News in Brief 30 January 2019

Africa:

Algeria, Tunisia: Roaming charge abolition - The cost of international calls between Algeria and Tunisia are expected to fall after the Algerian Minister of Post, Telecommunications, Technology and Digital, Houda-Imane Faraoun, and Tunisia's equivalent, Anouar Maarouf, made the announcement on 27 January 2019 at a during the press briefing at the end of the 3rd session of the Algerian-Tunisian Joint Technical Committee for Cooperation in the Field of Post and ICT, Agence Ecofin reported. The intention is to remove the international roaming charges. Maarouf said that: "the common desire of the two countries to suppress Roaming, that is to say to create what is called the One Network Area, will allow citizens on both sides of the border to feel at home".

Cameroon: Staff sackings - Cameroon Telecommunications (Camtel) is reported to have made further layoffs on 24 January, the Journal du Cameroun reported. The new Director-General Judith Yah in a statement said that 17 more staff had been dismissed. The cases were considered by Camtel's Disciplinary Board in sessions convened from 30 to 31 October 2018 and 5 to 7 December. The staff have been accused of 'embezzlement of corporate values, financial malpractices, customer scams, cable theft, forgery and false uses, fraudulent line traffic; and unjustified absences'. An agent is also accused of the 'wrong way of serving'. This is the second time in two weeks that Camtel has dismissed staff. The first purge, which involved the dismissal of 50 employees, took place on 15 January.

Congo Brazzaville: Device approval - Agence de Regulation des Postes et des Communications Electroniques' (ARPCE) General Manager Yves Castanou on 22 January 2018 met with importers and distributors of phones, tablets, computers and other electronic devices. They were told that with effect from 1 February 2019 that they will no longer be allowed to import equipment and electronic communications terminals without the approval of the ARCEP.

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Cut considered by court - Access to the Internet, social networks and SMS service was restored on 19 January 2019 after it was cut on 31 December 2018, on instruction of the government on the day after the general elections. Subsequently Vodacom, Orange, Airtel and Africell have been taken to court, with the Commercial Court of Kinshasa / Gombe holding an an introductory public hearing on 22 January when it considered the complaint of twenty-four subscribers 'for improper Internet and SMS messaging'. The case was adjourned until 19 February for readjustment, to enable the parties to exchange exhibits and expand their arguments. The Consumers Association of the DRC also joined the 24 victims as a complainant.

Ghana: Better service - Kumasi City Mall in the Ashanti Region has a new Vodafone Ghana retail outlet. Vodafone's Chief Executive Officer, Ms Yolanda Cuba, said: "At Vodafone, our commitment has remained unchanged over the years - to provide unmatched experience for our customers. Our visibility at the Kumasi City Mall is one of the many avenues we are deploying to ensure we are always leading." Vodafone Ghana’s Director in charge of Consumer Business, Mr Puspinder Singh, said the new shop would change the dynamics of customer experience at the centre.

Liberia: Store opened - Orange Liberia has opened a new retail outlet on Carey Street, Monrovia, with extended opening hours, and a 24-hour Orange Money Bank. Orange Liberia's Stores and Points of Sale Manager Uomah Witherspoon said that store will have three agents during the day and two at night Monday to Saturday. The Orange Money Bank will provide financial services 24 hours a day and seven days a week, with tight security. Franchise partner George N Moussa Nehme said that the development of the new store had been in the pipeline for some time.

Maldives: Service expansion - Ooredoo Maldives has increased the services available at its Ooredoo Experience Centres to every inhabited island, by strengthening its business partner network and providing digital tools to serve customers. They will be able to offer pre- and post-paid package subscriptions, bill payments, digital payment services on m-Faisaa, as well as SuperNet services.

Namibia: Rural roll-out - Mobile network operator Mobile Telecommunications (MTC) has announced that it has started to extend its 3G network to rural areas, Xinhuanet reported. A total of 111 sites have been set up by MTC as it attempts to cover 100 percent of the country with its mobile network. MTC's Chief Human Capital and Corporate Affairs Officer, Tim Ekandjo said: "We are determined to reach all persons in rural areas by the end of this year". Ekandjo noted MTC plans to set up a total of 524 rural towers over the course of 2019.

Nigeria: BTS tax cuts - Grave concern has been expressed by MTN Nigeria over what it described as the arbitrary shutdown of its base stations by the Kogi State Internal Revenue Service (KGIRS), which claimed tax had not been paid. According to MTN's Corporate Relations Executive, Tobechukwu Okigbo, the Taxes and Levies Act which introduces the social service contribution and economic development levies mandates the Joint Tax Board to recommend chargeable fees which will be subject to the Minister of Finance's approval. The state is demanding for immediate payment of social service contribution levy, employee development levy and annual rent for Right-of-Way on fibre optics cable.

