News in Brief 24 July 2019

Africa:

Chad: Social media restored - President of the Republic, Idriss Deby Itno, lifted the restriction on social media networks on 13 July 2019 at the close of the country's first digital forum, dubbed Digital Chad. The ban came into force in March 2018. Internet penetration is reported to be below 15 percent. In August 2018 a consortium of local lawyers representing consumers and supported by the NGO Internet Without Borders initiated legal action against mobile network operators Airtel and Tigo. The case was dismissed in September 2018. The restoration coincided with the inauguration of the 1,047 km fibre cable linking N'Djamena to Adre.

Democratic Republic of the Congo: eSIM enterprise - Africell DRC has launched a virtual SIM card to help prevent loss of SIM and contacts, Ecofin reported. CEO Milad Khairalla said the eSIM stores contacts directly to a virtual platform such as Google Drive or iCloud. An eSIM with a QR code is required, currently offered free of charge at its shops under certain conditions. Once received, a QR Code has to be scanned to obtain an eSIM on the phone. The virtual chip allows the making and receiving of calls, and also the use of data.

Egypt: TV service - Telecom Egypt (TE) has signed with Cable Network Egypt (CNE) to provide its customers with Internet Protocol television services (IPTV) in collaboration with various content providers. Telecom Egypt will provide customers with unique content and TV channels through an interactive IPTV platform. TE said it chose CNE as a partner for to its advanced technology and expertise in encryption, distribution and subscription management, in addition to its licence to encrypt and disseminate pay-TV services in the region.

Gambia (The): American connections - On 4 July Africell commemorated the 243rd independence anniversary of the United States of America, at a local hotel in Bijilo. The operator was established in Gambia in 2001 and its current portfolio spans West, Central, and East Africa. The event was subject to critical social media comment. The Gambia's CEO Alieu Badara Mbye said last month Africell signed a USD 120 million with the Overseas Private Investment Corporate (OPIC), and also has a USD 140 million financing from the bank of New York in 2018 through their US partnership. He noted: "OPIC is a self-sustaining US government agency that help businesses to invest in emerging markets to fund and create sustainable and vital projects and programmes such as those in The Gambia and sister organisations, where we have companies in Sierra Leone, DR Congo and Uganda."

Gambia (The): Migration briefing - Digital Gambia Limited (DGL), the public signal distributor for terrestrial television (DTT) and its partner EXCAF-Gambia telecom convened a three-day workshop for Gambia Radio & Television Services (GRTS) staff dealing with the digital migration. EXCAF-Gambia Managing Director, Kanteh Faly, said: "The migration will lead to the release of some valuable spectrum currently used for analogue television broadcasting for the provision of mobile broadband services. Television stations will just be focused on content production whereas DGL and EXCAF will be on broadcasting." GRTS Director General, Abdou Touray, said analogue television broadcasting will have been discontinued in 2020 with Gambia joining the rest of West Africa.

Ghana: Banking deal - Vodafone Ghana and Zenith Bank have partnered to deliver mobile financial services. Zenith will support Vodafone's cash hubs and agents with liquidity, and act as a super-agent to support mobile money agents and customers with additional cash outlets. Some of Zenith Bank's products will be offered on the Vodafone Cash platform. The product, known as Vodafone Ahotor, deducts GHC 3 (USD 0.56) from the customer's account at the beginning of the month.

Ghana: Hajj offering - AirtelTigo's pre-paid subscribers travelling to Saudi Arabia for this year's Hajj pilgrimage will get free incoming calls and discounted prices for voice, SMS and data services. Director of Marketing Operations Pius Owusu-Tuffour said users will have to recharge their account with a scratch card or AirtelTigo Money (ATM) with GHS 50 (USD 9.30) or GHS 100 (USD 18.60). The offer is valid for 30 days. Pilgrims can subscribe either in Ghana before travelling, or in Saudi Arabia while roaming on Zain or STC networks.

Global: Antenna acquisition - Huber+Suhner said it has acquired the antenna portfolio for security-relevant applications from Kathrein. Financial terms were not disclosed. Through the acquisition, the firm reinforces its market position in the area of Special Communications/Public Mobile Radio (PMR) in connection with the growing demand for secure mobile communications, and expands its own product range of antennas.

State of Digital - Angola: February 2018

Kenya: Libra risks - The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) has concluded that Facebook's Libra cryptocurrency project comes with 'phenomenal' risks that need to be properly understood. CBK Governor Patrick Njoroge has stated that it does not plan to approve blockchain-based cryptocurrencies as legal tender. Facebook has been making inroads into the peer-to-peer (P2P) payments industry in recent years. It launched its P2P payments service in the United States in 2015, before extending it to some parts of Europe. The solution enabled users in supported regions to transfer money in real-time, via the Facebook Messenger app. In June 2019 Facebook discontinued the service in the UK and France, citing lack of consumer interest.

