News in Brief 2 May 2018

Africa:

Africa: Broadband heavyweight - Eutelsat Communications has named Jean-Claude Tshipama as its new head of Broadband in Africa to promote satellite broadband connectivity. Tshipama was Celtel's DR Congo Commercial Director; Digicel Group's Director of Sales and Distribution and later Microsoft's Director of sales and distribution for Africa. More recently, he served as CEO of Canal+ in DR Congo. He is a non-executive director on the Equity Bank in Kenya board. His remit is to utilise the in-orbit resources of the Al Yah 3 satellite, lunched in January and due to be operational from this summer. This will be followed next year by the launch of the Konnect satellite.

Burkina Faso: Strategic stake - The National Union of telecommunications (Synatel) has said that the acquisition by Maroc Telecom of a further 10 percent stake in National Telecommunications Office (Onatel) is unacceptable. In a statement it called on the President of the Republic, Roch Marc Christian Kabore to address the loss of sovereignty that the move represents for the country and its strategic interests. Synatel argues that Maroc Telecom has failed in its investment commitments made during the privatization of 2006. Onatel's fibre network, to which mobile operators and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) were added, is considered weak and of poor quality by Synatel.

Cameroon: Payments facilitated - MTN Cameroon and the National Social Insurance Fund (CNPS) are to digitise a number of CNPS transactions using MTN Mobile Money. The first phase will see the bulk payment of family allowances and other family benefits via Mobile Money, whilst the second phase will involve the collection of social contributions.

Congo Brazzaville: Digital development - The first Director-General of the Digital Economy Development agency, Guy-Roland Ntsimba, was invested on 27 April by the Minister of Posts, Telecommunications and the Digital Economy Leon Juste Ibombo. The agency's mission is to increase and diversify digital uses and was established in decree 2018-112 of 21 March 2018. The agency is responsible for the development and implementation of national policy; implementation of strategies and action plans; and the promotion and popularization of the use of information and communication technologies and access and universal service. The appointed was announced on 5 April. Ntsimba is a lawyer by training, and holds a master's degree in African cyberspace. He joined the department in January 2008, where he served as administrative and legal advisor, and director of new technologies.

Cote d'Ivoire: Digital ambassador - Ivorian footballer, Didier Drogba, has been named as the ambassador for UK-based Standard Chartered's first digital-only retail bank. The bank is offering digital services allowing users to make transfers and pay bills, and does not have a branch network in the country, although it has retail banking operations in 10 African countries. Standard Chartered is expected to replicate the digital bank model in Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana.

Cote d'Ivoire: Final fee - On 28 March 2018 MTN Cote d'Ivoire announced that it had paid the final instalment for its operating licence. The C1A individual licence was granted in March 2016 as part of the license renewal procedure initiated by the Ministry of Telecommunications, with the licence fee of XOF 100 billion payable in three instalments. MTN arranged the financing from a banking pool composed of local banks.

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Egypt: CEO confirmed - Orange Egypt's new CEO is Yasser Shaker, and will take up his post on 1 May. He replaces Jean Marc Harion, who held the post since late 2016 and is leaving to be CEO of Polish operator Play. Shaker's previous position was Senior VP CTIO at Orange Middle East and Africa (OMEA). Prior to that, Shaker was Chief Technology Officer of Orange Egypt.

Gabon: Better Internet - Minister of Communication Alain Claude Billie By Nze has said that some XAF 150 billion (USD 277 million) will be invested in digital technology over the next three years. Agence Ecofin reported that he made the comment on 19 April at the 8th IT & Telecom Africa forum on digital challenges held in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire. The fund will primarily focus on improving the quality of Internet services.

Ghana: Takoradi PoP - MainOne has announced the establishment of a new point-of-presence (PoP) in Takoradi's Business District, Ghanaweb reports. MainOne Ghana's Head of Network Emmanuel Kwarteng said that the new PoP would enhance the company's ability to deliver best-in-class connectivity and value-added service in the Takoradi area.

Liberia: Lonestar leader - MTN Liberia's new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) has been named as Uche Ofodile. She was previously Facebook's Regional Head Africa, Express Wi-fi. In 2002 Uche accepted her first role in Africa as a Corporate Brand Manager. Posts include CCO of MTS First Wireless (Nigeria), Executive Marketing Director for a high-growth start-up and CMO for Vodafone Ghana. Recently Uche was CEO for Tigo DRC.

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Liberia: NFC facility - Lonestar Cell MTN's contactless mobile payment service MomoPay is being supported by Youtap. Users can tap and pay for goods and services instantly with a phone at the point of sale. The service utilises near field communication (NFC) technology developed by Youtap. The 'tap and pay' service will initially be powered by smart stickers attached to subscribers' mobile phones, but longer term the intention is to use QR codes or similar.

