News in Brief 7 February 2018

Africa:

Africa: Educational broadband - Avanti Communications has partnered with Global Partnership for Education (GPE) to deliver satellite broadband via its new high throughput Ka-band satellite, Hylas 4, to 1,000 African rural schools for USD 10 a day. Hylas 4 is to be launched by Arianespace in March. Avanti will deliver the connectivity via its Every Community Online (ECO) platform, which provides schools and surrounding communities with Wi-Fi access. Community members can download the ECO mobile payment app and make micropayments for broadband credits that convert to data allowances.

Algeria: Fibre fettled - The Minister of Post, Telecommunications, Technology and Digital, Houda Imane Faraoun said last week that Algeria Telecom had installed more than 400,000 new fibre optic lines in 2017, as well as rehabilitating 200,000 existing lines. By the end of 2018 there would be a core of 3,368 engineers and technicians employed by Algerie Telecom.

Angola: Privatisation process - The Jornal de Angola reports that the privatization of public companies is being facilitated through the Angola Debt and Stock Exchange (BODIVA). One of the companies is Angola Telecom, which is currently being audited, and is expected to be completed in 1Q 2017.

Cameroon: GDP gap - Telecom operators saw their collective turnover peak at XAF 574.4 billion (USD 1.1 billion) at the end of 2016, down 0.5 percent y-o-y, Agence Regulation des Telecommunications (ART) noted in its review a report on the state of the national market. ART noted that the introduction of a 2 percent excise duty on the turnover of mobile operators and ISPs, as well as 'this regression illustrates the effects of competitive activity', adding that market is poorly differentiated, and competition tends to be focused on price and attractive Internet access offers. The contribution to GDP in 2016 was 3.25 percent, down 0.18 percentage points from 2015. The telephone market is shared by four operators, namely MTN-Cameroon, Orange Cameroon, Vietnamese subsidiary Viettel's NEXTELL and public operator, Cameroon Telecommunications (CAMTEL) specializing in fixed and also offering CDMA technology.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Copper communications - SES Networks have announced that the Kamoa-Kakula Copper Project will benefit from managed connectivity services. Under an agreement with Ivanhoe Mines, a mineral exploration and development company, the managed services and connectivity from SES Networks will be powered by a O3b Medium Earth Orbit satellite fleet. It will enable video-conferencing with headquarters, use cloud-based applications to access and upload critical data, and improve overall productivity and safety. The Kamoa-Kakula mining project is the world's largest undeveloped high-grade copper discovery some 270 kilometres from the provincial capital of Lubumbashi. The project is a joint venture between Ivanhoe Mines, Zijin Mining and the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Cote d'Ivoire: SIM sellers banned - The Minister of the Digital Economy, Post and Communication, Bruno Nabagne Kone is concerned at the number of pre-registered or unregistered SIM cards which are available from street vendors which are reported to still be accessing the network. At a conference on 29 January 2018 the Minister also asked the police and the Agence des Telecommunications de Cote d'Ivoire (ATCI) to indentify the sellers involved and prosecute them. SIM registration was initiated in 2012.

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Guinea: Village TV - China's StarTimes Group is to provide 300 villages with satellite TV services. StarTimes' vice president Guo Ziqi said that the group will provide satellite dishes for free and expects to charge a monthly subscription fee of around USD 1 for the pay-TV service. Caixing Global reports Guo as saying: "Before we entered this market, the average fee for a cable or satellite TV package for a family was about USD 40 per month". China's Ministry of Commerce said that this is part of China's ambitious plan to provide digital TV services to 10,000 villages in 25 African countries by the end of 2018. Similar projects have already been rolled out to villages in Tanzania, Mozambique, Kenya and Uganda.

 

Kenya: Account glitch - Subscribers to M-shwari, a micro-lending solution managed by Commercial Bank of Africa and Safaricom, experienced major outages over the Christmas holiday period. The Commercial Bank of Africa blamed the outage on an emergency upgrade, which manifested itself at 4pm on 23 December 2017 when users could not undertake all transactions. Some 17,700 M-shwari customers' who opened new Savings and Lock Savings Accounts on 22 December were assigned new account numbers, different from the ones set up when they initially registered. The recently launched M-Fanisi, operated by Airtel Kenya and Maisha Microfinance Bank, has also been experiencing interruptions in the course of last week.

