Archive for July, 2017

Libya sees in its first LTE network

Thursday, July 20th, 2017

Libya’s civil war has crippled the country’s economy and disrupted its telecommunications sector. Considerable telecom infrastructure has been destroyed or stolen, including about a quarter of the country’s mobile tower sites. Reconstruction efforts continue to be stymied by political and military disturbances which affect much of the country, while with two opposing administrations, in Tripoli and Tobruk, there is no consensus as to how to rebuild infrastructure on a national scale despite attempts to reach a political solution.

As a result of these difficulties, and of heightened national security issues, telecom services have been regularly disrupted, particularly in the eastern region of the country. In June 2017 In June 2017 mobile and landline services were restored in Sirte after these had been disconnected by Islamic State (a group ejected from the city after a two-year occupation). As a security measure, the main mobile network provider Libyana in July 2017 disconnected SIM cards owned by foreigners, on the basis that criminals and radical groups had been using the company’s network for their activities. Reregistering a SIM card now requires proof of ID.

In early 2015 the state telco (along with many other businesses) decamped to Malta, and since then both rival administrations have fought in the Maltese courts in an attempt to assume control of the company. The collapsing economy, which has seen GDP fall dramatically in recent years and looks set to continue into 2018, has stymied the ability of telcos to invest in infrastructure.

Under the Gaddafi regime, virtually the entire telecom and internet sector was in government hands, with the unique situation wherein three government-owned mobile networks were expected to compete with each other. One of these networks, Libyana, was to have been privatised through an IPO in late 2014, though instead elements of the operator’s mobile network were split off to create a separate operator serving the eastern part of the country.

A new Telecommunications Law has been drafted and the government is in the process of establishing an independent regulatory authority. Since the downfall of the old regime, 25 ISPs have already been licensed to compete with the government-owned former monopoly, as well as 23 VSAT operators.

Despite destruction to telecom infrastructure, it remains superior to those in most other African countries. Massive investments had been made by the former government into a next-generation national fibre optic backbone network. There was considerable expansion of DSL and WiMAX broadband services, and new international fibre connections and upgrades made to existing ones. Libya also had one of Africa’s first Fibre-to-the-Premises (FttP) deployments. The first terabit international fibre optic cable landed in the country in 2010, followed by a second in 2013. Investments into telecommunications infrastructure totalling S10 billion were earmarked for the 15 years to 2020, though given the civil strife in recent years it is difficult to say how much of this will be put into effect.

With one of the highest market penetration rates in Africa, the mobile voice market is approaching saturation, supported by some of the lowest tariffs on the continent and one of the highest per capita GDP levels. Opportunities remain in the broadband sector where market penetration is still relatively low. So far only one of the mobile networks has launched third-generation (3G) broadband services. Fixed-line penetration has fallen significantly as a result of the war but is also expected to see a renaissance, including fibre, as the demand for very high-speed broadband increases.

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

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Somalia’s telcos reinstate mobile internet services

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

Somalia’s telecom market has managed to keep going despite the lack of guidance from a central government or sector regulatory since 1991, when a dictatorial regime was overthrown, and despite the efforts of the Al Shabaab Islamic militant group to close down internet services. Through the anarchy which continues to disrupt many areas of the country, the telecoms market, dominated by the competitive mobile sector where seven networks compete for customers, has flourished. Some of these mobile services operators also offer fixed-line and internet services. There are no regulations or taxes, and no service obligations. Tariffs are among the lowest in Africa. However, the absence of regulation has also led to problems with frequency spectrum coordination and interconnection between networks. To address this, Parliament in July 2017 began to consider a draft National Communications Bill aimed at setting a legal and regulatory framework for the telecoms sector.

The country’s access to international submarine fibre optic cables was delayed until 2014, largely due to concerns resulting from piracy as well as to social difficulties and political anarchy. The landing of the first cable ended Somalia’s dependence on expensive satellite connectivity for internet access. Consequently, Somalia’s Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have been able to provide much improved services, though international bandwidth remains very limited. This is set to change with two key submarine cables: the 1,500km G2A cable (with a terrestrial connection to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, expected to be ready for service at the end of 2018), and the 5,500km DARE cable, expected to be made available in May 2018.

There are also fibre-optic broadband links connecting Somalia across the Kenya border and linking to directly into Hormuud Telecom’s network.

The forming of a new government in 2017 has given rise to hopes that the country may stabilise and become more attractive to foreign investment, which is needed to take the telecoms and broadband sector to the next level. The new government is beginning to regulate the sector and is planning to issue new spectrum licences that will allow the operation of high-speed mobile broadband technologies.

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

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Panama’s additional cable connectivity to improve broadband from 2019

Tuesday, July 18th, 2017

Panama’s economic prospects remain promising, with GDP growth during the last few years being steady at between 5% and 6% annually. This growth has had a positive effect on the country’s telecom market, which has also grown steadily and attracted considerable investment from significant international operators including Telefónica, America Móvil and Liberty Global. Liberty Global in 2016 acquired Cable & Wireless Communications, which owns the incumbent telco Cable & Wireless Panama. The deal has enabled Liberty Global to combine CWP’s businesses in Panama and the Caribbean with its own operations in Chile and Puerto Rico. The merged operator provides improved bundled service offerings and has stimulated competition with the other regional players Digicel and Claro.

Telecom revenue has broached $1 billion during the last few years, and continues to increase steadily, with mobile services and broadband being the fastest growing sectors.