Maldives: Mobile falls marginally in March - The mobile subscriber base is reported to have fallen to 892,964 subscribers at the end of March the Communications Authority of Maldives, from 894,810 in February. Mobile teledensity also fell to 245.24 in March from 245.75 in February. Post-paid accounted for 122,193 and pre-paid 770,771. Fixed lines were recorded at 20,149 in March, down from 20,263 in February. The mobile broadband  base rose to 280,213 subscribers in March from 269,292 users in February, while fixed broadband users increased to 40,596 in March from 38,902 in February.  Two mobile operators compete directly: Dhiraagu and Ooredoo, with the former having the edge with some 451,000 mobile subscribers.

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Namibia: Best broadband rates - The cheapest data bundles are now being claimed by Paratus Namibia after it dropped its data prices by some 80 percent. It is now charging NAD 15 (USD 1.20) per Gigabyte; and from NAD 85 (USD 6.84) per Gigabyte on its LTE, WiMAX and fibre packages. Paratus Group's CEO Barney Harmse said that Paratus has established a 'prolific' pan-African telecoms network and will continue to invest in Namibia and the rest of Africa, as it has been doing since 2003.

Nigeria: Mobile bank potential - CommunictionsWeek reports that consumers trust mobile phones more than banking institutions, and that digital banking using mobile phones have been embraced. Communication Week Media drew the findings from interviews and questionnaires conducted and administered in major cities. The study concluded that mass banking using mobile phones is imminent, if the various roadblocks to mobile banking were removed. More than 70 percent of the semi urban and rural population would choose to have mobile phones as the primary financial service channel rather than visit a bank. The survey found that 95 percent if interviewees would not go return home to pick up their cheque book/savings books but would return to collect their phone if left at home.

Nigeria: Quarterly payment - The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said it remitted NGN 49.7 billion (USD 137.3 million) to the Federal Government in the first quarter of 2018, The Independent reported. NCC's Director of Public Affairs, Tony Ojobo said in a statement on 26 April that the remittance was in compliance with the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2007 (FRA 2007) and represented the 'payment on account' in respect of the operating surplus for period.

Nigeria: Roll-out realities - Companies that have been licensed to deploy broadband infrastructure will have to pay some NGN 600 billion (USD 1.66 billion) in Right of Way (RoW) charges to the 36 states of the federation, the New Telegraph has reported. The paper suggests that using the stated 120,000 kilometres of fibre required to achieve national broadband coverage and the average of NGN 5,000 (USD 13.80) per metre of fibre being charged by the states. While the NCC has just licensed another four companies to cover further regions, IHS is said to have returned its own licence.

Rwanda: Fast fibre - Liquid Telecom has committed to providing FTTH to 20,000 households, with Liquid Telecom Chief Technical Officer Stanley Magede saying that the programme will be completed by the end of the next financial year, the techinafrica reports. The initiative has so far connected 11,000 out of the 20,000 targeted households. Magede has said that Rukiri I and II in Ramera are completed, and the installation team is now moving to Kimironko and neighbourhood. To date Kibagabaga, Gikondo Estate, Gishushu, Vision City, Kimihurura, Kiyovu, Rebero, Gisozi, Rugando, Nyarutarama, Kagugu, and Kacyiru have been connected.

Rwanda: New post - MTN Rwanda has appointed Chantal Umutoni Kagame as its new Chief Business and Corporate Affairs Officer, reports New Times. Kagame was until recently the deputy CEO of Tigo Rwanda, which has now been acquired by Bharti Airtel. She had served in that post since June 2015. Kagame joined Tigo Rwanda in 2009 as head of sales distribution and was also handling the corporate affairs function. She has a Bachelor of Commerce (finance major) graduate from what used to be Kigali Institute of Science and Technology, now University of Rwanda, College of Science and Technology. Airtel Rwanda is reported to have dispensed with the services of 49 staff in a restructuring exercise.

Sierra Leone: CEO to be confirmed - According to Financial Afrik, Orange has named Aminata Kane Ndiaye as CEO of Orange Sierra Leone. She was previously mobile money marketing manager at Orange Senegal. Orange was quoted as saying that it would not comment on her appointment for now.

Zimbabwe: Mobile money - Mobile phones transactions have more than doubled in value as an element of the global national payments systems (NPS) during the first quarter of 2018, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) figures show. Cash shortages remain an issue, and mobile money transfers provide an effective alternative. Econet Wireless's EcoCash is the dominant mobile money player with some 97 percent market share, while NetOne's One Wallet and Telecel's Telecash are ranked a poor second and third respectively. Mobile money accounted for 25 percent of total values on the NPS at the end of March 2018, compared to 9.99 percent in 1Q 2017.

Middle East:

Israel: New Bezeq board - Bezeq's shareholders meeting on 26 April stipulated that the board will be composed of a total of 13 directors, of whom 10 were newly elected or re-elected, with three additional external directors, who were not up for re-election, and so remained at their post. These include all the nominees from Bezeq and BIC, as well as one put forward by Entropy. Bezeq's controlling shareholder and executives are currently under investigation for fraud.

