News in Brief 18 January 2018


Africa: Smart news - Opera Software has launched Opera News, an AI-powered app which will enable users to access news articles and trending videos. The app is described as having a powerful recommendation engine; getting smarter with each use. Opera News will save up to 80 percent of mobile data use due to Opera's data-saving capabilities. Opera has said that its AI-powered news service inside Opera Mini grew to more than 100 million active users in less than a year. The app has been downloaded by more than 100,000 Africans, and it is currently the most downloaded news app on the continent.

Cameroon: Merely resting - It would appear that Internet access provider Vodafone Cameroon may be merely resting, after it ceased activities on 9 November 2017. Afrimax Group, which operated the Vodafone brand, was suspended by the regulator in September 2017 as it did not have a valid licence. Reports are now emerging that Afrimax made a fresh licence application in the last week of November 2017. Agence Ecofin reports that sources in the Prime Minister's office report correspondence addressed to Minister Minette Libom Li Likeng recording Afrimax Group's interest in obtaining a first category licence for the operation of a telecom network for Afrimax Cameroon.

Chad: Tax hike - The government has increased the annual fees paid by mobile network operators from 7 percent of annual revenue to 9 percent, Agence Ecofin reports. The higher levy was effective from 1 January 2018 and follows several years of tax increases, the rate having increased from 4 to 7 percent between 2014 and 2016.

Egypt: Ministerial meeting - Mobile operator Vodafone Egypt's new Chief Executive Alexandre Froment-Curtil met with the Minister of Information Technologies and Communications Yasser ElKady on 5 January 2018, and shared with him the telcos business and investment plans. Vodafone's Legal and External Affairs Director Ayman Essam also attended.

Kenya: Prize draw - Safaricom has launched its 11-week Shinda Mamili na Tunukiwa promotion that will award over five million of its subscribers with prizes worth over KES 300 million (USD 2.9 million). Subscribers need to register, and then winners will be drawn at random on a regional level with daily, weekly and grand draw prizes. The promotion is open to both post pay and prepay customers and will run until 27 March 2018.

Mali: Fibre launch - Orange Mali signed a service contract on 11 January with Koiera Invest to install fibre optics at Radisson Blu and Sheraton hotels in Bamako, Agence Ecofin reported. The signing took place on the sidelines of the launch of Orange's new broadband Internet lines (4G and fibre). Orange Mali's General Manager Alassane Diene said that fibre is currently only available at ACI 2000 and Cite du Niger, but is to be deployed in other districts of Bamako shortly.

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Mali: Tablets by February - University students are to receive the first batch of tablets for the 2017-2018 academic year, courtesy of the Universal Access's fund management agency, Agence Ecofin reported. Vendor YATTCO is supplying some 13,000 tablets at a cost of XOF 3.0 billion (USD 5.6 million), to be delivered within 45 days. The programme is part of the 'Doniya, one student, one tablet' project.

Namibia: Cable theft - On 7 January Telecom Namibia's head of Corporate Communications and Public Relations, Oiva Angula, said that technical staff would be tasked with restore the Internet and voice services disrupted in Windhoek's Cimbebasia area following the theft of copper cable. Angula said a 1,000-pair copper cable was stolen on the corner of Mataman and Arimas streets. The Namibian reported that some 500 to 800 customers were affected.

Nigeria: Broadband targets queried - The government's target of 30 percent broadband penetration following the rollout of the infrastructure to support it has been described by mobile network operators purely aspirational. The Guardian reported Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) as saying: "How can you achieve 30 percent broadband penetration when efforts that are supposed to be channelled to network optimization are used in repairing shut down towers by state government agencies." The recession in 2017 led to uncertainty for the industry at large, in particular the FOREX regime which was very unfavourable for operators. The 21 percent broadband penetration the NCC recorded in 4Q16 was reportedly on the back of 4G LTE-deployments made in that year, and there ha been no further significant deployment and expansion of the 'high speed Internet networks' alongside the 3G networks.

Nigeria: Prompt payments please - The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has advised operators using the national payment system to ensure that they renew their licences three months before the expiry date in a circular dated 4 January 2018. The bank warned that a penalty of NGN 10,000 (USD 27.50) would be applied for every day that payment was outstanding. The sanction is effective from 1 April 2018.


Nigeria: Western Africa focus - Distributor StarLink has launched a Nigerian hub to cater for the West Africa region. ITWeb reported. StarLink already has a channel network in South Africa and Egypt. StarLink has a presence in thirteen countries, including the US and the UK, and focuses on next-generation IT with a USD 200 million turnover.

South Africa: Battery scheme - iStore has announced its iPhone battery replacement prices according to MyBroadband. Apple said iPhone batteries retain up to 80 percent of their original capacity after 500 charge cycles. The iStore's out-of-warranty iPhone battery replacement cost in Souh Africa is ZAR 429.78 (USD 34.64) including VAT. Owners of the iPhone SE, iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, 6s Plus, 7 or 7 Plus who have a battery issue need to make a technical appointment.

