News in Brief 17 June 2015

Africa: Fingerprints point the way forward - Biometric identification specialist Morpho says it plans to 'aggressively' capture the untapped markets in the rest of Africa, BizTechAfrica reported. It recently showcased MorphoWave in South Africa. Guillaume Lefevre, Morpho VP Market Development and Sales, is upbeat about the adoption of biometrics throughout the African continent. "There is a new wave of consumer applications that will drive innovation, vendors in this space will have to adapt or die. "

Africa: Friend or foe? - Speaking at the 2015 ITU Global Symposium for regulators in Gabon, Airtel Africa chief Christian de Faria has called for regulators to create fairer frameworks that treat all providers equally. He said that OTT players cannibalise mobile revenue by 'riding on operator infrastructure and investment'. However he noted that OTT players have helped operators to reach more subscribers.

Africa: 5-years for 2G - According to the latest Ericsson Mobility Report, GSM/EDGE-only devices will predominate up to 2020 in sub-Saharan Africa, due to the high number of lower income consumers using 2G-enabled handsets.

Angola: Second channel for soaps - TV Globo is to launch a second channel in Angola and Mozambique. Globo On will offer soaps, TV series and comedy programmes, TV Magazine reports. Besides the existing TV Globo channel in SD, subscribers of pay-TV operator Zap will from 1 July also get a HD version of the Brazilian TV channel.

Bahrain: Dot expansion - Batelco has now launched its first commercial deployment of Ericsson's 4G LTE Radio Dot System solution, rolling it out to major customers. The Ericsson Radio Dot System fully integrates with Batelco's networks to provide seamless indoor coverage for customers, particularly for large organisations such as hotels, shopping malls and for office enterprise customers.

Bahrain: Licence de-listed - The TRA has revoked Golden Sands Electronics and Phone's Internet Services Provider Class License as of 4 June 2015, as per the notice published on 26 March 2015 in the Official Gazette and on the TRA's Website. TRA did not receive any comments and/or responses to its notice.

Bahrain: Packaged device - Menatelecom has launched new packages. Any new subscription to Mena Home and Mena MyFi LTE packages now includes a free device when subscribing to packages costing BHD 13 (USD 34) or more. Users can share their Internet usage and get a free MyFi device and an extra free SIM with their service when subscribing to special packages. All packages include free unlimited downloads offered by Menatelecom every day from midnight to noon at full speed for no extra charge.

Bahrain: Shop success - Batelco has claimed that its first Drive Thru Telecom shop, the only one of its kind in the GCC, which it opened in September 2014, is proving to be a huge success. The Drive Thru shop is open 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, and is located at Salmabad Petrol Station near the AMA University.

Congo Brazzaville: SIM box smashed - Regulator ARPCE and the police have dismantled their fifth telecom traffic fraud network in Brazzaville, Agence Ecofin reports. ARPCE said it had once again achieved its goal of protecting investments of operators who are legally licensed and thereby guarantee revenues to the state from the telecom sector.

Egypt: Internet infrastructure meetings - Telecom Egypt (TE) is holding a series of meetings with Internet providers to discuss lowering infrastructure prices, in order to reduce costs to the final user. Rental prices were increased by 800 percent in October 2014, after an upgrade to fibre-optic cable. The Amwal Al Ghad news portal reported that Vodafone Egypt is to meet TE this week to discuss infrastructure rental prices, including fibre, according to Vodafone's External Affairs and Legal Director, Khaled Hegazy. The meeting will discuss lowering infrastructure rental prices to provide Internet services.

Ghana: Agro service - Vodafone Farmers' Club has been launched to offer a range of exclusive mobile services. Esoko, an information service provider for agricultural markets in Africa, is providing the content the farmer's preferred language. Minister for Agriculture, Fiifi Kwetey said that the economy is 'led by the agricultural sector'. Haris Broumidis, Chief Executive Officer of Vodafone Ghana, said weather forecast and virtual market places where farmers can sell their produce and other mobile services have an important roles to play in increasing agricultural resilience.