Morocco: Stake sale - The Ministry of Economy and Finance (Directorate of Public Enterprises and Privatization) has announced the closing of the offer to sell to the public the shares in Itissalat Al-Maghrib (Maroc Telecom) initiated by the State. The subscription period ran from 26 June 2019 to 5 July 2019 on the stock market. The sale involved a 2 percent stake (17,581,900 shares) for an amount of MAD 2.19 billion (USD 227 million). Following this, the State will have a 22 percent stake and voting rights.

Nigeria: HQ protest - MTN Nigeria directed workers to stay away from its headquarters in Lagos on 17 July in case the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and other youth groups proceeded with a picket the company over xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa, TheCable reported. MTN Nigeria received a letter from NANS and others warning of the planned picketing. After midday MTN dispatched buses to pick up staff so normal activities could resume.

Nigeria: LTE plans - Spectranet 4G LTE has introduced Spectra-cular data plans designed to appeal to casual, moderate and heavy users, and described as Unified, Mega and Always On. Chief Executive Officer, Ajay Awasthi, said: "The core idea behind the launch of these plans is to offer Data users superior value through simple, uncomplicated data plans packing in either bonus night time GBs or Unlimited Nighttime browsing." The Unified Value Plans offer free night bonus along with the main data bank. When a customer buys the NGN 3,000 (USD 8.26) Unified Value plan, they get 4GB anytime data plus 4GB night bonus for 1 month, and is intended for moderate data users. The Mega Value Plans offer Unlimited night browsing along with the main data bank for NGN 8,000 (USD 22) Mega value plan comes with 15GB anytime data plus Unlimited Night browsing for 1 month. A single purchase of NGN 18,000 (USD 50) Always on plan gives the customer 100GB high-speed data. Post consumption of 100GB data keeps the customer connected to the Internet with Always on 512kbps speed. Spectranet was the first ISP to launch 4G LTE in Nigeria, and offers services in Lagos, Abuja, Ibadan, and Port Harcourt.

another fine mess for african telecoms

Senegal: Promotional oversight - The ARTP has notified the public that it has decided to supervise promotions in order to improve the functioning of the retail market, to increase competition between operators and consolidate consumer protection. The move applies to all operators, and the regulator noted in a statement that Article 8 prevents any transfer of competitive advantage to a related market which aims to ensure fair and healthy competition between operators and to ensure the replicability of the offers by the players, and in particular those in a dominant position.

South Africa: Kershaw replacement - Thato Motlanthe has been named as MTN Group's executive for investor relations from 1 September. Motlanthe replaces Nik Kershaw, who left MTN Group at the end of May, and will report to Ralph Mupita, MTN Group CFO. He joins MTN from Absa Asset Management, where he held the role of Portfolio Manager, co-managing the flagship funds within the Equities franchise. Prior to this, he held senior positions at Stanlib Asset Management, Citigroup Global Markets and UBS Investment Bank over a career spanning sixteen years.

South Africa: Mountain-top tower - The Sunday Times reports that a base station has been erected on Matroosberg, the Western Cape's second-highest mountain. The structure is made from concrete, and will hold an 8-metre mast. CapeNature officials, who are responsible for the peak, are reported to have said they do not know who commissioned the tower, and that the party concerned did not seek permission. The authority is in the process of conducting an in-field investigation into alleged trespassing on CapeNature-managed land as well as the illegal construction. It told the newspaper that a Western Cape Internet service provider allegedly gained illegal access to the area, and then transported equipment and building material to the top of the mountain and seemingly bulldozed a new piece of road as well.

Togo: Home fibre - GVA-Togo, a subsidiary of the Vivendi group, has just launched its 'Start' high-speed Internet offering utilising FTTH (Fibre-to-the-Home). The cost sets a new market low of XOF 15,000 (USD 26). GVA-Togo General Manager Alexandre Cohen said that the service provided a connection speed of 10 Mbps.

Zimbabwe: Overload outage - On 20 July Econet experienced a network shutdown caused by load shedding, the New Zimbabwe reported. Most services failed in the morning, with no apologies or explanation given by Econet. The operator finally responded after more than six hours. Econet blamed the fault on its generators, saying engineers were working 'flat out' to restore service.

Middle East:

Afghanistan: Registration reminder - ATRA's Control and Monitoring Director, Saed Hares Mir, told a meeting of telcos and law enforcement bodies that: "Selling SIMs as active but without registration contradicting SIM registration procedure is prohibited". He added: "Where law enforcement bodies find such a case, they may treat the persons as other culprits and submit the culprit to the law". ATRA is responsible for the implementation of the directive in cooperation with law enforcement bodies.

Afghanistan: Roll-out Plans - Digital CASA Project Director and Ministry of Communication and IT Plan and Policy Director Fawad Anwarzai met with ATRA senior officials, fibre licence holders with regard to the fibre network expansion and use of the digital Central Asia South Asia (CASA) project in this respect. ATRA Technical Vice-Chairman, Naqibullah Sailab, asked the licence holders to better coordinate their efforts regarding the fibre expansion and also pay strict attention on their plans and programmes as per their licence conditions. It was noted that companies have their planned and specific routes and may act upon them and where they have no plan, may use the digital CASA project.

