News in Brief 28 February 2018

Africa:

Africa: Brand ranking - MTN is Africa's most valuable telecommunications brand in 2018, according to brand valuation and strategy consultancy Brand Finance. MTN's brand is worth USD 3.3 billion, up 9 percent from 2017. It has moved up two places from 47th to 45th globally. Vodacom is not listed as it falls under Vodafone, which is 10th, down from seventh previously, with a brand value of USD 18.7 billion. Kenya's Safaricom was ranked 99th; Maroc Telecom 111th; Glo Mobile 130th; Sonatel 136th; Telkom 140th; Cell-C 158th; Morocco's Inwi 169th; Telecom Egypt 201st; Blue Label Telecoms 207th and Zimbabwe's Econet 223rd.

Africa: JV CEO - Mayur Patel is expected to be named as CEO of a joint venture between Kwese and iflix Africa, Variety has reported. Patel is currently Senior Vice President of Africa's Kwese Mobile Experience. The announcement is expected to be made this week. Econet Media CEO Joe Hundah also told Variety that the companies would combine their operations and eventully offer one app containing both iflix and Kwese content.

Botswana: Intuitive information - Orange Botswana in partnership with Human Network International (HNI) has launched the 1-2-4 mobile information service. The service provides critical information on Health, Agriculture, Weather, Wildlife and National Parks at no cost. It is freely available on Orange in both Setswana and English via short text messages (SMS) or voice calling.

Egypt: Experienced member - Telecom Egypt (TE) is now a full member of the South Asia - Middle East - North Africa (SAMENA) Telecommunications Council. TE's MD Ahmed El Beheiry, said as an integrated operator in one of the oldest telecom markets and with over a dozen submarine cable systems linking continents, TE can assist in and benefit from drawing collective stakeholder attention to facilitating the launch of advanced digital services in Egypt, while offering such experiences to the members of Samena Council.

Ghana: Social focus - Vodafone Ghana is offering active X customers on monthly bundles, 24 four-hour periods to a social media network, over a period of 14 days. This marks the month of St Valentine, and the 14XtraAppy campaign gives subscribers unlimited access to a social media network, each day over the 14 day period. Customers who subscribe to the promotion will have a 24 hour unrestricted access to WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube.

Kenya: Mobile app payment - Google has integrated M-Pesa as a form of payment into its app store. The payment option has been available since the start of last week and makes Google Play one of the first among global e-commerce sites to adapt to mobile money. Previously, users could only pay using credit cards. Only around six percent of applications on the Google Play store are paid apps, although the integration of M-Pesa is seen as a key milestone. Google does not facilitate the registration of merchant accounts from Kenya.

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Kenya: Programming partnership - Iflix has partnered with Safaricom to give up to 60 days of unlimited access to iflix's service. Users who register on iflix on 19 March 2018 will enjoy the maximum 60-day entitlement. Safaricom's Director for Consumer Business, Sylvia Mulinge, said: "iflix has done an exceptional job in spearheading the entertainment revolution in emerging markets globally. What distinguishes iflix is its constant innovation and commitment to offering its customers an exceptional and entertaining digital experience, which is at the heart of what Safaricom stands for. We believe this partnership will go a long way in meeting the entertainment needs of our customers."

Namibia: Cut cables - Windhoek's Cimbebasia suburb was the site of a copper cable theft early last week which affected 1,500 subscribers. The Namibian reported that the cables were stolen opposite the corner of Michelle McLean and Cobalt streets, affecting three street distribution cabinets. It was the second incident in Cimbebasia this year; the earlier event was on the corner of Mataman and Arimas streets. Telecom Namibia is offering a reward.

Nigeria: Banking app - First City Monument Bank (FCMB) Limited has introduced a mobile banking solution using Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) technology. FCMB users can carry-out various financial transactions using a GSM phone. FCMB's Executive Director, Retail Banking Olu Akanmu, said: "FCMB's mobile banking penetration has been on the increase since its emergence as a leading retail Bank in the country. The number of active customers using its mobile or Internet banking platforms grew by 136.9 percent from 255,626 in December 2016 to 350,106 by the end of December 2017."

