News in Brief 21 March 2018

Africa:

Africa: Banks line-up - Five to six banks are reported to be in the running for Bharti Airtel's listing of its Africa operations, TMT Finance reported. The unit is valued at around USD 6.6 billion and is active in 15 African countries. The banks are believed to include Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays and UBS.

Africa & Middle East: More music - Just three weeks before it debuts on the New York Stock Exchange Spotify has launched operations in Israel and South Africa. It also started operations in Romania and Vietnam. In Israel, monthly membership is ILS 19.90 (USD 5.80), and in South Africa ZAR 59.99 (USD 5.01) per month. In Israel English-language music immediately while songs in Hebrew are to follow.

Africa: Banks line-up - Five to six banks are reported to be in the running for Bharti Airtel's listing of its Africa operations, TMT Finance reported. The unit is valued at around USD 6.6 billion and is active in 15 African countries. The banks are believed to include Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays and UBS.

Africa & Middle East: More music - Just three weeks before it debuts on the New York Stock Exchange Spotify has launched operations in Israel and South Africa. It also started operations in Romania and Vietnam. In Israel, monthly membership is ILS 19.90 (USD 5.80), and in South Africa ZAR 59.99 (USD 5.01) per month. In Israel English-language music immediately while songs in Hebrew are to follow.

Cote d'Ivoire: Mobile only - UK bank Standard Chartered is launching mobile financial services market in Cote d'Ivoire with its first digital-only retail bank. The bank will offer digital services allowing users to make transfers and pay bills. It does not have a branch network in the country, although it has retail banking operations in 10 African countries. If successful in Cote d'Ivoire, Standard Chartered is expected to replicate the digital bank model in other major African markets including Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana.

Egypt: Fibre factory - A joint fibre optic manufacturing venture between Egypt's Heitkenoffel and China's Hang Tung is expected to have a local manufacturing rate of 80 percent in the next three years, Egypt Today reported. The investment in High Technoville Optic, Badr City is put at some USD 30 million. It will make the 'core', the ultra-clear glass transporting light. The plant will also manufacture Micro-trenching cables, a technology that can be implemented without digging up the roads via a technique called blowing fibre. These cables, which save 30 percent in time and cost, can be laid just 10 centimetres below the surface.

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Ghana: Sporting gesture - MultiChoice Ghana has reduced prices for its commercial subscribers so that they can watch the World Cup on four dedicated channels, having announced a price freeze on all DStv and GOtv packages for residential subscriber. Business users will also see some decreases with effect from 1 April. The FIFA World Cup kicks off in Russia in June. All sixty-four matches will be broadcast live in High Definition.

Kenya: Better banking - Safaricom has partnered with Barclays Bank of Kenya to launch the Timiza Mobile app. The financial self-service channel allows users to take-out quick mobile loans of up to KES 150,000 (USD 1,468) at an interest rate of 6.7 percent. Customers will also be able to deposit funds into their Timiza account through M-Pesa, pay utility bills, send and receive money directly to other Timiza users.

Kenya: Biggest blunder - Former Safaricom CEO, Michael Joseph, in an interview with CNN's Market Place Africa, has revealed a PR blunder he was responsible for in the early years of his tenure. Two years after his appointment, and with a subscriber base of some 520,000, Joseph decided to mark the milestone by crediting every subscriber with KES 200 (USD 1.96) of airtime overnight. Due to the satellite technology being used, the line failed about a quarter of the way through, and the process was re-started. The process returned to the start of the file, but during the course of the early morning it had to restarted a number of times before every subscriber had been credited. The result was that some subscribers had been credited some KES 800. The process was reversed, with the excess credits removed. Users who saw their credit disappearing attempted to spend it. Joseph noted: "It was just a terrible PR exercise because what I failed to do was, instead of doing this in secret, I should have announced it in the newspaper beforehand so people knew where it (the airtime) was coming from."

