News in Brief 16 September 2015

Africa: The Facebook phenomena - Facebook reports that at the end of June 2015 there were some 7.1 million total daily active users in Nigeria; and 15 million monthly active users. Ranked second was South Africa with 7.3 million total daily active users (12 million monthly active users), whilst Kenya was third with 2.2 million total daily active users (4.5 million monthly active users). Almost all users are accessing Facebook on a mobile device, with all of Nigeria's monthly users using their mobile and 95 percent of Kenya's monthly users. Facebook's active user population in Africa has grown 20 percent to 120 million in June from 100 million in September 2014. More than 80 percent of these people access Facebook from their mobile phones, and 60 percent of all Internet users in Africa are active on Facebook.

Africa: TV offering - Canal Plus Overseas has selected the Eutelsat 3B satellite for a new package of DTT channels for French-speaking Africa; the first broadcasts are planned to start at the end of 2015. A 72MHz transponder is to be leased to deliver programming to digital terrestrial transmitters in ten French-speaking countries, covering an area from Guinea to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The pay-TV service will consist of a basic package of 25 channels and a selection of national channels per country. The DVB-S2 signal will be uplinked to Eutelsat 3B by Eutelsat from its teleport in Sardinia, with the possibility to switch to DVB-S2X at a later date.

Africa & Middle East: Lenovo latest - Marc Godin has been named as Lenovo's Vice President and General Manager MEA with immediate effect. Godin succeeds Oliver Ebel who now  heads up Lenovo's smartphone business across EMEA including both Motorola and Lenovo smartphones and wearable technology. Godin was previously VP of the UK & Ireland region.

Bahrain: Hotspot deal - Batelco has signed with the Capital Municipal Council to deploy Wi-Fi hotspots in key locations. The locations are to include Al Fateh Corniche, National Museum, National Theatre, Bab Al Bahrain, Manama Souq and Adliya Block 338 with additional locations planned for the future. The service will be available to the public free of charge for a limited period each day in the most popular locations.

Burundi: Better billing - ZTEsoft is to provide Econet Wireless Burundi with a convergent billing system. The ZSmart cvBS V8.0 (convergent billing system) will be deployed to support Econet Burundi's consolidated network with U-COM/Leo. After the 2014 acquisition of U-COM/Leo, Econet Wireless Burundi required a superior and convergent billing system to provide subscribers with a unified experience. The cvBS V8.0 features open and cloud-based architecture designed for easy integration and big data analytics.

Cameroon: Financial partnering - Afriland First Bank clients with an MTN Mobile Money account can now view their bank balance from their mobile phones, and undertake financial transactions between their bank and mobile accounts. This has been made possible with the Mobile Account Connected (MAC) technology. MAC joins a similar services launched in Cameroon on 9 July 2015 by Ecobank and Orange Cameroon.

Congo Brazzaville: Shaky start - MTN Congo's new CEO, Djibril Ouattara and senior management has met with Minister of Telecoms, Hellot Matson Mampouya to discuss the operator's local investment programme. The CEO talked of record investments for upgrades through to 2016. This will focus on service quality and delivery of new services. The service faults in recent years he attributed to successive upgrades. He said 3G service quality will match the 2G network in due course.

Cote d'Ivoire: Charitable cellphone - Orange Collecte, a mobile crowdfunding platform, has been launched as part of a pan-African initiative with French-based charity crowdfunding specialist HelloAsso. The platform allows people and charities to finance charitable projects by making an appeal via their mobile network. Donations can be made from the Orange Money e-wallet.

Egypt: Network upgrade - Etisalat Egypt is to invest some EGP 10 billion over next five years, allocating EGP 2.5 billion per annum to improve network's service, and it plans to raise its investments EGP 5 billion annually. The operator is looking to achieve growth rates of up to 10 percent over the next year, according to Etisalat Egypt's CEO, Engineer Saeed Al-Hamli, the Daily News Egypt reported. The CEO said its network was ready to launch 4G but that it had not obtained all the frequencies it had requested. The number of branches and outlets has increased to more than 1,100 branches and outlets in 26 governorates, which created 3,000 job opportunities.

Egypt: Orange ownership confirmed - Mobinil has started its re-branding as Orange. CEO Yves Gauthier said Mobinil is adopting the service quality standards provided by Orange, Amwal Alghad reported. Orange is providing integrated packages of high-quality communication services globally. A media campaign will launch the new brand, and highlight innovation and service quality.

