News in Brief 4 January 2018

Africa:

Algeria: Delinquent ISP delisted - Autorite de Regulation des Postes et Telecommunications (ARPT) on 22 December 2017 said that it had permanently withdrawn the licenses issued to Anwarnet for the provision of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services and the provision of Internet access services (ISPs). The withdrawal follows the operator's failures to meet terms of its licence. ARPT noted that contrary to reports by some media outlets, the decision only concerns Anwarnet. The Website at www.anwarnet.dz could not be accessed at the end of the year.

Angola: Academic assistance - Angola Cables is to support the West and Central African Research and Education Network (WACREN) to increase connectivity among academic communities in the region. Angola Cables is part of the consortium that manages the West Africa Cable System (WACS), which provides carrier services to operators in Angola and Sub-Saharan Africa. It is also constructing the 40Tbps South Atlantic Cable System (SACS) with four fibre pairs between Angola and Brazil. The cable is due to be Ready For Service by mid-2018 and will connect to the Monet submarine cable system linking Brazil and the US, which was certified RFS earlier this month.

Cameroon: Executive exit - MTN Cameroon's Executive Director Philisiwe Sibiya is to officially step down on 31 January 2018. Sibiya is the first woman to head the company, and is also resigning her post with MTN International at the same time. She was appointed three years ago, and oversaw heavy investments for the deployment of 4G and the extension of 3G.

Cote d'Ivoire: Big brother Bruno - The government is to set-up a National Register of Natural Persons (RNPP) to provide each citizen and visitor with a unique national identification number, abidjan.net reported. Minister of Communication, Economy Digital and Post Office Kone Bruno said on 21 December 2017 that the national identification number (NIN) will populate a centralised database containing all information on civil status and biometrics of the population. The project is expected to take two-years with the aim of being able to trace all inhabitants, and so optimize tax, security and social policy.

Cote d'Ivoire: Fibre focus - Jeune Afrique notes that Moov Cote d'Ivoire is pursuing its proactive investment policy, and has implemented an ambitious investment programme for improving QoS, and expanding broadband penetration. Its fibre network extends over 3,150 km, and has been deployed progressively since 2012. The deployment of a further 850 km of fibre is planned, to give it a route total of some 4,000 km by the end of 2018.

Democratic Republic of Congo: State security - The government has ordered network operators to cut Internet and SMS services in advance of planned anti-government demonstrations. Demonstrations were planned in major cities to demand that President Joseph Kabila does not change the constitution to stand for a third term and release political prisoners. Minister of Telecommunications Emery Okundji told Reuters that it was 'for reasons of state security ... the government has the duty to take all measures to protect Congolese lives.'

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Egypt: Bullish budget - The board of Telecom Egypt has approved the company's budget for the fiscal year 2018. Total revenue growth is expected to be in the range of high single digit to low double digit, the EBITDA margin is forecast in the mid to high twenties, and capital expenditure will reach 30 percent of revenue. The company said it expects to continue posting strong operational margins and that it will continue to invest in its mobile network launched last year. 'Egypt Today' has reported that it now has over 7 million mobile subscribers after an investment of some EGP 6.5 billion (USD 363.9 million) in the mobile launch, in addition to the cost of the licence. TE reported a net profit of EGP 1.008 billion (USD 56.4 million) in the 3Q 2017, up from EGP 867.3 million (USD 48.56 million) in 3Q 2016. Revenues rose to EGP 4.4 billion (USD 246.3 million) in 3Q 2017 from EGP 3.2 billion (USD 179.2 million) in the same period a year ago.

Egypt: Moving on - Vodafone Egypt's Chief Executive Stefano Gastaut has been named as Vodafone Group's global director of Internet of Things (IoT) business unit with effect from 1 January 2018. The IoT business unit currently generates more than EUR 700 million in revenue, manages 62 million IoT SIMs, and supports services in more than 190 countries. Previously Gastaut was CEO of Vodafone's partner market business, responsible for forming strategic alliances with local mobile operators. Under his direction Vodafone Egypt saw revenues grow, launched 4G and improved market share from 40 to 45 percent.

Egypt: Pressure to pull-out - Egypt's Orascom Telecom is reported to be readying to withdraw from MNO Koryolink as it faces growing pressure from the US and UN Security Council to comply with the sanctions, according to a UPI report. TelecomAsia cites a Japanese article referencing Japanese intelligence officials as saying that Koryolink's customers have been transferred to state-run GSM operator Byol. Orascom holds a 75 percent stake in Koryolink with the remaining 25 percent owned by the government. The operator reportedly has some 3.5 million customers, with Orascom having invested some USD 250 million in the operator.

