News in Brief 18 April 2018

Africa:

Cape Verde: DTT initiator - The government has set-up a company - Cabo Verde Broadcast (CVB) - to manage the introduction of Digital terrestrial television (DTT). The publicly-owned entity will provide aggregated content services, as well as the transport and distribution of digital signals. CVB will work with TV operators in order to release frequencies and so allow them to focus on content quality and quantity. DTT coverage is currently put at around 75 percent.

Liberia: Tap and Pay - Lonestar Cell MTN's mobile money subscribers can now pay government taxes directly from their phone via 2,500 agents nationally. As well as Government Tax Payment, it is now offering Mobile Bank Push and Pull, and MoMo Pay services. Dubbed 'Mobile Money Tap and Pay', the Momo Pay service was launched on 6 April. Users can make payments for goods and services at any Mobile Money acceptance point using the Mobile Pay stickers.

Maldives: February metrics fall - The mobile subscriber base fell to 894,810 subscribers in February 2018, from 897,088 in January. Mobile teledensity fell to 245.75 in February from 250.11 in January, according to figures from the Communications Authority of Maldives. Of the total mobile subscribes, 118,426 were post-paid subscribers and 776,384 were pre-paid. Fixed lines (including payphones) fell to 20,263 in February from 20,317 in January, while fixed-line teledensity fell from 5.56 from 5.66. The mobile broadband subscriber base fell to 269,292 users in February from 277,492 in January, while the fixed broadband user base rose to 38,902 in February from 37,126 in January.

Mauritania: Cable re-connected - Damage to the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable on 30 March saw disruption of Internet connectivity, along with several other connected countries. The cable was cut reportedly cut between Dakar and Nouakchott. Oracle's Internet Intelligence data showed that the most significant and longest-lasting disruption was seen in Mauritania, with a complete outage lasting for nearly 48 hours, followed by partial restoration. Sierra Leone also saw a significant impact as a result of the cable cut, followed by a complete outage on 1 April. Internet services are provided by Mauritel (Maroc Telecom), Mattel (Tunisie Telecom) and Chinguitel (Sudatel).

Maldives: Boosted broadband - Ooredoo Maldives has launched its SuperNet Fixed Broadband services and is offering a range of packages at speed-up to 100 Mbps. Ooredoo is granting a 30 percent discount on monthly fees for the first twelve months after launch for all users acquiring a SuperNet connection in Villingili before 30 April. Connection fees are also being waived. A twelve-month instalment plan is being offered when purchasing the SuperNet router. Maldives Innovation Company is the infrastructure partner in Villingili, supporting Ooredoo in expanding the network.

Morocco: SVOD for six months - Video streaming service iflix is now available to trial for up to six months without charge, following a tie-up with mobile operator Inwi. The service is available to all connected Moroccans for a month's free trial through the iflix Website, or by downloading the app from Google Play or Apple's App Store. 'Club Inwi' members are being offered six months unlimited access to iflix (worth MAD 270) as part of the operator's subscriber privilege service. iflix can be accessed on up to five devices, including phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, TVs and other connected devices, as well as watch shows simultaneously on two devices at the same time. iflix also enables subscribers to download TV shows and movies to watch later offline.

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Nigeria: Executive pow-wow - A high-level delegation from MTN Group held planned strategic sessions in Nigeria to underline its commitment to the country, Business Day Online reported. The planned listing of MTN on the Nigeria Stock Exchange was discussed, as well as finalising the partnership with Ecobank Group.

Nigeria: Soccer special - DStv Multichoice is to offer a pop-up channel on the FIFA World Cup tagged 'History of Football' to run for 14 days, starting from 28 May. DStv Multichoice Media Coordinator Bamidele Johnson told the News Agency of Nigeria that the channel would air round the clock until 10 June and would be available to DStv Premium, Compact Plus and Compact subscribers. It will be on DStv Channel 187, and will be aired in 160 countries.

