News in Brief 22 August 2018

Africa:

Africa: Distribution deal - Westcon Sub-Saharan Africa has secured the sole rights to distribute Extreme Networks in Angola, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria and Tanzania. Extreme Networks provides software-driven networking services with the full suite including ExtremeSwitching, ExtremeApplications, ExtremeRouting and ExtremeMobility. It recently launched its Extreme Smart OmniEdge network system providing a unified wired/wireless infrastructure for cloud or premise deployment, augmented with AI-powered applications.

Botswana: Advertising impasse resolved - The Competition Authority (CA) has resolved the branding impasse between MTN subsidiary Mascom and Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) over the use of the National Stadium, the mmegi Website reported. The dispute has seen most of the Botswana Premier League (BPL) clubs to opt for stadia outside Gaborone. Mascom bought space from Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC), who is the stadium custodian. BTC claimed that a rival was benefiting unfairly during BTC sponsored league games. It is now reported that the CA played a key role in breaking the deadlock after it received a complaint in February, alleging an unfair practice by Mascom and BNSC. The CA said that during investigations, it became apparent that the BPL was responsible for preventing the teams from playing league matches at the National Stadium, and not the agreement between BNSC and Mascom.

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Cameroon: 4G win - Gilat Telecom, formerly known as Gilat Satcom, has been contracted by Nexttel to provide 4G broadband services. Nexttel is part of the Viettel Group and has been operating in Cameroon since 2015, where it now has some 5 million subscribers. Nexttel will be using Gilat Telecom's fibre network both within Cameroon and across Africa to provide a fast, reliable broadband service to users. Gilat Telecom's CEO Dan Zajicek said demand for mobile broadband services is very high in Cameroon. Gilat was chosen after a competitive tender that included a number of established wholesale carriers in Africa.

Egypt: Internet rising - The number of Internet subscribers rose by 500,000 in April compared with March, Albawaba reported. The total number of Web users reached 39.6 million in April, up from 39.1 million the previous month. The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, the number of mobile Internet users fell by 2.5 percent from 31.47 million in March to 30.68 million in April. The number of Internet users via USB modem rose by 60.2 percent from 2.15 million in March to 3.45 million in April. The report showed a growth of 1.8 percent in the number of ADSL Internet users from 5.5 million in March to 5.6 million in April. There was an increase in the number of fixed users by 3.2 percent from 7.2 million in March 2018 to 7.4 million in April.

Ghana: Courteous CEO - MTN Ghana's new Chief Executive Officer Selorm Adadevor made a courtesy call on the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II at the Manhyia Palace on 16 August 2018, The Graphic reported. Adadevor was accompanied by his predecessor, Mr Ebenezer Asante Twum. The appointment of a Ghanaian CEO was favourably noted.

Kenya: Collymore back - In the first week of August Safaricom's CEO Bob Collymore resumed his duties after a 9-month medical leave in London. He resumed his duties after leaving for the UK in October 2017 for treatment. During the profit announcement in May 2018, Collymore told shareholders he was waiting on medical clearance from doctors and would be back to lead the company.

Kenya: Subscriber service centre - Multichoice Kenya has opened a branch to serve both DStv and GOtv subscribers in Kisumu and the larger Western and Nyanza region at Al-Imran Plaza and will give subscribers a one-stop point for comprehensive service delivery. Multichoice now has six branches; the others are in Nairobi, Mombasa and Nyeri, supported by eighteen service agents and over 200 Electronic Service partners. MultiChoice has also partnered with San Electronics, Bhavniks and Powerlite electronics, who are the company's accredited service agents.

Nigeria: Cloud security standard - 21st Century Technologies is the first data centre in Africa to achieve the Multi-tier cloud security (MTCS) standard. This standard describes the relevant cloud computing security practices and controls for public cloud users, public cloud service providers, auditors and certifiers. The Data Centre now has 8 top certifications; claimed to be a record for Africa which includes; Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) which certifies the Data centre to process payment card information, ISO 9001 for Quality Management System, ISO 27001 for Information Security Management System, ISO 20000 that certifies the Data Centre for Service Management System, ISO 22301 that certifies the Data Centre in Business Continuity Management System , ISO 14001 that certifies the Data Centre for Environmental Management System, ISO 18001 for Occupational Health and Safety Management System and MCTS (Multi-Tier Cloud Computing Management System).