State of Digital - Angola: February 2018

Rwanda: Internet initiative - MTN Rwanda has initiated a three-month long Internet Fest (iFest) focusing on promoting data services to both current and potential data users as part of a strategy to drive data penetration. MTN iFest is to showcase the importance of the Internet for communicating; discovering and learning, while letting people experience MTN services and devices. Activities include, market storms and activations, campus activations and data clinics. MTN has introduced a self-service IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system that will offer Data Tips 24/7. This can be accessed by dialling 200. The MyMTN App was also recently launched, providing an all-in-one, self-care tool enabling MTN customers to self-serve and engage with customer service online.

Sierra Leone: National network - Sierra Leone Telecommunications Company Limited's (Sierratel) General Manager Senesie Kallon said on 22 January 2019 that it would invest some SLL 44 billion (USD 5.1 million) during 2019 to provide national network coverage, Agence Ecofin reported. Speaking at a ceremony to mark Sierratel's renovated corporate reception, he noted that a total of 70 new sites would be constructed to enhance the customer experience in the capital Freetown and other major cities of the country.

South Africa: Free data extension - Cell-C's black is extending its free data promotion to stream content until the end of June; the data can be accessed on any of the operator's pre- or post-paid and can be used to browse, watch or download content on black. The free data promotion started in May 2017. It also recently launched an obligation free 7-day trial for Binge Elite which is an all-access pass to the highest subscription on black with the exception of movie rentals. black has exclusive distribution rights to FOX+ and National Geographic+ in South Africa. The service is available on all networks in South Africa and each subscription can be accessed on up to five devices.

another fine mess for african telecoms

South Africa: Please settle me - The Please Call Me service settlement still has not gone away yet for Vodacom, The Star reported. Gauteng executive council member (MEC) Panyaza Lesufi gave the mobile provider a 31 January deadline. Nkosana Makate worked for Vodacom in the early 2000s and took the idea of the 'Please Call Me' service to the company's product development team. For eighteen years he has been involved in legal proceedings and negotiations in a bid to get compensation for his idea. Makate called an offer made by Vodacom an insult, and the paper reports that protesters plan to march to Vodacom offices on 31 January, although the identity or number of likely protestors was not revealed.

Uganda: Better 4G - Africell Uganda is the first telco to launch 4G dedicated Internet bundles in the country, which have been dubbed Crazy 4G bundles. Africell has been expanding its network infrastructure coupled with a significant boost in speeds in major towns and surrounding areas after the Phase 1 network upgrade was completed. The operator is reported to have agreed some USD 100 million to rejuvenate its business in Uganda. Africell Uganda 4G service is available in Kampala, Mbale, Jinja, Mbarara, Arua, Masaka, Wakiso, Entebbe and neighbouring areas.

Uganda: Tax take falls - The number of Internet subscribers who paid the social media tax fell from 8.04 million in July 2018 to 6.84 million people, according to a quarterly report by Uganda Communications Commission (UCC). The monies collected from Over The Top (OTT) tax fell from UGX 5.6 billion (USD 1.51 million) in July to UGX 3.9 billion (USD 1.05 million) at the end of September, according to the UCC report. The tax was introduced in the 2018/2019 financial year. The number of Internet subscribers also fell from 16 million to 13.5 million.

Uganda: Meeting of minds? - MTN Group CEO Rob Shuter and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni have met at the World Economic Forum to reaffirm MTN Group's commitment to Uganda and discuss recent developments in the market, the operator said. MTN Uganda's interim licence expired on 20 January, and the meeting was held on 22 January, following the deportation of French and Rwandan MTN executives who were accused of activities likely to compromise national security. MTN Uganda's Chief Marketing officer Olivier Prentout was detained at Entebbe airport on 19 January after returning from a business trip, then sent back to France. Head of sales and distribution, Annie Bilenge Tabura, was arrested by security personnel as she arrived at its headquarters in Kampala on 21 January, then deported to Rwanda.

Uganda: Pension pot - MTN Uganda may sell a stake to the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), as it looks to comply with new regulations governing local ownership of telcos. A report by Mobile World Live cites Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni as saying that MTN will likely be 'disposing shares to NSSF', though not yet confirmed by MTN.

Uganda: Tax impact assessment - The Parliamentary committee on Information and Communication Technology has ordered the Ministry of ICT to undertake an assessment on the impact of the social media tax introduced at the start of the 2018/19 financial year, The Monitor reported. The committee, chaired by Annet Nyakecho, said the Over The Top tax appears to have negatively affected the consumption of ICT services and products. Minister of ICT, Frank Tumwebaze admitted that the tax had had adverse effects on the sector. A month after launch, Uganda Revenue Authority had collected some UGX 4.7 billion (USD 1.3 million) from the social media tax and UGX 22.3 billion (USD 6.0 million) from Mobile Money transactions. Subscribers are charged a daily fee of UGX 200 (USD 0.05) to access social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Instagram, while 0.5 percent is charged on every mobile money transaction.

