News in Brief 3 October 2018

Africa:

Benin: Talon terminates tax - President Patrice Talon in a tweet has announced the repeal of the law on social media and Internet tax 'following a meeting the government ministers had with telecommunication companies'. The move makes Benin the first African country to repeal a law on Internet tax after it joined the Zambia and Uganda to impose taxes on Internet usage. Kenya has recently announced plans to impose taxes on the internet as part of the amendments of the country’s Finance Act which proposes a 15 percent tax on Internet services.

Cameroon: National Internet - Internet access provider Emirati Yahsat launched its Internet services on 27 September 2018. The YahClick offering aims to improve the rate of penetration of broadband Internet, with connectivity being provided in areas where there is poor or no fibre offered by mobile operators and access providers. It will compete with incumbent operator Cameroon Telecommunications (Camtel) signed a deal with SatADSL to provide satellite Internet coverage on 21 May. Bloosat has partnered with Africa Konnect, a unit of Eutelsat, launching in July 2017, with services available in the Littoral and West regions, and national coverage from 2019. GoSat also signed a deal with Africa Konnect on 26 July 2017 to offer high-speed Internet satellite which will eventually cover a third of the population.

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Cameroon: New MTN man named - MTN Cameroon's Chairman Colin E. Mukete has confirmed Hendrik Kasteel as the new Director General (DG) for the local operation, effective from 17 September. Kasteel replaces Saim Yaksan who has been acting D-G since February 2018. The new CEO joined MTN from Ooredoo Algeria, where he has been CEO since 2016. He was previously Managing Director of Euronet Communications, a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, and as Managing Director and Marketing Director of T-Mobile in the Netherlands, Austria and Croatia.

Egypt: Etisalat first - Etisalat Misr will shortly launch Voice Over LTE (VoLTE) services in partnership with Ericsson. The VoLTE calls will connect in less than two seconds compared to ten seconds over legacy technologies and deliver a more true-to-life sound with reduced background noise. Subscribers will have the flexibility to make calls and use 4G mobile data services simultaneously without compromising data connectivity speeds.

Egypt: Orange consolidation - Orange Egypt’s extraordinary general meeting (EGM) approved on 26 September 2018 the launch of a Public Withdrawal Offer from the Egyptian Stock Exchange (EGX). In a statement Orange said that the shares that will be negatively impacted by this transaction will be redeemed by the company from their holders in accordance with article 55 of the listing rules. Orange holds 99.39 percent of Orange Egypt via MT Telecom CVBA in which it holds 100 percent. The procedures should be completed and submitted to the EGM scheduled for December 2018. EGX's listing committee's requested the move last July.

Ethiopia: Platform potential - Mobile money provider M-Birr has a network of more than 1.2 million users who deposit money at over 7,000 M-Birr locations, the Euractiv portal reported. Ethiopian Airlines and cable TV provider DSTV number are partners, and its latest partner is Angaza, a pay as you go solar provider. MOSS ICT's head of marketing Ethan Laub, which supports the M-Birr service, claimed that a total of ETB 14 billion (USD 501 million) has been transacted since the service started in late-2013, and some ETB 6 billion (USD 215 million) has been transacted to date in 2018. User numbers grew by 500,000 last year. M-Birr is used by the Ministry of Finance to deliver electronic payments for the Productive Safety Net Programme, and more than 800,000 households, representing over 3 million people, receive money in this way through the platform.

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Ghana: Film partnership - Digital entertainment platform Kwese iflix announced on 26 September the launch of its mobile streaming partnership with MTN Ghana, and is available with 'MTN Video Bundles'. Subscribers can simply download the iflix app from Google Play or the Apple App Store to choose a daily, weekly or monthly MTN Video Pack. The daily bundle is GHS 3 (USD 0.63) for up to 4 hours (800MB) and for more than 10 hours the charge is GHS 10 (USD 2.10) (2GB). MTN Acting Chief Marketing Officer, Noel Kojo-Ganson said: "Video content is the future of mobile and our partnership with Kwese iflix will enable us to deliver some of the best international and local sports and entertainment to our customers."

Kenya: Security solution - Safaricom has partnered with Kenya Alliance of Residents Association to increase security on member estates, and has started a pilot project in Ngei estate in Nairobi. Safaricom will use its FttH and cloud services to support surveillance, which is expected to boost Internet connections on the estate. Safaricom will be sponsoring a surveillance pilot in Ngei Estate phase 2, using a fibre line to monitor the estate's two gates. There will be a router at each gate and two cameras. Safaricom has provided a solar kit for each gate, comprising a solar panel, a charge controller and a battery. Safaricom's fibre-optic network has now stands at 5,000 km nationally, passing more than 90,000 households.

Nigeria: Stay at home - MTN Nigeria has instructed staff not to attend for work after the leading trade unions launched a national strike to demand a higher minimum wage from the government, Reuters reported. Talks between the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the government to avert the general strike broke down on 26 September. Unions are seeking a trebling of the monthly minimum wage to around NGN 50,000 (USD 138) from NGN 18,000. President Buhari's government had undertaken to review the minimum wage after fuel price increases and currency devaluation in the last two years.

