News in Brief 29 May 2019


Africa: Econet energy - Econet Wireless' Distributed Power Africa (DPA) unit is now partnering with French electricity provider EDF to develop commercial and industrial hybrid energy services for the African market. The two said the collaboration would focus on developing energy services such as solar panels, as well as energy back-up systems such as batteries. The products will be deployed in sub-Saharan Africa, starting in South Africa, Cote d'Ivoire and Nigeria. EDF will act as a technology partner for DPA projects in Africa.

Africa: Handset maintenance - Huawei does not anticipate any major impact from the US ban on the South African market. The vendor can no longer source software or components from US suppliers without a licence, although existing devices are not affected. Huawei said that it is against the decision made by the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) of the US Department of Commerce, and will immediately seek to 'find a resolution to this matter.' The company added that the US Commerce Department will allow Huawei Technologies to purchase American-made goods in order to maintain existing networks and provide software updates to existing Huawei handsets, and will continue to provide security updates and after-sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products, including those that have been sold and that are still in stock globally. In its statement Huawei added: 'Huawei has been working for some time now to mitigate the impact of the US ban, this includes our South African operations. We have diversified our global supply chain as part of our business continuity management processes. In South Africa, we will continue to serve our all our customers and contribute to the ICT sector with vigour, as the fourth industrial revolution is a key economic focus for growth and social development.'

Africa: Senior Smile posts - Smile Telecoms has named its new group Chief Executive Officer as Ahmad Farroukh and Deputy Chairman as Irene Charnley with effect from 1 June. Farroukh currently serves as Smile's Group Executive Director Operations, who has previously held executive management positions at Investcom Holdings, the MTN Group (where he served as CEO of MTN Nigeria, MTN South Africa and Group Chief Operating Executive, responsible for 19 countries) and immediately prior to joining Smile, as CEO of Saudi Arabia's Mobily. He is expected to spend the majority of his time at Smile in Nigeria.

Africa & Middle East: Fastest take-off yet - The Ericsson Mobility Report forecasts that 5G is expected to reach 30 million subscriptions for enhanced mobile broadband in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) by the end of 2024, representing 2 percent of total mobile subscriptions. This would make 5G the fastest generation of mobile technology to be rolled out on a global scale. Key 5G drivers are increased network capacity, lower cost per gigabyte and new use case requirements. The majority of the 5G subscriptions will come from advanced ICT markets such as Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar while in Africa momentum is building in South Africa.

Botswana: Stake sale challenge - The Botswana Public Officers' Pension Fund (BPOPF) is reported to challenging the sale of a stake in Mascom Wireless. The USD 300 million deal was reached in March for minority shareholder Econet Wireless of Zimbabwe to acquire the 53 percent stake held by MTN Group, and so give Econet a 60 percent stake and control of the operator. BPOPF is readying to take the matter up with regulators, according to The Patriot. It intends to exercise its right of refusal as the holder of the second largest stake after MTN. Econet's owner Strive Masiyiwa has said that he will look to offload a stake in Mascom via an initial public offer (IPO) should the bid be successful.

Egypt: SDM solution - Nokia is deploying a cloud-based Subscriber Data Management (SDM) system for Vodafone Egypt. The adoption of Nokia's Telecom Cloud Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) will enable Vodafone Egypt scale its network to meet increases in data traffic while simplifying its operational model, Nokia said. The Nokia SDM is currently used for other applications, such as Mobile Number Portability (MNP) and Equipment Identity Register (EIR). Nokia also provides cloud integration and implementation services to enable a smooth transition to the SDM system. The Nokia Registers allow Vodafone Egypt to manage its subscriber data and authentication from a centralized location and across all technologies regardless of whether they are fixed or mobile.

State of Digital - Angola: February 2018

Ghana: Double double - Glo Mobile Ghana has launched a Voice and Data offer, 'Double Double', which doubles the subscriber's credit on all recharges with free data, and a Data offer that delivers benefits to people who auto-renew their data subscriptions. There are in addition new Ghana-Nigeria packs, which enable Glo Mobile subscribers to call or roam in Nigeria and also get benefits on their lines in Ghana. The deals also let hose who use up their airtime or data at odd hours or in difficult locations to top-up airtime or data by simply borrowing. Subscribers on the network can recharge GHS 1 and get another GHS 1 instantly for on-net calls, in addition to a free 50 MB Data to browse. Other top-up values are GHS 5 and 20. The Data offer is available for those who auto-renew their data subscriptions, and gives a subscriber 150 MB for GHS 1, instead of 100 MB. The Voice pack delivers 50 minutes for GHS 25 to call Nigeria from Ghana or when a subscriber roams in Nigeria.

