News in Brief 18 April 2019


Africa: Hotspots highlighted - Facebook has produced a high-resolution map of Africa that integrates population densities by region and area. The mapping was undertaken by researchers in Artificial Intelligence and data scientist of the Facebook office in Boston, USA. It combines commercially available satellite images from DigitalGlobe with country-specific population census data shared with Columbia University's Centre for International Cooperation in Earth Science (CIESIN). It is expected that telcos will be able to identify communities with high potential to install telecom equipment, taking into account geographical challenges for the routing of equipment.

Africa: Money where mouth is - In order to counter the Chinese political and economic influence in Africa the USA government's development finance agency, the Overseas Private Investment Corp. (OPIC), has said that it will double its investments in Africa by USD 12.4 billion. CIPO has a two-year investment plan that encompasses the transportation sector, information and communication technologies and logistics sectors. OPIC has already injected some USD 100 million into Africell Holdings Ltd., a mobile network operator, as part of its USD 1 billion investment in the region.

Angola: Rate rise - MultiChoice Angola has informed its DStv users that monthly subscriptions of all packages will increase in price from 1 May, reports Menos Fios. The price change follows the recent Inacom statement on the approval of the implementation of price adjustments of services in the pay-TV sector. MultiChoice notes that it has not increased its subscription prices since 2017. However, inflation is currently running at around 20 percent, and the continued devaluation of the local currency, as well as the increasing scale of its operations, it claims a price adjustment is required to ensure the viability of its business.

Cote d'Ivoire: Office developments - French-based IT-Development (ITD), which supports mobile network operators and telecom tower managers in the construction and maintenance of their sites, is to establish a subsidiary in Abidjan, with effect from this month. Through its ClickOnSite software, the company provides its services in Botswana, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Niger, Senegal and Morocco. In summer it also plans to open a South African office. ITD also plans to open a training centre for telecom professionals dealing with project management or BPM.

Egypt: Intelligent Website - Vodafone Egypt has deployed Red Hat's cloud suite to improve its customer service portal. Vodafone Egypt's Website has accordingly been re-built using a microservices-based architecture, and adopting DevOps methodology to streamline operations and boost productivity, offering faster time to market for innovations. This is seen as part of Vodafone Group's Customer Experience Excellence programme (CXX) which aims to deliver outstanding service. Vodafone Egypt wanted to be able to roll out updated and new services to customers faster, to meet their evolving needs, using its customer-centric Website,. To do this, the company sought to modernise its IT infrastructure to improve agility for application development and delivery. Vodafone Egypt decided to containerise its applications, helping to cut complexity and improve portability across the company's IT footprints, including hybrid cloud environments. Its aim is to have a Linux container platform on which development teams can work with minimal configuration and management time, and which would also offer integrated capabilities to enable automated construction and deployment of Linux application containers.

Ghana: Sorry subscribers says MTN - On 10 April MTN Ghana experienced a high level of cable cuts. The operator said it saw multiple fibre cuts in five locations across the country. Many of its customers took to social media to express anger as they are unable to make or receive calls. In a brief statement, MTN Ghana said the disruption in service was a result of multiple fibre cuts in five locations on two separate routes including additional protection on two other third party fibres. Engineers are working to repair the cuts, and subscribes will be notified as soon as it is resolved.

State of Digital - Angola: February 2018

Guinea: 4G launch - Orange Guinea has launched its new LTE service in Conakry. It is expected to be extended to other regions in due course. The capital is understood to be home to around two million people, representing a sixth of the population. Orange was awarded the first 4G licence by L'Autorite de Regulation des Postes et Telecommunications (ARPT) in March. The ten-year licence also included extensions for Orange's existing 2G and 3G licences.

South Africa: Bags banned - Vodacom will no longer provide plastic bags at its stores and believes it is the first in the telecommunications industry to do so. With effect from 1 April, Vodacom has replaced plastic bags with brown paper bags. Group Corporate Affairs Chief Officer, Takalani Netshitenzhe, said that Vodacom is looking at innovative ways to reduce electronic waste. In 2018 it reused more than 180 tonnes of network equipment and rejuvenated more than 74 tons of batteries. At its head office, Vodacom has reduced 38 tonnes of waste sent to landfill through a baling operation and has contracted a company that converts food waste from canteens into compost.

South Africa: Flexible approach - Dark Fibre Africa (DFA) has engaged with CA Southern Africa to provide several Application Programming Interfaces (API) management systems to help create a digital platform for business enablement. DFA is prioritising APIs for every software development project, which will enable mobile apps to consume software functions readily and any given software component to interact with other components.

another fine mess for african telecoms

South Africa: Offloading on trial - VAST and Vodacom are trialling Wi-Fi offloading which has the potential to offer subscribers faster and cheaper mobile data services. Offloading is a technique used by mobile operators to increase their network capacity by serving their customers using unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum. In a seamless process, the user's smartphone automatically connects and authenticates via Wi-Fi network through the mobile operator. VAST is Africa's largest public Wi-Fi provider, and is already providing Wi-Fi offloading services to AT&T's subscribers who visit South Africa, and is now planning to expand this service to local operators. VAST's presence in shopping malls and restaurants can reduce the cost to mobile operators which need to improve coverage in these areas.