Nigeria: Type approval targetted - The Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) has said that any corporate entity found selling or installing communications equipment that has not received a type approval test certificate faces a fine of NGN 100,000 (USD 275) or one year in prison, CommunicationsWeek has reported. NCC's head of wireless network Chukwuma Nwaiwu said type approval is required to ensure the safety of the public from dangerous equipment and facilitate a quality service.

South Africa: Mobile service closure - MultiChoice South Africa has announced that its DStv Mobile service will end on 31 October, MyBroadband has reported. DStv Mobile TV launched in 2010 and used DVB-H technology, and could be accessed on devices via a Drifta mobile decoder. The service cost ZAR 49 (USD 3.42) per month and DStv Premium customers received one DStv Mobile subscription for free, with extra ones charged at ZAR 49 per month each. Certain transmitters have already been decommissioned and users will not be charged their subscription fee from 1 September. Decoder insurance on Mobile devices will also be cancelled.

South Africa: MTN mining monitoring - MTN Business has partnered with Digital Twin Mine Management to develop a hybrid Internet of Things (IoT) system to improve health and safety and enhance efficiency in mining operations. Utilizing sensors, connectivity, cognitive computing and analytics it monitors groundwater levels, seismic activity, displacements, temperature, smoke, gas leakages and emissions, and the location of miners and equipment. Data can be gathered remotely and safely by sensors installed at strategic locations throughout the mine, and is transmitted via MTN’s private LTE network, Narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) and other near field networks, such as Wi-Fi. The system was showcased at the Gartner and ITXPO in Cape Town.

State of Digital - Angola: February 2018

South Africa: Must-Carry audit - The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) is conducting a regulatory impact assessment on the Must-Carry Regulations which date from 2008. The aim is to see whether the regulations have fulfilled their intended objectives. The regulations are meant to regulate the extent to which the Subscription Broadcasting Services (SBS) must carry television programmes provided by the Public Broadcast Service Licensee (PBS), and to provide the terms and conditions under which the SBS licensees will carry the TV programmes of the PBS licensee, and are a part of the universal service and access obligation for subscription television services. A questionnaire has been issued by ICASA requesting data from stakeholders to allow it to make an informed decision; completed forms need to be submitted by 26 October 2018.

Tanzania: Medicine stock monitoring - Vodacom Tanzania is to work with Zanzibar's Ministry of Health and Novartis to reduce periods when medicines are out of stock on Zanzibar. The new system will allow regular monitoring of stock levels and with the implementation of the supply chain application SMS for Life, the Ministry of Health aims to improve access to essential medicines. The solution will use the Mezzanine technology platform. The SMS for Life system uses a mobile based technology to monitor medicine stock levels through an electronic platform that operates in the cloud. It will be deployed to around 190 government-owned health facilities to report weekly medicine stock levels.

another fine mess for african telecoms

Middle EAst:

Bahrain: TRA focuses on tower - At its third meeting of 2018 the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority's (TRA) board discussed the progress of the Spectrum Award and Batelco separation. It also discussed regulating and rectifying the towers situation, which has high importance for the telecoms sector. The TRA is seeking appropriate solutions in coordination with the involved government bodies, in particular the development of a rectification plan.

Bahrain: TRA focuses on tower - At its third meeting of 2018 the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority's (TRA) board discussed the progress of the Spectrum Award and Batelco separation. It also discussed regulating and rectifying the towers situation, which has high importance for the telecoms sector. The TRA is seeking appropriate solutions in coordination with the involved government bodies, in particular the development of a rectification plan.

Israel: Inbound investment - Ministry of Communications Director-General Nati Cohen is due to meet with US-based Verizon in New York to participate in 5G trials in Israel, Globes reported. Cohen will also attempt to induct USA investors into the Israeli market. Cohen is accompanying Minister of Communications Ayoob Kara, who is part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's entourage for his visit to New York to attend the UN General Assembly. The 5G trials are to be held at Bar Ilan University in conjunction with domestic operators. Meetings are to also be held with representatives of Lockheed Martin.

Israel: IPO imminent - Israeli vendor ECI Telecom has filed for a USD 230 million IPO on the London Stock Exchange, with a company valuation of USD 600 million, half the value for which it was acquired it in 2007. The funds will be used for investment and to reduce debt. The IPO will be led by Barclays and UBS. ECI says it has been the fastest growing provider among its key European and US based peers since the start of 2017. In recent years the company has focused solely on optical and transport solutions and has since introduced a new set of advanced products and solutions, which represent the majority of its sales. 2017 revenue grew 13 percent over 2016 and revenue in the first half of 2018 grew 24 percent over the corresponding period of 2017.

Kuwait: AI interaction - Customer service tool zBot has been launched by Zain Kuwait, using artificial intelligence (AI) to interact with and respond to customer inquiries without human input. It responds to questions from customers in a fully automated manner, offering the latest deals, enabling the management of accounts and activating services. ZBot works on Zain's app and Website and is available in both Arabic and English.

