News in Brief 21 August 2019


Africa: Lowest cost yet - MTN is to launch a USD 20 smartphone across Africa to provide low-cost mobile Internet access for young Africans. MTN's Group President and CEO Rob Shuter showcased the device, designed by South African-based Mobicel, at MTN's recent half-year results presentation in Johannesburg. Shuter told Connecting Africa that MTN plans to roll-out the device across most of its portfolio by the end of 2019. The phone is currently being extensively trialled.

Algeria: New DG - On 4 August Ooredoo announced the appointment of German-born Nikolai Beckers as Director General of Ooredoo Algeria to replace the Sudanese Abdullatif Hamad Dafallah. Nikolai Beckers has more than twenty years of experience in the telecoms and information and communication technologies sector. He has previously worked for Deutsche in Indonesia, the Philipines as well as T-Online in France and Bekcell in Azerbaijan. The last two posts were as the head of Azerbaijani operator Baku Cellular Communication and Telecom Romania.

Algeria: Revenues reported - In the first half of 2019 Ooredoo Algeria reported revenues of DZD 41.1 billion (USD 345.4 million) during this period, and 13.61 million mobile subscribers, or 12 percent of the Ooredoo group total. Capex was DZD 10.9 billion (USD 90.9 million) deployed on the strengthening and modernization of its network of telephone and internet coverage.

Cameroon: Satellite programme - Minpostel has recorded that a working group of 25 experts from several administrations has been working on a CAMSPACE satellite programme since 17 July 2019. The aim would be to identify and capture by satellite imagery of the national territory and its space in order to provide a mechanism for alerting and preventing the devastating effects of natural disasters. The group is responsible for conducting the feasibility study and implementation of a space programme in Cameroon. The studies will also allow the government to cost the investment. They are under the supervision of the Aeronautical Authority (CCAA). They are also responsible for proposing adequate regulatory and institutional arrangements for the objective conduct of the CAMSPACE programme.

Egypt: Stake purchase - On 18 August Global Telecom Holding (GTH) informed the Egyptian Exchange (EGX) that its board have approved its parent VEON's offer to acquire the company's assets in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Algeria. VEON intends to directly acquire GTH's stakes in mobile operators Jazz (Pakistan), Banglalink (Bangladesh) and Djezzy (Algeria) including another asset, MedCable, for USD 1.95 billion, USD 290 million and USD 590 million respectively, plus Mobilink Bank (Pakistan) for USD 92 million. GTH will hold an extraordinary general meeting related to the asset offer on 9 September. Earlier in August VEON completed a mandatory share buyout offer to up its stake in Egypt-based GTH to around 98.24 percent.

Gabon: Cheaper data - On 9 August Airtel Gabon launched its new permanent offer called Wami, which means 'what is mine or what belongs to me'. Pricing per megabyte is now XAF 20 (USD 0.03), down from XAF 75 (USD 0.13), with an Internet billing increment of every 20 kb at each 1kb. The new offer allows Airtel subscribers to have 325 megabytes for 3 days for XAF 1,000 (USD 1.69). Users will also be entitled to 750 megabytes for 7 days for XAF 2,000, 2.5 GB in 7 days for XAF 5,000 and 15 GB in 30 days for XAF 20,000. The Wami offer was formulated after a customer satisfaction survey conducted in April 2019.

State of Digital - Angola: February 2018

Ghana: Open-ended bundles - AirtelTigo has announced 'no expiry' of voice and data bundles. A year ago AirtelTigo launched its 'Big Time Data Bundles' to give subscribers more data without the worry about when it would expire. It also removed daily, weekly or monthly validity constraints. AirtelTigo has now launched 'Fuse Bundles' following a six-month market research programme, coupled with customer feedback. Fuse Bundles give customers the ability to stay connected and browse the Internet without policing their voice and data bundles. There is also the flexibility and freedom to choose from three price points starting at 40 minutes to call all networks and 40MB of data to browse for just GHC 2 (USD 0.37).

Kenya: Enhanced promotion - Safaricom has improved the Storo Bonus Promotion that will reward customers with 200 percent bonus airtime and an additional 200MB Free YouTube bundle when they meet the daily target. The promotion will run from 6 August to 20 October 2019 for pre-paid subscribers. A users' target is based on their daily usage and can be achieved via calling, texting, browsing out-of-bundle, purchasing a bundle or charges from value-added-services such as Skiza. The bonus airtime can only be used for both on-net and off-net calls and SMSs and is used in priority to airtime bought by the subscriber. Stori Ibambe was introduced in 2015 and previously gave 100 percent bonus airtime and will continue to do so after this campaign ends.

