News in Brief 20 November 2019

Africa:

Africa: 4G Sanza - Orange is to start selling the 4G version of the Sanza feature phone in December 2019. Expected to retail at around USD 28, the new XL model is to be launched in Botswana, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Egypt, Mali and Senegal, and in Jordan. Further launches are expected in 2020. Itel Mobile, part of China-based handset maker Transsion Holdings, is the vendor. The Sanza XL is also powered by the KaiOS operating system, providing access to over two hundred applications. Features include a larger 2.8-inch screen and voice recognition, as well as an improved 2 megapixel camera and 4 GB of internal memory.

Africa: Enabled device - Africell has launched the first 3G smart feature phone, Afriphone, powered by KaiOS. It will be the first KaiOS-powered device in Gambia and Sierra Leone, and will also be offered in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Afriphone supports 3G connectivity, supports Wi-Fi, GPS and NFC and has a hybrid dual-SIM slot, with 512MB memory + 256MB RAM. The battery enables extended hours of talk time.

Africa: Energy boost - Speaking at AfricaCom 2019 as Unitel's representative, Isabel dos Santos appealed for the need of a strong investment in the Energy sector in Africa, so that the 5G network can be a reality on the continent. "Telecom operators are eager to deploy the 5G network, but that requires a strong investment in Energy, just as it happened in Telecommunications." She added: "Today we are 1.2 billion people in Africa, by 2050 we will be 2.4 billion - more than in China. The investment required in infrastructure is huge". dos Santos noted that Unitel, the largest mobile operator in Angola, has invested in the last 20 years over USD 2.2 billion in fibre, using private money, to lay some 14,000 km of fibre. 

Africa: Expectations exceeded - M-Pesa transactions exceeded ZAR 41 billion (USD 2.74 billion) a month in the six months ended 30 September according to Vodacom Group. Group CEO Shameel Joosub said the investment in Safaricom continues to perform in line with its expectations, after it reported strong interim results at the start of November. M-Pesa has been growing faster than expected, with the six-month earnings data showing big gains from the mobile money platform. Vodacom recorded sharp growth in its M-Pesa mobile money service, contributing ZAR 905 million (USD 60.6 million) in the three months ending June. Joosub said that initiatives to expand the M-Pesa ecosystem contributed to the 797,000 increase in users to 14.3 million.

Africa: Messaging milestone - MTN Group's Ayoba instant messaging platform is claimed to have some 1 million monthly active users. It supports a large selection of languages spoken in MTN markets including isiZulu, isiXhosa, Pidgin, Yoruba, Swahili, Hausa, French and English. The platform is now operational in Afghanistan, Cameroon, Congo Brazzaville, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Nigeria and South Africa. Ayoba is also available in many markets via the Google Play Store and via the Ayoba Website. MTN is to also add Mobile Money transfers to the application.

Africa: Money boost - Vodacom Group's M-Pesa transactions exceeded ZAR 41 billion (USD 2.7 billion) a month in the six months ended 30 September, ITWeb reported. M-Pesa has been growing faster than expected, with the six-month earnings data showing large gains from the mobile money platform. Vodacom recorded sharp growth in its M-Pesa mobile money service, contributing ZAR 905 million (USD 60.6 million) in the three months ending June. The M-Pesa ecosystem contributed to the 797,000 increase in customers to 14.3 million.

State of Digital - Angola: February 2018

Africa: RAN roll-out - MTN has deployed of over 200 commercial rural sites throughout its operations using OpenRAN. It plans install more than 5,000 sites in rural areas throughout its 21 operations, bringing 2G, 3G and 4G connectivity to areas that were previously unconnected. MTN will use a network of partners to build and maintain through a full turn-key approach. Uganda and Guinea Conakry already benefit from OpenRAN as MTN has partnered with Vanu, Parallel Wireless and NuRAN Wireless for delivery. MTN group president and CEO, Rob Shuter, said its engineers had concluded Open RAN field trials in Zambia in 2018 and deployed commercial sites from the start of 2019. It is deploying RAN alongside traditional kit so as to speed rural expansion.

