News in Brief 8 March 2018

Africa:

Africa: 5G mandate - ZTE Corporation and MTN Group signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on 5G network architecture in Africa. The deal was signed at the Mobile World Congress. The two jointly undertake a series of technology verification tests and assessments in 5G. ZTE is to provide MTN Group comprehensive technical support, and in the Phase One testing in 2018, assist in laboratory and field tests in 5G NR, 5G virtualized network slicing, carrier-class DevOps and container-based vEPC, and 5G Flexhaul bearer network. MTN Group's CTIO Babak Fouladi said: "ZTE has always been a long-term strategic partner of MTN Group. After extensive partnerships on 2G, 3G and 4G, we are excited to be collaborating with ZTE on 5G."

Africa: Future float - Bharti Airtel is reported to be exploring merger and sale options for its mobile towers. Airtel is also looking to float a minority stake in its African operations and is viewing the London Stock Exchange as a potentially attractive venue, Reuters reported. Bharti Enterprise's Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal, speaking at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, has said he is minded to follow the lead of telcos in the US and Europe, for specialists to run mobile tower assets. Mittal said: "Our position is very clear: towers are steel and concrete. They are not the domain of mobile companies."

Africa: New Orange ops chief - Sonatel's CEO Alioune Ndiaye has been named as director of Orange Group's African operations, reports APS. Orange CEO Stephane Richard told Senegal's President Macky Sall of the move in an audience with the President. Ndiaye replaced Cheikh Tidiane Mbaye as Sonatel CEO in October 2012. He was previously the CEO of Orange Mali. A replacement has not yet been named.

Africa & Middle East: Future proofing - MTN Group has awarded ZTE a contract to commercialise the deployment of 5G networks and services of its operations in the Middle East and Africa. The frame agreement will see ZTE and MTN conduct a series of evaluations and tests of 5G technology verification. The vendor is to provide full technical support, noting that with 5G trials expected to enter their first phase in 2018, it will carry out laboratory and field tests of 5G New Radio (NR), 5G virtual network partition, DevOps and Virtual Evolved Packet Core (vEPC) at carrier level, and a 5G Flexhaul support network. MTN Group's Director of Technological Innovation said: "ZTE has always been a long term strategic partner of MTN Group. After having collaborated extensively in 2G, 3G and 4G, we are excited to work with ZTE in 5G."

Angola: Fixed focus revival - Fixed line network operator Angola Telecom aims to re-capture the estimated 150,000 subscribers it lost over the last 7 years, Commercial Executive Director Bartolomeu Pereira said at a press conference to launch the campaign Lusa reported. It currently has some 50,000 active users. The operator is to create integrated offers, offering voice and Internet, as an added value propositions. Technical factors, such as damaged infrastructure, encouraged the decline and these issues are now being addressed. Unpaid bills are another issue claimed to be constraining the current management.

Angola: Free facility - The Angola Digital project has seen 14 free Wi-Fi Internet access points installed in Malanje, under said the provincial director of Transport, Post and Telecommunications, Cardoso Balanga, Angop reported. The Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technologies initiative is supported by Angola Telecom and Unitel, and aims to aid students in particular. More access points are to be commissioned in Malanje's schools and public places by 11 March.

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Botswana: FttH first outing - MTN Group subsidiary Mascom Wireless claims to have launched the country's first fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) service. It is initially only to around 500 homes in the Phakalane district of Gaborone, although there are plans to expand coverage to other areas. Mascom is to also offer IP telephony to its fibre users. It is also offering home and business Internet access via fixed-wireless links.

Ghana: Audit announced - The National Communications Authority (NCA) is undertaking a QoS audit in March 2018. The initial phase is being undertaken in Ashanti, Great Accra and the northern, eastern and western regions. Key performance indicators will focus on coverage rate, voice quality and data quality. The NCA wants to see coverage in the 216 district capitals. It noted that operators who fail to meet their obligations are exposed to financial and administrative penalties. An Xalam Analytics briefing on the rising level of regulatory fines can be downloaded here.

Kenya: Same old Safaricom - Safaricom is now trading as a public limited company, with Company secretary Kathryne Maundu saying that with effect from 31 January it is now Safaricom Plc. Approval to change the name was agreed by shareholders at its AGM on 15 September 2017. The change does not affect existing relationships or contracts.

