News in Brief 1 June 2017

Algeria: Minister gets digital mandate - The new government was last week named by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika saw the return of several ministers in their previous posts, some of which have been expanded. These include Houda Imane Feraoun, Minister of Post, Telecommunications, Technology and Digital, whose post now includes digital.

Bahrain: 5G trial - Batelco and Ericsson have carried out Bahrain's first 5G trial at Batelco's headquarters in Hamala as part of the jointly sponsored 5G Forum. The trial demonstrated 5G over a live network, including testing speed, latency and beam steering, with 'record speeds' of 25Gbps achieved.

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Bahrain: Across-the-board Surface - Batelco has partnered with Microsoft Bahrain to introduce Microsoft Surface. Batelco will be offering individual and enterprise customers with the full pack of the latest Surface devices and Office 365, along with connectivity options.

Bahrain: Better comms - Batelco and national carrier Gulf Air are extending their longstanding business relationship and ensure the delivery of the latest communications solutions for Gulf Air's evolving operation. Batelco will provide Dedicated Internet Access, Local MPLS and Global MPLS networks. In 2014 Gulf Air successfully rolled out its new generation iPad Electronic Flight Bags to all the airline's pilots in order to facilitate the airline's flight-critical communications while increasing operational efficiency and eliminating paper-based flight materials. iPads were subsequently rolled out to cabin service managers.

Burkina Faso: Coastal connection required - Burkina Faso's Minister of Development of the Digital Economy and Posts, Hadja Fatimata Ouattara Sanon, has said that the government wants to improve connectivity with Ghana. The Minister said she had attended the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Council in Geneva, Switzerland on 15 – 25 May 2017, and had met with Ghana's Minister for ICT, Infrastructure, to discuss the installation of fibre between the two countries. The fibre connection between the capital Ouagadougou to the border with Ghana, as part of the communications infrastructure project in West Africa (Warcip). The Minister said the cable was now some 70 percent complete. The meeting of the ITU Council ends on 25 May 2017.

Cameroon: Hub for e-commerce? - The Universal Postal Union's Director-General Bishar Abdirahman Hussein has met with telecom sector leaders in Yaounde, after visiting facilities in Douala, the CRTV news-site reported. The DG has been invited by the government to put in place the Ecom@Africa African electronic commerce project. He was received at the Unity Palace on behalf of the Head of State by Secretary General Ferdinand Ngo Ngo. Discussions focused on Cameroon hosting the Central African sub region electronic commerce centre. The attractive investment opportunities, the legal system, and availability of infrastructure and local expertise were identified. The meetings were attended by Cameroon's Minister of Post and Telecommunications, Libom Lilikeng Minnette.

Cote d'Ivoire: MD steps down - MTN Cote d'Ivoire's Managing Director, Wim Vanhelleputte, resigned in May after holding the post for six years. The abidjan.net Website noted that Vanhelleputte would have been expected to give six weeks notice to allow a successor to be appointed. No reason for his departure has been given.

Djibouti: Smart schools - Two 'Smart Classrooms' have been delivered by Djibouti Telecom as part of its Connected Schools project, a collaborative venture between the incumbent operator and the Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training. They are to be installed in PK 12 and Balbala senior high schools, Agence Ecofin reported. The pair are the first of eight pilot intelligent classes to be built by Djibouti Telecom this year. The next batch will be installed in the schools of Ambouli, Einguela, Balbala 2, District 7 bis and Fukuzawa College, all in the capital.

Egypt: Fake phones targeted - The National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (ANRT) is launching a new campaign this week targeting counterfeit mobile devices in the Greater Cairo area and several other governorates with Assiut, Luxor, Aswan, El Zaytoun, downtown Cairo, Qena, Safaga, Hurghada, Mansoura, Gesr El Suez, Shebin El Koum, Tanta, Alexandria, Downtown Alexandria and Beheira on the list. It said that traders operating without a licence could face being arrested, the Daily News Egypt reported. In 2016 it carried out 25 similar inspection campaigns. Since 2010 ANRT has maintained a Central Register of Equipment Identities (CEIR) which lists mobile handsets with false IMEI codes.

Guinea: Ditgitalised database - Minister of Posts, Telecommunications and Digital Economy, Moustapha Mamy Diaby has told the Council of Ministers on 19 May that the World Bank had provided some USD 44.75 million for the development of a digital identification system. The Minister said that the digital identification system will facilitate the establishment of a reliable population database allowing better governance and co-ordination for the provision of basic public services. It will also facilitate access to public services such as health, education, social security.

Jordan: Mastercard mobile money deal - Zain Jordan has signed a strategic partnership with Mastercard, to increase payment services in Jordan through the 'Zain Cash' mobile wallet service powered by Mastercard. The announcement was made on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on Mena. Zain has a licence granted by the Central Bank of Jordan allowing it to issue Mastercard pre-paid cards linked to the Zain Cash mobile wallet. The re-launch of Zain Cash is as part of the company’s partnership with the Central Bank of Jordan, through the national link 'JoMoPay' that was launched and is being operated by the Central Bank of Jordan.

Kenya: Widening horizons - Safaricom intends to expand its M-Pesa mobile money transfer service to other African countries after a successful transfer of its 35 percent stake to Vodacom. The service is already available in a number of African countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo (November 2012); Eygpt (Vodafone Cash - June 2013); Ghana (Vodafone Cash – August 2015); Kenya (March 2007); Lesotho (July 2013); Mozambique (May 2013) and Tanzania (April 2008). It was launched in South Africa but failed to gain traction.

