News in Brief 1 August 2018

Africa: New post named - Liquid Telecom has named Ahmad Mokhles as Group Chief Operating Officer. This is a new post. Mokhles brings over twelve years of ICT experience to the role, having worked for Orascom, Etisalat, Ooredoo and Airtel Africa. Prior to joining Liquid Telecom, he served as COO for Airtel Nigeria; before then he was Executive Vice President of Consumer and Digital Business for Du, and also served as CCO for Asiacell in Iraq, part of Ooredoo Group.

Algeria: Regulatory upgrade - The Autorite de Regulation de la Poste et des Telecoms (ARPT) is to now be known as the Autorite de Regulation de la Poste et des Communications Electroniques (ARPCE). The new title reflects the regulator's wider involvement in all aspects of the developing digital communications sphere.

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Egypt: Social scrutiny - On 16 July Parliament passed a law creating powers to block social media accounts and penalise journalists judged to be authoring fake news, Reuters has reported. Social media accounts and blogs with more than 5,000 followers on sites such as Twitter and Facebook will be treated as media outlets, which make them subject to prosecution for publishing false news or incitement to break the law. The Supreme Council for the Administration of the Media, headed by an official appointed by President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, will supervise the law and take action against violations.

Ethiopia: Increasing interest - Vietmanese-owned telco Viettel is also considering opportunities in Ethiopia, after the government announced its intention to liberalise key economic sectors including telecommunications. A company representative told Reuters that with the experiences of Viettel over the years, the option of granting a new operation licence will create better competition for telcos which is also the option that it would prefer. Viettel has licenses in Mozambique, Burundi, Cameroon and Tanzania. However a stake in ET would be considered, if the terms were right. MTN and Orange are also reported to be interested: the latter previously having a management contract.

Kenya: Bank chat - UBA Kenya has launched an interactive chat banker christened 'Leo'. It uses artificial intelligence to help Facebook users open UBA bank accounts, make requests for mini statements, top up airtime, transfer money as well as log and track complaints. UBA East and Southern Africa executive director Emeke Iweriebor noted that since launch at group level in January, Leo has had 35 million conversations with customers and carried out over 500,000 financial transactions for more than 300,000 users. Kenya is the fifteenth country for UBA to launch the service.

Kenya: Health programme - Safaricom via its foundation, has launched a maternal, newborn and child health programme for residents of the Coast region. The Safaricom Foundation has partnered with the County Government to equip the new Maternal High Dependency Unit at the Coast General hospital. The new equipment is worth over KES 5.2 million (USD 51,400) and has been installed at the new born unit at the Kilifi County hospital. The new unit will cost KES 39 million with the foundation contributing KES 15 million. In Lamu the Foundation launched a maternal, neonatal and child health programme that seeks to offer quality healthcare services and health financing. The programme aims to reach over 42,000 people in Lamu.

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Kenya: Infrastructure expansion - Safaricom has commissioned two new base stations and expanded TTH connectivity in the Coast region. The new BTS at Holili in Taita Taveta County serves four counties (Taita Taveta, Kwale, Makueni and Kajiado) and provides the only 4G coverage in the area. The Coast region has some 586 base stations, with 80 commissioned in the last six months. It also launched FttH in Bamburi, Mombasa County for home Internet users.

Mauritius: Improving picture - The Information and Communication Technologies Authority (ICTA) has reported that mobile subscriptions rose by 1.4 percent from 1.81 million in 2016 to 1.84 million in 2017, while teledensity increased by 1.3 percent from 143.6 percent in 2016 to 145.5 in 2017. The number of Internet subscriptions rose by 14.5 percent from 1.09 million in 2016 to 1.25 million in 2017. There were some 135 large establishments (employing ten or more people) operating in the ICT sector in 2017, compared with 130 in 2016. In 2017, value added at current prices generated by the ICT sector rose by 4.2 percent from MUR 21.97 billion (USD 621 million) in 2016 to MUR 22.89 billion (USD 647 million).

Nigeria: Call masking collaboration - The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is to collaborate with the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) to address the issue of call masking, CommunicationsWeek reported. The collaboration is required as continued call masking poses a serious security threat.

