News in Brief 2 November 2017

Africa:

Cameroon: Money milestone - MTN Cameroon has achieved a significant milestone in the expansion of MTN Mobile Money. On 13 October 2017 it achieved one million active users on its mobile money service per month, although its total base numbers some 4.2 million users, TIC Magazine reported. The Telecommunications Regulatory Agency reports transactions valued at some XAF 870 billion (USD 1.54 billion) in 2016. At the same time, the regulator says that between 2014 and 2016, the value of transactions made by mobile money registered an increase of nearly XAF 670 billion (USD 1.19 billion).

Cameroon: Re-registration - MTN Cameroon saw a slight drop in its subscriber base at the end of 3Q17 of some 1 percent following the implementation of SIM-card registration. The Ministry of Posts and Telecoms has ordered the disablement of SIM cards that have not been or only partially identified. After the 30 June 2016 deadline the process continued due to the expiry of the national identity cards subscribers used for the original registration.

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Congo Brazzaville: Consumer charter - MTN Congo has undertaken to improve the quality of its services following complains from users. A trust agreement was signed on 24 October by MTN and the Congolese Observatory of Consumer Rights, establishing a legal framework for the commitments. The primary issues related to transparency in pricing, poor quality of network, airtime volatility and difficulties accessing call centres. The new agreement follows the Minister of Post, Telecommunications and Digital Economy, Leon Juste Ibombo, criticising the poor quality of service.

Egypt: More lines - Telecom Egypt added 22,100 new lines to its fixed-line services in August, the Daily News reported, citing a report by the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology. The number increased from 6.25 million in July to 6.27 million in August. However, this is down from 6.29 million in June. TE has raised the cost of a new line to EGP 60, in addition to tax and stamps, a three-month subscription paid in advance for EGP 45, as well as EGP 10 installation costs, EGP 5 administrative costs, and EGP 6.10 stamp costs, in addition to the VAT.

Gabon: Rates cuts - On 25 October 2017 Gabon Telecom (GT) lowered its Internet subscription rates, and, according to Tic Magazine, now offers two subscription ranges: Fiber Jet with speeds of 10, 20 and 30 Mbps from XAF 25,000 (USD 44) for 10 Mbps and the Super Jet Fiber Range offering 50, 75 and 100 Mbps which are offered in triple play mode give unlimited free Internet access plus free calls to fixed lines in Gabon and the ability to watch free movies from Play VOD. On 2 October GT launched a promotion that allowed users to subscribe to the ADSL subscription of 10 Mbps at XAF 32,500 (USD 58) instead of XAF 65,000. GT said that the offer was available for any fixed, Duo or ADSL subscription taken-up during the promotion period from 2 October to 15 November.

Ghana: No evidence - Following accusations that some of its staff were involved in Mobile Money fraud, MTN's Senior Manager, AML Compliance & Analytics Godwin Kwami Tamakloe has said that no evidence has been provided to support the claim. He made the comments at a press briefing on Thursday, 26 October 2017, Business News reported. He noted that some 36 million are handled by the platform each month and some 9 million on weekly basis with typically 365 issues of fraud recorded. According to MTN, about 400,000 messages are blocked daily and these measures are taken to reduce the possible risk of fraud. However MTN is reported to have sanctioned 3,000 mobile money agents allegedly caught in mobile money fraud in the last three months. MTN Mobile Money's Senior Manager for Anti-money Laundering, Compliance and Analytics, Godwin Tamakloe, told The Graphic that some of the agents were currently being processed for prosecution. Four have been sanctioned for wrong registration processes, which did not meet the Know Your Customer (KYC) Compliant requirement for subscribers.

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Kenya: eElection results - Techweez reports that Safaricom handled the transmission of Presidential election results for a majority of 22 counties, while Telkom and Airtel shared the remaining 25. After the failure of the first election, all 45,000 result transmission kits will be equipped with Safaricom SIM cards. Safaricom covered most parts of North Eastern province, Eastern and the North Rift regions; Airtel Kenya will feature prominently in Coast, Central Kenya and some parts of Nyanza; whilst Telkom Kenya covered Nairobi and 10 counties in central Rift Valley.

Kenya: Vendor loans launched - Jumia Kenya has launched a loan programme for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) expand their online sales. Managing Director Sam Chappatte said the programme is aimed at providing a unique credit scoring method for the vendors who sell through the platform. To access the loan facility, vendors need to complete an on-line application, with confirmation either way within two days. The programme was first launched in Kenya with support from Bit Bond, a German-based peer-to-peer online lending platform, and comes a few months after Jumia partnered with mobile phone-based lender Branch to offer start-up loans for small-scale traders.

