News in Brief 3 September 2015

Africa: Africa tops capacity growth chart - TeleGeography's Global Internet Geography service has found that growth in international Internet capacity connected to Africa continues to grow faster than any other region. African Internet bandwidth grew 41 percent between 2014 and 2015, and 51 percent compounded annually over the last five years, to reach 2.9 Tbps. Despite the strong capacity growth 2011 - 2015, it is less that the 93 percent Compound Annual Growth Rate seen in the period 2006 - 2010. Whilst North African and Sub-Saharan African international Internet bandwidth rose more than 90 percent compounded annually 2006 - 2010, growth rates among the subregions have varied substantially in recent years. Between 2011 and 2015, Internet bandwidth connected to countries in Sub-Saharan Africa rose at a faster rate than that connected to North African countries, growing respectively at 66 and 43 percent per annum.

Africa: Rapid launch model - Smartphone maker Xiaomi is reported to be considering an imminent entry into the African market, the China Business News reported. The Xiaomi 2 and 4 smartphones priced at USD 160 and USD 320 respectively are considered likely launch candidates. Mobile in Africa is reported to be the likely distribution channel in Sub-Saharan Africa, with outlets in 14 African countries. The firm's founder, R J van Spaandonk, was former executive director of Core Group, Apple's sales agent in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Africa: Regional CEO named - Millicom has named its new Executive Vice President and CEO of its Africa Division as Cynthia Gordon as from 21 September. Gordon will be responsible for directing operations in Tanzania, Ghana, DRC, Senegal, Rwanda and Chad. She will report directly to Millicom's CEO and will lead a newly created Africa Executive Committee. Gordon developed her African expertise while at Orange, where she was Vice-President of Partnerships and Emerging Markets, and Ooredoo, where she was Chief Commercial Officer. She will remain on the board of commissioners of Ooredoo affiliate Indosat.

Africa & Middle East: PCs tumble - An IDC research report has found that the Middle East and Africa (MEA) PC market saw a dramatic year-on-year fall of 25.6 percent in the second quarter, which IDC notes is the steepest decline ever recorded in the region for a single quarter. Overall PC shipments for the three months fell to 3.3 million units, with desktops down 21.2 percent year-on-year to 1.4 million units. The notebook segment declined 28.6 percent to 1.9 million units. High inventory levels resulted from a slowdown in demand, which inhibited PC shipments in other parts of the region as well, including the UAE. Currency fluctuations also had a negative impact on supply and demand in several key markets across the region. 2015 as a whole is expected to be the region's worst ever performance, with overall PC shipments for the year likely to fall 15.7 percent to 15.2 million units. A partial recovery in 2016 is anticipated.

Africa & Middle East: Smartphones for Health - A recently published report from IDC Health Insights forecasts that enterprise mobility will have penetrated over 80 percent of MEA healthcare organisations by 2017. The report found that corporate smart devices have been deployed by over a third of MEA healthcare organisations, with another 50 percent planning to adopt them by 2017. Mobilising enterprise applications, adopting mobile device management (MDM) solutions, and developing policies for enabling enterprise mobility are the top priorities of the IT executives that are planning to embrace mobility. However IT security remains the greatest concern for healthcare CIOs, with insider threats and staff-related issues being the most critical challenges. The report is based on IDC's annual survey of the region's Chief Information Officer (CIO) community.

Algeria: 4G licence conditions - The government is to present a draft tender for the provision of 4G network services to a consultancy firm to draw-up the guidelines before 15 September 2015. Afrique Presse reported minister of ICT Noomen Fehri as saying that process of offering LTE services would start by the end of 2015. A cabinet meeting is to be held on 7 September to decide on the final format to be adopted. The conditions for granting a 4G licence will be published at a later date. Major decisions will be taken at the second meeting of the strategic council of digital economy on 11 September.

Bahrain: BCCI member packs - Batelco is to provide members of the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) with three communication packages designed for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Batelco will also participate in various BCCI events such as workshops and conferences. Batelco will also arrange telecom-related workshops for the benefit of BCCI's members.

Bahrain: Configurable Cloud - Batelco is now offering services on cloud-based solutions. Its cloud portfolio offers a range of services for enterprises such as 'Cloud eCommerce', 'Security as a Service', 'Software as a Service', 'Cloud Infrastructure as a Service', and 'Cloud Collaboration Services.' The facilitiy can be fully customised.

