News in Brief 7 June 2017

Africa: Internet focus - In a blog, Seacom's Chief Development Officer Suveer Ramdhani said that the priority for the telecoms industry this year should be to accelerate deployment of true broadband services in Africa. Many, perhaps even most, Internet connections on the continent are below 1 Mbps, he said. A major factor driving demand for high-performance bandwidth is a growing and youthful population which seeks access to educational, economic and social opportunities. Fibre-based fixed-line infrastructure has a key role in connecting mobile towers and giving users affordable last-mile access to high-speed services.

Algeria: Smart tariffs - Djezzy has launch of three post-paid tariffs as part of its new 'Smart' range, offering a mobile SIM and a money-back incentive, worth between DZD 4,000 - 14,000 (USD 37 - 129) towards the purchase of a smartphone. The three tariffs ('S', 'M' and 'L') have a monthly subscription ranging from DZD 1,300 - 3,300 (USD 12 - 30) and offers inclusive minutes to other Djezzy users, as well as a call allowance to other networks and international numbers. The entry-level plan includes 3GB of mobile data per month, increasing to 14 GB for top-tier subscribers.

Ethiopia: Exam block - Mobile Internet services experienced a major outage on 31 May 2017. Deputy Minister of Communications Zadig Abraha told AFP that 'mobile data has been disabled'. No official explanation was provided by the government. However, Agence Ecofin suggests that the move was linked to national school examinations which are currently taking place. Last year examination subjects were shared on the Internet. Access was restored on 1 June.

Ghana: Farmer's financial tool - A Financial Inclusion Project is expected to benefit some 10,000 smallholder farmers, and will promote a broader uptake and usage of mobile money payments and related financial services. Led by Agribusiness Systems International and with funding from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Tigo Cash is one of two mobile money service providers in the project on Financial Inclusion for Smallholder Farmers (SFIN). Tigo Cash will offer wallets to about 10,000 farmers and grant access to value chain actors; namely Masara N'zarki, Savanna Farmers, Heritage Seed Company, Shinkaafa Buni to have the benefit of utilising Tigo Cash to pay farmers for their produce. Roll outs will focus on the Brong Ahafo, Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions.

Kenya: LTE latest - Safaricom has advanced its LTE-A network by rolling out 4G+ services in major towns. Safaricom has been investing in a robust digital network, with Chief Executive Officer, Bob Collymore saying: "Our tests reveal that 4G+ allows us to offer the fastest network speeds as it is two times faster than 4G and eight times faster than 3G." 4G has been activated on over 1,100 sites, with 100 4G+ sites in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, as well as parts of Kisii, Naivasha, Kitui, Machakos, Kakamega and Kericho, with more territories scheduled to be switched on in coming months. The 4G+ stations will supplement the existing 4,677 2G sites, 3,517 3G sites and 1,103 4G sites on Safaricom's network and will complement its proactive fibre rollout strategy that has seen over 50,000 homes and 1,500 commercial buildings passed by its high speed fibre links.

Malawi: Rising profit - Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM) is expecting net profit for the six months to the end of June to be approximately 50 percent higher compared with the previous corresponding period, the company said in a trading statement. The Malawi Stock Exchange requires firms to publish a trading statement as soon as there is a reasonable degree of certainty that the figures for the next reporting period will differ by at least 20 percent from that of the previous corresponding period. TNM expects to publish its figures are due out in September.

Malawi: Television tariffs - The introduction of a 10 percent excise tax on television subscriptions in the 2017-18 national budget have now seen Multichoice Malawi's prices increased. Consequently GOtv plus now costs MWK 7,590 (USD 10.40) from MWK 6,900 (USD 9.43); Gotv Value is now MWK 4,070 (USD 5.57) from MWK 3,700 (USD 5.06) while Gotv Lite subscribers will now pay MWK 1,430 (USD 1.96) from MWK 1,300 (USD 1.78). GOTV was launched in Malawi in 2013.

Middle East: Better roaming rates - Azerbaijan mobile operator Azercell plans to unify its roaming rates in Israel and Iran, Trend reported. The new rates will be valid from 1 July. Both pre- and post-paid subscribers will pay AZN 0.32 (USD 0.19) per minute for all incoming calls. Outgoing calls will total AZN 1.50 (USD 0.88) per minute, mobile Internet traffic will cost AZN 3.50 (USD 2.06) per MB, and the rate of a text message will be AZN 0.20 (USD 0.12).

Namibia: Overseas jaunt - Paratus Telecom's Barney Harmse and John D'Alton headed a team to Chicago earlier in May for the International Telecoms Week (ITW). Paratus reported that: "The attention the Paratus exhibition and team received was overwhelming". Chief Executive Harmse said that it had several meetings and also signed a number of agreements with operators in other countries.

