News in Brief 27 March 2019

Africa:

Cape Verde: Link funding - The European Investment Bank (EIB) board has approved USD 25 million of funding for a regional integration project to connect Cape Verde via a submarine cable to Guinea-Bissau and the Mano River countries (Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea-Conakry). Guinea's broadband operator Guineenne de la Large Bande SA (GUILAB) and Cabo Verde Telecom have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the deployment of the link called Cap Amilcar Cabral, with feasibility studies for the system set to start soon.

Equatorial Guinea: Cable planning - A new project to connect the island of Corisco and Cabo San Juan with a submarine cable has been announced by GITGE. The Mandji system will have a total length of 50km and will comprise a total of 48 optical fibres. A marine survey to fix the route is to start in April, with the physical construction to be finalised by September 2019. Cable laying is due to start later this year.

Kenya: Code review - The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) is currently reviewing the programming Code for pay television providers which was developed in 2015 and came to force in 2016 but only targeted free to air television providers. The CA wants the code to be reviewed every two years. It is also in tandem with the ICT sector law that mandates the Authority to prescribe a programming code that sets the standards for the time and manner of programmes to be broadcast by licensees. Some of the major issues being addressed include classification and rating for subscription and 'Pay per view' rating system, addressing programmes on broadcast competitions/voting in order to ensure that viewers and listeners are not materially misled, privacy and fairness and requirements relating to hate speech.

Kenya: Milestone marked - Mobile network operator Safaricom claims to have passed the 30 million subscriber mark. Accordingly Safaricom is awarding Bonga Points and between 22 and 24 March all Safaricom subscribers will have the option to redeem 1 Bonga Point for KES 1 worth of airtime to a limit of KES 100 airtime, or 1MB of data valid seven days to a limit of 1 GB, enjoying a 67 percent discount. It will also extend the 1-to-1 offer to the Neon Kicka 4, which will be available for 3,499 points. Customers with fewer points can top-up the difference in cash at KES 1 for 1 point. The device will be available at all Safaricom shops and all dealer outlets while stocks last.

Kenya: Twitter handle - The President's Twitter and Facebook accounts have been deactivated at the request of State House following unauthorized access by some of his staff. Office of the President Chief of Staff has confirmed the deactivation of the two accounts, where Kenyatta has millions of followers, earning him the tag 'digital president'. Waita said remedial measures were being taken to restore them. Kenyatta is the most followed leaders in Sub-Saharan Africa on Twitter with more than 3 million followers, according to a study released in 2018 by Burson Cohn & Wolfe (BCW), an international communications agency.

Mauritius: Backbone expansion - CEB FibreNet, a subsidiary of the Central Electricity Board, has awarded a contract to ECI to expand and leverage its existing OPGW fibre-optic backbone. ECI will provide advanced telecom services and connectivity to the country as a whole, allowing CEB FibreNet to provide users with better quality of service including coverage, voice quality, connectivity and network resilience.

State of Digital - Angola: February 2018

Morocco: Future proofing - A live 5G demonstration has been undertaken by Maroc Telecom (IAM) and Ericsson at the operator's headquarters in Rabat. Several cases of 5G usage were demonstrated as part of an end-to-end autonomous 5G system, including a prototype radio, baseband, and a prototype UE device, offering speeds up to 25.8Gbps. Ericsson's Head of Middle East and Africa, Rafiah Ibrahim, said: "We are exploring the potential of 5G with our long-time partner, Maroc Telecom. This will allow us to jointly develop 5G-based technologies based on their business needs in order to improve their business operations and seize new opportunities offered by other industries."

Namibia: Portal promoted - MultiChoice Namibia has launched the MultiChoice Talent Factory (MTF) online portal, Xinhua reports. The move follows the launch of three regional MTF Academies in West, East and Southern Africa. The MTF portal forms part of the investment MultiChoice has made to improve the quality and support the production of local content and storytelling in Africa. MTF Director Cheryl Uys-Allie, said that the MTF portal will serve talent in Africa's film and TV industry.