Israel: Open offer - From 26 April Golan Telecom is offering a mobile package with unlimited gigabytes for two years at ILS 29 (USD 8.09) a month. This follows the entry of We4G, which according to Globes, had been cannibalising Golan's subscribers. Golan's offering differs from 012 Mobile and the others, in that it does not restrict the consumption of gigabytes in the package. The offer is available to new subscribers until 6 May.

Jordan: Exclusivity renewed - Orange Jordan has renewed its agreement with Aqaba Company for Ports Operations and Management, under which it will provide mobile services. This extends the previous contract, where Orange Jordan offered fixed line and Internet services.

Kuwait: Flexible finance - Ooredoo Kuwait is offering flexible pre-paid plans under an agreement with Al Mulla International Finance Company. The two are offering high-speed mobile telecommunication and Internet services, with the flexibility to purchase through an international financing company. The service is available exclusively from Ooredoo's head office.

Oman: Mesh on monthly plans - Ooredoo has launched a Wi-Fi booster instalment scheme for Fast and Superfast post-paid contract plans. Home broadband users can now buy the Linksys Velop Tri-Band mesh device from OMR 3.50 (USD 9.08) a month. Users who sign an annual contract will pay a deposit of OMR 20 (USD 52) and make monthly repayments of OMR 7 (USD 18).

Oman: New pre-paid plans - Ooredoo Oman has introduced a New Shababiah pre-paid plan, with unlimited social data. The operator has also launched Shababiah 'MIX', allowing users to tailor their own plans who can choose up to 1,000 minutes and up to 25 GB of data. There is also a 90-day welcome offer, which will give those signing up to one or more of the New Shababiah plans 50 percent extra free data. Plus, those choosing to renew their plans automatically can also get 50 percent free extra data every month for three months on successful renewal; that's up to 20GB free data over a three month period.

Qatar: Better broadband - Inmarsat's GX Aviation in-flight broadband service is being rolled out on more than 130 of Qatar Airways' Boeing 777 and Airbus A350 aircraft, and Qatar is the first airline in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to offer the service. Airlines connect to the GX network using JetWave terminals produced by Honeywell Aerospace. Qatar Airways has also activated an advanced space-based system, supplied by Inmarsat to track all of its flights globally.

Qatar: Fast fibre - Vodafone Qatar is rolling out fibre connectivity in The Pearl-Qatar development. The network operator has signed an agreement with United Development Company (UDC) that will see a fibre network capable of handling speeds of up to 1 Gbps installed in the development. Triple-play services will be offered. More than 27,000 of the island's current residents and 700 businesses will benefit from Vodafone Qatar's high-speed fibre network, with a further 7,000 residents and businesses expected to gain access in the coming months.

Qatar: Introduce a friend - Ooredoo Qatar has announced that all Ooredoo Money customers who refer new or existing users to send an international remittance will now earn QAR 3 (USD 0.82) per transaction on the first three such events. The money will be deposited directly into their Ooredoo Money Wallet. The promotion is targeting international transfers through MoneyGram, Aldar Exchange and Ooredoo Exchange, and will run until 4 June.

Turkey: Cross-overs courted - Vodafone Turkey has launched a mobile Internet campaign allowing fixed Internet customers can use up to 8 GB of data monthly free of charge on mobile phones. It is targeting subscribers who use the Internet intensively and runs until the end of May. Users can subscribe to fibre Internet packages starting from TRY 49.90 (USD 12.20) per month.

United Arab Emirates: Free video - The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has directed Etisalat and Du to waive the monthly AED 50 (USD 14) subscription fees for online video call applications BOTIM and C'me for people with impaired hearing, so that they can communicate in sign language for free, to mark Arab Deaf Week, the Khaleej Times reported.

Device developments:

Oman: Smartphone hire purchase - Ooredoo Oman is offering a monthly payment scheme for new smartphones to customers signing up for Shahry Business Plans. Corporate customers will have the option to own a smartphones by paying either nothing or a low charge up front and will receive discounts of up to OMR 150 (USD 390) when selecting the right rate plan and contract duration. Customers opting for this offer need to subscribe to a Shahry Business post-paid plan for a 12- or 24-month duration. Depending on the selected plan, mobile users will be prompted to pay upfront fees and obtain a discount for devices priced at OMR 180 (USD 467) and above. After the down payment and receiving the discount, the remaining fees will be adjusted according to the contract period.

United Arab Emirates: Attractive offers - The HTC Desire 12 and the HTC Desire 12 Plus smartphones are now available in the UAE. The 5.5-inch HTC Desire 12 and the 6-inch HTC Desire 12 have 18:9 edge-to-edge screens. The HTC Desire 12 is already on sale at AED 729 (USD 199) whilst the Desire 12 Plus will be available in the first week of May at AED 899 (USD 245). Purchasers of the two devices will get a bundle of complimentary accessories in certain retail channels, including a free screen protector, transparent back cover, guaranteed 48-hour express service and a two-year warranty.