News in Brief 13 November 2019

Africa:

Botswana: Cabinet confirmed - On 6 November President Mokgweetsi Masisi appointed a new cabinet for the 12th Parliament. The newly appointed Minister of Transport and Communications was named as Thulaganyo Segokgo, and the Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry named as Peggy Serame.

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Lubumbashi launch - The Internet Society of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has launched a new Internet Exchange Point in Lubumbashi (LUBIX) to provide faster and more reliable Internet access, it said. Internet traffic in Lumbumbashi, the second largest city in the DRC, is currently exchanged outside the region and in many cases, outside the country. Technical training, support and equipment to launch LUBIX was provided by the Internet Society in collaboration with Facebook. The two announced a partnership in September 2018 to promote IXP infrastructure development throughout Africa. There are currently 45 active IXPs located in 33 countries across Africa.

Egypt: Group purchase - Vodafone International is acquiring Vodafone Egypt International Services (VIS) platform, a Vodafone Egypt's subsidiary, for EGP 1 billion (USD 61.9 million). The acquisition is part of the former's plan to expand direct investments in outsourcing services in Egypt. Vodafone Egypt holds 55 percent of VIS platform, with the remaining 45 percent being held by Telecom Egypt. Vodafone Egypt's CEO Alexander Froman said the funds will support market growth and create more jobs. VIS employs about 7,000 and plans to increase this figure after the acquisition.

Gabon: 5G anticipated - The President of the Agence de Regulation des Telecommunications (ARTEL), Lin Mombo, has said that 5G will be launched in Gabon shortly. The regulator told the President of the Republic, Ali Bongo, of the development at a hearing on 5 November 2019. Testing of a 5G network will commence at three sites in Libreville. Gabon Telecom is rumoured to be the network operator trialling the new network according to Telegeography. ARCEP data recorded a mobile penetration of 168.05 percent in 2Q 2019, with mobile subscriptions standing at 3,029,410 and mobile Internet at 2,041,837.

Ghana: Taxing question - The Ministry of ICT has been taken to court to stop the upfront deductions of the Call Service Tax (CST) from subscribers, Ghanaweb reported. It is being clamed that the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) is the relevant body to implement the tax, and not the Ministry of Communications. The CST, dubbed the 'Talk Tax', was passed by Parliament in 2008 to increase revenue through a 6 percent levy on the value of services provided by mobile telephony providers. It was amended in 2013 to increase its scope and also address loopholes in the regulations.

Kenya: Bundle pricing - Airtel Kenya is to reduce the price of data bundles in response to Safaricom, the Business Daily reported. Airtel Africa's Chief Executive Raghunath Mandava said that the team is monitoring Safaricom's move and will do 'whatever is relevant'. Safaricom recently launched non-expiring data plans, and increased bundle sizes by more than 45 percent for those purchasing bundles of up to KES 20 (USD 0.19). Safaricom had cut data prices by 42 percent in the year ended March, according to Vodacom in its recent filings made public in July.

State of Digital - Angola: February 2018

Kenya: Protected data - The data protection bill has been signed into law by President Uhuru Kenyatta. The new data law establishes the office of the Data Commissioner and sets out the requirements for the protection of personal data processed by both public and private entities. It outlines key principles that will govern data processing, sets out the rights of data subjects and assigns duties to data controllers and data processors. Conditions for transferring personal data outside Kenya have been set. It also outlines data handling offences and attendant penalties. Companies are now obligated to obtain the consumer's consent before selling their data to third parties.

Maldives: Mobile fall - The mobile subscription base dropped to 866,102 subscribers in August from 870,397 subscribers in June 2019. Mobile teledensity fell to 234.29 in August from 235.45 in June this year, according to figures from the Communications Authority of Maldives. Of the total mobile subscribes, 158,373 were post-paid subscribers, and 707,729 were pre-paid. The number of fixed lines (including payphones) fell to 17,271 in August from 17,573 in June. Fixed-line teledensity also fell to 4.67 in August this year from 4.75 in June. The mobile broadband subscriber base fallen to 267,410 users in August from 275,374 users in June, while the fixed broadband user base rose to 88,410 in August from 80,147 in June.

