Rwanda Boosts Telecom Market With Bids for New Third Operator


Rwanda is set to invite bids for a third national telecom operator. The interest in a third operator comes as the Government targets having at least 5 million phone GSM subscribers by 2012.

Addressing a regular presidential press conference last week (18th June) Rwanda's President Paul Kagame told journalists that already some four companies have expressed interest informally. The four companies include Orascom, an unidentified Israel company, Korea Telecom and the Kuwait based Zain International which operates the Celtel brand in sub-Saharan Africa.

KT is South Korea's top integrated wired and wireless telecommunication service provider. On the other hand Orascom Telecom is a leading mobile telecommunications company operating in six emerging markets. It has a population under license of 430 million with an average penetration of mobile telephony across all markets of approximately 40 per cent.

Celtel is the only telecom operating on the East African turf with a completely border free network in Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. Kagame said,"By the end of the month we shall officially announce invitation for bids for the 3rd license for mobile and fixed line telecommunication. I have been informally approached on different occasion by these companies. If they are interested they are open to come and express their interest formally. "

Prof. Romain Murenzi, the Minister in the Office of the President in Charge of Science, Technology, Research and ICT said that in three or four months a tender process will then commence and all the interested parties can defend their bids.

The 3rd license will be preferably awarded to a GSM operator who will offer both data and voice wireless networks. Currently Rwanda has only one GSM operator, MTN Rwanda. The other operator Rwandatel uses.

According to Prof. Murenzi mobile phone subscribers in Rwanda will hit the 5 million mark by 2012. If the projected targets are reached, it means that Rwanda will be the first African country in Africa to reach 50 per cent of the population being mobile subscribers and 100 percent of eligible users being over the age of over 16 years.

Rwanda's telecom industry is monopolized by MTN Rwanda with almost 95 per cent of the market share to a population of over 8 million. The spoils are left for the second operator called Rwandatel. MTN Rwanda has almost 600,000 subscribers.

Last year the MTN Group increased it shareholding in MTN Rwanda 40 per cent to 55 per cent. The additional 15 per cent stake was acquired from Tristar Investments, which remains a significant 35 per cent shareholder after the transaction.

Rwandatel has signed a US$ 35m investment agreement with Huawei Technologies to roll-out a new GSM and 3G UMTS network.

The Monitor Kampala