News in Brief 18 July 2018

Africa:

Africa: Ownership opportunity - TomTom is buying out the minority shareholders of TomTom Africa, and consequently, TomTom is to increase its ownership from 76 percent to 100 percent. TomTom said there is growth potential in Africa for geospatial applications, smart city services, connected navigation and highly automated driving.

Algeria: BSS milestone - Mobile network operator Djezzy has announced the successful implementation of a new Business Support System (BSS) as part of a wider IT contract secured by Ericsson in 2016 with Djezzy's parent Vimpelcom (now VEON). It said that the commissioning of the Ericsson's BSS platform was an important step in its ongoing digital transformation programme.

Cameroon: Muted portability - Business in Cameroon reports that the uptake of mobile number portability has been low since its introduction on 1 September 2017. Mobile network operators MTN, Orange and Nexttel invested some XAF 1.5 billion (USD 2.7 million) for the construction by Huawei of infrastructure to facilitate the technology. ART Technical Director Eric Sindeu was quoted as saying that the regulator 'did not have many funds to sensitize citizens as we would have liked'. Most mobile phones sold in Cameroon are dual SIM. The regulations also only allow one port per annum per user.

Cote d'Ivoire: Orange VISA - On 10 July Orange Money's Cote d'Ivoire Managing Director, Marius Yao unveiled the Orange Money payment card, allowing fast and secure payments to from the mobile money account. The card is the result of a partnership with payment card specialist VISA and Banque Atlantique Cote d'Ivoire, a subsidiary of Banque Centrale Populaire Group. Orange Group has more than 30 million Orange Money customers in 17 African countries, and Cote d'Ivoire is the third African subsidiary to provide the card, after Botswana and Cameroon. The Orange Money VISA card will be marketed from 17 July 2018, and will only be available through Orange agencies.

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Kenya: ATU candidacy - The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) Director of Legal Services John Omo, is to stand for election as Secretary-General of the African Telecommunications Union (ATU) at the Plenipotentiary Conference on 17 August in Nairobi. Omo aims to position the ATU as a 'truly specialised' agency of the African Union (AU) regarding ICT. The candidacy has been endorsed by the CA and former Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Communication, & Technology (MICT) Sammy Itemere. ATU's Programme Coordinator, Alice Koech, confirmed that current Secretary-General Abdoulkarim Soumaila, from Niger, will not stand for re-election because he has served two four-year terms as permitted by the ATU's constitution and the convention.

Nigeria: Decoder distribution - Kwese TV decoders are to be sold through 9mobile Experience Centres where a Kwese kit comprising a dish, decoder, one-month subscription and installation for NGN 10,960 (USD 30.30). The distribution will be phased in, starting at major Lagos branches at The Palms Shopping Mall, Ikeja City Mall, Adeola Odeku Street on Victoria Island, Mushin, Surulere and Festac Town. 9mobile subscribers will be able to access the Kwese Iflix app with exclusive video data bundles for the Kwese Iflix one-day, three-day, seven-day and thirty-day VIP passes.

Nigeria: Money launch - 9mobile has launched its 9pay mobile money service. This is an operator-billed payment platform for Google Play store users, launched in partnership with Google, and mobile payments company Bango.

Nigeria: Rate revisions - From 1 August 2018 Multichoice Nigeria will cut subscription prices on its terrestrial platform GOTV, while increasing the prices of its digital satellite platform DSTV. The GOTV Max package will henceforth be NGN 3,200 (USD 8.85), down from NGN 3,800 while GOTV Plus, GOTV Value and GoTV Lite will be unchanged at NGN 1,900, NGN 1,250 and NGN 400 (USD 5.26; 3.46 and 1.10) respectively. DSTV will be increased to NGN 15,800 (USD 43.70) from NGN 14,700 (USD 40.66); Compact Plus to NGN 10,650 (USD 29.46) from 9,900; Compact to NGN 6,800 (USD 18.81) from 6,300; Family to NGN 4,000 (USD 11.06) from 3,800 and on Access to NGN 2,000 (USD 5.53) from 1,900.

State of Digital - Angola: February 2018

Nigeria: Top telecom market - Ovum in its Nigeria Telecoms and Media Outlook report published in partnership with Nigeria.com has concluded that Nigeria the 10th largest telecoms and media market globally by total number of connections in 2017. The number of subscriptions from mobile, fixed broadband, fixed voice, and pay-TV had reached 171 million as of the end of 2017. It predicted that the Nigerian telecoms and media market would have 220 million subscriptions by the end of 2022; a CAGR of 4.2 percent. Nigeria is expected to retain its top place in Africa in 2022, while globally, it would rise from the 10th to eighth place. It is expected to have some 210 million mobile subscriptions in 2022. The number of fixed broadband subscriptions will increase from 1.7 million in 2017 to 3.2 million in 2022. Ovum said that Nigeria accounted for 11 percent of African revenue in 2017 having generated USD 7.3 billion in 2017, ranking second in Africa behind South Africa.