Nigeria: Tower tax confusion - The Kano State House of Assembly ad-hoc Committee on Outstanding Taxes and Liabilities by GSM Service Providers has claimed that Globacom owes the state government NGN 47 million (USD 130,000) in taxes, The Eagle reported. The Committee's Chairman Alhaji Bello Butu-Butu said that Glo has not paid any tax for three years. However the number of masts in the state is 145, and not the 175 as apparently thought by the State Government. Consequently the tax due has been overstated. Meanwhile the Katsina state government issued a one week ultimatum to Globacom to either settle it's outstanding NGN 400 million (USD 1.1 million) tenement rates or have its 105 base station sealed, the Daily Trust reported. The General Manager of the state Urban and Regional Planning Board, Usman Nadada said the money owed was for the last four years and the last payment made by the operator was in 2014. The monies fall due in January each year.

Sierra Leone: New banking app - The United Bank for Africa on 9 April officially launched its mobile banking application with biometric option and 24-hour customer service support. Third party transfers from UBA bank accounts to other bank account holders in Sierra Leone will be offered from July. UBA Sierra Leone Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Chinedu Obeta, said the bank started operation in Sierra Leone in 2008 and had branches in Freetown and in the provinces, with some 53,000 customers and had issued over 3,000 banking cards.

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Somaliland: Domain switch demanded - Minister of Posts and Telecommunication Hon. Abdiweli Abdillahi Suufi has told Somaliland telcos, government departments, private companies, organizations and Websites to use the new Somaliland domain, the Somaliland News Agency (SOLNA) reported last week. The Minister noted that countries that have not yet been recognized have forfeited the use of other countries domains and have subsequently established their own. Somaliland will also change the country code 252 which it inherited from Somalia. The minister is reported to have instructed all stakeholders to abide by the new directive or risk being removed from the computer and telecommunication infrastructure.

South Africa: New non-executive - Cell-C has named Lindiwe Mthimunye-Bakoro as an independent non-executive director. Chartered accountant Mthimunye is a graduate from the University of Cape Town and completed her articles at KPMG, after which she followed an investment banking career with Rand Merchant Bank. Current directorships include Pioneer Foods Group, Torre Industries Limited, Metrofile, Liquid Capital, Open Society Foundation SA, and the Gauteng Partnership Fund, which she is chairman of.

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Tanzania: Benign blogging - The Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) Regulations 2018 will require bloggers, including those running online TV and radio services and forums, to be certified by the government before they start any online operations, Face2FaceAfrica reported. A licence will cost USD 930. Online users, including subscribers, are required to ensure the space they are operating is safe, not in contravention of any written law and sensitive to cultural sensitivities of the users. The hosts are also required to provide guidelines to the users and moderate content to filter out prohibited content. The law was proposed last year but it faced opposition as the terms were thought to be ambiguous and that it violates the citizen's right to free speech. The Electronic and Postal Communications Regulations 2017 came into effect in March 2018 and applies to bloggers, Internet cafes, online content hosts, online forums, online radio/TV, social media, subscribers and users of online content or any other related online content. The regulations can be viewed here.

Uganda: Card reader crime? - Unwanted Witness has said that giving the Uganda Communications Commission 50 identity card readers, to be distributed to network operators, is in violation of the law. The readers have been provided by the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA). There are concerns that the move could encourage cyber-crime. However, the ntv news site reports NIRA's Public Relations Officer Michael Muganga as saying there are vigorous security measures in place to counter such moves.

Uganda: Chatter tax - A new social media tax for users will be inoduced from July to raise revenue. Finance Minister Matia Kasaija told Reuters in a phone interview that the tax will be applied to each mobile phone subscriber using platforms such as WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook at the rate of UGX 200 (USD 0.05) per day. Of Uganda's 41 million population some 23.6 million are mobile phone subscribers and 17 million use the Internet. The proposal is to be included in the budget for the 2018/19 financial year starting in July, and has already been submitted to parliament this week for review after it received cabinet approval.

