News in Brief 18 December 2019

Africa:

Algeria: International link - The Minister of Post, Telecommunications, Technology & Digitalisation, Houda Imane Faraoun, has announced the completion of a cross-border fibre link with Mauritania, Agence Ecofin reported. The deployment of the 75km Algeria-Mauritania fibre link follows last month's completion of a 440km terrestrial fibre route crossing Algeria's southern border with Niger.

Cape Verde: Internet island initiative - From 7 December Maio Island and its nearly 7,000 residents have enjoyed free broadband Internet access, making it the first free digital island in the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) space. Maio is the first digital island of CPLP with free Internet access in all locations through the EU-funded Sustainable Villages for Development project. The Mayor of Maio, Miguel Rosa said: "It will have a major impact on the development of Ilha do Maio , the fight against digital exclusion , the reinforcement of local and social identities, and also the reinforcement of social networks , connectivity and therefore of the Mayans with the country and the world". It is the result of a joint initiative between the CPLP Communication and Telecommunications Regulators Association, the Fraunhofer-Portugal Association, the national telecommunications operators, the Cape Verdean Government, the Multisectoral Economy Regulation Agency and the Maio City Council.

Congo Brazzaville: Postal bank - The Minister of Posts, Telecommunications and Digital Economy, Leon Juste Ibombo, in Brazzaville, has officially launched the PosteMobile postal bank application to permit transactions and payments by mobile phone on 13 December 2019. The app is the result of the public-private partnership between the Congo Post and Savings Company (Sopeco) and Sikar finance, Digital Business Africa reports. The minister said: "PosteMobile offers a new opportunity for the population to carry out, from their Android or first generation phones, their account opening, money transfer, withdrawal and deposit operations, and even receive salary, pension, bonus no matter where you are." One of the key elements is that transactions on the platform can be performed regardless of the mobile operator, and so promote public access to digital financial services.

Cote d'Ivoire: Trio named - Agence des Telecommunications de Cote d'Ivoire (ATCI) has sworn on three new members in on 9 December at the Abidjan-Plateau courthouse. President Alassane Ouattara originally confirmed the appointments on 27 November 2019. The three new members are Mounir Diawara, Konin Kabran and Bamba Brahima, and replace three members whose term has expired. Several officials of the structure were present including the President of the Regulatory Council Souleymane Coty Diakite, recently appointed, and the Director General Bile Diemeleou.

Guinea: Educational programme - The President has committed to build and equip 200 cyber centres in secondary, higher and vocational education establishments. The Minister of Posts, Telecommunications and the Digital Economy, Moustapha Mamy Diaby told a Council of Ministers that 100 of the planned cyber centres have already been created. The centres will be connected to the Internet. The programme is a component of the Presidential Initiative for the Connection of Schools (IPCE) launched in 2014.

Kenya: Open-ended data - Airtel Kenya is now offering data with no expiry from KES 1 (USD 0.01) for 5 MB and voice calls for KES 2 (USD 0.02) to any network. Airtel's Managing Director Prasanta Sarma said its 'BeSureNaAirtel' campaign allows subscribers to see the exact rates and value they get for their investment. It has also revamped its entire data bundle range. It will provide 3 GB for KES 300 (USD 2.92), up from 1.5 GB; 5 GB for KES 500 (USD 4.87), up from 4 GB; and 12 GB for KES 1,000 (USD 9.74), up from 10 GB, with 30-day validity. To activate the new rates, subscribers need to dial *544*star2#.

Kenya: Nokia launch - HMD Global has released the Nokia 2.3 in Kenya for KES 12,000 (USD 20,369). Gopher Ogembo, HMD Global senior business manager in East Africa, said the new phone will provide access to two years of Operating System (OS) upgrades and three years of monthly security updates at an affordable price tier.

Kenya: Staff cuts - Online reseller Jumia Kenya has dismissed 6 percent of its staff, following the announcement by its parent to close its operations in three countries, Business Daily reported. Jumia has closed operations in Cameroon, Tanzania and Rwanda. Jumia said the move followed careful consideration and after some headcount reductions across its business verticals and geographies. It did not specify the number of staff affected. Kenya is its largest market in East Africa, where it had a headcount of 686 as of December 2018. The parent made a net loss of EUR 163.4 million (USD 181.1 million) in the nine months ended September, a 39 percent increase from EUR 117.3 million (USD 130.0 million) the year before.

Kenya: Tax take - The government collected some KESD 26.3 billion (USD 256.1 million) in excise taxes from airtime in 2018, The Standard reported citing official data from the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA). This is up 63 percent from KES 16.1 billion (USD 156.8 million) collected in the previous year. The rise came after the National Treasury imposed 15 percent excise duty on mobile money transfer services, airtime and data, up from 10 percent. Airtime tax collections rose to KES 19.7 billion (USD 191.9 million) in the nine months to March, new KRA data shows. By December 2018, only excise taxes on beer had performed better than airtime.