Senegal: Universal service update - A review of the Universal Telecommunication Service Development Fund (FDSUT) has been completed by the Defis et Strategies/Titane consortium which presented its final report on 13 July 2018, Agence Ecofin reported. The study examined the technical, economic, legal and institutional aspects of the Fund. The report found that there is "a need to review the draft of the Telecommunications Code and the draft decree establishing the FSDS and to choose a clear operational option (...) How to understand that the resources intended for this fund are collected by the public treasury while in the Telecoms Code, this mission is devolved to ARTP who is in charge of this mission." Monies due to be paid to the Fund in 2017 have not been handed over. Minister of Communication, Telecommunications, Posts and the Digital Economy, Abdoulaye Balde, said that the updated Fund would contribute to the success of the digital inclusion policy of the Senegal Digital Strategy 2025.

South Africa: Cell-C stakes a claim on orange - Cell-C is evolving its strategy, and with this, its brand identity, following its recapitalisation in December 2017. Aided by FCB Africa and 1886 advertising, the operator has rebranded with a colour change to orange and purple on all new marketing materials, including all branding elements on Cell-C's office campus. It has now also rolled out a new logo. 1886 chief creative officer Stuart Stobbs said: "Orange is a vibrant, fresh and exciting colour. It is also an 'unowned' or 'unclaimed' colour, and will assist Cell-C to stand out from the crowd". One wonders if the erstwhile France Telecom thinks it is an 'unowned' colour. Cell-C will continue to roll out the new brand identity over the next few months.

South Africa: Level playing field needed - MultiChoice CEO Calvo Mawela is blaming an unregulated Netflix for their loss of more than 100,000 subscribers in the last financial year, and an additional 40,000 in the current year. In a 12 July interview with the Business Day newspaper, Mawela called on regulators to clamp down on Netflix and other over-the-top services. Mawela previously told the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa that Netflix was already at an advantage as they did not have to contend with affirmative action regulations and Black Economic Empowerment.

South Africa: Non-core sale - MTN Group Ltd said on 16 July that its Dubai subsidiary had sold its Cyprus business to Monaco Telecom S.A for EUR 260 million (USD 304 million). The deal allows the use of the MTN brand for up to three years for a fee. MTN Cyprus was acquired as part of the acquisition of telecoms holding company Investcom LLC in 2006. MTN said that it fell outside the groupâ??s core footprint of Africa and the Middle East.

South Africa: WhatsApp bundle - Telkom has launched a 1GB WhatsApp bundle for ZAR 15 (USD 1.10), where the data lasts for 30 days and can only be used on the messaging platform. The bundle was launched on 5 July as a special offer which may be repeated from time to time, Telkom said.

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Uganda: Browser blocked - Opera Mini or Opera Android was reported to have been blocked by MTN Uganda, the dignited.com Website reported on 9 July 2018. MTN confirmed in a tweet that has blocked the whole Opera browser, although no explanation was provided. It continued work on the Airtel, Africell and other networks. The Opera browser can be used to access some of the taxable OTT services such as Facebook, as it uses its own proxy servers and caches to serve sites faster and more effectively. Since the tax was launched, mobile money transactions are reported to have seen a record drop of some 60 percent in just 5 days after the law was enacted according to the Daily Monitor.

Uganda: Porno not permitted - The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) in a letter dated 6 July has ordered telcos and ISPs to block local and international pornographic sites. UCC Executive Director Godfrey Mutabazi distributed a list of 17 popular local and 10 international Websites, which was created by the Pornography Control Committee. The list is of sites claimed to be streaming pornographic to Uganda in breach of section 13 of the Anti-Pornography Act, 2014.

another fine mess for african telecoms

Uganda: Repent at leisure... - The Observer reports President Yoweri Museveni as saying that subscribers who have paid the 1 percent in mobile money tax should be refunded. It would appear that the intention was to charge 0.5 percent, and which Museveni signed knowing it was erroneous. When parliament reconvenes, the error is to be corrected. He noted that each day some USD 52 million is transacted via mobile money, or some USD 19 billion per annum. Issues still to be resolved are whether tax should only be deducted from the sender or also the recipient, and whether mobile money tax is affordable.

Uganda: Social tax softening - Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda has told Parliament on 11 July that the government will review the social media and mobile money taxes, following public concerns. In June the Excise Duty (Amendment) Bill 2018 introduced a levy of UGX 200 (USD 0.05) per day for access to a range of online platforms including Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, YouTube, Skype and Yahoo Messenger. The taxes were applied from 1 July, including a 1 percent tax on all mobile money transactions. This latter tax was subsequently revised downwards to 0.5 percent by President, Yoweri Museveni. Uganda has some 24.95 million mobile phone subscribers at the end of 2017, 17 million of whom use the Internet, according to the Uganda Communications Commission.