South Africa: Call me goes back to court - Nkosana Makate, who claims to be the inventor of 'Please Call Me' is returning to court to further challenge the ZAR 47 million (USD 3.1 million) settlement Vodacom previously offered him, and which Makate turned down. Makate wants the court to warrant a new process to determine his compensation, and requires Vodacom to divulge information relating to the full revenues generated over the past 18 years. 'Please Call Me' is a free service established back in 2001, and allows users to send a text message requesting to be called back. Makate claims he put the idea to his manager at the time, Phillip Geissler, who then submitted it to Vodacom. An agreement was reached and Geissler told Makate verbally that he would negotiate the remuneration with the company. The Constitutional Court ruled in 2016 that Vodacom was bound by the verbal agreement established between Geissler and Makate.

another fine mess for african telecoms

South Africa: Developers sought - Huawei is to employ software developers to build applications for its new operating system, HarmonyOS, TechCentral reported. HarmonyOS is being developed as a replacement for Google's Android. Huawei said it has earmarked USD 1 billion to pay developers to build apps for the new software. Huawei South Africa's Consumer Business Group Chief Technology Officer, Akhram Mohamed, said that the funding will be allocated according to the ideas that developers in each country propose. About 80 percent of the USD 1 billion funding will be spent in markets outside China. Mohamed said it is keen to invest in South African developers who build apps that can address market demand specific to the country, and will also help internationalise these apps, where appropriate.

Tanzania: Morogoro mobile site - Tigo Tanzania has launched 3G network services in Kisaki in the Morogoro region. Regional sales manager Frank Anthony said 3G availability in the area will positively impact economic and social activities. Anthony said along with faster data speeds, the 3G network provides a much better call quality and level of reliability. Customers who purchase any Internet package will be rewarded with 100 MB every day for 30 days. This offer is valid for 30 days from the commissioning of the 3G site, he said.

Uganda: CCTV commissioned - A new USD 126 million closed-circuit television camera (CCTV) system has been supplied to the police by Huawei, Reuters reported. The cameras are part of Huawei's Safe City initiative, which has been rolled out in more than 200 cities globally, including in China, Pakistan and Russia. In Africa, Huawei has sold CCTV systems to countries such as Kenya, Egypt and Zambia.

Middle East:

Kuwait: Video banking - The Kuwait International Bank (KIB) has launched a service enabling customers to complete a number of transactions by communicating with staff via video call. Both customers and non-customers can make a video call to representatives face-to-face on weekdays from 09:00 hrs to 16:00 hrs (except Fridays and Saturdays). Customers can also activate or deactivate credit cards, debit cards and SMS notification services. They can receive information about their IBAN, update email details, request bank statements via fax, bank cards and Murabaha. They can also redeem KIB cash bank reward points. Customers can also adjust notifications for credit cards and debit cards for travel, configure language preferences, and set/reset debit card and credit card PINs.

Turkey: Connected cars - Turkcell has deployed communication infrastructure for eCall systems in connected automobiles. eCall will enable the calling of emergency lines and receiving incoming calls backed by Turkcell's network. Turkcell's operator interface will be used in the modules that satisfy the eCall system's requirements. The vehicles involved will be assembled outside Turkey, and a Turkish operator's SIM properties will be used in vehicles manufactured abroad for the first time.

United Arab Emirates: 5G call - On 19 August Etisalat announced the availability of 5G coverage at the world's tallest building, Emaar's Burj Khalifa. A 5G call was made from the Burj Khalifa to Etisalat's Head Quarters. Etisalat has said that it intends to build 1,000 5G towers across the UAE during 2019 to enable 5G coverage. It embarked on its 5G journey in 2014 when it started constructing the network with a dedicated team of engineers and the first commercial 5G network in the UAE was launched on 14 May 2018

United Arab Emirates: Future cloud - Mobile network operator du and Nokia have published a white paper regarding cloud-based future network architecture for new 5G and IoT applications. Du's CTO Saleem AlBlooshi said that network 'cloudification' means that the future network architecture will be more agile, dynamic and optimised, opening up new applications and products based on next-generation developments such as 5G and IoT. Du believes that 5G will enhance existing mobile broadband services but also open new capabilities and achieve network efficiencies. The cloudification of Du's network with the support of partners such as Nokia offers the promise of an agile, optimised and future-ready network that will open new ICT and use cases that are more in tune with customer demands in the future.

United Arab Emirates: Coronation Street cul-de-sac - The UK's ITV Choice was withdrawn from the UAE on 20 August, which included Britain's longest running soap opera 'Coronation Street', The National reported. Mobile network operator du announced the change in an email to its subscribers, saying: "Starting from 20 August, the content provider will no longer offer ITV Choice (227) in the region. The channel will automatically be removed from your package. Sorry for the inconvenience." ITV Choice is popular with British residents of the UAE, with its offering of UK programming produced by ITV Studios and other independent production companies. It was not clear whether the decision to cease operations in the region had been made by ITV or by du.