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MEA market sees steepest decline yet in PC sales

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The Middle East and Africa (MEA) PC market suffered a 28.7% year-on-year slump in shipments in the final quarter of 2015, according to the latest insights from global technology research and consulting firm International Data Corporation (IDC).

Shipments fell for the third consecutive quarter in Q4 2015, with the decline representing the steepest ever recorded in the region for a single quarter.

In a shift from earlier quarters in the year when the decline in desktop shipments was notably less pronounced than the decline in notebooks, this time round both product categories declined at a similar pace. Indeed, IDC’s Quarterly PC Tracker shows that desktop shipments declined 29.4% year on year in Q4 2015 to total 1.3 million units, with notebook shipments falling 28.2% over the same period to total 1.9 million units.

“Similar to the previous quarter, Turkey, the ‘Rest of the Middle East’ grouping (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Palestine), Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan experienced the sharpest declines within MEA,” says Fouad Charakla, senior research manager for personal computing, systems, and infrastructure solutions at IDC Middle East, Africa, and Turkey. “The reasons for these declines varied from country to country, but included high levels political and economic instability and uncertainty, low oil prices, increasing security concerns, and volatile currency fluctuations, especially with the U.S. dollar becoming more expensive.”

Once again, the top three vendors remained unchanged in Q4 2015. The continued focus of these vendors on the commercial segment has contributed significantly to their ability to remain at the top of the rankings, since they combined to serve almost 70% of the region’s commercial PC demand during the quarter.

Overall, HP maintained the top spot in terms of market share, despite experiencing a fall of 27.4% year on year, while second-placed Lenovo suffered a decline of 29.9% on shipments. Dell, on the other hand, escaped with a mild decline of 8.7% year on year as the vendor had experienced a relatively slow quarter during the same period last year. Declining slightly slower than the overall market at 23.2% year on year, Asus overtook Acer to claim fourth position, while Acer experienced the fastest decline among the top vendors at 42.9% year on year. Similar to previous quarters, the local assembly of desktops continues to slow as a growing portion of end users opt for refurbished PCs, upgrades, or to prolong their refreshment cycle altogether as they increasingly shift their usage towards mobile phones and tablets.

“As market sentiment remains low, IDC expects to see a delay in the recovery of PC demand,” says Charakla. “Overall, 2016 will experience a further decline on 2015, as growth is only expected to occur in the second half of the year. A slightly stronger recovery is expected during 2017, after which the region will continue to experience a period of slow growth over the longer term. As the growing popularity of smartphones and tablets will continue to inhibit demand for PCs, vendors and channels across the region are expected to plan and order cautiously so as to avoid being left with high inventory levels.”

Similar to IDC’s previous forecasts, there will continue to be a gradual shift in the weight of demand from consumers to the commercial segment as a growing proportion of home users switch from PCs to tablets and smartphones while commercial end users maintain a greater loyalty to PCs. As a result, commercial demand for PCs in the region is expected to surpass that stemming from home users by the year 2017.

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Rain, Telkom Mobile, lead in affordable data

A new report by the telecoms regulator in South Africa reveal the true consumer champions in mobile data costs

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The latest bi-annual tariff analysis report produced by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) reveals that Telkom Mobile data costs for bundles are two-thirds lower than those of Vodacom and MTN. On the other hand, Rain is half the price again of Telkom. 

The report focuses on the 163 tariff notifications lodged with ICASA during the period 1 July 2018 to 31 December 2018.

“It seeks to ensure that there is retail price transparency within the electronic communications sector, the purpose of which is to enable consumers to make an informed choice, in terms of tariff plan preferences and/or preferred service providers based on their different offerings,” said Icasa.

ICASA says it observed the competitiveness between licensees in terms of the number of promotions that were on offer in the market, with 31 promotions launched during the period. 

The report shows that MTN and Vodacom charge the same prices for a 1GB and a 3GB data bundle at R149 and R299 respectively.  On the other hand, Telkom Mobile charges (for similar-sized data bundles) R100 (1GB) and R201 (3GB). Cell C discontinued its 1GB bundle, which was replaced with a 1.5GB bundle offered at the same price as the replaced 1GB data bundle at R149. 

