News in Brief 14 September 2017

Africa:

Djibouti: Chinese colocation - China Mobile International (CMI) has signed to be accommodated in the Djibouti Data Centre (DDC) to expand its global network into Africa. The deal includes colocation and submarine cable access in east Africa. Specifically the DDC will provide cable head access, cross-connect and colocation facilities adjacent to Djibouti Telecom's cable landing station, which is close to the Djibouti Telecom fibre cable landing station. Djibouti Data Centre's CEO Anthony Voscarides said: "We are very pleased that China Mobile International will be joining the carrier neutral DDC ecosystem. The addition of CMI further establishes the DDC ecosystem as the leading carrier neutral data centre hub in east Africa serving global and regional telco's, MNOs, ISPs, and content providers."

Egypt: Forex forces rises - Vodafone, Orange and Etisalat have increased the cost of their international roaming services, sending texts last week to advise users. The new tariffs were set in agreement with the National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (NTRA). The USD/EGP exchange rates are the driver behind the changes. The Egypt Independent reported that the NTRA is still considering the proposal to raise tariffs of local calls with Vodafone, Orange and Etisalat.

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Ghana: 4G early stirrings - MTN Ghana has some 11.2 million data subscribers , of which 370,000 are 4G enabled. MTN's 4G service is available in all the regional capitals and key towns. The operator is again staging its annual Internet Festival dubbed iFest. Chief Executive Officer Ebenezer Twum Asantem said that this year's iFest will feature Digital Fairs in Accra and Kumasi. Other activities include Facebook Live sessions.

Ghana: Local Iflix - SVoD service Iflix has launched its offering. The site acts as a digital hosting and distribution platform for Western and Asian Dramas which were obtained through partnerships with more than 150 studios and global content distributors, including Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Disney, Warner Bros and BBC amongst others. Iflix will partner local content producers to produce and market Ghanaian content globally. According to iflix Ghana, one month of unlimited access to Iflix TV shows and movies is priced at GHS 10.75 (USD 2.42) and annual subscriptions will be discounted by a third off the monthly rate, priced at GHS 86 (USD 19.33) per annum. Iflix can be accessed on five devices simultaneously.

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Israeli: Managed services - Globe Telecom has chosen Gilat Satellite Networks for a five year managed service contract, to enable accelerated deployment for the mobile operator's rapid network expansion in the Philippines. Gilat is to deliver its Satellite backhaul for Cellular Network as a managed service to provide data and voice services over 2G/3G/LTE to all regions requiring improved connectivity and broadband access, while maintaining a strict service level agreement (SLA). This service will enable Globe to provide voice and data coverage over satellite in the challenging local terrain.

Kenya: IFC investment - The International Finance Corporation (IFC) is to invest some KES 619 million (USD 5.93 million) in the a Kenyan provider of mobile solutions integrating messaging, voice and USSD, Africa's Talking. IFC said that it will also use its relations and knowledge to help Africa's Talking find new markets. Africa's Talking Managing Director Bilha Ndirangu said that the shares that the IFC will receive is still confidential, and that negotiations have not yet been finalized. Africa's Talking provides services in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi, Nigeria and Ethiopia.

Kenya: PPRTU retired - Safaricom has discontinued the roaming airtime top-up service allowing subscribers travelling across East Africa to use the scratchcards of partner-networks. It said the Pre-paid Roaming Top-up Service (PPRTU) had ceased 'with immediate effect' and advised its clients to use airtime-sharing service (Sambaza) or buy airtime via the M-Pesa platform. PPRTU was introduced in 2008 and allowed subscribers to use partner-network scratchcards while roaming in Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi, but is viewed as no longer viable as there are now better options of topping up. Safaricom's roaming partners in East Africa include MTN Uganda, Telecel Burundi, Airtel, MIC, Vodacom and Zantel in Tanzania, Uganda Telecom, MTN, Airtel and Orange in Uganda and Rwanda's MTN and Rwandatel.

Kenya: Regional expansion - Safaricom's CEO Bob Collymore has told the UK-based Financial Times that he wants to take the company's planned e-commerce platform, dubbed Masoko, 'into the white space - space that no one is in at the moment'. It will initially target neighbouring countries in East Africa, but was also considering expanding into West Africa. However, he said it would not extend to growing its presence as a mobile operator, as countries might consider this more of a threat. The expansion will be funded by its mobile business in Kenya, which recorded profit of USD 685 million in the year to end-March 2017, FT reported. Sales grew 32 per cent year-on-year, largely driven by its M-Pesa mobile money service. Masoko will be launched in Kenya later this year, and in in four or five African countries by 2020. Collymore added: "I don't think we'll step out of Africa because that's too far and you have lots of other challenges."