Zambia: Senior appointment - Liquid Telecom has appointed Susan M'kandawire Mulikita as CEO of Liquid Telecom Zambia. Mulikita joined Liquid on 14 January 2019 and is the first woman to join Liquid Telecom's Southern Africa regional executive team as CEO. She is also the first female CEO responsible for ICT in Zambia. At Airtel she was responsible for telecommunications and ICT law, policy, regulation and stakeholder management. Mulikita is a graduate of the University of Zambia with a Bachelor of Law Degree and has a Master of Law (ICT) degree from the Buckinghamshire New University (UK).

Middle East:

Bahrain: Better email - Batelco has adopted the cloud service Amazon WorkMail from Amazon Web Services (AWS) to run email services for both corporate and retail customers, and supports all mobile devices and desktop email clients. Batelco is an AWS Advanced APN Partner, Direct Connect Partner, and Authorised Channel and Public Sector Reseller.

Israel: BComm issue - Bezeq Israeli Telecommunication's parent company B Communications Ltd. Is reported to have raised some ILS 118 million (USD 32.2 million) in a private equity offering. The company issued 7.4 million shares at ILS 16 (USD 4.36) per share. The bondholders of B Communications parent Internet Gold Golden Lines Ltd. are to meet to decide whether to participate in the private equity offering. Globes reports that the board is currently split on the matter. Internet Gold's holding in B Communications will now be diluted to 52 percent.

Israel: Strike threat - Histadrut, the union representing Cellcom Israel's staff, has notified the company of a labour dispute following the announcement that it intends to sack 250 employees and failure to agree on other streamlining measures with the union. The staff are now entitled to take organisational steps, including a strike, as of 7 February. Cellcom has said it is to assess the effects of the announcement at this stage.

Israel: US cautionary - Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz has said the government is taking US sensitivities into account. When asked about the US remarks on 102 FM Tel Aviv Radio, Steinitz said its clear Israeli has good relations with China and that 'is very important, and with Russia and almost the whole world, but the US is our number one ally. That is how it has been and how it will be'. Last week US Deputy Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette cautioned Israel over Chinese investment in the country, suggesting Israel’s allies could limit intelligence-sharing with it as a result. In December 2016 Huawei acquired Israel’s HexaTier, whose technology secures databases in the cloud, for USD 42 million. That same month, Huawei also acquired IT research firm Toga Networks for an undisclosed amount. ZTE is reported to have shown on-going interest in the tech sector since it sent a senior delegation to the country in 2013.

Kuwait: Data management - Kuwait International Airport, which is managed by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), has adopted Microsoft Azure cloud services. The government wants to better address issues that many international airports face such as high traffic, long lines, and inefficient gate assignments, said Mohammad Al-Mutairi, IT Operations Manager of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. The solution will allow the DGCA to gather, manage, and analyse airport data, and transform it into actionable business intelligence and data visualizations. In the near future, DGCA also plans to automate much of the decision-making process by using Azure Machine Learning.

Kuwait, Qatar: International 5G - Ooredoo Group has made the first trial international 5G call in the region between Ooredoo Kuwait and Ooredoo Qatar. The call took place using 5G CPEs connected at up to 1 Gbps. Detailed 5G testing is now under way in both Qatar and Kuwait.

Oman: Plan extension - Ooredoo Oman is extending its Super Fibre Home Broadband 20 Mbps, 50 Mbps and 100 Mbps plans for a further month. Customers signing up to the three-month plan will automatically get double the speed at no extra cost. Plans start at OMR 28 (USD 73). Customers get up to 5,000 Ooredoo fixed minutes, 10 percent discount on international calls and free installation. Ooredoo is still extending its Super Fibre network coverage, which now cover a wide area in Muscat including Al Hail, Al Khoud, Al Mabelah, Al Manuma, Al Seeb Jadida, Hayy Al Saruj, Darsait, Hamriya, Wadi Kabir, Wadi Adai, Madinat Al-Ilam, Al Qurum, Ruwi and Al Wattaya. Outside Muscat, it also covers Mussanah in South Al Batinah and Saa'dah in Salalah.

United Arab Emirates: Best brand - Brand Finance has declared Etisalat as 'The Most Valuable Portfolio Brand' in Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Its wider portfolio value is estimated at USD 10 billion; its portfolio of brands includes Etisalat UAE, Etisalat Misr, PTCL, Ufone, Mobily, Maroc Telecom and Etisalat Afghanistan. The group has seen 8 percent growth since last year, as the most valuable portfolio brand. Etisalat also kept its position as the Most Valuable Consumer Brand in MENA for the second consecutive year, as well as its position as the Most Valuable Telecom Brand in MENA also for second consecutive year.