News in Brief 20 December 2017

Africa:

Africa: Money partnership - Huawei and Xpress Money are to collaborate to expand African mobile money services, ITWeb has reported. Xpress Money, with its 170,000 agent locations in 150 countries, will have access to Huawei's mobile money service platform with its 100 million mobile money accounts globally. Remittance recipients' can use the service to make online and offline payments, pay for essential services as well as financial services. The Huawei platform delivers basic banking transactions and works on both smart and feature phones with unrestricted technology. African mobile money partners include Safaricom, Vodafone, Vodacom and Teasy Mobile in ten countries including South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

Algeria: Satellite specification - Of the 33 transponders available on the Alcomsat-1 satellite, launched on 10 December, 9 are dedicated to the broadcasting of television and digital radio channels, according to the Algerian Space Agency (ASAL). The satellite will facilitate high-speed Internet at 20 Mb/s on the KA band which covers the whole of the Algerian territory and 2 Mb/s to North Africa via the Ku-band that will cover, in addition to Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, Western Sahara, Mali, Niger, Burkina-Faso, Libya, Tunisia, northern Chad and northern North Sudan. It will also transmit on the L-Band, covering approximately half the northern hemisphere, so optimizing the signal quality of the geolocation satellites (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo) and so reduce the risks of interference or deliberate deterioration of the signals. Two redundant control and command centres, including one in the highlands, will track satellite status, in addition to a satellite operations centre that will serve as a gateway for data transmission to Alcomsat. These stations will be operated by a staff composed solely of Algerian engineers.

Angola: Competitive threat - Isabel Dos Santos, who controls a 25 percent stake in Unitel, has said that the licensing of a fourth mobile operator would damage the local telecoms sector, Financial Afrik newspaper reported her as saying. She noted: "Four licenses on a market 24 million people is an unsustainable scenario. This will probably lead to mergers at the end of a five or six year period." The government has been saying for some several months that it will the issue a fourth licence. However Telecoms Minister Jose Carvalho da Rocha said on 28 November that the move will strengthen competition and improve the quality of services.

Botswana: Crafted corporate packages - BTC has launched Build Your Own Package, a product which allows a business user to build their own mobile packages based on their usage patterns, along with flexible contract terms.

Cape Verde: TV transition - The President of the National Communications Agency (ANAC), David Gomes, has reported that the first phase of the DTT system roll-out covering the islands of Santiago, Sao Vicente, Sal and Maio has been completed. The transition from analogue to digital TV will take place in the first half of 2018, Expresso das Ilhas reported.

Equatorial Guinea: Meeting mandate - On a visit to Portugal, Minister of Telecommunications and New Technologies Maximiliano Martin Meko Abeme held his first meeting with the heads of the Summit of Ministers of Telecommunications of the Community of Countries of Portuguese Language (CPLP). Issues discussed included international strategies to develop the digital economy and its growth, as well as to improve the administration and adoption of digital solutions for an efficient presentation of public services. He also met with the CPLP's Executive secretary, Maria Do Carmo Seveira, to discuss the arrangements for the summit of ministers to be hosted by Equatorial Guinea in 2018, the Equatorial Guinea Press and Information Office reported.

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Ghana: Broadband policy review - Minister of Communications Ursula Owusu Ekuful has said that the government will review Ghana's 2012 Broadband policy in 2018 to enhance effective broadband connectivity, Business Day Ghana reported. Ekuful said broadband is a critical part of the national development agenda.

Ghana: Infant app - Infant mortality is to be targeted by Danish-developed the Safe Delivery App, the Ghana News Agency reported. The Embassy of Denmark said that some 30,000 infants lose their lives annually due to complications related to birth or pregnancies in Ghana. The free smartphone app was developed by the University of Copenhagen, University of Southern Denmark and Maternity Foundation, and provides immediate access to evidence-based information on basic emergency obstetric and neonatal care. The app is currently being used in over 20 African countries including Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, South Africa and Morocco and already has over 26,000 downloads. It is currently being implemented in partnerships with NGOs, Midwives associations and governments.