Rain’s “One Plan Package” prepaid mobile data offering of R50 for a 1GB bundle remains the most affordable when compared to the offers from other MNOs (Mobile Network Operators) and MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators).  

“This development should have a positive impact on customers’ pockets as they are paying less compared to similar data bundles and increases choice,” said Icasa.

The report also revealed that the cost of out-of-bundle data had halved at both MTN and Vodacom, from 99c per Megabyte a year ago to 49c per Megabyte in the first quarter of this year. This was still two thirds more expensive than Telkom Mobile, which has charged 29c per Megabyte throughout this period (see graph below).

Meanwhile, from having positioned itself as consumer champion in recent years, Cell C has fallen on hard times, image-wise: it is by far the most expensive mobile network for out-of-bundle data, at R1.10 per Megabyte. Its prices have not budged in the past year.

The report highlights the disparities between the haves and have-nots in the dramatically plummeting cost of data per Megabyte as one buys bigger and bigger bundles on a 30-day basis (see graph below).

For 20 Gigabyte bundles, all mobile operators are in effect charging 4c per Megabyte. Only at that level do costs come in at under Rain’s standard tariffs regardless of use.

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Qualcomm wins 5G as Apple and Intel cave in

A flurry of announcements from three major tech players ushered in a new mobile chip landscape, wrItes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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Last week’s shock announcement by Intel that it was canning its 5G modem business leaves the American market wide open to Qualcomm, in the wake of the latter winning a bruising patent war with Apple.

Intel Corporation announced its intention to “exit the 5G smartphone modem business and complete an assessment of the opportunities for 4G and 5G modems in PCs, internet of things devices and other data-centric devices”.

Intel said it would also continue to invest in its 5G network infrastructure business, sharpening its focus on a market expected to be dominated by Huawei, Nokia and Ericsson.

Intel said it would continue to meet current customer commitments for its existing 4G smartphone modem product line, but did not expect to launch 5G modem products in the smartphone space, including those originally planned for launches in 2020. In other words, it would no longer be supplying chips for iPhones and iPads in competition with Qualcomm.

“We are very excited about the opportunity in 5G and the ‘cloudification’ of the network, but in the smartphone modem business it has become apparent that there is no clear path to profitability and positive returns,” said Intel CEO Bob Swan. “5G continues to be a strategic priority across Intel, and our team has developed a valuable portfolio of wireless products and intellectual property. We are assessing our options to realise the value we have created, including the opportunities in a wide variety of data-centric platforms and devices in a 5G world.”

The news came immediately after Qualcomm and Apple issued a joint announced of an agreement to dismiss all litigation between the two companies worldwide. The settlement includes a payment from Apple to Qualcomm, along with a six-year license agreement, and a multiyear chipset supply agreement.

Apple had previously accused Qualcomm of abusing its dominant position in modem chips for smartphones and charging excessive license fees. It ordered its contract manufacturers, first, to stop paying Qualcomm for the chips, and then to stop using the chips altogether, turning instead to Intel.
With Apple paying up and Intel pulling out, Qualcomm is suddenly in the pound seats. It shares hit their highest levels in five years after the announcements.

Qualcomm said in a statement: “As we lead the world to 5G, we envision this next big change in cellular technology spurring a new era of intelligent, connected devices and enabling new opportunities in connected cars, remote delivery of health care services, and the IoT — including smart cities, smart homes, and wearables. Qualcomm Incorporated includes our licensing business, QTL, and the vast majority of our patent portfolio.”

Meanwhile, Strategy Analytics released a report on the same day that showed Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia will lead the market in core 5G infrastructure, namely Radio Access Network (RAN) equipment, by 2023 as the 5G market takes off. Huawei is expected to have the edge as a result of the vast scale of the early 5G market in China and its long term steady investment in R&D. According to a report entitled “Comparison and 2023 5G Global Market Potential for leading 5G RAN Vendors – Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia”, two outliers, Samsung and ZTE, are expected to expand their global presence alongside emerging vendors as competition heats up.

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