News in Brief 3 July 2018

Africa:

Botswana: Internet funding - Paratus Botswana and Bank Gaborone are to offer financing options for Internet via satellite (VSAT). Paratus Botswana's Managing Director Shawn Bruwer says it now offers VSAT throughout sub-Saharan Africa, including Botswana. The VSAT service can connect any business in remote areas, and claims to offer higher speeds than rivals.

Cameroon: SAIL sales partner sought - Camtel is looking for a partner to promote and commercialize the data capabilities of the South Atlantic Inter Link (SAIL) fibre optic submarine cable. The Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, Minette Libom Li Likeng, is seeking a partner with experience in supporting and advising operators in the international telecommunications sector, with skills in management, marketing, management, and with a working knowledge of the local telecommunications environment. The 6,000 km long cable was provided by Nexans, and is being laid by Huawei Marine Networks; laying started on 22 May 2018, and is due to be completed by 30 August 2018. The cable will have a data capacity of 32 Tbps.

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Korean collaboration - A Korea Telecom (KT) delegation was received by the Minister of Posts, Telecommunications on 27 June 2018 and New Information and Communication Technologies (MPT-NTIC), Emery Okundji. This was reciprocal visit, the Minister visiting South Korea on 17 June, and is part of the programme to strengthen KT's investments in the DRC through a public-private partnership. Prior to the meeting the Minister announced that Israel-based Telrad Networks had won a contract to provide the public administration with information solutions.

East Africa: Satellite solution - Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda have agreed to co-operate on the launch of a telecommunication satellite on 26 June 2018 at the 14th Northern Corridor Summit in Nairobi, Kenya, Agence Ecofin repored. Presidents Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya agreed to launch a joint satellite. In March the Ugandan Communications Commission (UCC) signed a partnership agreement with Intelsat SA and Gilat Satellite Networks to improve rural coverage, whilst Rwanda plans to launch its first communication satellite by 2020 in collaboration with Japan.

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Ethiopia: Passenger payments - Ethiopian Airlines and CellPoint Mobile have partnered to provide alternative payment technology for passengers. The African travel market in Africa reached 18 million in 2017 with Chinese accounting for 11.6 million CellPoint said in a press release. Ethiopian Airlines will offer payments methods using China's AliPay or WeChat Pay apps. A Velocity payment solution will be used, with a merchant-side payment controlled platform designed for the travel industry.

Gabon: Attacks ameliorated - On 19 June 2018 Gabon Telecom (GT) announced the launch of its APS solution to provide protection for the 400,000 IP addresses of its customers. GT claims there are an average of 743 DDoS monthly attacks.

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Kenya: Transaction charges - From 1 July new charges for Safaricom's money transfer service M-Pesa were applied. Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich said that users would now be charged 12 percent up from 10 percent of the cost of the money transfer. However transfers of under KES 100 (USD 0.98) to other M-Pesa users will, however, still be free although limited to three per day. M-Pesa users will pay KES 1 for amounts between KES 1 and 49 and KES 2 for amounts between KES 50 and 100. The maximum daily transaction value is KES 140,000 while the maximum amount per transaction is KES 70,000.

Malawi: Money merger - Airtel Malawi and First Merchant Bank (FMB) are to merge their mobile money operations, the Nyasa Times reported. Airtel Money will merge with the bank's electronic services as well as normal business-hour offering. Airtel Money users will now be able to cash out or withdraw money from FMB ATMs at any time with the bank's customers also able to move money from their bank accounts into their Airtel Money accounts or deposit cash into their FMB accounts without visiting the bank's branches. Airtel Money users cashing out from the bank's ATM's 24/7 without using an ATM card.

Morocco: Phone plant - US-based STG (Secure Technologies Group) is to create a phone assembly plant in 2019-2020, the group’s founder Adnan Ouassini said. STG was established in Silicon Valley through Technology Capital Invest (TCI), an investment holding company in new technologies, also founded and chaired by Ouassini. The plant is expected to generate 250 direct and 300 indirect jobs.

Nigeria: Call masking collaboration - The Consumer Protection Council and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) have met to investigate call masking on the directive of the National Assembly. It was to also review the existing MoU between the two and discuss how to work together to improve complaints resolution of telecom consumers. The NCC's EVC Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta said call masking using another number, especially international calls, was growing. The office of the National Security Adviser had directed the NCC to contain the problem, even before the directive from the National Assembly to the NCC and the CPC.

