MTN Nigeria faces forex and tax issues

MTN Nigeria’s often impressive profit margin is facing threats on two fronts as earnings are hit by a weak naira and a tax demand threatens to remove tens of millions of dollars from its balance sheet.

The deregulation of forex management in Nigeria in June 2023 led to a 68.5% increase in the exchange rate from N461/US$1 in December 2022 to N777US/$1 by the end of September, resulting in greater business costs, and hitting recently announced MTN Nigeria earnings for the nine months ending 30 September.

Although MTN Nigeria still seems to have delivered a strong commercial performance in the period under review, the significant movement in the exchange rate since the liberalisation of the forex market resulted in higher forex losses with a knock-on effect on net finance costs, up 174.4%. Due to this, profit before tax (PBT) declined by 42.0%. It would have risen slightly without the forex loss.

That, however, is not the only issue faced by MTN Group, Africa’s largest telecoms company. After facing a court order to pay US$72.6 million in overdue taxes, as we reported recently, it now plans to challenge that order.

The order was issued last week by Nigeria’s Tax Appeal Tribunal (TAT) in Lagos. TAT says the amount is for unpaid taxes between 2007 and 2017, though it is lower than the amount originally requested before MTN Nigeria appealed.

Having reviewed this outcome and considered input from tax and legal consultants, MTN Nigeria says it has resolved to appeal the TAT’s decision.

However, we may have to wait to hear a precise strategy. Quoted in ITWeb Africa, Karl Toriola, MTN Nigeria CEO, says: “The company will issue a separate and comprehensive statement articulating its position on the matter.”


Reliance Jio launches satellite broadband services 


According to Deloitte, India’s satellite broadband market is set to grow 36% a year to reach a value of $1.9 billion by 2030

Reliance Jio has announced the launch of its satellite broadband service, which promises to provide even the most remote areas of the country with gigabit speeds. 

The service, named JioSpaceFiber, was demonstrated by Jio last week at India Mobile Congress. In a related announcement, the company claimed that the service will “be available across the length and breadth of the country at highly affordable prices”. 

“With JioSpaceFiber, we expand our reach to cover the millions yet to be connected,” said Akash Ambani, Chairman Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited. “JioSpaceFiber will allow everyone, everywhere, to fully participate in the new digital society with gigabit access to online government, education, health, and entertainment services.” 

The service is delivered via medium Earth orbit (MEO) satellites owned by SES, which the firm claims is the “the only MEO constellation capable of delivering truly unique Gigabit, fibre-like services from space.” 

The project has been ongoing since February last year, when Jio Platforms (Jio’s network infrastructure division) formed a joint venture with SES named Jio Space Technology Limited. Jio has a 51% stake in the business, while SES holds the remaining 49%. 

“Together with Jio, we are honoured to support the Government of India’s Digital India initiative with a unique solution that aims at delivering multiple gigabits per second of throughput to any location in India,” said SES’ chief strategy officer John-Paul Hemingway.  

“Our first fibre-like services from space are already deployed today in parts of India, and we cannot wait to see how this will lead to digital transformation even in the most rural parts of the country. 

JioSpaceFiber could soon face competition from Elon Musks’ Starlink. Back in 2021, Starlink was found to have been taking pre-orders from Indian customers for its satellite services, without having first obtained a Global Mobile Personal Communication (GMPC) license from the Indian government. Starlink had sold around 5,000 pre-orders of “Dishy McFlatface“ Starlink terminals and was subsequently reprimanded by the government and ordered to return the deposits. 

SpaceX submitted an official license proposal for Starlink late last year.  

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KKR invests $400m into subsea cable firm OMS
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Kenya launches its first local smartphone assembly plant

East Africa Device Assembly Kenya (EADAK) Limited has opened this week. It’s Kenya’s first local smartphone assembly plant.

The significance of the launch didn’t evade the political classes or senior telecoms executives. President William Ruto unveiled the new plant on Monday. Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa also attended the unveiling.

Of course Safaricom has a direct interest in EADAK. As we reported in June, operators Safaricom and Jamii Telecommunication have partnered with Chinese smartphone manufacturer Shenzhen TeleOne Technology to locally manufacture smartphones. The new facility has the capacity to produce up to three million mobile phones each year.

According to ITWeb Africa, the devices will be accessible nationwide at Faiba shops (Jamii Telecommunications offers broadband and mobile services under the Faiba brand) and dealer stores, as well as Safaricom stores. It will also be available via Masoko, an online marketplace that offers buyers a wide variety of phones and accessories.

The 4G-enabled Smarta and Ultra mobile phone handsets will be the anchor devices at launch, with other devices planned for the coming months, including a locally made tablet. The first devices will cost $50.