Ghana: Investing in improvements - Tigo Ghana last week said that its various investments in improving network stability, quality and resilience were paying off. In 2015 it has invested in its network architecture and design. This included the USD 24 million upgrade of its base stations in the Greater Accra, Ashanti and Western regions; the USD 3.2 million overhead fibre project from Bogoso in the Western region to Kumasi in the Ashanti region; and the USD 1 million expansion works on the Eastern Microwave backbone. Also in 2015 Tigo appointed Ericsson to manage and improve network quality and service delivery.

Ghana: M2M targeted - Vodafone Ghana has formally launched its M2M service platform, although the facility has been available previously. Clients in the health, transport, logistics, banking, utilities and security sector are using Vodafone's SIMs to connect devices.

Ghana: Pilgrim promotion - Tigo Ghana has cut the price of international calls to Saudi Arabia by 25 percent through to 31 October 2015.

Ghana: Smart move - Infinix Mobility has launched the Infinix Hot 2 smartphone under Google's Android One initiative. The Infinix Hot 2 features a five-inch HD and double glass screen, quad-core processor and 16GB of internal memory. Jumia Ghana is the retail channel.

Ghana: Vodafone app - Vodafone has launched its My Vodafone App to provide self-service functionality. The app is available on Google Playstore and allows users to see their balance and roaming history, promotions and plans, purchase packages, and access to direct customer service. Vodafone Ghana's Director of Strategy and Innovation, Julius Owusu-Kyerematen, said: "...we are making it possible for consumers to rely on the Vodafone app to solve their basic service needs ".

Iran: Note 5 for sale - MTN Irancell is now offering the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 to subscribers. Buyers of the Note 5 from the Samsung Desks in the main shopping centres will receive a MTN Irancell USIM free, supporting access to the 4G network. After activation of the USIM and purchase of a MTN Irancell mobile Internet package users will get a 20 percent bonus on the data package for a year. MTN Irancell also launched the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge in April.

Israel: Instant advertising - Instagram said it had 1.6 million active users per month, with close to a million daily users. Facebook announced it has expanded Instagram's commercial activity to more than 30 additional countries, including Israel. The five initial Israeli advertisers on Instagram are Coca Cola, Bezeq, Strauss, Procter & Gamble and Adika. Globes noted that their sponsored content would be fed to users in an initial pilot programme. At the end of the month, the platform will be opened to other advertisers.

Israel: MoC mandate - Last week Shlomo Filber has assumed the position of Ministry of Communications Director General, after his appointment was approved by the government. Filber, 52, was congratulated by Prime Minister and Communications Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. A statement said that Filber would start with a round of meetings with the relevant professionals.

Israel: Successful event - A French Tech Hub event has been held in Tel Aviv, following previous launches in New York, San Francisco, Boston and London, Les Echos reports. A co-operation deal for the start-up incubators of Ecole Polytechnique and Technion was also signed. Website optimisation company Cedexis won ten contracts during the five days event, according to co-founder Julien Coulon.

Jordan: ICT initiator - Huawei's Rotating CEO Guo Ping last week met King of Jordan Abdullah II bin al-Hussein in Beijing. The two discussed the implementation of the Jordan 2025 Development Plan, national ICT strategy, ICT industry development and talent cultivation. King Abdullah II noted that the Jordan 2025 Development Plan was released in May 2015, and that the ICT industry was one of the key sectors covered in it. He added that he had been 'very impressed' by Huawei's rapid growth in Jordan, and the active role it has played in building the country's ICT infrastructure.

Jordan: Tax impact study - The Ministry of Information and Communications Technology is to announce the results of a study on the impact of the doubling of taxes on mobile subscriptions on government and operators' revenues in early 2016, The Jordan Times reported. The special tax on pre- and post-paid mobile subscriptions was increased from 12 to 24 percent, and taxes on mobile phones from 8 to 16 percent. The latter is not covered by the study.

Kenya: Forum sponsorship - Bharti Airtel is the gold sponsor of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) Forum 2015 held on September 14-16 at the Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya. Taking place in the margins of the 55th Council Meeting of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation, the Forum is an ICT conference. Airtel Kenya CEO Adil El Youssefi added that Airtel's association will provide a platform for the sector's Policymakers, regulators and private sector to set standards to improve delivery of services such as cloud services, e-Governance, open data, e-Commerce and mobile applications.

