News in Brief 27 April 2017

Afghanistan: Mobile music - Spice Digital Limited is now the platform and service provider for Roshan Afghanistan to launch a Music Karaoke product. Spice Digital's Global CEO Saket Agarwal said that Music Karaoke is the only platform that offers to users the possibility to record, participate & share their recorded songs/albums with their friends from mobile phone anytime, anywhere.

Iran: Iranian Internet - The Minister of Communication and Information Technology, Mahmoud Vaezi, said that Iran's data transfer capacity had increased 11 fold since 2013 to reach 10,000 gigabytes. Internet bandwidth capacity had also increased by 15 percent to reach as high as 10,000 gigabytes. Around 900 cities and towns are covered by 3G, whilst 742 are covered by 4G. Vaezi said that the coverage for both 3G and 4G services were extremely limited in 2013.

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Kenya: Medical milestone - Safaricom's mobile health wallet M-Tiba has registered 500,000 users six months after launch, with an average of 4,000 people signing daily. It was developed by CarePay, PharmAccess and Safaricom and enables users to send, save, receive and pay for medical services using their mobile phones. CarePay's Chief Executive Officer Kees van Lede said the half a million mark is a milestone in the roll out. The platform has recorded over 60,000 clinic visits at the 350 M-Tiba medical facilities and over KES 100 million (USD 950,000) in pay-outs.

Kenya: Restored service - On 24 April Safaricom said it had experienced a system outage at 9.40 a.m. This affected Voice, Data, SMS, M-Pesa and Enterprie services. CEO Bob Collymore said in a statement that the root cause was a failure in both its core network as well as its redundancy options. The incident as closed at 4.30 p.m., although is said shortly afterwards that 'most' services had been restored.

Kenya, South Africa: Office openings - UK money-transfer operator WorldRemit is to open a regional office in South Africa, its largest market on the continent in terms of money-transfer value, founder and CEP Ismail Ahmed told Bloomberg in an interview. It will also open a facility in Kenya, where it sees the highest number of individual African transactions. Ahmed said in Nairobi that in the next two years it will doubling its volume every year. Africa accounted for half the company's 2016 revenue of GBP 41 million (USD 51.2 million).

Nigeria: 4G from ZTE - Airtel Networks Limited has partnered with Chinese-based vendor ZTE to launch 4G in Nigeria. In December 2012, Airtel was the first telco to complete a successful 4G trial in Lagos, in line with its commitment to pioneer innovation and lead a mobile Internet revolution in Nigeria. Airtel Nigeria's Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Segun Ogunsanya, said: "This is a new dawn for mobile Internet in Nigeria. Airtel and ZTE's collaboration to roll out 4G service pan Nigeria will dramatically improve mobile Internet experience for telecoms consumers across the country."

Oman: Cheap international calls - Omantel has launched its new international calling voucher 'Marhaba World' for Hayyak pre-paid customers which runs until 30 June. It offers competitive international calling rates starting from OMR 0.20 (USD 0.52) per minute to 19 Asian countries. These countries include Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Philippines as well as countries in the MENA region. Omantel's Consumer Business Unit General Manager of Marketing, Said Salim al Shanfari, said: 'Our objective is to leverage our understanding of consumer behaviour in order to develop solutions for customers that focus on both short and long term rewards.'

Oman: New chief Auditor - Al-Hashmi brings multi-disciplinary international experience having held senior posts in New Zealand, USA, Canada, UK and the GCC, with the world's top four accounting firms, including PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. He is president of the Oman Chapter of the Institute of Internal Audit and a member of the Institute Relation Committee of the Global Institute of Internal Audit. His is an alumni of the Swiss-based Institute of Management Development and of Oman's elite National CEO Programme, Al Hashmi was also awarded a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Finance from the University of Salford, UK. In addition, he is a Certified Internal Auditor and holds Certification in Risk and Information Control as well as Certification in Risk Management Assurance.

Oman: Website waved-off - His Highness Sayyid Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, Minister of Heritage and Culture, has inaugurated the fully updated Ministry Website in collaboration with Oman Telecommunications Company (Omantel). The Ministry of Heritage and Culture's (MoHC's) site (www.mhc.gov.om) is the first government website designed by Omantel featuring recent technologies and allows users to access smart solutions and innovative services. This is the first project of Omantel's ICT unit.

Qatar: Endless to end on 24 May - Ooredoo's new Shahry customers are being offered a free three month 'Endless Internet Pack' subscription. New subscribers who sign-up to a Shahry Smart 55 and 100 subscription will be entitled to the 250MB Endless Internet Pack worth QAR 20 (USD 5.49) a month for three months, whilst Shahry 150 and above subscriptions will enjoy a 6GB Endless Internet Pack worth QAR 70 (USD 19.21) a month free for three months. The free 'endless' subscription promotion, which is part of Ooredoo's ongoing push for data experience leadership in Qatar, will run until 24 May 2017.

Qatar: In-flight Internet - Inmarsat's Global Xpress (GX) Aviation's in-flight broadband is to be installed by Qatar Airways throughout its fleet. The airline will be the first based in the Middle East to deploy the solution, with 130 aircraft to be fitted. GX technology has already been installed on a line-fit basis on selected Airbus A350s. Installations on the airline's remaining Airbus A350s, together with the Boeing 777s, are to be fitted this summer.