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Namibia: Unlimited packs - Telecom Namibia has announced new packs offering unlimited calling and internet for new post-paid domestic customers and offering unlimited voice calls to its fixed and mobile networks. The unlimited voice calls and data value packs start at NAD 749 (USD 58). Fixed line customers can get unlimited and unrestricted data and unlimited Telecom Namibia voice calls for free. This includes calls to over 360,500 Telecom Namibia's fixed and mobile numbers.

Nigeria: Cheaper, crisper TV - StarTimes has reduced the cost of its 2-In-1 combo decoder price from NGN 13,900 (USD 38.50) to NGN 5,900. Launched last year, at the time StarTimes noted it was the first of its kind in Nigeria in a move intended to change the payTV landscape in Africa. StarTimes’ Acting Brand and Marketing Director, Qasim Elegbede, said the price cut was intended to broaden its reach 'with a decoder that combines both antenna and dish and offer channels on both at very affordable prices.' He noted that both Digital Terrestrial Television and Direct To Home had comparative advantages, but that with the combo, StarTimes subscribers could enjoy the combined strength of both.

Nigeria: Consumer contact - The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has advised telecoms subscribers to take advantage of the Do Not Disturb (DND) code 2442 and its toll free line, 622, to report service providers. Executive Vice Chairman, Prof Umar Danbatta made the comment while receiving a delegation from Kano University of Science and Technology (KUST), The Nation reported.

Nigeria: Premium programming - MultiChoice Nigeria has launched Pay-Per-View (PPV) and users can now pay an additional fee to watch a particular programme either on a cable or a satellite TV, reports the Guardian. Head of Public Relations Caroline Oghuma said the concept is different from pay-as-you-go, which has been misconstrued to mean pay-per-view.

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Senegal: New Minister - The new Minister of Communication, Telecommunications, Post and Digital Economy is Abdoulaye Bibi Balde, Agence Ecofin reported. He has been Minister of the Environment and Sustainable Development since July 2014. Balde replaces Yaya Abdoul Kane, who, in turn, is the new Minister of Territorial Governance, Development and Regional Development. In progress is the 'Digital City' project, the deployment of the national fibre optic infrastructure, the Pan-African online services project, the installation of Community Multimedia Centres (CMC), all of which are key elements of the National Strategy for the Development of the Digital Economy (SNDEN) 2016-2025.

South Africa: Cross-border payments - TerraPay has obtained regulatory approval from the South African Reserve Bank to launch cross-border money transfer services in South Africa. TerraPay is therefore the fifth company to be licensed as a category three Authorised Dealer in Foreign Exchange with limited authority, also known as ADLA 3, to conduct low-value international money transfers. TerraPay will enable cross-border money transfers from South Africa to mobile wallets in Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Mozambique and Uganda in the initial roll-out.

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South Africa: Data bundle regs - Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services Siyabonga Cwele said that the final regulations on the expiry of data bundles will be in place by the end of October. The comments were made in response to a parliamentary question, The Mercury reported. Cwele said that initial interventions will ensure that all segments of data bundles do not automatically expire after 30 days but have a cascading scale as proposed in ICASA's draft regulations. ICASA, however, said it is still accepting submissions on the draft regulations, and will do so until 19 September. New laws will address the cost of data as well as usage and out-of-bundle charges, but the amendments will also introduce changes to voice, SMS and education.

South Africa: LTE-A Internet - Vox Telecom is offering broadband Internet packages using Rain's LTE-A network, from ZAR 549 (USD 42) per month. Rain, previously known as Wireless Business Solutions, recently announced the roll-out of over 1,500 LTE-A base stations, intending to expand the number to 2,000 by the end of 2017 and 4,000 by the end of 2018. Vox is offering three packages, namely a Basic Plan with 55 GB of data, an Advanced Plan with 85 GB, the Ultimate Plan, which can have either 120 GB, 220 GB or 330 GB plan. There is also a double data promotion at no additional cost. Users have the option of signing a long-term contract where the cost of the router is included in the monthly subscription, or buying the router up front.