Nigeria: Cost of picketing - Recent trade union activity has cost MTN Nigeria some NGN 12 billion (USD 33.2 million) in the four days that the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) allegedly disrupted operations, The Vanguard reported. Sources said the picketing totally grounded operations with staff being reportedly manhandled by the pickets.

State of Digital - Angola: February 2018

Nigeria: Device driven - V3D, a software vendor specialising in QoS/QoE (Quality of Service/Quality of Experience) has a new working relationship with MTN Nigeria. Delivered as part of Nokia's global CEM solution, V3D's EQual One provides a mobile agent technology to Nokia CEM network QoS monitoring and analytics tools and so improving Customer Experience knowledge with an extensive set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) obtained from end user devices. Nokia's MTN Nigeria Head of Customer Team Uzodinma Odimuko said "We are very pleased with the supporting of V3D technology and we are confident that with Nokia's expertise we will help providing our customers a superior Customer Experience while allowing us to simultaneously improve operational efficiencies".

Nigeria: Internet initiative - Google is to install 200 wi-fi kiosks in the cities of Port Harcourt, Abuja, Kaduna, Enugu, Ibadan in 2019. It is claimed that some 10 million people will be covered by high-quality Internet services. Google's Vice President of Product Management Anjali Joshi said it is investing in Nigeria as the Internet has the potential to completely transform the country. Nigeria os one of the nation's from which it expects to draw its next billion Internet users with a fast, secure and easy-to-use wi-fi experience.

Rwanda: Money transfers - Mobile network operators MTN, Airtel and Tigo have agreed to facilitate cross-network money transfers. Although now with a common ownership, Airtel and Tigo continue to operate as separate entities, but have already implemented transfers between their users. The East African reports that the three are currently seeking regulatory approval for the initiative, which is expected to reduce transaction costs and widen financial inclusion. There were some 9.05 million mobile subscribers at the end of March 2018.

Seychelles: Survey MoU signed - A deal signed with Airtel will allow the Public Health Authority's Disease Surveillance and Response Unit (DSRU) to undertake comprehensive online surveys. Airtel will equip the MiFi devices with a monthly capacity of 10 gigabytes each, which the DSRU will use for its surveillance. The MoU also provides tablets, each accompanied by a smartphone, to improve the collection and compilation of statistics, especially during field surveys.

South Africa: Fastest 4G - Vodacom has the fastest 4G network and overall fastest network, respectively. Ookla confirmed results from the second quarter user-initiated test taken with Speedtest involving 185,000 tests across around 55,000 unique 4G devices during the period from April to June. Vodacom has also claimed the title of Fastest Network in ATIO's All Technology, 2Q 2018 results. ATIO uses specialised equipment fitted in custom vehicles. In the three months starting April, ATIO performed hundreds of thousands of tests including up to 100,000 download tests.

South Africa: VP step down - MTN Group Vice President of Digital Services, Data Analytics and Business Development Stephen van Coller has stepped down with effect from 31 August. He will be group CEO at another JSE listed company. Van Coller joined MTN on 1 October 2016 and under his leadership the mobile financial services customer base more than doubled to 25 million and significant progress has been made throughout the group in building big data analytics and Rich Media Services in music, video and gaming.

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Tanzania: Thefts targetted - Minister ICT Isack Kamwelwe has given Vodacom Tanzania 30 days to provide answers regarding cyber-related issues on its network, The Citizen has reported. The query related to mobile money thefts targeting subscribers. The minister said that the failure to provide robust solutions would see the operator responsible for making good any losses.

Uganda: Fact finding mission - The GSMA is to meet with the government in October to discuss the recently imposed mobile money taxes. In June parliament passed a law that imposed a 1 percent tax on mobile money transactions, as well as a daily UGX 200 (USD 0.05) tax on social media services. GSMA Intelligence's lead analyst Kenechi Okeleke said it wanted to engage the government so that it could clearly understand where they are coming from. Three of the four levies it imposed on mobile money transactions have been dropped, with the 0.5 percent charge on cash withdrawals still in force. The government said that by mid-June it had collected UGX 7 billion (USD 1.8 million) through the new social media and mobile money transaction tax, just a week into a new financial year. State Minister for Finance David Bahati told a media briefing that although Cabinet approved a reduction of excise duty on mobile money from 1 percent to 0.5 percent, the drop would not affect its earlier estimates of collecting UGX 118 billion (USD 31.7 million) from the tax.