Libya: Revenues recorded - The Central Bank of Libya (CBL) latest bulletin covers the period 1 January 2019 to 30 November 2019. It reported that revenues from communications including mobile service providers Al Madar and Libyana and the state Internet service provider LTT were down from a projected LYD 688 million (USD 484.2 million) to LYD 201 million (USD 141.5 million).

Morocco: Helping hand - The Maroc Telecom board on 6 December 2019 co-opted Obaid Bin Humaid Al Tayer, as Vice-Chairman, replacing Eissa Mohamed Ghanem Al Suwaidi. The board thanked Al Suwaidi for the commitment he had shown during his tenure. Al Tayer is the current Chairman of Etisalat Group.

Nigeria: Biometric targeting - Specialist biometrics firm ZKTeco is to invest in Nigeria. Its CEO and founder, John Che, visited Nigeria on a working visit in the second week of December and told local journalists that it wants to open an office and set-up a centre in the country. Agency Ecofin reported Che as saying that Nigeria occupies a strategic position in Africa, including its population, market size, GDP, as well as the government's efforts to transform the economy. ZKTeco is already present in South Africa and Egypt.

South Africa: Festive traffic - MTN South Africa has strengthened its network in high density areas and tourist hotspots to cope with heavy seasonal voice and data traffic over the festive season. Areas identified for network optimisation are major routes including the N1 from Cape Town to the Limpopo, the N3 from Gauteng to Durban, the N12 from Johannesburg to the Garden Route, the N2 from Cape Town to Durban, N4 from Pretoria to Mozambique and N7 from Cape Town to Namibia. Popular coastal towns for tourists are aslo included. The optimisation includes deployment of new base stations and upgrades of some 3G and LTE stations. MTN will track its network performance on Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. MTN said it will deploy mobile base stations in cases where demand exceeds capacity.

South Africa: Hardy device - Crosscall, French phone maker, said it has supplied MTN South Africa with 1,000 waterproof Core X3 smartphones, including PTT applications, for Nelson Mandela University staff. The devices are resistant to damage from being dropped and protected from scratches. They have a battery life of several days and can be recharged using a magnetic connector. Crosscall handsets are particularly popular with extreme sports athletes thanks to their durability, longer-lasting battery and waterproofing.

South Africa: Local devices - Vodacom is now offering locally made Mara smartphones in participating outlets. Mara Phones opened its first South African manufacturing plant in Durban in October 2019. The cheaper Mara X has a Mediatek MT6739 processor, 1 GB of RAM, 16 GB storage, a 13 MP rear camera and 5MP front camera. It runs on Android 9.0 Go and is priced at ZAR 2,999 (USD 205). The Mara Z has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 435 CPU, 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB storage and 13 MP cameras on the rear and front. It runs on the Android 9.0 mobile operating system and retails at ZAR 3,999 (USD 273).

South Africa: VAS portal - Telkom has launched its value-added service (VAS) portal called Telkom Plus. The Telkom-user only subscription platform aims to aggregate wireless application service provider and content service providers. Telkom's executive of the brand and product segment, Gugu Mthembu, said the portal is designed to engage users and generate interest in VAS subscription services. The service features such things as device detection, so that the platform is rendered according to the capabilities of the user's device, providing a consistent and optimal service, even on legacy devices. Content includes games, sports, videos, lifestyle and social output. Customers can use the portal on a browser, USSD and on the Telkom app.

Uganda: Minister cleared - The Inspector General of Government (IGG) Irene Mulyagonja has dropped investigations into alleged abuse of office by the state minister for finance in charge of investments and privatisation, Evelyn Anite, the Monitor reported. The inquiry was with regard to the controversial Uganda Telecom (UTL) investment deals. Mulyagonja notified Anite in a letter dated 6 December that the file had been closed after preliminary investigations found no case to be answered. The IGG is satisfied that further investigations into the matter is unnecessary. Anite said she had worked hard to save UTL from liquidation but blamed a network of corrupt individuals seeking to liquidate and share UTL assets.

Zambia: Taxman cometh - The a law that will tax Internet services is due to pass into law in January 2020, the Lusaka Times reported, and includes services such as Netflix and WhatsApp. This is according to the VAT Amendment Bill 2019 which was issued on 20 November. Companies offering internet services in Zambia but domiciled else where will be expected to appoint a tax agent to handle all tax matters in the country.

