News in Brief 27 June 2018

Africa:

Africa: 10 million SVoD subs forecast - Digital TV Research forecasts that there will be some 9.99 million SVoD subscribers across 35 Sub-Saharan Africa countries by 2023, up from 1.56 million at end-2017. Although massive growth will take place, the Sub-Saharan Africa OTT TV & Video Forecasts report estimates that SVoD revenues will only be USD 775 million by 2023 as some platforms are very cheap. However South Africa (3.37 million by 2023) will remain the leader, with Nigeria (2.61 million) ranked second. South Africa and Nigeria will account for 60 percent of the region's SVoD subscribers by 2023; down from 74 percent in 2017. Therefore the rest of the region is growing faster than the two main countries. The top six platforms accounted for 90 percent of the region's SVoD subscribers by end-2017, with this proportion to be retained throughout the forecast period. Despite being relatively expensive, Netflix will account for 40 per cent of the 2023 total (4.03 million subscribers). Simon Murray, Principal Analyst at Digital TV Research noted: "Market dynamics have shifted over the last year. There have been many fewer platform launches, especially on a country level. Furthermore, several multinational players are expected to rein in their ambitions whereas Netflix has consolidated its market leadership." The report suggests that iRoko will concentrate mostly on West Africa. A significant stake in Iflix was sold to Econet, which means greater focus on Eastern and Southern Africa. Multichoice announced that Showmax will be given free to premium DStv subscribers across Africa, with Compact subscribers offered Showmax for half price. Full details of the report are here.

Algeria: Cable commissioning - The Minister of Post, Telecommunications, Technology and Digital, Houda-Imane Feraoun has announced that testing of the Orval and Medex submarine cables will start in 4Q 2018. The Orval cable connects Oran with Valencia, while Medex connects Annaba with the United States. They are expected to be commissioned in December 2018 or January 2019.

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Algeria: Cheating curtailed - In the third year running, the government is planning to shut down the Internet during exam times. Minister of Communications minister, Houda-Imane Feraoun, has confirmed that the government plans to restrict online access during the first hour of exams between 20 June and 25 June. The blocks will affect both regular ISPs and mobile network providers. The authorities are reported to also be taking steps to block access to a number of VPN and proxy services, with both ZenMate and TOR to be in the process of being blocked entirely. Al Jazeera notes that Iraq will implement similar measures for the next two weeks while exams take place in the country. This follows an earlier shutdown from 27 May until 13 June, during which exams were being held. In recent years, India, Iraq, Syria and Ethiopia have all disconnected the Internet in an attempt to prevent exam fraud, although there seems to be little evidence, if any, that it was effective. However, the increasing intervention in the workings of the Internet by governments globally, either implemented or proposed, is a concern.

Algeria: Gas network fibre - A 10-year rental agreement has been signed between the Gas Transmission System Management Company (GRTG) and the Telecommunications Infrastructure Company (Comintal Algeria), which will see Comintal lease dark fibre installed along GRTG's gas distribution network. The 4,000km fibre network consists of 24 fibre strands, of which two are used to monitor the gas distribution grid. GRTG CEO Cherif Zeghoud said that it will deploy fibre along the entire gas distribution network spanning some 21,000km, with DZD 6 billion (USD 51 million) budgeted for the first stage.

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Burkina Faso: Cafe registration - Following its SIM registration programme, the government has said that it will now focus on cybercafe users. A decree setting-out how subscribers should be registered is reported to have been modified to also cover cybercafe customers by the Council of Ministers meeting on 8 June 8, 2018, chaired by the head of state, Roch Marc Christian Kabore. A database of users is proposed, with cybercafes registering the identity of anyone who uses their equipment, Agence Ecofin reported. Cote d'Ivoire has already adopted such a measure, and since 2011, cybercafes have had to keep a register in which they record the names and surnames of the users, the nature of the identity document presented, its number and expiry date, the access device or the electronic terminal used, the date of connection, the start and end time of the connection.

Congo Brazzaville: ICT law - On 20 June the Director General of the Digital Economy Development Guy-Roland Ntsimba told The Dispatches news site that the draft ICT regulation had been approved by the Supreme Court. The draft regulations are now with the Cabinet Minister responsible before they are forwarded to the government. The new laws will deal with cybersecurity, electronic transactions, the protection of personal data and the fight against cybercrime.