EADAK Chairman Joshua Chepkwony, quoted by ITWeb Africa, said: “This assembly plant will contribute to the government’s agenda of increasing digital inclusion in the country. We were able to achieve affordability through a collaborative strategy that included business partnerships and beneficial government regulations.”

President William Ruto revealed plans to produce smartphones locally in December 2022 and gave his government a 12-month deadline to deliver affordable smartphones to the Kenyan market. It’s not yet clear when the first devices will reach retail but it looks like they won’t be far off that deadline.


Industry Spotlight: Mike Jonas Takes the Helm of LightRiver

LightRiver has long labored behind the scenes of network design and deployment for service providers across the industry.  With the rise of automation and software-driven infrastructure, they have begun to move deeper into the actual operation and maintenance of those networks as well.  With us today to talk about the company’s approach to the ever-moving target of network infrastructure design and operation is newly minted CEO Mike Jonas. … [visit site to read more]

Ofcom revises UK net neutrality rules


The review of the established rules began in 2021, with a consultation being published last year 

UK regulator Ofcom has made revisions to its net neutrality rules, which will further ensure that all traffic carried across UK networks is treated identically. The adaptations, Ofcom say, will “allow for clarity in our guidance to enable ISPs to innovate and manage their networks more efficiently, to improve consumer outcomes.” 

The updated areas of policy will include: 

  1. ISPs will be able to offer premium quality retail offers to better meet consumer needs. For example, cheaper packages for internet browsing and streaming customers, but more expensive packages for gamers needing lower latency.
  2. ISPs can develop specialised services, such as virtual reality (VR) and driverless vehicles
  3. ISPs can manage their networks with traffic management, to ensure the best user experience for customers. The guidance clarifies when and how this can be used by the ISPs.
  4. Zero-rating offers will be allowed (in most cases). This is when data from some apps or websites does not count towards the overall data allowance of the customer.

The official Ofcom definition of net neutrality is as follows: 

“Net neutrality supports the ‘open internet’, ensuring that users of the internet (both consumers and those making and distributing content) are in control of what they see and do online – not the broadband or mobile providers (otherwise known as internet service providers or ISPs). The net neutrality rules make sure that the traffic carried across broadband and mobile networks is treated equally and particular content or services are not prioritised or slowed down in a way that favours some over others.” 

“These changes are welcome and important and will help us to manage our network in the short term,” said Howard Watson, Chief Security and Networks Officer at BT in a statement. 

“But they are the start of further reforms that are needed, so we can face into the future with confidence. Unless and until telecommunications companies have the necessary environment to negotiate on a level playing field with content providers, the challenges of meeting growing demand will remain reliant on telcos funding endless capacity upgrades.” 

Over in the US, there has also been some recent net neutrality progressions. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to advance a proposal to reinstate net neutrality rules, after the final seat of the commission was filled by Democrat Anna Gomez.  

These rules are heavily politically charged in the US, which were imposed by President Obama in November 2015, and were then rescinded by President Trump when he took office. Critics argue that charging different prices for different services disincentivises companies from innovation, while those in favour maintain that it will ensure equal access to the same internet, without ISP interference.  

For more insight into the net neutrality policies worldwide, subscribe to the Total Telecom daily newsletter 

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Ofcom launches review into fixed wireless network links
BT data shows over 500 potential cyberattacks take place every second
Industry leaders applaud Biden’s ACP supplemental funding request 

BT data shows over 500 potential cyberattacks take place every second

Press Release

More than 46 million signals of potential cyber-attacks are seen on average every single day across the world, according to new data released by BT

The cybersecurity experts currently log more than 530 signals of potential attack per second as they guard their global networks against an army of malicious actors seeking to exploit vulnerabilities – targeting businesses and critical national infrastructure.

With businesses of every size going digital, the most targeted industries in the past 12 months are IT, defence, banking and insurance – 19.7% of malware sightings are directed towards these high-stakes targets. The retail, hospitality and education sectors are also at high risk, accounting for 14.9% of malware sightings in the past 12 months. Criminals often capitalise on seasonal sales and spikes in online traffic, which makes the festive period a particular worry for retailers.

Small businesses, start-ups and charities are also finding themselves in the firing line; approximately 785,000 cyber-crimes were found across UK charities in the last 12 months. This suggests that cyber criminals are going for organisations and sectors that are less ‘traditional’ targets – and may not have the security tools in place to protect them. The use of big data and connected tech is now so widespread that almost anyone can be a target.

The BT data shows that every 30 seconds cyber criminals scan any device connected to the internet looking for weaknesses, using automation and machine learning to identify vulnerabilities in business defences – the digital equivalent of a burglar looking for an open window. All of this means that the average business will have its network scanned and tested by cybercriminals over 3,000 times each day, so it’s critical to have the right tools in place to identify and prevent against attacks, and to review these regularly.

