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Although there is no formal law governing VoIP in Angola, existing operator MS Telecom and the new venture Mundo Startel are both operating voice on IP networks. MS Telecom was put together through a process of consolidating existing ISPs. Angolan ISP Nexus bought Ebonet and it was in turn absorbed into Sonangola subsidiary MS Telecom.

MS Telecom operates in the fixed line and Internet markets but is largely focused on corporate customers. It has ambitious roll-out plans including investing in a metropolitan fibre network in Luanda and using WiMAX to connect to this network. Next it will roll-out to three provinces (Cabinda, Benguela and Malanje) using the same combination of fibre and wireless.

All of its voice traffic goes over IP and it sends out international voice through arrangements with Norwegian satellite carrier Taide and Hong Kong-based international IP operator New Dawn. Currently it costs about US78 cents a minute to make a call to Washington DC.

Mundo Startel is still uncertain as to exact launch date but is certain that it will come before the autumn of this year. It is also planning to compete in the fixed line and Internet space and believes that in its first year it will attract 4-5,000 subscribers. However, over 5 years it believes that this figure will rise to 50,000.

It is building a WiMAX network using Alvarion equipment that will start in Luanda and then go along the coast to Benguela before rolling out more widely in other provinces. It plans to offer rates that are 20% cheaper than its competitors and will do so on a full MPLS controlled IP network. In the long-term this will have the potential for IP-TV and video on demand but this will not be possible in the initial phases die to limitations of backhaul bandwidth.

Beyond these licensed operators is a lively grey market. We interviewed two operators who we’ll call Domingo and Inacio: one of them operates in Luanda and the other in the provinces. Domingo whose main business is in Luanda has a monthly average of 60,000 minutes whilst his colleague Inacio does around 35,000 minutes a month.

They are both offering international calls to main destinations for between US25-31 cents a minute. The main users are business people and expatriate workers. There is no line blocking by the incumbent and grey market operators are by all accounts numerous.

But isn’t all this illegal? Domingo smiles:”We do not have legislation in this regard and therefore there is no regulation. It’s considered illegal but they are working on ways to accommodate it. We hear that MS Telecom is doing VoIP. It’s not so easy to stop.”