Calling Card. It claims that this is the 'lowest ever' international calling top-up option for Hala customers, Ooredoo has said in a press statement. Expatriate Ooredoo users will be able to call home for 30 minutes to India, Nepal, the Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia. Calls to Nepal will be valid for Nepal Telecom numbers only while calls to the Philippines will be valid for Globe Network numbers. The card will be valid for use on the day of activation only.

Qatar: CRA on the case - The Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA) says it issued a total of 4,059 spectrum licences in 2016, up by 145 percent from 1,654 licences in 2015. The number of frequencies assigned also increased significantly to 2,538 (up by 117 percent from 1,167 in 2015). Type approval certificates issued for radio and telecommunications terminal equipment remained relatively unchanged at 1,114 (from 1,212 in 2015). In 2016 the CRA also finalised the National Frequency Allocation Plan (NFAP). CRA says that it received 84 spectrum interference cases and conducted 11 investigations of quality of service relating to the complaints received during 2016. Furthermore CRA conducted two routine inspections of shops selling radio and telecommunication equipment and a total of 79 violation notices were issued for using or selling equipment without valid licenses.

Qatar: Price guarantee - Ooredoo has announced the launch of the new 'Great Prices Guaranteed' campaign for its domestic customers. Ooredoo will provide a matching or lower price for services compared to other operators in Qatar. It includes local, international, and roaming mobile services from April 2017 and it will match any new service rates after April 2017 within 30 days. Ooredoo Qatar CEO Waleed al-Sayed said: "Our last campaign demonstrated our ongoing investment in the Supernet and highlighted the achievement that we were voted the best network in Qatar by our customers for six years." The first customer to find a valid price difference before 30 April will earn 10,000 Nojoom points. Price comparisons will be applied on 'like for like' services from official telecommunication operators in Qatar only (published on official tariff document) and will be judged on a combination of price, validity and value.

South Africa: Free fibre - Cell C is offering new subscribers to its C-Fibre service the first three months free without installation charges, MyBroadband reports. The offer includes free installation worth ZAR 1,710 (USD 125), free connection worth ZAR 1,140 (USD 83), and a free Wi-Fi router with LTE failover worth ZAR 1,699 (USD 124). The promotion also offers 1 GB of free LTE data per month for the first twelve months, valued at ZAR 828 (USD 60). The three-month discount applies for 90 days. The promotion applies on the Vumatel, Mitsol and FrogFoot networks on month-to-month C-Fibre contracts and runs until 30 April.

Turkey: Roaming home - Turkcell subscribers in Germany can use their data allowances also when roaming in Turkey. Plans start at EUR 14.99 (USD 15.90) per month for 500 MB as well as 200 minutes to all German, Turkish and Syrian networks, which can also be used when roaming in Turkey. The Smart range also includes plans with 1 GB for EUR 19.99 (USD 21.21) and 3 GB for EUR 24.99 (USD 26.52).  Bolt-on options start at EUR 3 (USD 3.18) for 200 MB in Germany or EUR 9.99 (USD 10.60) for 500 MB in Turkey. Turkcell Europe is operated by Deutsche Telekom.

United Arab Emirates: Visitor connectivity - Miral, the developer of Abu Dhabi's Yas Island, have partnered with Etisalat to provide an advert-free high-speed Internet connection enabling residents and visitors to text, browse, chat and stream videos. The service is accessed through the 'UAE Wi-Fi by Etisalat' network.