News in Brief 24 August 2017

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Africa:

Algeria: Argentine preamble - The 4th meeting of the Arab Group for the preparation of the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-17) took place 20 - 23 August in Algiers, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Post, Telecommunications, Technology and Digital. The meeting is preparatory to the World Telecommunication Development Conference to be held under the auspices of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) 20 October in Buenos Aires. More than 40 experts representing 16 Arab countries attended. The agenda focused on 'the main issues related to developing country issues, including those related to spectrum management, migration to new technologies, virtualization of network functionality, Mobile origin and OTT'.

Ghana: Airtime sharing - Vodafone Ghana has launched its 'Ekiki Mi' promotion which allows users to share a recharge card with two other people. Vodafone's Value Segment Manger Ebenezer Acheampong, said that any voucher for GHC 2 (USD 0.00005) or more they can share with two other friends or family members who would enjoy the same value as the customer. The promotion will run for 60 days. Bonus airtime, to be enjoyed by the two friends, can only be used for on-net voice calls and 'Pay-As-You-Go' data, and they must top up within three days of receiving the recharge card, and bonus airtimes have a validity of two days.

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Ghana: Subscriber payments - MTN has paid some GHC 25 million (USD 565) to about 7.8 million Mobile Money users for the first half of 2017. Of this, GHC 13.6 million paid in May for quarter one and GHC 11.5 million paid in August for the second quarter. MTN made the payment in collaboration with the 16 partner banks of MTN Mobile Money. This payment brings the total in interest payments made by MTN to over GH? 70 million since January 2016. MTN Mobile Money has over 75,000 merchant points nationally.

Kenya: Money movements - In the quarter ending March 2017 the volume of mobile money transfers was recorded at 471.1 million, with KES 1.1 trillion (USD 10.5 million) moved during the period, according to Communications Authority data. In addition, there were a total of 290.5 million transactions worth KES 627.4 billion (USD 5.98 billion) for goods and services. Person-to-person money transfers amounted to KES 520.4 billion (USD 4.96 billion). The number of agents was registered at 174,018.

Liberia: Cyber threat conference - Liberia Telecommunication Corporation's (LITELCO) Managing Director Dr. Darren Wilkins is calling on Information Communication Technology (ICT) institutions and Cyber security firms to tackle cyber threats. He made the statement during a one-day national cyber security forum held on 17 August 2017 at the Corina Hotel in Monrovia. The forum is focused on creating awareness for cyber security and its implications for Government, business and society. The programme brought together cyber security experts from Cote d'Ivoire, United States, Liberia and China, and major contributors were provided by the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) and Huawei, Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA).

Nigeria: API access - 9mobile has partnered with Pan-African Africa's Talking to empower software solutions developers and SMEs with access to telecom infrastructure through mobile communication Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). It is intended to boost the activities of Nigerian software developers and enabling SMEs to effectively engage customers across multiple channels, THISDAY reported.

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Nigeria: Big data bonus - Airtel Nigeria is offering 100 percent value of a customer's recharge as extra data in addition to the eight times instant bonus uses get on every recharge. The new 'SmartConnect' package, which is nicknamed 'Ovajara x8', is the default pre-paid plan specifically designed for new subscribers. Airtel Nigeria's Chief Commercial Officer, Ahmad Mokhles, said that with the SmartConnect 4.0, when a customer buys a new SIM, registers and inserts it in a device, they enjoy the 'Ovajara' eight times bonus and in addition gets the total value of their recharge as data bonus by end of the month.

Nigeria: Fines promised - The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is to take action against telecoms operators involved in call masking and call refilling. It noted that call masking is illegal and is intended to either disguise the number or display it as a different one. This is particularly evident for companies that use what are known as non-geographical numbers. The NCC said it will impose a large fine on any operator that indulges in practices that could jeopardise the growth of the sector ThisDay reported.

Nigeria: Mobile metrology - The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) is partnering with telcos to provide meteorological services to about 50 million people through mobile phones, CommunicationsWeek has reported. NiMet Director-General Sani Mashi said in Abuja that the move is part of NiMet's revenue generation drive to provide local communities with access to weather information.

Nigeria: More money options - PayU Nigeria has introduced PayU Subscription, which allows merchants to collect payments of recurring bills or subscriptions. PayU uses tokenisation technology. Merchants only need customers to choose the recurring payment option as well as the period - weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually.

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Nigeria: On-line listing - MTN Nigeria has resumed talks with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regarding the listing of its shares on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, ThisDay reported. SEC Director-General, Mounir Gwarzo said MTN was looking to listing on the exchange electronically. According to Gwarzo, discussions started in June to ensure a successful listing.

Sierra Leone: Bundle selection - Orange Sierra Leone, trading as Airtel, has reduced its data bundle tariffs by up to 58 percent and is in the process of adding new data bundles, the awoko portal reported Orange SL Chief Executive Officer, Sekou Drame, said: “We have created a touch point with our customers by giving them a platform for proper and accessible data usage in line with our availability and affordability principle.” Data and Device Manager, Flex Macaulay, said that users dial *800# and choose: 1 Light, 2 Medium and 3 Intense.

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South Africa: Competitive issues - The Competition Commission is now investigating competition issues in the data services market, which are thought to be creating high prices. The terms of the investigation have been published in the Government Gazette, and the Commission will call for submissions after 20 business days.