Ghana: MNP meet - A 5-day workshop was organised last week by the National Communications Authority (NCA) in collaboration with the West Africa Telecommunications Regulations Assembly (WATRA) with nine ECOWAS countries participating. The Minister for Communications, Dr. Edward Omane-Boamah, said Ghana was more than ready to share its experience, with the workshop including discussions on the phases involved in the roll out by regulators.

Ghana: NFC now available - Airtel Ghana's Airtel Money is now offering a tap and pay, contactless payment service based on Near Field Communications (NFC) technology. Rosy Fynn, Customer Experience Director at Airtel Ghana said: "This is the first NFC mobile money payment in Ghana. The integration of this NFC payments solutions with VeriFone Mobile Money's flexible services platform provides great benefits for our customers. " Manu Rajan, Marketing Director at Airtel Ghana said that the NFC payment system was available at all KFC branches nationally and at Koala supermarket in Airport residential area. The roll out is to continue in a phased manner.

Ghana: Regional management comes acalling - Vodafone's Regional Chief Executive for Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific, Serpil Timuray, was in Ghana last week on a 2-day visit. Serpil joined Vodafone as CEO of Vodafone Turkey in January 2009, and was previously General Manager of Danone Turkey from 2002-2008 after starting her career in 1991 at Procter & Gamble where she was later appointed to the Executive Committee of Procter & Gamble Turkey. Serpil was appointed to the Executive Committee of Vodafone Group in January 2014, having previously being appointed to the Boards of Danone Group and Koc University, Turkey. She is also on the board of Vodacom South Africa.

Israel: Row rumbles on - Orange CEO Stephane Richard's apology has been rejected by Orange franchisee, Partner Communications. According to Globes, Partner said Richard's recent comments are a 'smoke screen' to mislead public opinion. Richard told AFP that Orange does not have plans to cancel its agreement in Israel.

Kenya: Fund transfer facility - Prepay Nation, a facilitator of cross-border pre-paid mobile airtime transfers, has partnered with Airtel Kenya. Individuals living in the USA, Canada, and Europe will be able to transfer small values to Airtel Kenya customers in the form of airtime minutes, without fees and from over 175,000 retail locations and Web sites. Herve Perrin, VP of Business Development at Prepay Nation said Airtel Kenya was an ideal partner as 'Kenyans living abroad are among the most active remitters in the world'.

Kenya: Network neutral loan - AVL Capital has launched a mobile cash advance service called Pesa na Pesa. The service will extend credit to any registered phone user, irrespective of network. Prospective users have to register in person before accessing the loan, however, and borrowers will be required to provide collateral, the Daily Nation reported. Loans will be KES 500 - 100,000 (USD 5 - 1,070) at 10 percent interest.

Kuwait: VIVA for VoLTE - Viva Kuwait says it is the first operator to launch Voice over Long Term Evolution (LTE) (VoLTE) technology. Customers will be able to use LTE Internet during a call, get HD call quality and take part in HD video calls.

Malawi: Telecoms tax - Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe may yet have to ditch a proposed 10 percent tax on data and text messages after it was pre-emptively implementation by operators last week. The tax was announced on 22 May in the 2015-16 national budget, but various bodies have labelled the tax as 'regressive'. Malawi's Information Minister Kondwani Nankhumwa told the Anadolu Agency that the tax would negatively affect the economy and was counter to the drive to make telecom services more affordable. Nankhumwa said he had written to the Ministry of Finance expressing his concerns.

Middle East: Fortnet appointment - Cyber security solutions Fortinet announced last week that it had appointed Manal Abi Rafeh as its Regional Marketing Manager for the Middle East and Africa. Manal is based in Fortinet's regional office in Dubai Media City and will report to Yann Pradelle, Vice President, Southern Europe, Middle East and Africa, Fortinet. Prior to joining Fortinet, Manal worked at Blue Coat Systems managing marketing and distribution.

