News in Brief 28 November 2018

Africa:

Algeria: Fixed plans - Algerie Telecom (AT) has launched two new 'Moohtarif' fixed broadband and telephony bundles within its Idoom fibre B2B range, designed specifically for micro-businesses and self-employed professionals. Both packages includes an Idoom fixed line plan worth DZD 1,000 (USD 8.40), offering a call allowance for local and national numbers, as well as a reduction on mobile and international calls. The bundles are priced DZD 4,999 (USD 42) and DZD 6,999 (USD 59), providing a fixed broadband connection of 4 and 8 Mbps respectively, without any data cap. AT has also launched a new promotion valid until 10 December, which offers a free Wi-Fi booster and a DECT phone to both new and existing residential subscribers signing up or upgrading to a higher-tier fixed broadband plan (4, 8, or 20 Mbps).

Angola: Waning interest - The international tender for a fourth mobile network operator licence has only one bidder for the 'Unified Global' licence (mobile/fixed voice/data and TV services), namely a local start-up named Telstar Telecomunicacoes, after MTN reportedly withdrew its bid. The Expansao newspaper reports that MTN claimed that the process lacked tranparency. Telstar was set-up in January 2018, and its majority shareholder, General Manuel Joao Carneiro, is linked with alternative fixed provider Mundo Startel. The winning bidder is due to be announced on 28 November 2018. Angola has two active MNOs, Unitel and Movicel, whilst state-owned Angola Telecom holds the third Unified Global (including mobile) licence but has yet to gear-up for a mobile launch.

Cameroon: Internet usage increases - Internet penetration was 35.64 percent in 2017, up 2.39 percent year-on-year according to the Agence Regulation des Telecommunications (ART). It noted that the increase in Internet usage was a result of the growing number of mobile subscribers, ISPs and smart phones. The total number of Internet subscribers increased by 2.39 percent in 2017, with some 193,487 new subscribers registered in the year to give a total of 8.27 million. ART noted that investment by operators and access providers saw a sharp fall of 61.52 percent in the year. In 2017 there were some 6,725 direct jobs, down 6.29 percent compared to 2016.

Egypt: Fibre to Europe - Telecom Egypt is to provide connectivity to Europe by submarine cable with a landing station in France and Italy. President and CEO Ahmed El-Beheiry said that a study is currently being undertaken. The cable would be routed via the Red Sea and be branded 'Red to Europe'. The move follows the acquisition earlier this year of the Middle East and North Africa Submarine Cable System (MENA SCS), owned by Orascom Investment Holding. In 2019 TE also plans to invest in data centres and outsourcing.

Kenya: Top-up penalty - Safaricom M-Pesa subscribers topping-up credit for friends or family have found that they may inadvertently also have paid off their friends Okoa Jahazi airtime debt as well. Safaricom has allegedly defended itself by citing 'terms and conditions'. It would appear that when a subscriber buys airtime for another subscriber who has an Okoa Jahazi debt, the donor's account is deducted the total amount, including the debt. The matter has been aired by affected users on Safaricom's Facebook page.

Nigeria: Airtel app - Eset has launched a new mobile security app designed for Airtel Nigeria subscribers. Eset's Country Manager Olufemi Ake said that the mobile security application will provide smartphone users with features for prevention and management of cyber risks associated with Android mobile devices. Features include anti-phishing, and anti-theft, which locks the device upon detection of suspicious behaviour or when an unauthorised SIM is inserted. Users can subscribe via the Google Play store at a cost of NGN 150 (USD 0.40) monthly.

Nigeria: Apprehended in error - A NGN 250 million (USD 686,000) suit has been filed in the Federal High Court in Lagos against by MTN by a subscriber. The move follows the subscriber's alleged harassment, arrest and illegal detention without reasonable cause after his detention by the police which was allegedly instigated by MTN Nigeria Communication. The subscriber visited a call centre on 17 July 2018 when he was allegedly wrongly indentified as someone MTN wished to apprehend. According to the Nigerian Voice MTN has yet to file a defence to the suit, but in its letter to the claimant, the company stated that it has a civil duty to report the suspicion of a crime to law enforcement agencies.

