News in Brief 21 September 2017

Africa:

Africa & Middle East: Netflix expansion - Orange and Netflix have expanded their partnership to all countries in which the Orange Group is active, whilst at the same time renewed the agreement signed in 2014 for the distribution of Netflix for Orange TV customers in France. The Group's subsidiaries in Europe, Africa and the Middle East will now distribute Netflix content.

Angola: Roaming expansion - Unitel has signed two new roaming deals in Burundi and Luxembourg, reports Jornal de Angola. Orange is providing GPRS roaming in Luxembourg. In Burundi Unitel is partnering with Smart-Lacelle.

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Egypt: Launch latest - The Minister of Communications and Information Technology Yasser ElKady announced on 11 September that operators will launch commercial 4G services this month, Reuters reported. ElKady also revealed a government plan to release additional frequencies to operators in the future without committing to a timetable. Deals were eventually agreed in October 2016, around a month after initial terms were released. The Minister said May that it was ready to hand over frequencies to the three mobile operators and fixed-line incumbent Telecom Egypt.

Ghana: International payments platform - Allied Exchange Africa has launched the ALEXpay cross-network fund transfer platform, Ghanaweb reported. The platform provides a digital payment systems across mobile networks, traditional banks and physical card providers for reliable financial transactions across Africa.

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Kenya: IoT journey - Liquid Telecom (LT) released its Internet of Things 2017 report during the opening of the inaugural Africa IoT Summit. LT's Group CTIO Ben Roberts said that IoT is a logical next step for an increasingly connected Africa. It takes in-depth look at the evolving role of IoT across Africa, looking at how it can support local businesses while also contributing to sustainability. Roberts noted: "Many African countries have already embarked on their IoT journey: intelligent traffic lights in Nairobi are helping to ease traffic congestion, load-limiting smart meters are helping to combat outages in South Africa, while unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are being used as part of conservation efforts in national parks."

Kenya: Upgrade completed - Safaricom completed the upgrade programme to its M-Pesa platform on Sunday 10 September 2017. Mobile money transactions were interrupted for 13 hours. The enhanced availability of the platform is expected to see increased interconnectivity for M-Pesa, which will support a wider range of capabilities for several different partners. In August 2017, Safaricom announced the availability of revamped M-Pesa Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). More than 26 million customers use M-Pesa, making more than 10.5 million transactions every day.

Liberia: Tax payments - Lonestar Cell MTN has signed a Proof of Concept agreement with the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) for the acceptance of tax payments via mobile money, The Observer reported. Lonestar Cell MTN's Deputy CEO, Louis Brah Roberts, said the agreement is part of Lonestar Cell MTN's efforts to offer convenience to its customers.

Namibia: Unlimited calling - Telecom Namibia has announced new packs offering unlimited calling and Internet for new post-paid consumers and offer unlimited voice on TN's fixed and mobile networks. Four price points are offered, starting at NAD 749 (USD 57). Isak Ouseb, Acting Chief Commercial Officer said there were considerable savings on voice calls and a predetermined monthly bill.

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Nigeria: Billing biggest bugbear - The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) received some 15,000 complaints in 2Q17, with billing-related issues accounting for 58 percent, The Guardian reported. The number fell from 19,730 received in the first quarter. Billing related issues included deductions for activation of unauthorised Value Added Services (VAS), inaccurate charges, charges for unauthorised services, charges for unsuccessful calls, charges for undelivered Short Message Service (SMS), inability to change tariff plan, deductions for virtual top-ups not received and charges for caller ring back tune not downloaded. SMS/Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) and VAS accounted for the second and third highest number of complaints.

Nigeria: Central bank codification - Daily mobile money wallet transaction and balance limits have been reviewed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), as well as the Bank Verification Number (BVN) requirement for mobile money wallet holders, The Vanguard has reported. For Know Your Customer (KYC) level 1, the daily cumulative transaction limit is NGN 50,000 (USD 138) and the cumulative balance limit is NGN 300,000 (USD 827). For KYC level 2, the daily limit is NGN 200,000 (USD 551) and cumulative balance limit is NGN 500,000 (USD 1378). For KYC level 3 there is a NGN 5 million (USD 13,782) daily limit but no cumulative balance limit.

Nigeria: No evidence - During a Consumer Conversation Forum at the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) in Enugu, the NCC's Zonal Controller, Enugu zone, Mrs. Emilia Nwokoro, said that there is no conclusive evidence to show a correlation between the Electromagnetic Fields from telecommunications masts and health risk to individuals around such infrastructure.

Nigeria: Research resourcing - The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has set-up an 18-member inter-agency committee to increase the role of Research and Development in the telecoms sector. The committee will evaluate research submissions to aid the growth of the sector the NCC said in a statement on 14 September. The committee is chaired by Prof. Muazu Mohammed Bashir of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Research topics range from pipeline protection to the tracking of herdsmen.

