Biggest South African tech stories of 2016

2016 has seen many big developments in the local telecommunications and technology market, including several significant acquisitions.

In June, Liquid Telecom – a pan-African telecoms group majority owned by Econet Global – entered into an agreement to acquire Neotel for R6.55 billion.

Blue Label Telecoms announced in early October it was buying a 45% stake in Cell C for R5.5 billion – an increase from the initial plan to acquire 35% of the operator.

Later that month, Vumatel acquired Fibrehoods, with the aim of accelerating “a connected South Africa”.

MultiSource, which acquired iBurst owner WBS in 2015, announced it will roll out an LTE network that will provide fast and affordable broadband access.

There were many other interesting developments, including MTN settling its Nigeria fine and the government shocking operators with its ICT Policy White Paper.

Here are the biggest South African tech stories of the year.

Liquid Telecom to buy Neotel

Neotel office building

In June, Liquid Telecom entered into an agreement to acquire Neotel.

The shareholders of Neotel – Tata Communications of India and minority shareholders led by Nexus Connexion – agreed for Liquid Telecom to buy Neotel for R6.55 billion.

Vumatel acquires Fibrehoods

Vumatel Fibre

Vumatel acquired Fibrehoods in October, with the terms of the deal not disclosed.

“The acquisition will help us accelerate and build a connected South Africa faster,” said Niel Schoeman, CEO of Vumatel.

Blue Label Telecoms buying a 45% stake in Cell C


Blue Label Telecoms announced in October it was buying a 45% stake in Cell C for R5.5 billion.

The proposed recapitalisation will reduce the net debt of the company to approximately R6 billion and enable it to deliver on its growth strategy in a sustainable manner.

New national LTE-A network for South Africa

Multisource logo

In September, Wireless Business Solutions (WBS) announced a multi-billion-rand investment in a new high-speed LTE-A national data network for South Africa.

The network will use WBS’s existing spectrum in the 1,800MHz and 2,600MHz bands.

To fast-track its roll-out, WBS signed a lease agreement with Vodacom. Vodacom will also benefit from WBS’s LTE-A network through a roaming agreement.

Standard Bank hit by R300 million credit card fraud

Standard Bank logo

In May, the Standard Bank Group was the victim of a sophisticated, coordinated fraud incident.

“This involved the withdrawal of cash using a small number of fictitious cards at various ATMs in Japan,” said Standard Bank.

Standard Bank said it has taken action to contain the matter and the gross loss to the bank is estimated at R300 million.

Afrihost buying back stake from MTN

MTN Afrihost end

In June, MTN announced plans to sell its 50.02% shareholding in Afrihost.

“We have enjoyed a long and fruitful partnership with MTN over the years and we are grateful for everything they have done for us. MTN will remain a key supplier of ours and we look forward to continue working with them for the years ahead,” said Gian Visser, Afrihost CEO.

Netflix launches in South Africa

Netflix logo on screen

In January, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings announced that the video streaming service had been switched on in 130 new countries, including South Africa.

Telkom launches FreeMe mobile packages

Telkom FreeMe

In July, Telkom launched its new FreeMe contracts – which offer aggressive prices on data-based packages.

Subscribers select the amount of data they want and then pay for off-network calls.

Each contract includes free calls and messaging on WhatsApp, BBM, and Viber, as well as free on-network calls and 50 free SMS messages per day.

Afrihost shocks ADSL market with free data

Afrihost logo on background

In September, Afrihost announced that all of the data used between midnight and 18:00 on its capped ADSL accounts will be free.

That means Afrihost’s capped ADSL accounts offer free data for 18 hours a day.

Telkom partners with Vumatel to offer better fibre coverage

Vumatel Telkom Partnership

In June, Telkom announced it will leverage open-access fibre from Vumatel to complement its existing fibre network.

The partnership with Vumatel will help it to reach more consumers across South Africa, said Telkom.

Victory for Please Call Me idea man against Vodacom

Please call me

In April, Nkosana Makate, who claims he invented Vodacom’s Please Call Me service in 2000, won his Constitutional Court case against the mobile operator.

The Constitutional Court ordered Vodacom to negotiate with Makate “in good faith” to determine “reasonable compensation” for his idea.

Internet Solutions to buy MWEB

Mweb floating logo

Internet Solutions has, through its parent company Dimension Data, entered an agreement to acquire MWEB Connect for an undisclosed sum.

The transaction is subject to approval by the competition authorities and shareholders. If successful, the transaction is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2017.

ICT Policy White Paper published

South Africa Government Technology Spy

In September, Cabinet approved the National ICT Policy White Paper.

The approval paved the way for the start of a programme that will amend laws and set up new structures and institutions.

The paper calls for radical changes in the telecommunications market, including the creation of a Wireless Open Access Network.

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Biggest South African tech stories of 2016