News in Brief 6 December 2017

Africa:

Africa: Africa accord - A two-day African Union meeting of the Specialised Technical Committee on Communication and ICT in Addis Ababa that ended on 1 December, have declared digitisation a priority for Africa, NewsGhana reported. Ministers discussed and reached decisions on continental and regional programmes.

Africa: Lite launched - Twitter Lite has been launched in South Africa, Nigeria, Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia and Tanzania. Twitter's Product Manager Jesar Shah made the announcement on the company's blog. Twitter Lite minimises data usage, loads quicker on slower connections and is more resilient on unreliable mobile networks. Twitter tested the application in the Philippines in September 2017. Twitter claims that it saw a 50 percent rise in the number of tweets since Lite debuted earlier this year. This was attributed to the quick loading times even on 2G and 3G networks, 3MB install size, offline mode and data saver mode that only loads images and videos that the user wants to view. Twitter Lite is available for Android users from the Google Play Store.

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Cameroon: New life for old modems - Vodafone Cameroon (Afrixmax) users can now re-use their modems by joining YooMee, an Internet provider which recently became a mobile virtual network operator, as its 4G SIM cards are compatible with Vodafone's modems, BusinessinCameroon reported. Vodafone lost its licence on 14 September 2017. Both operators used the CAMTEL network, and so allowed the migration.

Cameroon: Penalties pending - The Mobile Telecommunications Networks (MTN) has initiated talks with the Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ART) regarding a XAF 3.5 billion (USD 6.3 million) penalty for breaches relating to SIM registration and the use of radio frequencies. MTN said in a statement that will continue to educate its subscribers on the need to have their SIMs registered. As well as the penalty, the Journal du Cameroun reported that MTN's operating licence has also reduced by a year of the 15 years originally granted in March 2015.

Egypt: Future technology - A live test of 5G technology will feature at the 21st Cairo ICT exhibition, 3-6 December. The event is being staged at the Egypt Expo Centre, and Vodafone, Orange and Telecom Egypt are participating, along with the National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (NTRA) and the Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA).

Gambia (The): TV debut - Private television operator QTV joins state broadcaster Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS) Africanews reported. The channel was launched by President Adama Barrow and his Sierra Leonean counterpart Ernest Bai Koroma on 30 November.

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Ghana: Instant loans - MTN Ghana in collaboration with afb Ghana has introduced the 'Qwikloan' product. The General Manager for MTN Mobile Financial Services, Eli Hini, noted that it is a 30-day loan, which is repaid in a single event. Qwikloan is available on MTN's Mobile Money Platform and has been piloted among selected staff and customers. Users can access up to GHS 1,000 (USD 222). The Qwikloan fee is 6.9 percent per loan. MTN has more than 8.2 million active subscribers and 88,000 merchant points.

Ghana: Radio ban lifted - The Electronic Communications Tribunal (ECT) on 4 December 2017 directed the National Communications Authority to lift the ban on some radio stations, Prime News reported. In September 2017 the NCA banned 34 radio stations (including Radio Gold) and fined 97 over alleged breach of contract relating to basic requirements for their operating licences. Established under the 2008 Electronic Communications Act, the ECT is a tribunal that allows electronic communications companies, particularly in the telecommunications and broadcasting sectors, to appeal against decisions or orders made by the National Communications Authority (NCA).

Ghana: Shared infrastructure muted - The Minister of Communications Ursula Owusu Ekuful has called on telcos to share their infrastructure to improve broadband access, and to accordingly develop an industry code. The Minister made the call on 30 November 2017 at the opening of the Broadband Ghana Forum - the first such meeting organized by the Chamber of Broadband Communications (BBCC) in partnership with the Ministry of Communications.

Ghana: Stake eyed - The government has until 2019 to decide how it will acquire a 25 percent stake in AirtelTigo, Starr Business reports, citing Minister of Communications, Ursula Owusu Ekuful. The acquisition is part of the conditions stipulated in the merger deal.

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Kenya: Better service - Safaricom has opened five new shops. In Nairobi, a new Ronald Ngala Shop will service the Central Business District while the Greenspan Mall Shop will serve Donholm, Kayole and the Greater Eastlands region, and the Nyahururu shop Nyandarua County, Laikipia West and Samburu Central Sub Counties.

Kenya: Customer service app - My Telkom, a self-care mobile app, has been launched by Telkom Kenya for use on smartphones and other mobile devices. The app is available for Android and Apple iOS users enables customers to check balances for airtime, voice or Internet bundles, top-up airtime and buy Internet bundles, and to redeem points from Telkom's Ziada loyalty programme. They can also contact Customer Care via the app by calling, texting or on social media; or by locating the nearest Telkom Retail Shop.

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Malawi: Matters arising - Members of Parliament during Question Time last week commented on the intermittent mobile network coverage in some areas of the country, Nyasa Times reported. Members called for the erection of towers in their constituencies; and reduced roaming charges, particularly in border areas, where some subscribers use the Mozambican networks which attract roaming charges, especially for Airtel clients. The Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Nicholas Dausi, said that his Ministry had engaged the network providers on the issues.

