News in Brief 23 March 2017

Africa: App ascendant - Ecobank claims to have signed up 1.5 million personal accounts to its mobile new digital banking platform, and expects to increase its customer base across the continent to 100 million from 13 million by 2020, Reuters reported. Ecobank now has operations in nearly 40 African nations. Its head of consumer banking, Patrick Akinwunta, said last week that digital operations will also reduce the cost base, adding: "We have brought financial services to the mobile phone ... to have instant account, payment and receipt across Africa."

Cameroon: Serenity sought - The government has commented on the disconnection of the Internet in the two English-speaking regions since 17 January 2017. Agence Ecofin reports the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Minette Libom Li Likeng as saying at the Eighth session of the Cameroon Business Forum held in Douala on 13 March 2017: "There are unpleasant situations for which certain decisions are made. Everything is done to ensure that serenity comes back, that the Internet is available everywhere. It's just a matter of patience and everyone needs to get their act together."


Ghana: Rural technology exchange - A five-member delegation from the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) paid a working visit to Ghana's National Communications Authority (NCA) to discuss the use of broadband for rural telephony. Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC) administrator, Kofi Asante, also attended. The use of spectrum in the era of new technologies, particularly with the on-going digital migration, was discussed.

Ghana: QoS queried - The National Communications Authority has instructed mobile operators to improve their Quality of Services. NCA's Director-General Joe Anokye met with the Chief Technical Officers of MTN, Tigo, Vodafone, Airtel, Glo and Expresso to discuss the poor QoS. Issues include dropped call, poor quality of voice and slow Internet services, among others. The initial focus is to be on the Accra-Tema Metropolitan area and then the rest of the country. Operators said they had issues with site acquisition, especially in high-end residential areas. The MNOs are required to provide a roadmap to address the QoS issues in Accra and Tema in April.

Iran: New MVNO mooted - Local press reports suggest that Lotus Mobile Corp has now been awarded an MVNO licence. Lotus is expected to focus on the e-commerce sector, as well as providing national 4G LTE coverage. TeleGeography reports that it is expected to utilise a 'Full MVNO' business model.

Kenya: Alternative platform - The mobile and electronic money transaction service PesaLink now has some twenty-three Kenyan banks, giving momentum to the new platform intended to rival services offered by telco, the Kenya Bankers Association (KBA) has said. Some six banks were on the platform when it was launched in February 2017.

Kenya: Payments paused - Skiza Tune royalties are dogging Safaricom as it fights two cases between artistes and the Collection Money Organisations (CMOs), the Daily Nation reported. The courts have ordered Safaricom to file a replying affidavit within ten days, in cases seeking to overturn High Court orders that restrained Safaricom from remitting Skiza Tunes royalties to CMOs. In 2016 it was ruled that the agreement between Safaricom and CMOs was unlawful as it lacked public participation and infringed artists' constitutional rights.

Kenya: Tech-savvy banking - Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA) has introduced its Loop digital money management and consumer banking service targeted at millennials and computer-literate customers. It will be marketed under the 'Unbank Yourself' tag and eliminates the need to visit a branch to undertake core banking services.



Malawi: Suspended soccer sponsorship - Following on-going criticism from the Competition and Fair Trading Commission (CFTC) of contract clauses that restrict Super League of Malawi (SULOM) and clubs from entering into agreements with TNM's competitors, the mobile operator has suspended its sponsorship of the football league, Malawi24 reports. SULOM General Secretary Williams Banda confirmed TNM's decision.

Nigeria: Etisalat exposure - Fidelity Bank last week said that it had exposure of around NGN 17.5 billion (USD 55.1 million) to Etisalat Nigeria according to Reuters. Etisalat Nigeria is in talks with local banks to renegotiate the terms of a USD 1.2 billion loan it took out four years ago after missing a payment.

Nigeria: Flexible forex - Telcos called on the government to make the foreign exchange regime more flexible for their operations, The Guardian reported. The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ALTON) said the exemption of telecoms gear and services should be given priority when foreign exchange is being allocated by banks. It said that the current restrictions had adversely impacted operations.

Oman: 4G roadshow - Omantel is holding a series of roadshows across the 13 wilayats with special entertainment activities at two of them. Under the banner 'we are wherever you are', the 4G roadshow originated in Khasab and Dibba. The roadshow features a series of entertainment activities that use 4G technology. Oman is the third country in the Arab world to launch 4G networks, with 4G coverage of more than 86 percent of inhabited areas.

