News in Brief 19 December 2018

Africa:

Algeria: Satellite stamp - On 11 December the Minister of Post, Telecommunications, Technology and Digital, Houda-Imane Faraoun cancelled a postage stamp commemorating the first anniversary of the launch of the satellite ALCOMSAT-1. The Minister was visiting the Lakhdaria Space Station, followed by another at the Telecommunications Systems Exploitation Centre (CEST), under the responsibility of the Algerian Space Agency, located in Bouchaoui (Algiers). ALCOMSAT-1 was launched on 11 December 2017 from the Xichang launch base in China.

Benin: Strategic studies - Tunisia-based CERT International has been awarded contracts by the Autorite de Regulation des Communications Eletroniques et de la Poste (ARCEP) to undertake two studies, one relating to the reorganization of the use of spectrum, and the other, which will be carried out in collaboration with GTC Consulting, on the prospects for the introduction of the Internet of Things in Benin. Since 2005 CERT has operated in 6 North African countries, namely Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Congo Brazzaville, Burundi and Benin.

Nigeria: Closures condemned - The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has noted that it is criminal offence for states to shut down telecommunication base transceiver stations (BTS), the Guardian reported. It cited the Kogi state internal revenue agency which sealed up BTS because of unpaid levies by telcos, affecting users in nine states. The NCC's Legal and Regulatory Services Deputy Director Giwa Mohammed said that the decision of the Kogi state government has cost billions of Naira and had security consequences.

Nigeria: Monitoring initiated - Mobile radio frequency monitoring equipment and a national spectrum management system for effective monitoring of frequency bands used to provide radio communication services have been launched, CommunicationsWeek has reported. Minister of Communications Adebayo Shittu said the equipment was worth USD 9 million, adding that the equipment would ensure that users complied with the guiding laws and regulations, and any interference minimised.

Nigeria: Sector significance - In 3Q 2018 the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) amounted to some USD 91.83 billion, up 1.8 percent compared to the same period in 2017 when GDP recorded at USD 29.38 billion, Agence Ecofin reported. The telecommunications sector contributed some USD 7.7 billion; or 8.87 percent; down 0.3 points compared to the same period of 2017 when the contribution of the telecom sector to GDP was 8.9 percent. The NBS noted that the telecommunications sector is the third largest contributor to GDP, after the agricultural and the extractive industries sectors which contributed 25.5 and 9.5 percent respectively. Compared to 2Q18, the NBS estimates that the contribution of telecoms to GDP fell in the third quarter. As of 30 June 2018, the telecom sector accounted for 11.4 percent of GDP, and it fell by 2.6 percent.

South Africa: Broadband inquiry - The Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA) has welcomed the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) last month announcing it will mount an inquiry into competition in the provision of mobile broadband services. ISPA regulatory advisor Dominic Cull said: "This investigation cuts to the heart of the cost to communicate in South Africa and, together with the merging of the communications-focused government ministries, is the best ICT industry news that came out of 2018." ICASA is expected to finish its work and publish the final regulations by the end of March 2020. Since 2016, South Africans have been calling for mobile data prices to be reduced under the social media banner #DataMustFall.

South Africa: More numbers - Vodacom has been awarded numbers in the 096 range for machine related services (MRS) by ICASA, according to MyBroadband. Vodacom has been awarded 2 million numbers in the range 096 020 1000 0000 to 096 020 1199 9999. Telkom was also awarded new numbers in the 067 range recently.

Swaziland: MoMo momentum - Eswatini Mobile's (formerly Swazi Mobile) mobile money service now has recorded over 20,000 subscribers, Corporate Communications Manager Nosipho Shongwe said on 13 December. Shongwe said Eswatini is now recruiting agents to provide national coverage, to build on its existing distribution network. The operator is now in the process of improving its network coverage, mainly installing new base station sites to improve connectivity with the aim of achieving 90 percent territorial coverage. The e-mali service was launched on 31 August and currently offers free utility payments for electricity, water and other services.

Togo: Stone marker - Minister of Digital Economy and Posts, Cina Lawson, said on 11 December that the foundation stone of the Lome Carrier Hotel had been laid on 3 December 2018. The building is a key element of plans to create a digital economy, and is being funded by a public-partnership agreement (PPA). The Minister said the centre will be neutral and open, and integrating an Internet exchange point. The infrastructure is financed by the World Bank (USD 30 million) and falls under the West African Regional Communications Infrastructure Programme.

State of Digital - Angola: February 2018

Zimbabwe: Listing approved - Econet Wireless Zimbabwe is to list the now-separated Cassava SmarTech Zimbabwe on 18 December following approval by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe for shares to be issued to foreign shareholders, the Herald reported. Econet Group finance director Roy Chimanikire said it now has all outstanding shareholder and regulatory approvals. Econet shareholders of record by 22 November will receive a free distribution of shares. The two companies will initially have exactly the same shareholders prior to the start of trading.

Zimbabwe: Telecel diversification - TelOne is installing face-recognition technology to aid the authorities in apprehending law breakers. BusinessTimes reports that the technology, which will first be introduced in the city of Mutare, will also be widely rolled out at traffic lights, airports and in cities across the country. The partnership will see TelOne implementing red light violation cameras, speed cameras and public cameras across the city. The technology recognises the face of an offender or suspected criminal at any given time when near cameras which will be installed at various traffic lights and airports across the country

another fine mess for african telecoms

Middle East:

Bahrain: Consumer complaints - The Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA) has launched an integrated complaint and inquiry management system. The system includes a consumer portal where consumers can log in and submit details of their complaint and supporting documents. The system also provides faster options for registration via email (Gmail) or Facebook account, as all complaint and inquiry processes are managed through this portal besides the automated connection between TRA and the services providers. The TRA also held several training workshops for the service providers to explain the advantages of the new system. The workshops focused on the updated dispute submission mechanism, the new features of monitoring responses and updates according to specified period.