Mali: Nothing to see here - The Ministry of the Digital Economy has denied a report relating to the fee paid for the fourth telephony licence, with the department saying in a press release that it 'deplores and categorically denies' the claims, the Malijet portal reported. The Department noted that, to date, the fourth licence has not been issued and therefore it is not possible to report the financial settlement related to the process. It claimed that the technical work had been completed by the technical committee set-up and the Autorite Malienne de Regulation des Telecommunications/TIC et des Postes, which have been examining the technical offers since June 2018. In October 2019 the government instructed the Technical Commission to analyze the financial offers, the conclusions of which have also been sent to the Directorate General of Public Procurement. The release noted that as no decision has been communicated to date, neither to the Ministry of Digital Economy and Prospective, nor to bidders by the competent authorities.

another fine mess for african telecoms

Nigeria: Cost-effective 4G - Tizeti Network has launched its initial 4G LTE wireless network in Port Harcourt, the fifth largest city in Nigeria, TechCrunch has reported. Tizeti claims to have some 1.1 million unique users since it launched in 2012. It claims to offer unlimited Internet for 9,500 Nigerians, and CEO and cofounder Kendall Ananyi told TechCrunch that its unlimited broadband plans are 30-50 percent cheaper than traditional plans due to its operations structure. Its internet service uses free spectrum through long-range Wi-Fi and a solar-powered network to keep expenditures and operating costs low. Its network spans Nigeria and Ghana, though the firm plans to launch in additional West African markets in 2020 as it looks to establish a new model for wireless operations in the region. Tizeti's current licence is valid from 1 December 2017 to 30 November 2022.

Nigeria: Data revenue - Airtel has reported that its Data Average Revenue per User (ARPU) is circa USD 2.40, compared to MTN at USD 4.00. It was noted that MTN has more premium customers, and that as Airtel's 4G dominance increases, ARPU will grow. Focus is on 4G expansion as 4G customer ARPU is substantially higher than 2G and 3G customer ARPU on data.

Nigeria: Deadline extension - The Ministry of ICT ministry has extended the deadline given to the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) to reduce the cost of data, and stop illegal deductions from subscribers by service providers. Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, directed the NCC to act on the directives within five working days. He said that the NCC had written him a letter seeking an extension of the deadline and telling him that it had started taking steps to comply with the directive. The NCC intends to fine on operators engaged in making illegal deductions. Meanwhile the telcos have claimed that they are not guilty of illegal deductions, adding that the rates they charge for data are informed by the cost of providing the same.

South Africa: Earnings expectations - Telkom expects earnings for the six months ended September to fall by as much as 40 percent. The operator attributed the losses to a significant increase in net finance charges and fair value movement of between 120 percent and 130 percent from ZAR 443 million (USD 29.5 million) reported in the previous year, due to the implementation of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS16) for finance charges. Excluding the impact of IFRS16, net finance charges and fair value movement increased by between 80 percent and 90 percent from ZAR 443 million reported in the previous year, Telkom said. This largely relates to increased borrowing in support of the investment in its mobile business; the cost of hedging increase after the rise in the Forward Exchange Contracts (FEC) order book; and exchange and fair value movements as a result of foreign exchange adjustments due to market conditions and the conversion of floating rate debt to fixed rate debt using interest rate swaps, in line with its guideline. The impact of IFRS16 on profit after tax was immaterial between ZAR 50 to 60 million (USD 3.4 - 4.1 million), it said. Telkom was due to release its interim results on 12 November.

South Africa: Google wi-fi - A number of products tailored to the South African market have been announced by Google South Africa. Google Station for the Cape Flats in the Western Cape is a programme to provide fast, free and open Wi-Fi to the area, in partnership with ISP ThinkWiFi. Google Station is now available in over 100 locations including Langa, Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Delft, Elsies River and Philippi. Think WiFi and Google will provide unlimited Wi-Fi access to communities in townships, public areas, universities, transportation hubs and shopping malls.

