News in Brief 12 December 2018

Africa:

Botswana: Business focus - Orange Botswana's recent appointed Director B2B and Fixed Broadband Dennis Mmolai in June follows the division of the business to focus on large accounts with corporates with more than 50 staff; and small businesses. He told Voice Money in an interview that large accounts have been further segmented by industry, so banking, mining, logistic sectors and others. The small businesses clientele have been segmented by geographic location. He noted the launch of 'Orange Sellecta A La Carte' which allows users to choose a combination on minutes, SMS and data. Fixed data connectivity is being offered either via fibre through BOFINET or Orange's infrastructure.

Congo Brazzaville: CAB push - The Steering Committee of the Central Africa Backbone Project (CAB) for the Congo Brazzaville component met on 7 December 2018. The meeting was chaired by the national coordinator of the CAB-Congo project, Yvon-Didier Miehakanda. A roadmap for 2019 was set out, with a budget of XOF 8.4 billion (USD 14.5 million). Activities will focus on the realization of technical infrastructure and support to institutions. These include the interconnection of Congo to Cameroon and Congo with the Central Africa Republic; the construction of a national data centre, and the development of the postal sector through the email project. Yvon-Didier Miehakanda said the expenditure represented catch-up of projects previously not executed and that 2019 will see the completion of the major works.

Kenya: Funding data focus - Telkom Kenya secured a USD 40 million from the European Investment Bank (EIB) to invest in expanding its mobile and data services. It has been focusing on data to win customers. In October it said it was in talks with two unidentified parties over partnerships to allow it to sell high speed Internet capacity from two submarine cables that are about to connect to Kenya. Chief executive Mugo Kibati, who was appointed on 9 November, said the funds supported Telkom's goal of being Kenya's preferred data network.

Kenya: Intelligent solution - Zuri, an artificial intelligence (AI) Chatbot assistant, has been introduced by Safaricom available on Telegram and Facebook Messenger. Users can perform tasks such as managing subscriptions, unsubscribing from chargeable SMS services, handling M-Pesa reversals, buying bundles, topping up airtime, and checking M-Pesa and airtime balances. Safaricom's Chief Customer Officer Sylvia Mulinge said that chatbot has a section where users can find more information about retrieving their PUK number, unlocking their M-Pesa account, and how to get a loan. Mulinge said Zuri supplement the operator's USSD and mySafaricom app self service facilities. In 2017 the operator launched Jitambulishe which is a Voice Biometrics identification system and allows a users' voice to be used for authentication before accessing services such as resetting their M-Pesa PIN and PUK requests.

Kenya: M-Pesa outage - Safaricom's M-Pesa mobile money service was unavailable at the weekend which it claimed were due to hitches affecting its database. It said via Twitter that the problem was being fixed. On 8 December at 19:04 am it said it experienced a slow database response, which reduced the number of transactions that could be processed. Services were restored at 22:53, but failed the following day at 07.19, but were restored half an hour later.

Kenya: Star video content - The online video streaming service StarTimes ON has been launched by StarTimes Kenya. The application can be accessed free-of-change, except for the sports content, which costs KES 30 (USD 0.29) per day, KES 200 (USD 1.94) weekly or KES 250 (USD 2.42) monthly. StarTimes' Marketing Director Japhet Akhulia, told a media briefing in Nairobi that video on demand (VoD) content is the most important feature for the app besides live channel broadcasting. It will provide some 20,000 hours of content, with 250 hours of new videos to be uploaded every week. Akhulia noted that StarTimes currently have over 10 million subscribers across 45 African countries.

Maldives: Fast island Internet - Ooredoo Maldives has launched its SuperNet fixed broadband services at R. Dhuvaafaru, offering speeds up to 100 mbps. It is making special offers for users acquiring a SuperNet connection in Dhuvaafaru before 31 December with connection fees waived. Ooredoo is offering a 12-month instalment plan for purchases of the SuperNet router. Satlink is the infrastructure partner in Dhuvaafaru, supporting Ooredoo in expanding the network on the island.

Nigeria: 5G prospects - The Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) has said that it anticipates mobile network operators rolling out 5G services by 2020, The Nation reported. NCC CEO Garba Umar Danbatta said that tests were being undertaken in Atlantic City, Lagos.

Nigeria: Data centre award - MainOne CEO, Funke Opeke has been honoured with Data Centre Dynamics 'Business Leader of the Year' award. Opeke was recognized for her role in leading MainOne to success in West Africa, and building a Tier III certified data centre. The award was made during the 2018 event at the Royal Lancaster, London on 6 December 2018.

State of Digital - Angola: February 2018

Nigeria: Family fun - Disneynigeria.mobi has been launched by MTN Nigeria to provide Disney-themed short-form content, games and 'shareables' for 2 years, with exclusivity for the first year. The service is a result of collaboration between MTN Nigeria and Walt Disney Company Africa. For NGN 200 (USD 0.60) per month short videos, 'wallpapers', Disney film and channel information and trailers, as well as 'downloadables' are available. Content will be updated monthly and viewers will get new output. Up to five devices can be added to one subscription.