Congo Brazzaville: Shuter on tour - MTN Group President and CEO Rob Shuter made a working visit on 11 June 2018, meeting Prime Minister Clement Mouanba; Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Leon Juste Ibombo and Director General of the Regulatory Agency for Posts and Electronic Communications (ARPCE),Yves Castanou. Shuter said that MTN Group is committed to 'supporting the government's goals in digital inclusion'. Shuter is visiting twenty-four African and sub-Saharan countries where MTN operates.

Cote d'Ivoire: Fibre suspension - Orange Cote d'Ivoire is suspending the roll-out of fibre-optic broadband infrastructure in Abidjan, following a spate of vandalism. Agence Ecofin report that work is temporarily halted while authorities investigate. A fire was started at an Orange technical centre in Abidjan on 30 April 2018, while the telco reported at least seven acts of vandalism on its fibre networks in April and May.

Egypt: New Minister - The new Minister of Communications and Information Technology is Amr Talaat, and is a member of the new government formed by Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly on 14 June 2018. He replaces Yasser ElKady who has been in post since 19 September 2015. Talaat is a former IBM Egypt country director.

Egypt: No change - The Cabinet's Information and Decision Support Centre (IDSC) has dismissed reports of a 50 percent increase in mobile phone top-up card prices after recent increases in the prices of fuel and electricity. IDSC said it had communicated with the National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (NTRA), which had confirmed that the recharge card prices for all operators would remain unchanged, Ahram reported. In 2017 NTRA ratified a decision by operators to decrease the value of top-up cards by 36 percent.

Ghana: Google centre - The Google AI African research centre is to open in Accra during 2018 and will bring together top machine learning researchers and engineers. Google AI's Senior Fellow Jeff Dean and Staff Research Scientist and lead of Google AI Center Accra Moustapha Cisse said in a joint post that AI has great potential to positively impact the world. Google's other AI centres include Paris, Zurich, Tokyo, Beijing, Montreal, Toronto, Seattle, Cambridge/Boston, Tel Aviv/Haifa, New York, and at its Mountain View/San Francisco headquarters.

Ghana: Soccer offer - Pay-TV provider MultiChoice Ghana has partnered with Vodafone to offer unlimited data bundles for customers to stream live World Cup games. Vodafone Mobile customers can choose from GHS 1 (USD 0.21) daily, GHS 5 weekly or GHS 20 a month bundles whilst Vodafone Fixed Broadband customers can also associate a Vodafone mobile number to their account and subscribe for GHS 20 (USD 4.25) a month to get unlimited access to watch all matches at the World Cup plus other content available via the DStv Now App. Subscribers need to download the DStv Now App on Android or iOS and sign up in the app with their DStv credentials.

another fine mess for african telecoms

Ghana: Strong start - Some 96,904 cross-network mobile money transactions were undertaken in the first month of mobile money interoperability according to the Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement System (GhIPSS). The value of wallet-to-wallet transactions stood at over GHS 8.3 million (USD 1.76 million). Interoperability was launched on 10 May. On addition, nearly 40,000 transfers were made from mobile money wallet to bank accounts, and were valued at some GHS 4.2 million (USD 892,000).

Ghana: Updated banking facilities - A new mobile banking application (formerly known as U-Mobile) has been launched by the United Bank for Africa (UBA) Ghana Limited, along with the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) code *822#. The new Mobile Banking App and USSD channels provide features that allow customers to operate a mini branch on their mobile devices. The app provides biometric log-in and facial recognition features for secure and personalised access and can be downloaded from the App Store and Google Play. Customers can register for the services to transfer money, buy airtime, check account balances, pay bills, transfer funds and conduct mobile money transfers.

State of Digital - Angola: February 2018

Kenya: Music management - The new general manager Safaricom's music streaming service, Songa, has been named as Chinasa Udeala. Udeala was East African regional director at Boomplay Music and also East Africa head of business for Spinlet, a streaming and download platform focusing on African content. He was also the head of business and content for music aggregator Africori in East Africa. Songa was launched in February 2018, and currently boasts about 100,000 users. A new version of the Songa app will be launched in June aimed at low-end smartphones which is promised to be twice as fast, and use only small amounts of data.

Mali: AT fancies its chances - Algerie Telecom's mobile subsidiary Mobilis is reported to be in the race for the fourth mobile licence, as originally announced by the government in March 2017. On 18 June 2018 Algerian Minister of Post, Telecommunications, Technology and Digital Imane Houda Feraoun said the State Participation Council (CPE) had approved the initiative, as Mobilis has the technical expertise and financial muscle to successfully enter the market.