South Africa: Pure LTE - Afrihost has launched fixed LTE packages to run on MTN's network, Mybroadband has reported. Afrihost Pure LTE comes with one month of free usage, and SIM-only and SIM plus device packages. It will offer speeds of up to 150 Mbps, starting from ZAR 199 (USD 14) per month. SIM-only packages start at 30 GB + 30 GB (Anytime + Night Time data) at ZAR199 (USD 14) per month, and go up to 150 GB + 150 GB for ZAR 749 (USD 51). SIM plus device packages start at ZAR 249 (USD 17) for 30 GB + 30 GB, and go up to ZAR 799 (USD 54) for 150 GB + 150 GB. Night Time data will be available from midnight to 06:00 hrs and all data will roll over for 30 days.

Sudan: Satellite launched - A satellite for conducting research in military, economic and space technology has been launched by China, AFP reports. Sovereign council leader, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, said that the satellite was launched on 3 November from north China's Shanxi Province. It is to be used to develop research in space technology and acquire data as well as discover natural resources for the country's military needs. The satellite is to be monitored from Sudan in the New Year. The Institute of Space Research and Aerospace (ISRA) was established in 2013.

Tanzania: Yea-end deactivation - The government remains committed to deactivating all SIMs that have not been biometrically registered by 31 December, the Daily News reported. Minister for Works, Transport and Communication Isaac Kamwelwe said that only 12.7 million mobile subscribers had registered out of the projected 44 million mobile phone subscriptions. This follows concern raised by Member of Parliament Zainabu Katimba, who said that in Kigoma that many people had not been issued with NIDA's national ID. Tanzania started biometric SIM registration on 1 May.

Tunisia: CEO named - Mansoor Rashid Al-Khater has been named by Ooredoo Tunisia as its new Chief Executive Officer, succeeding Youssef Al Masri, with effect from 5 November. Al-Khater joined Ooredoo in 2009, and prior to the appointment, Al-Khater was Chief Group Strategy Officer. His engineering and business career spans twenty years, including an eleven-year stint with Qatar Petroleum, and he currently serves on the board of Asiacell. Al-Khater holds a Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from Qatar University, an MBA from Hull University in the UK and a Master's degree from Georgetown University, USA.

Zambia: No sale planned - The government has said that it does not plan to sell state-owned telecommunications operator Zamtel to Bharti Infratel for an undisclosed amount. The local Mast newspaper has quoted a Zamtel source as having confirmed the plans have advanced and officials have had discussions with Bharti Infratel. The Minister of Communications and Transport Mutotwe Kafwaya refuted the claims, saying he was making no preparations. Zamtel shareholder, the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) group Chief Executive Officer Mateyo Kaluba also denied the claims and said the IDC has never engaged any organisation to purchase Zamtel.

Zimbabwe: Proposals please - The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) is accepting proposals from local and external investors interested in operating mobile networks, reports ZBC TV. POTRAZ's Director-General Gift Machengete told ZBC TV that more players were required to facilitate affordable charges. He said Zimbabwe has not reached the point of over-saturation. Machengete said it was in the interest of the nation that licences for new projects in the sector were granted, in line with regulations governing the industry. According to POTRAZ, the issue of mobile charges or tariffs continues to be monitored in line with the prevailing economic climate.

Middle East:

Bahrain: Quarterly increase - Payments for eServices on various channels saw a 29 percent increase in the third quarter to 30 September year-on-year, according to the Third Quarter eGovernment Channels Performance Monitoring report. A total of over BHD 46 million (USD 121.3 million) was received via 445,000 financial transactions in the period June to September 2019, up 24 percent. In the same period, the National Portal and main eGovernment channel Bahrain.bh recorded growth in the usage of its services, with visitors exceeding 2 million. It also recorded a 25 percent rise in payments to BHD 39 million (USD 102.8 million), with the number of completed financial transactions increasing by 18 percent. The report noted significant demand for a number of services, most notably the National Notification System (NotifyMe), which received more than 19,000 visits, a fourfold increase. The 'Apply for a Government Job Vacancy' service recorded approximately 37,000 visits, a twofold increase.