Djibouti: Cable contract commissioning - The supply contract for the Djibouti Africa Regional Express (DARE) submarine cable system which was awarded to TE SubCom came into force in late December according to Djibouti Telecom. The cable will connect Mombasa (Kenya), Mogadishu (Somalia), Bosaso (Puntland), Berbera (Somaliland), Mocha (Yemen) and Djibouti City (Djibouti), with a possible link to Dar es Salaam (Tanzania). The 100G cable system is expected to be completed by May 2018 and will deliver more than 30Tbps of capacity. Branches will be implemented with optical add/drop multiplexing nodes (OADM). DARE is configured as a two fibre pair trunk and each trunk fibre pair has cross sectional capacity of 150 channels at 100Gbps.

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Ghana: Betting platform - Mobile betting platform Betyetu has launched operations in Ghana. The platform is programmed to give registered customers the chance to play or bet anywhere and at any time. It offers weekly Jackpots, Cash Out options, No minimum Bets, Live Betting and Multiple bet bonus. All new subscribers would be awarded with a free jackpot bet to give them the chance to play for GHS 150,000 (USD 33,070) after registration. Betyetu is a subsidiary of Oxygen8, which is headquartered in Birmingham, UK.

Kenya: Collymore convalescence - Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore is currently on medical leave, but in tweet just before Christmas he confirmed he was on the mend. In a reply to a tweet, he wrote: "I'm doing very well. Thanks for asking and a Happy Christmas to you and yours." According to a statement by Safaricom chairman Nicholas Ng'ang'a, Collymore had taken medical leave for a number of months to receive specialized treatment.

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Kenya: New app - Safaricom has launched a smartphone app that includes updated M-Pesa mobile money features and a data usage manager. The mySafaricom app will enable the users to access additional functions including M-Shwari and KCB M-Pesa. The app will also have new M-Pesa features that include a Lipa na M-Pesa bill manager and payments by scanning QR code as well as in-phone M-Pesa 1Tap capabilities. Safaricom has started issuing new Lipa na M-Pesa stickers with QR codes to its 140,000 M-Pesa agents and 80,000 Lipa na M-Pesa merchants.

Libya: Service restored - Hatif Libya announced on 23 December that international telecommunication lines between Tripoli - Musaid had been restored after maintenance had been performed on the fibre Egypt's Sallum village. On its Facebook page, it was explained that the interruption was due to fault between the border towns of Musaid and Sallum. The Libya Observer noted that service is still intermittent in some cities, the latest being Sabratha and Surman due to a cut cable in Dahman district.

Mauritania: Fines for poor service - The Autorite de Regulation formally notified mobile network operators Mattel, Mauritel and Chinguitel on 5 December 2017 that it the intended to apply 'pecuniary sanctions'. This followed an audit of services conducted between 18 October and 24 November in some cities and towns, as indentified in the subsequent report. The three were invited to comment, and following consideration of the replies, the regulator has decided at its 26 December meeting to apply the following sanctions: Mattel has been fined MRO 80.2 million (USD 224,000); Chinguitel MRO 178.9 million (USD 499,000) and Mauritel MRO 591.7 million (USD 1.65 million).

Mozambique: Station commissioned - On 18 December 2017 the Minister of Transport and Communications, Carlos Alberto Fortes Mesquita, inaugurated the Vundica Mobile Telephone Station in the district of Moamba, Maputo Province.

Nigeria: Double data - The 4G LTE broadband service provider Smile Nigeria offered to double any data purchased by its subscribers in the holiday period. Every recharge within the four day duration of the offer qualifies, with a validity period of 14 days. The 'Double Data Offer' the reward system was available to all existing Smile subscribers from 23  December to 26 December 2017. Smile Nigeria's Head of Brands and Communication Lotanna Anajemba said subscribers were required to recharge via the Smile Website, various third party payment options or could visit any Smile outlet.

Nigeria: Official provider - Microsoft has officially listed MainOne as an ExpressRoute connectivity provider. MainOne has launched its Cloud Connect product and successful delivery of the Microsoft ExpressRoute service, which connects large enterprises to Microsoft's Azure Cloud.

Tunisia: Development loans - The African Development Bank is to advance two new loans to the government. The first loan of EUR 72 million (USD 85.6 million) will support the development of technical and technological skills in schools, to help develop new digital professions and industries. The same amount will go to the state's digital plan and developing e-government services.

Zambia: Mobile ascendancy - Regulator ZICTA on its ICT statistics portal has recorded the mobile subscription base as standing at 12,971,354 at the end of 3Q 2017, representing a 79.1 percent mobile penetration rate. Mobile Internet users totalled 7,148,325 (penetration of 43.57 percent). There were 100,448 Fixed lines representing a penetration rate of 0.61 percent, whilst fixed Internet subscriptions stood at 18,913.

Zimbabwe: Internet access - Mobile operator NetOne has opened a community centre in Mberengwa to provide research and communication solutions, NewsDay reported. The mobile booth is to be equipped with four computer stations, with uninterrupted power systems, and is targeting students and other professionals with no Internet access. NetOne executive retail and sales Nyaradzai Shoko said: "We now have 34 shops across the country and the aim is to open 10 more by the end of next year [2018]".