Senegal: More fibre - Tigo Senegal has contracted French-based Sagemcom, specializing in high value-added communicating terminals, with the extension of its fibre network. This will involve the densification of Tigo's network, and so improve connectivity, particularly for its business clients. Tigo Senegal would also like to expand in the home-based fibre segment. It currently has a 1,300-kilometre fibre network.

South Africa: Business messaging - Cloud communications software provider IMImobile South Africa has joined Google's Early Access Programme for RCS (Rich Communication Services) business messaging in Africa. RCS will allow businesses to make use of more interactive messaging features such as branding and business verification, suggested reply buttons, rich card carousels and end-to-end payments. IMImobile will be working through its African operations, IMImobile SA, to offer RCS business messaging to Africa.

State of Digital - Angola: February 2018

South Africa: Departmental merger - President Cyril Ramaphosa's carried out a Cabinet reshuffle on 22 November 2018 which saw Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams named as Minister of Communications and announced the merger of the Department of Communications (DOC) and the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS) in 2019, a move claimed by the Opposition to be long overdue. Ndabeni-Abrahams has been tasked with overseeing both portfolios.

South Africa: Domain registrations - ZA Central Registry NPC (ZACR) now has more than 1.2 million Internet name registrations on all Second Level Domains (SLDs) registered and administered by the, namely co.za, web.za, net.za and org.za. ZACR has also registered cities' Geographic Top Level Domains (gTLDs), specifically .joburg ('dotJoburg'), .capetown ('dotCapeTown') and .durban ('dotDurban'). The registry operator also has the rights to the .africa ('dotAfrica') gTLD. By comparison, Nigeria has 102,000 registrations for its .ng country code domain name.

South Africa: Mobile maturity - Standard Bank recently launched Standard Bank Mobile to become the 19th mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) hosted on Cell-C's network by MVN-X. Cell-C launched its wholesale business unit in 2014, with its first virtual network operator was Virgin Mobile SA, which launched in 2006. Cell-C has said that there are some 1.7 million subscribers signed up for MVNOs on its mobile network. The other MVNOs on the Cell-C network are FNB Connect; Mr Price Mobile; MRPMobile; me&you Mobile; Trace Mobile; PSB Network; Smart Mobile; Pink Mobile; Advinne; Viva Mobile; Van Schaik Mobile; BokSel; Xmobile; The Unlimited; OTM Mobile and Next Cellular. Ignition Mobile and MVN-X1 Mobile are currently inactive.

another fine mess for african telecoms

Togo: First instalment - Maroc Telecom reports that its Moov Togo subsidiary has paid the first instalment of its new 4G mobile operating licence. Moov was authorised to provide 4G mobile services in June 2018 by the Authority of Posts & Telecommunications Regulation (ART&P) as part of the early renewal of its 2G and 3G licences. The first of three annual instalments was for XOF 15.6 billion (USD 27.0 million), and the licences are valid until 31 December 2036. Moov Togo launched its LTE network in Lome in July 2018 and signed up more than 2,000 4G users within its first week. It is now confident it can reach its target of 200,000 LTE subscribers by the end of 2018.

Uganda: Money interface - Third party access has been granted to MTN Uganda's Mobile Money Access Programming Interface (API). Products can now be created by developers for MTN's 10 million registered Mobile Money customers. They can access it online, without having to submit paperwork physically to MTN Uganda. The online system provides an option whereby developer can test their product using a free sandbox before it goes live. In January, MTN Uganda and Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) entered a partnership intended to drive customer growth and activity by facilitating a wider range of mobile wallet applications through open APIs.

Zambia: Cellular census - Ministry of National Development Planning Public Relations Officer Chibaula Silwamba has said that Airtel and Zamtel have offered to assist with the 2020 Census. The two made the pledge during a recent Round Table Donor Meeting. Airtel has offered to provide bulk text messaging, dissemination of census information and other services, and Zamtel said it would like to learn more about what is required before making specific proposals. The estimated budget for the Census is ZMK 841.6 million (USD 70.42 million).