South Africa: Data probe - Vodacom has said it will actively participate in the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa's (ICASA) consultation process on the draft regulations regarding data expiry periods and out-of-bundle billing, Fin24 reported. Vodacom said it was committed to the process of drafting new regulations, after ICASA intervened in the feud between consumers and networks over the high cost of data. ICASA intends to encourage networks to extend the validity of data bundles. The public has until 19 September to submit comments, and the inquiry will be conducted over four phases and completed in March 2018.

South Africa: Internet hook-up - MultiChoice South Africa has launched a new Wi-Fi Connector, connecting the DStv Explora personal video recorder (PVR) decoder to the Internet wirelessly. It costs ZAR 199 (USD 15.08), is smaller than the previous one and comes with a USB docking station. Connecting the Explora to the Internet allows viewers to access Catch Up Plus, which includes 1,000 films in the M-Net Collection, and can schedule recordings remotely. It also provides access to Showmax, the video streaming service launched by MultiChoice parent Naspers.

South Africa: Male domain challenged - An FNB study has found that women are steadily catching up with men when it comes to sending and receiving money via eWallet on the FNB App. The FNB eWallet Solutions shows that in the six months to June, the rate of eWallet dispatches by men on the FNB App stabilised at 62 percent while remittances by women rose by 38 percent.

South Africa: New members - Cell-C has appointed Kuben Pillay and Larry Nestadt to its board. The appointments follow the recent recapitalisation of Cell-C, whereby Blue Label Telecoms and Net1 respectively acquired 45 and 15 percent of the company's share capital.

South Africa: Safaricom stake - Vodacom has said that it has received formal notification from the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) pursuant to the Companies Act that its shareholding in the group had reduced. The holding by PIC in Vodacom has fallen from 15.38 percent to 13.5 percent in the ordinary shares of the company as a result of the dilution effects of the recent increase in the share capital of Vodacom following its acquisition of an indirect stake of 34.94 percent in Safaricom and various disposals by the PIC in Vodacom shares. Earlier this year, Vodacom announced it would acquire a 34.94 percent indirect interest in Safaricom from Vodafone by acquiring 87.5 percent of the issued share capital of Vodafone Kenya. Consequently Vodafone increased its interest in the Vodacom Group from 65 to 69.6 percent. Vodafone sold down its stake in Safaricom as part of its drive to streamline its African businesses.

South Africa: Suburban set-up - Fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) provider Vumatel has started the rollout of ultra-high speed services in Bassonia, Glenanda, Glenvista and Mulburton, in southern Johannesburg. It said it plans to continue roll-out to the rest of Johannesburg South and surrounding suburbs. Vumatel is building its open access fibre network in partnership with the community and aims to 'connect every home, complex and apartment block to super-fast world-class fibre broadband'. It also intends to link all certified primary and secondary schools passed by the network. The operator's VUMA Fibre service provides access to over 250 Internet packages offered by almost 20 ISPs.

Uganda: Savings & Loans - MTN Uganda it has lent some UGX 30 billion through its MoKash mobile phone savings and loans product. The facility was launched in August 2016 in partnership with Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA), whose mobile money platform the service uses. MTN said in a press release that some 2.5 million customers have enrolled since launch, of which 1.2 million are active users. Mobile money customers borrow up to a maximum of UGX 1 million (USD 275) - the minimum is UGX 3,000 (USD 0.82); whilst deposits can range from UGX 50 - UGX 1 million (USD 0.015 - 275). The average interest rate is 12 percent.

Middle East:

Middle East: Platform partner sought - Fox Networks Group is to launch its streaming service in the next four of five months, Gulf News reported. Fox Networks Group's Vice President & General Manager for the Middle East, North Africa & Pakistan, Sanjay Raina, told the paper that Fox Plus would launch in the Middle East soon, adding that the network was working towards a deal with a platform. The streaming service is a library of Fox-owned content of some 20,000 hours of television, such as Netflix, which it will license to a platform. Fox Plus has already launched in Taiwan, the Philippines and Singapore.

Saudi Arabia: Online experience - HTC has launched an e-commerce store for consumers which will also be a platform to improve product and service experiences through customer feedback. HTC's Middle East & Africa president Nikitas Glykas said: “As HTC continues to grow its brand and customer base, we believe it is important to have one place for our customers where they will be able to access the entire range of HTC smartphones and accessories. Moreover, e-commerce is not just a buzzword in Saudi Arabia, but a clear direction in which the retail industry is moving. The kingdom’s young, tech-savvy population is driving this growth, and is also the same audience that is eager to explore HTC’s award-winning smartphone range.

United Arab Emirates: SME starter packs - Etisalat has upgraded premium plans for it's Business Quick Start service which offer up to 33 percent faster broadband speeds, high-end business devices and fixed voice line with 200 minutes in a single bundle for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Value added services such as domain name, Web storage, e-mail accounts and Internet security licences are also offered as part of the bundle. Customers also receive a single bill for all these value for money services making SMB spend transparent and predictable. Packages start from 20Mbps bundle at a rental of AED 975 (USD 265) per month and users can choose their bundled devices from a wide range of options including desktops, laptops, tablets, printers, projectors, security cameras and more.