Kenya: Channel censorship? - A government-ordered close down of three private television channels NTV, Citizen TV and KTN News was overturned by a court order last week, allowing them to resume broadcasting. However, Reuters reports the channels remained off air. The ban related to coverage opposition leader Raila Odinga's symbolic presidential inauguration. The shutdown is described as unprecedented in Kenya's democratic era.

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Kenya: Dominance report - Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) has said that it will publish the controversial Analysys Mason report on the state of competition in February, and will host a stakeholders' workshop to share the findings of the study and receive further inputs from the public and other stakeholders on 20 February. The study was undertaken in 2016 and the draft report handed over in early 2017.

Kenya: New horizons - Safaricom-backed logistics firm Sendy has announced plans to expand into other East African countries within 2017; it currently has some 50,000 customers and serves over 4,000 businesses in Thika, Mombasa, Kisumu and Nairobi, and expects to expand to other Kenyan towns in the next few months. Sendy's Chief Executive Meshack Alloys told BusinessDailyAfrica that it now has sufficient financial muscle to enter other countries. It recently received KES 207.6 million (USD 2 million) in an equity investment from Dutch impact fund DOB Equity and CFAO Group, a multinational firm that is a fully owned subsidiary of Toyota Tsusho Corporation in October 2017. The on-demand logistics firm allows customers to order courier services using their mobile phones.

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Mozambique: New directors named - Mocambique Celular (mCel) and Telecomunicacoes de Mocambique (TDM) have four new executive officers as part of the merger between of the two, reports Diario de Noticias. The new executive director of operations is Juvencio Maenzana; the commercial executive director is named as Marcia Fenita; Executive director of finance is Arlindo Dava; and executive director of personnel and corporate services is Augusto Fe. The four new directors replace 11 previous directorships, whose replacement was announced in January. The merger process should be completed by December 2018.

Nigeria: Konga sale - ICT company Zinox Group has acquired e-marketeer Konga following months of intense negotiation. Naspers and AB Kinnevik previously held the stake. The e-commerce group includes Konga.com; KongaPay, a CBN-licensed mobile money platform with over 100,000 subscribers as well as KOS-Express, a digitally-driven logistics company. The deal is reported to have cleared all the regulatory approvals by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Nigeria: MTR meet - On 8 February 2018 the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is to present the findings on the Cost based Study for the Determination of Mobile Voice Termination Rates to stakeholders at the Digital Bridge Institute (DBI), Cappa, Oshodi, Lagos. The study has been undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). The forum is billed as a prelude to the release of the report and the Determination of the Mobile Termination Rates (MTR) by the NCC.

Nigeria: Payment due - MTN Nigeria is due to pay the next instalment of its October 2015 fine for the violation of the SIM registration regulations of NGN 55 billion (USD 151.6 million) on 31 March 2018.

Rwanda: Pre-paid solution - Liquid Telecom Rwanda has deployed IVR Technologies' Talking SIP solution, so allowing it to provide an effective pre-paid service. By deploying it in its core network, Liquid is able to introduce additional pre-paid voice functionality to its enterprise, local government and Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) users. It is built on an open Microsoft SQL database, which alongside Web Services API, application scripting language and its analytical report designer, provide carriers and service providers with unmatched openness, oversight and extensibility. Liquid Telecom Rwanda's CTO Stanley Magede said: "Talking SIP has provided us with more options and flexibility when offering new voice products to our customers, and provides them with greater control over their telecom expenditure."

South Africa: Decoder deadline - The Department of Communications has announced a 31 March 2018 deadline for registrations from households to receive government-subsidised decoders in North West and Free State provinces. The analogue signal will be permanently switched off in June 2019 and people will then need decoders to watch television. The government in 2017 started distributing free decoders to families that cannot afford commercial devices. Families earning less than ZAR 3,200 (USD 270) qualify to receive the government-subsidized decoders.

South Africa: HR hiring - Dolores Mashishi has joined Allied Technologies (Altron) as group executive for human capital. She spent the last five years as the group executive: corporate services for Development Bank of Southern Africa. Prior to this, she was the HR executive for Brait South Africa as well as the head of learning and development for Investec Bank.