Africa: US connection - Vodacom Business is to extend its pan-African network to Miami through the South Atlantic Cable System (SACS) submarine link via Angola and South America. The link is claimed to reduce latency by up to 40 percent. Vodacom Business's trans-Atlantic expansion follows the recent addition of nineteen countries to its Africa market footprint, which increases the company's overall coverage to 47 countries in Africa.

Cameroon: Contraction courted - E-commerce group Jumia ia reported to have suspended its business in Cameroon, barely a week after its latest earnings call showed yet more losses, Reuters reported. The company said Cameroon 'is not suitable' for the platform, but will continue supporting buyers and vendors in Cameroon via its classified portal. Jumia Deals.

another fine mess for african telecoms

Democratic Republic of the Congo: DTH delivery - Eutelsat has announced that Orao Telecom Congo is its first client in Africa to sign-up to its Cirrus service launched in 2018 to provide broadcast customers with a hybrid satellite-OTT content delivery platform. The multi-year contract will see Orao use Cirrus to offer viewers globally a pay-TV package bundling Congolese content. Additionally, the company will use a Eutelsat satellite located at 7 degrees East for a new DTH service available in the Democratic Republic of Congo from mid-December, bundling fifteen pay-TV channels.

Egypt: Core collaboration - Orange Egypt has modernised and virtualised the Evolved Packet Core (EPC) and Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) thanks to Huawei. Consequently it is moving from the core network's traditional hardware to software-based elements, operating on commercial off-the-shelf servers (COSTS). Orange is the first in Egypt and the first Orange affiliate to go virtual with business-critical functions on a mass market use case. Orange Egypt decided to use the latest NFV and cloud technologies. Huawei's vEPC enabled Orange Egypt to build a network that quickly scaled to match the demands for smart services, support faster service roll-out, and dynamically allocate virtual resources, while providing carrier-grade availability. The vEPC is a framework for virtualising the functions required to converge data on 3G and LTE networks.

Egypt: Satellite launch - The TIBA-1 communications satellite is to be launched on 22 November - the first such satellite sponsored by Egypt. The Ministry of ICT said that TIBA-1 is set to provide communication services for the government and commercial sectors. It has been developed by Airbus and Thales Alenia Space and will be launched by Arianespace from Kourou, French Guiana on an Ariane 5 rocket. It will provide coverage for Egypt, some states in North Africa and the Nile Basin countries, offering telecom services and broadband Internet to remote areas.

Ghana: Money tax - Minister of Communications Ursula Owusu-Ekuful is calling for mobile network operators (MNOs) to be taxed on the profits they make on mobile money (MoMo) transactions, MyJoyOnline reported. Owusu-Ekuful said the operators generate some GHS 71 million (USD 12.8 million) monthly from the transactions, yet that money remains untaxed; discussions are reported to have started with the operators. Bank of Ghana data in 2018 showed that mobile money transactions rose from GHS 155 billion (USD 28.0 billion) to GHS 233 billion (USD 42.0 billion) representing annual growth of 43 percent.

Gabon: Nine digits - The new 9-digit numbering scheme has been implemented. The president of ARCEP, and senior executives of Gabon Telecom and Airtel-Gabon, attended a joint press conference on 3 June to launch the upgrade programme. Gabon Telecom and Airtel are now prefixed 6 and 7 respectively. The new national numbering plan sees the number 0 previously used to reach a Gabonese subscriber from overseas, has been dropped. Gabon has some 2.96 million mobile subscribers and 1.95 million Internet users for a population of 1.8 million.