Zimbabwe: Money progress - NetOne's mass registration of OneMoney agents and merchants is making good progress, and the company has asserted an increase in transaction volumes, 263Chat reported. OneMoney is the second-largest mobile money provider and the mass registration started at the beginning of December in a bid to gain ground. NetOne head of public relations, Eldrette Shereni, said OneMoney is steadily improving its visibility thanks to over 10,000 agents and merchants registered in the last two weeks. Shereni said OneMoney has had a positive performance this year, seeing 29 percent growth in active subscriptions during the first quarter.

Zimbabwe: School link-up - Liquid Telecom Zimbabwe has connected 48 higher and tertiary learning institutions through the Edu-zone project, providing free Wi-Fi access and use of Internet to students at campuses. Edu-Zones is a corporate social responsibility initiative by LT launched in July 2018. Liquid Telecom Regional CEO of Southern Africa, Wellington Makamure, said students have access to fast and reliable connectivity. They will also get an opportunity to access 21CSkills, an online platform offering skills training and development programmes on new technology for African students, start-ups and developers.

Middle East:

Bahrain: Car share - Turkish start-up Yoyo has been granted a licence by the Ministry of Transportation and Telecommunications (MTT) to operate a commercial car-sharing club. Yoyo is partnering with Zain Group and EK Kanoo. Cars from Yoyo will be available in Manama in the first stage and thereafter expanded nationally. Yoyo allows registered members to use an app to reserve vehicles. Users can select a vehicle from any location and reserve it for any time period using the app. The doors of the hired vehicle are unlocked by the customer's membership card or mobile application, with the vehicle's keys placed inside. Members can return their cars to another parking station and lock the vehicles via their smartphones.

Kuwait: Cloud solution - Zain Kuwait has partnered with Dar Al Qabas press printing, publishing, and distribution company to offer cloud and data centre services to support Al Qabas newspaper's digital modernisation. Zain will be offering a number of cloud services to revamp Al Qabas' integrated digital infrastructure. These include Zain Business Data Centre (ZBDC) services, such as data storage, security and connectivity for hosting digital assets in the MENA region. The agreement also includes network cabling and management services, connectivity, CCTV andservice management.

Oman: Fibre offer - Ooredoo Oman has extended its Super Fibre Home Internet offer until 8 January 2020, so that all new and existing customers on a twelve-month contract can benefit from increased speeds. Users will enjoy speeds of 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. In addition, when opting for a Super Fibre Home Internet plan on a twelve-month contract, users will enjoy unlimited usage, free installation, unlimited Ooredoo fixed minutes, and international discounted minutes.

Qatar: 5G plans - Ooredoo Qatar has launched its new 5G-enabled Shahry and Qatarna packs with unlimited access to the Internet. Once the full allowance is used for the month, users will still be able to continue connecting to any network at up to 20 Mbps without further charge. The new plans will provide 100 international call minutes, and will come with entertainment and lifestyle benefits. Shahry customers can choose one subscription from Starzplay and ErosNow, as well as Urban Point, while Qatarna customers can choose from BeIN Connect, Starzplay and Urban Point.

Qatar: Expanded roaming - Vodafone Qatar has expanded its roaming coverage to Georgia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Finland, Iceland, Montenegro and Nepal. Its Vodafone Passport Pack now covers more than 130 countries, which it claimed is Qatar's widest reaching roaming pack. Vodafone Qatar's Unlimited VIP plan provides up to 75 GB roaming data in those nations, including on the only 5G roaming service in the UK, launched in November. The Pack provides 1 GB of data and 100 minutes of roaming calls for QAR 100 (USD 27.46) per week. They can also roam when travelling with 60 global airlines with Unlimited In-Flight data at no extra cost. Vodafone Maritime roaming services are available on more than 700 cruise ships.

Qatar: Plan updated - Ooredoo Qatar's Aamali Mobile Plans have been updated, providing more choice and flexibility for business mobility and adding 5G capabilities. Aamali Mobile Plans were introduced in early 2018 and provide mobile data allowances with add-on options for local calling, local data, international calling and roaming, with self-service digital tools. Eight different plans are available for business customers, ranging from Amali Mobile 90 with 4 GB local data, 500 local minutes and SMS and unlimited business group minutes, up to Aamali Mobile 1000 providing unlimited local data, unlimited local minutes and SMS, unlimited business group minutes, 2,000 international minutes and texts in 121 countries and 150 GB roaming data, 650 inbound roaming minutes and 100 outbound roaming minutes.

Saudi Arabia: Carrier billing - MNO Mobily is offering carrier billing for content and services from Apple, including App Store, Apple Music, Apple TV+, films on the Apple TV app and iCloud storage. This is available to post-paid users who have been active for three months, and pre-paid subscribers. Subscribers use a new or existing Apple ID and select 'Mobile Phone' as their payment method in account settings on the App Store, in iCloud or within the Apple Music or Apple TV apps from their iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac or on iTunes from their PC.