Kenya: Estate fibre expansion - Safaricom has now connected Ngummo and Newa estates to its Fibre-to-the-Home service, and so passing 1,200 homes. Safaricom's Director of Regional Services and Operations Steve Okeyo said that that there has been high interest on the Ngummo estate. Users will receive one month of free fibre connectivity with each new connection, plus free fibre installation and a free WiFi router. Packages start with a basic Bronze 5 Mbps package for KES 2,500 (USD 24.50), a 10 Mbps Silver package for KRS 3,499 (USD 34.25); 20 Mbps Gold Package for KES 4,999 (USD 49) and 40 Mbps Platinum Package for KES 9,999 (USD 97.90).

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Kenya: Fair competition - During the launch of Telkom's mobile money platform T-Kash, Chairman Eddy Njoroge said implementing the recommendations of the Analysys Mason competition report is the only way to consolidate industry gains, attract investment and spur innovation. The Start newspaper quoted Njoroge as saying: "Unless findings of the competition study are implemented, small players, who have brought competition and the dynamism into the market, will have no choice but close shop as they cannot continue to invest in a business without returns". Communications Authority Director General Francis Wangusi said it is waiting for the conclusion of the recommendations that should be available in April.

Kenya: Quick loans - Opera Group has launched a financial services mobile app that provides users with access to short-term loans. Via fintech company OPay, the OKash app will now be available to Android smartphone users. OKash will give users access to microloans for an interest rate of one percent per day and a loan term of a maximum of 14 days. Users with good repayment behaviour can apply for a single loan up to KES 500,000 (USD 4,890) with a total interest of 5 percent.

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Liberia: Cable cuts - LIBTELCO Managing Director Richmond Nagbe Tobii has said that cut fibre has hit Congo Town, Monrovia to the Robert International Airport (RIA), and Buchanan City, Grand Bassa County respectively. The operator blamed the Mutual Construction Company, which is laying pavements and drains along the Congo Town Road within Monrovia for exposing its cables, and therefore allowing their theft.

Liberia: Data free TV - Lonestar Cell MTN has launched a Mobile TV service that does not incur data charges in association with 2CTV. The facility is unique to Lonestar, and offers subscribers the ability to stream live from a smartphone local and international films without using their Data / Internet bundles. The 2CTV App has to be downloaded from the Play Store (on Android Smartphones) or App Store (on Apple/iOS Smartphones). Subscribers can also download it free of charge through a zero rated download link that Lonestar Cell MTN has created. Subscribers only pay a low subscription fee for the hourly, daily, weekly and monthly packages, starting at LRD 0.60.

Libya: Portable routers - Libya Telecom and Technology (LTT) has launched the first 4G portable WiFi routers. The first phase is targeting Tripoli, Misrata, and Zawia in the west; Benghazi, Bayda and Shahat in the east, and Sabha in the south, The Libya Observer reported. The devices will be distributed to LTT's resellers in the cities concerned. The service costs LYD 990 (USD 739) and an initial balance of LYD 700 (USD 522) valid for a year. For former subscribers to WiMAX the cost is LYD 490 (USD 366) with an initial balance of LYD 250 (USD 187) valid also for 1 year. Three new pay-as-you-go packages for the 4G subscribers are also being offered; 30 GB at LYD 75 (USD 56), 20 GB at LYD 60 (USD 45) and 10 GB at LYD 35 (USD 26).

Mali: Listing latest - The Bourse Regionale des Valeurs Mobilieres (BRVM), based in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, expects to list Societe des Telecommunications du Mali, a unit of Maroc Telecom, during 2018, according to Chief Executive Officer Edoh Kossi Amenounve. Mali's government wants to sell a little less than half its 39 percent stake and list the shares on the bourse, Finance Minister Boubou Cisse said in a December interview.