Zimbabwe: Staff say not sacked - TelOne is facing a demand for compensation for USD 23 million from some 82 dismissed former workers. The amount represents accumulated salary arrears, unpaid benefits and retrenchment packages following their alleged 'unofficial and unlawful' dismissal 14 years ago, according to The Herald. The workers claim that due process of termination was not followed, and that they are therefore still employed, and therefore their rights remain intact. Some 1,655 workers were fired for taking part in the 2004 job action campaign. A submission was filed with the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfareâ??s Department of Labour Administration.

Middle East:

Israel: Bezeq executive exit - Bezeq announced on 9 July that its Vice President Technologies & Network, Yaki Zano, had resigned, after holding the post for three years. Zano will remain in post 'as long as required', whilst the company seeks a replacement. Zano joined the company as a technician with digital switchboards and progressed to managing the entire portfolio of technology and network activities.

Israel: Spectrum loan - Partner Communications has said that the Ministry of Communications has temporarily allocated it spectrum in the 700 MHz frequency band for the use of advanced LTE technologies. This will allow it to improve the quality and coverage of mobile services it provides to its subscribers, Partner said. The allocation is valid until the Ministry completes the tender for issuing the spectrum. Partner must make use of the frequencies within 90 days.

Israel: Vendor IPO - ECI Telecom is expecting to raise GBP 130 million (USD 172 million) on the London Stock Exchange. The deal would therefore value the company at around GBP 500 million, Calcalist reported. Barclays and UBS Group are the bookrunners for the initial public offering, Calcalist said, citing a person familiar with the matter. The equipment supplier has a preference for London as most of its sales are from Europe, Africa and East Asia.

Jordan: Mobile supermarket - Orange Jordan has launched the iMoneh application at its growth accelerator platform BIG, in the King Hussein Business Park. The iMoneh project aims to facilitate shopping for application users and is the first app in Jordan to offer an electronic supermarket service. The BIG programme focuses on developing start-ups.

Qatar: Pre-paid Pepsi promo - With every purchase of a 2.25L Pepsi, Mirinda, 7UP or Mountain Dew bottle, Vodafone Qatar pre-paid users can win up to 10,000 Flex credits for free data and minutes. The offer runs until 1 October or until the available stock is exhausted. Buyers have to check the code at the bottom of the promotional yellow bottle caps and then dial a shortcode from any Vodafone pre-paid number to activate the offer. The free services can be redeemed until 30 December. 

Saudi Arabia: Mounting losses - Zain Saudi has filed its third consecutive quarter of losses for the second quarter of 2018. Zain is reported to have recorded a loss of SAR 115 million (USD 30.6 million) in the first half of 2018, compared to a profit of SAR 53 million (USD 14.1 million) in the same period last year. In September 2017 a long-term ban on voice calls using Skype and WhatsApp applications was lifted, with the alleged aim of attracting foreign investment and opening Saudi society.

United Arab Emirates: Cost cutter - Virgin Mobile is offering subscribers a 50 percent cut in bills, with 10GB and 500 local minutes being offered for AED 149.50 (USD 40.70) per month. The offer is available exclusively via the Virgin Mobile App, and users need to sign up for a 12-month subscription and make a one-time payment; there is also a six-month plan offering 30 per cent discount on their bill. Virgin Mobile is a unit of Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (du). In 2017 it announced a SIM card delivery service.

United Arab Emirates: Roadmap for du - Mobile network operator du has published a 'white paper' entitled 'EITC Infrastructure Outlook 2021' in conjunction with Cisco as it moves to being an ICT service provider by 2021. The paper sets out du's plans for adopting digital technology, transition to digital services, customer-centricity and uniformity of service. It says that adopting a software-defined approach will support du in service delivery. The Internet of Things (IoT) is shifting connectivity from end-user devices to machine-to-machine (M2M) connections. Cisco estimates that M2M modules will account for 51 percent of all networked devices in 2021, and 43 percent of all networked devices will be mobile-connected, of which smartphones will account for half. The report can be downloaded here.

Device developments:

Oman: Instalment plans - Ooredoo Oman has extended its Shahry device instalment plans. Until 8 October users avoid making a down-payment when buying the latest smartphones by signing up to a 12 or 24 month contract. When paired with a two-year Shahry 60 plan, users do not make a down payment. A one-year contract has down payments starting at OMR 30 (USD 78). The Shahry device instalment offer is open to new and existing Ooredoo subscribers, and contracts come with Data Rollover and up to 40GB of data. Shahry 10 provides 2GB of data, while Shahry 20 delivers 8GB, Shahry 35 20GB, and Shahry 60 40 GB per month with two-year subscriptions; one year contracts have half of these values.

South Africa: Latest from LG - LG has launched the LG Q7, BusinessTech reports. The LG Q7 will be available from ZAR 5,999 (USD 445) on a pre-paid basis and ZAR 349 (USD 26) on a post-paid contract, available from Vodacom and Cell-C. Price and purchase details will be announced locally at the time of availability.