News in Brief 6 March 2019

Africa:

Africa & Middle East: Improving picture - MTN Group has announced that it expects to report an almost doubling of earnings for 2018. The growth in full-year headline earnings per share is put at between 80 percent and 90 percent, from ZAR 1.82 (USD 0.13) in 2017 to ZAR 3.28-3.46 (USD 0.23 - 0.24). In early February it forecast growth of at least 20 percent. In a trading update for the year, MTN said that headline earnings per share were negatively impacted by a number of one-off and non-cash items. The adjustments include costs related to the Nigerian regulatory fine, hyperinflation adjustments, net foreign exchange losses and the resolution payment to the Central Bank of Nigeria. The results for 2018 were also impacted by the stronger rand and weaker currencies in the group's foreign entities. Detailed results are to be released on 7 March.

Cameroon: Cable completion - The Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, Minette Libom Li Likeng, on 27 February 2019 commented on the delays that have affected the Cameroon Backbone Project. Digital Business Africa cited her as expressing confidence that the ideas discussed at the 7th ordinary session of the Steering Committee of the Central African Backbone Project (CAB) will speed-up the work. The project is due to be completed by 31 December 2019. The meeting assessed the level of implementation of the Work Plan and the annual budget as at 31 December 2018, as well as the review and adoption of the 2019 work plan and annual budget. The National Steering Committee has been set up to implement the country component of the project, with the primary role of ensuring its successful implementation.

Egypt: Cloud cooperation - Telecom Egypt has signed a MoU with Huawei to cooperate on cloud computing, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology said in a statement. The MoU will only target non-government services. TE also signed two MoUs with Ericsson to upgrade its cloud network, which will enable it to provide 5G services and cooperate on developing cloud communications services, the ministry said. TE also signed a cooperation agreement with Cisco Systems, which will allow it to develop its fixed Internet capabilities.

Egypt: VNF for TE - Telecom Egypt (TE) has contracted Cisco to provide virtual network functions (VNFs) in a full-stack telecom cloud environment and further its network modernization plans. TE aims to transform its network in order to introduce services faster, deliver a high-quality user experience and build scale on demand even when traffic models are unpredictable. Through its collaboration with Cisco, TE is building an application delivery infrastructure using virtualization and cloud-native paradigms and anchoring them to the reference architectures of network functions virtualization (NFV) in the fixed broadband environment.

Equatorial Guinea: Board approvals - On 21 February 2019 the Minister of Transport, Post and Telecommunications, Eucario Bakale Angue Owana, conducted the first board meeting of the year. The meeting approved the Telecommunications Tariff Regulations; studied and approved the ORTEL interconnection regime and approved the Regulation of Taxation of the telecommunications sector according to Equatorial Guinea's Press and Information Office.

Ghana: Transfer progress - Figures from the Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems Ltd (GhIPSS), show that in January 2019 the transfer of funds from e-zwich card to MoMo wallet, was done more than 9,000 times with values exceeding GHS 3 million (USD 542,000). This follows the launch of the second phase of MoMo interoperability, which was launched in late November 2018, and allowed the public to send money from their e-zwich card to their MoMo wallet and vice versa. This phase enables connectivity between the main payment platforms in Ghana comprising bank account, MoMo and e-zwich. The Point cited GhIPSS' Chief Executive Archie Hesse as saying that the third phase will ensure interoperability at the agents' level. GhIPSS has started the upgrade of point of sales (PoSes) of e-zwich agents to enable them to also offer the transfer to MoMo wallets.