Saudi Arabia: Centre commissioning - Communication and Information Technology Commission's (CITC) Governor, Dr. Abdulaziz Salem Al-Rwais, on a visit praised Zain’s new Technology Centre, following its opening ceremony at Zain Saudi Arabia headquarters. The governor met the Zain Executive Leadership Team and other senior directors. Zain's Chief Technology Officer Eng. Sultan Al Deghaither said 'Zain Technology Centre was established as a role model to the technology's we are working to bring to the market. The centre contains praxis of 5G and Internet of Things (IoT) applications, which is currently the emerging technologies in the telecom world.'

Saudi Arabia: Double data - Mobily is offering double data for three months to new and porting customers for its Wajid 200 and Wajid 300 services. New customers of Wajid 300 will get 40 GB a month for three months instead of 20 GB, in addition to unlimited on-net minutes and 1,000 minutes to other domestic operators, and 300 local texts to all networks. Subscribers signing for Wajid 200 will get 20 GBs monthly for three months instead of 10 GB, as well as the usual unlimited minutes on the Mobily network and 500 minutes to other domestic operators, as well as 200 SMS to any local network.

Saudi Arabia: Shares fall - Second ranked MNO Mobily saw its shares slump on a disappointing set of first quarter results on Monday, Reuters reported. Shares of Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) fell 7.6 percent to SAR 20.70 (USD 5.52) after it reported a net loss of SAR 163 million (USD 43.45 million) in the first quarter, compared with a net profit of SAR 20 million (USD 5.3 million) in the same period last year. Mobily attributed the net loss to a fall in revenue and higher interest and financial charges due to higher interest rates. This marks the company's third consecutive quarterly loss.

South Africa: Cellular church - Vodacom and the Shembe church have entered into a 'mutually beneficial' agreement that will see the church distribute the company's products and services. A previous deal between the two failed. The leaders of both church factions, despite an on-going legal process to determine the leader of the church, are said to have approved the deal. The original deal 9-years ago saw Vodacom distribute starter packs distributed bearing Shembe logos, and failed when the court battle started. Negotiations for the current deal with Vodacom about five years ago. The church has some 6.7 million members, of which about 2.4 million are Vodacom subscribers.

South Africa: Sleeping dogs - Telkom chairman Jabu Mabuza has warned that the expropriation of 'white monopoly capitalist establishments', land, and banks will lead to economic disaster. The comments followed the publication of Professor Chris Malikane's article 'Our chance to complete the revolution'. Mabuza said Malikane’s column was 'an insult to our intelligence, disrespects our achievements, and threatens our plans for the future', and suggested that there is overwhelming evidence which shows that nationalisation and large-scale land expropriation leads to economic disaster.

South Africa: OpenLab opens - Huawei has launched its new OpenLab in Johannesburg, focused on jointly developing products that are relevant to the local market, IT-Online has reported. It will initially target smart city and smart grid services. At OpenLabs, Huawei and its partners work together to develop joint services. Customers are closely involved in specifying and designing services.

South Africa: School management solution - Vodacom has partnered with the Eastern Cape Department of Education to supply a school management solution that aims to assist with the administration of 5,000 schools in the province. It integrates with the South African school administration management solution, enabling the department to communicate with each school, and collect information about the various activities in each school, such as time and attendance, pupil grade tracking and asset management, to improve education outcomes through improved visibility.

Tanzania: Enhanced registration - A birth registration drive in Geita and Shinyanga is being spearheaded by Registration, Insolvency and Trusteeship Agency (RITA), UNICEF, VSO (Voluntary Services Overseas) and mobile operator Tigo. The on-line registration uses a new version of the mobile application developed by the telco, providing a better interface and the ability to work across multiple network providers for the registrars, who will be using smartphones provided by Tigo. The government has targeted the registering of some 720,000 children under five years of age in the two regions of Geita and Shinyanga. Tigo's Corporate Social Responsibility Manager Halima Okash said that Tigo has championed many initiatives, including mobile phone ownership by women, improving connectivity to public schools and now enhancing birth registration using the mobile phone.

Turkey: Boku direct billing - Turkcell is offering direct carrier billing to Windows Store customers in Turkey with Boku. As part of Microsoft's integration with Boku, Turkish Windows 10 users will be able to use their mobile account as a payment option when making purchases in the Windows Store. Customers can now make purchases across the full range of Windows 10 devices, including mobile phones, tablets, PCs, laptops, and Xbox.

Uganda: Deadline delayed - A 30-day extension has been announced for the SIM re-registration programme, after legal objections were raised regarding the original seven-day deadline. The deadline failed to account for the Easter holidays, which greatly restricted the number of days available for registration to be undertaken. The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) is requiring all mobile users to validate their existing registered details using the new national ID card. The registration programme will now run until 19 May. The Observer reports that telco agents are charging subscribers for registering their SIM cards. The agents are paid a commission of UGX 1,000 (USD 0.27) for each registered SIM card at the end of each month, but some have apparently used the opportunity to double their earnings. UCC spokesperson Isaac Kalembe has asked those affected to report to the police all such instances.