MNOs develop mobile wallet platforms in Senegal

January 29th, 2015, by

Senegal continues to benefit from solid economic development, with GDP estimated to have grown 4.5% in 2014. This has translated into consistent growth in the telecom market. The dominant player Sonatel, majority-owned by France Telecom and branded as Orange, has effective competition from a small number of operators, particularly in the mobile services sector where Tigo Senegal and Espresso have a 24% and 20% market share, respectively.

Competition in the fixed-line sector was introduced when Sudan’s Sudatel launched services as the second national operator (SNO) in 2009. Operating as Expresso, the company launched mobile services in the same year. The new entrant initially chose CDMA2000 technology to serve both market segments but switched to GSM technology in 2010, including 3G/HSPA mobile broadband.

The licensing of new operators has not always been transparent in Senegal, with the licences of both Sentel and Sudatel were awarded under controversial circumstances. Sentel settled a four-year licence dispute with the government in August 2012.

The mobile market has prospered, helped in part by poor fixed-line infrastructure in some rural areas. Mobile penetration reached about 111% by early 2015. A range of value-added services is available to subscribers, including mobile broadband access, which has become by far the dominant internet platform, accounting for about 93% of all internet accesses.

Development of the internet market until 2007 was hampered by Sonatel’s monopolistic pricing of bandwidth on the only high-capacity international submarine fibre optic cable serving the country. Despite this, broadband services in Senegal are relatively advanced, and a range of IP-based services including broadband TV (IPTV) and converged triple-play services are offered. Sonatel has progressively reduced its prices following the arrival of several competing international fibre optic submarine cables.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Senegal – Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband – Market Insights and Statistics

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Cuba – Normalisation of relations with the US lifts restrictions in telecom equipment imports

January 28th, 2015, by

Cuba still has the lowest mobile phone and internet penetration rates in the region, and is also among the lowest for fixed-line teledensity. Fixed-line and mobile services remain a monopoly of the government-controlled Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba (Etecsa Cubacel).

There remains substantial state control over the right to own and use certain communications services, including the right to access the internet. Whilst the Obama administration has recently relaxed some of the embargo rules pertaining to telecom services, differences between US and Cuban pricing rules effectively preclude US operators from operating in Cuba. Although Raul Castro has made it clear that he will be reducing the size of Cuban state expenditure in favour of private participation in the economy, the genuine liberalisation of Cuba’s telecom sector is expected to be hampered slowly over the coming years. This has been keenly witnessed in the slow development of the submarine cable between Venezuela and Cuba, which in early 2013 was opened for traffic.

BuddeComm’s Cuba – Telecoms, Mobile, and Broadband report profiles the fixed-line, mobile and internet markets in the Caribbean’s largest country. It includes state statistical market data for 2011 as well as developments to February 2014.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Cuba – Telecoms Mobile and Broadband – Analyses and Statistics

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Chinese government loans help fibre network rollouts in Mali

January 27th, 2015, by

Home to one of the world’s most isolated cities, the fabled Timbuktu, and with a generally challenging geography for the provision of telecommunication services, Mali has market penetration rates below African averages in all market sectors except mobile where it is now racing towards the 100% mark. The division of the country during 2012 with Islamists linked to Al-Qaeda controlling the north cast some uncertainty over future developments, but the recent intervention by French and African troops has resolved the situation at least in the short term. The economy contracted in 2012, but GDP growth has recovered and is expected to remain stable at between 5% and 6% from 2014 onwards.

Orange (France Telecom) was extremely successful when it entered the market as the second mobile and fixed-line operator in 2003. The company quickly amassed more than 80% market share, offering converged fixed, mobile and broadband Internet services.

The national telco, Sotelma with its mobile subsidiary Malitel was privatised in 2009 when a 51% stake was sold to Maroc Telecom. The fresh capital and management has enabled the incumbent to compete much more aggressively and regain market share.

