News in Brief 9 October 2019

Africa:

Africa: Channel closure - The History, Crime + Investigation, and Lifetime channels are to be dropped by MultiChoice's DStv at the end of October, according to MyBroadband. The three channels are all produced by US broadcasting company A&E Television Networks, the contract ends on 1 November. MultiChoice said it will soon announce two new channels.

Africa: Antenna sale - German antenna manufacturer Kathrein has completed the sale of its mobile communication antenna and filter business to Ericsson. The company announced the divestment on 25 February 2019. Kathrein has spun off the remaining business units into standalone entities, including Kathrein Solutions, Kathrein Sachsen, Kathrein Digital Systems and Kathrein Broadcast. Kathrein Solutions specialises in RFID and IoT products; Kathrein Sachsen develops and manufactures services for high frequency technology; Kathrein Digital Systems focuses on digital reception of satellite, terrestrial, cable and IP signals and their distribution in buildings and caravans, and Kathrein Broadcast is a specialist for broadcasting transmission systems. Ericsson has consequently expanded its radio system portfolio and has added nearly 3,500 staff to its workforce.

Angola: VAT applied - Mobile network operator Unitel is to apply a 14 percent VAT rate on calls, messages and service subscriptions, while assuming the costs of the new tax on internet plans, Lusa has reported. Top-up cards worth AOA 500; 1,000; 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000 (USD 1.30; 2.60; 5.20; 13.10 and 26.20) will continue to be sold with unchanged face values.

Cote d'Ivoire: Bank funding - A five-year financing agreement worth XOF 70 billion (USD 116.7 million) has been signed by Orange Cote d'Ivoire with a group of five banks. The revolving credit facility is with BICICI (BNP Paribas Group), SGCI, SIB, NSIA Bank and CITIBANK, with BICICI providing half of the funding. The funds will be used to upgrade fibre-optic networks to support the expansion of 4G mobile services. In June 2019 Orange Cote d'Ivoire's managing director Mamadou Bamba revealed that it would invest some XOF 180 billion (USD 300.2 million) over the next two years to improve and expand its networks and services.

Ethiopia: Core communications - The Ethiopia Electric Utility company (EEU) is deploying a new mission-critical radio communications system in the greater Addis Ababa region. Motorola's Astro 25 land mobile radio (LMR) system will support the mission-critical communications needs of EEU teams including hundreds of users from service to repair and restoration teams. Some of the core communication sites are powered by a hybrid electric and solar powered system, and include a back-up energy solution, ensuring communications at all times. The system is highly scalable and designed to enable the EEU to further expand coverage to other regions.

Ethiopia: Direct television - Ethiosat has been launched the first dedicated Ethiopian television platform hosting most popular local channels. This has been made possible by agreements between the Association of Ethiopian Broadcasters (AEB), the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC), and SES. Ethiosat is hosted on the SES NSS-12 satellite at 57 degrees East and delivers over 30 channels for Ethiopian audiences only, twelve of them in High Definition (HD) quality. To access Ethiosat direct-to-home (DTH) will require their antenna to be realigned by an installer.

State of Digital - Angola: February 2018

Ghana: Data centre - MainOne is to extend its data centre brand MDXi into Accra Ghana, as part of its West African expansion plans. The MDXi subsidiary will have a new facility in Appolonia City, a mixed use development 20 kilometres from the centre of Accra, and is expected to be ready for service in 4Q 2020. The 100-rack Tier III facility will be built on 4,047 square metres in the Appolonia City light industrial park in the northern suburbs of Greater Accra.

Madagascar: Upgrade mandate - Telecom Malagasy (Telma) awarded Ericsson a network upgrade contract worth almost USD 100 million in July, Agence Ecofin has reported. The four-year deal will see Telma's core network and RAN extended and optimised to increase capacity, boost data rates and enhance the mobile customer experience, and also provides for the deployment of 2,000 mobile sites to complete its network footprint. The deal will also see the deployment of 4.5G and 5G sites in high density areas. Telma CEO Patrick Pisal Hamida said that the investment is in line with the operator's ambition to 'provide all users in Madagascar with affordable, high-quality and easy-to-use broadband internet access and communication services'.

Maldives: More mobiles - The Communications Authority of Maldives have reported that the mobile subscription base rose to 870,397 subscribers in June from 867,593 subscribers in May. Mobile teledensity rose to 235.45 in June from 227.95 in February this year. Of the total mobile subscribes, 154,868 were post-paid subscribers and 715,529 pre-paid. The number of fixed lines (including payphones) fell to 17,573 in June from 17,920 in May. The mobile broadband subscriber base fell to 275,374 users in June from 275,582 in May, while the fixed broadband user base declined to 80,147 in June from 80,812 in May.

another fine mess for african telecoms

Maldives: Pre-paid promotions - Ooredoo Maldives has four new offers for pre-paid subscribers. The new Voice Packs and Combo Packs offer unlimited on-net calls, more local minutes and bundled data allowance for Combo packs. A new promotion called Happy Hours, which offers 1GB data and unlimited calls on Ooredoo for MVR 20 (USD 1.28), every day from 05.00hrs to 17:00hrs. The promotion will run until 31 December 2019.

