News in Brief 12 July 2017

Africa: New domain - From 4 July registrations for .africa (dotAfrica) geographic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) were accepted. Registered trademark owners were allowed to apply for .africa domain names, followed by brand owners, businesses and the general public in the second phase. Now .africa domains are available for registration on a first-come, first-served basis.

Angola: Data centre digging starts - Construction work on the Praia do Futuro data centre in Fortaleza started on 10 July, Angola Cables said. It is expected to be operational in 1Q 2018, reports Diario do Nordeste. The data centre will be connected to the Monet submarine cable (connecting Santos, Fortaleza and Miami) and Sacs (connecting Luanda and Fortaleza).

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Botswana: Framework initiation - The Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) is now implementing the Pricing Framework which is intended to align cost, and the retail prices for mobile voice and mobile broadband. Implementation is being phased over three years starting in June 2017. The implementation has started with the removal of mobile Termination Rates and the removal of the difference in prices between the off-net premiums (between networks) and on-net (same network) rates.

Congo Brazzaville: Cost of cable cut - The WACS submarine fibre optic cable was cut at Pointe-Noire on 11 June 2017, with repairs completed by 25 June. MTN Congo's CEO Djibril Ouattara said the outage had cost MTN some XAF 256.43 billion (USD 445.4 million). Ouattara also announced that it would compensate its customers who had activated Internet packages during this period, starting on 28 June.

Congo Brazzaville: Multimedia Post Offices - According to the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Leon Juste Ibombo has said that the Ministry wants to equip each post office with a multimedia centre, TIC Mag reported. The Minister said its ambition was to simplify access to ICT for rural peoples. A Multimedia Centre has already been set-up in Abala. Post offices will be rehabilitated and a multimedia centre installed.

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Network restoration - Vodacom announced on 9 July on social networks that it had restored its network, following an outage the day before. The problem was caused after Vodacom suffered a fire at a technical centre.

Ghana: First step... - GhanaSat-1, which was developed by students at All Nations University in Koforidua, has been launched from the International Space Centre. Weighing 1,000 grammes, the Cubesat satellite will be used to monitor the country's coastline. The satellite, which was built by students at the college, is equipped with low and high-resolution cameras.

Iran: Home-grown devices encouraged - Deputy Telecoms Minister Barat Qanbari has said that the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology has banned the import of 21 technological products, as network operators now have to observe new guidelines. The Mehr News Agency quoted Qanbari as saying: "According to the [Import] Code on Information Technology equipment issued to [state] organizations and industry bodies, Iranian technology firms must meet the new criteria." The longer-term aim is to make the country self-reliant as the 21 product types can be made in Iran.

Iran: IoT workshop - The Faculty of Information and Communications Technology last week hosted a three-day international workshop on Internet of Things in Tehran. The workshop was organized jointly by the International Telecommunications Union, the Faculty of ICT, Iran's Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and the Chinese Academy of ICT under the auspices of the ITU ASP COE, according to the official Ministry of Telecoms Website. A steering committee has been formed at the faculty for making the optimal use of the workshop by collecting the views of industry, regulatory and academic sectors.

Iran: Porting incentive - MTN-Irancell has reduced the cost of calls for subscribers who move to it through the Mobile Number Portability (MNP) scheme. It said that all calls, including on and off the network, as well as those to fixedlines, will be priced at IRR 669 (USD 0.02) per minute, local technology Website ICTNA reported. The operator’s regualar rates are more expensive, with in-net, off-net and fixed calls costing IRR 669 (USD 0.02), IRR 929 (USD 0.03) and USD 799 (USD 0.21) respectively. The incentive is aimed at subscribers of Mobile Communications of Iran, which has seen a growing number of users move from MTN-Irancell to its network.

Kenya: Better benefits - StarTimes Media has revised its reward programme to provide upgrades to higher bouquets at no extra cost, as well as bonus airtime upon renewal of monthly subscriptions to a bundle of choice. The aim is to improve retention rates while extending benefits to dormant users.