Mozambique: Equipment ban - The Instituto Nacional das Comunicacoes de Mozambique (INCM) has warned that the use of telecoms equipment that has not been approved will be confiscated. A statement issued by INCM said that the use of devices that operate DECT 6.0 (or other) technology that operates in the 1900 - 2100 MHz frequencies should cease, as well as equipment used for illegal activities such as SIM-box fraud. It noted that the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 is also barred. INCM said that it is the only authority able to approve radio communication equipment.

Nigeria: Agenda agreed - Members of the African Telecommunications Union met in Abuja last week, including Secretary General of the International Telecommunications Union, Huolin Zhao, to discuss the preliminary positions that will be adopted for the Dubai conference in November 2018 that will develop the next strategic plan. Member countries of the African Telecom Unions reviewed how the policies of sustainability, growth and inclusiveness have impacted the region and its people. Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, told the meeting that Nigeria will need the support of the region as it seeks elective positions at the ITU.

Nigeria: Broadcasting bust - The Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) claims to have seized broadcast equipment worth some NGN 36.1 million (USD 100,000) in the Delta, The Guardian reported. NCC’s Director of Enforcement Augustine Amodu said in Warri that two suspects were also apprehended and are currently detained. The operation was carried out between 13 - 16 March in Ughelli and Warri. The items seized included several decoders, splitters, senders and boosters. The investigation followed a complaint by Multichoice DSTV.

Nigeria: Call-masking curbing - Airtel Nigeria has lauded the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for curbing call-masking in the industry, The Guardian reported. Airtel's Managing Director Segun Ogunsanya made the comment in an interactive session at GSMA World Mobile Congress attended by Executive Director, Africa, Raghunath Mandava, and the NCC’s Executive Vice Chairman Prof Umar Garba Danbatta. Danbatta said that a new flexible regulation for spectrum trading and transfer of licence rights and obligations, from one party to another, would soon be implemented.

Somalia: Currency control - Mobile money transfer company eDahab has said that it will comply with the new financial regulations set by the Somaliland government which mandates all mobile payments under USD 100 to be made in the Somaliland currency, Capital FM reported. Foreign exchange services through the mobile payment systems are now also banned. The aim is to eliminate the use of the US currency in the local economy. E-Dahab is owned by money transfer company Dahabshiil, which said it will comply with and implement these regulations.

South Africa: Record requests - Data released by MTN, Vodacom, Cell-C and Telkom in August 2017 show that law enforcement agencies made a minimum of 70,960 requests for phone records. However only Vodacom and Telkom recorded the number of individual records contained in the warrants, and therefore the total is likely to be higher.

South Africa: Reinforced RICA - Amendments to the RICA Act to close potential loopholes allowing for mass surveillance of the South African public are being considered according to Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Michael Masutha. Revisions of RICA are at an initial drafting phase and the Minister said the scope of the amendments had not yet been determined. However, both targeted interception and mass surveillance are being considered. One loophole identified by Legalbrief is the use of the Criminal Procedure Act (evidence relating to an alleged offence) to access the metadata of phone users, and so by-passing RICA.

Swaziland: SIM registration - A compulsory pre-paid SIM registration scheme is to be launched by the Swaziland Communications Commission (SCCOM), The Observer reported. CEO Mvilawemphi Dlamini was quoted as saying the development work was at an advanced stage and that the programme will be launched 'shortly'. Mobile operators who fail to comply will be fined.

Zimbabwe: Free Facebook - Econet Wireless' Kwese pay television platform is now offering free Facebook access and a subscription package for civil servants, fin24 reported. A text to subscribers that it is allowing network users to access Facebook on their mobile phones, even when they do not have data credit, with the claim "No data, no problem. Get unlimited Facebook access daily to update status, comment, like, add friends and much more." Civil servants can now claim a premium subscription with free installation and free decoders for USD 20 per month over a period of two years. Applicants have to provide current payslips and ID.