Uganda: Talks tabled - The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has mediated in a dispute between 4G provider Smile Communications and tower partner Eaton Towers. PML Daily reported that Eaton Towers had disconnected Smile's access to its tower network after the two failed to resolve a financial dispute, leading to disruption of Smile's service. Access to the tower network has been restored while negotiations between the parties continue. Smile operates an 800MHz TD-LTE network, providing fixed-wireless and mobile access in Kampala, Entebbe, Mukono, Jinja, Mbale, Soroti, Tororo, Lira, Gulu, Masindi, Kasese, Fort Portal, Kabale, Mbarara and Masaka.

Uganda: VAS funding - The US Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) has lent Africell, with operations in four countries, UGX 130 million (USD 34,875), The Monitor reported. OPIC is to invest some USD 58 million by providing capital to private companies to promote value addition and increase their operational scope. OPIC's President and Chief Executive Officer Ray W. Washburne said the fund was targeting logistics, transportation, telecommunications, internet connectivity and value chain projects in sectors such as agriculture. The money is to be lent to private companies at an interest rate of about 5 percent.

Middle East:

Oman: Internet on the up - The National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI) reports that the number of Internet subscriptions stood at 387,689 at the end of May, up 10.3 percent from 351,335 at the end of December 2017. The number of fixed broadband subscribers at more than 256 kbps stood at 385,350, and the number of subscribers of narrowband services, with speeds of less than 256 kbps, was 2,339. Post-paid mobile usage rose 4.5 percent in May to 679,974 users from 678,415 in the previous month. Fixed telephone lines rose by 9.2 percent to 543,708 from 527,113 in April. Total mobile subscriptions in May fell 3.7 percent to 6.69 million.

Oman: Speed tripling - Ooredoo Oman has upgraded its Fibre Home Broadband such that users can have had their speed tripled for OMR 5 (USD 13) per month. The offer is available until 22 September on 20, 50, and 100 Mbps contract plans. On a twelve-month contract, customers who sign up for 20 Mbps will be upgraded to 60 Mbps for the additional OMR 5, the 50 Mbps bundle will be upgraded to 150 mbps for an extra OMR 6 a month and the 100 Mbps bundle will be upgraded to 300 Mbps for an extra OMR 7 a month.

Qatar: 50 5G sites - 5G is now available at 50 sites according to Ooredoo Qatar. Ooredoo said it was the first operator in the world to launch a 5G network commercially in May. Some of the most populated areas in Doha are now 5G-enabled, meaning many users will be able to access the 5G network as devices become available. Ooredoo has also said that it has thoroughly tested a batch of the first live 5G home broadband devices; the 25 devices are currently being tested on the new 3.5GHz network. The 4G/5G modems enable up-to-2Gbps data connections, whilst the current peak speed of Ooredoo's 5G (Non-Standalone) New Radio (NR) network is 2.5Gbps. Ooredoo plans to extend coverage to 100 base stations in August, whilst it does not expect to have commercial 5G mobile handsets until mid-2019.

Qatar: Improved performance - The Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA) has completed its 2G, 3G and 4G coverage benchmarking exercise involving the Ooredoo and Vodafone Qatar networks. The audit was conducted from May to December 2017. The audit found improvements over the audits conducted by CRA in the previous years for both network operators.

Saudi Arabia: Handy metric - The Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) has released an update to regulate the quality of services by network operator, Arab News has reported. The decision includes standards and indicators that assess the quality of service and enable consumers to compare Internet, mobile and fixed service providers. CITC has categorized providers by the volume of complaints the commission receives and issued a report for the fourth quarter 2017. CITC said the new indicator would encourage STC, Mobily, Zain, Go, Lebara and Virgin to focus more on customer service and quality of service.

Turkey: Battery boost - Sparkle has adopted energy efficient Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery technology for uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) in its Istanbul Data Centre. Compared with the traditional lead-acid batteries, Li-ion batteries offer double the lifespan with 60-80 percent reduced weight, have about a third of the footprint, and do not require ventilation, resulting in reduced cooling capacity. Sparkle intends to further expand its Istanbul investments.