Ghana: Seasonal surprises - AirtelTigo has launched a Christmas package dubbed 'Season of Delights' for its combined subscriber base. From 6 December all users will receive 'a new exciting delight every week, ranging from free calls on the AirtelTigo network every day and other exciting offers.' CEO of AirtelTigo, Roshi Motman said: "As a much bigger family, we have made a strong commitment to excite and delight our existing customers." He added: "Our integration efforts are progressing seamlessly, and we will deliver exceptional value with the best customer experience, widest network and high speed data and exciting offers in the near future".

Kenya: Broadcasting stimulus - Broadcasters will have their signal charges subsidised to allow more investors into the media industry, ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru said last week, The Star reported. Mucheru added that in the next five years, the government will facilitate media and production houses to enable them diversify content. Signal charges were last reduced for broadcasters in November 2016 to KES 89,545 (USD 860) per megabit per month, down from KES 125,990 (USD 1,210) for broadcasters in Nairobi and surrounding areas. It also reduced the cost to KES 37,311 (USD 358) from KES 93,202 (USD 895) for broadcasters in major towns other than Nairobi and KES 32,961 (USD 317) monthly for broadcasters in remote areas. The Secretary adding that the process of separating the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation and Signet is underway.

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Kenya: Fibre focus - China-based FiberHome Technologies Group wants to supply local network operators with fibre optic technology. The African Representative Office manager Liu Jie told Xinhua on the sidelines of the first China-Africa Industrial Capacity Cooperation Exposition: "We would like to establish long term relations with both telecom operators and government in order to make Kenya become the digital capital of Africa". FiberHome Technologies was established in 1974, with a base in Kenya from 2014. It is undertaking a feasibility study to set up a local assembly plant to supply the East and Central Africa region.

Liberia: Free calls - Orange Liberia has launched its Infinity Pack, which aims to give subscribers unlimited access to local and international calls within and outside the Orange network for a flat monthly fee of USD 29, reports The Observer. Marketing officer Noel Chateau said the Infinity Pack offers longer free calls than the three-day free calls offering.

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Malawi: Communications checks - The Minister of Information and Communications Technology, Nicholas Dausi told Parliament last week that network service providers are undertaking network quality checks across the country to improve service delivery. The Minister noted that in many areas there are weak or no network coverage, including areas such as Njonja, Chimkwita, Chingale and Mlodzonzi Hill. According to the Minister, TNM, Airtel and Access are all willing to improve on service delivery by constructing new towers where necessary.

Malawi: Loan expansion - Airtel Malawi and FDH Bank have revised the borrowing limit of the Kutchova Loan from the initial MWK 40,000 to MWK 80,000 (USD 55-109). The extension of soft loans follows an 18-month pilot in which the service was only offered to selected subscribers, which is part of their Airtel money platform.

Mauritius: Phone power - An IT engineer in Quatre Bornes has filed a complaint with the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (ICTA), arguing that fibre will render phone users more vulnerable to hacking, L'Express reported. Sanjoy Gokulsing filed the complaint after Mauritius Telecom (MT) invited him to switch from copper to fibre twice, and after he refused, the line was cut. Gokulsing claims it is easier to tap fibre lines than copper. IDC notes that there have been instances of fibre optics networks being hacked in the UK. He also claims that new fibre optic phones need their own independent power supply, and would be disabled in the event of a local power cut, whereas copper lines and their associated phones are powered by the line supply provided by generator sets at the exchange in the event of a power cut.

Nigeria: House committee lottery - A House of Representatives' ad hoc committee investigating the tax compliance status of a number of telcos summoned the CEOs to attend a hearing last week, Punch newspaper reported. Chairman Ahmed Abu said the CEOs had ignored several earlier invitations to appear and that the issuing of a summons was the last resort to compel their attendance. MTN Nigeria is reported to have sought clarification on why its has been issued multiple invitations from two House committees on the same issue, and it had already made a submission. It also said it was unable to respond to any enquiries on lottery operations.