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Nigeria: Virtual top-up - MTN Nigeria has announced that users can now make direct airtime purchases by logging on to the MTN Website and using the MTN Virtual Top Up option. Acting. Sales & Distribution Executive, Adekunle Adebiyi said: "The easy to use Virtual Top Up option on our website gives our customers access to seamless recharge of airtime on their mobile phones, anytime, anywhere." Debit and credit cards are accepted.

South Africa: Academy funding - Telkom's IT services business BCX has invested some ZAR 50 million (USD 3.8 million) in a data science training academy, which plans to create 300 one-year internships in the next three years. The Explore Data Science Academy will serve the demand for big data analytics skills, as demand far exceeds current supply, according to the academy.

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South Africa: Boxed offering - At the launch of Econet Media's Kwese Play, the provider also announced that it is the official partner for Roku and Netflix in Africa. The Roku deal has allowed Kwese to develop a custom media box for its service, which includes approval from ICASA, which is available for ZAR 1,599 (USD 121), and supports 720p and 1080p HD video streaming through an HDMI port. It also has a built-in player that can play media via a USB port. Kwese Play CEO Ryan Solovei said it had list of 5,000 channels to choose from, and had narrowed it down to 100 for now.

South Africa: Business business unit - Networks Unlimited has established a new Enterprise Systems Management (ESM) business unit. Managing Director Anton Jacobsz says the establishment of the ESM unit comes as the changing face of technology, including globalisation and the rise of the Internet, creates increasing reliance on technology to remain competitive. The unit is headed by Hannes Rheeder.

South Africa: Cheaper data - Mobile operator Cell-C is reducing pre-paid out-of-bundle data rates on its lowest tariff plan to ZAR 0.15 (USD 0.01) per MB, with effect from 1 October. Customers can also extend the validity of their data bundles by purchasing a new bundle before the current one expires.

South Africa: Live streaming launch - Live streaming app Voov, which allows users to discover, connect and interact with any other user live streams, has been launched. It is claimed that the app has been taken up by celebrities such as Thando Thabethe, Somizi Mhlongo, Pearl Thusi, Khanyi Mbau and DJ Zinhle, who are sharing unfiltered content. A 24/7 local response team is on standby for reports of harmful content. Voov is available to users 14 years or older, and for both Android and iPhone smartphones.

South Africa: More MTN LTE - MTN has expanded its LTE coverage to the mining town of Rustenburg. The coverage was achieved through re-farming of existing spectrum, and follows significant new site densification in Rustenburg in 2017 as well as deployment of UMTS900 to improve indoor 3G coverage. The UMTS900 band would supplement the new sites and assist in offering better indoor penetration characteristics.

South Africa: Roaming reduced - On 12 September Cell-C said that it had reduced international roaming rates to 58 countries covering 99 networks. The new rates were active from 13 September, and roaming in any of the listed countries will pay a standard ZAR 10 (USD 0.76) per minute for making and receiving calls, ZAR 10 per MB for data and ZAR 2.99 (USD 0.23) per SMS on certain networks in these countries. Higher rates apply to Emtel Mauritius (ZAR 20 per minute for calls and ZAR 20 per MB for data) and Netone Zimbabwe (ZAR 15 per minute for calls and ZAR 15 per MB for data). Thie list of countries is located at https://www.cellc.co.za/cellc/international-roaming.

South Africa: Social media specific - On 20 September Cell-C is launching social media bundles. Their prices range from ZAR 29 (USD 2.20) to ZAR 499 (USD 37.93) for 100MB and 3 GB respectively and they offer data, extra data for Facebook and WhatsApp, all-network voice minutes, texts and free games.

South Africa: Spectrum query - Vodacom's relationship with Rain is under investigation, with claims that Rain allows Vodacom to use its spectrum for financial gain, MyBroadband reported. Cell-C and MTN complained to ICASA and the Competition Commission regarding the Vodacom-Rain deal. The issue relates to the use of Rain's 1,800MHz and 2,600MHz spectrum, which is claimed to have given Vodacom an advantage over its rivals. Vodacom said it had cooperated fully with ICASA and the Competition Commission in their investigations.

South Africa: Telematic integration - Maxoptra's route-planning and scheduling software has been integrated with TomTom's WIRUlink in-cab telematics product. Installation and servicing is claimed to be easier, with reduced costs. WIRUlink provides voice and data services to business and consumers across South Africa.

Uganda: Money collections - Standard Chartered Bank and MTN Uganda Limited announced on 15 September that they were allowing MTN Mobile Money collections for corporate and business clients directly into their bank accounts. The new service is called Straight2Bank Wallet Collections and will be delivered through the Bank's Straight2Bank electronic banking platform. Stanchart's Chief Executive Officer Albert Saltson, said it wanted to be the Main Digital Bank for its customers. The Bank provides cash management solutions for more than 900 companies in Uganda, with more than 70 percent of those companies using the Straight2Bank online portal.

Uganda: NSSF payments - Payment of social security contributions using mobile money is now possible, following a deal between MTN Uganda and the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), The Monitor reported. NSSF members on the NSSF Voluntary Membership Plan as well as small and medium-sized entities can now make payments using MTN Mobile Money.