Nigeria: iPhone offer - Globacom is offering its subscribers an opportunity to purchase the Apple iPhone Xs at Gloworld outlets and receive 36GB data and NGN 5,000 (USD 13.70) airtime free. The 6GB data will be released to the subscriber in instalments over a six month period, while the NGN 5,000 credit is available once the purchase is made. Both versions of iPhone Xs have A12 Bionic processor, which is 15 percent faster than the one of older model iPhones. They also have dual rear cameras, and come with versions that have 64GB and 256GB storage capacity.

Nigeria: Petro link-up - Globacom has partnered with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to provide real time connectivity for 139 NNPC locations. Globacom is facilitating the connectivity using its Intelligent Wide Area Network (iWAN). The corporation held a two-day exhibition at its headquarters for staff to interact with the partners implementing the project.

another fine mess for african telecoms

Senegal: IoT initiative - The Minister of the Digital Economy and the Internet Society (ISOC) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to cooperate in an initiative dedicated to IoT security. The government and ARCEP have committed to champion a multi-stakeholder process to tackle emerging IoT issues through to mod-2020. This collaborative governance process aims to develop an IoT security framework which will serve as a model to other African countries, proposing recommendations for strengthening privacy protections and security linked to IoT devices.

Somalia: Soft targets - Somali intelligence sources say Islamic State militants killed Golis deputy manager Abdullahi Ali Omar in Bossaso on 7 August for not paying money to the group, according to thenewsrep blog site. IS related groups are also believed to be behind the recent shootings of at least eight staff of telco Hormuud. The site reported that businesses are being targeted for three levies: Al-Shabaab taxes, Daesh [IS] taxes, and normal government taxes. There are reports of IS militant groups operating in Somaliland and Puntland, which are not the operational areas of Al-Shabaab.

South Africa: Distribution deal - Vox Telecom has struck a deal with Internet Solutions to become a distribution partner for Cell-C's fixed LTE-A packages, with prices starting at ZAR 219 (USD 15.62) per month and offering speeds up to 69 Mbps. The packages offer a choice in terms of data bundles, and they have the option of entering into a long-term rental contract where the upfront cost of the router can be avoided, and the device rented instead. Vox will initially offer four fixed LTE-A packages: 20GB of data at ZAR 219 (USD 16), 50GB at ZAR 349 (USD 25), 100GB at ZAR 530 (USD 38) and 200GB at ZAR 845 (USD 60) per month. Top-up data bundles can be bought ranging from 1GB at ZAR 12.50 (USD 0.90) to 20GB at ZAR 250 (USD 18). The router and SIM card will be delivered via Internet Solutions' fulfilment partner who will also perform RICA verification at the same time.

South Africa: Fibre expansion - Telkom South Africa national fibre network reached 161,119 km by 30 September 2018, according to its interim 2018 results, up from 157,400 km by March 2018, 151,000-km by September 2017, and 149,000-km by March 2017. Telkom also reported that it had reached 393,101 fibre-to-the-home (FttH) homes passed by September 2018, a 30.8 percent increase compared to 300,506 homes passed by September 2017. The operator also reported that 2.29 million homes were passed with fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) by September 2018, a 7.7 percent rise compared to 2.12 million in September 2017.

South Sudan: Mobile money mandated - The National Communication Authority (NCA) has licensed Trinity Technologies and another unnamed company to start mobile money and electronic cash transfers. NCA Director General Ladu Wani Kenyi said that people in South Sudan's capital have been relying on small, unlicensed mobile operators to transfer money enabled by the platform created by MTN Uganda and Kenya's M-Pesa platforms. Kenyi said these unlicensed transactions have been ongoing because there was no alternative, as over a million South Sudanese live in neighbouring countries. Trinity Technologies' director Richard Raja said the mobile money transfer project will create a cashless society.

South Africa: Power strategies - Cell-C's network went down recently after load-shedding caused a power surge at the Neotel Data Centre. The outage affected mobile and fixed-LTE users. MTN has told MyBroadband that load-shedding affects many of its sites, but it has invested in generators and back-up batteries to keep services running. MTN batteries have a capacity of around 6-12 hours dependant on the site category and require 12-18 hours to recharge dependant on the battery technology type. Where consecutive load shedding took place, batteries were unable to fully recharge, resulting in reduced backup times. Acts of theft and vandalism exacerbate load shedding events. MyBroadband cited Cell-C as saying that 80 percent of the alarms on the network are related to power outages or power induced failures. Following load shedding, in some cases transformers at substations trip and require Eskom to bring them back online.