South Africa: Payment investment - Virgin Group and retail solutions provider Smollan have recently purchased a stake in mobile software firm wiGroup to help fast-track its entry into emerging and developed markets. This follows similar investment from Investec Asset Management in 2015. Formed in 2007, wiGroup now has over 75,000 integrated till points in Africa accepting mobile payments, loyalty and rewards transactions.

South Sudan: Tax take - The government of South Sudan has now implemented the increase in excise duty on telecoms services from 10 to 15 percent, according to APA News. The National Communication Authority's (NCA) Director General Ladu Wani as saying that the change came into force on 1 February, following the enactment of the Financial Act of 2017/2018.

Tunisia: Broadband perfomance - Broadband integrator SOTETEL saw its turnover fall slightly in 2017 by 1.3 percent to TND 47.44 million (USD 19.9 million) compared to TND 48 million (USD 20.1 million) in 2016. Local turnover fell by 1.4 percent to TND 46.9 million (USD 19.6 million), while export rose by 16.1 percent to TND 289,000 (USD 121,000). Operating expenses (excluding depreciation and provisions) fell from TND 43 million at the end of December 2016 to TND 40.4 million at end-2017. EBITDA rose by 40.8 percent in 2017 to TND 7 million (USD 2.9 million) against TND 4.9 million a year earlier. SOTETEL also saw a capital gain on disposal of assets and a complement of the proceeds of an accounting clearance transaction of TND 3.47 million.

Zambia: Bank account access - Airtel and Standard Chartered Bank have launched a joint mobile money service which allows an Airtel mobile money customer to send money to a Standard Chartered bank account and vice versa. Airtel Chief Commercial Officer Apoorva Mehrotra said: "SMEs can load money through Airtel booths can pay their business partner which can go straight to their Standard Chartered partner."

Zimbabwe: Cellular capital - Untu Capital will raise another USD 2 million from the U-Gain medium term note instrument from the market shortly, following the success of its initial offering, which it says was oversubscribed by 72.45 percent, NewsDay reported. The original USD 1 million tranche opened in December 2017 and closed last week; to raise the original USD 1 million, Untu Capital partnered with Telecel Zimbabwe and later Econet Zimbabwe to offer their mobile money subscribers an opportunity to buy into U-Gain.

Zimbabwe: Mobile motor cover - Econet Wireless Zimbabwe in collaboration with TiB Insurance Brokers and Steward Bank has launched a car insurance product, iDriveSure, which bundles motor insurance, vehicle and ZBC licensing. All cars that are on the ZINARA Licensing database can be signed up for the service. Three packages are available; third party insurance cover, Comprehensive Standard and the Comprehensive Plus.

Middle East:

Bahrain: Feeling the pulse - Zain Bahrain's senior management stepped into client-facing roles for a day, interacting with customers at Zain Experience Stores nationally. They also handled queries on Zain Bahrain's highly rated Live Chat service, and answered calls at the operator's call centre. The annual Customer Interaction Day was first launched in 2015. Zain Bahrain Acting Director, Customer Care, Abdulla Yusuf Salmeen, said: "Being on the frontlines really gives the company's decision-makers a feel for the market pulse so that they are able to make more informed decisions and put in place strategies which will most benefit our customers. It also creates a sense of cohesion between the Zain Bahrain team as we gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of each other's roles."

Bahrain: Universal WiFi - Batelco has partnered with Ministry of Works, Municipal Affairs and Urban Planning to provide free Internet services covering key tourist attractions and other public facilities such as parks, gardens and coastlines. Batelco customers will automatically connect to the WiFi once they enter a coverage area while others will be able to access the free Internet through a Web page. Several locations are already operational including the Bahrain International Circuit, Seef Mall Muharraq and Seef Mall Seef District, as well as other commercial complexes, whilst Prince Khalifa Park, Al Estaqaili park in Riffa, A'ali Walkway, Adhari Park, Tubli Walkway, Al Andalus Park and Al Salmaniya Park are due to follow shortly.

Iran: ISP index - The results of the second Communication Regulatory Authority's consumer survey on major local fixed line and wireless (Wimax) Internet service providers has been published. The Financial Tribune notes that privately owned ISP Shatel scored 15.98, followed by HiWeb with 15.64 and AsiaTech 14.69. Shatel and HiWeb earned better reviews from users compared to the previous poll, while customer satisfaction with AsiaTech services declined slightly.