Nigeria: Contactless cards - Over 3 million Near Field Communication technology-enabled contactless cards have been issued by the United Bank for Africa (UBA) Nigeria to its customers since it began using NFC in 2015. It has also issued over 10 million debit and pre-paid cards, for both customers and non-bank customers.

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Nigeria: Short subs success - In a statement StarTimes Nigeria has said that it has seen a rapid rise in the number of new and existing subscribers who are opting for its daily or weekly subscription package tagged 'pay-per-day'. On 1 November 2017 StarTimes launched daily and weekly subscriptions; subscribers can watch up to 30 channels for NGN 60 (USD 17) per day and over 40 TV channels for NGN 300 (USD 83) a week on the Nova bouquet.

Nigeria: Wealth check - The Nigerian Communications Commission has compiled health reports on the financial well-being of MTN Nigeria, the market leader with 52.3 million subscribes; Airtel Nigeria Ltd. and Lagos-based Globacom Ltd., NCC Executive Vice-Chairman Umar Garba Danbatta said in an interview. The NCC said that it had identified areas of concern and these are 'issues that can be addressed'.

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Rwanda: Appointment for Airtel - Airtel Rwanda has named Philip Amoateng as its new Managing Director. Amoateng was Tigo's Chief Executive Officer from 2016 until it was acquired by Bharti Airtel in December 2017. Amoateng has held various operational, financial and strategy positions while working for Millicom over the past 16 years. He is also a member of the Association of Chartered Accountants and a graduate of the University of Leicester with an MBA.

Rwanda: Axiom acquired - Vodacom Business Africa has entered the market through Axiom Networks, a local partner. Last week the company executives held a meeting with 36 of Axiom Networks clients. Service are to be expanded in the connectivity segment, with the emphasis on building data and networks between institutions and their subsidiaries/branches. Axiom Networks' Chief Technology Officer Hamis Shema said that it was investing in a 3-year data centre, which is now more than a year on, and that it will be the first purpose-built vendor neutral data centre in the country.

Rwanda: Comprehensive cloud offering - Liquid Telecom Rwanda is to offer Microsoft's Office 365 products, a set of cloud-based products and services. Chief Executive Officer Alex Kabeja said it will leverage Microsoft's cloud prowess to improve its line-up of services and products. These include business-class emails, shared calendars, instant messaging, web conferencing, team sites, file storage in the cloud, and private social networking.

South Africa: Bundle triple - Cell-C will start a triple play offering of fibre Internet, voice and entertainment products, with a bundle to be launched in the second quarter, Mybroadband reported. It will include uncapped voice calls on the Cell-C network, and capped calls to other networks. Mobile data will not be included, and users will have to purchase data to consume Black content when not connected to the uncapped fibre.

South Africa: Charter hearings - The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) is to hold public hearings regarding the published second draft of the End-User and Subscriber Service Charter Regulations. ICASA said that it received 13 written submissions on the second draft who said that they would be willing to participate in the oral representations before the Committee of Council. The public hearings are to be held 1- 2 March 2018 at ICASA's Head Office in Sandton. The schedule of the public hearings will be published in due course.

South Africa: Data ascendant - MTN South Africa's GM of Engineering, Zoltan Miklos, speaking at the MyBroadband Underground Mobile Networking conference, said that the operator had seen a 29 percent rise in 3G data volumes and a 123 percent increase in 4G data volumes over the past year, while maintaining a consistent increase in throughput. The majority of mobile data is for streaming media (31 percent), social media (25 percent) and browsing (23 percent).

South Africa: New sales chief - Vodacom South Africa has named Mickey Mashale as Chief Sales Officer for Vodacom Business, with effect from 1 February. Mashale was previously the Managing Executive & Head of Region for Vodafone Global Enterprise and was responsible for strategy, revenue retention, growth in the Sub-Saharan Africa Region.

South Africa: Share buy-back - Telkom has spent some ZAR 751 million (USD 64.9 million) to buy back its shares. It said in a statement that it had bought 15.8 million shares last week, or 3 percent of its issued share capital, using cash. It paid an average price per share of ZAR 47.87 (USD 4.13) and bought the shares on the open market.

South Africa: Total support - Alto Africa has launched an unlimited IT support service offering; Cloudbox users and all their devices will be supported for a low fixed fee of ZAR 195 (USD 16.84) per month. The offering includes onsite and remote support, change requests and all new user and device configurations.