Namibia: Rural coverage expanded - Deputy Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Stanley Mutumba Simataa launched Telecom Namibia's services in the Sibbinda, Katima Rural and Kabbe constituencies of the Zambezi Region. The Deputy Minister said in a statement last week that it wants to provide equal opportunities to all Namibians, whether in urban or rural areas of our country. As well as Chinchimane, the fixed wireless network also covers nearby villages including Masokotwani, Mazoba, Malundu, Kanono, Muketela, Linyanti and up to Kapani areas, so covering some 3,000 people in some 25 small villages.


Nigeria: Biometric banking - Mobile banking app GTWorld now features biometric authentication, which recognizes a customer and adapts to how and when they want to bank. GTWorld, available for download from the Google Playstore for Android phones and the Apple App Store for iPhones, features biometric authentication such as facial recognition and fingerprint, which recognizes a customer and adapts to how and when they want to bank. The app also features a seamless switch to GAPS-Lite, the online banking platform for small businesses which offers a flexible and secure channel to make payments and collections.

Nigeria: Endangered species? - The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) has noted that 21 of the telcos that existed 10 years ago have shut down, naija247news reported. ALTON Chairman, Gbenga Adebayo, made the comment at the 'Broadband Summit 2017' in Lagos last week. He attributed their demise to the country's economic and operational challenges. ALTON now has 14 members.

Nigeria: Subscriber privacy - The Appeal Court in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, has ruled that it is a violation of a subscriber's right to privacy for MTN to grant unknown persons and organizations access to a subscriber's number for the purpose of sending unrequested messages. The action was bought by a subscriber, and was an appeal filed by MTN in opposition to an earlier verdict. The Court of Appeal reduced the fine to NGN 3 million (USD 9,346) on the basis that the lower court did not provide an explanation of the basis for the award.

Oman: More fibre - Omantel has launched high-speed fibre optic services to homes in Al Qurum, Al Hamriya and Darsait. An introductory free one-month trail is being offered, with a free Wi-Fi router. Omantel's General Manager Marketing - Consumer Business Unit Salim Al Shanfari said: "We are proud to be Oman's digital partner of choice with the largest fibre optic network in the Sultanate in partnership with the Oman Broadband Company."

Saudi Arabia: Office opportunity - Mobily Business has signed Microsoft Arabia to provide and present Microsoft cloud services and productivity tools such as Office 365, Dynamics and Enterprise Security Suite to the Small Medium Enterprises (SME) sector. Office 365 for SME is available for a monthly subscription fee starting at SAR 16 (USD 4.25) including support that will be added to the monthly service bill. Users can exchange documents in a secure way, and access their Windows 10 computers or smart phones from any other operating system, whether they are working on office applications or even personal computers.

Saudi Arabia: Video rampant - Internet users have topped the list for accessing TV and video content online according to a thirteen-country study by Ampere Analysis. Some 87 percent of viewers watch online video content on their smartphones against a survey average of 58 percent. The number viewing video via their tablet is also high at 60 percent compared to the survey average of 43 percent.

Saudi Arabia: Unlimited Internet - Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) is now providing 3 hours unlimited Internet daily for free for 5 GB Plus or 10 GB Plus packages. Users can choose 3 hours between 6.00 am and 6.00 pm when activating any of the following packages; 10 GB Plus for SAR 120 (USD 32), and 5 GB Plus for SAR 65 (USD 17).

South Africa: Business boost - Small to medium businesses (SMEs) in the Eastern Cape could get a bigger online presence after a new partnership between Vodacom and the Eastern Cape Chamber of Business (ECCOB) was signed. The deal promises faster Internet connections for companies, as well as the opportunity to trial new kinds of mobile platforms. The release made reference to 'Business Booster', a platform that allows a company to quote, invoice and accept payments for work while on site. 'Net Business' links mobile and fixed lines together.

South Africa: Competitive Connector - Cell-C has announced its new Connector tariff plans called for heavy voice and data users. The plans offer up to 3,000 minutes of airtime to call any RSA network, a thousand SMSes and up to 50GB of data. Zero-rated access to Facebook (with a fair-use cap of 1GB a month) is also offered. The plans start at ZAR 499 (USD 38) a month through to ZAR 1,499 (USD 115) a month.

South Africa: European expansion - Metacom, which specialises in financial transaction processing, managed Wi-Fi services, retail communication, Scada and engineering, M2M communication, retail video and retail radio, has opened an office in Belgium. The initial focus will be on providing European businesses with managed WAN connectivity across Africa, and also on introducing its Metacom Video and Metacom Radio content distribution platforms to the European market. Metacom has products operational in 22 countries and is continuing with its plans for expansion.

South Africa: Four-way split - Telkom is to split into four separate business units, giving each greater autonomy, Bloomberg reported. The four divisions will be formed around the following divisions: retail; IT services; wholesale broadband; and real estate. Its retail operation will include fixed and mobile, Internet services and shops. Telkom Group CEO Sipho Maseko told Bloomberg there are currently no plans to list any of the businesses, but it may be something for the future.