Ghana: Tax target - Deputy Minister of Communications, George Andah, has said consideration is being given to taxing the income mobile money companies earn from transactions, citinewsroom reported. Andah was speaking at the Ghana Digital Roadmap last week. Mobile money grew 43.2 percent year-on-year, with transaction values put at over GHS 233 billion (USD 44.7 billion). Cheque transactions in the same period was put at GHS 203 billion (USD 39.0 million).

Nigeria: Better broadband - MainOne has launched its 'Digital Lagos: Broadband for All' campaign. CEO Funke Opeke said it is keen to collaborate with the Lagos State Government and all the other relevant stakeholders to build Digital Lagos. The plan involves the investment by MainOne of over NGN 25 billion over the next two to three years to develop critical fibre-optic infrastructure to enable broadband services throughout Lagos state. MaiOne has so far invested over NGN 120 billion funded by African banks to expand and densify localised fibre networks in neighbouring Ogun and Edo States by deploying almost 1,000 km of fibre in partnership with Facebook.

another fine mess for african telecoms

Nigeria: Customer-centric channel - 9mobile has launched a personalised WhatsApp Customer Care channel on 09092000192. Vice-President of Marketing, Adebisi Idowu, said WhatsApp can enhance customer engagement while creating strong brand awareness among its subscribers. Idowu promised an immediate response and timely resolution for those using the channel.

Nigeria: Final instalment - MTN Nigeria was initially fined USD 3.9 billion in October 2015, after it failed to disconnect 5.1 million unregistered subscribers. With some 80 percent of the fine paid, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said that MTN had until the end of May to pay the final instalment. MTN launched its Nigerian operations in 2001 and is the country's largest operator with 60.3 million subscribers. In December 2018 MTN agreed to pay a separate USD 53 million fine after being accused of illegally repatriating some USD 8.13 billion to South Africa.

Nigeria: Share shortage - The lack of MTN Nigeria shares to meet the current demand has seen the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) respond. The bourse noted that related to the way MTN has listed, namely 'by introduction' rather than with an Initial Public Offering (IPO) when new shares are issued by the company. Consequently, shares only become available as the existing holders decide to offer them for sale. MTN shares were listed for the first time on the NSE on 16 May. Demand exceeded supply for the three trading days following, with a total of 105.3 million shares valued at NGN 12.23 billion were traded. The NSE noted that there is no rule that compels shareholders of a listed company to tender their shares for trading, and that they are at liberty to trade them at any time and price that suits them. MTN Nigeria has met the free float requirement of NGN 40 billion, with the NSE observing that the free float of MTN at the time of listing was in excess of NGN 90 billion.

Rwanda: Mobile money partnership - The Private Sector Federation (PSF) and MTN Rwanda are partnering to increase digital user-friendly solutions, starting with Mobile Money Pay and Ticketing solutions, The New Times reported. The two aim to provide cashless payments, with businesses able to make international payments. PSF's Chief Executive Officer, Stephen Ruzibiza, said: "It is imperative for us to be active and innovative if we are to achieve the impact of a cashless economy. We want to be part of this journey and we hope with the new partnership with MTN Rwanda will be a great kick-off point to drive this initiative forward". MoMo Pay and Ticketing solution are expected to be launched during the 22nd Rwanda International Trade Fair (RITF) which opens on 22 July and runs to 11 August.

Rwanda: Regional office - Kaspersky Lab is to open a new office in Kigali to support the growth of its business in East Africa. This will provide more room for development as well as being closer to new partners in the region.

Rwanda: Rural power project - African Development Bank's (AfDB) Facility for Energy Inclusion Off-Grid Energy Access Fund (EIF OGEF) has granted an USD 8 million loan to the UK company Bboxx. The funds will facilitate the distribution of solar kits in rural areas. Bboxx considers Rwanda as its first market in Africa with 80,000 solar kits sold in remote areas. Bboxx operates on a pay-per-use model, using mobile banking. It previously embarked on a project to provide access to electricity and the Internet in remote areas of Togo. In partnership with the government, it is providing solar kits for homes and mini-grids for pylons in at least 315 localities. The government is subsidising solar kits with the aim of upgrading 550,000 households in rural areas. It has formed an alliance with Electricite de France (EDF).

South Africa: Asset realisation - MTN Group is to sell all of its interests in investment fund Amadeus and its associated holding in Travelstart to HarbourVest, a global private equity firm, for net proceeds of approximately ZAR 1.2 billion (USD 83.4 million). MTN made the announcement at its capital markets day, saying that the deal was part of its asset rationalisation strategy. The transaction is expected to close within the next three months. MTN said it will maintain its commercial relationship with Travelstart going forward. MTN announced the asset realisation programme in March.