Nigeria: Listing deadline - MTN Nigeria has to list on the local stock exchange on or before May 2019 as set out in the 2015 fine settlement agreement between the Nigeria Comminications Commission (NCC) and the operator NCC's Executive Vice Chairman Professor Umar Garba Danbatta told journalists in Abuja last week, CommunicationsWeek reported.

Nigeria: Spectrum swaps - Association of Telecommunications Enterprises of Nigeria (ATCON) President Olusola Teniola has said that operators are selling frequencies. Agence Ecofin reports Teniola as saying he could not disclose the current transactions in view of the strategic nature of the deals, adding: "There are some parts of the country that do not have telecommunications services because the operators who have the frequencies do not want to deploy services there. But with operators willing to deploy services in these areas, they can buy the resource from the person who owns it and cover the area that corresponds to it in telecom services". The NCC allowed the commercialization of frequencies between telecom operators in 1Q18, although the regulator retains control over the resulting deals.

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South Africa: Broadband branding - MTN is to launch 'Supersonic' fibre at the end of August 2018. The packages are to come with full installation, device set-up, on-site technical support and a dedicated relationship manager for telephonic support. Fibre features can also be customised via a smartphone app.

South Africa: COO steps down - Business Connexion Group (BCX) Chief Operating Officer Mike Buttner has stood down, MyBroadband has reported. An email sent to staff by CEO Jonas Bogoshi said that Buttner's stay may have been short, but it is had been a 'meaningful and impactful' one. Buttner apparently resigned for personal reasons and will be pursuing a new professional path in Cape Town. BCX is now seeking a replacement for the COO, with Leon Gerber acting as interim COO.

South Africa: Mobile merger mooted - FNB Wealth and Investments' Wayne McCurrie says that Cell-C and Telkom Mobile will not survive unless they merge, as scale is needed to survive in an increasingly-difficult mobile market. He made the comments on Business Day TV. He noted relatively stagnant top-line growth, with declining voice minutes. Data volumes are increasing, but data prices are falling, whilst operators are under pressure from regulators to bring prices down. Operators have to invest large amounts to stay up-to-date with the latest technologies. Increased competition means prices have to be cut to stay competitive, which shrinks margins. The only survivors are likely to be Vodacom and MTN as they have the scale to generate positive cashflows.

South Africa: Priorities set - The results of an inquiry to identify priority markets which may be subject to regulation in the future has been published by ICASA, MyBroadnad reported. This is part of the regulator's approach to reduce the high cost of communication. Eight submissions were received. ICASA will prioritise Wholesale fixed access (including wholesale supply of asymmetric broadband origination, fixed access services, and relevant facilities); Upstream infrastructure (incorporating national transmission services and metropolitan connectivity) and mobile services (including retail market and wholesale supply of mobile services).

State of Digital - Angola: February 2018

South Africa: Stake sale? - MTN Group is reported to be considering selling shares in African online retailer Jumia. The company is valued at up to USD 1 billion, Bloomberg reported, citing sources familiar with the matter. An MTN spokeswoman, however, said it had no plans to dispose of its investment in Jumia in the short term. MTN has a 40 percent stake, with smaller investors including German start-up backer Rocket Internet. It has expanded sales by between 70 and 90 percent annually since its inception in 2012. It has e-commerce operations in fourteen African countries, and has added platforms for online hotel bookings and food delivery.