Kenya: Subscription strategy - StarTimes Media is to offer more local content as part of its subscriber retention strategy. Subscribers on both terrestrial and satellite platforms will get automatic upgrades to higher bouquets at the cost of a lower one for the first two weeks upon renewal of their monthly bundle of choice. Three new local shows are to be offered during the festive period, namely 'Next Superstar', 'Nira' and 'Paper Boat' which will be available on StarTimes' exclusive local output channel, Rembo TV. Every monthly subscription made to the Nyota bouquet, subscribers will get the Basic bouquet for the initial two weeks. Subscribers enrolling to Basic will also qualify for the automatic upgrade to Classic for the first two weeks, at no extra cost. Nova bouquet subscribers on the satellite TV platform will be upgraded to the Smart bouquet for the first two weeks. Smart bouquet subscribers will be upgraded to the Super bouquet.

Liberia: Compliance sought - Orange Money Liberia has been fined LRD 337,500 (USD 1,643) for failing to file a Suspicious Transaction Report by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), the Daily Observer reported. The FIU Director-General, Edwin W. Harris, Jr., told reporters that the imposition of the fine is a result of an on-site Anti-money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) compliance monitoring of Orange Money conducted by the FIU from 23 - 25 April 2019. Orange Liberia Mobile Money failed to submit a single Suspicious Transaction Report (STR) to the FIU since 2017 according to Harris. The FIU has mandated Orange Money to present an official revenue receipt to its offices within 72 hours or face additional actions to ensure compliance with the regulations. Orange Money also has 90 days as of 6 November 2019, to take corrective actions to avoid such occurrence.

Libya: 4G expansion - Second ranked mobile network operator Almadar Aljaded (Al Madar), has extended its 4G coverage to the coastal towns of Zuwaytinah, Brega and Bishr, CommsMEA has reported. It first launched its 4G LYE-A network in October 2018 in Tripoli, and has been steadily increasing its footprint since.

Nigeria: Complaints falling - The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has reported that the number of subscriber complaints regarding telecom services fell by 50.5 per cent in the last 10 months, according to the New Telegraph. A total of 19,983 complaints were escalated to the commission between January and October this year, down from 40,410 recorded in the same period in 2018. Top complaints were billing errors, Value Added Service (VAS) subscriptions, call set-up complaints, missing balances, etc. The implementation of Do-Not-Disturb (DND), which allows subscribers to stop unwanted messages, may have also contributed to a reduction in complaints from mobile users. Only 920 complaints were not resolved in the period. This compares to the 24,368 complaints that were resolved out of the 40,410 received between January and October 2018.

Nigeria: Deactivation directive - The directive by Minister of Communications, Isa Pantami, to deactivate voicemail on phone lines has been criticised by the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), insisting that voicemail is opt-in value added service (VAS) only, CommunicationsWeek has reported. ALTON noted that under the law, the deactivation is not a major policy issue which must align with consultations to be organised by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

Nigeria: Service bot - Mobile network operator 9mobile has announced the launch of the first customer care service over RCS (Rich Communication Services) in Africa. RCS is the evolution of SMS, offering interactive and engaging capabilities for Android users. RCS will allow subscribers to check airtime balance, data balance and details of previous transactions through the RCS bot, which will share instant responses for the queries asked. The service offers enhanced smartphone messaging such as high-resolution photo and video sharing, location sharing, group chats, read receipts, etc., all of which were not available on SMS. 9mobile is the first operator in Nigeria to launch RCS, and the first operator in Africa to provide customer care using an RCS bot. The customer care bot, dubbed my9mobile, has been built by Kirusa, using its Kirusa Konnect platform.

Somalia: Tower attacks - A UN report submitted to the Security Council on 11 November 2019 has found that the Kenyan military has conducted at least five attacks on telecommunications facilities in Somalia over the last two years. Almost all of these attacks took place in the Gedo region of southern Somalia, on the border with Kenya. They were conducted on 12 towers managed by Hormuud Telecom, with the aim of preventing Islamist Shebab militants from using mobile phones to undertake their activities. The UN expert committee noted that the Kenyan army has denied its involvement in the destruction of these telecommunications facilities.