South Africa: Gauteng best for Internet - Data from the latest Statistics SA (Stats SA) report released on 31 May shows that 59.3 percent of households had at least one member who used the Internet either at home, their place of work or study, or at Internet cafes. The figure a year ago was 53.3 percent. The survey was conducted from January to December 2016. It found that using any means available to access the Internet was highest in Gauteng with 72.2 percent; the Western Cape was second at 68.5 percent and Mpumalanga third with 58.1 percent. Household Internet access was lowest in Limpopo (42.4 percent) and the Eastern Cape (49.2 percent). Nationally, Internet access using mobile devices (53.9 percent) was much more common than access at home (9.5 percent), at work (15.8 percent) and elsewhere (9.8 percent). Some 87 percent of households had access to at least one mobile phone, while 9.4 percent of households had access to both a fixed-line and a mobile phone. Only 0.1 percent of households only had a fixed-line.

South Africa: Leaders targetted - Distributor Blue Cellular is looking to tap into 10 million pre-paid mobile subscribers in rural KwaZulu-Natal through a partnership with Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa KZN) and Amaqhawe Esizwe. Blue Cellular's CEO Barry Taitz said that there are 353 traditional leaders who form part of Contralesa KZN, and each will have an independent account created into which the charity funds earned from the agents (or resellers of pre-paid airtime and data) that report into them, will be paid.

South Africa: Level of surveillance queried - The Right2Know Campaign (R2K) has filed Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) requests with the mobile network operators for information about how often they hand over sensitive customer information. The Daily Maverick has reported on a legal loophole - s205 of the Criminal Procedures Act - that allows magistrates to authorise thousands of 'surveillance operations' every year, forcing MNOs to hand over sensitive information about their customers' communications, which is in parallel to the provisions of RICA1, the primary surveillance law.

South Africa: MultiChoice choice? - MTN Group is expected to make its plans to acquire MultiChoice Africa known at the end of June, The Punch reports, citing sources. Talks between MTN and MultiChoice have been on-going since 4Q 2016. If terms are agreed before 30 June, then the announcement will be made in July.

South Africa: SIM-only service - Aetas Mobile has launched a SIM-only mobile service, MyBroadband has reported. It offers all the regular mobile services but at a significantly lower price point, with rewards each time airtime and data is bought from its online store, with a credit of the equivalent value in Aetas Mobile airtime. The Aetas Mobile shop includes accessories, bedding, boutique wines, handbags, hats, kitchenware, menswear, towels and womenswear. The service is also available as a reseller agency at a cost of ZAR 9,000 (USD 690).

Swaziland: Call rates cut - MTN Swaziland pre-paid will see the prices of calls, short messaging services (SMS) and data cut by up to 63 percent next week. Head of Corporate Services Sibusiso Nhleko said the reduction followed the cut in wholesale prices following negotiations between the Swaziland Communications Commission and the Swaziland Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC). A standard call will be reduced from SZL 1.80 (0.14) to SZL 1.20 (USD 0.09) per minute. Off peak calls currently charged at SZL 0.90 will be reduced to SZL 0.60. The standard out-of-bundle for data usage will be reduced to SZL 0.99 cents per megabyte, which MTN Swaziland says will be on a par with MTN South Africa and Cell C, and lower than the Vodacom OOB rate by half.

Tunisia: Smart sensor pack - Tunisie Telecom and its technology partner Chifco have launched a new range of products based on smart sensors, available in packages adapted to business and residential customers. Smart Office combines automated security technology with energy monitoring, while home users are given the option to buy the security and energy packs individually, or to bundle them together in the 'Control' pack. All are offered in conjunction with a free smartphone app. The security elements include, among others, a smoke detector, a door/window opening detector and a movement sensor. The operator is also offering a 'Camera' pack which combines a night-vision camera with an SMS alert service.

United Arab Emirates: New Ericsson man - Ericsson's Middle East and Africa unit has appointed Wojciech Bajda as Head of Ericsson in Gulf Council Countries (GCC) and Global Customer Unit (GCU) Zain and a member of the Market Area's Leadership Team effective 16 May 2017. Bajda will be based in Dubai, UAE. He was previously responsible for driving Ericsson's non-operator business across the Middle East. He joined Ericsson in Poland in 2000 as a Sales Manager. In 2009, he started his international assignments with Ericsson and worked in Africa running Orange and Millicom Accounts. Then, in 2013, he moved to Ukraine and led Ericsson business in Eurasia consisting of 11 countries from Belarusia to Mongolia.

United Arab Emirates: Sneeky sales - An Etisalat sales manager has been accused of making personal gains forging documents and selling some 360 SIM cards and 923 smartphones, Gulf News reported. The manager was said to be responsible for promoting smartphone data plan packages to individuals and corporates, filling out forms and selling the products to clients. A 45-year-old Indian employee, who worked in logistical support, was believed to have collaborated with the manager. The manager resigned from Etisalat and left the country in 2015, and is being tried in absentia before the Dubai Court of First Instance.