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Kenya: Bigger footprint - Visa and African online payment provider Direct Pay Online Group (DPO) are to partner on mobile commerce provision and connect more people and businesses to the global economy. The move will allow 20,000 more merchants to accept mVisa payments. Consumers can pay merchants by scanning a QR code on a smartphone or by entering a merchant number into a feature phone. The payment is pushed directly from the consumer's bank account into the merchant's account and provides real-time notification to both parties. Direct Pay Online was established in Kenya in 2006 and has since expanded to Tanzania, Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. Kenyan merchants now be able to accept mVisa payments include Fly 540, Nation Media Group, Amref Flying Doctors, Travel Creations and Azam TV.

Kenya: M-Pesa aid - A mobile phone-driven cash programme has helped nearly 250,000 people from slipping into severe food insecurity in drought-ravaged Kenya. The Kenya Red Cross Society has given monthly grants of KES 3,000 (USD 29) to more than 41,000 drought-affected families in 13 counties over the past three months. The money is primarily distributed via M-Pesa.

M-Pesa: Transfers terminated - Vodafone Albania is to cease its money transfer service from 14 July. The service was launched in Albania in 2015, and now has some 250,000 users. Vodacom discontinued the service in South Africa in 2016 due to low uptake. No official explanation has been given for the termination.

Nigeria: Investment platform - The NCC Director of Public Affairs, Mr Tony Ojobo said in a statement last week that it would participate in the 2017 International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Telecom World conference and exhibition. He said: "By the National Broadband Plan (NBP) 2013-2018, the country is expected to attain 30 percent broadband penetration by 2018, which currently stands at 21 percent. Nigeria will host an investment forum at ITU Telecom World 2017 and Broadband Nigeria will be the focus of discussions." The event will be held in Busan, South Korea, from 25 – 28 September.

Nigeria: Secure storage - Etisalat Nigeria has launched colocation services for its business customers, the Daily Times reported. Safe and secure data storage is provided, backed by 24/7 power and cooling, within Etisalat's data centres.

Oman: New OMREN member - Omantel is to work with the Middle East College to take part in the Oman Research and Education Network (OMREN) as a member. Engineer Khalid bin Mohammed al Raisi, Senior Manager of Key Accounts at Omantel, and Dr Kiran J, dean of Middle East College, signed the deal in the presence of Dr Abdulmonem al Kharusi, Director of the OMREN project at The Research Council (TRC).

Qatar: COO confirmed - Vodafone Qatar has named Sheikh Hamad Bin Abdullah Al-Thani as its Chief Operating Officer (COO). Al-Thani joined Vodafone Qatar in 2013 as Senior Business Development Manager, and in 2014 was made Head of Public Sector Sales. In 2016 he took over the role of sales director, looking after enterprise sales and mega projects.

Qatar: No humans involved - Ooredoo Qatar is to implement Comptel's Fastermind system with artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities that process and analyse in-the-moment customer data to recommend and automatically trigger the next best action. The solution is claimed to provide users with more relevant and personalised notifications from Ooredoo, as well as getting instant responses to service requests, promotions and more. The new technology is expected to be implemented 'soon'.

Qatar: Unity expressed - Ooredoo, the country's largest telco, changed its network name to 'Tamim almajd' (Glorious Tamim) in a show of support for Qatar's leader. The company made the announcement on Twitter late on the evening of 6 July. Rival Vodafone initially offered users the option of coming into its stores to change their phone's network names to support the Emir, but then rolled out the change across its network. However, Doha News noted that the change only appeared to work on iPhones and not android devices for both networks.

Rwanda: SIM validity - Tigo Rwanda has extended pre-paid SIM validity from six months to two years. Previously, Tigo users had to reload their credit every six months to keep their SIM cards active. Now a recharge of any amount automatically extends the validity.

Somalia: Alerts terminated - Hormuud telecom (claimed to be the country's largest telco) has ceased SMS radio news alerts since the start of July Radio Dalsan has reported. The halt comes after Alshabab reportedly requested that Hormuud include radio news alerts from its affiliate radio station Andulus. According to sources Hormuud declined Alsahbab's request, and subsequently decided to halt its SMS alerts service. There are seven radio stations currently participating in the Hormuud SMS alert scheme including Radio Dalsan.

