News in Brief 14 February 2019


Africa: Investment high - Telecom, media and tech investment and consolidation activity in Africa is expected to reach a record high in 2019 as a number of significant deals are pending, including the opening-up of the Ethiopian telecom sector, TMT Finance has reported. MTN, Orange and Vodacom are amongst those known to be eyeing Ethiopia after progress in the privatisation process. Ethio Telecom has around 41 million subscribers and in January appointed six consultancies in partnership with the World Bank. The operator is to be split into two businesses. Privatisations of telecom assets are also planned for Togocom and Benin Telecom, with consolidation investments expected in Kenya and Tunisia. Meanwhile, Airtel has hired banks for an IPO of its entire African portfolio while several telecom firms are bidding for Millicom's assets. The acceleration of investment in mobile and broadband infrastructure is driven by operators and investors seeking to meet the need for data services.

Cameroon: Size does matter - MTN Cameroon's Senior Manager, Corporate Affairs Melvin Akam has denied reports that MTN is considering downsizing. He as told Digital Business Africa: "There are no planned dismissals at MTN Cameroon. February will pass, March, April 2019 and so on. There will be no dismissal at MTN Cameroon."

Ethiopia: Cambridge connectivity - Cambridge Wireless (CW) is collaborating with the regional state government, Bahir Dar University and local delivery partners to deploy connectivity infrastructure in the city of Bahir Dar. The launch workshop is on 13 February. Bahir Dar lies on the edge of Lake Tana. CW says that this is a business development for firms working in network infrastructure seeking international expansion. CW is running the scheme in collaboration with the Centre for Global Equality, Cambridge Global Challenges, the Trust & Technology Strategic Research Initiatives (University of Cambridge), and Bahir Dar University.

Gambia: Tax award - Comium GSM has been awarded best GSM taxpayer of 2017 by the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) during its 3rd edition of the taxpayers' award and recognition event held at Paradise Suite hotel last week. Comium's accountant Michael Ellis said the award was a reflection of the commitment of the management in fulfilling it tax obligation, saying Comium is not only providing Internet services but also paying its taxes on time as Gambia is a tax-based economy.

Ghana: Better broadband coverage - Facebook and Vodafone Ghana have jointly launched the Express Wi-Fi programme to deliver connectivity to under-served areas. Express Wi-Fi enables retail entrepreneurs to offer Internet service at hotspots in their communities, and is already deployed in India, Kenya, Indonesia, Nigeria and Tanzania. The National Communications Authority's (NCA) reports data penetration as currently standing at 80.3 percent. The partnership has already deployed hotspots in Accra, including in areas such as Nima, James Town, Maamobi, Pig Farm and Abossey Okai.

Kenya: Content review centre - A new content review centre has been opened in Nairobi, as part of Facebook's continued investment across sub-Saharan Africa and commitment to safety and security on its platform. In partnership with locally-based Samasource, the site will be Facebook's first content review centre in sub-Saharan Africa. Some 100 reviewers will be on the pay-role by the end of 2019, which will support a number of languages, including Somali, Oromo, Swahili and Hausa.

Kenya: MD appointed - Seacom has named its first Managing Director for the Eastern North and East Africa region as Tonny Tugee. Seacom Group CEO Byron Clatterbuck said that the appointment is in line with its strategy of tapping globally benchmarked, and locally relevant expertise. Tugee has a Master's Degree in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Nairobi.

Liberia: More MTN marketing - Lone Star Cell MTN has launched its 'Here for You' promotion focusing on its quality service. Offers include ten minutes to any Liberian network for LRD 1 (USD 0.006) for three days, five minutes free international calls on every purchase of LRD 2 (USD 0.012) for the 'Cool For You' promotion and an extension of the company's closing time from 17:00hrs to 20:00hrs daily. A thousand scholarships for students in public schools that pay their registration fees through MTN's mobile money service have also been announced. Students pay their fees through mobile money and will be able to enter a raffle draw, which will be implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Education.

Malawi: New towers - Airtel Malawi expects to improve network coverage in remote areas in 2019, Malawi24 reported. Senior Business Manager Lesley Tsilizani made the comments whilst commissioning a new network tower at Mangunda trading centre. Tsilizani said Airtel is installing network towers in rural areas and is targeting some 80 sites nationally that either have poor or no network, she said. So far 50 sites have been provided with new towers; each site costing some MWK 80 million (USD 108,000).