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South Africa: Campus created - Huawei is creating a new campus of 18 buildings in Johannesburg to house its various operations, Techcentral reported. It has already started moving into the Harrowdene Office Park in Woodmead, north of Sandton, and will be launching it in the near future. Multinationals Ericsson, 3M, SAP, Sage and Accenture are all in the immediate vicinity. Huge Group also has an office in the suburb. Huawei has invested some USD 100 million in the new Woodmead campus to purchase and refurbish the property and buildings; all three of Huawei's business groups to eventually move into the campus. The consumer business group, the Innovation Centre and Open Lab are still located in Vunani Office Park in Sandton, and the enterprise business group in Bryanston.

South Africa: Cloud concerns - On 10 January 2018 Canon revealed the findings of its Canon Office Insights 2017 research. A quarter of South African respondents had concerns regarding cloud service security. 48 percent of respondents worry about losing data in the cloud and only 24 percent entirely agree that cloud based applications will become the norm. This is thought to explain why mobile working has been slower in South Africa than in other regions across Eurasia and the Middle East. For example, 35 percent of respondents believe that mobile access to company systems is not important, and 44 percent have no plans to connect their mobile devices to the company printers at all. Some 2,550 office workers, including decision-makers, managers and end-users, across 24 countries in Europe, Eurasia, Africa and Middle-East were interviewed.

South Africa: Price rise - Cell-C's WhatsApp bundle pricing will be increased from February 2018, rising from ZAR 12 (USD 0.96) to ZAR 15 (USD 1.21), with a fair usage cap of 600MB and is valid for 30 days. The WhatsApp bundle was launched in October 2014, and is the only dedicated WhatsApp bundle.

South Africa: Speedy provinces - The latest MyBroadband Speed Test App results for 4Q 2017 show that the average mobile download speed in KwaZulu-Natal was 31Mbps, followed by the Free State on 27Mbps, and the Eastern Cape on 26Mbps. Three provinces had average speeds of less than 15Mbps, namely the Northern Cape, Mpumalanga, and Limpopo. The app is ad-free and allows users to test the download speed, upload speed, and latency of their mobile connection and has been installed by 20,000 smartphone users. MyBroadband notes that the latency in Gauteng and the Western Cape can be expected to be lower, its Speed Test servers are located in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Swaziland: Satellite solution - A satellite Regional Node has been deployed by Q-KON to provide primary and backup communication for the ATMs and branches on a financial VSAT network. Q-KON partnered with VT iDirect for the installation. It will also provide primary and backup communication for both in-country and back to its International Headquarters in South Africa.

Tanzania: ICT integrator IPO - Maxcom Africa is readying to submit its draft to the Capital Markets and Securities Authority (CMSA) for listing on the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange (DSE). Zan Securities, who are providing advisory services to Maxcom, are expecting to launch the company's initial public offering (IPO) in February 2018. Maxcom operates in six African countries, namely Tanzania (HQ), Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and Burundi.

Tanzania: Tax tool - The mobile network operators have been instructed to register for the electronic tax collection system by 31 January 2018. Minister of Planning and Finance Philip Mpango on 9 January 2018 told a meeting of major tax payers, including the banks, that entities not complying risked losing their licences, Agence Ecofin reported. The aim is to improve tax revenue collection by reducing the financial losses recorded by the Treasury. Vice president of the National Assembly, Job Ndugai, noted that the system would also end embezzlement by public officials. The Tanzania Tax Authority (TRA) and the Zanzibar Tax Committee (ZRB) officially launched the facility in June 2017.

Turkey: Expanded audience - German-Turkish discounter and Telekom subsidiary Turkcell is henceforth to be known as Lifecell, Teltarif reported. The new name is part of repositioning intended to expand its target audience beyond the German-Turkish community. It will also offer a 'more attractive' tariff portfolio with larger data packages, including three new 'Super' prepaid tariffs. German customers will also be able to use the supplementary services Turkcell offers users in Turkey, under Lifecell's plan to gradually roll out these services in Germany. There will be no tariff changes for Turkcell Europe customers and can continue to use their SIM cards and tariff option.

Uganda: Political platform - The Uganda Communications Commission is planning to launch its own social media platforms, with UCC Director Godfrey Mutabazi saying that the country has many people with innovative ideas and applications that can be deployed to serve the population. However VOANews reported Nicholas Opiyo, executive director of Chapter Four Uganda, as saying that there may be a political agenda, with the government seeking to gather data about its citizenry.

Zambia: Mixed signals - MultiChoice Africa general manager corporate affairs Caroline Creasy said engineers from were on the ground to rectify the problem in the two towns. Last week she said that the problem in Solwezi had been resolved, and services were to be restored in Livingstone on 12 January. Multichoice said it was first such occurrence after the regulator, the Zambia Information and Communications Technology (ZICTA) allocated its frequencies to another operator, and it was allocated other frequencies. Gotv had been operating two frequencies and the frequencies had worked successfully since 2011, until two weeks ago.