South Africa: Free peering - Africa Data Centres (ADC) has partnered with INX-ZA, a division of the Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA) of South Africa, to deliver free peering from any Africa Data Centres facility to INX-ZA's Johannesburg Internet Exchange (JINX) and its Cape Town Internet Exchange (CINX). ADC will cover the costs of ports and cross-connects but the customer will maintain the technical relationship with INX-ZA directly. ADC currently hosts a JINX node in its Johannesburg Data Centre, and a CINX node in its Cape Town Data Centre.

Tanzania: 4G entrant - Airtel Tanzania has launched LTE services in Dodoma. The Citizen reports that the 4G network will be rolled out to a further 25 towns and cities in the near future. Rivals Vodacom Tanzania, Millicom Tanzania (Tigo), Smile Communications and Tanzania Telecommunication Corporation (TTCL) have already launched 4G services.

Togo: Digital transfer - The government will transfer the digital e-gouv network to the Societe des Infrastructures Numeriques (SIN). The decision was the subject of a decree issued by the Council of Ministers on 13 November 2019. This transfer aims to "make available to operators established on the national territory, the infrastructure of e-gouv network". The network was set up in April 2017 as part of the state's digitization programme. The government's gouv.tg tag provides a framework for secure exchange of information between members of the government, at the expense of the Ministry of Posts and the Digital Economy. The SIN was formed by decree in November 2016, and is responsible for managing the infrastructure programme aimed at improving Internet connectivity, and facilitating the creation of an environment favourable to the digital economy. The project benefits from the World Bank's support of USD 30 million through the WARCIP programme.

Uganda: International payments - Airtel Uganda has added international transfer services to its Airtel Money platform to ease remittances by subscrbers at home and across the globe. Users will be able to send funds across borders to Tanzania and Malawi from their Airtel Money wallets at competitive rates and receive funds from across the globe in their Airtel money wallets free of charge. The user will not be charged or taxed for receiving money, regardless of where it comes from. Charges will only apply at the point of withdrawal, reflecting the recent 79 percent reduction in Airtel Money cash withdrawals. Customers sending money will be charged against a tiered tariff at competitive rates between UGX 900 and UGX 58,000 (USD 0.24 – 15.57). Forex exchange rates will be determined by the prevailing market tariffs.

Zambia: Small Cell service - Small Cell spe cialist, ip.access and Africa Mobile Networks (AMN) have announced 4G/LTE Small Cell service. This builds on successful multi-country 3G small cell deployments, extending rural mobile coverage in underserved countries in Africa. Zambia will be the first to get 4G services in addition to 3G, with Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Nigeria to start roll-out in the coming months. The network is based on the ip.access Viper system, comprising nanoVirt 3G/4G virtualised gateways and management system together with the 3G and LTE small cells. The small cells are installed on a tower near the centre of a village and supply the community.  Each deployment is scalable and upgradable to that capacity can be added to meet demand as needed.

Middle East:

Israel: Staff severances - Pelephone and Labour-union Histadrut have reached agreement on 13 November to the laying-off 400 staff. The layoffs will include early retirement packages for tenured workers and Pelephone staff will receive a 7 percent pay rise, and a 1 percent annual bonus. The agreement extends the 2017 collective labour agreement until July 2022 and adds to it, while regularizing the organizational changes resulting from cooperation between Bezeq's subsidiaries: Pelephone, Bezeq International, and Yes. Pelephone can now give 210 tenured employees voluntary retirement, while involuntary layoffs will not exceed 90 employees under a mechanism set forth in the agreement if the retirement target is not met. In addition, 190 jobs of non tenures staff will be cut and no additional workers will be hired.

Saudi Arabia: Internet lead - STC achieved the highest average mobile Internet download speed in the country Arabia in the third quarter of 2019 at 45.4 Mbps, according to a Meqyas report issued by the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC). STC also recorded the best improvement, of 22 percent compared to the previous quarter|. Meqyas monitors the overall level, improvement, or decline of Internet service quality in the country on a quarterly basis. STC also improved the leading position of its developed 4G network through optimal use of spectrum resources already available and recently allocated. The coverage of 4G towers using fibre-optic networks reached 75 percent in the main cities and 100 percent for 5G towers.