News in Brief 12 June 2019

Africa:

Africa: Money assistant - MTN Group has launched a Mobile Money (MoMo) artificial intelligence service (chatbot) which went live in Cote d'Ivoire in May and will be launched elsewhere in the next few months. The AI assistant enables customers to engage with MTN's MoMo services, including payments, on various social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, and via SMS. The service will eventually be added to MTN's own, new instant messaging service Ayoba. The chatbot will assist users in navigating MTN's MoMo services.

Africa & Middle East: Digital service head - Ericsson has named Lucky La Riccia as head of digital services for Middle East and Africa. La Riccia will drive business growth and capture market opportunities in the region, including Turkey, in the digital transformation and cloud domain. He joined Ericsson in 2004, working in digital services in Asia Pacific and India in operations support system (OSS), business support system (BSS), service layer and multimedia.

Egypt: Public service platforms - The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology has said that Egypt is expected to offer seven government online public service platforms by 30 June 2019. They will provide services such as health insurance, taxes, social housing, special needs, commercial registration, real estate registration, education, subsidies, customs, marriage and divorce documents etc. A payment platform will provide citizens with a smart card to settle all government services that require payment, al-monitor reported.

Egypt: QoS outage - Vodafone Egypt has been fined some EGP 10 million (USD 586,000) by the National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (NTRA) due to an outage of several hours in a number of areas on the evening of 3 June, just before Eid al-Fitr. Al-Masry Al-Youm reported that Vodafone Egypt compensated subscribers with minutes and provided additional megabytes for the interruption. The NTRA investigated the reasons behind this disruption, which violates the quality of services stipulated in the licences. NTRA has recently contracted an international company to measure the quality of services provided by mobile network operators following increased customer complaints of poor service.

Ethiopia: Revenue sharing - Ethio Telecom and Awtar Multimedia are to roll-out a music streaming app for Android phone users, CGN reported. The Awtar Music App was founded by Ethiopian musician and composer Elias Melka and will offer Ethiopian music of all genres and in the Amharic, Oromiffa and Tigrigna languages. Songs are ETB 4.50 (USD 0.15) and albums for ETB 15.00 (USD 51.00). The app has been designed so that singers, lyricists, music arrangers, melodists and producers all receive a 20 percent share of the profit. To limit piracy and maximize artists' revenue, music downloaded from Awtar will not be shareable.

Ghana: Smartphone sales - Huawei has launched a major sensitization campaign to shift its stock of smartphones. Through a partnership with AirtelTigo, Huawei will offer new and existing customers a new SIM card, call minutes and a free data plan for a year. The volume of call minutes and data plan offered will vary according to the price of the Huawei phone. AirtelTigo's COO Chaganti Murthy said that the partnership with "Huawei is part of a long-term plan to establish partnerships with several smartphone manufacturers to strengthen the efforts to increase the use of smartphones ..."

State of Digital - Angola: February 2018

Guinea: Regulatory reminder - The General Directorate of the Autorite de Regularisation des Postes et Telecommunications (ARPT) has issued a notice to all equipment manufacturers, professionals, installers, importers and resellers of telecommunications equipment, operators and telecommunications service providers that the establishment and operation of an electronic communications network in Guinea is subject to the granting of a licence or authorization; that any person wishing to carry out the activities of telecommunication equipment installer needs to obtain an installer's approval; and companies operating in Guinea can contract only with installers approved by the ARPT and who hold a current licence. The full text is available here.

Kenya: Employee extortion - Two Safaricom staffers have been charged with demanding KES 300 million (USD 2.9 million) from the company by threats. They appeared in court on 10 June but denied computer fraud and demanding money by threats, and also denied illegally copying and transferring privileged information on a subscriber from the operator's database and sharing it with an unauthorised person. The offences were allegedly performed between 1 May and 7 June. The court ordered the suspects to deposit KES 1 million cash bail each and to report to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations' Serious Crimes Unit once a week. The case will be heard on 16 July.

Kenya: Hotspot advertising - Telkom Kenya, Nairobi County Government and Meelin Media have partnered to provide free Wi-Fi. Three hotspots have been set-up within the central business district at Aga Khan Walk, Memorial Park and Ambassador under the Link Kenya Project. Each hotspot has a double-sided 55-inch LCD screen that will run paid advertisements to cover the cost of maintenance. Telkom has previously facilitated connectivity to innovation hubs in all 210 constituencies. The Link Kenya Project is modelled on a similar initiative in New York City in 2015, dubbed LinkNYC, which has 9.5 feet tall kiosks fitted with 55-inch HD displays and public Wi-Fi.

another fine mess for african telecoms

Morocco: State stake sale - The government is to sell 8 percent of its shares in Maroc Telecom. The operator was notified of the move in a letter received from the Minister of the Economy. This will be achieved by the sale of blocks of shares and a public offer. This will leave the State with a 22 percent holding. Etisalat remains the majority shareholder with a 53 percent holding. Shares were suspended last week after the announcement. This operation is part of privatization programme announced by the Ministry of Finance.

Nigeria: Enforcement activities - The Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) has undertaken to prosecute any service provider, SIM registration agent or subscriber found selling and using pre-registered SIM cards, the Sun News reported. The commission's Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement officer, Efosa Idehen, who was represented by his Deputy, Salisu Abdu, told journalists at a regional sensitisation workshop. It is claimed that some agents are providing fully registered and activated SIM cards with fraudulent details for sale. The NCC has carried out enforcement activities, with agents arrested, registration machines confiscated and caches of fully activated SIMs confiscated.