Zimbabwe: Fund transfers facilitated - Users of the Orange Money Mobile Money platform Botswana can now send funds to EcoCash wallets. However, for the time being, the process cannot be reversed. TechZim reported that EcoCash is prioritising partnerships with countries that have high ex-pat Zimbabwean populations, and suggested that most of the other countries where Orange Money is available have small ex-pat populations.

Middle East:

Bahrain: Fast as fibre - VIVA Bahrain has launched VIVA Skyfi, offering high speed data and connectivity services for enterprises. It has a wide area coverage across Bahrain and relies on Point-to-Multi-Point wireless solution that is on a par with fibre. VIVA Bahrain's CEO Ulaiyan Al Wetaid, commented: "This technology in particular is designed to deliver seamless connectivity and promises fast installation that's meant to make it easier for enterprises to take their business to the next level". Skyfi uses licensed spectrum and works by connecting various points and locations from a single access point, thus improves the service delivery time by using less hardware, stable communication service, as well as high-speed data transfer and reliability. It will be used to deliver various Voice and Data services such as Dedicated Internet, Local MPLS and fixed voice services which can be connected to business customers' PBX systems.

Iran: Sanctions squeeze - On 1 March a USA Sanctions Bill was introduced targeting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Economic Exclusion Act (HR 5132) seeks to extend sanctions against the IRGC and see the administration more actively implement existing sanctions. The Act would require the US president to determine whether certain specifically named entities meet the criteria for designation under Section 301 of ITRA. These are primarily telecommunications companies including the Telecommunication Company of Iran and the Mobile Telecommunication Company of Iran (MTCI). Steptoe & Johnson LLP note that the bill's prospects for passage are currently unclear.

Israel: Labour troubles - Cellcom Israel announced on 11 March that it was subject to a labour dispute announcement by the Histadrut, the union representing its staff. It said that union would be able to take organizational steps (including a strike) with effect from 26 March 2018.

Qatar: IoT imitative - Software AG's Cumulocity platform is to be used by Ooredoo Qatar to develop Internet of Things (IoT) services. Business customers will be able to combine integrated, live data analytics visualisation, with scalable storage and device security. Applications include rapid machine, sensor and device integration with data collection; live analytics for condition monitoring, predictive maintenance and supply chain automation; comprehensive device management and remote control; configurable, live dashboards for data visualisation; and rapid enterprise IT integration.

Saudi Arabia: Fast fibre - Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) has launched FiberNet to provide FttH services to small to medium businesses. Four packages are being offered: 25 Mbps, 50 Mbps, 100 Mbps and 200 Mbps. Mobily's CEO Eng. Ahmed Aboudoma said: "In the coming period, we aim to launch a number of new services to enhance the company's leadership in providing telecom and IT services." The new service will add to Mobily's offerings for SMEs, which include mobile via 4G or FttH networking in addition to advanced IT services.

United Arab Emirates: Full-home connectivity - Etisalat has launched its 'HomeZone', delivering fast, reliable and non-stop connectivity when deployed in every room, creating a strong, reliable signal to help eliminate dead spots. For AED 29 (USD 7.89) a month, users will receive new access points to boost their wi-fi coverage in up to 3 extra zones. Jonathan Haysom, VP of Home Services, Etisalat said: "Every HomeZone is professionally installed and directly cabled to our eLife router by our installation team, ensuring connectivity without compromise." The package includes high-end wi-fi hardware, Ethernet cabling to the access point as well as all labour in the monthly rental. The service is for a two-year period with no upfront payments.

United Arab Emirates: Smart meter solution - Etisalat Digital is to provide the Federal Electricity and Water Authority (FEWA) with M2M solutions for its smart metering project. Etisalat Digital's M2M Control Centre solution will be used for backhauling and communication by incorporating M2M connectivity and enabling the M2M portal for 24,000 smart meters. This is the first phase of FEWA's smart metering project, and M2M SIMs will be installed by Etisalat Digital in FEWA's smart meters for the automation of data collection.