News in Brief 30 November 2017

Africa:

Africa: Data deal - NTT Communications (NTT Com), the data and IP services arm of NTT Group, has signed a deal with pan-African telecommunications services provider Internet Solutions of South Africa, a subsidiary of NTT Group's Dimension Data. The partnership covers the delivery of NTT Com's Nexcenter data centre service in Africa.

Africa: PR effort - Media relations consultancy APO Group has a new contract with Ecobank. Ecobank Group has a presence in 36 African countries, and employs over 20,000 people in more than 1,200 offices. With immediate effective APO will be responsible for all Ecobank's press release and corporate content distribution. Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard, Founder and CEO at APO Group, said: "We look forward to helping them enhance their reputation across Africa and beyond."

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Cameroon: Internet interruption - It is reported that the government has restricted access to social media and messaging apps in the Anglophone regions for a period exceeding 150 days in 2017, Quartz Media has reported. The current two-month cut-off is the second prolonged interruption in 2017. There was a 93-day period when the Internet was cut off completely that started in January. In late September the government cut the Internet anticipating protests against political and economic discrimination in the Northwest and Southwest regions.

Egypt: Final settlement - Telecom Egypt and Orange Egypt have said that they have reached a final settlement of their disputes relating to interconnection, infrastructure and international gateway services, including any direct or indirect related legal proceedings. The agreement covers all pending, disputed amounts between Telecom Egypt and Orange Egypt from 2008 to October 2017.

Egypt: Taxed telecoms - Telecom Egypt (TE) received value added taxes from its users in the first nine months of 2017 worth some EGP 224.3 million (USD 12.7 million), compared to EGP 179.9 million (USD 10.2 million) in the same period last year, according to the company's financial statements.

Ghana: Things go better - Vodafone Ghana has partnered with Coca- Cola's National consumer promotion to reward customers with free 100 MB worth of data. Rewards include exclusive content in the form of Caller Ring Back Tones, wallpapers of consumers' favourite Coke Studio Africa artistes and music playlists.

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Kenya: Double billing - Safaricom has ordered Challa Communications Limited to refund over KES 10.6 million to its customers who were billed more than once to receive Standard Eight national exam results, The Nation reported. The operator said that the double-billing by a third party licensed by the Communications Authority of Kenya was due to a technical hitch and that some 424,011 requests were affected. The Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) contracted Challa Communications to provide the service.

Kenya: Nose cutting - Protesters reacting to the 20 November Supreme Court election ruling are believed to have destroyed a Safaricom mast in Kisumu County. CA's Director General Francis Wangusi said that vandalism of mobile telecommunication masts and other forms of infrastructure has been noted, particularly in Kisumu County. The country currently has 94.4 percent 2G coverage and 78 percent 3G coverage. Wangusi noted that 164 sub-locations out of the 7,149 in the country have 0 percent mobile network coverage, while 348 sub-locations have less than 30 percent mobile network coverage. He noted that the universal service fund (USF) is being used to facilitate shared infrastructure between the telcos, and that the infrastructure destroyed does not necessarily belong to a single telco.

Madagascar: 4G catch-up - Airtel Madagascar, has launched a 4G LTE mobile network, Agence Ecofin reports. Although it is the lead MNO by subscribers, Airtel is the last of the three majors to launch 4G, following Telecom Malagasy in June 2015 and Orange in March 2017. TeleGeography reports that Airtel Madagascar launched a 3.5G W-CDMA HSPA+ mobile network in July 2012.

Namibia: Speedlink speed-up - Telecom Namibia is upgrading its Speedlink broadband products free of charge. It is also introducing a minimum download speed of 1 Mbps as an entry-level package nationwide, replacing the 512 kbps service. For all users, the 1 Mbps will be upgraded to 2 Mbps, 2 Mbps to 4 Mbps, 3 Mbps to 4 Mbps, 4 Mbps to 6 Mbps, 6.144 Mbps to 8 Mbps and 8.192 Mbps to 10 Mbps.

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Senegal: Faster fibre - Orange Group-owned Sonatel has launched a fibre-optic broadband network. Senegal's first fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) service has been deployed in the areas of Keur Gorgui and Dakar-Plateau in Dakar. Sonatel intends to gradually roll out the network in other parts of the capital. The service will offer data connection speeds of up to 200Mbps and will be available as part of multi-play packages.

South Africa: Four pillars - Speaking at the ICT Summit in East London on 24 November, Godfrey Motsa, CEO of MTN SA, said the operator has adopted what it has termed the fourth Industrial Revolution. The four elements are network investment, access to affordable smart devices, transformation of data pricing and the availability of relevant digital content.

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South Africa: Mould breaker - Online store MyMobileZA.com has started selling mobile phones, drones, gadgets and accessories, reports MyBroadband. It was devised by industry veteran Satish Naidoo, who says he aims to break the mould of high prices that are a barrier to take-up.

South Africa: Upgrade glitch - On Thursday 23 November MTN said that it had experienced downtime as a result of network upgrades, but expected to have services back to normal by 11:30 a.m. the following day. MTN SA Corporate Affairs Executive Jacqui O'Sullivan said that the operator had undertaken an upgrade on a section of its network, but that a fault developed during the upgrade, which saw an interruption in data services on the network node in Randburg and Newlands, Cape Town.