Uganda: TV station checked - The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has indefinitely suspended ABS Television following what it described as 'repeated breach of minimum broadcasting standards.' However it conditionally lifted the suspension for six months after the station agreed to be compliant, The Monitor reported. ABS TV owner under his Revival Christian Church in Kawaala Augustine Yiga promised 'responsible programming'.

West Africa: SES satellite service - Turkish channel Natural TV is extending its reach to West Africa using SES video's broadcasting services. Natural TV will use capacity on SES's satellite Astra 2G as well as uplink services from its teleport in Betzdorf, Luxembourg. It has a potential audience of 5 million TV homes in West Africa. SES has a strong presence in West Africa, notably Ghana and Nigeria, where it reaches 2 million and 2.81 million TV homes respectively. Astrra 2G, launched in 2014, is one of SES's satellites covering the region from the orbital location of 28.2 degrees East.

Zimbabwe: Consumer counts not closing - The Chronicle has reported that Econet-owned mobile money transfer service EcoCash has dismissed reports on social media that it is closing consumer accounts with balances over USD 1,000. Econet's media relations and communication executive Fungayi Mandiveyi said the message was 'factually incorrect' and that no adjustments had been made to the monthly limits.

Zimbabwe: Debt diminished - Fixed-line operator TelOne claims to have recovered USD 60 million from debtors so far after employing a number of debt recovery strategies, an official has said. It is owed more than USD 264 million by various bodies, including the government. TelOne's Corporate Communications Manager, Melody Harry, told NewsDay that the company is starting to benefit from the network modernisation project it is currently rolling out.

Middle East:

Israel: Private placement - Partner Communications has agreed a private placement of debentures with certain Israeli institutional investors who will purchase ILS 150 million (USD 42.3 million) in extra Series F debentures on 4 December 2018. The price was set at ILS 1.003 for each par value ILS 1 debenture, which bear 2.16 percent per annum interest. The total consideration is ILS 150.45 million, reflecting a yield of 2.366 percent per annum.

Oman: Auto-cloud - Omantel has launched an automated self-service cloud platform along with its cloud services subsidiary, branded Oman Data Park (ODP). This allows customers to purchase virtual infrastructure and applications as well as automatically configure them. Clients can now have their service automatically configured upon purchase, and the time required to deploy and use the service is drastically reduced from weeks to days. The cloud platform is powered by ODP and managed by Omantel's specialised Information and Communications Technology (ICT) team.

Oman: Snapchat surprises - Ooredoo Oman launched a branded Snapchat geofilter over the Eid Al Adha period. Snapchatters are invited to share their favourite moments with an Ooredoo hashtag, and can win a gift box set in celebration of the launch of Ooredoo's Deal of the Day offer for Shababiah and Mousbak customers. Other incentives include free data, credit, discounted bundles, etc.

Qatar: Extra data - Ooredoo Qatar's enterprise customers with post-paid Shahry Smart plans who are either upgrading from pre-paid Hala accounts or are new Shahry Smart pack subscribers can claim up to 20 GB of extra data per month, for 13 weeks.

Turkey: HD delivery - Eutelsat Communications and Globecast have renewed capacity on a multi-year basis at the Hotbird video position. Globecast also signed a first contract for HD delivery of Turkish TRT World from the Hotbird neighbourhood. TRT World belongs to TRT Group, the national public broadcaster.

Turkey: Mobiles rising - The number of mobile phone subscribers rose 4 percent to 76.6 million in the second quarter of 2017, compared to the same period in the previous year, regulator Bilgi Teknolojileri ve Iletisim Kurumu (BTK) reported last week. Fixed lines currently stand at 10.9 million, and there are 64.3 million broadband subscribers of which 11.1 million are fixed and 55.3 million. Total net sales of operators were put at TRY 45.4 billion (USD 13.1 billion) in 2016, and it stood at TRY 12.5 billion (USD 3.61 billion) in the second quarter of 2017.

United Arab Emirates: Apple announcements - The new Apple iPhone 8 will be in stores from 23 September with prices starting from AED 2,849 (USD 776), and the iPhone 8 Plus from AED 3,249 (USD 884), Zawya reported. The new iPhone, Apple Watch and Apple TV can be reserved online in the UAE from 15 September, with prices starting from AED 699 (USD 190).

United Arab Emirates: IPX Exchange - Etisalat officially opened the first IPX Exchange platform in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region to support IPX traffic exchange. The platform allows interconnect and exchange of Ethernet traffic and roaming traffic, using MPLS (Layer2 and Layer3). Etisalat Group's Chief Carrier and Wholesale Officer, Ali Amiri, said: "The launch of the first IPX Exchange is an achievement as it sets a benchmark for Etisalat and the industry. The exchange will give our customers a high quality service in terms of flexibility of speed and accessibility." He added: "The IPX exchange will add value to the SmartHub data center's services and to our customers by providing them better connectivity and a reliable platform, also adding new facility to the existing platforms at United States, Europe and Singapore."