News in Brief 21 February 2019

Africa:

Cote d'Ivoire: Bus pass - Digital Afrique Telecom (DAT) has announced the launch of a smart card and ticketing system for public transport users using contactless cards. This smart ticketing allows each passenger of local bus company SOTRA in Abidjan, to buy and reload an online smart card on the DAT platform. Smart cards can be recharged using any mobile payment service as well as bank electronic wallets available in Cote d'Ivoire via a user-friendly interface. The system is interoperable and offers USSD, App and Web access, with OTC options at SOTRA points of sale. DAT has also installed NFC-enabled validators for contactless applications. 700 buses now use the system, with SOTRA planing to equip 1,000 buses by the end of 2019.

Cote d'Ivoire: Money tax challenge - The General Tax Directorate (DGI) has updated the application of taxes by mobile operators in the sector on mobile money transfers. The National Union of Telecommunications Enterprises (UNETEL), which represents the mobile network operators, has decided to increase transaction rates. This increase UNETEL notes is 'proportional' to new taxes contained in article 14 of the fiscal year 2019, an accumulated amount of 7.2 percent on commissions paid, applicable since 1 January 2019 from mobile money companies. It warned against any desire to apply this decision to raise money transfer rates, which will necessarily, however small, affect the cost of living. In a statement dated 11 February 2019, the director general of taxes, Ouattara Sie Abu, insists that "the passing of these taxes on to consumers is illegal, constitutes a misappropriation of the letter and the spirit of the tax law, and is contrary to the tax policy of the state which is resolutely turned towards social actions by increased support to households".

Egypt: Soccer service - Orange Egypt and VictoryLink have partnered with the Egyptian football star Hazem Emam, offering a new range of entertainment to Orange users and the Egyptian market under the name 'Live with Hazem Emam'. The new service provides video, audio and text content, supplying a variety of sports information, exclusive news and analysis of important games, as well as personal aspects of the player's life. Orange is also offering the chance to spend a full day with Emam and participate with him in a variety of recreational activities, such as performing football skills, motorcycle riding, and attending his behind-the-scenes TV programme footage, participate in a football match and a PlayStation match with him. Winners can also bring some of their relatives and friends with them.

Ghana: Bundle simplification - Vodafone Ghana has introduced eight bundles to replace its long list of integrated bundles, branded Red 1, Red 2, Red 5, Red 10, Red 20, Red 25, Red 50 and Red 100. They offer call minutes to Vodafone numbers, calls to other networks, and international destinations, as well as SMS and data.

Ghana: Smart phone specials - AirtelTigo is working with smartphone maker Samsung to launch its 'Life Just Got Lit' smartphone campaign. New and existing customers will get a free AirtelTigo package which includes a new SIM card, minutes to call AirtelTigo lines and data for the purchase of any Samsung phone or tablet in AirtelTigo shops and Samsung partner shops nationally. The free data and voice minutes for each user will vary according to the price of the Samsung phone purchased and will be awarded every month for a whole year. The purchase of a GHS 500 (USD 95) phone will reward the user with a 1GB data which does not expire and 1,000 minutes to call AirtelTigo lines free, monthly for the next 12 months.

Nigeria: Courtesy call - 9mobile's new board has made a courtesy visit to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in Abuja, where they confirmed their commitment to sustained delivery of excellent services to their customers. NCC's Executive Vice Chairman, Professor Umar Danbatta, commended the 9mobile for not only meeting the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) on quality of service but also surpassing the industry benchmarks even during recent periods. Those attending included Chairman Alhaji Nasiru Ado Bayero, and 9mobile board members included three non-Executive Directors, AsegaAliga, Mohammed Edewor and Winston NdubuezeUdeh. Others were the Acting Managing Director, Stephane Beuvelet and Executive Director, Regulatory & Corporate Affairs, Abdulrahman Ado. Executive Management Team members including Chief Financial Officer, Phillips Oki and Company Secretary, Ore Olajide.

State of Digital - Angola: February 2018

Nigeria: Election relaxation - In 2016 the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) issued a directive to all telcos to start the implementation of the 'Do-not-Disturb' (DND) code which was a response to the rapid increase in unsolicited calls and text messages. The NCC has now temporarily suspended its previous directive regarding DND codes as the General Election approaches. The NCC says that the suspension will enable service providers to disseminate specific information on voter education on behalf of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The NCC said it is ready to monitor the activities of the MNOs for the duration of the temporary suspension.

Nigeria: Listing latest - MTN Nigeria is now considering making its debut on the Nigerian Stock Exchange in June 2019 according to President and CEO of MTN Group Limited.