Somalia: Cable cut - A widespread Internet outage that began roughly two weeks ago is costing the country about USD 10 million each day and is a 'major disaster'. Minister of Post and Telecommunications, Abdi Anshur Hassan, told a press conference that Somalia has lost more than USD 130 million so far. The central and southern parts of the country including the capital, Mogadishu, appear to be affected. The Minister did not say what the cause of the outage was, but ABC News reported officials and ISPs saying it was due to a commercial vessel cutting a submarine cable.

South Africa: Cybersecurity school - Cisco South Africa has launched a cybersecurity centre and academy at its Johannesburg office, Mybroadband reported. Cisco aims to fill a shortage of cybersecurity engineers in South Africa through a partnership with education provider NIL. It said that the shortfall threatens both the private and public sectors.

South Africa: Vodacom best for speed - MyBroadband has reported its Android and iOS Speed Test app results showing Vodacom with the highest average mobile data speeds in South Africa. The app for Android was launched in April, and the iOS Speed Test app in June. In the period April to June 2017 109,545 speed tests were conducted; 53,162 were on the Vodacom network, 31,694 on MTN, 14,419 Cell C, and 10,270 on Telkoms. Vodacom had the highest average download speed at 28.7Mbps, followed by MTN on 26.2Mbps.

Tanzania: CEO confirmed - President John Magufuli has appoints Waziri Kindamba as the new Tanzania Telecommunications Company Limited (TTCL) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), The Citizen reported. The appointment is with effect from 4 July according to a statement issued by Presidential Communication Director Gerson Msigwa. Before the announcement, Kindamba held the post in an acting capacity.

United Arab Emirates: Expanded Wi-Fi - The in-flight Wi-Fi service of the Emirates airline has been expanded. The Emirates Skywards Platinum and Gold members can get free, unlimited Wi-Fi during their flight, regardless of their class of travel. This privilege also applies to all Emirates Skywards members travelling in First and Business class.

United Arab Emirates: Seamless payments - A subsidiary of Dubai Economy, Emcredit, has formed a strategic alliance with Network International, a MEA payment solutions provider, to provide mobile payment solutions. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) will see Network International provide advanced acquiring functionality for Emcredit's mobile payment solution - empay - across sectors. The aim is to provide a secure and seamless process for clients and customers. The MoU was signed by Ali Ibrahim, Deputy Director General of Dubai Economy; Managing Director of Emcredit, and Simon Haslam, Group CEO of Network International. Muna Al Qassab, CEO, Emcredit Limited, said: "Our collaboration with Network International demonstrates Emcredit's commitment to continuously offering more value to customers through innovative technologies."

United Arab Emirates: Senior savings - The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), Etisalat and du have announced the provision of data and call packages for senior citizens. This is in line with the 'Masarra Card' initiative, launched by Ministry of Community Development. They will receive a 50 percent discount on Etisalat post- and pre-paid data packages ranging from 1GB to 100 GB as well as priority access at Etisalat Business Centres, prioritized response to incoming calls to Etisalat Call Centres, with calls automatically routed to the express service lines 'Emarati Gold' to be answered by full-time and qualified staff. du will offer discounts of up to 50 percent of the approved rates for post-paid users, and 100 per cent additional balance for pre-paid.

Zambia: Growing pains - Mobile operator Zamtel has said that its subscriber base is now close to 2 million as of 25 June. CMO Lho-Zindaaba Sakala said this growth has caused greater congestion, and a network upgrade is required. Users have therefore been asked to be patient.

Zambia: Retail renaissance - Zamtel said it is upgrading its retail outlets in Chilenje, Twin Palm and Levy malls with a range of devices and brands bundled with data, free messaging and voice calls.

Zimbabwe: Third phase - State-owned mobile network operator NetOne has said that it is to start on the third phase of its capital expansion programme, expected to cost some USD 500 million. The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) records that in 4Q 2016, NetOne had over 5.8 million active subscribers and was ranked as the second largest mobile network operator after Econet Wireless with 10 million. The expansion programme has been backed by the China Exim Bank facility, which, according to NetOne acting Chief Executive Brian Mutandiro, is only a portion of the finance available for the expansion project.