State of Digital - Angola: February 2018

Mobile: New antennas - CommScope is now offering a 3.5 GHz-capable antennas for macro and small cell densification to increase network capacity and migration to 5G, allowing customer's deploying newly licensed spectrum bands to increase capacity in existing LTE networks and prepare for future 5G networks with its 3.5 GHz-capable base station antennas. The antennas support 3.5 GHz for macro cell and outdoor small cell deployments with a variety of single band and multiband options available, including beamforming; enable spectral efficiencies with carrier aggregation, higher-order MIMO, interference management and beamtilt functionalities, as well as are future-ready as part of the path to 5G and compatible with LTE and earlier radio technologies. New antennas and filter products now available include sector antennas for macro cells with 2.3GHz beamforming; multiband antennas and combiners for macro cells with 1,400 MHz support for use in the European Union; both 65° sector and quasi-omni small cell antennas, as well as combiners and tower mounted amplifiers supporting 3.5GHz macro cell and small cell deployments.

Morocco: Popular Internet - Some 22.56 million people go online daily (86 percent of Internet users) 11 percent weekly, and 2 percent monthly, according to Hootsuite and We Are Social's 2018 digital report, published by MoroccoWorldNews. Some 17 million people (47 percent of the population), are active on social media, and 16 million of them access social media on their mobile devices. There are some 43.76 million mobile subscriptions, which had an estimated population of 36.41 million people in 2018. The report shows an annual digital growth of 1.2 percent between January 2018 and January 2019. Mobile phone usage rose by 5.7 percent over that period while the number of active users of social networks grew by 1 million, or 6.3 percent. 96 percent of the total adult population have a phone and 57 percent have a smartphone. By contrast, only 25 percent of adults use a computer, 14 percent use a tablet, 87 percent have a television, and 7 percent have a streaming device. The average internet speed for mobile is 20.77 Mbps compared with 13.87 Mbps for cable. Both speeds increased by more than 26 percent in 2018 compared with a year earlier, according to the report. The report's data sets did not include Western Sahara, where the number of Internet users rose by 364 percent or 102,000 users, The Next Web quoted the report as saying.

Namibia: Overdue accounts - Telecom Namibia has said that it has suspended all overdue service accounts, including mobiles, fixed and data services on 10 February. Defaulters are said to include government ministries, hospitals, institutions of education, state owned enterprises, embassies, construction companies, VIP’s, SMEs and individual residential users.

another fine mess for african telecoms

Nigeria: Artificial assistance - Globacom plans to launch the country's first Artificial Intelligence platform in the telecom sector. The platform will aid subscribers to get information about data plans, pre- and post-paid plans and Value-Added Service (VAS). The Glo Artificial Intelligence platform will engage customers directly to provide the information they require. This will empower customers to choose the most convenient plan, resolve issues and ask questions 24/7 without any human interface. The platform can have conversations in English and Pidgin, which will be available through voice and text, with balance enquiry and other customer care related services. Globacom's Deputy Chief Operating Officer - Technical, Bisi Koleoso, said: "We have invested massively in new technologies to introduce these products which we believe will redefine business, social and personal pursuits."

South Africa: Dominant by default - The Competition Commission will not prosecute MultiChoice and SuperSport after complaints regarding their 'abuse of dominance', the ANA has reported. The commission received complaints between 2012 and 2017 but has concluded there was no reasonable prospect of a successful prosecution and a regulatory intervention would be more effective. It was concluded that there was potential failure in this market, with factors such as the highly concentrated nature of the subscription television market, the high barriers to effective entry to it, and the inability of existing firms to expand, and lack of credible alternative buyers for premium sports rights other than Multichoice. The commission said it would continue to support the work of ICASA in line with the terms of the existing Memorandum of Understanding between the two bodies.

South Africa: Rising revenues - In a note issued on 4 February MTN said that it expects to report an improvement of at least 20 percent in headline earnings per share for the year ended December 2018. The operator, which has faced a number of difficulties, particularly in its biggest market of Nigeria, said it expects to post an increase of 36.4 cents and 49.2 cents respectively in both headline earnings per share (HEPS) and attributable earnings per share (EPS) for the 12-month period. MTN expects to publish its results on 7 March 2019.

Togo: Subscriber registration - Moov Togo is to shortly start its SIM registration campaign; subscribers will need to provide a national ID card, a driving license, a passport or a voter's ID card, whilst foreign residents will need a resident permit. Any person lacking these documents will have to visit a Moov agency, with any ID document accompanied by his or her referrer. The new campaign follows a similar one carried out some years ago aims to make more reliable ID data of users and update Moov's subscriber database.