Nigeria: Centre certified - The Uptime Institute has issued a Tier III Constructed Facility certification (TCCF) to MainOne's Data Centre subsidiary, MDXI. Consequently MDXI claims to now be the leading data centre in West Africa. The 600 rack facility in Lekki is intended to meet the rapidly growing demand for Colocation, Managed Hosting and Cloud services within the region.

Nigeria: China calling - Chinese companies have invested over USD 16 billion in fixed telecom assets and facilities for most of the network operators, Minister of Communications Adebayo-Shittu has said. He made the comments at the 'Africa-China Cooperation in Information Technology and Digital Economy: Prospects and Challenges' one-day conference Abuja according to The Vanguard, organized by the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, in association with Chinese Embassy and Huawei Technologies. The minister noted that the ICT sector has provided USD 32 billion in foreign direct investment over the last 15 years. Huawei Technologies and China Railway Construction Corporation are collaborating with the Ministry of Communications on NIPOST's e-post project.

Nigeria: Mobile video - Kwese iflix, the joint venture between Econet Media and Iflix, is launching its new premier digital entertainment platform in partnership with Airtel Nigeria. The platform will offer international, regional and local content programmes with an African focus, includes live coverage of sporting competitions and the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The service leverages Airtel's 4G network, and does not need a decoder box. Airtel's data offer provides unlimited 24-hour streaming to all Kwese iflix premium VIP content from NGN 300 (USD 0.83) per day.

Rwanda: Future funding - The government has launched a USD 30 million National Research and Innovation Fund, TIC Magazine reported. The Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente said that the fund will boost the ICT sector in the country by encouraging the development of new ideas and projects. It will focus on the link between young innovators and the job market. It will provide equity financing to small and medium-sized technology companies, train technology-oriented entrepreneurs in business planning and management, and increase awareness of intellectual property rights.

another fine mess for african telecoms

South Africa: Cell-C consolidation - GloCell is to hand over its post-paid customer base to Cell-C after it was appointed as Cell-C's service agent for customers who were migrated from Altech Autopage in 2016. The process to integrate the customers into Cell-C's systems is expected to be completed by mid-July. In May 2015 Altech started the process of offload its million-strong subscriber base, and by August it had entered into deals with Vodacom South Africa, MTN and Cell-C. The deals were subsequently challenged by Altech's largest customer Saicom Holdings in December, and following a further investigation into the matter, the antitrust authority belatedly approved the acquisitions in February 2016.

South Africa: Commercial chief - Cell-C's new Chief Commercial Officer is Junaid Munshi, with effect from 2 July 2018. Munshi worked for the operator in the period 2002 to 2004. In the interim he held a variety of posts with Vodacom Group, the last of which was that of managing executive: CBU & M-Pesa for the company's International Division. He was the commercial managing executive at Vodacom Tanzania and Vodacom Mozambique from 2004 to 2013.

State of Digital - Angola: February 2018

South Africa: Fixed home Internet - MTN South Africa has addressed consumer needs for in-home Internet connectivity with its Made For Home proposition available on the Mons fixed LTE network, and is intended for use within a fixed location. The plug and play solution requires a router and a SIM card to give multiple users within the home connectivity. Users can choose from a range of 4 MTN Made for Home price plans, starting from ZAR 369 (USD 27) per month, all bundled with the Sh@relink B612 as entry level device. The online coverage map shows MTN's Fixed LTE coverage area.

Sudan: Technology trials - Sudatel and Nokia are to trial Nokia 4.5G Pro, 4.9G and 5G mobile technologies, along with Nokia's fixed fibre-to-the-home (FttH) portfolio; initially in Khartoum. The 5G-ready AirScale radio access portfolio will be evaluated to see how it increases capacity and speeds, while providing a path to 5G in the future. In addition, Sudatel will leverage Nokia's PON fibre solutions to enhance the residential broadband experience. A high-speed fixed technology trial will start in Khartoum in July.

Uganda: Social media tax - In a joint statement MTN, Airtel and Africell provided details of how users should pay a social media tax to be introduced on 1 July. The tax will apply to over-the-top (OTT) apps such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter, will be levied at the rate of UGX 200 (USD0.05) per day. Users will be able to pay the duty on a daily, weekly or monthly basis using either MTN or Airtel's mobile money service. Failure to pay will see access blocked.