Nigeria: More sign for don't disturb - Nearly 10 million subscribers have activated the 'Do not Disturb' code to stop unsolicited messages, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) Executive Vice Chairman Prof. Umar Danbatta told the 82nd Telecom Consumer Parliament last week. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) also reported that consumers at the parliament complained of unsolicited text messages and call deductions, among others. The panellists included senior representatives of NCC, MTN, Airtel, GLO, Smiles, NTel and 9mobile.

Nigeria: OTT onslaught - Operators in Nigeria are being urged to invest in disruptive technologies to counter the growing influence of Over the Top (OTT) platforms on their businesses. The uptake of mobile VoIP services provided by apps such as Google, Facebook, Skype, Viber, Wechat, WhatsApp, etc have cut into revenues and profitability. Research firm Ovum stated in a report that 'the USD 386 billion loss will accrue over a period of six years - between 2012 and 2018 - from Nigerian customers using OTT voice applications.'

Nigeria: Unused data roll-over - Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is to direct mobile network operators to allow a fourteen-day window for the roll over of unused data even when a subscribers data plan expires, CommunicationsWeek reported. NCC chief Umar Danbatta said once the directive is issued, the current practice of subscribers to certain data regimes loosing their unused allowance will be banned.

Rwanda: Cheaper data - Airtel Rwanda has launched new data packs to increase Internet uptake and digital inclusion, the New Times reported. The new daily pack goes for RWF 200, while the weekly pack is at RWF 1,000. The Bomba packs provide a range of choices to enjoy daily, weekly and monthly streaming using Airtel Internet, as well as making calls to all networks at more attractive rate.

Senegal: Rising base - Mobile subscriptions rose by nearly 120,000 in the third quarter ending September 2017, reaching 15.557 million overall, according to national regulator ARTP. While growing for a third consecutive quarter, the total market was down year-on-year, following the cull of unregistered SIMs in the last quarter of 2016. Mobile penetration increased to 105.1 percent, compared to 102.6 percent in December 2016.

South Africa: Free TV - MTN South Africa is offering a Mega Deals Weekend 15-18 December to new and existing MTN customers who sign up or upgrade for a new twenty-four month contract. Buyers who purchase the Samsung S8, S8 Plus or Note 8 received a free 32 inch Samsung LED TV worth ZAR 3,499 (USD 259).

South Africa: Skills training - Telkom's BCX unit is investing ZAR 100 million (USD 7.4 million) in a three-year digital skills partnership with the Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi). Dubbed 'CiTiX - Futured by BCX', some 250 people will be trained annually through CiTi's CapaCiTi programme skills development and job readiness methodology. Recruitment will start in December 2017, with a launch in late January 2018.

South Africa: Stake sale - The government is expected to raise up to ZAR 4 billion (USD 296.7 million) from the sale of part of its 39 percent stake in Telkom SA SOC, Bloomberg reported. The funds are expected to be used to prop-up the unprofitable state airline and Post Office. The bulk of the shares will be sold to the Public Investment Corp., which is Africa's biggest money manager and administrator of South African government-worker pensions. It already has an 11 percent stake in Telkom. A final decision has yet to be made.

South Africa: Steaming streaming - iflix is claiming it streamed 10 billion minutes across its platform in 2017, equivalent to more than 19,000 years of streamed content. It said that cumulative viewing minutes were up over 400 percent from the 3 billion total minutes streamed at the end of 2016. iflix also claims one of the highest active mobile viewing durations of any service globally, with an average of 2.5-2.75 hours per session. In a statement, the company said that the iflix app also recently surpassed 12 million downloads from Google Play and Apple iOS stores. It is now available to over one billion consumers in 24 territories in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Tunisia: Stake sale signing - As previously reported, the UAE investment fund Abraaj has completed the purchase of a 35 percent stake in Tunisia Telecom, after it signed an agreement on 12 December for the definitive acquisition of Emirates International Telecommunications (EIT)'s stake. EIT bought the stake in July 2006 for USD 2.25 billion. The deal has yet to be approved by the government and regulatory authorities. TT is the incumbent public telecommunications operator, serving more than 5 million customers with a market share of 39 percent and a turnover of USD 440 million in 2016.

