News in Brief 12 January 2017

Algeria: More provinces permitted - The Autorite de Regulation de la Poste et des Telecoms (ARPT) has given Ooredoo Algeria the green light to offer 4G services in 27 additional wilayas (provinces). These are Ouargla, Djelfa, Biskra, Ghardaia, Adrar, Algiers, Oran, Constantine, Setif, Boumerdes, Bejaia, Blida, Annaba, Tipaza, Sidi Bel Abbes, Bouira, Chlef, Batna, Bordj Bou Arreridj, Media, Mascara, M'sila, Tiaret, Defla, Mostaganem, Relizane and Ain Temouchent. Ooredoo met the minimum coverage and quality of service (QoS) obligations in Tizi Ouzou, Tlemcen and Bechar.

Bahrain: Easy payment - Islamic retail bank Ithmaar Bank is collaborating with Batelco and Arab Financial Services (AFS), an electronic payments outsourcing service provider, to launch on 12 January what is described as a ‘first-of-its-kind’ mobile payment service. Trade Arabia reported that the service uses secure near field communication (NFC) tags to eliminate the need for cash or cards by allowing uses to shop by tapping their mobile phones at checkout counters. Users need to register for an Ithmaar Bank pre-paid eCard at a Batelco shop or Ithmaar Bank branch to receive a NFC tags. Ithmaar Bank CEO Ahmed Abdul Rahim said the new service offers customers a premium Islamic banking experience.


Bahrain: Licence lost - Further to the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority's (TRA) notice published on 27 October 2016 in the Official Gazette, asking for comments on the proposed revocation of the licenses awarded to Voice Stream S.P.C, the TRA now advises that it has not received any comments and/or responses to the notice. Accordingly, it has revoked, with effect from 22 December 2016 the three licences issued to Voice Stream, such that it is no-longer licensed to provide any telecoms services in Bahrain.

Egypt: Positive strokes - The GSMA welcomes the successful launch of 4G services by mobile operators in Egypt. The GSMA's Director General Mats Granryd found widespread support for the Government's plans to release more spectrum in 2017, which were announced by HE Eng. Yasser El Kady. John Giusti, the GSMA's Chief Regulatory Officer noted: "In looking at other successful launches of 4G services, the total amount of spectrum assigned to each operator for 4G should be in the range of 2x30MHz to 2x60MHz, across a range of coverage and capacity bands, with a minimum contiguous bandwidth of 2x10MHz in each band. The GSMA looks forward to working with the Egyptian government as it plans the release of more mobile spectrum this year, so that mobile operators can extend 4G services and drive further socio-economic benefits for all Egyptian citizens."

Ghana: Ad app - MTN Ghana has announced the launch of free mobile advertising app FonAd. The app gives subscribers the chance to sample advertisers' products, and be rewarded based on terms of engagement. FonAd App creates a platform for advertising, in which rich media are displayed on a smartphone each time the user receives a call. Promotions are targeted at specific demographics, such as gender and age group, supported by reports on viewership on a master dashboard, where click-through rates of ad campaigns are graphically recorded and automatic reports created. Participants are rewarded with MTN bundles.

Kenya: Premium service billing - Amendments to the Kenya Information and Communications Act 1998 will now make it mandatory for service providers to inform users of the charges for premium services before use, Business DailyAfrica reported. Messages sent to subscribers do not always make recipients aware they are paying, prompting the review. Operators will now have to inform users before levying any specific charge relating to a premium rate service provided to a subscriber, and disclose the fact, amount, and frequency of the charge to the subscriber. In October Safaricom issued a statement saying all its users who had been subscribed to premium rate subscription services without their knowledge will be fully refunded any money that they have been billed.

Kenya: Purchases with points - Safaricom's Bonga Points can now be used to pay for purchases from online shop Kilimall until 24 January. Dubbed 'Bonga Popote', the deal sets the redemption value of 10 Safaricom Bonga Points at KES 2. Kilimall managing director Robin Xie said: "We are happy that the biggest mobile brand in the region is supporting the growing e-commerce industry in Kenya. Ultimately, it is the customers who benefit."

Kenya: Regulatory delay - According to a report in the Business Daily, commercial banks have experienced delays in receiving regulatory approvals for mobile money transfer platforms to rival Safaricom's M-Pesa, Airtel and Orange Money. The Kenya Bankers Association (KBA) had planned to launch the Kenya Interbank Transaction Switch in August 2016 but has to date failed to do so, since none of its 43 members has received the approval required from the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK).



Lebanon: Vinli vehicle connectivity - touch has announced the availability of Vinli offerings in all its service centres, including in-car Wi-Fi, cloud-based connected car apps and advanced safety services. An adapter is plugged into the vehicle’s OBD-II port to connect any car to the 4.5G network. This will allow access to applications and integrations from Vinli such as car diagnostics and maintenance, vehicle locator and theft alert, driver monitoring, family locator, etc. The one-time setup fee for this service is LBP 160 (USD 10), with monthly data packages starting at 1GB for LBP 9 or 7GB for LBP 24.

Oman: Easy conferencing experience - Omantel has launched a conference call service allowing corporate customers to undertake high-quality voice conference with a selected group of individuals using fixed and mobile lines. Using an easy-to-use web portal, customers can book and set up conference calls and can even invite people to join once the call is underway. The system also allows for unique passwords to be created ensuring privacy and security. Ali Kashoob, senior manager, Products Development of Corporate Business Unit at Omantel, said: "Access to group communications is one of the most productive tools for successful corporate enterprises and SMEs in the country."