Mauritius: No interest - Reports that Mauritius Telecom (MT) still has an interest in acquiring a majority stake in Uganda Telecom Ltd (UTL) have been played down by the Mauritian government, Telegeography reported. The Ugandan government wants to sell off around two-thirds of UTL in a move to revitalise the operator, but a deal agreed a year ago with Nigerian-based investor Teleology fell through in January due to its failure to pay the deposit At the time of the Teleology deal, MT was named as another potential buyer for UTL. The Kampala Post, however, has reported that there are now no plans for MT to take a stake in UTL. Officials in Mauritius have also denied that Uganda's Minister for Privatisation and Investments, Evelyn Anite, was in Mauritius in August to discuss a possible deal between MT and UTL.

Namibia: Corporate realignment - The shareholders of Nimbus Infrastructure have approved the renaming of the company to Paratus Namibia Holdings Limited, The Namibian reported. Following Nimbus' annual general meeting last week, shareholders also approved a share swap whereby Nimbus will acquire the remaining Paratus Telecommunications Limited shares from the Paratus Africa Group, so increasing its stake from 51.4 to 100 percent. The transaction remains subject to regulatory approval, following which the largest shareholders in Nimbus will be as follows: Paratus Group Holdings (41.07 percent), Capricorn Investment Group (17.68 percent) and Schalk Leipoldt van Zyl Erasmus (5.61 percent).

Nigeria: Culture channel - Lifestyle television channel Tozali TV, offering cultural entertainment in English and Hausa, is being brought to the northern states according to StarTimes. NexTVame reported StarTimes Managing Director Joshua Wang as saying that the content will be available on Channel 183. Tozali TV had made its debut on StarTimes in March 2019, mainly for Abuja audiences. Tozali TV's Managing Director, Hajiya Maimuna Yahaya Abubakar, described the partnership as a milestone in the bid to promote Northern Nigeria's social culture.

Nigeria: Future proofing - Spectrum in the 26GHz, 38GHz and 42GHz bands has been reserved by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for 5G networks, The Guardian newspaper has reported. The paper cited Executive Vice Chairman Umar Danbatta. 5G services are expected to be rolled out in 2020, and trials are now being planned. The security agencies are expected to participate to access the security aspects.

Nigeria: Router pathway - Smile Nigeria is offering a new SMIFI and router to qualifying subscribers. Brands and Communication head, Lotanna Anajemba, said subscribers must also have been users for a minimum of 12 months and have a good data usage history and be able to bring their old SMiFi or router to exchange for the new device. Eligible users can only take advantage of the offer once a year, and need to update their Know Your Customer (KYC) record to be sent details of the offer: users will be contacted via SMS and email and requested to visit their nearest Smile shop or kiosk to claim their new device.

Sierra Leone: SIM switching - Africell is now providing eSIMs according to AYV Media. Subscribers can use a regular physical SIM card and an e-SIM card simultaneously, and/or switch to a new operator without having to insert a specific SIM.

South Africa: Advertising power - Vodacom South Africa is offering mobile users access to its Internet essentials at any time free of charge, even when they have run out of credit. The service runs on Upstream's Zero-D connectivity platform, and since its introduction, 55 percent of subscriber’s has already started using the advertising-funded portal. The average session spent using the service is nearly six minutes. Vodacom subscribers who have run out of data are automatically redirected to the Zero-D portal, branded Vodacom Flex. The platform offers Web search, local and international news and weather reports. The portal also gives subscribers the option of digitally topping up their service.

South Africa: Better bundles - Telkom South Africa has reworked its LTE bundle range. There is now an entry-level 10 GB and 20 GB bundle as well as SIM-only and top-up offers for subscribers who already have an 4G router. It also offers 24-month contract options should an LTE router be required. Telkom has also improved its Prepaid LTE offering with prices ranging from ZAR 59 to ZAR 999 (USD 3.90 – 66.18) depending on the bundle.

South Africa: Fixed Rain offering - A commercial fixed-wireless 5G broadband service, offering unlimited broadband access with downlink of 700Mbps for ZAR 1,000 (USD 68) per month in selected areas of Johannesburg and Pretoria has been launched by Rain. The operator is aiming to expand the service to Cape Town, Durban and other major metropolitan areas in 2019/20. Rain Chief Marketing Officer Khaya Dlanga said: "Selected customers in Rain's 5G coverage area have been invited to be the first to purchase ultra-fast 5G … In the next couple of weeks, Rain will open up the offer to all homes and small businesses within the coverage area of Johannesburg and Tshwane." The network operates in the 3.6GHz frequency band.