State of Digital - Angola: February 2018

Kenya: Aquatic app - An Internet of Things (IoT) network has been deployed in Western Kenya and Nyanza by Liquid Telecom Kenya to monitor and protect freshwater fish populations. Ten pilot-phase sensors that monitor water temperature and pH values are located in in ponds, and send information and feeding instructions to farmers through an Android and iOS app called AquaRech, which has been developed by the Kisumu innovation technology hub LakeHub and developers Pinovate. Some 5,000 western Kenyan farmers will have the sensors and app by the end of 2019; there are some 20,000 fish farmers in the region with two ponds on average each and around 2,400 fish per pond. The programme will eventually be rolled out to 30,000 fish pond farmers nationally. Fish production fell by 17 percent in 2017, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. IoT-connected sensors are being used to calculate optimal feeding times and have been found to reduce fish deaths by 30-40 percent in a one-year study in Iran by information technology company Afarinesh Samaneh Mehr Engineering Company (ASM).

Kenya: Improvements initiated - Airtel Kenya plans to roll-out over 800 3G and 4G sites to enhance the coverage of its mobile data network. The 40 locations to benefit from the expansion programme, include Kisumu, Nyeri, Meru, Nakuru, Bungoma, Lamu and Garissa. Standard Media quoted Airtel Kenya's CEO Prasanta Das Sarma as saying: "... we are delighted to be increasing our 4G sites across the country. The expansion of our network coverage will ensure that the majority of the urban population are well covered."

Lesotho: March migration - Econet Telecom Lesotho is readying to launch of VoLTE technology, the Lesotho Times has reported. The introduction of VoLTE will follow the migration to a new core network on 4 March 2019. Econet's acting CCO Lebeko Sello said: "So apart from resolving the usual problems the new network will have dozens of features that customers will find crucial to their lives and businesses".

another fine mess for african telecoms

Lesotho: Promotional prizes - The three-month 'Econet Gives You More' summer promotion which ran from November 2018 to January 2019 saw subscribers win cash prizes, laptops, smartphones, airtime, data, smart TVs, and trolley dashes daily, weekly and monthly.

Maldives: AI enhanced eShopping - Ooredoo Maldives is to launch 'Moolee', its new e-commerce marketplace platform, in March 2019. It is claimed to be the first such marketplace in the Maldives, which facilitates end to end service from initial orders to online payments and national delivery of goods. Molee has been launched in partnership with Presto and will become available to customers from March. Ooredoo products and services, as well as utility services, will be available initially. Over the coming months, this platform will enable an e-commerce marketplace for a Artificial Intelligence (AI) will enable smooth shopping and features such as consumer data-based recommendations, predictive analytics integrated customer support, and round-the-clock service.

Nigeria: Fibre progress - MainOne is commissioning a metro fibre infrastructure project in two states, with support from Facebook. The infrastructure collaboration is part of Facebook's efforts to connect more people to broadband Internet. MainOne is building and operating approximately 750 km terrestrial fibre infrastructure in Edo and Ogun States. These open-access transport networks will provide metro fibre connectivity to reach more than 1 million people in Benin City, Abeokuta, Sagamu and 10 other towns by connecting mobile operators' base stations, ISPs, Points of presence (POPs), and public locations including schools and hospitals.

South Africa: Bonus blockade - Cell-C confirmed to MyBroadband that staff who are members of the ICTU have started industrial action with effect from 26 February 2019. The dispute relates to bonus payments made in 2018 for work-related performance in 2017. Cell-C said that it was engaging with the ICTU leadership and its members to work towards a positive outcome. Employees were reportedly promised a 25 percent bonus by Cell-C management, and the union is reported to have 900 members who could take part.

Swaziland: Banking deal - FNB clients are now be able to access the bank's various products using the Eswatini Mobile network after the two launched a partnership on 2 March 2019, the New Observer reported. Products available include the ability to purchase airtime with mobile banking and e-wallet, sending money to an Eswatini Mobile number as well as registering an Eswatini Mobie number as a primary contact number at FNB. Customers will be able to access all these products free of charge. FNB Head of Corporate and Investment Banking Ncamiso Dlamini said FNB saw the need for mobile integration with Eswatini Mobile to allow for a new client base to have easier access to FNB products.