These figures become particularly concerning when well over half of businesses (61%) in the UK say that keeping up with cyber security measures is becoming increasingly difficult. This is compounded by the challenge of keeping the whole organisation aware of the threats, with one in four (26%) businesses saying that this is their biggest pain point.

As Cyber Security Awareness Month draws to a close, BT is answering this call, today launching a new podcast series explaining the remarkable true stories behind some of the world’s most harrowing cyber hacks. True Cybercrime Stories by BT, narrated by Adrian Lester, star of The Undeclared War, is designed to speak to the 43% of decision-makers that turn to podcasts for business-related content.

In a digital age where every click and connection present a risk, BT’s new series shines a light on invisible crimes. The cautionary tales are for anyone curious about the growing battleground of digital crime – from a casino broken into via a fish tank, schools and hospitals exploited, to the great Twitter heist.

Serving customers in more than 180 countries, BT manages cyber security for private and public sector organisations around the world, as well as critical national infrastructure. Its team of 3,000 cyber professionals defends against thousands of cyber-attacks a day.

Tris Morgan, Managing Director, Security at BT, comments: “The volume of cyberthreats in the UK is rising at an alarming rate, so it’s really concerning that so many businesses and public services are leaving themselves open to attack. The fabric of the modern business has changed, and there’s now more connected tech for hackers to exploit, more valuable data to target and a bigger prize at stake if they make it through.

“With more than a million business customers, BT is the first line of cyber defence for organisations across the world – and we’re proud of our long heritage of protecting people, businesses and critical national infrastructure. That’s why we’re launching the True Cybercrime Stories podcast: to shine a light on the shocking impact this crime epidemic can have, raise awareness of the risks and encourage everyone to think about what they could be doing to protect our businesses and essential services.”

Adrian Lester, actor and lead narrator of the True Cybercrime Stories podcast adds:  “Truth is so often stranger than fiction, and in the dark underbelly of cybercrime that adage certainly rings true. It’s fascinating when you scratch beneath the surface to see an invisible war going on. The podcast aims to shed light on some of those remarkable true stories. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed recreating these tales with BT, and while not every business will have a fish tank that can be hacked, I’m sure all listeners will take away some valuable lessons to stop them getting caught out.”

To follow along the journey through the shadowy underworld of cybercrime; tune in to True Cybercrime Stories by BT on all major streaming platforms and stay connected with BT on social media for updates, insights, and resources to keep your business safe in the digital world. 

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Industry leaders applaud Biden’s ACP supplemental funding request


With the request, the Biden Administration is now urging Congress to follow through with funding

The White House’s recent request for additional funding from Congress to bolster the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) has been met with commendation from leading voices in the telecommunications industry.

On Wednesday, Oct. 25, the Biden Administration announced the request for additional funding to bolster the ACP by extending free and discounted high-speed internet for eligible households through December 2024.

In a statement released after President Joseph Biden’s funding request was announced, the Rural Broadband Association (NTCA) said the ACP is poised to continue playing a critical role in the affordability of services that can connect Americans.

“NTCA members have been active participants in the Affordable Connectivity Program, and a number of their customers rely upon the support this program provides to pay for broadband services month after month,” said Shirley Bloomfield, the NTCA’s CEO.

She said the NTCA applauds the Biden Administration “for identifying the need for additional funding to prolong the effectiveness of the ACP program in its supplemental appropriations request.”

“We hope that this program that enjoys such widespread support will continue to play an important role in keeping Americans connected,” she said.

Biden’s supplemental funding request followed a weekend letter penned by Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA) that was delivered to the administration.

Matsui, who serves as a ranking member on the communications and technology subcommittee, expressed concern that the ACP would expire in early 2024 without additional funding.

“If this vital program were even to briefly lapse, it would undue years of progress closing the digital divide,” she wrote.

The White House said the ACP, which was enacted under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, “is already helping over 21 million households save over $500 million per month on their monthly internet bills.”

Angela Siefer, the executive director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), also applauded the president’s $6 billion funding request for the ACP.

“Along with librarians, digital navigators, and nonprofit leaders from 1,500 organizations nationwide, NDIA celebrates the White House’s renewed commitment to providing internet for all,” she said, according to a statement published on NDIA’s website.

With the request, which also includes funding requests for additional defense spending and disaster relief, Biden is now urging Congress to follow through with funding.

According to the White House, Biden is requesting the money be allocated as an emergency request as part of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985.

“The world is watching and the American people rightly expect their leaders to come together and deliver on these priorities,” the president said in a statement. “I urge Congress to address them as part of a comprehensive, bipartisan agreement in the weeks ahead.”