South Africa: Rogue charges - Vodacom South Africa is facing a class action lawsuit regarding unauthorised charges, often experienced as disappearing airtime by users, from wireless application service providers (WASPs), MyBroadband has reported. Vodacom provides the WASPs with the ability to bill subscriber accounts for services, which often occur without the consent of the subscriber.

West Africa: Money manager - Djibril Diallo has named by TransferTo as its new VP Business Development to head operations in West and Central Africa. He was previously head of mobile financial services at Tigo Cash in Senegal. In his new role he is now responsible for expansion into new markets including Senegal, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Gabon and Cameroon.

United Arab Emirates: Fee-based VoIP - Mobile network operators Etisalat and du have both listed a VoIP-based app, Botim, as part of their 'unlimited' voice and video call service, the Tahawul Tech ebportal reported. The app joins C'Me, another Voice over Internet Protocol channel that has been available for some time now as an approved service, although VoIP is technically not allowed in the UAE. The differentiator is that a monthly service fee is charged. Both MNOs have listed monthly fees of AED 50 and AED 100 (USD 13.60 - 27.20). These are for single user; and family or group licences. The fees are automatically renewed per month.

Zambia: Phased implementation - State-owned Zamtel is commissioning 84 new base stations, as it works towards its goal of achieving national coverage, the Lusaka Times reported. Zamtel Corporate Communications Manager Kennedy Mambwe told reporters that some 84 of its 110 new sites nationally will be commissioned in the first phase of its network expansion programme. This is part of Zamtel's USD 280 million investment programme that will see an additional 1,009 new transmission sites erected.

Zimbabwe: Tariff reduction - State-owned mobile operator NetOne has reduced tariffs for its OneFusion package. The move anticipates Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) Director-General Gift Machengete ordering the introduction of regulatory interventions that would see Internet prices reduced, the Daily News reported. NetOne has introduced a USD 3 OneFusion package that allows subscribers to get 60 on-net minutes, 10 mins off-net calls, 250mb data, 250mb WhatsApp, 250mb Facebook and 10 SMS, and is valid for a week.

Middle East:

Bahrain: Data centric - Batelco has commenced the construction of a number of TIER III datacentre facilities. Batelco Bahrain's CEO Mohamed Bubashait said: "Batelco is developing a number of datacentres which will form the basis of the infrastructure to enable the growth of enhanced cloud based ICT services and global data movement."

Cyprus: Duel channels - MTN Cyprus has said that the MTN TV platform has two new subscription packages, Standard Plus and Complete Plus. Both include Fox, Fox Life, National Geographic and Nat Geo Wild channels, which were also added to its offer. The service was presented on 5 April. Initially, customers could choose from two packages, Standard Pack and Complete Pack, priced at EUR 9.90 (USD 11.63) and EUR 19.90 (USD 23.38), which included 41 and 54 channels, respectively.

Israel: Game changer - Cellcom Israel has announced that IDB Development Corporation has completed the sale of its holdings in Discount Investments Corporation, the company's indirect controlling shareholder, to a private Israeli company indirectly controlled by IDB's controlling shareholder, in order to accommodate IDB group's pyramidal structure to the Israeli Promotion of Competition and the Mitigation of Concentration Law. As a result, the company is now a second layer company according to the Concentration Law, and the requirements imposed on the company as a third layer company do not apply to it any more.

Middle East: MENA manager - Iflix has named John Saad as CEO of Iflix Middle East and North Africa (MENA). He replaces Nader Sobhan, who is now strategic advisor, working closely with Iflix co-founder and group CEO Mark Britt. Saad previously worked as Chief Consumer Officer at Suadi Arabian telco Mobily and before that held various roles at Vodafone, including consumer director at Vodafone Egypt and Chief Marketing Officer at Vodafone Qatar. Iflix is now available in 24 territories in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. The company, which is headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, first moved into the MENA region in 2017, launching in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Lebanon, Egypt and Sudan.

Oman: 4G coverage - Mobile network operator Ooredoo Oman has expanded its 4G LTE network to 70 new locations. These are parts of Muscat, Dhofar and Ad Dakhiliyah, and include the addition of 20 sites in Batinah, ten in Al Sharqiyah and ten in Muscat with the remainder 'extending to every governorate of the Sultanate'. The rollout is part of its plan to increase LTE coverage to 90 percent of the population by 1Q18.

Oman: Connected co-habitants - Omantel is now offering Family Home Broadband (HBB) plans for a 60-day period. Users can add a number of mobile connections under one group so that they can make free calls together. The HBB plans are available in Unlimited M and L packages and Premium S, M, L and XL packages, with prices starting at OMR 25 (USD 65) for the Unlimited M and OMR 35 (USD 91) for the Premium S.

United Arab Emirates: Mobile customer service - Du has launched its first 'Business Mobile Centre' at the Dubai Health Authority. The air-conditioned bus will provide easier access to sales and services for users, offering bill payments, Mobile Number Portability, contract renewals and other service-related inquiries.

United Arab Emirates: SME special -  Last week Etisalat announced a special data package for small business owners offering non-stop Internet access for less than AED 200 (USD 54) per month under the Business First banner. The offer is open to new or existing Etisalat subscribers. It comes with local voice minutes and intra-company calling minutes.