News in Brief 16 March 2017

Africa: Debut bond - Helios Towers Africa (HTA) has launched its debut USD 600 million bond on the Irish Stock Exchange. It is three times oversubscribed. The senior notes have a final maturity of five years, pay a 9.125 percent coupon, and have a settlement date of 8 March. HTA CEO Kash Pandya said the capital raised will allow HTA to consolidate its financing sources, invest in tower infrastructure and fund the acquisition of the remaining minority stake in the group's operating companies.

Africa: Mobile bitcoin - Bitwala has announced a new bitcoin-to-M-Pesa service, so that users can now send bitcoin to an M-Pesa account in Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, and Tanzania without charge. Bitwala's CEO Jorg von Minckwitz, said: "We want to be a part of the mobile money revolution, and we’re stepping it up a notch by enabling anyone to send money to any mobile money account in Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda using bitcoins."


Africa: Money promotion MoU - United Bank for Africa (UBA) and Group are to deliver what are described as innovative financial services in Africa, with an agreement to jointly collaborate on the promotion of Orange Money. The two companies have signed an MoU for collaboration on the payment option and to implement a range of mobile financial services in Africa where UBA and Orange Money platforms operate.

Africa: Multichoice a TV major - Research house Dataxis reports that Africa pay-TV subscribers stood at 18.7 million in 2016, up by 2 million from 2015. Of the total, 14 million were DTH subscribers and the remainder mostly pay DTT with limited cable and IPTV deployments. Dataxis estimated pay-TV revenue for 2016 at USD 4.4 billion and expects it to reach USD 6 billion by 2021. Key players in Sub Saharan Africa are Naspers (about 56 percent), Canal+ (about 15 percent) and StarTimes (about 9 percent). Dataxis Chief Analyst, Pascal Orhan, said satellite operator MultiChoice, owned by Naspers, is the key player in the Anglophone Africa pay TV market since its launch.

Bahrain: Enhanced security - A new Cyber Defence Centre (CDC) is to be established in a joint venture between VIVA Bahrain and Intel Security. Managed Security Services (MSS) is to be added to VIVA's Cloud services portfolio.

Bahrain: International innovation - Zain Bahrain has signed a partnership deal with locally-based Rapid Telecom. The deal will allow the operators to provide innovative international connectivity solutions, particularly for the enterprise segment and enhance international connectivity.

Burundi: LTE latest - Econet Wireless has announced the launch of LTE in the capital Bujumbura. The new service is priced as for the existing 2G and 3G offerings, and is expected to be rolled out to other main cities in due course. Viettel's Lumitel was the first operator to announce the launch of LTE in February 2016, covering locations in the provinces Bujumbura, Gitega, Ngozi, Rumonge, Makamba and Muyinga.



Cape Verde: Base falls - The number of active SIM cards stood at 634,555 at the end of 2016, a fall of 2 percent from the end of 2015, according to data by the National Agency for Communications (Anac). Of these, 623,273 were pre-paid and 11,282 post-paid. Penetration stood at 119 percent.

Israel: Local loop relaxation - Reform of the fixed-line market is expected to be implemented shortly, and is expected to see increased competition, Haaretz reported. The Ministry of Communications has been developing its plans for over five years, initiated after the Hayek Committee published its recommendations. Pricing changes and various hearings delayed the process, with the final hearings taking place in December 2015. Bezeq will now lease lines to its competitors at a reduced and supervised price, so allowing rivals such as Cellcom and Partner to offer domestic lines and service packages in areas they do not have infrastructure.

Kuwait: Smart device solution - Zain Kuwait is offering a service which provides enhanced protection for smart devices. The device is injected with hydrophobic particles to protect it without affecting its original design, eliminating the need for using covers, cases and other accessories, as formulated by Liquipel. The injectable uses nanotechnology to protect smart devices against 85 percent of liquid and dust damage. It did not say what happens when the device has to be repaired.

Middle East & Africa: Video ramp-up - Video-streaming service Iflix has raised some USD 90 million in a round led by Liberty Global and Kuwait-based Zain to take on Netflix and Naspers in Africa and the Middle East. The investment will also fund expansions in Asia, the company said in a statement last week. Iflix offers in nine countries a mix of Hollywood films and TV series along with local programming for a monthly subscription fee. It has signed up more than five million customers. Previous Iflix investors Sky Plc, Catcha Group and Evolution Media Capital, a fund backed by CAA and TPG Growth, also participated in the round. It has formed a joint venture in the Middle East and North Africa with Zain, which has 47 million customers in eight countries.

Namibia: PABX hacking parly - An emergency meeting for companies affected by the hacking of PABX telephone exchange systems was held on 5 March in Windhoek. Some 50 clients by fraudulent activities attended. Damages ranged from NAD 30,000 - 500,000 (USD 2,270 - 37,845). Representatives from Omnitel Namibia and Paratus, as well as the Communications Regulatory Authority attended. In a statement last month, Telecom Namibia said they blocked calls to Angola, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Somalia, Senegal, Uganda, Guinea, Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Sao Tome, Papua New Guinea, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Cuba, Guyana, Albania, Macedonia and Monaco. The Economist reports that several of the affected companies have sought legal advice this week.

Nigeria: Name change - Business Connexion has changed its name to BCX following its acquisition by Telkom. Managing Director, BCX (Nigeria), Dr. Ayo Adegboye, said the change will enable it re-strategise on end-to-end digital business processes in Africa. Telkom acquired Business Connexion Group on 25 August 2015 which was delisted from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

Oman: No impact - Omantel has confirmed that the majority state-owned telco has written off its entire investment in Pakistan-based WorldCall Telecom Limited, and the impact has been reflected in its 2015 and 2016 accounts. In a statement posted on the MSM Website it said that the disposal of the shares will not have a material impact on its financials. Omantel has signed a sale purchase agreement (SPA) with the acquirer, WordCall Services Limited, which has been submitted to the regulator.