Tanzania: FTA furore - Following directives from the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA), MultiChoice has removed free-to-air television channels from its broadcast service platform, the Daily News reported. The channels were removed by midnight on 12 August to abide by the directive, despite the matter being before the Fair Competition Tribunal (FCT) for arbitration. TCRA said it would suspend Multichoice Tanzania's and Simbanet's licences. It accused the two of failing to abide by licence conditions, despite several warnings not to broadcast FTA channels. The Minister for Works, Transport and Communications, Isack Kamwelwe said on 11 August that DStv owner Multichoice Tanzania, Simbanet (Zuku) and Azam Media were not allowed to transmit FTA channels.

another fine mess for african telecoms

Zambia: VoIP tax - The government is readying to impose a daily rate of USD 0.30 on calls made via WhatsApp, Viber, Skype, the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services, Dora Siliya, announced it in a statement. It justified the move by the increasing the number of calls placed via the Internet at the expense of traditional calls, which endangers the activities of the operators. A study by the Information and Communication Technologies Authority of Zambia (ZICTA) found that 80 percent of users prefer to call from the Internet as it saves the cost of conventional calls. The tax will be collected by operators and ISPs. It is calculated that revenues of some USD 22 million are being lost annually as a result of Internet calls.

Zimbabwe: CEO seeks court ruling - NetOne CEO Lazarus Muchenje has filed an urgent High Court application to sue Minister of ICT and Cyber Security Supa Mandiwanzira, six Board members, nine fired executives as well as the Office of the President and Cabinet representative, Chief Secretary to the President Dr Misheck Sibanda. Muchenje argues that a meeting convened at a private residence on 28 July in Greendale where he was invited under the guise of a friendly discussion was illegally convened, and all its resolutions must be declared a null and void. The failure to give adequate notice to all directors entitled to attend a Board is cited as the issue in question.

another fine mess for african telecoms

Middle East:

Afghanistan: Ministry overview - The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology reported that there were some 21.33 million active subscribers out of a total of 33.4 million GSM subscribers at the end of June 2018. Of these, 3G users topped 6 million in the quarter. There were some 16,776 CDMA subscribers, and 212,250 fixed telephone lines. There were 6,645 base stations providing a population coverage of over 90 percent.

Bahrain: Data roaming - Batelco is now providing high speed LTE Data Roaming services with more than 100 roaming operators in more than 45 countries. Users will automatically connect to high speed LTE while roaming. Batelco is offering a selection of data roaming bolt-ons including one-day data roaming in the GCC for only BHD 5 (USD 13.20) and seven-day data roaming in the GCC for BD10 (USD 26.40). Additionally, users can also sign for two-week roaming for only BHD 20 (52.80). All the data roaming bolt-ons are for both post- and pre-paid subscribers. In turn subscribers of data roaming partners can enjoy roaming on Batelco's network while travelling in Bahrain. Batelco has over 1,500 roaming agreements for all services with international operators, covering over 165 countries.

Bahrain: Deadline set - The Bahrain Telecommunications Company (Batelco) has been set a deadline by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) of 6 September to submit its plan to break the company into two separate entities, GDN Online has reported. The idea of splitting the operator into retail and wholesale divisions was first mooted in May 2018. The TRA has now published guidelines on the matter and stated: 'the Authority expects that Batelco will implement separation by the transfer of staff and assets to the Separated Entity (SE) from Batelco'. The new entity is to be efficiently resourced to deploy and operate the National Broadband Network (NBN) and associated wholesale products and services.

Bahrain: Spectrum consultation - Due to growing demand for mobile broadband services, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has opened consultation for new spectrum to be awarded in the 800MHz and 2600MHz frequency bands. The spectrum to be auctioned is 60MHz in the 800MHz band, available as 2 x 30MHz of paired spectrum, and 140MHz in the 2600MHz band, which can be offered as paired or unpaired spectrum. Responses to the initial consultation must be received by 13 September and that applications for licences would run from 11 - 15 November 2018.

Bahrain: Staff feedback - Batelco has launched its 'Together We Grow' programme, the first such programme it has run, in coordination with the Office of the Chief Executive Officer and the Human Resources Department. All staff received a personal invitation to meet with the CEO and GM HR without their direct line managers present to give them the opportunity to speak freely. The CEO and GM Human Resources met with all staff at consecutive workshops in the second week of August.

Israel: IA enhancement - Minute.ly has introduced an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm that analyses live broadcasts instantly and generates summaries during broadcast that substantially increase viewer rates, Globes reported. Used during the World Cup in Russia, it increased exposure to live broadcasts by some 13 percent. For the World Cup, Minute.ly signed a number of deals with major global sports Websites. The technology makes it possible to generate an automatic index of all the video content on customers' Websites and to build a segmented film archive adapted to the customers' interest.