Zambia: Connected Copperbelt - Mobile network operator Zamtel has announced the launch of its 4G network in the Copperbelt, the Lusaka Times reported The network offers Internet download speeds in excess of 30Mb/s and commercially available to all mobile users in the Copperbelt. Active 4G sites are in Kitwe, Chingola, Mufulira, Chambishi, Lufwanyama, Chililabombwe and Kalulushi, including the border town of Kasumbalesa. Zamtel Chief Executive Officer Sydney Mupeta said: "We are now focused on accelerating the roll-out of the 4G network to more regions and ensuring that there is sufficient high speed mobile broadband coverage across the country".

Zimbabwe: Debenture upgrade - An offer allowing creditors to convert debentures into shares has been extended by Econet Wireless Zimbabwe (EWZL). New Zimbabwe reported that Managing Director Peter Zimunya said it had made an offer for each debenture holder to convert their debentures into equity on the basis of 93.3 new ordinary shares for every 100 debentures held. Zimunya said this is intended to put them in the same position they would have been in if the company had not compelled them to take debentures instead of shares. The offer involves the conversion of 1.17 billion debentures in issue with a face value of USD 0.05 into ordinary shares.

Middle East:

Bahrain: Cash-free supermarket - Viva Bahrain has partnered with Carrefour Bahrain franchisee Majid Al Futtaim to implement its digital wallet, offering cashless payments for customers of the supermarket. Viva Cash can be downloaded free on the Apple App store and Google Play Store, and shoppers will receive an instant 10 percent cash back on any purchase at any of the 12 Carrefour branches in the country, up to BHD 5 (USD 13.18). The offer is valid until end-November. Viva Cash users can deposit money into their account either by transferring money from an existing debit card through the app or by topping up with cash at any of Saddad's 750 machines.

Israel: Case pending - Last week the Police said that they are willing to submit their recommendations to the Public Prosecutor's Office regarding their investigation into Case 4000 which relates to alleged arrangements between Netanyahu and Shaul Elovitch, the head of Bezeq Communications and owner of news website Walla. Netanyahu promised government concessions and services in exchange for favourable coverage on the news site, with Bezeq thought to have substantial sums during Netanyahu's term as Minister of Communications.

Qatar: POS solution - Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB) has officially launched the first Islamic Point of Sale (POS) and Online Payment Gateway services in collaboration with Qatari fintech company QPayinternational for QIB's corporate and SME clients. The product runs on Android and supports contactless card transactions, e-Wallet and mobile PoS (mPOS) services, QR code scanning and online billing and settlement. The mobile PoS (mPoS) is compatible with both Android and iOS and has a built-in camera that allows merchants to scan barcodes. The PoS accepts Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and UnionPay international cards.

Saudi Arabia: Third rural roll-out - The Ministry of Communications and IT (MCIT) has signed Saudi Telecom Company (STC) for the implementation of the third phase of its remote area access project to provide download speeds of 10Mbps to 70 percent of households in remote areas by 2020. STC will provide broadband services to 444,076 households in more than 3,000 villages around Riyadh, Qassim, Makkah, Madinah, Al Bahah, Tabuk, Jazan, Hail, Asir, and Najran, and taking in some 2.5 million people. The first and second phases were completed in July 2018, covering 16 percent of households in rural areas.

United Arab Emirates: Threat protection - The Telecommunications and Regulatory Authority (TRA) is to identify areas for cooperation in information and cybersecurity with the Computer Emergency Response Team (aeCERT) and General Holding Corporation (Senaat). The aim is to provide warnings to organisations about cyber-attacks, viruses and hacking, and to provide appropriate assistance. The aeCERT team will supply consultation and guidance about cyber threats and assist affiliates in reaching better results and protecting their systems from cyber-attacks.