News in Brief 15 August 2018

Africa & Middle East: Better understanding - MTN Group has contracted Flytxt to automate inbound and outbound marketing across its entire network of more than 224 million subscribers. The three-year licensing deal means that all the company's operations will be using Flytxt's NEON-dX product for outbound and inbound marketing across traditional and digital touch points. The software will enable MTN to better understand its customers through learning their behaviour and predicting what they want in real time. NEON-dX replaces MTN's existing system and is designed to use machine learning, with the insights from advanced analytics allowing the personalisation of offers and services to reflect the customer's contextual needs and interests in real-time.

Equatorial Guinea: Graduate induction - On 7 August the Minister of Transport, Post and Telecommunications, Eucario Bacale Angue, met with 15 graduates of the University of Science and Technology Electronics in Xian, China, to address issues related to their insertion in the labour market, the Equatorial Guinea's Press and Information Office reported. Angue noted that the Government has trained them to participate in the economic and social development of Equatorial Guinea, where the Ministry of Telecommunications serves as a bridge for the coordination and insertion of professionals in different sectors.

Ethiopia: Web withheld - The Internet is reported to have been closed down following an outbreak of violence in the eastern region, Reuters reported citing a resident from the city of Harar. The closure started early last week. The Access Now civil rights group confirmed the shutdown in a statement released on 7 August. On 4 August. Violent clashes erupted in Jijiga with the looting of properties owned by ethnic minorities.

Ghana: Spectrum share-out - The National Communications Authority (NCA) has said that it will shortly offer 4G spectrum to mobile network operators that do not currently have access to it because of the regulator's constraints, the Business and Financial Times reported. Currently, MTN is the only operator that offers LTE, having paid over USD 67 million for it at an auction in 2015, before rolling out in 2016. The NCA has promised an equitable distribution.

Guinea/Rwanda: Asian co-operation - The President of Vietnam, Tran Dai Quang, said on 7 August 2018 that discussions regarding cooperation in telecommunications had taken place with Rwanda and Guinea. He was speaking at a reception given in honour of Rwanda's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Louise Mushikiwabo, and Guinea’s counterpart Mamadi Touré in Hanoi. It was agreed to facilitate market access for companies on both sides and encourage trade promotion activities.

Kenya: Flat rate - Airtel Kenya is offing its pre-paid subscribers calls for KES 2 (USD 0.02) per minute across all networks. The new tariff offers up to 50 percent savings on current on-net and off-net calls. For all new Airtel subscribers, the KES 2 offering will be the default tariff. Existing customers have to opt into the service.

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Kenya: Safaricom stakes - Safaricom’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Sateesh Kamath bought 50,000 additional shares in the operator over the past year, placing him in the top five largest shareholders with a directorship. Kamath joined Safaricom in August 2016 after the resignation of John Tombleson, and was the only director to increase his shareholding in the year ended 31 March 2018. CEO Bob Collymore has the highest shareholding on the board with 1,518,600 shares followed by former CEO Michael Joseph with 1,178,600. Chairman Nicholas Nganga holds 855,100 shares while Esther Koimett, a director, has 517,600.

Maldives: Rising base - The mobile subscriber base fell to 861,507 in June from 871,421 in May. Mobile penetration rose to 242.08 percent in June from 239.32 percen in May, according to the Communications Authority of Maldives. Post-paid accounted for s, 133,173 and pre-paid 728,334. The number of fixed lines (including payphones) rose to 19,970 in June from 19,955 in May. The mobile broadband base rose to 274,741 in June from 273,646 in May, while the fixed broadband user base rose slightly to 42,837 in June from 42,654 in May.

Mauritius: Burgeoning bandwidth - The international Internet bandwidth usage of reached 96.3 Gbps during 2017, according to latest reporting by Statistics Mauritius. This was a 127 percent increase compared to an international Internet bandwidth capacity of 42.5 Gbps in 2016, 21.305 Gbps in 2015, 17.077 Gbps in 2014, and 11.921 Gbps in 2013 according to the ICT Authority of Mauritius

Nigeria: Colluding Congress - The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has accused the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) of aiding MTN Nigeria to ignore local and and international Labour laws and conventions signed since 1960. In a letter the NLC said it had picketed company offices due to the violation of national and international Labour laws especially ILO Conventions 87 and 98. The NCC apparently reported the NLC to the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA). Following the protests, MTN brokered a meeting via the NECA (Nigerian Employers Consultative Association), although it is reported that MTN did not proceed with the talks, and accordingly NECA has also withdrawn.