Middle East: Huawei head named - Huawei has named Charles Yang as its President, Middle East region. Yang will oversee operations, guide its strategic direction, and lead its business development and customers' relations. He joined Huawei in 1999 and has over 16 years of experience in the telecom industry. Previous posts include being President of Huawei's STC Group account and CEO for Huawei in Shandong, Neimeng and Liaoning province in China. In the last 3 years, he has been active in Saudi Arabia.

Morocco: Computer usage climbs - Over half of the population had a desktop, laptop or tablet computer in 2014, up 6 percent on a year earlier, according to telecom regulator ANRT. The research found that 41 percent of homes were multi-equipped, with 27 percent saying they have two computers and 14 percent with at least three. Laptops account for 51.7 percent of the total and tablets 15 percent. Internet penetration rose by 5 percentage points to 50.4 percent in 2014, with 36 percent of Internet users using mobile. Mobile phone ownership stood at 94.1 percent of the population, with 13 percent using more than one. Some 9.4 million people - 38.2 percent of mobile users - had a smartphone; the smartphone base rose by 15.7 percent year-on-year.

Nigeria: City care centre - Globacom has opened a customer care centre in Benin City located at the Kada Entertainment Centre in Sapele Road. This takes the number of such outlets in Benin City to three. The others are located on Mission Road and Agbor Park Road respectively. Globacom's National Sales Coordinator, Mid-West Territory, Mr. Offor Augustus-Ndu, said that the Kada Entertainment Plaza was 'strategic' as it is one of the busiest areas in Benin City. It will be open 7 days a week.

Nigeria: Educational focus - For a three week period starting last week MTN Nigeria staff will undertake social projects focusing on the fundamental role of education and also contribute resources to support a conducive learning environment in schools. The 21 Days of Y'ello Care is a programme implemented simultaneously in all 22 operating countries of the MTN Group, in which staff volunteer their resources, time and skills to help others and the communities they live and work in.

Nigeria: Voice IM enhancement - MTN Nigeria has launched 'CallerFeel', which allows subscribers to display personalised messages during calls. The message appears as a pop-up notification to the caller. MTN's Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer, Bayo Adekanmbi, said callers could use the facility for advertising, status messaging, and mood description as well as special messages to specific callers. Users can subscribe and unsubscribe via SMS, App or WEB, and it can be accessed via the Callertunez App or Music + App.

Qatar: SME self-service - Ooredoo Qatar has launched a Business Self-Service portal aimed at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The portal enables them to manage bills and will soon allow them to place new service orders in a secure and convenient format, without having to contact their account manager or the Ooredoo call centre. The feature is free to subscribe to, with customers needing to register on the Website to receive their username and password.

Rwanda: Wallet top-up - MTN Rwanda has partnered with the Bank of Kigali to facilitate access between MTN Mobile Money wallets and Bank of Kigali accounts, the Rwanda News Agency reported. Bank of Kigali customers can use the MTN service centres and MTN Mobile Money agents to first load their wallets and then move funds from their wallets to their bank accounts. Users can indirectly load their wallets by depositing in their bank accounts at any of the BK branches, mobile vans and over 900 agents nationally.

Saudi Arabia: Dhahran data centre - Mobily has opened a data centre in Dhahran with 660 sqm of white space to accommodate both telecom and IT equipment meeting Uptime Institute Tier II. Mobily's Senior Executive Officer, business support/facilities and admin, Essam O. Aljubair, said: "The opening of this technical building in Dhahran is a major step in highlighting Mobily's expansion plans and ensuring a high return on its investment. " Of the other recently completed Mobily data centres, Melga 2 in Riyadh has been awarded Tier IV classification from Uptime Institute for both design and construction.