Bahrain: Guidance on revenue calculation - The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has issued new guidelines on the calculation of revenues by operators, CommsMEA has reported. The TRA uses operator revenues as a measure for calculating the annual licence fees. TRA Director of Technical and Operations Mohammed Alnoaimi said the annual license fee is currently set at 0.8 percent of the gross annual turnover of the licensee attributable to licensed services. The draft regulation draws on international best practice as set down by the International Telecommunications Union. A clear timetable is to be provided, with sanctions for non-compliance. TRA plans to issue the final resolution in 2015 so it can be applied from 1 January 2016.

Cote d'Ivoire: Big sale - Jumia Cote d'Ivoire is running Home Week giving up to 50 percent discounts on top home appliance brands 31 August - 6 September. Jumia will hold what is being described the largest white goods sale ever in the country. Jumia is an e-commerce company backed by Rocket Internet.

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Free Facebook - Mobile operator Tigo DRC has introduced free Facebook access under an internet.org deal between Facebook and Tigo parent Millicom, reports Agence Ecofin. Tigo customers must buy a 50-unit top-up to be able to access Facebook free of charge.

Egypt: Low-cost device - Orange has launched the Klif smartphone, developed with Mozilla and assembled by Alcatel, in Egypt. Mobinil will sell the device for EGP 275 (USD 31). It is sold bundled with the Control Free 15 or 40 plans, free for the first six months. Announced in March, the Klif smartphone is to be launched in the 13 Africa and the Middle East countries where Orange operates.

Ghana: Park precedent - Mauritius and Ghana are to set up a Technology and Business Park in Ghana, according to the Mauritius government on its Website. The Park will be set up in Accra in two phases; the first will cover an area of 6.1 hectares with an investment of USD 260 million while the second will comprise an area of 37 hectares. A cyber tower, a three-star hotel, a polyvalent centre of conferences and an apartment block will feature.

Israel: Cellcom loan - Cellcom Israel has agreed terms for a local bank loan. The lender has agreed to a deferred loan of ILS 140 million (USD 36.3 million), unlinked, in December 2016, with an annual fixed interest of 4.9 percent. It will be repaid in five equal annual payments on 30 June of each of the years 2018 - 2022 inclusive.

Kenya: Social media success - Airtel Kenya is the top Social Media Brand in Kenya according to the Africa Brand Index. The Index uses an aggregate score of social signals. It has also been recognised as the second top Telecoms Brand in Africa on Social Media, out perfoming MTN South Africa. Vodacom South Africa is the lead African telecom brand. Last month Airtel Kenya was recognised as a global best practice case study by Socialbakers. Airtel Africa has still to declare a profit some five years after acquiring the Zain Group assets.

Lesotho: 4G SIM swap - Econet has said that its 4G/LTE service is available in all 10 Districts. 4G/LTE is being offered in addition to the existing 3G network that has been upgraded over the past six months or so. Econet subscribers who have a 4G/LTE phone can make a free SIM swap at any ETL shop or franchise. New customers with a 4G/LTE phone can buy a 4G SIM for LSL 10 (USD 0.76).

Maldives: Broadband expansion - Dhiraagu (Dhivehi Raajjeyge Gulhun) claims it has expanded its 3G coverage to 98 percent of the population, Haveeru Online reports. The expansion is part of a government directive to supply 40 islands with Internet access by the end of 2015, although the operator says it is on track to provide broadband coverage to all 200 inhabited islands by that date.

Nigeria: Cost cutting - Lenovo has reduced the prices of its P70 and A5000 smartphones to a recommended retail price of NGN 41,500 (USD 205) and NGN 23,000 (USD 114) respectively. Executive Director, Mobile Business Group at Lenovo Middle East and Africa (MEA), Shashank Sharma, said that its P70 and A5000 smartphones offered first-class design, smarter features and improved functionalities. Lenovo also announced three new YOGA convertible laptops; the 300, the 500 and 3 Pro.

Nigeria: International purchase facilitation - First Bank of Nigeria mobile money platform, Firstmonie, has partnered with Mobile Media Info Tech Global Limited (MMIT) to offer a new mobile wallet that allows users to buy services on international merchant Websites. The two partners have also have launched the Aflix project, a mobile Video-On Demand (VOD) content provider that offers a wide range of streaming materials. The application is available through the Google Play store, and allows consumers to stream content directly on their mobile devices and tablets on 3G/4G networks and WiFi.

