3rd mobile licence bidding in Rwanda marks the re-emergence of Orascom interest in Sub-Saharan Africa


Four telecommunications companies have emerged as serious contenders for the third national telecommunications operator license after presenting their bids to Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA) on Tuesday.

Larrycom for Investment, Millicom, Zain and Telecel Globe Ltd, had faced potential competition from thirteen other companies which bought bidding documents but did not submit their bids. Telecel Globe represents the interests of Orascom which had previously sold off most of its mobile assets in Sub-Saharan Africa and announced that it was no longer interested in the continent.

Larrycom for Investment is a privately owned owned Sudanese Company with offshore offices in Dubai, Beirut, and Egypt. It owns a 15% share in MTN Sudan and a 5% share in the telco incumbent Sudatel that is now owned by Expresso.

MTN Rwandacel and Rwandatel, the only players in Rwanda's mobile market are enjoying exclusive duopoly rights granted by cabinet in 2003. But their operational licenses expire at the end of the year. The government is liberalizing the telecommunication industry and allowing new players into the market and it is set to grant a 15-year fixed and mobile license to a third telecommunications company.

Col. Diogène Mudenge, the Director General RURA, said that technical and financial evaluations for the bidders will be completed by the end of October and the licensing of the preferred bidder is in December 2008 after approval by Parliament.

Prof. Romain Murenzi, the Minister in the President's Office in Charge of Science, Technology, Research and ICT said that government is strongly focusing on three areas of investment which include voice, data and video. Murenzi said that the preferred bidder should be able to boost the telecommunications sector in the country through the increase of bandwidth, storage capacity and capacity for analysis.

Currently Rwanda's mobile penetration is estimated at one million subscribers, around 10 percent of the estimated total population of 10 million. Of this, MTN Rwandacel alone is said to have almost 600,000 subscribers. But Mudenge said that government is targeting at least two million subscribers for each company, a total of six million mobile users in the country by 2012.

Other unsuccessful bidders were Smile Telecoms Ltd, Vitel Holdings Ltd, Africa Digital Investments, Forward Venture, Vivacell Africa Ltd, Easy Mobile Communication Ltd and Essar Communications Ltd.

The New Times