News in Brief 30 October 2019

Africa:

Benin: Compensation conference - The Autorite de Regulation des Communications Eletroniques et de la Poste (ARCEP) has told mobile network operator MTN to compensate its subscribers following the outage on 17 October. The 30 minutes of communications and 500 MB offered by the mobile network on 20 October are not thought to be adequate. After a working session with ARCEP, the consumer associations and MTN on 22 October, it was agreed that subscribers are to be offered credit that they can be used to buy service(s) of their choice.

East Africa: Cable restored - A 'service-affecting outage' was reported for the Seacom submarine cable system between Mombasa in Kenya and Zafarana (Egypt) last week. Cable owner Seacom said that 'all linear transmission traffic' on the system on the east coast of Africa, to and from Europe, were affected, adding: "Customers with IP or other managed services terminating between Dar es Salaam (in Tanzania) and South Africa will remain unaffected but could experience a slight increase in latency (network round-trip times) as traffic is routed over Seacom's west coast transmission links." The fault was subsequently repaired, with the operator saying: "We are still investigating the cause of the outage and will provide necessary updates as we have more information."

Egypt: BSS evolution - Vodafone Egypt has extended its partnership with Ericsson to turn its Business Support System (BSS) into an industrialised, live, converged environment. In addition, upgrades to new versions of Ericsson Charging and Ericsson Mediation will facilitate evolution towards 5G/IoT readiness. Ericsson is responsible for the system design and deployment as well as competence development. Ericsson's BSS service enables Vodafone Egypt to offer a range of services including instant promotions and notifications, product and service cross-bundling, instant cost control for post-paid subscriptions, subscriber personalisation, and flexible mobile wallets.

Egypt: In-flight connectivity - Panasonic Avionics subsidiary AeroMobile has launched mobile connectivity onboard EgyptAir Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, offering mobile and Internet connectivity on the airline's entire fleet of Dreamliner aeroplanes. Passengers will also be able to access the AeroMobile network to connect their roaming-enabled GSM phones to use mobile data services, send and receive SMS messages and emails, and make and receive calls. The system was initially trialled on two aircraft with in-flight mobile connectivity in spring 2019.

Gabon: Additional digit - The dialling code is to be increased from 8 to 9 digits. The measure will be implemented on 15 November 2019 at midnight according to ARCEP. Libertis numbers will start with 066 or 062 and not 06 and 02 as previously. Airtel subscribers will henceforth have the prefix 077 or 074 and not 0 7 and 04 as in the past. Fixed numbers will be prefixed by '1'. Users can call for further information: 8484 for ARCEP; 222 for Libertis / Moov and 111 for Airtel.

Gabon: Total revenue - Statistics released by the Directorate-General for the Economy and Tax Policy show that the telecoms sector accounted for more than XAF 100 billion (USD 168.9 million) in the first half of 2019.

State of Digital - Angola: February 2018

Ghana: Taxing times - Mobile subscribers are reported to be still paying the 9 percent Communication Service Tax (CST) upfront on recharges over a week after the Minister of Communication ordered that the charge was to be dropped, The Pulse reported. Minister Ursula Owusu-Ekuful said: "The Ministry met mobile network operators and the regulator on 7th and 8th October 2019 on this unusual practice which flew in the face of industry experience and we were informed by MNOs that they took advantage of the 3 percent increase to pass on the entire tax to subscribers." The tax was implemented from 1 October 2019, although the government required the implementation to back dated to 4 September 2019.

Kenya: New direction - Mobile network operator Safaricom has introduced new products in a strategy aimed at providing simplicity and transparency. This includes the launch of a new data plan and a new calling and SMS plan that will offer data and minutes with no expiry. The new bundles are now available on *544#. Under the code, users will be able to choose any amount to buy and also get 50 percent extra airtime for calls and SMS across all networks. From 1 November, new subscribers can get their SIM cards free at Safaricom shops and dealer outlets, with a top-up of KES 50 airtime to activate their line. Customers will also have the freedom to choose a number of their choice when they purchase a new line. Subscribers can also see how much data they have used, get their PUK and more on the new menu. It has also increased its data bundle sizes by more than 45 percent, especially for the more affordable price points of between KES 1 and KES 20. A customer purchasing KES 5 worth of bundles will now get 10 MB with no expiry, up from 7 MB which would expire in 24 hours. Safaricom said it will announce more changes and enhancements to products and services over the next few days and in coming months.