Zambia: Faults fined - The Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA) has fined MNO's MTN, Airtel and Zamtel a combined ZMK 12.6 million (USD 1.3 million) for providing poor service. The three presented a variety of issues, including dropped calls, failed texts and poor Internet services. MTN has been fined ZMK 3.6 million (USD 360,000), Airtel ZMK 4.2 million (USD 420,000) and Zamtel ZMK 4.8 million (USD 480,000).

Middle East:

Bahrain: Layer 3 solution - Batelco is now a Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute partner, and is offering its client's access to Microsoft Cloud Services using Batelco's 26+ PoPs global network. Batelco has launched a private network cable giving dedicated connection between customers' IT environments and Azure datacentres.

Bahrain: Self service - VIVA Bahrain is launching self-service machines which will allow users to complete various transactions via a one stop solution provided by Payment International Enterprise (PIE). They will be installed in all VIVA outlets.

Oman: App add-ons - Ooredoo Oman's mobile app now has additional features, enabling users to surf, purchase, subscribe to services and manage their mobile accounts. It includes access to the current daily 'Ooredoo Surprises', to a list of Nojoom rewards partners, and SIM card home delivery. Twitter and Facebook can be used to log-in. The app is free of charge from the Apple Store or Google Play.

Oman: Fixed portability prize - Ooredoo Oman has signed up a global management consulting firm as a new customer after the fixed number portability regime was launched early in 2018. Businesses can now switch their telecoms provider while keeping their existing fixed numbers. Ooredoo said customers can use their existing infrastructure to gain access to Ooredoo’s SIP lines. It also offers a toll-free service and free business group calls, as well as fixed-mobile convergence and managed PBX.

Oman: Souped up satellite service - Omantel Wholesale has increased its satellite capacity to deliver maximum uptime for local, regional and global customers in a deal with North Telecom, utilising additional transponders to enhance Ku band satellite capacity. North Telecom Group CEO Hadi Nazari, said: "Growth of global Internet means that applications and service have to be delivered with always-on performance. Together with Omantel, we're ensuring that end users get connected and have an optimal application experience." NorthTelecom is a fixed and mobile satellite service provider in MENA & APAC regions, providing a wide range of global satellite services.

Qatar: 5G footprint expanded - Ooredoo Qatar now has some 22 live 5G network towers, and is focusing initial coverage of the first stage of Ooredoo's 5G Supernet deployment in an area from The Pearl Qatar to Hamad International Airport, with Lagoona, Katara Cultural Village, West Bay, the Corniche and Souq Waqif also included. Ooredoo Chief Executive Officer Waleed Al Sayed said: "At our world-first 5G launch in May, we promised that 100 5G sites would be ready in three months and we are working hard to fulfil this.'' In mid-May Ooredoo Qatar claimed to be the first operator in the world to launch a 5G network commercially in the 3.5GHz spectrum band.

Qatar: Dodgy number detector - Ooredoo Global Services is using Belgacom International Carrier Services (BICS) crowd-sourced fraud prevention platform, FraudGuard, to block fraudulent telecoms activity targeting its international traffic. FraudGuard was deployed following a successful two-month trial, marking an expansion of the long-term partnership between BICS and Ooredoo Global Services. The database has crowd-sourced details of suspicious network activity from BICS' global base of over 1,200 customers. Consequently it can recognise and block activity to known numbers, identified from a list of over 50 million that have been previously linked to criminal activity. Since its launch in 2013, FraudGuard has blocked over 600 million fraudulent call attempts.

Device developments:

Africa & Middle East: Sony withdrawal? - Venture Beat's Evan Blass reports that Sony is to cut the losses in its mobile business, and will shortly withdraw from the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa. It is suggested that it will close down its operations and offices in the region by October 2018.

Nigeria: Nokia latest - HMD Global has launched the new Nokia 3.1, and it is available from accredited dealers for NGN 50,000 (USD 138). The 3.1, an Android One phone, is shipped with an anodised metal frame and sculpted glass display with 18:9 screen ratio. The 5.2-inch HD+ display is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3, and runs on a MediaTek 6750 octa-core chipset.