Mauritius: Sea satellite surveying - In 2019 Mauritius will launch a CubeSat, its first satellite. Led by the Mauritius Research Council, an agency of the Ministry of Technology, Communication and Innovation, it won first prize in the KiboCUBE competition of the United Nations Office for Space Affairs (UNOOSA) on 18 June in Vienna, Austria. Once completed, the unit will be launched by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The Ministry of Technology, Communications and Innovation notes that the satellite will be used primarily for surveillance, namely ocean monitoring and optimal management of ocean resources, land mapping, road traffic control and disaster management. Mauritius will be the second country to receive JAXA support for the launch of its nano-satellite. On 11 May JAXA supported the 'Kenyan University Nano Satellite-Precursor Flight' (1KUNS-PF), manufactured by engineers from the University of Nairobi.

Nigeria: Data update - The Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) is to issue fresh directives to operators regarding Data Roll-over, CommunicationsWeek reported. The NCC's Consumer Affairs Bureau deputy director Alhaji Ismail Adedigba said the operation would take effect from 26 June. Subscribers will be able to roll-over unused data from one to seven days, depending on the data plan. This is described as a sequel to the earlier directive to service providers which had been effective since May. 

Nigeria: Fourth for new subscriptions - Three million additional mobile subscriptions were recorded in Nigeria in the first quarter of 2018, according to the latest Ericsson Mobility Report. It ranked above Bangladesh (+2 million additional mobile subscribers) in 5th place. China was ranked first with 53 million additional mobile subscriptions, followed by Indonesia (+6 million) and India (+16 million). Ericsson noted that even with the surge in Nigeria, Sub-Saharan Africa was found to have the lowest subscription penetration rate in 1Q 2018 (83 percent of population) among the nine global regions covered. Ericsson forecasts that growth in the Sub-Saharan Africa region will reach 930 million subscriptions by 2023, which amounts to a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5 percent, while smartphone subscriptions are expected to hit the 750 million mark in the same period.

Nigeria: Legal fees - The team of external lawyers that fought MTN's legal challenge following its SIM registration breaches in 2015, are to be paid NGN 500 million (USD 1.4 million). MTN Nigeria disputed the USD 3.9 billion fine imposed by the Nigerian Communications Commission following its failure to disconnect unregistered SIM cards from its network. The fine, which originally stood at USD 5.2 billion, was cut by 25 percent after lengthy negotiations, but MTN said in December 2015 that it would take the matter to court. Attorney General Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami was reported by Communications Week as saying that the payment was less than 1 percent of the entire fine. The team were appointed when MTN instigated a case seeking to retrain the federal government from levying the fine.

Nigeria: Number cull - Some 36.6 million telephone lines that were previously issued to 48 network operators have been removed from the National Numbering Plan (NNP) with effect from 20 March 2018, The Guardian has reported. Some of the firms are operational, but many have ceased operations. The operators include Alpha Wireless; Disc Communications; Mobitel; Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria; Starcomms; Zoom Mobile; Odu'a Telecoms; Rainbownet; Gicell Wireless; Broadband Technology; NITEL; Multilinks; BIG Communications; Bell and Bell Telecoms, among others. Some of the number blocks were originally issued by Nigeria Telecommunications Limited (NITEL). Details of NNP are here.

Nigeria: OTT assessment - The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is to evaluate the findings of a study into over-the-top (OTT) services carried out by the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) on the benefits and challenges in Nigeria. Should the findings be validated, it will form the basis of a regulatory framework for the control of such services, ThisDayLive reported.

Rwanda: Innovation loan - A new RWF 25.4 billion (USD 30 million) National Research and Innovation Fund has been launched by the government to accelerate ICT development. This follows a loan by the African Development Bank (AfDB), through its African Development Fund (ADF), Agence Ecofin reported. The national transformation strategy 2017-2024 envisages a year by year increase to the innovation fund, with a focus on the link between young innovators and the labour market.

Tanzania: Spectrum success - A spectrum auction has raised some USD 20 million after Vodacom Tanzania and newcomer Azam Telecom made successful bids. Vodacom Tanzania acquired 2x10 MHz in the 700 MHz band for USD 10.01 million and Azam Telecom 2x10 MHz for USD 10 million. A condition imposed by the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) is that Vodacom and Azam must ensure their mobile broadband services reach 60 percent of the population by 2021, rising to 90 percent by 2024. In May Vodacom said it planned to use the 700 MHz spectrum to bring 4G to more urban centres.