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Nigeria: KITE kick-off - The State of Lagos launched the project 'Knowledge, Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship (KITE)' on 1 August 2018. KITE is a public-private partnership, and provides input on market and demand access, infrastructure, regulation and governance policies, talent development, skills and education; research and development, networking and collaboration, consulting and marketing. The Lagos state government wants to turn the region into a hub for innovation and technology investment, and support for the country's economic growth. It has designed and intends to construct a world-class technology park for which some 30,000 square meters has already been acquired in the Yaba region.

Nigeria: Lottery licensing - The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) expects to license telcos to host lotteries on their networks, the Punch reported. Executive vice chairman Umar Danbatta said the NCC will be involved as it regulates the network. The additional traffic will impact on telecoms infrastructure, and may contribute to poor quality of service. However the executive said that hosting the lottery on the telecom networks would benefit consumers.

Nigeria: More for less - StarTimes Nigeria claims there is no case for an increase in the subscription price by any local service provider, CommunicationsWeek reported. StarTimes is offering a month's free access for all its subscribers in the period 1-31 August, with the inclusion of Ebony Life TV, ST Nollywood Plus and Fox. StarTimes has promised a downward review of its Classic Bouquet subscription rate from NGN 2,600 (USD 7.19) to NGN 1,900 (USD 5.25) in September, at a time when other services providers are increasing their rates. From 1 September, it said all subscribers will enjoy more entertainment for less, with the addition content.

South Africa: Steady as she goes - MTN Group is maintaining its 2018 dividend target despite new US sanctions which are going to make it harder to repatriate cash from its Iranian joint venture, the company said on 8 August. Chief Executive, Rob Shuter, said that the firm stood by its plan to increase payouts by 10 - 20 percent over the next three to five years to its investors. Despite the MTN Irancell challenges, the board is committed to plans to declare a total dividend of 500 cents per share for 2018. MTN reported a 7 percent drop in half-year profits last week and has some ZAR 3.4 billion (USD 256 million) in accumulated dividends and loans from its joint venture in Iran.

State of Digital - Angola: February 2018

Tanzania: MNOs become leading ISPs - The government has actively embraced competition in the telecom market and has encouraged the private sector despite it having retaken control of the incumbent telco TTC (formerly TTCL) in June 2016. Foreign participation has also been encouraged to promote economic growth and social development. Policy reforms have led to the telecom sector becoming among the most... read more >>>

Uganda: Scratch-cards saved - A ban on selling mobile airtime scratch cards has been reversed by the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) following discussions with the Ministry of ICT and several MPs, The Monitor newspaper reported. The ban was implemented on 1 August after which MPs claimed that their constituents had suffered loss of access to services, and demanded that the mobile operators be allowed to continue selling the cards alongside electronic airtime recharges.

Zimbabwe: NetOne interest - The Zimbabwe Independent has reported that four foreign firms are interested in buying a 45-50 percent equity stake in mobile operator NetOne, citing industry insiders. The paper reports that bidders reportedly include 'an American-funded Lebanese consortium', 'a South African telecommunications giant', 'an Abu Dhabi-based firm'; and a group of ex-pat Zimbabwean investors. Bidders are said to be prepared to clean up NetOne's balance sheet and inject fresh capital. MTN is not thought to be on the list this time, which would suggest Vodacom as the RSA 'giant'.

Zimbabwe: USD 250m to build 500 rural towers - Continuous improvements in national and international fibre infrastructure as well as in 3G and 4G services have raised Zimbabwe's Internet and broadband performance indicators in recent years. Mobile Internet connections make up... read more >>>

Middle East:

Afghanistan: Fibre defence - Defence and security centres are to be equipped with the Internet and information technology, the Ministry of CIT said on 11 August. The various centres are to be connected to the National Fibre Optic Network. Two separate memorandum of understanding are due to be signed with the Ministers of Interior and National Defence on 20 August 2018. Signatories will include the Minister of Communications and Information Technology Shahzad Aryobee, along with the Afghan Telecom's chairman and international partners. AT will be responsible for implementing the projects and will cooperate by providing and marinating low-cost high-capacity fibre bandwidth. Financing is being provided by the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan: Plan presentation - On 8 August 2018 a meeting was organized to discuss the draft for ATRA's strategic plan, with senior officials, foreign and local experts, directors and staff of the authority participating. Topics aired were regarding the supervision of the telecom market, improving telecom and Internet services, future plans and projects of the sector, telecom services coverage, developing and expanding telecom and Internet services and implanting the strategic plan, the draft for which was presented at the meeting.

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Bahrain: Better TV Basic - Batelco is now offering OSN Ultimate Entertainment as the new Batelco TV Basic package, which is now available for only BHD 10 (USD 26.30) per month, offering a comprehensive and fully loaded entertainment TV package. Batelco TV Basic Package subscribers will get an automatic free upgrade. Sports fans can subscribe to the Sports add-ons to enjoy WWE events, MotoGP, golf, cricket and rugby league.