Kenya: Solar solution - East Africa Data Centre (EADC) is partnering with Econet subsidiary renewable energy solutions provider Distributed Power Africa (DPA) to install solar panels on its premises, with the prospect of saving KES 4.5 million (USD 43.8 million) per annum. Solar panels will be erected on the data centre's rooftop, pathways and the car parking bay, and will utilise all available space to maximise solar power output, providing daytime running of the facility and acting as a backup in times of power outage from the Kenya Power supplies. The at EADC project will be DPA's first solar installation in Kenya.

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Kenya: Trouble ahead? - Citi analysts say Safaricom's M-Pesa revenues and earnings could be affected by subdued private sector growth coupled with the proposed regulation of consumer prices in the telecoms sector, the Daily Nation reported. The comment follows the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) saying it intends to implement the findings of the Analysys Mason study it commissioned, and which has recommended wide ranging measures aimed at preventing abuse of dominance, including retail price interventions. Among remedies proposed are retail price interventions, tower sharing and national roaming. MTR (Mobile Termination Rates) asymmetry is also mentioned as a remedy. Some, such as national roaming and MTR asymmetry, may improve the health of competition with a relatively minor impact on Safaricom, Citi noted.

Middle East & Africa: Speedy developments - Ericsson is to create new innovation hubs serving Middle East and Africa markets, drawing on the same global concept as Ericsson Garage, the an open innovation platform work with short development cycles. Ericsson Middle East and Africa's Head Rafiah Ibrahim said: "As a corporate incubator, Ericsson Garage provides a platform for the innovation community as it builds innovation partnerships with customers and academia, supports startups and accelerates the development of new business ideas."

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Namibia: Numbering Plan and Portability in hand - The Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN) is now finalising the internal consultative process on the proposed amendments to the Numbering Plan which will introduce Number Portability, as originally notified in the Government Gazette of 30 July 2017, The Economist reported. CRAN said it, however, still had to finalise the regulations.

Nigeria: Interconnect inquiry - The interconnect debt of some NGN 60 billion (USD 166 million) is thought to be understated, with the unverified figure thought to be around NGN 1.27 trillion (USD 3.5 billion) according to the Economic Confidential Website. The NCC hired PricewaterhouseCoopers to undertake a study for the determination of a cost-based interconnect rate, and the findings have been presented to the NCC and operators recently. The determination of new interconnect rate is expected by April 2018.

Nigeria: IPO promotion - MTN Nigeria is to go on a roadshow between May and June 2018, to promote its IPO scheduled for June and July. As part of the IPO it is to split one share into 50 units, to create 20 billion shares, which would be listed on the bourse and set the IPO price via book building. MTN is to use the proceeds of the floatation to redeem preference shares issued to existing investors who bought the shares 11-years ago and also reduce its dollar exposure. South Africa's MTN owns more than 70 percent of MTN Nigeria, which has fewer than 300 existing shareholders. Citigroup and Stanbic IBTC Bank are advising MTN Nigeria.

South Africa: Claim had context - MTN has lost a complaint against Vodacom at the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASA) over a claim in newspaper advertisements that it has the best network, TechCentral reported. The ads appeared on 26 - 28 January and claimed that Vodacom had 'South Africa's best network for three years in a row', based on consumer research organisation SAcsi data. The ASA concluded that consumer's would most likely regard each claim in the context in which it appeared, and so dismissed MTN's complaint.

South Africa: Sport sponsorship - Athletics South Africa (ASA) and Stillwater Sports have announced that Liquid Telecom is the title sponsor of the Liquid Telecom Athletix Grand Prix Series. Launched at the end of 2017, the event is took place in Johannesburg on 1 March 2018, and is also booked for Tshwane (8 March 2018), and Paarl (22 March 2018). The prize is money is ZAR 1.37 million (USD 118,000). The Series will precede the ASA National Championships (15 - 17 March 2018) followed by the Athletics World Cup in London (July 2018).