Uganda: TV payments - Kwese TV and MTN Uganda have partnered to provide a payment channel for their respective subscribers to pay and renew their subscriptions services using MTN Mobile Money platforms. To pay their 3-day, 7-day or monthly subscription fees, MTN subscribers with Kwese TV subscription dial *165# on their mobile devices, select option 4 for Payments, then select Kwese TV under the Pay TV options and enter their Kwese account number followed by the amount to be paid.

Uganda: USF payment - MTN Group's Vice President of Southern & East Africa and Ghana (SEAGHA) region, Ebenezer Asante has presented a cheque for UGX 20 billion (USD 5.4 million) to the Cabinet Minister of Information Technology and Communications (ICT) Hon. Frank Tumwebaze, for the Rural Communications Development Fund (RCDF). The RCDF is a Universal Service Fund (USF) established in 2003 that is managed and administered by an independent board set up by the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC). The main purpose of the RCDF is to address issues of connectivity, access, affordability and equity within the ICT sector. UCC retains the roles of oversight and policy of the RCDF.

Zimbabwe: Regulatory amalgamation - The government is to merge Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) and Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ), so that a single regulatory authority is created, TechZim reported. The move comes as telcos leverage on data, telecommunications and technology infrastructure to venture into media content provision. Econet has had to negotiate with BAZ to launch its broadcasting subsidiary Kwese, while at the same time reporting to POTRAZ as the telecoms regulator. The merger of BAZ and POTRAZ means that in future regulations should be coordinated.

Zimbabwe: Solar switchover - Econet Wireless is now licensed to generate power to meet the electricity and energy needs at its Willowvale facility in Harare, according to a media notice. Willowvale accommodates Econet's switching and network operations infrastructure. The licence is dated 27 March 2018 and issued by the Zimbabwe Energy Regulation Authority (ZERA). 263Chat reports that clean solar energy is now available at over 75 sites, including an installation at the Graniteside Contact Centre in, Harare, which houses over 220 call-centre agents. The Msasa head office in Harare was due to start using solar power in April 2017). Econet is the largest mobile network operator in Zimbabwe, with several switches in Harare and Bulawayo, and over 4,600 base stations.

Middle East:

Afghanistan: Temporary Taliban ban - Services are reported to have been suspended in southern Helmand province for an indefinite period in compliance with orders from the Taliban, an official said Sunday, the pajhwok.com news site reported. Head of the Information and Telecommunication Department (ICD) Omaidullah Zaheer told reporters in Lashkargah, the provincial capital, that services had ceased with effect from 5 pm on 15 April. Telcos are not be forced to resume services as the Taliban might then destroy the infrastructure. Zaheer said some 162 mobile towers were functional in the province while Salaam had 10 towers which were permanently operational.

Bahrain: Indicators imminent - The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) is to start publishing 'complaints indicators' for telecom operators to promote transparency and competitiveness among service providers. The TRA's Senior Consumer Affairs Advisor, Shaikh Abdulla bin Humood Al Khalifa, said that they will help providers to develop services and address complaints from their subscribers. TRA claims to have resolved 95 percent of the complaints received during the year, Shaikh Abdulla adding that 71 percent of consumers were satisfied in the solution. Of the total complaints received, 55 percent related to the mobile market; broadband accounted for 30 percent; fixed line 13 percent, and 2 percent 'other'.

Bahrain: Localised solutions - Viva Bahrain has partnered with IT solutions provider FutureTec to expand the range of ICT services hosted locally at the Viva Datacenter in Bahrain to include cloud computing and cloud security services for businesses and public sector organisations. The Bahrain hosted offering will include various cloud computing services such as Infrastructure as a Services (IaaS), virtual servers, Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS), Backup as a Service (BaaS), Internet Security and Email Security as a Service, powered by providers such as Nutanix and Fortinet. The data centre is built to Tier 3 standards.

Iran: App removal - Two locally developed messaging applications have reportedly been removed from the Apple's iOS App Store from Monday, according to local media. However, Apple has not yet issued a statement about the removal of the messaging apps Soroush and Baleh. Five local applications have been approved by the National Center for Cyberspace, an organization established by the Supreme Cyberspace Council; namely Soroush, Gap, iGap, BisPhone Plus and Wispi.