Sudan: Sudatel financials - Sudatel Telecom Group has reported revenue of USD 325.6 million for the twelve months ended 31 December 2018, a fall of 37 percent from USD 513.2 million the previous year. Net profit was USD 32.2 million, down from USD 45.0 million in 2017. It said financial performance had been affected by currency devaluation. In October 2018 the operations of its 72 percent-owned subsidiary Intercel Guinea were discontinued 'as per the instructions of the Ministry of Communications', on the basis that it had not fulfilled its obligations and in February 2019 a local court appointed an administrator for the liquidation of the operator.

Tunisia: Software acquisition - Emerson has acquired KnowledgeNet (KNet) from Tunisia-based Integration Objects. KNet is used to extract, clean, transform and analyze operational and manufacturing data. It uses libraries of advanced statistical and machine-learning algorithms, the software consumes large quantities of diverse IT and operational technology (OT) data into actionable knowledge that drives real-time decisions to improve process and asset performance. KNet will be integrated into Emerson’s Plantweb digital ecosystem. Combined with Emerson’s extensive Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) Library and consulting services, KNet will enhance the comprehensive analytics solution Emerson offers. In addition, Emerson will hire several team members from Integration Objects and open a new branch office in Tunis, Tunisia, to support the integration of KNet.

Uganda: Training upgrade - The Ugandan Institute for Information and Communication Technologies (UICT) in Kampala now has five renovated electronics and ICT labs following refurbishment by the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC). Agence Ecofin reported that the regulator wants to promote specialized ICT education, reduce public spending on expatriate professionals and create jobs for locals. UCC's Director of Institutional Affairs, Fred Otunnu, said that the facilities would reduce the national gap in ICT training, research and innovation. The upgrade cost some UGX 1.9 billion (USD 504,000).

Zimbabwe: On demand - TelOne has formed a new partnership with Zollywood that will allow users to rent a number of local movies. TelOne's DEOD (Digital Entertainment on Demand) now has some 20,000 subscribers since it launched 5 months ago.

Middle East:

Bahrain: Huawei P30 from Zain - Zain Bahrain said it will be offering the Huawei P30 and Huawei P30 Pro smartphones, bundled with a choice of post-paid plans. The devices were offered from 10 April in all Zain Bahrain retail stores.

Bahrain: Regulatory consultation - The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has commenced the final consultation on the reference offer of the new wholesale entity under the Batelco Separation Project. The wholesale entity, NBNetco BSC will be formed by the separation of Batelco into two distinct legal entities. NBNetco will operate and deploy the single national broadband infrastructure (NBN) to form the basis for the provision of all telecom services, including 5G. The TRA believes that service providers should have access to the NBN on fair and reasonable terms. Responses are sought by 25 April, after which the TRA will then review responses whilst preparing its Final Order on the Separated Entity Reference Offer, which will be issued in May.

Oman: 4G for Friendi - Ooredoo Oman and Friendi mobile, part of the Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa group, have signed a long-term deal to provide Friendi mobile users with mobile services using Ooredoo's 4G 'Supernet' network. The migration of Friendi mobile's subscribers to Ooredoo's mobile network is scheduled to start in the first half of May.

Oman: Pre-school tv - Ooredoo TV has partnered with Hopster to offer leading pre-school television shows, such as 'Bob the Builder', 'SuperWhy' and 'Cloudbabies'. Users can subscribe to the Family Bundle through the set-top box for OMR 6 (USD 15.54) a month, or from OMR 4 (USD 10.36) if subscribed to the Home Bundle. Hopster is also available for OMR 1.90 (USD 4.92) on a rolling monthly basis. Hopster offers European independent animations, such as 'Animanimals', and music videos and cartoons that celebrate inclusion and diversity, such as the Irish animation, 'Punky'.

Qatar: First 5G call - Vodafone Qatar has made the region's first local and international live mobile calls using a 5G handset, over its 'GigaNet 5G' network, Gulf Times reported. Minister of Transport and Communications, Jassim Seif Ahmed al-Sulaiti, made 5G video calls from Doha to the ITU Secretary General Houlin Zhao in Geneva, and to company executives in the Katara Cultural Village. Both Vodafone Qatar and rival Ooredoo have rolled out substantial 5G NR network infrastructure using the 3.5GHz spectrum band, whilst both providing 5G-based fixed-wireless broadband services to a small number of users in the lead-up to the local release of commercial 5G handsets.

United Arab Emirates: Brazillian broadband offer - Satellite Internet operator Yahsat is expanding to Northeast Brazil with a special offer for customers in the region. Until 1 May, consumers who subscribe to the 6 Mbps and 12 Mbps plans will pay the promotional price of BRL 119.90 and BRL 169.90 during 12 months, respectively, and will also get double the contracted Internet speed during the contract. The promotion is valid for the states of Pernambuco, Alagoas, Rio Grande do Norte, Ceara and Paraiba. Yahsat sells its plans in 16 Brazilian states, with 800 cities covered, and aims to reach 1,000 cities by May.

United Arab Emirates: Convenient conversion - Virgin Mobile UAE is facilitating the switch to eSim through its app, without the need to visit a store. To switch from physical Sim to eSim, users need to pen their Virgin Mobile app, select 'My Numbers' and 'Move to eSIM'. A verification SMS is then sent for authentication and the eSim is then installed. New customers who have an eSim compatible device can also opt to have their VirginMobile eSIM activated within an hour via Virgin Mobile's home delivery service, by downloading the Virgin Mobile app via the Play store or App store, choosing their favourite number or transferring their current one from any network, creating their customised mobile plan and selecting eSim.