Middle East:

Bahrain: Data centre certified - Batelco has achieved Tier III Certification of Design and Construction from Uptime Institute, for its RJR Data Centre. Batelco's is the first commercial data centre receiving both Design and Construction recognition. Datacentre users benefit from continuous support from the company's 24-hour Network Operations Centre and business-continuity management facilities.

Bahrain: Final 5G push - Mobile network operator Viva Bahrain has signed an MoU with Huawei for a national 5G network. Earlier in February it announced 5G readiness across Bahrain. Acting CEO Mohammad Al Khushail said: "We at Viva Bahrain understand the rapid demand for 5G coverage and devices to break out in Bahrain, therefore we made the decision to be a pioneer in launching this technology that will position Bahrain among the first to adopt the 5G network globally." Services will be available from June 2019.

Bahrain: Global platform - Batelco has launched Global Zone, a carrier-neutral digital business platform based on a highly secured Tier III data centre. The platform will facilitate traffic growth by serving both regional and international partners, with the aim of creating a global data exchange that will act as a regional gateway to other parts of the world.

Bahrain: More time - The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has extended the pre-paid SIM registration renewal deadline by three months, to 2 June, in its effort to enable subscribers to register their cards. TRA added that failing to register within the specified period will result in suspension of the service on a temporary basis, and failing to register again during the suspension period will result in final deactivation.

Iran: Rural roll-out - The Ministry of ICT (MICT) has said that broadband Internet access will be available to almost all rural areas by the end of the next Iranian calendar year (March 2020). The Financial Tribune reported that 63 percent of rural areas have access to fixed or mobile telephony and broadband services, up from 32 percent in September 2017. MICT's director of ICT at the Rural Development office, Mehrdad Torabian, was quoted as saying: "In 2017 close to 9 percent of villages were totally deprived of any sort of communication services. The figure is now down to 3 percent."

Iran: Third time lucky? - The Syria Report on 20 February 2019 noted that Damascus and Tehran are negotiating again the award of a third mobile phone licence to an Iranian company.

Israel: I've been framed - The Attorney General intends to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on corruption charges. Netanyahu is to face charges of bribery and breach of trust in connection with three cases, pending a final hearing. Netanyahu, who is facing an election in April, has denied any wrongdoing. He has said he is the victim of a left-wing 'witch-hunt' intended to topple him ahead of the 9 April election.

Kuwait, Oman: Digital enhancements - Ooredoo has contracted Matrixx Software for deployment of its Digital Commerce Platform in Kuwait and Oman. Ooredoo Kuwait has launched ANA to give users control of their mobile plans, and the ability to choose and customise the digital package that fits their needs. Users can create a mobile number, make appointments, track health, pay bills, etc. with the system. In Oman the Shababiah digital service has been expanded to include post-paid mobile services, all powered by Matrixx, which specialises in helping mobile customers buy, manage, share and pay for digital services. Kuwait and Oman are the first in their markets to launch such services.

Saudi Arabia: Ericsson engine - Ericsson has said that mobile network operator Mobily is evaluating the recently launched Ericsson Operations Engine. There are three use cases based on intelligent operations (InSite), leveraging AI, automation and the power of data. The use cases target network operations pain points including anomaly detection to undercover hidden patterns of site problems; proactive detection of sleeping cells and network performance degradation, and information about probable cause for degradation. Ericsson has a Network Managed Services agreement with Mobily.

United Arab Emirates: Auto-renewal deal - Etisalat is offering 1 GB of data on its LTE network for AED 1 (USD 0.27) per day under a promotion, Khaleej Times reported. The promotional daily data plan auto-renews every 24 hours. The offer is available for pre-paid users for a limited period only. Multiple subscriptions are allowed and users can subscribe via My Etisalat. Unused data will be lost at the end of the assigned validity period. In cases of automatic renewal failure due to low balance, a grace period of three days will be given to recharge and renew the subscription.