Israel: Slow software - Apple is being investigated after it failed to tell users that updates could slow performance in some iPhones, Reuters reported. The Consumer Protection and Fair Trade Authority said it questioned the Apple's local head, Rony Friedman. Apple acknowledged in December 2017 that updates can deliberately slow devices with weak batteries. It apologised and cut the price of battery replacements for affected phones. It was suggested that this lack of transparency has seen people buy a new phone when they failed to realise they only needed a new battery.

Oman: Streaming bargain - 'YouTube Pass' has been launched by Omantel so that users can stream the video-sharing platform for approximately 0.78 cents (USD 2.50) valid for three hours. Omantel's Senior Manager, Segment Management, Musbah Madi, said: "Part of our strategy is to observe the increasing demand for unlimited access to popular social media applications and provide our customers with innovative offerings that best suit their needs."

Saudi Arabia: Outlets opened - Mobile network operator (Mobily) has opened new outlets in shopping malls as part of its expansion plan. Chief Sales Officer Khaled Riad, told the Saudi Gazette that outlets were opened in central, eastern, western and southern regional malls, offering sales services to post-paid and prepaid lines, FITH and smart devices. Mobily has revamped its post- and pre-paid packages and its data services, having added on-network and off-network local call features.

Tunisia: ADSL assessment - Instance Nationale des Telecommunications (INT) has published its QoS study for ADSL services based on data collected in December 2017. The 24-month research project, officially launched in mid-2017, compares a number of quality indicators for the ADSL services provided by five ISPs (Hexabyte, Ooredoo, Topnet, Orange, Globalnet), reselling Tunisie Telecom's 4 Mbps product. Carried out in partnership with Prisma-J3Tel, the study aims to monitor compliance with the QoS obligations set by the regulator in November 2015, with data collected from the 24 governorates.

Turkey: Bond success - Turkcell announced that its 10-year eurobond issue was oversubscribed two fold. The 5.80 percent, USD 500 million bond will be listed on the Euronext Dublin exchange. The telco previous issued a 10-year Eurobond in 2015.

Device developments:

Egypt: Growing share - Tecno Mobile now has a market share around the 7 percent mark at the end of 2017, according to Director of Marketing, Mahmoud Taha. The Daily News Egypt reported that Tecno expects to see further growth in the next period, supported by its new partnerships with Telecom Egypt and Orange Egypt. Tecno Mobile is a subsidiary of Transsion Holdings, which also has the Infinix and itel mobile brands. Tecno Mobile has launched new series of its phones, including Camon X, Camon X Pro, F1, F2, and Pop, in a ceremony held in Lagos, Nigeria recently. Tecno's Camon X features a 24-megapixel front camera which provides clearer self-portrait photographs with additional features.

Nigeria: Top for Transsion - Transsion Holdings' Vice Chairman Andy Yan, the owner of the Tecno Mobile brand, said that the African market is its top priority and will be a launchpad for the rest of the world. Yan said it started its African odyssey in 2007 and looked in particular at the markets of Central and Western Africa, given their promising growth opportunities. Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire are two of the most important markets for Tecno Mobile, according to Yan, although the Nigerian market is the largest in Africa as its population nears 200 million people. Egypt is more complicated as there are many top brands in play, although considered the most important in the Middle East and North Africa. Tecno Mobile is now launching the Camon X, Camon X Pro, F1 and F2. Yan's comments were made at the launch in Lagos.

Qatar: Android launch - Vodafone Qatar has launched the Vodafone Smart N8, a 4G Android 7.0 smartphone that retails for QAR 499 (USD 136). The devices ships with a slimming texture mid-frame and a wavy moire pattern reminiscent of silk on the back panel. The back panel also has a fingerprint sensor. It has a quad-core processor, 1.5 GB of RAM, a 2,400 mAh battery and 16GB of internal memory (10GB available), which can be expanded by up to 32 GB with a microSD card.