Reunion-Mayotte: Press meeting - Orange Reunion-Mayotte’s new Managing Director Jean-Marc Escalette, who took up the post at the start of February, has met the press for first time. Escalette praised the work of the teams, highlighting the 'exceptional' quality of the network in Reunion. He noted that the unit has the third most fibre-rich department in France, with the deployment beginning in 2015. Orange in ranked first on network quality according to Arcep.

another fine mess for african telecoms

Senegal: Diminished revenues - Sonatel's General Manager Sekou Drame told journalists on 21 March 2019 that OTT operators such as Whatsapp, Facebook, Viber, etc. had cost the operator some XOF 20 billion (USD 34.5 million) in lost revenue. In 2018 the group reported revenues of some XOF 1,022 billion (USD 1.76 billion) in 2018, representing growth of 5 percent compared to 2017. Drame noted that 66 percent of incoming international calls were routed via the OTT channel. This saw a shift in revenue from the voice segment in favour of data, although not equally profitable. Sonatel also noted it is experiencing call fraud which had resulted in losses of some XOF 5 billion (USD 8.6 million).

South Africa: Better protection - The National Assembly has passed the Films and Publications Amendment Bill, which will now go for Presidential approval, BusinessTech reported. The bill includes tougher rules to protect children from disturbing and harmful content, and to regulate the online distribution of content such as films and games. Henceforth any person who knowingly distributes private sexual photographs and films without prior consent and with intention to cause the said individual harm shall be guilty of an offence and liable upon conviction. This includes a possible fine of up to ZAR 150,000 (USD 10,405) or imprisonment for up to two years, or both. The same strictures also apply to persons distributing films, games or publications which amount to propaganda for war, incite imminent violence, or advocates hate speech.

South Africa: Equipment approval - The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) is to convene public hearings into the draft on the equipment authorisation document published on 13 December 2018. Some 22 written submissions have been received by ICASA, 12 of which have confirmed they are available to make oral representations. The public hearings are to be held on 25 March 2019. The Electronic Communications Act mandates ICASA to approve all electronic communications equipment or electronic communications facility, including radio apparatus, used or to be used in connection with the provision of electronic communications.

South Africa: eWallet success - Digital bank FNB has said that its users have sent over ZAR 12.8 billion (USD 888.0 million) worth of eWallet funds in the period July-August 2018, from 22 million eWallet transactions. The figure represents a 25 percent year-on-year increase in the value of funds customers have sent via eWallet. The eWallet eXtra mobile bank account now have some 120,000 users in less than six months after its official launch in the second half of 2018. Transaction volumes on eWallet eXtra surpassed 680,000 by December 2018.

South Africa: Foldable phone promised - Huawei's Mate X foldable smartphone will be available in South Africa in mid-2019 according to Huawei's consumer business group Southern Africa VP, Likun Zhao. Zhao said on 20 Mar 2019 that South Africa will be in the 'first wave' of countries to get the phones in either June or July 2019. The Mate X is 5G-enabled and opens seamlessly from a 6.6-inch screen to an 8-inch tablet. The device's recommended retail price will be EUR 2,299 (USD 2,600), before tax and import fees, for 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. The device has a 4,500mAh battery and a new 55W 'SuperCharge' capability which charges the device to 85 percent in just 30 minutes.

South Africa: Hotspot launch - Mobile network operator Cell-C, in partnership with Facebook, has launched its first public Wi-Fi hotspot at the University of Western Cape (UWC). The initiative is supported by Facebook Express Wi-Fi. Students can access the hotspot free-of-charge on UWC's campus, and Cell-C intends to set up further access points in Cape Town, and now awaits approval from the municipality authorities for additional sites.

South Africa: Rubben removed - Minister of Communications Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has decided to remove Rubben Mohlaloga from his post as chairman and councillor of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA). Mohlaloga, who held the position of chairperson of the ICASA council from December 2017, was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment in February for his role in defrauding the Land Bank of approximately ZAR 6 million in 2008. Last week, Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Communications resolved to remove Mohlaloga from post under Section 8 of the ICASA Act.

Zimbabwe: Cyclone aid - The Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) says its working closely with mobile network operators (MNOs) to avoid service blackouts in areas devastated by Cyclone Idai. The cyclone has left a trail of destruction to critical communication and related support infrastructure including pylons, roads and telecom towers. POTRAZ has previously provided capacity on 24 satellites to the Civil Protection Unit for use in situations like this.