Iraq: Punitive measures - The Media and Communication Commission has directed all telcos in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region to disconnect from fixed lines in the Kurdistan Region. Newroz Company's spokesperson Fatih Ismael told Kurdistan 24 last week: "It is part of collective punishments against the Kurdistan Region." The Baghdad order was directed at Asia Cell, Korek, and Zain; with Asia Cell and Korek based in the Kurdistan Region. Services have been cut without prior consultation with the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) Ministry of Transportation and Communication, and affects prefixes 066, 062, and 053. The move follows the 25 September 2017 referendum on independence which saw an overwhelming majority favouring statehood.

Israel: Corporate governance - Bezeq Israeli's chairman David Granot has responded to the Elliott Associates fund's request for improved corporate governance, and the replacement of Bezeq's board. He noted that, as per the law, directors are only appointed at the company's annual shareholders' meeting, held in early May. A list of candidates will be proposed at the shareholders' meeting, and this would include changes in the board. However Granot noted that the board did not deal with the holdings structure of the company's controlling shareholder.

Kuwait: National Day marked - Zain Kuwait has launched its 'Unlimited Hellos!' promotion, providing post- and pre-paid users with unlimited calls on Zain's network to mark Kuwait National Day on 25 February. Customers subscribing to the KWD 10, KWD 15, KWD 25 or KWD 35 plans can get unlimited on-net local calls for the entire subscription period (24 months with the latest smartphones). New and existing pre-paid (eeZee) customers have unlimited local on-net calls, 150 local minutes for other networks, 35 GB of LTE Internet and free video streaming for KWD 10 (USD 33) only.

Middle East: Games investment - Arabic mobile games publisher Tamatem has raised a USD 2.5 million Series A investment led by Wamda Capital with the participation of Discovery Nusantara Capital, Raed Ventures, Vision Venture Capital and Seed Equity Venture Partners. Existing investors include 500Startups, Kima Ventures, Arzan VC and Social Capital. Founded in 2013, Tamatem has published over 40 games and achieved more than 50 million downloads in the MENA region.

Oman: Coverage database update - The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), in cooperation with a consultancy firm, is conducting a technical field survey to measure the coverage and quality of mobile in all governorates. The survey is covering all populated villages and towns as per the population and housing census data. The project aims to create an updated and approved database on the level of coverage and quality of mobile services.

Qatar: New ideas - Ooredoo Qatar has hosted the first Ooredoo Innovation Roadshow for entrepreneurs and start-ups, business leaders and technology experts. Also present were start-up incubators, accelerators and channel partners and customers. A range of innovations, covering animal trackers, blockchain and Bitcoin, the Internet of Things and machine-to-machine solutions, remote health monitoring and eHealth services, robotics, and virtual reality gaming were showcased.

United Arab Emirates: Content collaboration - Starz Play has signed a five-year deal that sees its video-on-demand (VOD) service bundled on Etisalat platforms, and the two cultivate technology and content collaborations. Etisalat's E-Vision subsidiary already carries Starz Play's subscription VOD (SVOD) offer on its IPTV and mobile platforms. Starz Play's core products will be bundled for all of Etisalat's eLife fixed broadband subscribers and also for certain of their mobile customers. It will also collaborate on content, licensing Arabic content for Starz Play from E-Vision. Platform and technology collaboration is also involved, and the partnership covers the whole Etisalat operating group.

United Arab Emirates: PoS card handling - Etisalat has launched its Mobile Cashier service for the Small and Medium Business (SMB) segment allowing businesses to accept card payments. The latest offering includes bundled point-of-sale terminals, attractive mobile voice and data plans, a free smartphone every year, and for the very first time in UAE, zero bank commission. Users download the application onto the smartphone, connect a pocket-sized card reader and can accept credit, debit or prepaid card payments. The entry 'standalone' plan at AED 119 per month (USD 32) includes a payment devices (a card reader and a portable printer), and customers can opt for the monthly bundled 'Essential' plans which includes every months zero bank commission, local and international minutes, mobile internet, intra-company calling, and a free smartphone every year. The 'Essential' plans start from AED 199 per month.