Kenya: Court considers M-Pesa hack - The Divisional Crime Investigating Office (DCIO) has been directed by a court to investigate claims that mobile operator Safaricom's M-Pesa loading system was hacked, resulting in a technical hitch. The directions were made last week in the trial of two Nigerians. On 24 April Safaricom experienced an outage which left its 27.7 million subscribers without access to mobile financial services. The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) is yet to publish its report on the outage. The report is expected to indicate if Safaricom is to be fined. Outages caused by factors beyond the control of an operator (force majeure) do not attract sanctions.

Namibia: Cable restored - Telecom Namibia (TN) has restored in the Hochland Rand suburb of Windhoek after copper cables were stolen on 20 May. Thieves removed a 600 pair copper cable, and consequently some 500 customers were affected. TN said its engineering team had been working diligently since 22 May to connect the affected area.

Nigeria: Better banking - The United Bank for Africa (UBA) Nigeria has a new mobile banking application which uses biometric log-in. It is available for download from the Apple and Google Play App Stores. The UBA Mobile Banking App has been designed to improve the ease of banking by allowing users to undertake transactions without visiting a branch.

Nigeria: Security sensitization seminar - The Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) said last week that it was partnering with the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and other security agencies to address the criminal assaults being directed on telecommunication operations. NCC's Head of Compliance, Monitoring and Enforcement, Efosa Idehen was addressing a one-day workshop for law enforcement agencies in Keffi, Nassarawa State.

Rwanda: Crystal concerns - Crystal Telecom, which has a 20 percent stake in MTN Rwanda, has expressed concerned about the impact of the USD 8.5 million fine levied by regulator RURA, Agency Ecofin reported. Crystal's concerns relate to the decline in dividend due to the fall in revenue at the end of 2016, which consequently saw Crystal reduce its income per share. The fine was imposed on MTN Rwanda on 17 May related to a breach of the terms of its telecoms licence when MTN Rwanda moved its IT services to Uganda.

Saudi Arabia: BMW bonus - Zain Saudi Arabia has launched its 'X5' special commercial promotion during Ramadan, enabling existing and new customers to win 5 BMW X5 cars, while granting data and voice pre-paid subscribers 5 times bonus upon every recharge. Points are obtained by billing payments, advance payments, balance recharge or data subscription or renewal, where every SR1 will give the customer 2 points.

Saudi Arabia: Financial fix sought - Last week Zain Saudi it had appointed Saudi Fransi Capital (SFC) as a financial advisor to assist the process of strengthening its financial position. SFC is to look at 'all available options', including converting some of Zain Saudi's liabilities to equity or rights issue or a capital reduction or a combination of these, according to a bourse statement. Zain Saudi, which is 37-percent owned by Kuwait's Zain Group, reported its first quarterly profit last month since it launched in 2008.

Saudi Arabia: Fined for failures - The Communications and IT Commission (CITC) has imposed fines of SAR 15 million (USD 4.0 million) on Saudi Telecom Company (STC) and Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) for a number of violations. Mobily was fined SAR 10 million (USD 2.7 million) for launching an illegal promotion and for its failure to comply with CITC's National Numbering Plan. STC also launched an illegal promotion campaign and was ordered to pay SAR 5 million (USD 1.3 milllion); SAR 50,000 for its failure to comply with the regulator's rules on five client complaints and SAR 10,000 for failing to submit information required by CITC.

Saudi Arabia: STC start-ups fund - Saudi Telecom has set-up a USD 500 million venture capital fund to invest in start-up companies. Saudi Telecom Co (STC) chief executive officer Khaled al-Biyari said in a statement: "The fund will invest globally in promising technologies and digital sectors, especially in areas where the company can tap into its assets and infrastructure and help it enable its investments to grow." The fund will be managed independently of STC.

South Africa: Home-grown strategies - The Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS) is proposing to revive the National Broadband Advisory Council (NBAC) with the aim of facilitating the roll-out of broadband services, ITWeb reported. Minister of Telecoms Siyabonga Cwele was briefing Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Telecommunications and Postal Services on the National Integrated ICT Policy White Paper on 23 May. The Department wants to work with NBAC to help it develop its own local knowledge of the Internet of things (IOT) and how to implement other strategies.

South Africa: Off-peak owls - Vodacom South Africa has partnered with YouTube to launch YouTube Smart Offline. Vodacom Android customers can schedule videos for download between midnight and 05:00 hrs, MyBroadband reported. Subscribers can save on data costs by purchasing a Vodacom Night Owl Data Bundle and downloading videos overnight. The downloaded content is available to watch for 48 hours.

Sudan: Short listed - The President of Vietnam, Tran Dai Quang has said that the bilateral relations between Vietnam and the Sudan still have enormous potential, especially in the telecommunications sector. This is the conclusion of the assessment on co-operation between the two published on 25 May 2017. Sudan with a population of 42.0 million has three mobile operators which boast a combined subscriber base of some 32.04 million. Zain Sudan is in pole position with some 12.54 million representing a market share of 40 percent. Sudani is ranked second with some 12 million users (37 percent share). MTN Sudan last with 7.5 million subscribers (24 percent). Rural populations, however, still suffer from poor telecom services, a market niche which Viettel has been able to capitalize on in several highly competitive markets in which it operates.