Kenya: Rugby re-union - Safaricom is to sponsor the 20th Safari Sevens tournament between 2 - 4 October. Safaricom withdrew its rugby sponsorship after allegations of corruption and fraud within the Kenya Rugby Union (KRU). In August, KRU Chairman Richard Omwela assured sponsors that the KRU board would improve governance, accountability and transparency within both the Union and the sport. The sponsorship does not include the 2016 edition of the National Sevens Circuit or Safari Sevens Tournament.

Liberia: Charge queried - A call to suspend the implementation of a regulatory surcharge on international calls has been made by The National Association of Telecommunication Consumers (NATELCO), The News reported. It made the request to the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA), Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications and mobile operators. LTA chair Angelique Weeks issued an order establishing regulatory surcharges for incoming and outgoing international voice traffic of USD 0.05 per minute, to be paid to the LTA by the originating service provider. Natelco claims the regulation does not meet the provisions of the LTA Act, as a public consultation has not been held.

Maldives: LTE-A launch - Dhiraagu has commercially launched an LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) network using carrier aggregation (CA) technology in the 1800MHz and 2600MHz frequency bands. The network offers downlink/uplink speeds of 300Mbps/50Mbps, and users need to have LTE Category 6 (CAT 6) devices. Dhiraagu launched its LTE network in Male City, Villingili, Hulhumale and the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport in October 2014; half the population has 4G/LTE coverage.

Nigeria: Ads mean airtime - Airtel Nigeria has partnered with Sidon Media to launch MyAds PAY, a mobile advertising application, ThisDay reported. The service offers free airtime to users once they subscribe to the service and view ads when they receive calls. Airtel subscribers who register by downloading the app will receive a still image advert whenever they receive a call and get a point automatically for every still image that is served. Each point is equivalent to NGN 1 and is later converted to airtime, depending on the number of points accumulated.

Nigeria: Bank check - Etisalat Nigeria is collaborating with the Nigeria Inter Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) to roll out the Bank Verification Number (BVN) Query Service. This allows BVNs to be checked using a mobile device. The deadline for Bank Verification Number registration has been extended to 31 October. BVN registration is a directive from the Central Bank of Nigeria to all commercial banks to register their customers' biometric data as part of the 'Know Your Customer' policy. A query to the system costs NGN 10 (USD 0.05).

Nigeria: Glo agents readied - Globacom is to roll out the first tranche of agents for its Glo Xchange mobile money service, The Nation reported. It said in a statement that some 10,000 agents would be added to its super-agency network in the next 12 months. The agents will operate from designated mobile money outlets, which will complement the 160+ Gloworld and Glozone shops and branches of all Globacom's mobile money partners, such as First Bank, Ecobank, Stanbic IBTC Bank and Zenith Bank. Head, Mobile Money Financial Business in Globacom, Mr. Esaie Diei, said a dedicated USSD Short Code, *800#, had been introduced to allow Glo Xchange Agents to access the mobile money services of any Mobile Money Operator (MMO).

Oman: CFO named - Oman Telecommunications Co (Omantel) has named Martial Caratti as its new Chief Financial Officer (CFO). He has been Chief Financial Officer at Ooredoo Tunisia and CEO of Tunet since 2008. Caratti brings some 30 years of experience, the much of it spent as CFO for international telecom groups. He is a chartered accountant and holds a bachelor's degree in finance and accounting.

Qatar: Post-paid new priority - Vodafone Qatar is to focus on promoting post-paid monthly contracts, CEO Kyle Whitehill told Reuters. Such users spend more on services and are less likely to switch provider. Of Vodafone's 1.4 million subscribers, only 171,000 are on monthly contracts at the end of June. A deal to buy state-owned wholesale Internet provider Qatar National Broadband Network (QNBN) failed, Whitehill saying the government had had 'a change of mind right at the end.' Vodafone had a 34 percent market share in June 2014.

Rwanda: 4G hub - Airtel Rwanda is partnering with Olleh Rwanda Networks (ORN) on 4G network expansion in Rubavu, which follows the opening of the 4G Square in Kigali. The 4G Square in Rubavu will be a one-stop hub for all LTE technology with a conference room, refreshment area and interactive system for customers. Olleh Rwanda Networks CEO Patrick Yoon said that the 4G Square would have free fast Internet that can be accessed by all users.