Uganda: Payment partnership - MTN Uganda and Standard Chartered Bank have partnered to launch the Straight2Bank Wallet. Standard Chartered first launched the service in Kenya, where it enables companies to make cashless payments to the MTN Mobile Money wallets of both banked and unbanked individuals. Uganda is the sixth African country where the service is available.

Uganda: Social banking facilitation - United Bank for Africa has launched Leo, a chat banking personality, enabling users to utilise their social media accounts to undertake key banking transactions including account opening, money transfer and airtime top-up, The Independent reported. The new service, available on the Facebook Messenger, is also accessible across the continent in various languages including French, with more social media platforms expected to be added in the near future. Money transfer services to other commercial banks will be charged at UGX 15,000 (USD 3.90) whereas the transfer of funds from the bank account to mobile money will attract a UGX 2,000 (USD 0.50) as a charge. The transfer of funds from mobile to UBA account will be based on telecom charges. UBA has operations in 20 countries, including its headquarters in Nigeria, and three financial centres in London, Paris and New York. In Uganda, the bank has 11 branches and 12 ATMs.

Zimbabwe: Cheaper data - POTRAZ (The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe) will formally reduce mobile data charges from 1 July. Out-of-bundle mobile Internet access will be charged at USD 0.05 per MB, down from the USD 0.125 per MB currently. POTRAZ says that it is updating the Long Run Incremental Costing (LRIC) model implemented in 2014 to factor in 'changing consumer behaviour which is moving from being voice-centric to being data-centric'. Mobile data accounts for some 90 percent of Internet access. The modeling of costs was undertaken by German-based Detecon International, with Minister of ICT Supa Mandiwanzira sayig at a press conference on 20 June 2018 that Detecon had been hired to update cost models to reflect emerging market trends in terms of changing consumer behavior.

Zimbabwe: Mobile money metrics - According to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe's Quarterly Economic Review the number of mobile banking agents rose to 48,812 in the first quarter of 2018 from 47,838 in 4Q 2017. There were 4.91 million active mobile financial services subscribers registered, up from 4.61 million at the end of 2017. The number of point-of-sale (POS) machines rose by 18.3 percent in the first quarter to 70,960. There was also a small increase in the number of automated teller machines (ATMs) in the quarter, in line with the Bank's drive to boost the use of electronic payment methods. The number of ATMs increased to 563 from 561. RBZ has set a target of 100,000 POS devices by 2020.

Zimbabwe: New entrant - Dark Fibre Africa (DFA) is to launch in Zimbabwe as it looks to extend its existing 10,000km fibre network, after it set-up shop in May according to DFA's Acting Chief Strategy Officer Vino Govender. The change in political leadership was claimed to be a factor but the increase in demand carried greater weight. ITWebAfrica reported that it also considering other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa which it is currently evaluating. DFA's CEO Thinus Mulder noted that the cost of laying cable is currently ZAR 800 (USD 60) a metre, which is primarily labour driven. Internet Solutions is rumoured to be in talks to acquire DFA for some ZAR 10 billion (USD 743 million) from Remgro.

Zimbabwe: Tax takes its toll - ISP ZOL is to raise data tariffs by an average of 5 percent shortly after regulator POTRAZ issued a directive for mobile operators to reduce out-of-bundle charges in July. In an email sent to clients on 20 June 2018 it said that the increase will be applied in August 2018 and cited economic challenges, and the special excise tax on data charges introduced by government in March 2017. Henceforth the cheapest package under ZOL's Fibroniks offerings will cost USD 32 for 25GB over 30 days, up from USD 29. Its premium offering, which is uncapped and aimed at corporates, has increased from USD 725 to USD 755 per month.

Middle East:

Bahrain: First for VIVA - The VIVA DataCenter is reported to be the first Uptime Institute Tier III certified facility in Bahrain. VIVA's CEO Ulaiyan Al Wetaid, said: "The value of Uptime Institute's Tier Certification is that it provides our customers a surety that our DataCenter is ideal from a critical business data perspective. Not only is it equipped with state-of-the-art hardware, it is managed by a highly specialized team of dedicated professionals, all of whom consider complete customer satisfaction to be one of their core priorities". The facility is also backed up with fibre-optic cables, which connects the DataCenter with international cables.