Uganda: Start-up services - Liquid Telecom Uganda has partnered with Kampala-based hub and co-working space provider The Innovation Village to facilitate high-speed Internet and cloud-based services for start-ups. The deal will involve technology developmental programmes, including Liquid's ongoing Go Cloud initiative, which is supported by Microsoft to raise awareness, adoption and usage of Azure Cloud across Africa. In November Liquid announced it was supporting start-ups entering insight2impact's (i2i) DataHack4FI innovation competition.

Middle East:

Bahrain: TV offer - Batelco has launched the Batelco TV OSN Ultimate Entertainment package, Priced at BHD 12 (USD 31.70) per month, starting at an extra BHD 5, add-on Ultimate Entertainment options are available, including OSN Movies, OSN Ultimate Movies and OSN Ultimate Sports.

Bahrain: Voice expansion - Batelco has announced the launch of Voice over WiFi (VoWiFi). This follows the earlier launch this year of Voice over LTE (VoLTE), with Batelco being the first to launch the service locally. VoWiFi taps into any WiFi connection the user may have, and it is claimed that calls are seamlessly and automatically switched between VoLTE and VoWiFi. The service is currently applicable to iPhone 6 or later using the latest iOS software.

Israel: App announcement - Music app Deezer has been launched in Israel at an event in Tel Aviv. The app, which has 43 million songs, will offer a substantial Israeli list. Globes reports that the app had a soft launch in Israel. It offers three tracks: a free service that involves advertisements and basic sound quality; a service at ILS 20 (USD 5.64) monthly that offers access to all content without advertising at MP3 quality; and a premium service for ILS 40 (USD 11.28) monthly with CD-sound quality.

Kuwait: Celebratory calls - Zain Kuwait is offered a 50 percent discount on calls to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries on 16 December, to celebrate Bahrain's National Day. All subscribers calling any GCC country, including Bahrain, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar benefitted.

Oman: Speed leader - Oman has been ranked first in terms of 4G LTE speeds in the Arab world and 30th globally, according to Open Signal. It outranked countries such as the USA, France, UK, Germany and Sweden, as well as all other GCC and Arab countries. Open Signal garnered data from more than 50 billion measurements collected from over 3.8 million device users, which was used to compare 77 countries in terms of their 4G capabilities. Oman's average download speed was recorded at 24.68 Mbps, compared to the average download speed worldwide of 16.6 Mbps. Omantel was the first Omani MNO to launch 4G LTE in 2012 and now covers 92.3 percent of the populated areas.

Qatar: Celebratory packs - Ooredoo Qatar celebrated Qatar National Day on 18 December by giving 18 GB of local data free to all users who recharge their data, Hala Flexi, or subscribe to an Endless Internet Pack. The free bonus data will be valid for three days, one time per customer. Hala, Shahry and Mobile Broadband subscribers must recharge their data by QAR 100 (USD 27.19) or above, or purchase a Hala Flexi QAR 60 (USD 16.31) or above. For Endless Internet Pack subscribers QAR 70 (USD 19.03) or above, existing and new customers are both eligible for the free data.

Syria: Cable restoration - State-owned fixed line incumbent operator Syrian Telecom (ST) announced last week that the Aletar submarine cable connecting Alexandria in Egypt with Tartous has been damaged, causing a drop in Internet speed. ST's Director General BakrBakr told SANA that traffic has been re-routed via another international line that had been expanded recently, and Internet speed had returned to normal gradually over a 10 day period. He added that Egypt had started maintenance operations, closely observed by ST.

United Arab Emirates: Best fit - Virgin Mobile UAE has launched 'Recommend', which will l provide monthly plan suggestions for subscribers. Intended to help users choose the most efficient plan for their mobile needs, 'Recommend' will send a personalised notification to customers each month and suggest a move up or down to the best possible mobile plan.