Jordan: Lead held - In the first nine months ending September 2019, Zain Jordan reported revenues stable at USD 369 million, with EBITDA up 14 percent to USD 169 million, reflecting an EBITDA margin of 46 percent. The net profit increased 6 percent to USD 59 million. With the ongoing expansion of 4G services across the country, data revenue represented 40 percent of the total. It served 3.8 million subscribers at the end of September, maintaining its market lead position despite intense price competition and challenging economic conditions, its Zain Group announced.

Jordan: Rising subscriptions - Zain Jordan had some 3.8 million subscriptions at the end of September, maintaining its market leading position despite intense price competition and challenging economic conditions, Zain Group said. In the first nine months of 2019, revenues were stable at USD 369 million, with EBITDA up 14 percent to USD 169 million, reflecting an EBITDA margin of 46 percent. The net profit rose 6 percent to USD 59 million. With the ongoing expansion of 4G services nationally, data revenue represented 40 percent of the total.

Oman: Celebratory speeds - Ooredoo Oman will mark Oman's 49th National Day (18 November) by providing up to five times the speed on its Super Fibre Home Internet. The offer is open for a month. New and existing users on a 12-month contract will receive the boosted speeds for three months. Users will get service at 120 Mbps on the 20 Mbps plan, 140 Mbps on the 40 Mbps plan, 160 Mbps on the 60 Mbps plan, 180 Mbps on the 80 Mbps plan, 200 Mbps on the 100 Mbps plan and 400 Mbps on the 300 Mbps plan. Those opting for a Super Fibre Home Internet plan on a 12-month contract will get unlimited usage, free installation, unlimited Ooredoo fixed minutes, and international discounted minutes.

Turkey: Platform works - Turkcell has selected P.I. Works’ geolocation platform to provide measurable insights about customer experience by correlating data from multiple sources. As the platform will be running on the same platform with P.I. Works Centralized SON, the customer insights collected by the Geolocation platform can be used by the Centralized SON to take more targeted network enhancement actions. In addition, P.I. Works platform will be used for visualising hotspots which enables operators to take well-informed network investment decisions.

United Arab Emirates: More innovation - The free zone Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO) and Intel have started a new phase of the Intel Innovation Centre with new services within AI, blockchain, video analytics and autonomous driving. The Intel Innovation Centre is hosted at Dubai Technology Entrepreneur Campus (Dtec), which is DSOA's wholly owned incubation centre. It will offer Market-Ready Solutions, Intel Select Solutions and Intel Technology Showcase Demos.

United Arab Emirates: Standalone speeds - Mobile network operator Du claims to have achieved download speeds of 1.8Gbps on its trial Standalone 5G network, with uploads reaching 213Mbps. The test was carried out using a single 100MHz carrier in the 3.5GHz band. Du's Chief Technology Officer, Saleem Alblooshi, commented: "We are committed to supporting the next evolution of 5G with Standalone deployment and seamless software evolution to our core and access networks".

United Arab Emirates: WhatsApp softening - The ban is expected to be lifted shortly on VoIP calling via the WhatsApp platform is expected to be lifted shortly. The Khaleej Times cites Mohamed Al Kuwaiti, Executive Director of the National Electronic Security Authority (NESA), as saying: "The collaboration now happening with WhatsApp has increased and we are working on many aspects. [We are] collaborating here in the UAE and in many of those [aspects] we saw a very good understanding of the concept. There might be a lift of that ban for voice calls or broadcasting." Currently users can only access VoIP services as part of licensed service packages from MNOs Etisalat or Du.