Saudi Arabia: Payment platform - Virgin Mobile Saudi Arabia is to increase the payment for its mobile subscribers, after signing a deal with Payfort, a regional payment service provider. Karim Benkirane, CEO of Virgin Mobile Saudi Arabia said: "We have worked hard to provide Saudi subscribers with easy ways to engage with the Virgin Mobile brand including a great user experience via mobile devices. Payfort seamlessly integrates with our existing online platforms to provide added convenience for our customers. " Omar Soudodi, managing director of Payfort noted: "Payfort's online payment platform will allow Virgin Mobile subscribers in Saudi to pay in the way most convenient to them via any connected device, whilst remaining immersed in Virgin Mobile's user experience. "

Saudi Arabia: Up-market users please - Mobily is offering an unlimited Internet roaming service for more than 55 countries, and 83 operators, in addition to a free smart device to be selected by the subscriber, worth SAR 3,600 (USD 957). The Raqi package is aimed at high value customers, including those coming in from other operators, other Mobily packages or new subscribers. Raqi gives unlimited calling minutes and SMSs within the Mobily network and unlimited high-speed Internet in Saudi.

Senegal: Headquarter investment - Sonatel opened its new headquarter building in Dakar on 11 June. The operator has invested some XOF 5 billion (USD 8.60 million) out of its own funds. President Macky Sall was due to attend the ceremony.

South Africa: Court constraint - Striking staff have been restrained from disrupting MTN's normal operations, and intimidating employees who wish to return to work, according to MyBroadband, after the operator obtained an interdict. The Labour Court has issued the order, which bars staff from coming within a 100-metre radius of any of MTN's premises during the period of industrial action. The Communications Workers Union (CWU) inspired strike has involved violence and intimidation.

South Africa: Fixed wireless fest - Telkom has launched 'SmartBroadband Uncapped High Speed Wireless', an 'unlimited' fixed-wireless Long Term Evolution (LTE) broadband service. It has the potential to provide upload speeds of up to 90Mbps/25Mbps, and prices start at ZAR 599 (USD 51.39) per month. Telkom said its 4G service will offer 'uncapped' data for all traffic types except bandwidth-intensive applications, which will be limited to 50GB. The offer will be available in selected locations in Gauteng from 10 June until 10 July, and the service will be rolled out to additional locations in the following months.

South Africa: Leap launched - BlackBerry has launched the BlackBerry Leap in Johannesburg. In a statement BlackBerry said the new device would help consumers and companies looking for enterprise fleet renewals with security and privacy at the forefront.

South Africa: Strike set-back - MTN South Africa has cancelled its 21 Days of Y'ello Care Half-Marathon planned for 13 June in Johannesburg due to security risks following recent strikes. A new race date will be announced in due course. Themba Nyathi, Chief Human Resources Officer, said MTN was commitment to resolving the strike, and had called for the appointment of an independent arbitrator.

Southern Africa: Limiting interference - Mozambique and South Africa have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to reduce interference during the technological migration from analogue to digital terrestrial TV, reports the Jornal. In cases where interference is detected, technicians from the two countries will meet to find solutions during the switchover process.

Swaziland: Pension problem - The Swaziland Post and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC) has a SZL 200 million (USD 17.2 million) hole in its pension fund. The Observer reports that the debt was incurred when it became a parastatal about 10 years ago. The paper reports that it has subsequently tried to rectify the situation, and has now offered to pay SZL 30 million (USD 2.6 million) per annum for the next six years following an agreement between the telco and the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA). If not addressed, the fund will be exhausted by 2017. The postal and telecom businesses are due to be separated by March 2016.

Tanzania: Vodacom confident - Vodacom Tanzania is to invest some TZS 200 billion (USD 109.5 million) in the next financial year, according to Chief Executive Officer Rene Meza speaking last week. Meza said it had ended 2014-15 with over 12 million subscribers, noting that five years ago it had 7.3 million subscribers. Vodacom covers about 90 percent of the population with over 3,300 sites. M-Pesa has over 6 million users and supported by 85,000 agents and is integrated with 26 banks.