A third mobile operator was licensed in 2012, but the local partner defaulted on its share of the licence fee, putting the joint venture in limbo. Building for the network was only begun in 2014. Despite the high mobile penetration in the country, enormous potential exists in the development of mobile broadband services. The introduction of basic mobile data services as well as ADSL and WiMAX has started to accelerate growth in the internet and broadband market, but Mali’s landlocked location makes it dependent on neighbouring countries for international fibre bandwidth, which has kept prices high. Improvements in this sector can be expected from the recent arrival of several new competitive international submarine fibre optic cables in the region.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Mali – Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband – Market Insights and Statistics

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New IXP to improve internet connectivity in Honduras

January 26th, 2015, by

Among the poorest countries in Central America, Honduras has long been plagued by an unstable political framework which has rendered telecom reform difficult. Reform is critical if the country is to address some of the least impressive market statistics in the region.

The country has been on the cusp of bankruptcy for several years, and though a group of banks had written off $3.5 billion of debt in 2007 accumulated debt since then has reached $5 billion. The economic plight has contributed to crises within the government, with no consensus on how to formulate a budget for 2013.

These practical difficulties have had real effects on the country’s telecom market. Fixed-line teledensity at only 7% is significantly lower than the Latin American and Caribbean average. Poor fixed-line infrastructure has been exacerbated by low investment and difficulties in local terrain which have made investment in rural areas unattractive or uneconomical. As a consequence, the internet has been slow to develop in Honduras: DSL and cable modem technologies are available but relatively expensive, while higher speed services are largely restricted to the major urban centres. Nevertheless, the demand for broadband is steadily increasing and there are has been some investment in network upgrades to fibre-based infrastructure, though this is restricted to the main cities. Poor fixed-line connectivity has also inhibited the take-up of VoIP, which would otherwise be a preferred communications medium to expensive domestic calls.

On the positive side, these factors have encouraged consumer take-up of mobile services, a sector where there is lively competition supported by international investment and know-how. As a result, mobile penetration is about 20% above the regional average. Revenue from the mobile sector looks promising in coming years as operators invest in their networks, expanding their reach and upgrading their capabilities to accommodate mobile broadband services. Mobile data as a proportion of overall mobile revenue is likely to double in 2013, though low-end SMS services will continue to account for the bulk of data revenue for some years.

Political developments during the last few years have not facilitated the much-needed reform of legislation governing the telecoms sector. Partly this is due to political stalemate and ineffective legislators, but underlying the difficulties are the close ties between executives at the incumbent Hondutel and key members of the government. Charges of bribery and corruption are rife, and though the framework for reforming the Telecommunications Act remains before the Honduran Congress, there is little prospect of effective change in the short term which would bring about a properly competitive and fair market for some services.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Honduras – Telecoms Mobile and Broadband – Market Insights and Statistics

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Strong economic growth fostering demand for telecom services in Ethiopia

January 23rd, 2015, by

Ethiopia is one of the last countries in Africa allowing its national telco, Ethio Telecom (ETC) a monopoly on all telecom services including fixed, mobile, internet and data communications. This monopolistic control has stifled innovation and retarded expansion. A recently expired management contract with France Telecom dramatically improved performance for ETC though there remain weaknesses in quality of service. Although the contract was considered a first step towards privatisation and the introduction of competition, the government in 2013 again rejected calls to privatise the incumbent and allow market competition, citing the need for higher profits from the company to subsidise an unrelated railway project.

Although there is considerable investment in telecoms services, the sector is heavily regulated and the government has complete control over networks, with virtually unlimited access to the call records of all phone users and to logs of internet traffic. Most of the technologies deployed have been provided by ZTE and Huawei.

With a population of almost 90 million, Ethiopia is Africa’s second most populous country. Although a number of major contracts have been signed with Chinese vendors since into 2013, the country’s mobile penetration remains one of the lowest in the world. Nevertheless, growth is strong and enormous growth potential remains. Albeit from a low base, mobile penetration is rising and the sector continues to benefit from the poor fixed-line infrastructure which has promoted mobile alternatives as the only viable, or robust, telecoms option in many areas.

The country’s broadband market is also set for a boom following massive improvements in international bandwidth, national fibre backbone infrastructure and 3G mobile broadband services. After years of low uptake due to prohibitive pricing, retail prices are now comparable to other markets in the region that are already more developed.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Ethiopia – Telecoms, Mobile Broadband – Market Insights, Statistics and Forecasts

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