Nigeria: LTE for Ota - Airtel Nigeria has expanded its LTE network to Ota in Ogun State, following 4G launches in Owerri, Enugu, Uyo and Edo State in May. Airtel launched LTE in Ibadan in February 2018, with spectrum in the 1800MHz band. It initiated services in Abuja in May 2018 and reached around 60 towns and cities in 16 states by October 2018, including Lagos.

Senegal: Promotions regulated - The Autorite de Regulation des Telecommunications et des Postes (ARTP) has introduced new measures to regulate promotional offers on mobile voice/data plans. Operators have to notify the regulator at least five days ahead of the launch of a new promotion, detailing the cost structure of the offer. This will enable the ARTP to raise objections. There are specific rules on the time span and frequency of special offers. The number of promotions is now limited to fifteen per operator in any given quarter. Advertising the new offers via SMS is now banned between 21.00 and 06.00 hours. The quality of service issues on the network will be assessed before approval is given.

South Africa: ISP sale - ISP Webafrica is reported to be for sale, and rivals Afrihost and RSAWeb are thought to be interested according to MyBroadband.co.za. Webafrica was founded by Matthew Tagg in 1997 as a web hosting company. In 2005, the company entered the ADSL market and has became a FttH player in recent years. Webafrica CEO Tim Wyatt-Gunning told MyBroadband that Webafrica has not been sold and that 'the owners of Webafrica remain the same in all aspects.'

South Africa: Regional recruitment - Hitachi Vantara, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi Ltd, has appointed JP Smith as Regional Director for East and West Africa. Smith has experience in a number of different capacities, including Head of Infrastructure, CTO, Pre-Sales Director, Sales Manager, Software Account Manager and Pre-Sales Consultant.

South Africa: Samsung supreme - Data from web analytics firm StatCounter shows that Chinese smartphone maker Huawei's share of the smartphone market in South Africa has grown significantly over the past year, with its share of the local market rising from 16.7 percent in May 2018 to 22.9 percent at the end of May 2019. This shows substantial growth from the 11.26 percent market share in 2017. Apple grew from 11.17 to 14.87 percent in the 12 months ending May 2019. The iPhone maker dropped from a 16.27 percent in November 2018 after the launch of the iPhone Xs and iPhone Xr range in September and October of 2018. However, Samsung continues to be a dominant player with its market share growing from 43.7 percent last year May to 43.7 percent in May 2018.

South Africa: Slow progress - In 2014, the Department of Communications (DOC) was separated by former president Jacob Zuma into the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services and a 'new' DoC. In November 2018 President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the merger of the two ministries, marking the first outcome of the review process of the size and shape of the national executive and government departments. During his Cabinet announcement in May Ramaphosa revealed further reconfiguration of ministries in his administration. ITWeb reports the DoC saying it is working on the structure for the consolidated department, noting the merger will be done in line with the process and associated timeframes of the National Macro-Organisation of the State (NMOS). According to the set timeframes, the NMOS process should be concluded by December 2019.

South Africa: Submarine cable study - The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) has issued a draft environmental impact assessment (EIA) on the proposed 3,200km Meltingpot Indianoceanic Submarine System (METISS) cable system, the South Coast Sun reported. The cable will connect South Africa, Madagascar, Reunion and Mauritius, delivering 24Tbps of design capacity. The process started in February 2019, and a final scoping report (FSR) was submitted to the DEA for a decision. The FSR was approved by the DEA on 13 April 2019, with the draft EIA report is available for public comments until 5 July.

Middle East:

Israel: Fintech foray - Partner Communications is looking to acquire Cellarix, which has developed an electronic wallet, according to Globes. Cellarix is in liquidation, but the process has been put on hold to facilitate the sale of the business. Partner adopted a strategy to enter the fintech sector in 2018, and is reported to have been meeting with many potential prospective acquisitions. Cellarix was founded by Pango founder Shlomo Zytman, and its technology facilitates money transfers using its app. Partner sought to enter the fintech sector by acquiring Isracard, and then attempted to set-up a consumers club to provide a credit card for its members. The focus is to now acquire existing activity.

Jordan: Premium PoP - Sparkle has launched a new PoP in Aqaba in collaboration with Naitel, located in Naitel's open data centre. It benefits from Sparkle's international network and Tier-1 global IP backbone Seabone. Sparkle's CEO Mario Di Mauro said: "The new Aqaba PoP marks a further step towards the consolidation of our company as leading network provider also beyond the Mediterranean basin, providing its customer's premium diversified connectivity solutions."

Saudi Arabia: Haven for Huawei - The Minister of Technology Abdullah bin Amer al-Swaha has said that he sees no problem with using products made by Huawei, when asked whether he had any concerns about using them, Kyodo News reported.  The Minister said that companies and product providers that comply with the government's technical, regulatory and cybersecurity requirements were acceptable. The comments came as US President Donald Trump imposed heavy sanctions on Huawei, citing security concerns, and encouraged allies including Japan to do the same. The Minister said Saudi Arabia is an open economy and is planning the largest commercial roll-out of 5G in the Middle East and North Africa. A cooperation agreement was signed with Japan on 9 June intended to promote advances in IT.

Turkey: Faster yet - Turk Telekom has said that it is the first Turkish operator to use 400 Gbps Ethernet technology enabling it to provide data at 4 times faster speeds to its subscribers. Initially, the 400 Gbps technology is used in Ankara, but will be extended across the entire country after testing.