Uganda: Data discounts - The cost of mobile Internet bundles has been reduced by MTN Uganda, the New Vision reported. A daily bundle of 50 MB now costs UGX 1,000 (USD 0.34), down from UGX 1,200. There is also a new daily package of 100 MB for UGX 1,800 ((USD 0.62). A 50MB weekly bundle now costs UGX 1,800, down from UGX 2,500. The 1 GB monthly bundle now costs UGX 35,000 (USD 12.00), down from UGX 37,500, while a 2 GB bundle is now UGX 50,000, down from UGX 60,000. The cost of a 3 and 5 GB monthly package have also been revised downward.

Uganda: Digital dash - The Uganda Communications Commission has said that from 15 June all TV stations will have to migrate from analogue to digital broadcasting ahead of the 17 June deadline. It warned that a decoder would be required within a 60 kilometre radius of the Kampala metropolitan area. However, the NTV news portal reported the National Association of Broadcasters as saying that the sole signal distributor, Signet Uganda, contracted by the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation has not covered enough ground with the digital transmitters to ensure the signal is available in the stated 60km radius.

Uganda: Flexible finance - MTN Uganda Mobile Money users with Bank of Africa (BOA) Uganda accounts can deposit and withdraw cash from their bank accounts through their Mobile Money facility. In addition to Bank of Africa, Stanbic, Centenary, Pride Microfinance and DCFU Bank now support the service.

United Arab Emirates: Card connectivity - Etisalat and Aseel Islamic Finance (the Islamic banking arm of First Gulf Bank) are offering small- and medium-sized businesses a subscription to the Aseel Platinum Business Credit Card which includes 10GB of free business data every month. It is the first business credit card in the region to offer the Visa IntelliLink System (VISB). The card also carries a competitive fixed monthly charge and a high credit card limit.

United Arab Emirates: IoT & 5G Lab - Etisalat and Huawei are poised to open a new Joint Innovation Lab specialising in 5G and Internet of Things (IoT). Plans were unveiled last week at the annual Etisalat-Huawei Summit 2015 held in Abu Dhabi under the theme of 'Aspire Forward, Win the Future Together.' The lab plan follows a series of recent memorandum of understandings signed between Etisalat and Huawei.

United Arab Emirates: Office for Akamai - Akamai Technologies is opening an office in Dubai to support its regional business base. Existing clients including media companies such as Selevision, airlines and financial and regulatory organisations, as well as partners such as du and Ooredoo. According to Akamai's 'State of the Internet' report for 4Q14, the adoption rate for broadband connections greater than 10 Mbps has nearly doubled in the UAE year-on-year, from 5.4 to 9.2 percent.

United Arab Emirates: Smart plans - Etisalat is to offer the Huawei P8 4G+/LTE enabled smartphone for free on smartphone plans, and also bought on a standalone basis for AED 1,699 (USD 462). Pre-paid users can alternatively buy the device for AED 1,699, bundled with a free 1GB monthly data for the first three months. From the fourth month onwards, a monthly charge of AED 99 (USD 27) will apply for 1 GB data allowance. Post-paid users can get the device through a smartphone plan at AED 200 (USD 54.40) monthly rental for 12 months. The plan offers 1GB data and 50 flexible minutes monthly for local and international calls and incoming roaming calls.

Zimbabwe: Evolving Econet - Econet Wireless has acquired Redan Gas according to the Sunday Mail, citing sources close to Econet and from within the energy company Redan. Econet's first venture into energy was in early 2011 when Econet Energy was launched, with a range of solar powered lighting solutions, solar chargers for phones, the Econet Solar Green Kiosks and the Solar Powered Home Power Station. Econet Energy also made investments into wind power solutions back in 2013 through an initiative that was led by Danish wind energy group Vestas. The Mail reports that the target market for Econet will be the rural market with a two-plate gas stove with composite cylinder being offered. Econet reportedly has over 20,000 gas cylinders.

Zimbabwe: South African payment approval - The South African Reserve Bank (Sarb) has now given approval for remittances into Zimbabwe using the EcoCash mobile money platform, Econet Wireless said last week. EcoCash has 3 million registered users in Zimbabwe and already partners with Western Union and MasterCard. The approval process took 18 months, and the EcoCash platform is expected to be up and running by the end of July.