Uganda: MTN money charges - From 1 February MTN Uganda has raised a number of mobile money charges, the Monitor has reported. Clients depositing money using their mobile wallets will be charged the new rates. A deposit between UGX 250,001(USD 68) and UGX 500,000 (USD 136) will attract a UGX 6,000 (USD 1.63) charge, up from UGX 2,000 previously; deposits between UGX 500,001 and UGX 1 million will pay UGX 9,000, up from UGX 3,000; and deposits ranging from UGX 1 million to over UGX 2 million, the charge will be UGX 3,500, down from UGX 4,000, while deposits of UGX 2,000,001 to UGX 5 million will be charged UGX 16,500. Mobile money to bank transactions had been exempted from the 0.5 percent mobile money tax implemented in July 2018.

Middle East:

Afghanistan: New posts - On 9 February ATRA's Chairman Dr. Mohammad Najeeb Azizi, introduced Naqibullah Sialab as Techincal Vice-Chairman and Sayed Bilal Hashemy as Admin and Finance Vice-Chairman of ATRA to the staff. The Chairman said that: "ATRA is moving toward more empowerment and professionalism while expressing pleasure for designation of these two professional and specialised persons". The appointments follow amendments to the Telecom Act with regard to ATRA's organization structure.

Bahrain: 5G ready - Third ranked MNO Viva Bahrain by subscribers has completed its 5G readiness in selected locations nationally. Viva claims to be the first operator in Bahrain to enable the adoption of 5G services and despite the currently limited availability of 5G-compatible devices, Viva says its early adoption of the latest technology is in line with its vision to become the leading mobile operator in Bahrain. Viva Bahrain piloted a 5G trial in June 2018. It has not published the locations.

Israel: China investment caution - The government is reported to be scrutinising money flows and asking businesses to reconsider accepting Chinese funds after security officials raised concerns over Chinese investment in Israeli technology companies, the Wall Street Journal reported. Israel is moving to create an inter-agency government body to oversee sensitive commercial deals involving foreign companies, US and Israeli officials said, akin to the US Committee on Foreign Investment, or Cfius. Concern follows the increase in Chinese investments in Israeli companies whose products are dual use, with both military and commercial applications, such as drones and artificial intelligence (AI).

Iraq: Gaming bundle - Zain Iraq and Docomo Digital have launched a mobile gaming platform which will provide more than 16 million subscribers with access to hundreds of titles with direct carrier billing, reports Mobilepaymentstoday. Zain Games' GamEmpire is a bundle of native and HTML5 games that can be streamed directly to devices. Docomo Digital and Zain signed the initial deal in early 2018. Zain's 46.9 million customers can now access mobile content from Docomo and have it billed monthly through the carrier. Zain has already launched the service in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan, and extensions are scheduled to Bahrain and Lebanon over the next few months.

Israel: Rate rise - 018 Xfone, which operates the We4G mobile brand, is to stop selling lifelong mobile packages and raise its prices starting from the start of March. The operator has started a new campaign in which it has marked the end of the current lifelong package rates and called on customers to take advantage of the remaining time to join it as the only company in the market offering a lifelong package with 40-gigabyte of surfing for ILS 29 (USD 8.00) a month. The lifelong ILS 29 package was launched in April 2018. Lifelong packages at expected to be offered in the future but at higher prices.

Israel: Tier-1 test - Gilat Satellite Networks has completed a test with a tier-1 maritime service provider for maritime communication over Telesat's low earth orbit Phase 1 Leo satellite. The test proved low latency and high bit-rate essential for multiple maritime applications, with latency of as little as 16 msec achieved in the tier-1 maritime service provider's teleport in Northern Europe. Gilat's Leo modem and a one-meter small maritime Ka-band antenna were employed, demonstrating direct real-time communication.

Kuwait: Fixed sale - The government is preparing to announce the privatisation of various government entities; including the state-owned fixed telecoms operating division managed by the Ministry of State for Service Affairs (was the Ministry of Communications), the Kuwait Times has reported. The ministry's legacy regulatory duties have largely been taken over by the Communication and Information Technology Regulatory Authority (CITRA).

Oman: Asian content - Ooredoo Oman is developing its partnership with Indian platform ALTBalaji to offer subscribers the best in Indian dramas through Ooredoo TV.  For OMR 6 (USD 15.55) per month as a stand-alone service with no contract OMR 4 per month as part of a Home Bundle with Ooredoo Home Internet. Customers can also subscribe to Ooredoo TV with ALTBalaji in its Asian Bundle. It can also be added to an existing Basic TV Bundle. The partnership will allow Ooredoo to offer ALTBalaji content to its 600,000 subscribers in Oman.