South Africa: FrontRow facilitated - Streaming FrontRow content will be free for MTN South Africa users, who won't pay any data costs. FrontRow provides over 2,300 hours of premium content, including TV series such as The Office, Sherlock, 30 Rock and Mad Men, films, music videos, kids shows and documentaries. The free data usage means the FrontRow subscription rate is only ZAR 119 (USD 8.80).

South Africa: Neotel to conclude in November - Vodacom South Africa is still confident that its acquisition of Neotel for ZAR 7 billion (USD 516 million) will go ahead, Techcentral reported. The investigation by the Competition Tribunal has been delayed. There have also been allegations of impropriety by Neotel executives regarding a contract by Transnet. Vodacom Business Chief Vuyani Jarana said that he expects the Competition Tribunal to conclude in November.

South Africa: Online encouragement - PayPal has launched free e-shopping returns in South Africa; its Refunded Return service is now available in 33 other countries, Techcentral reported. PayPal found that 78 percent of South African online shoppers would be more likely to shop online with free return shipping. Users can get a refund for the postage up to ZAR 400 (USD 30) four times a year. The refund will be made in US dollars.

South Africa: Public input - The licensing of additional mobile spectrum is now being considered by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) after it invited public comments on its related Information Memorandum. The consultation covers the 700, 800 and 2,600 MHz bands used for mobile services and is based on the regulator's IMT Roadmap and Radio Frequency Spectrum Plan released in November 2014. ICASA has also published the final spectrum plan for IMT 2015.

South Africa: VOD war hots up - PCCW is planning to launch a video-on-demand (VoD) service this month, Bloomberg reported citing sources. PCCW acquired VOD specialist Vuclip in March 2016, and plans to expand the service to new markets, including Africa. Naspers' ShowMax would be a competitor, which was established outside of MultiChoice, another Naspers subsidiary, which dominates the satellite pay-television market in South Africa. The PCCW service will compete not only with ShowMax, but also with MTN's FrontRow and Times Media Group's Vidi.

Tanzania: Mobile money maintenance - Tigo Pesa's money transfer service was out of action 12 - 13 September whilst an upgrade was implemented, the Daily News reported. This completed a seven-day upgrade. Facilities affected include the changing of PINs, new subscriber registration, and SIM modification, which will not be available until 16 September.

Uganda: Programme to highlight potential - Airtel Uganda has signed a MoU with the International Association of Students in Economic and Commercial Sciences (AIESEC) to carry out a Digital Youth Empowerment Programme and training in ten universities in Uganda. Airtel will be offering 3G devices such as Wi-Fi dongles and smartwatches to some students in order to highlight the possibilities of its mobile data services.

United Arab Emirates: Better business visibility - Etisalat has a new managed services portal to provide business customers a 24 hour 360-degree visibility with geolocation, providing a constant flow of information and support for their networks. Salvador Anglada, Chief Business Officer, Etisalat, said: "Etisalat's end-to-end managed services are designed to meet varying business demands and requirements. With our new managed services portal, customers can now get real time view of their networks enabling them to take timely decisions for their business continuity and performance. "

United Arab Emirates: du dividend - Mobile operator du (Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company) said on Monday that it had distributed some AED 1 billion (USD 272 million) to shareholders as a special dividend for the first half of 2015. du previously announced a 3.1 percent rise in 2Q15 net profit before royalty to AED 978.5 million (USD 266.5 million), with fixed line revenue increasing by 20.2 percent, and data revenue rising by 4.9 percent, and EBITDA climbing 3.5 percent to a record AED 1.34 billion (USD 365 million).

Zimbabwe: New player for next year - Dzidzai Chidumba is planning to launch an MVNO in 2016. Chidumba told TechZim that he had being developing the concept since 2011, when he was working on Vodacom's billing system in Cape Town. It will initially launch as a branded reseller, but will offer its own applications. The 14 - 30 age group will be targeted with personalised content and apps, and a focus on data.

Zimbabwe: Pre-paid potential - State-owned fixed line operator TelOne is to offer pre-paid voice services. The move is intended to provide an acceptable alternative to unpaid bills. ITWeb Africa reports that the telco has grappled with a customer debt of some USD160 million. TelOne MD Chipo Mutasa said that eventually it wanted to put in a pre-paid billing platform. Although this might see falling revenue, it would not have a credit control issue.

Zimbabwe: Tactical transaction - State-owned ICT company Zarnet is to acquire software and network systems company Portnet, ITWeb reported. The Zimbabwean registered company incorporates Portnet Distribution, Portnet Premier Services, Portnet Software, Portnet Academy and Portnetworks.