Iran: Rising metrics - Ministry of Communications data records the active mobile penetration at 110.5 percent at the end of March, up by over 6 percent from the same period in 2017. In 2008, the active mobile penetration rate was just 39.5 percent. Techrasa reported that over 169.5 million SIM cards have been assigned, of which 88 million are currently active. Mobile Internet users stood at 53.2 million. In 2017, international Internet bandwidth was 743 Gbps but by 1Q18 it had reached 1,500 Gbps. This compares with 6.05 Gbps in 2008. The local internet bandwidth reached 6,968 Gbps while in 2017 it was 6,800 Gbps. There are some 11.7 million ADSL or TD-LTE users. In 3Q17 there were 47.3 million mobile Internet and 10.4 million fixed line Internet subscribers. Currently there are some 30.9 million fixed lines, and 49,240 villages have access to fixed line phones.

Israel: Flexible prospectus - Partner Communications has published a shelf prospectus after receiving approvals from the Israeli Securities Authority and the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange in early June. The prospectus gives it the flexibility to offer debentures, ordinary shares and other securities from time to time until June 2020, or until June 2021 if extended by the ISA, subject to certain conditions.

Israel: Stake interest - The Globes news portal has reported that the Neuman brothers are offering to buy the shares of B Communication (Bezeq's parent company) held by Internet Gold Golden Lines worth some ILS 1 billion (USD 276 million). The creditor banks of Eurocom (Internet Gold's parent company) have filed for an injunction against the deal and are demanding an auction for the share sale. Investment house Altshuler Shaham, the second largest shareholder in Internet Gold, supports the banks' position. The brothers have also signed memorandum of understandings with the group's workers committees at Bezeq and subsidiaries Bezeq International and Pelephone. Only Yes staff did not sign, as they are represented by the National Labor Federation in Eretz-Israel (Histadrut Leumit).

Turkey: Alternative access - Ahead of the Turkish presidential elections on 24 June BestVPN.com reports that it saw a 131 percent increase in traffic to its VPN guides by Turkish citizens in the 24 hours before. Internet censorship was imposed in March 2018 through a new law which requires all online streaming and digital TV services to register with the RTUK media watchdog and to obey the same rules that apply to terrestrial TV broadcasters. Erdogan was successful in seeking re-election on 24 June.

Turkey: Certified data centre - Turkcell's 'Izmir Data Centre' was opened on 22 June in the Aegean region. The centre has a Tier 3 certificate. With a 'Leed Gold' certificate that documents green building and environmental compliance, the facility represents a significant investment, with a white space of 2,400 square metres and an indoor area of 14,500 square metres. The number of provinces with next-generation data centres will reach four upon the completion of the centres planned for Ankara in 2018, and after that, Corlu.

United Arab Emirates: Subscriptions rising - The number of mobile and Internet subscribers grew by 531,000 to over 24.03 million at the end of April from around 23.50 million at the end of December 2017, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) reported. Mobile phone subscriptions rose by 574,480 to 20.4 million during the first four months of 2018 from 19.83 million at the end of 2017. Pre-paid subscriptions stood at 17.05 million at the end of April, while post-paid stood at 3.35 million. Internet subscriptions at were 1.34 million during the period, as broadband Internet made up 1.34 million of the total internet subscriptions. Meanwhile, fixed Internet fell to just 67.

Device developments:

Cote d'Ivoire: P32 launched - itel on 12 June 2018 presented the P32, which is being offered at a price of XOF 43,000 (USD 76). It features a high-end design, a 4000mAh battery, a dual rear camera, an 18: 9 fullscreen immersion display and the fingerprint option for practical security. It offers 3 days of intensive use with a single charge.The P32 was available in stores from 13 June 2018.

South Africa: Nokia from Telkom - Telkom is offering the Nokia 1, Nokia 6.1 and Nokia 7 Plus mobile phones from HMD Global with Telkom FreeMe contracts. The exception is the Nokia 7 Plus, which is only available from 20 July. The devices are available on FreeMe 1 GB, 2 GB, 5 GB, 10 GB, 20 GB and Unlimited plans for both new and existing Telkom subscribers, on pre- and post-paid, and hybrid plans. The Nokia 1 smartphone can download YouTube videos for offline viewing, has front and rear camera, and Android 8.1 (Go Edition). The Nokia 6.1 comes with a 16 MP rear camera and 8MP front camera with Zeiss optics. The Nokia 7 Plus can deliver quality pictures in poor conditions. The dual camera features 12MP and 13MP sensors, with Zeiss optics and 2x optical zoom. The 16 MP front camera with Zeiss optics and great low light performance takes self-portraits day or night. The devices are available in conjunction with FreeMe packages ranging from ZAR 149 (USD 11) per month for 1 GB to ZAR 1,299 (USD 97) inclusive of free SIM card and connection.