Bahrain: Prestigious prizes - Batelco has partnered with Talabat to reward its customers with high value prizes. Subscribers using the Talabat application to place home delivery orders are being automatically entered into weekly and monthly raffles which will run until 25 August 2018. Prizes include an additional 200GB on Batelco Home Internet lines, 2 iPhone X, 2 iPad Pro, 2 PlayStation 4, 2 Samsung Galaxy VR, TCL LED TV 40; and 2 Sony Bravia Smart TV 55. The grand prizes for the monthly draws includes two Chevrolet Camaros. Talabat began its operations in Bahrain in 2012, pioneering online food ordering service in the GCC region and Jordan.

Israel: Satellite success - Gilat Satellite Networks has reported a second quarter of improving profitability. Adjusted EBITDA increased 37.6 percent y-o-y to USD 8.1 million, as revenues rose slightly to USD 66.5 million from USD 66.2 million. Net profit was little changed at USD 2.2 million. The company said it will continue to work on improving the bottom line, supported by new opportunities for growth as capacity prices decrease and demand grows as well as significant investment in R&D. For the full year, the company expects revenue of USD 285-305 million, operating profit of USD 17-21 million and adjusted EBITDA of USD 30-34 million.

Kuwait: Domestic plans - Ooredoo Kuwait is offering three new, comprehensive Shamel Home plans. Starting at KWD 18 (USD 59), the plans provide unlimited home Internet, unlimited mobile Internet, unlimited local calls and online entertainment from Ooredoo's digital entertainment partners, under a single subscription. The new plans target families, with the ability to be shared by several users. FASTtelco, owned by Ooredoo Kuwait, will provide the home Internet with unlimited capacity with service at up to 10 Mbps. They can get 30 GB, 100 GB or 500 GB of mobile Internet, unlimited local calls, and can choose between OSN's WAVO or Starzplay.

Kuwait: Hajj promotion - Zain Kuwait post- and pre-paid subscribers travelling to perform Hajj this year can use roaming Internet at Hajj rituals in Saudi Arabia without any additional charge. Post-paid subscribers can use their existing local Internet capacities, and pre-paid customers can use 2 GB at locations in Mecca and Medina with no additional charge. Upon arrival in Saudi Arabia, subscibers can activate the promotion by texting 'Data On' to 99990. The offer is available from 12 August to 26 August. When pre-paid users exceed their limit for Internet roaming, they will receive a free renewal at no additional cost.

Oman: ICT support - Omantel and Blockchain Solutions & Services (BSS) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU). The Times of Oman reported Omantel's COO Samy Ahmed Al Ghassany as saying that the operator is keen to boost mutual cooperation with local and regional ICT companies to supports Omantel's vision to lead the Omani digital transformation.

Oman: Social service - The remit of Ooredoo Oman's Customer Service Champions have been extended to social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Ooredoo's Live Chat and WhatsApp, as well as interacting through the Contact Centre. Staff have been trained with the appropriate skills to handle client queries across the online portals.

United Arab Emirates: Rewarding utility - Etisalat and Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) have signed an MoU which will see Dewa offer Etisalat’s eLife products, offers and services through its rewards programme. Customers will be able to subscribe to eLife services directly through Dewa's new loyalty store as a one-stop shop. The signatories were Dewa's CEO Saeed Al Tayer and Etisalat Group CEO Saleh Al Abdooli.

United Arab Emirates: Thuraya posts named - Satellite operator Yahsat has appointed Ali Al Hashemi as CEO of Thuraya after it completed the acquisition of a majority and controlling stake in the operator. Hashemi has led Yahsat Government Solutions for the past few years. Thuraya's former CEO, Ahmed Al Shamsi, will remain as an advisor to the CEO. Hashemi will continue as general manager of Yahsat Government Solutions. Yahsat has also named Marcus Vilaca as Thuraya's Chief Technical Officer, which he will carry out in addition to his role as CTO of Yahsat. Shawkat Ahmed has been appointed as Thuraya's Chief Commercial Officer, succeeding Rashid Baba's tenure as Thuraya's acting CTO.

Device developments:

Kuwait: Nova launch - Huawei Consumer Business Group (CBG) is readying to launch of its Nova 3 and Nova 3i smartphones. It started taking reservations on 1 August at selected retailers and the AI-powered phones will be on the shelves from 16 August. The Huawei Nova 3 will be available in Iris Purple, Airy Blue and Black colours at a price of KWD 144.90 (USD 477) and the Nova 3i will come in Iris Purple, Pearl White and Black for KWD 99.90 (USD 329).