South Africa: Informed views - A Client Experience Centre has been opened by Dimension Data at its campus in Johannesburg. Dimension Data is a member of the Association of Briefing Programme Managers (ABPM), a professional body setting standards for executive programmes such as those available through the Client Experience Centre. Visitors are expected to include C-level executives, decision makers and influencers from all industries. The centre will offer a customised service with experts and will offer an opportunities for relationship building, contributions to business results and client insights that might inform future strategies.

Tanzania: 4G expansion - Vodacom Tanzania plans to roll out 4G services on the island of Zanzibar in 2020, The Citizen reported. The network operator launched its LTE network in May 2016 and coverage is currently available in main cities, including Dar es Salaam, Moshi, Morogoro, Tanga, Dodoma and Arusha.

Tanzania: Platform payments - Vodacom Tanzania has extended its payment system Lipa Kwa M-Pesa to allow subscribers of other networks to make their payments through the platform. The Lipa Kwa Simu service aims to boost financial inclusion and enable merchants and business owners using Lipa kwa M-Pesa to accept payments from other mobile money networks. Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) Director of Taxpayer Services and Education, Richard Kayombo, said the decision would ease and improve public payment systems, as customers would be able to pay for public utilities and obligations through the platform from their home or work place.

Zimbabwe: BTS protection - The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) it is pressing for stiffer penalties for vandals, NewsDay reported. POTRAZ Consumer Affairs Manager Phibion Chaibva said it will increase efforts to curb acts of vandalism on network infrastructure, as operators are seeing theft from and vandalism of base stations, resulting in disruption of the networks. POTRAZ is holding roadshows to educate consumers on their rights and obligations, as well as on the economic and social impacts of vandalism of ICT equipment.

Zimbabwe: Security bill - The government is developing a cybercrime, cyber security and data protection bill to establish the country as a safe place to do business, The Herald has reported. Minister of ICT Kazembe Kazembe told a forum that the government is committed to safeguarding both the economy and citizens, and to ensure that it remains open for business. He said cyber attacks cost the economy millions of dollars each year. ICT deputy minister Jenfan Muswere said the bill will cover the establishment of the cyber security centre, offences relating to computer systems, computer data, data codes and devices and offences related to electronic communication material.

Middle East:

Bahrain: Cash withdrawals - Viva Bahrain's mobile wallet Viva Cash is now working with the National Bank of Bahrain (NBB) to offer Viva Cash subscribers the ability to withdraw cash from their mobile wallets using NBB's 120 ATMs in Bahrain. The service is exclusive to Viva Cash subscribers, who can withdraw up to BHD 500 (USD 1,318) per day from their accounts using the facility. Users can use the Viva Cash app on their smartphones to set their cash withdrawal instructions. An SMS is used to issue the temporary password.

Israel: Debt reduction - Bezeq Israel has repaid some ILS 438 million (USD 125 million) of loans. The repayments were made between 21 July and 29 September. Bezeq is seeking to reduce its debt by repaying short-term debt. The fees paid for the early repayments amounted to ILS 67 million (USD 19 million). The early repayments were primarily financed from debt raised at longer durations over the last few months. According to Bezeq, these early repayments are in addition to the early repayment of its Series 7 debentures of ILS 444 million (USD 127 million) par value, which was made as part of a purchase offer. The company's total gross outstanding debt on 29 September after all the early repayments had been made stood at ILS 10.5 billion (USD 3 billion) and net debt was ILS 8.2 billion (USD 2.3 billion).

Jordan: Fibre licence - The Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (TRC) has issued an operating licence to Jordan Advanced Fibre Optic Company, a 51/49 joint venture of utility firm Jorden Electric Power Company (JEPCO) and Umniah. TRC Chairman Dr Ghazi Al-Jabour said that it would install a fibre network in areas served by JEPCO to provide wholesale broadband services as well as linking components of the company's energy network. The venture aims to roll-out fibre infrastructure to connect some 1.4 million homes and business in Amman.

Lebanon: Foundation support - Zain Group and MBC al Amal are partnering to support Mentor Arabia Foundation. They also announced the first visit to Lebanon of HM Queen Silvia of Sweden, President of Mentor International, on 15 October. Mentor Arabia aims to support Arab children and young people and prevent delinquent behaviour through policies, capacity development, advocacy, awareness campaigns, knowledge and partnerships. Queen Silvia's visit will include The Youth Mentoring Platform launch, a partnership between Mentor Arabia and the American University of Beirut (AUB). The programme aims to create a dialogue space for young people to express their views with respect to challenges they may face.