Namibia: National icon - Telecom Namibia (TN) has marked its 25th Anniversary, originally launching on 1 October 1992, The Economist noted. TN claims to have invested some NAD 4.5 billion (USD 318.7 million) over the past 25 years and says it will continue to invest in the future to provide the best and most cost effective services to its customers. It was described by the Minister of Information and Communication Technology Tjekero Tweya at an event held in Windhoek as 'an important ICT stakeholder' and 'a national icon'. It said it was the country's only integrated ICT service provider, with over 400,000 subscribers on a population of 2.4 million.

Nigeria: Network expansion - Mobile network operator Globacom has added 20 new base stations at a cost of some NGN 1.8 billion (USD 5.0 million), The Nation reported. Regional Chief Marketing Officer Ashok Israni, who launched two customer-oriented initiatives, said the operator will continue to invest in network expansion, adding that emphasis will be on 4G to redefine customer experience in data services.

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Nigeria: Towers on track - Pan African Towers (PAT), which was recently approval by the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) for collocation and infrastructure sharing services, has presented its pan African vision at the Tower Xchange 'Meet up Africa and Middle East 2017' event in Johannesburg, South Africa. It said it was on track to meet its target of erecting 2000 towers in areas where it has presence in Nigeria and other African countries by 2018. PAT has concluded arrangements to grow its initial tower portfolio from an existing 850 towers to 2,000 towers in Nigeria and three other African countries within the next 12 months in West Africa.

Rwanda: Pull and Push - MTN Rwanda is collaborating with Cogebanque to enable MTN Mobile Money subscribers to deposit and withdraw money electronically using their mobile devices through MTN's 'Push&Pull' service, New Times reported. The facility will also allow Cogebanque customers to transfer (push) money from their MTN Mobile Money wallets to their bank accounts, or withdraw (pull) money from their bank accounts to their MTN Mobile Money accounts, according to Cogebanque's Business Development Director Louis De Montfort Mujyambere.

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Somalia: New horizons - Mobile money service eDahab, launched in 2014 by mobile network operator Somtel, claims that more than 10 percent of Somaliland's 3.8 million population are subscribers. eDahab is going international after reaching agreement with Dahabshiil Money Transfer, Somaliland Press reported. Dahabshiil is the largest Africa-based money transfer business with agent locations and branches in 126 countries.

South Africa: Smart network development - Cell-C said it plans to build the best urban LTE network without being involved in a capital expenditure war with rivals MTN and Vodacom, Techcentral reported. Blue Label Telecoms co-CEO Brett Levy told a forum in Sandton that Cell-C will build the best 4.5G network that this country can offer. Cell-C will focus on urban areas and leave coverage in rural areas to roaming partner Vodacom. It envisages using infrastructure and spectrum sharing deals, and will work to improve its operating margins to be closer to those enjoyed by Vodacom and MTN.

South Africa: Taxi treats - Uber has launched its Rewards a programme to provide drivers with a number of discounts and deals, MyBroadband reported. Uber is working with Cell-C to offer drivers discounted mobile plans. They can also now swipe their rewards card at service stations and earn points to save on fuel costs, and receive discounted maintenance and services at Tiger Wheel & Tyre. Uber is now offering drivers discounted comprehensive healthcare and benefits at ZAR 73 per week.

Zimbabwe: Waxing WhatsApp - Data from the Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) shows WhatsApp is the most popular Internet app accounting for up to 44 percent of all mobile internet usage in the country, whereas WhatsApp’s parent, Facebook accounted for only 1 percent. Mobile internet accounts for 98 percent of all Internet use. WhatsApp accounted for a third of all Internet a year ago. A Ministry of Cyber Security, Threat Detection and Mitigation was set-up in October.

Middle East:

Iran: IoT development initiated - Mobile Communication Company of Iran (MCI) has signed with Ericsson to assist in national IoT development, reports PressTV. The deal is intended to move forward plans for smart cities and automated utilities, and was signed on the sidelines of Iran Telecom Fair 2017 in Tehran. The Ministry of ICT said in February that a pilot IoT project had been launched in Tehran, with preliminaries for expanding to larger scale projects under way, overseen by a special state.

