TELECOMS

MTN Rwanda invests $100m to improve rural access

Telecommunications firm MTN Rwanda plans to invest $100 million to improve rural access and increase internet broadband services this year to counter new competition, the company's chief executive said on Friday.

The Rwandan unit of Africa's biggest mobile company by subscribers, MTN, said it aimed to attract 700,000 new users this year by increasing coverage and dropping rates. MTN has over one million customers in the tiny central African country, representing a 90% market share over its only rival, Rwandatel, which launched in December last year, chief executive Themba Khumalo said.

Khumalo said MTN Rwanda has laid over 200km of fibre-optic cable around the capital Kigali in preparation for connection to the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (Eassy) in September 2010. Project planners say Eassy will eventually link 21 African countries with a cheaper, high-speed Internet. This year, MTN Rwanda will lay 1,000km of fibre-optic cable to connect Rwanda's four provinces, he said.

Later in 2009, Belgian-owned telecoms company Millicom International Cellular is expected to enter the market as the third mobile operator.

MTN Rwanda is exploring the potential of mobile telephone banking, but Khumalo would not give details. Mobile phone banking has proved popular in Kenya where two operators now offer services.

Reuters

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