Kenya: Rapidly rising - Thanks to aggressive sign-ups of retailers and online merchants, as well as an increase in agents, Equitel is claiming 16 percent growth in the number of commercial mobile money transactions up to June 2019. The Equity Group platform subscription base reached 1.88 million in June with a 3.6 percent market share. Its mobile money commerce transactions rose to 101 million at the end of June from 87 million in the same period last year, according to the Communications Authority (CA). The value of mobile commerce transactions increased by 15 percent to KES 378.9 billion (USD 3.6 billion) from KES 328 billion in the same period in 2018. Equity Group chief executive James Mwangi said its efforts to digitise retail commerce operations by enrolling retail shops for EazzyPay transactions had paid off.

another fine mess for african telecoms

Kenya: Roll-over sought - Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom Kenya are being sued over the expiry of data and loss of unused Internet bundles, BusinessDailyAfrica reported. Lawyer and ICT practitioner Adrian Kamotho has sued the three, together with the industry regulator at the Communications and Multimedia Appeals Tribunal. He wants to be able to roll-over unused data at no cost. Data bundles have daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly expiry periods and subscribers can extend their respective terms by buying new data ahead of termination. Kamotho wants the tribunal to issue an order to stop the loss of unused data bundles after the expiry date.

Lesotho: Better cover - Econet Telecom Lesotho has partnered with Lesotho National Life Assurance to further digitizing its EcoSure product. The first change is the Sesotho name from Mpolokeng to Re Bolokehile. It will now be able to cover other family members under a single policy, and users can now cover spouses, biological and adopted children and parents for both the policy holder and spouse with one SIM card. Previously it was one SIM card for one person. The updated EcoSure Funeral cover allows policy holders to cover the aforementioned dependents under any of the new premiums and the corresponding payable cover amount will be paid when such dependent departs. Users can now register as sponsors to as many policy holders as they wish, and monthly premiums can be automatically deducted from the sponsors' SIMcard.

Mayotte/Reunion: Renewal date - The Frech regulator Arcep has launched a public consultation on plans to extend the license periods for Orange in Mayotte (900MHz) and Reunion (900MHz and 1800MHz). The licences expire in March 2021 and but Arcep would like the expiry to be in line with expiry of the licences of SRR and Telco OI (Reunion) and SRR, Telco OI and Maore Mobile (Mayotte), and consequently have them expire on 30 April 2025.

Nigeria: Compliant charging - Airtel Nigeria has dropped the NGN 5 (USD 0.014) USSD charge after it started billing its subscribers for every 20 seconds spent while carrying out a USSD bank transaction, the Daily Post reported. Airtel Nigeria had started applying the charge despite the directive from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) that no operator should charge customers for using bank USSD.

Middle East:

Afghanistan: SIM sales - ATRA Vice-Chairman Engineer Naqibullah Sailab attended the Communication Commission of the Lower House following their request and answered questions put by the members with regard to telecom services. Questions related to the sale of unregistered SIMs and violations by the telecom companies. Sailab provided details and clarifications on the way that ATRA was meeting these requirements based on the telecommunication laws.

Oman: Electronic welcomed - The government is to launch a mobile application that will enable payments for government services electronically on 18 November, and will be fully implemented by all government agencies early next year, according to the Ministry of Finance. Director-General of Income, Musallam bin Mohad bin Ali Qattan, said collection of government payments using a mobile phone is an additional service that will make it easier for citizens and residents to obtain public services. Payments can be made through the electronic information network using bank cards. The Ministry had earlier directed all government agencies to stop collecting cash payments with effect from early 2020 and only accept those made electronically.

Qatar: Asian content - Ooredoo Qatar has launched a new package on Ooredoo TV featuring favourites from the Asian subcontinent. The new Doosra package offers more than 50 live channels including Star Plus, Star Gold, ABP News, Asianet, Maa TV and Star Bharat, as well as HUM TV, HUM Sitaray, Geo TV, Geo News, ARY Digital and News and a range of Zee channels. The new package is available for QAR 120 (USD 32.75) per month, but subscribers who subscribe to a Foredoom One 150 Mbps or above plan will get it free of charge.

United Arab Emirates: 5G enhanced - Etisalat Digital has partnered with DMCC to provide a 5G network for Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT). The two have committed to the comprehensive roll-out of smart services across the area. Etisalat Digital will roll out smart devices, services and platforms to drive efficiencies across public amenities, energy consumption, asset and building management. It will also provide smart solutions related to parking, street lighting, air quality, noise pollution, environmental performance and traffic monitoring.