Togo: Social media suspension - Social network Facebook and the instant messaging application WhatsApp are reported to have been inaccessible in Lome since 5 August, following by the blocking of mobile Internet access in the capital on the morning of 6 August. This followed a call for mobilization of the population to protest about the delay in implementing constitutional reform on which the ruling party and parliament have been working for several years.

Uganda: MTN month - At the start of the month MTN Uganda launched its 'start a new life with MTN's 4-week promotion campaign. Upon the purchase of a SIM, users can access MyPakaPaka that gives them integrated voice, SMS and Internet solutions, customized to suit their budget and communication needs, including 24 hour data and social media bundles like WhatsApp, Twitter, plus Facebook (WTF) from as low UGX 250 (USD 0.07) daily. MTN's Chief Marketing Officer, Olivier Prentout, said that new users would get 30 Free Minutes, 100 Free MBs, 100 Free SMS and UGX 1,000 worth of Free Mobile Money when they activate their SIMs. The MTN SIM card costs UGX 2,000 (USD 0.55) and the user needs to load at least UGX 500 or more worth of airtime.

Zimbabwe: Pay-TV payments queried - Subscribers to DStv's Multichoice pay-TV are having to pay their monthly fees in US dollars which is now being challenged in the High Court, with an order attempting to compel Multichoice to accept payment in more traditional forms, Advanced Television reported. James Majatame of Takawira Law Chambers is seeking the court-issued declaratory order against Skynet Private Ltd (Multichoice Zimabwe's local trading business) which would require Multichoice to accept the other methods of payment permissible in terms of the laws of Zimbabwe.

Middle East:

Iran: App removal - Google Play has now removed Iranian apps from its store, Press TV reported on Saturday, citing US sanctions. Both Google and Apple were hosting Iranian apps reportedly under a license issued by former President Barack Obama's administration in 2014. In August, Apple removed Snapp, a ride-hailing app similar to Uber that is popular in Iran, from its app stores. That followed by the removal in recent weeks of apps for food delivery, shopping and other services.

Qatar: Router offer - Ooredoo Qatar is offering the Nighthawk MR 1100 mobile router in its shops and eShop. The Netgear LTE device can provide download speeds of up to 1 Gbps and upload speeds up to 150 Mbps. It can connect up to 20 Wi-Fi-enabled devices at a time. The device also supports Ooredoo's advanced CAT 16 network, so allowing the download an MP3 file of 3 MB in less than a second, a 950 MB HD television episode in eight seconds, and a 15 GB Blu-Ray feature film in two minutes. The device will work with Ooredoo's SIM-only Endless Internet packs, which come in denominations of 6 GB, 10 GB, 14 GB, 20 GB, 30 GB, 45 GB and Unlimited data.

Saudi Arabia: Popular for pilgrims - The Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) has reported that the most popular programmes accessed by pilgrims were on YouTube and Snapchat. Some 600 million calls were made locally and internationally during the pilgrim season in Mecca and Madinah, and their success rate of the calls recorded 99 percent of the success of these calls, depending on some 13,000 2, 3 & 4G 13,000 base stations. During the season, there were an average of more than 2 million foreign users connected to local networks out of a total of 8.7 million subscribers. These visitors were primarily from Egypt, Nigeria and Indonesia, while data consumption during the pilgrimage season in both Mecca and Madinah exceeded 20,000 terabytes, an increase of 68 percent over the same period last year.

Turkey: 5G developer - Turk Telekom has become a partner-member of the international Open Networking Foundation (ONF), according to Minister of Transport, maritime affairs and communication, Ahmet Arslan. The ONF is a non-profit, operator-led global consortium driving the transformation of network infrastructure and carrier business models. Arslan said it was 'very important' for Turk Telekom to take a place among partner-members of the ONF, which will be directly involved in 5G technology and telecommunication infrastructure developments.

Turkey: Better roaming - Turkcell will add new countries to its 'Avantaj' roaming zone from 28 September, offering its most advantageous offers overseas. The new countries are Montserrat, Niger, Puerto Rico, Panama, Singapore, Taiwan and Tajikistan.

United Arab Emirates: Competitive catch-up - Following the launch last week of Virgin Mobile as a branded unit of du, Etisalat has unveiled a new mobile service of its own. Local website WhatsOn reports that Etisalat has begun marketing a range of pre-paid plans under the brand Swyp, which is aimed at 19-29 year olds. The focus is on data, with a 5GB base plan costing AED 50 (USD 13.60) a month. Independent MVNOs are not currently allowed under UAE legislation.