Israel: Corruption case - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was to be questioned in the Bezeq corruption case, dubbed Case 4000, for the last time on Friday 17 August. An unnamed source told Hadashot TV on 14 August that the evidence will likely be deemed as sufficient to raise formal charges against the premier. The case involves regulatory decisions which allegedly benefited Shaul Elovitch, Bezeq's controlling shareholder, despite opposition from Ministry of Communication's officials in return for positive coverage from Elovitch's Walla news site. However the Times of Israel notes that the there are expected to be further interviews regarding Cases 1000 and 2000 in the light of new information recently provided by state witness Nir Hefetz, Netanyahu's former media adviser.

Kuwait: Hotel booking bonus - Ooredoo Kuwait is partnering with the international Website Booking.com to give Nojoom loyalty scheme members 20 points for each KWD 1 (USD 3.28) when making hotel reservations through a co-branded Website available via a link on Ooredoo Kuwait's site. Points are accrued within 45 days of customers' checkout date at the rate of 29 points per KWD 1. Customers exchange these points with any of Nojoom's exclusive partners list, which includes airlines, retail stores, restaurants, cafes and more.

Oman: New director - Ooredoo Oman has named Saoud Hamad Said Al Riyami as its new business sales director. He has fourteen years of experience in a number of industries and joined Ooredoo's business team in 2009 as an account manager in the SME department. He progressed through key account manager, department head and to his current role. At Ooredoo, Al Riyami has supported lead projects, developed B2B indirect channels, introduced sales customer relationship management (CRM) and developed business sales strategies.

Saudi Arabia: Call centre developments - Newly recruited Saudi staff are being deployed by mobile operator Mobily in its expanded its call and customer care centres in Jeddah and Dammam. The move comes five weeks after the operator said that it would nationalise its call centres. As well as developing the call centres and training the Saudi teams managing them, Mobily developed and modernised its digital and self-service, giving customers greater control flexibility. Mobily also developed a female call and customer care centre, enabling female staff to perform their work in a convenient environment. It said that 25 percent of call centre staff are women.

Turkey: Share switch - Regulator Teknolojileri ve Iletisim Kurumu (BTK) has approved the transfer of a majority stake of Turk Telekom to a joint venture of creditor banks, local paper Hurriyet Daily News reports. Turk Telekom, which is owned by Ojer Telekomunikasyon (OTAS), said in a statement that 55 percent of its shares will be transferred to a special purpose vehicle, which the creditor banks of OTAS would be shareholders thereof. The move is not expected to have any adverse consequences on the companies it owns, including TT Mobil, TTNet and TT International Telekomunikasyon. OTAS put up the shares as collateral for a loan of USD 4.75 billion in 2013. Creditor banks, including Akbank, Garanti and Isbank, applied to the Competition Board to take over the shares in July following two years of negotiations regarding the failed repayments.

United Arab Emirates: Enhanced connectivity - Mobile operator Du says would keep users connected during Eid Al Adha by offering complementary higher-speed Wi-Fi for five days throughout the UAE. In the period 19 - 23 August, 'WiFi UAE' will operate ten times faster at no additional cost.

Device developments:

Kenya: Smartphone switch - Safaricom has launched its Maisha Ni Digital three-month campaign to increase smartphone sales to feature phone users. The operator is targeting some 10 million Kenyans and has partnered with Google to offer the Neon Kicka 4 smartphone. Safaricom's Interim Director - Consumer Business Unit, Charles Wanjohi, said: "Safaricom's purpose is to transform lives, and we want to do this by connecting people to people, people to knowledge and people to opportunities through our latest campaign”. The device is priced at KES 3,499 (USD 34.36) and subscribers can pay in instalments over three months.

Turkey: iPhone alternative - In response to calls by President Tayyip Erdogan for a boycott of Apple's iPhone, electronics manufacturer Vestel and fixed-line operator Turk Telekom have teamed up to provide locally made devices. Reuters reported that the move came after USA President Donald Trump applied tariffs on Turkish goods that led to a sharp devaluation of the Turkish lira. Vestel will now access Turk Telekom's sales infrastructure for its smartphones.