Tanzania: Debts down - The Tanzania Telecommunications Corporation Limited (TTCL) is reported to have collected a total of TZS 4 billion (USD 1.8 million) last year in the form of customer debts. TTCL says it was still owed some TZS 10 billion (USD 4.4 million) in outstanding debts by its various clients as of January 2018.

Zambia: Lapgreen legacy - According to the Zambia Watchdog, some USD 29 million from the USD 49 million paid by the Treasury to Lapgreen was shared between three officials. The Watchdog cites Ministry of Finance sources saying that the Financial Intelligence Centre has yet to verify the events. It is suggested that the USD 29 million was transferred to a Barclays Bank account in Mauritius, and then to a number of accounts in Zambia. The report links the accounts to a number of high profile individuals.

Zimbabwe: Credit drain - The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (PORTRAZ) has directed NetOne to compensate subscribers who have been affected by recent OneFusion billing issues, TechZim reported. The regulator said that it will audit the OneFusion database to ensure that NetOne follows the order. Some subscribers have seen their credit run out more quicker than usual. There has also been difficulty accessing media content on Facebook and Whatsapp. NetOne has attributed the problem to a server change on the part of Facebook.

Zimbabwe: Stay separate - Telecel and NetOne do not need to merge according to the Minister of ICT and Cyber Security, Supa Mandiwanzira, as they are finally stabilizing, TechZim reported. Mandiwanzira also said merging the two would be difficult since the government owns only 60 percent of Telecel compared to 100 percent of NetOne. The remaining 40 percent of Telecel is owned by a consortium led by Gerald Mlothswa who is also a shareholder of Dr Dish.

Middle East:

Afghanistan: Network closures - Residents of the Payeen Kent area of northern Sar-i-Pul province are experiencing nightly network shutdowns according to the Pajhwok Afghan News. The news portal suggested that the Taliban had pressured the mobile operators to close down the networks from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Afghanistan Telecommunications Regulatory Authority Board member Bismillah Khurram was reported as confirming that the night-time suspension was a requirement of insurgents in insecure areas.

Bahrain: SuperCluster implementation - Bahrain-based third-party processor International Payment Services (IPS) is to implement Oracle M8 SuperCluster, incorporating a number of unique runtime security systems, to manage the electronic payment transactions market in the Middle East.

Bahrain: VIVA validation - VIVA customers can now complete the TRA's mandatory SIM card registration at any UAE Exchange branch. This follows a partnership being formed between global money transfer service UAE Exchange and VIVA Bahrain. UAE Exchange's Executive Director & General Manager Vineesh Kumar said: "In addition to buying VIVA prepaid recharges and paying post-paid bills, customers can walk into any of the nearest UAE Exchange branch and complete their mandatory biometric registration." The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) implemented the SIM Card Enabled Telecommunications Services Registration Regulation in July 2017.

Iran: Smartcity support sought - Tehran Mayor Mohammad Ali Najafi has invited Polish investors and companies to participate in a smart city project, the Fars news service reported last week. Najafi made the remarks in a joint economic forum held during his four-day trip to the Polish capital with Warsaw Mayor Hanna Beata Gronkiewicz-Waltz. The mayor noted that a major concern was traffic congestion, noise pollution, and air pollution exacerbated by some 3 million motorcycles and is planning to replace such vehicles with electric ones.

Israel: First outing - Elbit Systems will be exhibiting for the first time at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona from 26 February to 1 March 2018. It will be demonstrating WideBridge, a secure, immediate communication solution for small and medium businesses that comprises proprietary technology that enables Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to provide organizations with an immediate secure communication service over LTE/3G/WiFi networks.

Jordan: Air rates - Zain has renewed its cooperation agreement with the Royal Jordanian Air Force (RAF) and will continue to provide mobile communications solutions for air force personnel as well as Internet subscriptions at preferential rates and specific features for Air Force personnel.

United Arab Emirates: Case study competition - Etisalat is working with Ericsson and Intel to launch a 5G innovation competition targeting engineering students from universities in the UAE. The competition will run for eight weeks with participation from student teams invited to submit projects on the best 5G use cases focusing on technologies such as artificial intelligence.