Rwanda: Kenyans coming - The National Bank of Rwanda is in the final stages of licensing the Kenyan headquartered Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA). In October CBA said it was eyeing the Rwandan market with its M-Shwari mobile money service after successful uptake in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. CBA expects to launch in March. CBA recently said that it had signed up more than 600,000 subscribers in Uganda on its mobile-banking platform (MoKash) in partnership with MTN Uganda.

Rwanda: Local sharing - MTN Rwanda is now offering subscribers a new mobile application called MTN TV 'Irebere Nawe' Innovation, allowing users to stream and share videos on their Android data-enabled handsets. Users can select a channel from a bouquet of channels provided and pay for a bundle of USD 0.12. MTN Rwanda's senior manager of Marketing Operations, Gaspard Bayigane, said that the service is based on a local cloud concept whereby all content is available locally in Rwanda which enables users to stream video content nearly twice as fast that non-locally hosted content.

South Africa: Product payments - Mastercard’s Masterpass payment platform has partnered with Vodacom, so that its payment options added to Vodacom’s platforms. Mastercard’s South division president of Africa, Mark Elliott, said: "This is the first Masterpass in-app feature to go live in South Africa, enabling consumers to make everyday payments like airtime top-up without having to leave the app." Vodacom customers can now purchase communications products and packages through the My Vodacom app using Masterpass.

Togo: Roaming charges zeroed - The Authority of Posts & Telecommunications Regulation (ART&P) signed last week with the Senegalese regulator to offer free voice roaming for travellers between the two countries from 31 March 2017, Agence Ecofin reported. Togo will also drop roaming charges with Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Mali and Burkina Faso, all of which ratified a Protocol on regional roaming with Senegal on 28 November 2016. Free roaming will be available from 31 March 2017. Sierra Leone is also thought likely to join.

Turkey: Merger completed - Turkcell said on 29 December 2016 that further to its announcement of 25 November 2016 the merger of its affiliates Superonline Iletisim Hizmetleri A.S. (Turkcell Superonline) and Turkcell Interaktif Dijital Platform ve Icerik Hizmetleri A.S. (Turkcell Interaktif) has been completed through the acquisition of Turkcell Interaktif by Turkcell Superonline.

United Arab Emirates: Satellite phones - Distribution partner Global Beam Telecom has signed a multi-year deal with Tecbuy and Virgin Megastores to sell Inmarsat’s GSPS IsatPhone satellite phones and IsatHub terminals. The devices are now available for purchase at three Virgin Megastores. Global Beam is also the first global distributor of Inmarsat scratch cards to purchase and recharge satellite airtime. Global Beam Telecom’s CEO Abdullah Sulaiman said: "We are proud to serve Virgin Megastore’s customers in the UAE with the most-reliable L-band satellite services and devices in the industry."

United Arab Emirates: Taxi technology - du has announced a collaborative venture with Dubai Taxi Corporation, Roads and Transport Authority, to launch WiFi UAE access and smart screens in 500 cars of the Dubai Airport Fleet. Dubai Taxi Corporation’s CEO Dr. Yousef Mohammed Al Ali, said: “Smart screens will allow the customers to view promotional advertisements, RTA services, and give visitors and tourists information about Dubai’s popular tourist destinations. Moreover, this service will offer customers transparency when it comes to the cost of the journey prior to departing.” WiFi UAE is an initiative by du to enable WiFi access to the public. The smart screens will be provided through du's partnership with Malaysian ICT solutions developer, Gigalink Solutions Sdn Bhd for Dubai Airport Taxis.

Zambia: Fast growth - Central Statistical Office (CSO) Director John Kalumbi said at a media briefing in late December that Information Communication Technology is the fastest growing sector at 40.2 percent, and is also the highest GDP contributor at 1.2 percent, the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation reported. Kalumbi attributed the ICT growth to the promotional activities of the three mobile operators which saw an increase in data usage and number of minutes for voice calls.

Zambia: Vehicle monitoring - Zamtel has launched its ConnectedCar Fleet Management Service, offering real time tracking and monitoring system which relays vehicle data to the owner or fleet manager on the geographic location and status of vehicles. Users can view the current location of vehicles in real time and show where it has been via a Web portal. The mapping shows accident zones, speed limits and detailed road information. Reports on driver behaviour such as harsh braking and acceleration are provided, along with fuel consumption estimates. Geographical driving zones can be set with enter and exit alerts provided when a vehicle is driven in or out of the set zones. Drivers are provided with a panic button. The installation fee is ZMW 1,950 (USD 196) and a monthly subscription of MWK 234 (USD 23.55).

Zimbabwe: Dual-rate data? - POTRAZ has invited mobile operators to submit proposals on a premium tariff to be charged for data used for OTT voice calls, NewsDay reported. The initiative follows the recent introduced new floor prices, which reduced voice calls to USD 0.12 per minute from a previous of USD 0.16, while one megabyte of data now costs USD 0.02 cents. Zimbabwe placed as the third most expensive country in Africa in terms of data after South Sudan and Swaziland, according to Research ICT Africa's 2016 third quarter report. WhatsApp is the most used OTT voice calling application in the country.