Israel: Fine warning - The Ministry of Communications has warned Bezeq it could be fined ILS 11.3 million (USD 3.2 million) for failure to implement market reforms, the Times of Israel reported. Bezeq said in a filing to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange that it had received a report from the Ministry alleging that it had failed to meet the terms of the wholesale telephony reform and failed to make its infrastructure available to competitors to enable them to supply competing telephony services. Bezeq has been told to immediately act to bring itself in line with the requirements, and has 30 days to present its case against the fine. The wholesale market reforms were launched in 2014 to open up the fixed telephony and Internet market. Bezeq was to start leasing its infrastructure for the fixed telephony wholesale market on 17 May 2017 but failed to do so.

Israel: TV service sign-up - Partner Communications has announced that some 30,000 households have now joined its Partner TV service, of which 20,000 are already using the service and 10,000 have scheduled installations, Globes reported. Partner had previously reported that 5,000 subscribers had signed up within 48 hours of the launch at the end of June.

Jordan: Youth offering - Orange Jordan has launched its Yo platform aimed at young people, offering telecoms and Internet services in a more direct and simplified way, and under this it has launched Jama3ty lines, with features exclusively for youth. Chief Consumer Sales Officer, Samer Hajm added that Jama3ty lines will be available at all of Orange Jordan's points of sale, in addition to universities where Orange Jordan has partnerships. The offerings include unlimited Internet that can be used at all times and however customers want, bundle carryover allowing unused minutes, internet and SMS to transfer to the next month. Users can also download an unlimited number of songs while seeing the words, without interrupted by ads. A Phone Fund feature offers customers the value of the mobile device rebated in the form of gigabytes.

Oman: Better data bundles - Omantel is increasing the data rates for Baqati subscriber plans. Users will now get up to four times the data when they sign a new 24-month contract. A 12-month option is available which will give customers double data. Baqati users could also get up to 15GB data for social media app, so providing independent data for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and WhatsApp for OMR 5. The Baqati Plus offer was valid until 25 October.

Oman: Stake bridge - Oman Telecommunication Co (Omantel) has mandated Citibank and Credit Suisse to arrange a bridge loan for its acquisition of a 12 percent stake in Zain Group, bankers told Reuters this week. Omantel ha signed a non-binding letter of intent with Kuwait-based Al-Khair, an investment vehicle of Kuwait's Al-Kharafi merchant family, to purchase its 12 percent holding in Zain on 8 October. The stake is worth some USD 946 million based on Zain's current market capitalisation.

Qatar: Car workstation - Ooredoo Qatar has introduced Car-Fi, a service intended to make it easier for drivers provides access and passengers to work while on the move. Access to the Internet is provided over the Ooredoo 4G+ mobile network with an in-car Wi-Fi network. Up to ten mobile devices can be connected at the same time, and access download speeds of up to 150 Mbps. Moreover, using Ooredoo's latest Endless Internet Packs with monthly prices from QAR 70 (USD 18) users can minimise their mobile Wi-Fi expenses and control their usage and spend. The Car-Fi can stay charged by plugging into the cigarette lighter.

Qatar: Global Wi-Fi - iPass announced that Ooredoo Global Services will be providing global Wi-Fi services to its customers across the Middle East, North Africa and Southeast Asia using the iPass SmartConnect SDK. The service is to launch in 1Q 2018, and Ooredoo plans to offer its 138 million customers access to global Wi-Fi either as a standalone service or as part of existing mobile roaming packages. The new service will provide Ooredoo customers with access to millions of hotspots globally.

Saudi Arabia: Data offer - Saudi Telecommunication Company (STC) has said that SAWA users can multiply their Internet data three fold. The offer is valid until 10 November. SAWA Basic offers 600 minutes on-net and 6G Internet+6G WIFI for SAR 55 (USD 15) per month. SAWA Net provides 500 minutes on-net, 15G Internet+15G Wi-Fi for SAR 110 a month. SAWA Calls offers unlimited on-net calls, 100 MB for SAR 130 per month. SAWA Super provides 2,000 on-net minutes, 36G Internet+36G Wi-Fi for SAR 220 per month. The packages will be renewed automatically.

Saudi Arabia: Rural connections - The Ministry of ICT and OneWeb have signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate to connect 237,000 homes with affordable, high-speed and low latency broadband in rural and remote areas by 2020.

United Arab Emirates: RIPE 75 result - The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) said it hosted a key meeting of the Reseaux IP Europeens Network Co-ordination Centre (RIPE NCC) in Dubai from 22 - 26 October at the Conrad Hotel. Several key agreements were signed for improvement of Internet-based research and activities in bid to enhance operational efficiency of Middle East networks. Attendees included Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, LinkedIn, Nokia, Deutsche Telekom, Netflix, Orange, Omantel, OGERO, VIVA, du and Etisalat.