Qatar: - Broadband enhancements - Ooredoo Qatar is launching the SuperNet Fibre Wi-Fi Broadband Gateway, promising better coverage, faster speeds and the best Wi-Fi performance of any Qatari fixed carrier. It supports over 40 simultaneous connections over the latest 802.11ac Wi-Fi specifications. For existing users who want to upgrade, from 1 September the device will be sold for QAR 499 (USD 137) from Ooredoo Shops. Ooredoo is also launching a remote management capability. Wi-Fi or broadband issues can be detected and fixed using home device management. The service will be available to both customers using the new SuperNet Home Broadband Gateway as well as those on the existing Ooredoo Wi-Fi access points. There will be no extra cost for the remote management service.

Qatar: Film facilitation - Ooredoo Qatar's Mozaic TV service now lets users buy films using their Hala or Shahry mobile phone accounts. The service will be available for residents living in self-serviced homes where a landlord or corporate company provides the Mozaic service. The feature allows the user to enter their Hala or Shahry mobile phone number on screen and charge the movie or premium content package directly to the phone's account.

Rwanda: Bonus dividend - Crystal Telecom has made a special half year dividend payment of some RWF 1.02 billion (USD 1.3 million). Crystal has been a shareholder in MTN Rwanda since 1998 when, acting with the MTN Group, it won the first GSM licence. A 20 percent stake in MTN Rwanda was listed on the Rwanda Stock Exchange (RSE) on 17 July. MTN Rwanda's board has reviewed its cash flow requirements and resolved to make the pay out. Crystal receives 20 percent of the dividend.

Saudi Arabia: Social media success - Mobily claims to have registered more than six million subscribers and followers across its social network platforms. This includes more than two million followers on Twitter and over 1.7 million on Facebook. Mobily's YouTube channel has some 300,000 subscribers, and its subscribers on Google+ has reached over 1.5 million. Mobily's Executive General Manager of Corporate Communication and Public Relations Mohammed Al-Belwe said: "Mobily is distinguished with its keenness to communicate with customers through social media to be close to them. "

South Africa: Bango for Telkom - Telkom has started direct carrier billing for its mobile customers making purchases on Google Play through the integration of Telkom's Event Billing service with the Bango Payments Platform. Telkom customers will be able to buy books, applications and in-game purchases from Google Play and charge them directly to their mobile phone bill or airtime. Users can also make in-app purchases, such as additional content or new levels for a gaming app, without interruption to the app experience. A double opt-in process is included. Details of each transaction will be itemised on customers' invoices.

South Africa: Cell C courted - Oger Telecom's Chief Legal Officer and Deputy CEO Mazen Abou Chakra said last week that six groups have expressed an interest in acquiring its 75 percent stake in Cell C. Chakra added that no decision has yet been taken. Telkom and Orange are thought to be two of the interested parties.

South Africa: Move for MTN CTO - MTN South Africa's CTO Eben Albertyn is to be CTO with Vodafone Netherlands. The current CTO, Mallik Rao, said in his blog he will hand over 1 October. Prior to joining MTN in 2013, Albertyn was CTO at Airtel Africa, responsible for 17 countries.

South Africa: Staff update - Business Connexion (BCX) is now a formal subsidiary of fixed-line operator Telkom. MyBroadband reports that in a letter to staff Telkom's MD of Data Centre Operations Althon Beukes said that Telkom plan for Cybernest to be acquired by BCX. All transferring Cybernest staff will be seconded to BCX from 1 September 2015 to ensure business continuity. The Cybernest deal is to be put to the respective Boards for approval during September 2015.

South Africa: Tetra enhancement - Motorola Solutions and Altech Alcom Matomo have completed the extension of the digital Terrestrial Trunked Radio (Tetra) communications network in Cape Town. In 2000, the City of Cape Town commissioned a Motorola Solutions Dimetra IP digital Tetra radio system providing coverage over the Cape Metropolitan Area (CMA). The city has upgraded the radio communications infrastructure to the latest version of the Motorola Solutions Tetra system, Dimetra IP 8.2, to provide increased resilience.

South Africa: Thinning Telkom - Some 689 voluntary severance package applications have been approved by Telkom, with most of the staff concerned due to 31 August - 31 March 2016, MyBroadband reported. The quoted source said 330 staff are taking early retirement. On 31 July 2,393 staff departed, which forms part of Telkom's restructuring plans.

South Africa: WhatsApp bundle - Cell C has decided to bring to an end the free access to WhatsApp, Techcentral reported. Cell C is adding a ZAR 5 (USD 0.38) WhatsApp bundle providing a month of access with a fair usage of 1 GB from 1 September. The bundle is available as a one-off or as a monthly recurring plan. Data rates of the customer's tariff plan will apply after the bundle expires.