South Africa: Stock sale - Cell-C is to list on the stock market by 2020, CEO, Jose Dos Santos has told TechCentral. Dos Santos said it was planning late 2019 or early 2020, and before then, it needs to show consistent growth over several reporting periods. Cell-C has reported an underlying net loss after tax of ZAR 26 million (USD 2.25 million) on service revenue that rose 12 percent to over ZAR 13 billion (USD 1.12 billion). Following the 2017 recapitalisation, it reported a ZAR 4.1 billion (USD 354 million) net profit.

South Africa: Technology trial - Vodafone is to run an OpenCellular trial in a rural village later this year. OpenCellular is an open source, software-defined wireless access platform designed to improve connectivity in remote areas and was introduced by Facebook in 2016. Vodafone CTO Johan Wibergh said that the test site would be one with very little or no connection and the tests will be conducted by Vodacom. It is hoped, assuming that the trial is successful, that there will be 200 base stations commissioned in Africa and India by the end of 2018. OpenCellular supports 2G and 4G, but does not solve any of the spectrum issues.

Tanzania: Money movements - TTCL Pesa is now a participant in the mobile money interoperability scheme. TTCL Director General Waziri Kindamba said that subscribers have started sending and receiving money to and from Tigo and Airtel, and that arrangements with the others were in the final stages.

Tanzania: Tigo quick Pesa - Tigo Tanzania, Mastercard and local fintech Selcom have collaborated to launch Masterpass QR on Tigo Pesa before the end of the second quarter of 2018.. The announcement was made at the Mobile World Congress. Payments can now be made by scanning a Quick Response (QR) code at merchants via the Tigo Pesa app on a smart phone. Tigo Pesa has nearly 7 million registered wallet holders.

Zimbabwe: Better bundles - NetOne has reworked its One Fusion product after it was found that users were not playing videos on Facebook and other social media. OneFusion no longer offers independent Facebook and Twitter bundles, and now provides a pure data bundle. The Herald reports that the validity of packages, allocation of call minutes, short message services (SMS) and WhatsApp bundles are unchanged. OneFusion now provides 500MB pure data and 350MB for WhatsApp, for USD 5. For USD 10, some 1.1GB of data and a 450MB WhatsApp bundle is provided. The biggest package offers 18GB Data, 1,5GB WhatsApp for USD 200.

Zimbabwe: Fresh heads - State-owned mobile network operator NetOne has appointed Lazarus Muchenje as Chief Executive Officer and Nkosinathi Ncube as Managing Director of Mobile Financial Services with effect from April 2018. The move follows the suspension of former CEO Reward Kangai following allegations of corruption, which also implicate ICT Minister Supa Mandiwanzira. Brian Mutandiro has acted as Interim Managing Director. Mutandiro will revert to his previous role as COO, and Clever Isaya, who served as acting COO, will resume his position as Executive Media Services. Muchenje previously worked for Vodacom, having served in various positions with Vodacom South Africa and Vodacom DRC, whilst Ncube was formerly with Telecel Zimbabwe and Econet's mobile money platform, where he was EcoCash executive between 2010 and 2013.

Zimbabwe: Pillar of society - Econet Wireless says it has paid USD 1.3 billion to the Government in taxes since 2009 and created over 60,000 jobs directly and indirectly. Econet said it has a 78 percent revenue market share, 80 percent voice tariff market share, 75 percent data traffic market share and 98 percent EcoCash subscriber market share, launching the mobile money service in September 2011. Ecocash transactions are valued at USD 23 billion.

Middle East:

Afghanistan: SIM registration - ATRA senior officials met with telco representatives on applying a new mechanism for the SIM registration procedure on 21 February 2018. The representatives shared their suggestions and problems with ATRA senior officials, and the senior officials stressed the importance of implementing proper process for SIMs registration. ATRA separately also noted that in co-operation with joint commission of Nangarhar Governor's Office, National Security and General attorney, ATRA provincial staff early in February had seized some 2,270 SIM cards issued by a number of telcos in Jalabad city, which had been sold illegally.

Bahrain: Anniversary offers - VIVA Bahrain is marking its eighth anniversary with value-added offers for its retail and enterprise customers with effect from 1 March. Activities include the 'Thank You Van', which will be on tour, and allied to a 50 percent discount to the first 1,000 customers who book Cineco tickets online through cinema.bh. VIVA Business customers can also benefit from the the VIVA Business Mobility package which offers mobile and broadband subscribers free 8GB data on all registered devices. This offer will run for one month until 31 March.