Zimbabwe: Hearing adjourned - The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) Director-General Gift Machengete is demanding that charges filed against him be dropped, NewsDay reported. Machengete appeared in court on 19 March but the trial could not start as the prosecutor and witnesses were not present. The case has accordingly been adjourned to 25 March 2019.

Middle East:

Bahrain: eSIM enhancement - Gemalto has supplied a remote subscription management platform for Viva Bahrain that enables subscribers to instantly activate a mobile connection for devices fitted with an eSIM. Users will then be able to manage their mobile subscription throughout the product lifecycle, without needing to physically change a SIM card. eSIMs are embedded in the device at manufacturing, so making it easier for OEMs to supply users with innovative connected devices wherever they are.

Israel: Tax check - Mobile network operator Partner Communications has said the Israeli Tax Authority (ITA) is conducting an investigation into its affairs and that documents were being requested and both current and former company staff being questioned. ITA is seeking to determine whether there have been violations of tax exemptions and reductions (Eilat Free Trade Zone) regarding the sale of mobile phones in the city of Eilat. Partner said it is fully cooperating with the ITA and that it could not comment on what the impact and outcome of the probe will be.

Kuwait: Personalised phone service - Ooredoo Kuwait has launched ANA, a unit to provide personalised mobile products, together with Matrixx Software, a Silicon Valley-based mobile software company. ANA specialises in helping mobile customers buy, manage, share and pay for digital services. The service provides an individually customised mobile product that gives users complete control of their mobile plans. Users will be able to choose and customize the digital package that fits their needs through features such as eSim, roaming and booster packs.

United Arab Emirates: Fifth outlet - MNO du has extended its retail footprint with the opening of a fifth store in Al Ain, located at the Al Ain Mall. The outlet provide bill payment machines onsite, and has several counters to serve business and individual customers. Du's subscribers can also explore offerings such as consumer and enterprise fixed and mobile services, handset and bundle options, account recharge services, as well as 'My Number, My Identity' (MNMI) registration and renewal capabilities.

Oman: Microsoft MoUs - Microsoft has signed two memorandums of understanding (MoU), the first with training institute Oman Technology Institute (OTI), a subsidiary of Oman Line, to train higher-education students and graduates in cloud computing, with emphasis on artificial intelligence. The second MoU was signed with Omani venture capital group, Phaze Ventures. The two will work together on multiple schemes to promote and accelerate the growth of the country's small-business and start-up ecosystems. Microsoft will support SparkLabs Energy, a start-up accelerator programme created by Phaze Ventures that focuses on digital disruptors in the energy industry that are focused on areas such as renewables, water management, industrial internet of things, enhanced oil recovery, data analytics and logistics.

Saudi Arabia: VP named - Tech Mahindra has named Turki Abdullah Alnader as vice president sales, Saudi Arabia, for its telecom division. Alnader is a US-educated industrial engineer and a senior management professional with fourteen years of experience in the telecom and related businesses, overseeing programmes and project management, B2B sales, strategic planning and KPI performance monitoring, financial and budgeting planning, network implementation and communications. Tech Mahindra has been present in Saudi Arabia since 2006.

Turkey: TT to be investigated - The Competition Authority (RK) is investigating Turk Telekom after preliminary findings suggested that it had violated the country's competition laws, according to Dailysabah.com citing a RK statement. RK's action have been triggered by a preliminary investigation that found that the operator abused its dominant position in the wholesale fixed broadband Internet services market and made it unreasonably and unfairly difficult for rivals to render services and gain subscribers in retail services.

Turkey: Unfair competition - Turk Telekom (TT) is being investigated by the Competition Authority after preliminary findings suggested that the group have violated competition laws, the Daily Sabah reported. TT appears to have abused its dominant position in the wholesale fixed broadband Internet services market and ‘made it unreasonably and unfairly difficult for competitor companies to render services and gain subscribers in retail services.

United Arab Emirates: Fairer terms - The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has announced a new regulatory framework for early termination charges of customer service contracts. A one month fee would be charged for early termination, which replaces a stipulated monthly charge multiplied by the number of remaining months. The amendment was introduced earlier for new individual mobile contracts. TRA is currently working on introducing the amendments to other service contracts in the coming period.