Zimbabwe: Cellular capacity constraint - Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) Director of Technical Services, Baxton Sirewu, is quoted by The Herald as saying that a lack of available spectrum limits how many mobile network operators the market can support. However the state owns 100 percent of number two MNO NetOne and 60 percent of third-ranked operator Telecel, and therefore has a vested interest in the market. It also controls fixed line TelOne, which has not used its mobile concession State-backed ISPs PowerTel and Africom also have access to wireless spectrum for their CDMA fixed-wireless operations. The sole privately-owned operator with frequencies is Econet Wireless.

Zimbabwe: Easy account opening - Econet's Cassava Smartech banking unit, Steward Bank and Ecocash have launched a platform allowing Econet mobile subscribers to open bank accounts with their mobile devices within a minute, The Herald reports. The paperless Steward Bank account application will be accessible to more than 7 million EcoCash subscribers whose Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements already exist in the EcoCash database.

Zimbabwe: Even-handed fines - NetOne has been fined for misrepresenting information to its subscribers, The Herald reports. POTRAZ Director General Gift Machengete said the fine showed that NetOne was not getting preferential treatment as it was a government-owned entity. Machengete did not disclose the size of the fine.

Middle East:

Bahrain: Service app - Batelco has launched its all-in-one mobile and home broadband services app, allowing subscribers to monitor, manage and upgrade their services. The app will include package information, package upgrades with the ability to add bolt-on, mobile usage history, roaming bolt-on activation, subscription management, credit transfers to contacts, SimSim top-ups, bill payment, spam SMS blocking, and payments using debit and credit cards. The app is available on both Google Play Store and Apple App Store for download.

Israel: Debentures considered - Cellcom Israel announced on 4 December that its board has initiated the process for an offering of additional debentures from its existing series K and/or L debentures in an aggregate amount of approximately ILS 300 million (USD 63.0 million) to the public in Israel only. The timing and terms has not yet been determined and are subject to further approval of the Board.

Kuwait: 5G preparedness - A live 5G network could be provided by Zain Kuwait across 'all strategic and heavily populated areas' although 5G devices are not expected to be available until sometime in 2019. Zain also still needs additional spectrum and authorisation to launch 5G services, the Kuwait Times reported. Zain Kuwait, however, said that it would continue to developing and expand the 5G network gradually. Zain signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with ZTE and Huawei in October 2018 to develop 5G business cases.

Middle East: ICT consortium - Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Russia are to establish a consortium for further development of information and communication technologies (ICT), Trend reported. Azerbaijani Minister of Transport, Communications and High Technologies Ramin Guluzade said cooperation will be in satellite communication, cybersecurity, the development of telecommunications infrastructure, and other fields of mutual interest. The remarks were made at the opening ceremony of Bakutel 2018, the 24th Azerbaijan International Telecommunications and Information Technologies Exhibition and Conference.

Oman: TV via OTT - Ooredoo Oman has announced the launch of its OTT service, Ooredoo TV. A number of options are available, from family viewing to Arabic or Asian output. A TV-only subscription is available for a one-off fee of OMR 24 (USD 62.22) and then from OMR 6 (USD 15.56) a month, or a Home Bundle that includes Ooredoo TV for OMR 4 (USD 10.37) a month when subscribing to Ooredoo's home broadband services. Also available are Build-your-own bundles and a set-up box that can connect to the Internet and their TV.

Qatar: Paw patrol - Ooredoo Qatar has launched devices for parents and pet owners to keep tabs on their charges. The MyKi Touch and MyKi Pet are worn by the child or pet and use GPS and GSM tracking. Adjustments and observations can be made to the device using the MyKi application on any mobile device or tablet, or through a web browser. Parents can enter a set of authorised numbers to which the watch can make calls. In an emergency, children can press an SOS button that automatically sends GPS coordinates to their parents and initiates a call to the speed dial number. The recommended retail price is QAR 325 (USD 89) for the MyKi Touch and QAR 275 (USD 75) for the MyKi Pet. They require a micro SIM that is available at any Ooredoo Shop. The monthly subscription is QAR 35 (USD 9.60) or, for the first year only, an advance annual payment of QAR 340 (USD 93). Thereafter, the subscription will revert to monthly.

Qatar: Wider appeal - QAR 5 (USD 1.37) pre-paid cards have been introduced by Ooredoo Qatar to widen its customer base. The data card provides 210 MB valid from purchase until midnight; a QAR 5 Hala Smart Card provides 30 local call minutes and 200 MB of promotional data, with the calls valid for five days from purchase and the data valid until midnight on the day of purchase; a QAR 5 Dawli Card supplies 30 international minutes to India, Nepal (NTC and Ncell), Philippines (Globe and SmartMobile) Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia, with validity until midnight on the day of purchase; a QAR 5 Flexi card delivers 30 Flexi points.

Turkey: Unlimited Internet - Turk Telekom is to offer unlimited Internet packages to new subscribers at entry prices starting from TRY 59.90 (USD 11.10) per month from 1 January 2019. A choice of unlimited packages with different speed options are available and existing users will be able to transfer to these tariff plans at no additional cost.