Tanzania: Funds transfer - Vodacom has partnered with MoneyGram so that its subscribers can receive fund transfers directly into their M-Pesa accounts via MoneyGram's money transfer services from 120 countries. Jacques Voogt, Chief Officer of Mobile Commerce at Vodacom Tanzania, said: "MoneyGram continues to grow throughout Africa as a result of forming strategic relationships with mobile network operators, banks, post offices and retailers, to bring added convenience to our customers. Presently, MoneyGram operates in more than 200 countries with a network of more than 350,000 locations globally of which 25,000 are in Africa. "

Uganda: Fuel payment - MTN Mobile Money can now be used to buy fuel and other Shell products, following an agreement between Vivo Energy, the operators of Shell in Uganda, and MTN Uganda. The service is available at 51 stations nationally, although Vivo Energy operates 120 service stations in Uganda and operates across 16 African markets, distributing and marketing Shell branded products. By 30 June 2015, MTN had recorded a 12.8 percent increase in Mobile Money subscribers, from 7.3 million at the end of 2014 to 8.2 million.

Uganda: P8 launched - MTN Uganda last week unveiled the Huawei P8 smartphone at an event attended by the Minister for ICT Nyombi Thembo and Chinese Ambassador to Uganda H.E Zhao Yali. MTN Uganda will retail the P8 at UGX 1,590,000 (USD 388).

United Arab Emirates: Ascendant app - Etisalat's mobile app has been downloaded more than a million times since launch in 2Q14. The app has seen a 56+ percent rise in downloads this year due to further enhancements. The interactive app offers smart services such as usage tracking, bill payments, recharges, instant subscription to bundles and packages, live chat and parking payments. Etisalat claims that the number of payment transactions on the app rose 70 percent in the first two quarters of 2015.

United Arab Emirates: Device discount - HTC is allowing users to part-exchange any used smartphone regardless of make, and upgrade to the HTC One M9 and HTC One M9+ for a discount of AED 300 (USD 82) or more. During the three-month campaign, users will be entered into a draw to win HTC's latest smartphone. To take advantage of the offer, users are invited to have their existing smartphone graded, either online, or by visiting one of four participating stores. Users will then be issued a voucher, which can be used to redeem a discount on the new devices.

United Arab Emirates: Enhanced SME starter pack - Etisalat's Business Quick Start service now offers small and medium enterprises (SMEs) a wider range of the latest devices free and high-end office equipment with no up-front payment. Etisalat's 'business-in-a-box' offer provides the essentials for businesses to get started, to which it has now added office and personal devices including printers, projectors, smart signage TVs, desktops, routers, switches, etc.

United Arab Emirates: Faster still - Mobile operator du has launched the UAE's first 1Gbps domestic broadband Internet plan. Peak speeds are available as part of the new Talk, Surf & Watch Ultra triple-play package. Maximum upload speeds have also been increased to 100Mbps. Users on the Max plan will have their upload speeds raised from 10Mbps to 24Mbps.

United Arab Emirates: Fraudsters framed - Some 263 fraudulent applications for phones and calls with a value of AED 2.6 million (USD 708,000) has seen six Pakistani nationals, who worked in two companies appointed by Etisalat, ended in court. Emirates247 reports that they allegedly signed on behalf of customers, and also forged salary certificates and Emirates ID photocopies in other cases. The matter came to light when some Etisalat users were disconnected. Only two of the accused appeared in the count. They denied the charges. The case will be reconvened on 13 September.

Zambia: Farming focus - MTN Zambia is to rollout further 3G sites in order to facilitate sustainable development and financial inclusion, particularly in sectors such as agriculture. MTN Chief Sales and Distribution Officer Amon Jere said it would continue to invest to meet a demand amongst small-scale farmers. ITWeb reports MTN will determine the number of sites and relevant costs once it has completed an assessment of target areas. The eastern province is expected to have more sites due to an increase in farming activity and road improvements.

Zimbabwe: Coder school - Econet Wireless has said that it trained a thousand young people over the last 12 months as specialist computer programme coders, according to New Zimbabwe. The school leavers selected for the programme are among the 40,000 orphaned children who, annually, receive education support from Econet and its founder Strive Masiyiwa. A special training facility, Muzinda Hub, is equipped with computer systems to train young people on how to design apps.

Zimbabwe: Fast outlet - TelOne is to provide Wi-Fi at the outlets of fast rood and retail giant Innscor. These include Chicken Inn, Bakers Inn, Creamy Inn and Fish Inn nationally. TelOne has developed more hotspots, over and above the original 60 it launched with, TechZim reported.