Zambia: TV tower - The TopStar Digital Terrestrial Transmission (DTT) tower with a radius of 100km has been inaugurated in Choma, The Times reported.

Zimbabwe: Bond buying platform - Econet Wireless has launched a mobile money bond purchase platform in partnership with Untu Capital to raise USD 1 million in support of local start-ups. Purchases for the u-Gain bond start from USD 50 and can be transacted via mobile wallets on the EcoCash platform which has over 5 million registered subscribers. The U-Gain bonds can be bought in the next 30 days, and be redeemed after a 12-month period with a 9 percent interest, or be sold on the Financial Securities Exchange for a return determined by the market.

Zimbabwe: Rising in the ranks - Econet founder Strive Masiyiwa has been ranked as 14th among Africa's 23 billionaires. The Econet family includes Econet Global, Econet Wireless Africa, Econet Wireless International, Econet Media, Econet Entreprises and Liquid Telecom Group. Forbes noted that he 'overcame protracted government opposition to launch mobile phone network Econet Wireless Zimbabwe in his country of birth in 1998. He owns just over 50 percent of the publicly-traded Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, which is one part of his larger Econet Group'. He also owns just over half of Liquid Telecom, as well as stakes in mobile networks in Burundi and Lesotho, and investments in African fintech and power distribution firms.

Middle East:

Bahrain: Cashless payment app - Batelco and payment solutions provider Arab Financial Services (AFS) have launched bWallet. All mobile users, regardless of operator, can use the app, which is available fom the App Store or Google Play Store. Some 40 leading brands, with 300 retail outlets, have will offer the service. AFS CEO B Chandrasekhar noted that bWallet will have unique features including dynamic QR and contactless payment methods and wallet-to-wallet transfers. The first 10,000 customers of bWallet will receive BHD 3 sign-on bonus; and 2 percent cashback will be offered on all merchant payments made through the bWallet until 31 March.

Bahrain: Tower approvals - Towers now need to be approved by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) and its has now commenced the approval of applications submitted by telcos for deployment in various parts of Bahrain. The process is designed to limit the erection of towers without operational need and the aim is to reduce the number of towers. TRA, in cooperation with a international consultancy, has developed a framework to regulate the deployment of new towers and rectify the existing ones. Longer-term TRA is developing an automated system so that all applications can be submitted and approved.

Iran: Ministerial apology - The recent restrictions on Telegram and Instagram have led Minister of Telecommunications Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi to apologise on Twitter to those who suffered losses due to the ban, Radio Farda reported. The ban followed political concerns, with street rioting being a major issue. The Association for Online Commerce (AOC) has said that more than 100,000 businesses to have been affected. It is claimed that 40 million Iranians (half of the population) use Telegram, and more than 7 million are Instagram members.

Iraq: New services - Zain Iraq has signed a Master Aggregation agreement with Media World Company who will now manage the complete Zain value added services (VAS) portfolio Iraq, under which new services will be introduced.

Israel: Land sale - Bezeq Israeli has notified the Tel Aviv Stock exchange that its board has approved a deal to sell land that it owns at Mesubim Junction in central Israel to Naimi Towers Ltd. or its subsidiary, Globes reported. The land is zoned for 350,000 square meters of offices and parking spaces and its value estimated last year at ILS 460 million (USD 134.3 million).Israel: Rising rapidly - Partner TV expects to sign its 50,000th subscriber in January, having reported gains of 10,000 television subscribers in each of the past three months, Globes reported. Partner Communication's CEO Isaac Benbenisti said that most of its subscribers were from Hot and DBS Satellite Services (YES).

Oman: 4G coverage - Ooredoo Oman has added over 750 new 4G locations in 2017 and it expects to cover 90 percent of the population in the first quarter of 2018. The upgrades have included the addition of more than 70 sites in Al Batinah, 50 in Al Sharqiyah and 30 in Muscat, with the remainder deployed in the governorates. On completion, the programme will have added a total of 1,000 locations.

Oman: Fast fibre expansion - Ooredoo Oman has expanded its 'Super Fast Fibre Home' broadband service to a further 77,000 homes in Muscat and surrounding areas last year. Areas to benefit from the fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) expansion include Seeb, Baswhar and Mutrah, enabling customers to access downstream speeds of between 20Mbps and 1Gbps. In 2017 it also installed 170 new TD-LTE base stations in regions such as Batinah, Muscat, Dakhliyah, Sharqiyah and Dhofar.

United Arab Emirates: Parental power - Etisalat has partnered with Circle Media Labs to offer the 'Circle with Disney' parental control device. It enables families to manage content and time online using any connected device. The app, available on iOS and Android, enables user profiles and settings to be managed, such as daily time limits for apps and Websites, setting in individual filter levels for each family member, scheduling bedtime for each connected device, and pausing the Internet by device or by user with the press of a button. The service is available for AED 549 (USD 149) upfront, or at monthly instalments starting at AED 25 (USD 6.80) per month.