South Africa: Livestock tracking - Dark Fibre Africa's SqwidNet has partnered with Chipfox-SA to facilitate livestock tracking using IoT in. SqwidNet is the Sigfox operator in South Africa and provides a national IoT network that allows low-cost data transmission with low power usage. Chipfox-SA said it has extended the long-standing global partnership with Sigfox to become the go-to provider for livestock tracking. A portable electronic device is provided that uses GPS to track location, with battery facilitating up to six years of autonomy.

South Africa: SD-WAN suite - Telkom-subsidiary BCX has launched a Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) service, enabled by Cisco. The suite is designed to meet any requirement, from cost-effective small branch systems to more complex, enterprise-grade ones. The service is fully scalable to improve business agility and assist clients to simplify their network. It allows customers to connect enterprise networks, including branch offices and data centres, over large geographic distances, and deliver application optimisation, plus security and segmentation and end-to-end policy enforcement.

South Africa: Telkon ad challenge - The Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) has concluded that Telkom's "unlimited home" product must withdraw the ads that have been judged to be misleading, reports BusinessTech. The complainant argued that the description "uncapped and unlimited" was misleading, as the line is throttled after customers reach 50 percent of usage, and that every client is throttled on the 20th of the month in terms of the Fair Use Policy (FUP). Telkom argued that the term 'uncapped' is the telecom industry is a naming convention for deals which are not soft capped.

Tanzania: Rates reduced - Airtel Tanzania has cut its service charges by 80 percent. Marketing Director, Isack Nchunda, told a press conference last week that Airtel subscribers will now pay TZS 1 (USD 0.0004) per second for on and off network calls compared to the previous charges of TZS 5 (USD 0.002) and TZS 7.6 (USD 0.003) per second for on and off network calls. Charges for a Megabyte (MB) has been cut to TZS 40 (USD 0.017) compared to the previous TZS 172 (USD 0.075), and the cost of a Short Message Service (SMS) has fallen to TZS 10 (USD 0.004) compared to TZS 50 (USD 0.022).

Uganda: Marketing resignation - Africell Uganda Marketing Coordinator, Mohammad Yahfoufi, was expected to resign with effect from 24 May 2019 according to PCTechMag. He joined the company in 2016. Yahfoufi succeeded Marvin Wiltshire who is currently the marketing and communications manager at Total Uganda.

Middle East:

Middle East: Regional manager - Phone maker Lenovo has named Shashank Sharma as its new executive director and general manager for the Middle East, Turkey and Africa. Sharma has 23 years of experience in the IT and mobile industries, having previously served as the Executive Director and Asia Pacific Lead of Lenovo Mobile Business Group and Motorola. He has led Lenovo and Motorola's smartphone business in AP and MEA regions. Prior to Lenovo's smartphone business, Sharma was handling Lenovo's PC product and operations in MEA from 2011 to 2014.

Qatar: Development connectivity - Ooredoo Qatar is to provide infrastructure and a range of facilities for a new blue-collar accommodation complex being constructed by Qatar-based real estate developer Barwa Group. The development, with a built-up area of 735,039 m2, will include 3,170 units as well as retail shops and mosques. The first phase will be available for rent starting 1 June and is expected to accommodate around 33,500 labourers. The infrastructure will include the first fibre network in such an accommodation complex in Qatar, an Ooredoo retail shop, Ooredoo network connectivity, an Ooredoo self-service machine and several other day-to-day services.

Saudi Arabia: Internet speed increase - In 1Q 2019 mobile network operators provided an average download speed of 32.2 Mbps, an increase of 12.2 percent quarter-on-quarter Argaam reported citing the Communications and Information Technology Commission's (CITC) Meqyas quarterly report. STC delivered the highest average performance at 38 Mbps, an 8 percent q-o-q increase. Zain Saudi improved its speed by 19 percent to an average of 29.4 Mbps and Mobily by 18 percent to 30.7 Mbps. Mobily's 4G services recorded the highest Full HD quality at 71 percent for YouTube streaming via mobile Internet, followed by STC with 68 percent and Zain with 52 percent.

Turkey: European expansion - Wirecard, a German-based global provider of digital payments and commerce solutions, will facilitate BluTV expansion in Europe. The Turkish streaming subscription service currently has over four million subscribers. BluTV offers Turkish content on a worldwide scale. As part of the internationalization of the streaming service, the company is providing BluTV with digital payment solutions across Europe. Alptug Copuroglu, Head of International at BluTV, noted: "As the first Turkish digital platform to go truly global, it is essential that we have an experienced partner by our side. Wirecard's long-standing experience in digital payments is instrumental in enabling us to grow our streaming subscription services beyond Turkey. We look forward to continue bringing our broad content offering to millions of viewers around the world."