Maldives: Broadband expansion - The 'SuperNet' fibre-optic broadband service of Ooredoo Maldives has been extended to Kulhudhuffushi, the capital of the Haa Dhaalu Atoll administrative division on Thiladhunmathi Atoll. The Miadhu newspaper reports that the roll-out was carried out in cooperation with infrastructure partner and TV service provider Wavelength, which has supported Ooredoo to expand the network on the island. The Communications Authority of the Maldives (CAM) awarded an ISP licence to Ooredoo in August 2015 and the firm launched commercial fixed telephony and broadband services in the capital Male in May 2016.

Malawi: Profitable period - Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM) said last week that it expects annual profits to rise more than 60 percent, Reuters reported. No reason was provided for the growth. Locally listed TNM reported profits last year of MWL 8.21 billion (USD 11.4 million). In May it announced capital expenditure of USD 30 million to build a 4G network and expand mobile Internet coverage beyond the major cities of Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu to outlying areas. It expects to publish its results in March 2018.

Malawi: Power problems - Multichoice Malawi is reported to be suffering in the wake of persistent blackouts as Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM) continues to run loadshedding programmes. Malawi24 reports that blackouts are lasting for up to 24 hours, and consequently DSTV and Gotv subscribers are reluctant to pay for their subscriptions until the situation is normalised.

Mozambique: Stagnant salaries - Mobile operator Mcel said that there will be no salary increases as a result of the 'fragile and difficult financial situation' it faces. The Board and the Workers' Committee of Mcel have undertaken the wage negotiation process and have concluded that there will be no increases during 2018" according to a statement sent to Lusa.

Namibia: Inclusive ICT - Information from the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology strategic plan of 2014-2017 shows a significant improvement in terms of ICT infrastructure and digital content over the past five years which is attributed to the increase in international bandwidth, which recorded at 34.5 kilobytes per second per user. The National Development Plan 4 assessment rated the ICT sector as achieving 5 out of the 7 targets set in the last five years. The ICT Ministry launched its new five year (2017-2022) Strategic Plan last week.  Minister, Tjekero Tweya, said ministry’s new vision is to be 'a catalyst for an informed and inclusive ICT smart Namibia' through the mission which is to ‘create an enabling environment for ICT development and access to information for socio-economic growth’.

Nigeria: ISP pair dominant - Internet Service Providers (ISP) Spectranet and Smiles Communications are reported to control some 90 percent of the enterprise Internet market, the New Telegraph has reported. The remaining 10 percent is shared between the other 35 ISPs. The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has recorded some 390,794 customers, including large corporates and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) connected by the 37 ISPs. The total points of presence (PoPs) provided by the ISPs stands at 927. In the past five years the NCC licensed 103 ISPs but only 10 percent have applied to renew their licence.

Nigeria: Resolution success - NCC's Director, Consumer Affairs Bureau (CAB), Abdullahi Maikano, on the sideline of the fourth quarter Industry Consumer Advisory Forum (ICAF) open forum, said: !…since the launch of our Year of Telecoms Consumer campaign last February and the popularisation of the NCC toll-free line of 622, we have recorded astronomical growth in the amount of complaints we received from subscribers daily".

Nigeria: Service enhancements - MTN Nigeria has contracted Nokia to drive service for its 52 million subscribers. Nokia's Customer Experience Management (CEM) solutions provide automation and intelligence to help service providers operate more efficiently and indentify new business opportunities, while ensuring subscribers receive the maximum benefit from their services. MTN Nigeria also is the first service provider in the region to deploy Nokia Cognitive Analytics for Customer Insight (formerly CEM on Demand) with Nokia Service Quality Manager (SQM) software.

Rwanda: Better banking - Equity Bank has introduced a range of mobile and e-ticketing services, New Times reports. The Eazzy Banking suite includes the EazzyBanking app, available for both Android and iOS-enabled devices. Users can open accounts, send money to bank accounts or mobile wallets, applying for and repaying loans, and paying utility bills.

Rwanda: Rate cut delight - MTN has cut out-of-bundle data costs to RWF 10 (USD 0.01) per MB, from RWF 56 (USD 0.06). MTN Rwanda's Chief Executive Bart Hofker told The New Times last week that the new tariffs will apply to both post- and pre-paid. The operator expects to take a hit on its revenues, but expect to recover within three months. The average cost of out-of-bundle data is around the RWF 50 (USD 0.06) mark on the Airtel and Tigo networks. MTN said it is deploying new technology to ensure all masts provide 3G coverage.

Rwanda: Taxi tap&pay - MTN Rwanda has signed a payment deal with Yego Moto Company to enable taxi moto customers to pay their fares using mobile money service, New Times reported. MTN Mobile Money subscribers will only need to deposit money on their mobile wallets and use the tap & pay platform to settle their taxi moto fares. Launched in 2016, the MTN tap&pay technology allows mobile money subscribers to make transactions using their mobile phones.

Sao Tome and Principe: Post-paid on the rise - The General Regulation Authority (AGER) has published its annual report recorded some 178,047 active mobile telephony users in 2016, down by 3.74 percent year-on-year. Of the total, 173,705 were prepaid users (-5.83 percent), while post-paid users amounted to 4,342 (+756.41 percent).