Kuwait: Roaming package - Ooredoo Kuwait has launched its 'My Country' roaming bundles that can be used in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Oman, Iraq, Jordan, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and the US. The bundle is available through a roaming SIM card with a free single subscription to 'My Country Bundle'. It gives 200 minutes of incoming and outgoing calls and 30 GB without any daily restriction.

Kuwait: Video offering - Starting on 13 December, Zain post- and pre-paid users can subscribe to Prime Video without the need for a credit card or additional payment methods. The offer includes two months of Prime Video free, after which customers can subscribe to the service for up to KWD 2 per (USD 0.02) month. The collaboration was announced during Zain's participation at Gitex 2018 in October.

Oman: IPv6 preparations - Ooredoo Oman and the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) have run tests to enable the use of IPv6. The next generation of IP addresses will provide companies with more efficient network connectivity, whilst providing an infinitely larger pool of public IP addresses. This new generation technology is expected to improve compatibility of devices.

Qatar: Testing corner - Vodafone Qatar is allowing customers to use its 5G test network for gaming during national day celebrations at Katara until 19 December 2018. A dedicated corner of the Vodafone Village at Katara has been provided, allowing games to be played via Wi-Fi connected to 5G and broadcast on digital screens. An augmented reality table demonstrating the capabilities of 5G and a digital photo booth have also been provided.

Syria: Listing approval - In early December MTN Syria has received a preliminary approval to list its shares on the Damascus Securities Exchange, potentially opening the way for the sale of the stakes of some of the company’s main shareholders. It is now required to complete the required procedures according to the listing rules and conditions.

Turkey: App store - Turkcell is collaborating with Metrological to provide the integrated Turkcell TV App Store to all Turkcell TV+ subscribers offering localised and international content from Metrological's App library. The suite consists of an Application Platform that provides the content for operators to build their own localised TV App Store. It also includes a back-office product suite for on-boarding, monetising and optimising the life cycle of web and native apps across set-top boxes. The Metrological Application Platform provides APIs to support features such as unified search, contextuality, second screen and voice control.

Turkey: Asset sales - Telia have confirmed the sale of Kazakhstan mobile operator Kcell, which it jointly owns with Turkcell, to state-controlled operator Kazakhtelecom. The fixed operator will pay USD 446 million for the 75 percent stake. The deal completes Telia's exit from the Eurasia region, following the recent sale of its Uzbekistan assets. It said it also reached a deal to acquire Turkcell's share in Fintur, their holding company for a 51 percent stake in Kcell, so Telia can repatriate cash from Fintur. Turkcell said it expects to receive EUR 350 million (USD 397.1 million) for its 41.45 percent stake in Fintur. The deal with Turkcell will close in January 2019 and still leaves Telia with Moldcell in Moldova, in which it will be the sole shareholder. Turkcell said it will use the proceeds to reduce debt and improve its forex position, with its leverage expected to fall to below 1.5x EBITDA.

Turkey: Certified solution - Sparkle has enhanced its ERP Infrastructure solution with the introduction of certified SAP HANA hardware in its Istanbul Data Centre. The service, available also in Greece, offers multinational and domestic enterprises a secure and reliable environment for their business-critical applications. Located in Yenibosna, the data centre is one of the largest open colocation facilities in Turkey, featuring best in-market technologies and monitoring systems and providing a full range of integrated ICT solutions.

Turkey: Story time - Audiobook service Storytel is collaborating with Vodafone Turkey to provide Storytel content to subscribers. Vodafone users who open their first Storytel account get a free trial period of 30 days, and subscriptions can be continued for TRY 24.99 (USD 4.66) a month. Storytel is available through an iPhone or Android application using MP3 files which can be listened to offline.

United Arab Emirates: Better broadband speeds - Etisalat is doubling broadband speed for its 'eLife Unlimited' plans immediately at no extra charge. The entry-level plan, eLife Starter, will now offer service at up to 100 Mbps. The eLife Unlimited Sports and Entertainment plans offer speeds up to 250 Mbps. ELife Premium offers speeds of up to 500 Mbps and up to 1 Gbps. Etisalat has introduced a 'Commitment Free' option, a first in the UAE, waiving the minimum tie-in period in exchange for a monthly fee of AED 20 (USD 5.44).

Device developments:

Qatar: Smart smartphone - Ooredoo Qatar is to introduce the new Porsche Design Huawei Mate 20 RS in red. Pre-orders started on 14 December with delivery scheduled for 20 December. The device will be priced at QAR 7,099 (USD 1,950). The design features polished glass and fine handmade leather for a luxury experience. It also sports the Kirin 980 chipset with dual NPU, 7nm process technology, and 512 GB internal flash memory with 8GB RAM. Huawei Supercharge Technology 2.0 and the 40W adapter allow for fast recharging; wireless charging is also possible. The smartphone can also be used with Huawei Wireless Reverse Charging as a wireless power bank for other Qi-enabled devices. The device also features a triple camera from Leica and facial feature identification possibilities.

United Arab Emirates: Du eSims - Mobile network operator Du has announced the availability of eSims for the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR. Users can now activate an additional plan, making it easy to use two different phone numbers or separate voice and data plans on one device. Existing Du pre- and post-paid subscribers can activate the eSIM functionality at no extra cost until 31 December by visiting Du retail outlets.