Oman: CTO confirmed - Ahmed Abdullah Al Abri has been named as Ooredoo Oman's new Chief Technology and Information Officer (CTIO). He has more than 19 years of experience in technology, strategy, regulatory affairs and projects engineering. He has held a number of senior roles in Ooredoo and first joined the company in 2006 as chief planning engineer in radio planning. In 2011 he was appointed as Director of Implementation and Infrastructure, and was appointed as Director of Regulatory Affairs two years later, before being promoted to Director of Capability and Programme Management in 2017. He was appointed as acting CTO in 2018.

Oman: More destinations - Some 26 new destinations have been added to Ooredoo Oman's Passport World package including Turkey, Azerbaijan, Argentina, Czech Republic, South Africa, Slovakia, Brazil and Mexico. Travellers can subscribe via the Ooredoo App.

Qatar: Paperless pricing - Ooredoo Qatar is to deploy a paperless price tag system called ePaper labels in the Old Airport Road Ooredoo shop, and will extend it to other shops shortly. This is claimed to be the first digital price tag system to be deployed in Qatar. It said that the costs of ink, paper and labour are reduced, and the potential for mistakes is reduced, as price tags are synchronised with the central pricing system. The labels use near-field communication (NFC) and can communicate directly with customers' smartphones. There is also a QR code that can be scanned and pushed to Ooredoo online channels to provide features of the displayed device or enable online purchase.

Saudi Arabia: Leading lady - Saudi Telecommunications Corporation (STC) has appointed Moudhi Aljamea as ICT School GM at the STC Academy, making her the first Saudi woman to occupy an executive position. STC confirmed that appointing Aljamea reflects its commitment to recruit and support Saudi Arabian qualified talent in leading roles. Aljamea has a PhD in Computer Security and experience in cyber and information security. Prior to joining STC, she was the president of the entrepreneurship unit and business incubator at Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University.

Saudi Arabia: Saudi satellite success - Arianespace has launched the first Ariane 5 mission of 2019, successfully orbiting two telecommunications satellites for the operators KACST and Hellas Sat as well as for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The launch took place at 6pm on 5 February from the Guiana Space Center (CSG), Europe's spaceport in French Guiana, said Arianespace, adding that the Saudi Geostationary Satellite 1/Hellas Sat 4 condosat for KACST and Hellas Sat is the first commercial satellite to use Lockheed Martin's new LM2100 platform. SaudiGeoSat-1 carries a Ka-band payload for connectivity services across the Gulf Cooperative Council region while Hellas Sat-4 has Ku-band capacity covering Europe, the Middle East and South Africa. GSAT-31 will cover the Indian subcontinent with Ku-band beams for TV broadcasting, cellular backhaul and very small aperture terminal connectivity.

Turkey: 5G by 2020 - The Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK) has approved applications made by the three mobile network operators, Turkcell, Vodafone and Turk Telekom (Avea) for 5G trials to be undertaken in different frequency bands in the cities of Istanbul, Izmir and Ankara, the YeniSafak news portal has reported. The Minister of Transport & Infrastructure Cahit Turhan has stated that the aim is to move to 5G technologies in 2020.

Turkey: Centralised cloud - Red Hat has said that Turkcell has built a centralised virtualisation infrastructure (NFVi), dubbed its Unified Telco Cloud, on Red Hat OpenStack Platform to unify its services on a single cloud, supported by Red Hat Ceph Storage. Turkcell can now implement its choice of virtual network functions (VNFs) faster and is able to more flexibly scale resources as needed, enabling the provider to modernise existing services and roll out new ones faster, as demand requires. The solution employs Red Hat's carrier-grade distribution of the open source, massively-scalable infrastructure framework for building hybrid clouds, supported by Red Hat Ceph Storage, an open, software-defined storage technology designed for object storage and cloud infrastructure.

Turkey: Vendor confidence - Mobile network operator Turkcell has said that Huawei is "a reliable business partner and the partnership is set to continue". It made the statement after several countries expressed concerns about the security of data transferred over Huawei-built networks, Turkcell said the "problem is not just about personal data privacy, it's also about just 'a couple of global companies' desire to stay in power". Turkcell CEO Kaan Terzioglu said in a statement that security vulnerability claims against Huawei should not be viewed in isolation and are related to other issues of competition and innovation. The CEO added that Turkcell would not act on 'uncorroborated claims' and that it will continue to work with its long-term partner Huawei.