Israel: Bezeq bond - Bezeq has announced that it has raised some ILS 890 million (USD 250.7 million) in a private offering of two bond series to institutional investors. It sold ILS 427.9 million (USD 120.5 million) of unlinked bonds that will mature in 2030 with annual interest of 3.6 percent. Bezeq has also sold ILS 461.7 million (USD 130.0 million) in a second series of inflation-linked bonds that will also mature in 2030 with interest of 2.1 percent. The bonds are rated 'AA/Negative' by Standard & Poor's Maalot and 'Aa2/Negative' by Moody's Israel's Midroog.

Iran: International collaboration - Minister of ICT Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi announced that a joint ICT market will be formed with Russia, Turkey and Azerbaijan, Mehrnews reported. The statement a meeting in Tehran with the communications ministers of Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia and Turkey. It is about a year since they have reached agreement on forming a joint ICT market with each other. The first deal was made with Azerbaijan in Baku, on the establishment of a centre to support innovation and creativity. The four agreed to hold eight events in future, two sponsored by each party.

Israel: Costs cut - Cellcom Israel is expecting to cut costs with the introduction of its fibre-optic infrastructure, Globes reported. Cellcom is planning a major cut in its investments, and is redirecting its resources from mobile to fixed and television, CEO Nir Sztern said. Cellcom is to cut its ILS 600 million (USD 169 million) investment budget by ILS 150 million (USD 42.3 million). Sztern predicted that the investment in the IBC fibre-optic venture would save some ILS 100 million (USD 28.2 million) in its investment budget, and the rest would be deducted from other areas such as mobile telephony. Cellcom still has to reschedule its debt, as its cash flow dwindles and making it virtually impossible to manage its ILS 2.5 billion (USD 704.2 million) debt.

Israel: Triple treats - Satellite TV company Yes is launching a triple package of TV, Internet with speeds up to 100 megabyte and a fixed line. Yes is launching the package together with sister companies Bezeq and Bezeq International. The package will be marketed jointly by Yes and Bezeq International under the Yes brand in response to TV competitors HOT, Partner and Cellcom, which all market triple packages. The offer will include VOD, children, lifestyle, Middle East and other content for free and an advanced HD set-box for ILS 139 (USD 39) for the first three months for new subscribers and ILS 299 (USD 84) per month from the fourth month (a discount of ILS 480 per subscriber). Existing subscribers can receive the service for ILS 229 (USD 65) per month. Yes is also offering a cheaper triple package with its STINGTV service for ILS 99 (USD 28) per month for three months and ILS 199 (USD 56) per month from the fourth month.

Qatar: Fleet monitoring - Vodafone Qatar has connected International Limousine Service (ILS) with its Internet of Things (IoT) services to monitor its 240 cars and drivers. All the vehicles have WiFi on-board for customers. The fleet management system enables the delivery of real-time information such as traffic data, vehicle location, driver speeds, fuel consumption and employee work-time.

Saudi Arabia: Gift SIMs - A million SIM cards and free Internet are being gifted to pilgrims performing Hajj this year upon arriving at the King Abdulaziz International Airport in Saudi Arabia, Arab News reported. The initiative is part of a programme aimed at serving pilgrims who are keen to communicate with their family back home. A field team will be working 24 hours a day during the Hajj season to offer this service to the arriving pilgrims.

Saudi Arabia: Smart trains - Huawei has been selected by the Saudi Railway Company (SAR) as a partner to initiate smart railways. The pair signed a strategic Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to initiate their partnership and will jointly design and innovate in the field of smart railway, including the application of next-generation wireless networks, Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, cloud services and 5G across SAR's railway network. The collaboration will also include training and knowledge transfer for innovative railway ICT solutions, which will enable SAR to provide a high quality and reliable railway service across Saudi Arabia.

Turkey: Future females - Turkcell joined Business Call to Action and is to provide training opportunities to approximately 4,000 low income women in Turkey and upskill a total of 200 female staff to become tester experts by 2021. Turkcell partnered with the Union of Chamber and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey in 2017 to launch Women Developers of the Future, a project to promote women's social and economic empowerment by upskilling them through training. Turkcell first provided mentorship and training to thousands of women on mobile application development and entrepreneurship. After completing the preliminary training, the programme then offers two opportunities. Firstly, their Entrepreneurship Journey supports women to develop their own mobile apps and launch a business using these platforms. Secondly, the Tester Journey employs 100 women (of whom 80 are low income) to contribute to Turkcell's strategic product and services by conducting end-user tests.

Turkey: Home made - Turkcell is the first operator in Turkey to deploy 4.5G mobile antennas built by Aselsan and configured to the Pendik field in Istanbul. Turkcell said it had played an active role in the development of 4.5G mobile antennas. Trials with prototypes started in 2016, and the live field trials with the prototypes were conducted in Ankara and Istanbul in 2017. Following the MoU signed in January 2017, the procurement agreement for 2,030 antennas was signed in September 2018. In the first phase, 1,000 4.5G mobile antennas will be configured to Turkcell's 250 base stations by the end of 2019.