Kuwait: Meter monitoring - The Ministry of Electricity and Water is to deploy some 800,000 electricity and 300,000 water meters in homes and organisations in partnership with Zain and SAP. Smart meter sensors will transmit consumption data on Zain's networks to the Ministry's digital core. The Ministry and users will be able to see up-to-date usage and billing information, running on the SAP HANA in-memory platform. Oliver Wyman is the business consultancy and Ericsson the systems integrator. The project involves more than fifteen global technology vendors in total.

Qatar: 5G on the move - Ooredoo Qatar has held a 5G smart city demonstration around The Pearl including a 5G bus and a 5G house boat. The event was attended by Ooredoo management with the demonstration of world’s first self-driving, 5G-connected aerial taxi capable of transporting two people to a destination up to 20 minutes away at 130 km per hour. The automatic vehicle runs on Ooredoo's 5G network. The 5G Bus Experience allows passengers to test Ooredoo 5G while on the move and enjoy a connected commute at up to 2.6 Gbps. To demonstrate the future of entertainment, Ooredoo set up a 8K virtual reality service on a modern house boat in The Pearl, supporting gaming with no buffering.

Device developments:

Kuwait: Referrals sought - Ooredoo Kuwait is offering the iPhone XS and XS Max at KWD 35 (USD 115) per month with an exclusive offer made-up of the KWD 40 (USD 132) Shamel Mobile package with phone, including unlimited local calls, unlimited Internet, twelve free Ooredoo Passports and a subscription to Ooredoo's digital entertainment partner StarzPlay for 24 months. A KWD 100 (USD 329) referral voucher provides further discounts on both iPhone XS models. In collaboration with Chips store, it has given each customer a special iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max case and screen protector.

Qatar: Free data - Ooredoo Qatar has said that the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max are available in selected retail outlets, on the eShop and at its self-service vending machines. At the 28 September launch Ooredoo offered the chance to purchase a device to customers who had not pre-ordered a new iPhone via a Self-Service Vending Machine. The devices are available at the Ooredoo Mall of Qatar, Airport Road, Al Wakra, City Center, Landmark and Doha Festival City shops. Free data is being offered for 30 days, whilst Shahry and Qatarna customers will get unlimited data, and Hala customers will get 20 GB of free data when the SIM is activated before 12 October.

South Africa: iPhone pre-orders - Telkom has started pre-sales of the new iPhones from Apple. Customers can pre-order the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max on Telkom's Website, and the phones will be available in stores starting 28 September. With a FreeMe 1 GB plan, the 64 GB iPhone XS in gold costs ZAR 999 (USD 70) per month on a 24-month contract.

South Africa: MTN XS deals - MTN South Africa has launched the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max to its retail outlets. They are also available with the new MTN Made for Me contract plans, which allow users to pick combinations of bundles, including a one-off 30 GB valid for thirty days. Apple's iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max are available with MTN Made for Me S from ZAR 999 (USD 70) per month. To ensure connectivity, MTN will support the Apple system, including eSIM capability in the future.

United Arab Emirates: iPhone launch - Etisalat is to launch the iPhone XS, the iPhone XS Max and Apple Watch Series 4 (GPS + Cellular) in all its retail outlets. The iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max are available through Smart Pay plans on a twelve-month, eighteen-month, or two-year with AppleCare+ service for AED 30 (USD 8.17) per month. Users opting for a two-year smart pay plan can purchase the iPhone XS for AED 185 (USD 50.36) per month or the iPhone XS Max for AED 210 (USD 57.17). Subscribers buying a new iPhone from Etisalat will get a free, six-month subscription to Apple Music and 200 GB iCloud Storage Free for two months. They will also get up to a 40 percent discount on the monthly rental for a second device (iPad, Apple Watch or Airpod). The standalone price of the iPhone XS (64 GB) is AED 4,028 (USD 1,096), while the 256 GB and 512 GB variants cost AED 4,628 (USD 1,260) and AED 5,437 (USD 4,129) respectively. The 64 GB model of the iPhone XS Max costs AED 200 (USD 152) more than the smaller XS, starting at AED 4,248 (USD 3,227) outright. A 256GB configuration costs AED 5,028 (USD 3,819) and the 512GB XS Max costs AED 5,837 (USD 4,434) outright. Prices are subject to VAT of 5 percent. Etisalat will take reservations for the iPhone XR from 19 October.

United Arab Emirates: Quietly confident - Huawei has forecast more than 100 percent year-on-year growth in smartphone sales this year, Gulf News reported. Research firm GfK data for 2Q18 was cited by Huawei Consumer Business Group Country Manager, David Wang, when he said that Huawei is the second-largest smartphone manufacturer globally and in the UAE after Samsung. Despite weak UAE consumer confidence Huawei is seeing a strong confidence in retail sales with no decrease so far. Wang expects its market share in the third and fourth quarters to improve with the availability of a new seven-nanometre mobile chipset with additional artificial intelligence (AI) features, the Kirin 980, in its Mate devices in October. Huawei, Apple and Samsung produce their own chipsets, while other manufactures depend on Qualcomm and MediaTek.