Middle East:

Bahrain: Bwallet extension - Batelco and Arab Financial Services (AFS) have launched two new international services on the bwallet mobile wallet, namely International Money Transfer and International Mobile Top Up. Money can be sent to accounts, eWallets or individuals in Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines and Sri Lanka, and further countries will be added in the coming months. The International Money Transfer Service uses the Mastercard Send payment service whilst the International Mobile Top Up Service further expands bwallet's digital services portfolio. Users can now top-up any international pre-paid mobile account, just using their smartphone. The service is available in over 100 different countries, including GCC states, and with almost 700 different operators.

another fine mess for african telecoms

Israel: First financing round - The Ra'anana-based start-up DriveNets with its network solution and business model aimed at disrupting telecommunications, has announced a first financing round of USD 110 million led by Bessemer Venture Partners and Pitango Growth, with the participation of a number of private investors, Globes reported. DriveNets is reported to have a company valuation of more than USD 500 million. DriveNets' Network Cloud solution aims to disconnect network cost from capacity growth and allowing telecom providers to handle skyrocketing demand without sacrificing profitability. Network Cloud can create any network function from the same software stack and only two generic hardware building blocks. As the entire infrastructure is software-centric, new service roll-outs can be achieved by full network scale. DriveNets signed its first major contract in 2017 with a tier-1 North American service provider, generating tens of millions of dollars in revenue. More deals have been signed with US and European telcos and 2019 revenue is expected to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Oman: Charging success - The new phase and commercial launch of Omantel's multi-play billing and charging transformation using the Optiva Charging Engine has been announced. Omantel's COO Samy Al Ghassany said: "Optiva is integral to our corporate strategy and to our digital transformation. We count on Optiva Charging Engine and the payments solution as well as their reliable support, maintenance and managed services to allow us to monetize a variety of multi-play services, including mobile pre-paid and post-paid, hybrid, fixed, cable and Internet." Collaboration will be extended to the next phase of 5G, IoT and cloud transformation.

Oman: Ooredoo Tour sponsor - Ooredoo Oman said it is the Gold Sponsor of the Tour of Oman international sporting event. Ooredoo will provide 10 branded cars to assist cyclists with transporting their bicycles from region to region during the race between 16 - 21 February.

Qatar: Cloud Connect - Ooredoo's Cloud Connect service has been launched enabling business customers to establish managed cloud connectivity from their local data centre to global cloud service providers. Customers can also subscribe to back-up and disaster recovery orchestration. In the hybrid cloud, Ooredoo's Cloud Connect customers can add emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data analytics, and Data Lakes. Ooredoo Cloud Connect services now connect to the Colt IQ Network, which links more than 850 data centres and 27,500 on-net buildings globally.

Qatar: iPhone incentives - The prices of iPhone XS and XS Max have been cut by Ooredoo Qatar, plus now discounted Clear Coat device protection is being offered. Prices are QAR 3,799 (USD 1,043) for the iPhone XS with 64 GB storage, QAR 4,399 (USD 1,208) for the iPhone XS 256 GB and QAR 5,110 (USD 1,403) for the iPhone XS 512 GB. They are QAR 4,299 (USD 1,181) for the iPhone XS Max with 64 GB memory, QAR 4,882 (USD 1,341) for the iPhone XS Max 256 GB, and QAR 5,494 (USD 1,509) for the iPhone XS Max 512 GB. All the devices will come with a 35 percent discount voucher from Clear Coat to protect the phone from accidental scratches and breakages.

Qatar: Red plus - Details of Vodafone Qatar's new 'Red Has It All' portfolio of post-paid plans have been released. As well as data, calls and roaming features of Red, Vodafone is adding non-telecommunications services drawn from leading digital brands in Qatar, available to its customers on all Red plans. These include listening to music on Anghami, free deliveries from Talabat, customised offers on the Vodafone Entertainer App, watching shows from OSN on Wavo on smartphones or tablets, special rates on premium rides form Careem, international deliveries via Shop & Ship and borderless WhatsApp messaging when roaming. The new plans include Red Me for QAR 550 (USD 151) per month with 120 GB of data and Red Unlimited and Red VIP with unlimited data, for respectively QAR 800 (USD 220) and QAR 1,000 (USD 275) per month. All the plans come with unlimited calls and SMS, roaming allowances and a range of VAS and benefits under the new offer.

United Arab Emirates: 5G readiness - Etisalat says it plans to equip 600 network towers with 5G technology by the end of 2019. Gulf Business reports that the operator is intending to upgrade 300 towers in the first half of 2019. Etisalat aims to have its 5G network in place before the launch of the first commercial 5G-capable handsets, which is expected in 2020. Rival Du has said that it is targeting a 4Q 2019 launch for its 5G network.

United Arab Emirates: Du doubles speed - Du has doubled broadband speeds for all new and existing Triple Play Home users, permanently at no extra cost. In response to the continued growth of data consumption on the Du network, which has increased by 200 percent over the last five years, Du has automatically upgraded its existing customers. This means that users across the UAE now have a free speed boost taking their plans up to 1Gbps on du Home Premium.

United Arab Emirates: NB-IoT for Du - Du, aided by Nokia, Affirmed Networks and MediaTek, has launched its NB-IoT network, based on the latest 3GPP Release 14 standard. The NB-IoT network will leverage the purpose-built IoT platform built by Du to enable devices to deliver applications such as smart metering, smart parking, trackers, smart health, industrial and agriculture use cases. The service is supported by a wide range of modules powered by MediaTek devices and the NB-IoT 3GPP Rel 14 network provided by Nokia and Affirmed Networks. For this project, MediaTek used an NB-IoT Release 14 enabled SoC for ultra-low power and cost effective IoT devices. It enabled extended coverage for applications, such as smart trackers, wearables, IoT security, smart metering and other industrial applications. The MediaTek chip's highly integrated design incorporated an NB-IoT modem, antenna RF and base-band analogue front-end among many other components, in order to simplify the product design process for partners.