Qatar: Complete healthcare package - An advanced mobile and digital solution to enhance the level of care and convenience for patients is to be created by Ooredoo Qatar and Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC). The two have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will support the launch of a Remote Care service.

Qatar: Metro MoU - Telecom services will be available users of the Doha Metro Red Line after Qatar Rail announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Ooredoo and Vodafone Qatar, and with Qatar National Broadband Network (QNBN) during Qitcom 2017. High speed Internet will be provided in Doha Metro Red Line buildings, including underground areas, at grade and elevated stations.

Saudi Arabia: Data centre modernisation - Mobile operator Mobily has awarded Cisco a contract to modernize its enterprise and data centre networks. Mobily is evolving to full software-defined networking (SDN) infrastructure. Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) will be deployed to increase IT efficiency, streamline security tasks and improve scalability for future growth. Security policy automation will be applied closer to the data they are intended to protect.

Saudi Arabia: New horizons - Etihad Atheeb (GO Telecom) has said that it has submitted an application to the Communications and IT Commission (CITC) for a unified licence to provide converged mobile, fixed broadband and fixed telephony services. If successful, it will raise capital to build a new network, so allowing it to compete with rivals. The strategy will also focus on boosting income and reducing losses from the commercial agreements it has. The new turnaround programme is subject to approval of GO Telecom's extraordinary general meeting.

Saudi Arabia: SIM sales stumble - The Saudi Gazette reports that SIM card sales have fallen sharply, citing official figures. This is attributed to Communication and Information Technology Commission's (CITC) decision to record the biometric details of subscribers coupled to a significant number of expatriates returning home for good due to labour market conditions. There were some 47.93 million active SIM cards in 2016 against 52.8 million in 2015, or a drop of 4.87 million.

South Africa: Apple app - Sensor Networks and Digicape, two start up companies, are to jointly launch an Apple Watch App for the Sensor Smart Tracker device and to integrate the existing Sensor Tracker App directly into Digicape's online store to enable in-App purchases, ITNewsAfrica reported.

South Africa: Investor interest assessed - MTN Group is assessing investor interest for its first sale of rand-denominated bonds in seven years, as it attempts to repatriate earnings from MTN Nigeria, Bloomberg reported. Investor Relations executive Nik Kershaw said MTN is ‘approaching the market and we will see what the appetite is’ for debt. MTN could raise as much as ZAR 4 billion (USD 303 million) for its South African unit in 2017 to reduce short-term debt and refinance bank facilities amounting to ZAR 19.6 billion (USD 1.48 billion) due this year, according to Gimme Credit.

South Africa: Local content focus - The MTN Music+ platform has been re-launched to better empower local artists, reports CAJ News. Users will have access to more than 670,000 tracks consisting of both local (40 percent) and international tracks. The service will be priced at ZAR 3.50 (USD 0.20) daily and ZAR 25 (USD 1.42) weekly.

South Africa: New role for Cell-C chief - Blue Label Ventures has announced that Maria Pienaar has joined as a founding director, ITNewsAfrica reported. Pienaar was a former CIO at Cell-C. At Cell-C she was involved in the launch of the first Wi-Fi Calling service in Africa, as well as innovative partnerships with Facebook. Before then she was at the Immersion Lab, and a consultant with Finpro helping to establish the first Finnish Innovation Center FinNode USA.

South Africa: Share incentive - Incoming MTN South Africa CEO Godfrey Motsa has been awarded nearly ZAR 8 million (USD 606,000) in shares. The shares are part of MTN's performance share plan and will only vest in June 2019.

Tanzania: Changemakers Competition - Tigo Tanzania, in partnership with non-profit organization, Reach for Change has awarded two winners USD 20,000 each in the 5th Tigo Digital Changemakers Competition. This year's winners are Sophia Mbega and Nancy Sumari. Mbega offered a digital initiative offering self-help women groups popularly known as VICOBA (Village Community Banks) with a mobile app that creates a collaborative platform that uses existing tools for financial and task management. Sumari won for her JENGA HUB which provides a hub and co-creation space for kids.

Togo: Community clinics - Some 24 villages in the Kara region are expected to benefit from a new health initiative launched by the Ministry of Health, Vision Togo and Samsung. The Samsung Mobile Health Clinic is a mounted on a truck and is fully equipped to assist community members in the prevention and diagnosis of medical conditions. The truck will move between Lome and Kara in an eight week rotation with a focus on screening people to establish conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, tooth decay and cataracts.

United Arab Emirates: Cloud connectivity - Hosting group Datamena has partnered with Epsilon to deploy the latter's Infiny on-demand connectivity platform. Datamena will be able to connect its enterprise customers directly to Cloud service providers and destinations globally.

Zambia: Expansion funded - Zoona has raised USD 1 million from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the MasterCard Foundation to expand its mobile banking services in Zambia, the Lusaka Times reported.. Initially launched in Zambia, Zoona claims to have become the country's leading payments service provider. It has a network of over 1,500 mobile money agents.

Zimbabwe: Second IXP sought - The Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) is reported to have restarted talks for the setting-up of a second Internet Exchange Point (IXP), TechZim reported. The current sole IXP is managed by the Zimbabwe Internet Services Providers Association (ZISPA), although is thought to suffer from a variety of routing issues.

Zimbabwe: Revenues rising - The telecom sector saw a 3 percent increase in revenue to USD 269.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2016, with revenues growing in all sub-sectors, The Source reported citing the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (POTRAZ). Mobile revenues rose by 2.4 percent to USD 199.2 million from USD 194.5 million in the previous quarter.