Zimbabwe: Next market for Play? - In September Econet Media launched Kwese Play in South Africa, and has said that Zimbabwe will be the next country. Kwese Play is a Roku powered streaming box, similar to Apple TV and Chromecast, and requires a good Internet connection to work, with at least 4Mbps needed, although 10Mbps for optimal viewing TechZim noted. Kwese has described Play as the 'ultimate' TV experience. However Kwese has said that there has been a shortage of decoders as a result of high demand.

Middle East:

Afghanistan: Conference council - ATRA Board Chairman Dr. Mohammad Najeeb Azizi, and senior officials of the authority met with the President of the Afghan-American Joint Chamber of Commerce (AACC) Jeffery Greco and Chairman Sulaiman Lutfi on 13 December 2017. Discussions included the participation of ATRA representatives at an ICT international conference in 2018 in the USA, as well as ways the Chamber will encourage investment in the telecoms sector.

Afghanistan: Plans considered - A meeting of the High Economic Council (HEC) on 31 December discussed the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology (MCIT)'s plan for establishing a Real Time Data Management (RTDM) system. MCIT minister Shahzad Aryoubi presented the scheme, including details of revenue collection and the monitoring of quality of IT services delivery. A 10 percent tax on telecom services is now being actively considered, and the Minister proposed that the HEC to amend the Article 10th and 2nd paragraph of Article 11th of the Telecom Services Tax Law accordingly, MENAFN reported. The meeting agreed to submit the amendments to the Cabinet for endorsement.

Afghanistan: e-ID card approval - On 18 December the joint committee of the Afghanistan National Assembly approved the President's decree relating to the Population Registration Law amendment, allowing the introduction of electronic ID cards.

Bahrain: Self-congratulatory session - The final 2017 meeting of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority's (TRA) Board on 18 December noted that Bahrain had maintained 1st rank among the Arab countries and was ranked 31st globally in the latest ICT Development Index. It noted that this was the outcome of a 15-year strategy to make Bahrain a regional ICT hub and is now one of the world's most connected countries.

Iran: Restricted access - Reports are circulating that Internet access is being blocked in several cities following three day of mass protest. alarabiya.net reports that Mobile Telecommunication Company of Iran (MCI) is one of the operators involved and notes that it is jointly owned by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and other firms under the direction of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Iran: Wireless calls - Mobile network operator Mobile Communication Company of Iran (MCI) is now offering WiFi calling services, allowing smartphone users to make calls over a wireless Internet connection. 'TelFi' was unveiled in October, with testing undertaken in November, IRNA reported. TelFi's Android app can be downloaded from the MCI Website, although the iOS version is still under development. MTN Irancell announced a similar service, also in October, although it still have to be launched.

Israel: Debenture directive - Cellcom Israel announced on 24 December that its Board has directed the company to prepare for a potential offering of a new series of debentures in an aggregate amount of approximately ILS 300 million (USD 86.1 million) restricted to the Israel public. It also reported that Standard & Poor's Maalot reaffirmed an ilA+/stable rating for such potential offering of debentures of up to ILS 300 million.

Jordan: Taxi terms - On 24 December the Council of Ministers approved a by-law targeting public transport services delivered through smartphone applications, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported. The Land Transport Regulatory Commission (LTRC) will oversee services facilitated by smart applications, and providers must obtain a licence and permits from LTRC. Service providers (drivers) should be Jordanian, under 60 years of age, be in good health, be in possession of a Jordanian driving licence for more than three years, and have a good conduct certificate. The car used should not be older than five years and be licensed.

Kuwait: IoT improvements - In late December Ooredoo Kuwait and Ericsson signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to improve the MNOs national network to support the introduction of IoT technologies. The 'digital transformation' project is to focus on smart cities and enterprises.

Qatar: Speed barrier - Ooredoo claims to have broken the 1Gbps speed barrier using commercial smartphones and a live network. It said it had made speeds of up to 1.2Gbps commercially available to customers as it works to be one of the earliest adopters of 5G technology. Tests conducted on live sites across Ooredoo's network achieved speeds exceeding 1Gbps.

Qatar: Forward facing - Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB) has introduced facial recognition capabilities, Face ID, in its iOS and Android Mobile App, and so is the first local bank to facilitate facial recognition technology for smartphones, The Peninsula reported. Customers can log-in to their mobile banking app and have full management of their accounts. QIB's General Manager, Personal Banking Group, D. Anand said: "Since we have introduced the fingerprint login option in our upgraded Mobile App, thousands of our customers use it every day. Extending that functionality to facial recognition technology is part of our ongoing commitment to provide a better and up-to-the-minute banking experience...". The Face ID technology is compatible with all Apple and Android mobile devices that have front cameras.

United Arab Emirates: Taxing times - From 1 January 2018 the Government has introduced Value Added Tax (VAT) at a standard rate of 5 percent applicable to most goods and services in the UAE. The government claims that the tax is part of a strategy to create a diversified and robust economy, and the continued provision of high quality services for citizens. du has said in a release that VAT will be applied to its products and services. It noted that the user's Terms and Conditions have been updated accordingly.