Panama’s fixed-line teledensity is well below average for the region, though it is rising steadily from a relatively low base, largely due to alternative operators making use of cable or fixed-wireless networks.

Competition remains limited in the broadband sector, where the incumbent CWP has resisted unbundling its local network and as a result has secured a virtual monopoly in the delivery of DSL access. The only cross-platform competition is from cable modem and WiMAX services.

The mobile sector has flourished in recent years, and the popularity of customers having multiple SIM cards has pushed mobile penetration rates above 174%, considerably higher than the regional average. The arrival of two new mobile players resulted in additional competition and steep price reductions which have shaken the market. Digicel Panamá launched operations in 2008, followed by América Móvil’s Claro unit in 2009. This ended the duopoly long enjoyed by Cable & Wireless Panamá and Telefónica’s Movistar.

Internet penetration has grown in recent years and is expected to do so steadily further into 2017 as a result of consumer demand for services as well as the stimulus of the government’s Internet for All project. In 2010, Panama became one of the first countries in the world to offer free wireless broadband access nationwide. The National Internet Network project does not compete with private broadband providers, because its aim is digital inclusion and not the provision of broadband access.

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

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Chad’s telecom market showing steady revenue growth

Monday, July 17th, 2017

During the last decade Chad’s economy has been dominated by oil exports, and as a result economic growth has been adversely affected by falling price of the commodity on international markets since late 2014. Economic difficulties, with a sharp fall in GDP recorded for 2016, have been exacerbated by civil unrest and by an influx of refugees from neighbouring countries. Declining revenue has encouraged the government to attempt to renegotiate the terms of licences which only grant it 12.5% of revenue from oil exports, while it has also endeavoured to access oil money held in an escrow account set up by the World Bank and intended to be used to alleviate poverty.

The country remains one of the least developed on the continent, while telecom infrastructure is particularly poor, with penetration rates in all sectors – fixed, mobile and internet –well below African averages. The two main operators Millicom International and Bharti Aircom have invested in infrastructure and have become the main providers of voice and data services. However, the difficult economic conditions of the country, compounded by a new 18% tax on telecom services which has adversely affected customer spend and consequently on operator revenue, have encouraged these players to consider exiting the market. Millicom earlier in 2017 was reported to be in discussions with Orange Group regarding a potential sale, while in May 2017 Bharti Aircom announced that Chad was one of its regional markets which it considered offloading. Nevertheless, despite difficult operating conditions, large scale poverty and low spending power, Chad’s telecom market offers some potential for investors to develop services given the low starting base.

The mobile sector has developed steadily under the auspices of Airtel Chad and Tigo Chad, while the national telco and fixed-line operator, Sotel Tchad (ST) operates the country’s third mobile network, as Salam Mobile. Salam Mobile is mainly focussed on voice services since its dependence on GPRS and EDGE technologies offer only basic mobile data services. The country’s first 3G/4G mobile licence was awarded in April 2014.

Chad finally gained access to international fibre bandwidth in 2012, but it still lacks a national backbone infrastructure to support efficient broadband services. However, the World Bank-funded Central African Backbone (CAB) project has made progress, and Chad is also party to a Trans-Saharan Backbone project which will link a fibre cable to Nigeria and Algeria.

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

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Nigeria’s broadband sector to benefit from five more InfraCo licences

Friday, July 14th, 2017

Nigeria has one of the largest telecom markets in Africa, supported by the second largest economy on the continent. The sector has much potential for growth and so has attracted considerable foreign investment. Market liberalisation measures in recent years have led to hundreds of companies, many of them small and localised, being set up to provide a range of telecom and value-added services.

The regulator has licensed two regional infrastructure companies (InfraCos) to build a national broadband network and offer capacity to all service providers on a non-discriminatory, open-access and price-regulated basis. An additional five InfraCo licenses are expected to be awarded later in 2017.

Several microwave and fibre-based national backbone networks are being rolled out by various companies. Nitel’s monopoly on international fibre bandwidth via the SAT-3/WASC submarine cable system ended in 2009 when Globacom’s Glo-1 cable landed in the country. The landing of additional submarine cables (supported by improved domestic fibre infrastructure) has delivered a further boost to the country’s developing broadband sector by improving bandwidth and reducing prices for end-users.

Nigeria has Africa’s largest mobile market, with about 149 million subscribers and a penetration rate of 107%. The rapid growth in the number of subscribers led to problems with network congestion and quality of service, and the resulting fines imposed by the regulator encouraged network operators to invest in transmission infrastructure. Although GSM technology still dominates there is a growing shift to services based on LTE.

Efforts are also being made to encourage network sharing and to outsource the management of tower infrastructure to third parties. There remains considerable growth potential in rural areas where mobile penetration is lower. Competition of voice pricing has encouraged operators to develop new revenue streams from mobile broadband and data services, including m-payments and m-banking.

Although the market is one of the most competitive in Africa, the regulator has applied a price floor on voice and data tariffs in a bid to prevent the dominant operators from squeezing competitors. This price floor was reduced in November 2016 but swiftly retracted.

The country’s broadband sector has seen considerable consolidation among players, from over 400 ISPs in 2012 to fewer than 90 by mid-2017. Most internet connections are via mobile networks though there are also a number of WiMAX operators.

Supported by the expansion of national fibre backbone networks, platforms such as e-commerce, online banking and e-payments, e-health, e-learning and e-government are evolving rapidly. The government has continued with its plan to increase broadband penetration to 36% by 2018 and to enable over 80% of the population to be able to receive mobile broadband services.

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

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