Oman: Data expansion - Recently appointed Ooredoo Oman CEO Ian Dench said it plans to expand data services, as video has grown to 70 percent of data traffic. The demand for data was also being driven by connectivity for home appliances, the Muscat Daily reported.

Qatar: Compressed TV - Ooredoo has partnered with Harmonic for the delivery of 4K TV channels. This follows the telcos launch of 4K TV service in February and is using Harmonic’s Electra video compression solution for all-IP environments. Ooredoo Qatar’s Community and Public Relations Director, Fatima Sultan Al Kuwari, said: "The FunBox UHD channel is available today for all subscribers of Ooredoo TV."

Qatar: Continuous Internet - Ooredoo has launched its 'Endless Internet Packs' that offer complete full bill protection and minimised prices. With these, once the allowance of full speed Internet is used up, customers then have unlimited Internet at a reduced speed at no additional cost until the users 'next month' allowance starts and full-speed usage is renewed. The company has also launched daily and weekly speed boosters, as well as the option to simply use Data Recharge cards to regain a normal high speed connection. There are eight Endless Internet Packs.

Saudi Arabia: Expanded roaming - Zain Saudi Arabia and Telenor now have an LTE roaming exchange agreement in place. Zain subscrbers can now access more than 420 LTE mobile networks, including Telenor's thirteen mobile operations.

Saudi Arabia: Postal sales channel - Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) is collaborating with Saudi Post in a deal that will see the Mobily voice and data SIM cards, recharge vouchers and E-vouchers available at all its offices and branches nationally. Mobily's Chief Business Officer Ismail Alghamdi and Saudi Post's CEO Sami Alowedi signed the deal.

South Africa: New MVNO - Edu Mobile is a new MVNO targeting students, and is due to launch by June 2017. Founder Kyle Isaacs told MyBroadband that the MVNO is handling its own systems in-house, but declined to say which network it will be hosted on.  The primary package will cost ZAR 99 (USD 7.80) per month and offer unlimited Web browsing, e-mail, with access to banking, social media and educational apps. Access to VoIP, streaming videos, downloading files and P2P transfers will be blocked, and speeds will be limited to 240-250 Kbps. A fair use policy of 1.2 GB per month will also apply, after which speeds are reduced to the end of the month.

South Africa: Out of Africa - IoT.nxt, an Internet of Things company, has raised some ZAR 100 million (USD 7.6 million) to fund its expansion plans, Fin24 reported. CEO of IoT.nxt, Nico Steyn said that the company is looking to expand into the UK and other European markets, which are generally more developed in terms of IoT adoption than South Africa.

South Africa: SIM-swap swindle - Fraudulent porting of SIM-cards is an issue that has been highlighted by Absa. The bank told MyBroadband that a SIM-swap fraud perpetrated against Piet Malan saw ZAR 249,000 (USD 19,000) stolen from his Absa bank account. Whilst Absa noted that clients have a duty to protect their own security information, mobile operators also have to have similarly secure systems.

Uganda: Bonus bundles - MTN Uganda has re-launched its 'Juzza Internet' promotion, which sees customers are instantly rewarded with a bonus for the data bundles loaded. Bundles as low as 50MBs will be now be rewarded. MTN Uganda Chief Marketing Officer Ms. Mapula Bodibe said: "We know that our customers want value for money and with this promotion, we will enable our customers to enjoy a significant discount in the costs of their data whilst doing more of the things they like to do on the Internet."

Uganda: Faults fixed - Uganda Telecom (UTL) services have been disrupted by network glitch a since 12 March. UTL public relations officer Tonny Achidria told the Monitor that vandalism of telephone masts, cables, poles compounded by drastic weather was the underlying cause. The problems were, however, resolved on 14 March.

United Arab Emirates: Better broadband - The 'Wow-Fi' free wi-fi service has been launched by Dubai Airports at Dubai International (DXB) and Dubai World Central (DWC). Users will have access to Internet connection speeds of up to 100 Mbps, and it follows the launch of an upgraded free unlimited high-speed Wi-Fi connection in December 2016.

United Arab Emirates: NFC office opening - DataPath has opened an office in Dubai 12 months after it opened a bureau in India's capital, New Delhi. DataPath is a provider of remote field communications and information technology services, and the Dubai office is part of an initiative to invest in infrastructure expansion.

Zimbabwe: Cash alternative - Mobile operator Telecel saw USD 12 million cash-out and cash-in transactions in 4Q 2016 due to the prevailing cash shortages. Telecel Public Relations manager Francis Chimanda told NewsDay that the cash shortages had seen an increased uptake of other mobile banking services such as bank-to-wallet and wallet-to-bank transfers.