Bahrain: Seamless switching - Batelco has introduced Voice over WiFi (VoWiFi) which taps into any WiFi connection the user may have, delivering seamless calls which will automatically switch between VoLTE (Voice over LTE) and VoWiFi. A complementary service to VoLTE, Voice over WiFi will deliver faster call set-up and superior high-quality (HD) voice calls. The service is currently applicable to iPhone 6 or later models with customers required to update their phone to the latest iOS software.

Bahrain: Wallet enhancement - Mastercard enabled Masterpass for Batelco's and Arab Financial Services' (AFS) digital mobile wallet and payment solution, bwallet. bwallet was launched in January 2018, and can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play Store. Some 65 leading brands and over 300 retail outlets are offering it. With the integration of Masterpass, bwallet will be accepted at an additional 7 million merchant locations in 107 countries. Batelco's Chief Marketing Officer Abderrahmane Mounir said: "The integration of Masterpass technology represents a major enhancement to the bwallet service, boosting the scale of the available network for customers by opening up online shopping as well as in-app and in-store purchases. Plans are in progress for further developments for bwallet and the service will be adapted as financial technology and customer needs continue to evolve."

Iraq: Smart services - Zain Iraq has implemented Ericsson's virtual Evolved Packet Core (vEPC) nationally, the vendor's first vEPC contract in the country, and one of the first in the Middle East and Africa region. The deal was first announced in August 2017.

Oman: Smart strategy - Oman Telecommunications Company (Omantel) has partnered with Huawei to develop its smart city strategy. The initiative will be launched in Al Mouj Muscat, Oman's first integrated tourism complex. The opening phase will focus on state-of-the-art security solutions. This includes full-fledged advanced analytics and integrated camera capabilities connected via a unified control system and a smart software platform using algorithms to enable a wide range of threat and pattern triggers and detection alerts, such as license plates and facial features. Future phases include smart energy and utility management along with community portal informatics and smart parking to list a few services.

Qatar: Road to 5G - Ooredoo has signed ZTE for strategic support in 5G developments. Both will jointly conduct 5G technology verification tests to speed-up the commercialization and roll-out in the Middle East. ZTE is to provide Ooredoo Group comprehensive technical support including end-to-end networks, applications and terminals. The two will complete the joint verification of 5G technology architecture, business model and user experience.

Saudi Arabia: Intelligent infrastructure - Mobily is to leverage Sandvine's machine learning and artificial intelligence analytics to drive closed-loop automation of its infrastructure. Mobily is to work with the innovation team to prototype and deploy new automation solutions that leverage active network intelligence. The network infrastructure will dynamically adapt to the behaviour of users and the state of the network by utilising machine learning and artificial intelligence powered by contextual intelligence models.

United Arab Emirates: Brand values - Etisalat was named at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona as the most valuable telecommunications brand in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) by UK consultancy Brand Finance. Etisalat has seen an increase in brand value of some 40 percent to USD 7.7 billion. The brand value, including non-branded subsidiaries (Mobily in KSA, Maroc Telecom Operations, Ufone/PTCL in Pakistan), rose 25 percent to USD 9.6 billion.

United Arab Emirates: First for FttH - The UAE has the highest Fibre to the Home (FTTH) penetration rate at 94.3 percent, the FTTH Council has said in its latest report. This compares to countries such as Singapore (90.3 percent), South Korea (81.6 percent), Hong Kong (75.6 percent) and Japan (69.1 percent). Etisalat has invested more than AED 31 billion (USD 8.4 billion) in network infrastructure. Etisalat Group's CEO Saleh Al Abdooli said: "Our network is a backbone to our long-term strategy as a company to enable and drive digital transformation across our network. This milestone signifies that we have maintained consistent leadership globally in FTTH penetration setting a benchmark in the global telecom industry."

United Arab Emirates: NB-IoT core - Mobile operator Du is using Affirmed's Network Function Virtualization (NFV) NB-IoT mobile core. It is deployed on Du's fully virtualized native cloud open-stack environment, one of the first in the Middle East. The operator will also be using the vendor's Virtualized Mobile Core, which includes a virtualized Wi-Fi Gateway, to deliver VoWiFi and fixed-wireless services.