South Africa: Data storage shot down - The Gauteng Health Department is being challenged on the ZAR 500 million (USD 36.3 million) that it spent on a data storage contract with Telkom in 2014. Last week Shadow Health Minister Jack Bloom claimed that the contract was had been found to be unnecessary. This followed a written reply to Bloom's questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

South Africa: Kids TV - Children's channel Fix&Foxi has been added to Cell-C to its Black entertainment platform, Nextvame reports. The pay-TV channel operated by German media company Your Family Entertainment (YFE) is delivered to Cell-C via content provider Vubiquity.

South Africa: Not funny - Telkom has been ordered to withdraw a radio commercial where it poked fun at MTN's 'Bozza network' by the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASA). The advertisement promoted its FreeMe mobile products, which it said provides users with 1GB of data, free WhatsApp, free calls, and free Wi-Fi for ZAR 99. MTN lodged a complaint with the ASA, arguing that the Telkom campaign ridiculed and disparaged its brand.

South Africa: Reputational damage limitation - Multichoice has directed its audit and risk committees to investigate its 2015 deal with ANN7. The board is aware of the suggestion that the ANN7 channel has experienced corruption centred on the former owners of the channel, and Multichoice's reputation might be affected. MultiChoice increased the fee to carry ANN7 from ZAR 50 million (USD 3.6 million) per year to ZAR 141 million (USD 10.3 million) per year in 2015.

Sudan: US delegation - A change in US policy on 12 October 2017 saw long-standing economic sanctions officially revoked. Agency Ecofin reports that from 4 - 7 December 2017, a delegation of American businessmen visit the country. ICT and telecommunications were reported to be at the top of the list. The mission was arranged by the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) and Sudatel. CCA's President and CEO Florizelle Liser noted that the association aims to strengthen business relations between the United States and Africa.

Uganda: Start-up support - Liquid Telecom Uganda is partnering The Innovation Village, a hub and co-working space in Kampala, to support Ugandan start-ups with Internet and cloud services. Liquid will work alongside the Village, enabling access to additional resources and expertise that can help them expand and launch locally relevant services.

Zimbabwe: Payment gateway expands - The Badala mobile payment gateway that facilitates merchants receive payments from 45 African countries, is due to be officially launched in South Africa in February 2018. Badala incorporates wallet services such as Ecocash (Zimbabwe), Tigo cash (Tanzania), Orange (West African countries) and banks such as Stanbic and Barclays. Badala's Chief Marketing Officer Emison Mashiri told The Southern Times it launched services in Zimbabwe in October 2016 and it now has some 591 subscribers from Zimbabwe (350), South Africa (125), Zambia (60) and Malawi (56). In March 2018 services will be launched in Zambia, and in Malawi in the last quarter.

Middle East:

Bahrain: Self-service transfers - UAE Exchange has partnered with the Bahrain-based payment gateway SADAD. Users will now have round-the-clock international and domestic money transfers via self-service kiosks nationally. UAE Exchange Group's Chief Executive Officer,.Promoth Manghat, said: "The self-service kiosks are not only an innovative, convenient and incredibly secure way for customers to transfer money home but also, add to the credentials of UAE Exchange brand as a fintech innovator." Users of service kiosks have to first register themselves and their beneficiaries with UAE Exchange as part of the Know Your Customer (KYC) policy.

Gulf States: Money transfers - WorldRemit has launched money transfers to Oman, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait. It launched money transfer operations to the region with the United Arabs Emirates in 2013, and is expanding its service in the UAE with the addition of 534 new cash pick-up locations. In June 2017 WorldRemit announced a global integration with Google's Android Pay, followed by a partnership with Huawei's mobile money platform in Africa.

Oman: Content in context - Omantel has chosen mAdme's ImpactConversion Platform. The mobile engagement platform allows engagement with customers through relevant content delivered on-device using contextual triggers. Omantel has signed up via Sheikh Abdullah Al Rawahy's Innovative Modern Services (IMS) to roll-out mAdme's Platform, Products and Solutions.

Oman: IaaS initiated - Ooredoo Oman is to commission its first locally hosted, enterprise-class Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) virtual server for corporate cloud computing services. The facility is backed by Service Level Agreements (SLA). Ooredoo Cloud offers complete console access to customers, which enables on-the-go provision as well as round-the-clock support.

United Arab Emirates: Penalty payments - Etisalat is to charge AED 25 (USD 6.80) as late payment fees from December if a subscriber does not pay a bill in full before the due date. Gulf News reported that some customers received SMSs and e-mails from the operator’s customer care team last week. Etisalat said the normally the due date for a fixed-line bill is the 15th of every month and if a customer has not paid by the due date, they will attract a late payment charge. The late payment charges are applicable to both fixed and mobile users. Du does not charge late payment fees, and told Gulf News that it did not intend to do so in the future.

United Arab Emirates: Taxing times - From 1 January 2018 a 5 percent VAT will be applied by network operators Etisalat and du. Etisalat said in a statement that most products and services will be subject to the tax in compliance with federal laws and regulations.