Middle East: Widening gaps - 5G is expected to increase divisions in the region, with the UAE and Saudi Arabia moving ahead while Egypt, Iraq and others fall further behind. The Middle East Economic Digest (MEED) believes that 5G will enable transformational technologies ranging from artificial intelligence to autonomous vehicles, with 2020 set to be the year that 5G takes off, with a peak in investment expected by 2025. Markets with established long-term evolution (LTE) infrastructure, such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh, will move fastest, while others will continue to struggle to develop 4G.MEED notes that there is a growing chasm between the region's urban and rural populations. In countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Algeria, there are large rural youth populations who are becoming increasingly disenfranchised within society and the modern economy, and MEED suggests that inclusivity must be a top priority when it comes to 5G network planning.

Oman: Data top-ups - Ooredoo is giving subscribers extra free data with recharges for a limited period. Users can top-up by OMR 3 (USD 7.77) to get 2 GB data valid for ten days, OMR 5 (USD 12.95) for 4 GB valid for 20 days, or OMR 10 (USD 25.90) for 8 GB valid for 30 days. The Big Data offer is available to all pre-paid subscribers, including business, with no opt-in required.

Palestine: Landmark centre - A second data centre has been launched by Paltel Group in Ramallah on a 65,000 square feet site. It conforms to current international standards and compliances, being Tier-3 certified with high-level availability, complete transparency and guaranteed confidentiality. The centre is provided with security and multi-level protection, as access to the centre is strictly monitored. It has earthquake-resistant structures and its owners claim it is an architectural landmark.

Qatar: Data usage - Organisations can now manage their IoT device data usage using Ooredoo Qatar's IoT Connect Single SIM. This enables users to track and manage networked devices with an online portal, measure data consumption, and flag international roaming connections. Organisations can automatically set, monitor, and limit data allowances for individual IoT-connected devices, leading to full mobility cost control. It also offers live data usage dashboards and individualised reports, along with built-in rules for alerts, use limits and compatibility with 5G. Potential applications include connected vehicle fleets, smart buildings and facilities management, digital payments with banking and finance, construction sites, defence and security, IT services, connected manufacturing, oilfields, malls and utilities.

Qatar: Faster yet - Ooredoo Qatar has upgraded its VSAT Internet service, now offering 50Mbps/10Mbps download/upload speeds, compared to the 30Mbps/6Mbps previously offered, and has also reduced subscription prices by 40 percent. Two new packages, Base Pack and Unlimited Pack, provide fully secured connectivity via Ka-Band VSAT technology.

Saudi Arabia: Data growth - In a report, GlobalData has forecast that monthly mobile data use will reach an average of 9 GB in Saudi Arabia by 2024 for every type of connected devices, including smartphones, mobile routers and machine-to-machine (M2M)/Internet of Things (IoT). It says average mobile monthly data use in the country is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19 percent from 4 GB by the end of 2019 to 9 GB in 2024. STC launched 5G services this summer through Quicknet 5G packages, with data volumes ranging from 50 GB per month to unlimited internet service. It notes that 5G is expected to play an important role in driving data consumption in the country and, by 2024, 30 percent of mobile subscribers will be on 5G.

Turkey: Crypto top-ups - Electroneum said its 41,000+ crypto-currency users in Turkey can now top-up Turkcell, Vodafone and Turk Telekom via the third party airtime and data provider. As in Brazil, Electroneum has partnered with a third-party mobile top-up provider who purchases airtime and data in bulk from the three mobile network operators (MNOs) in the country and resells it to the public. Electroneum started offering their users mobile top-ups in South Africa in February, but unlike Turkey and Brazil, the partnership is with MNO The Unlimited.

Turkey: Earthquake compensation - Turk Telekom is offering 5 GB monthly to all mobile subscribers for 2 months to compensate for the service outage following a strong earthquake in the Istanbul area on 26 September. The operator said that it was not able to provide uninterrupted mobile communication for a while after the disaster due to increased volume of voice calls. Turk Telecom said that its fixed voice, broadband and fibre infrastructure services were not affected.

United Arab Emirates: Embedded accreditation - Workz Group claims to be the be the first supplier in the Middle East and Africa to be certified by the GSMA for embedded SIM technology across its full lifecycle from chip production, secure data generation and personalisation, to remote management services. It is one of only six in the world to carry such an accreditation. Workz has previously been certified by the GSMA's Security Accreditation Scheme for secure eSIM production, data generation and personalisation. It has now received certification for its subscription management counterpart at its Dubai data centre.

United Arab Emirates: Faster fibre - Nokia has undertaken the world's first single-carrier terabit-per-second trial over Etisalat's fibre-optic network. Nokia said in a press release: "The trial successfully transmitted a record 50.8Tbps using multiple wavelengths, each with a net information rate of 1.3Tbps, over a 93km fibre route of Etisalat's wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) network".