Movicel, the second largest cellular operator in Angola, has committed to providing mobile coverage to all provinces in the country said Movicel’s Chief Technology Officer, José Luis de Lara, told News Update's Mapara Syed. The operator currently has coverage in the capital city Luanda and six provinces, which are Bengo, Cuanza North, Cabinda, Benguela, Huambo and Huila. "Today we have coverage in nearly 80 percent of all the major places in Angola and between 20 to 25 percent of the whole country," said de Lara. "But we are hoping to catch up with Unitel in terms of coverage and by August we hope to have achieved this."

Unitel is the largest mobile operator in Angola and uses GSM technology while Movicel has adopted a CDMA system and is currently the largest CDMA operator in Africa with 250, 000 subscribers to date. Movicel is the mobile subsidiary of the incumbent operator, Angola Telecom, which owns 99 percent of the company while the remaining 1 percent is owned by the post office.

"Consolidated peace in the country has led to growth in all areas but particularly the telecoms sector, which has seen the most improvement," said de Lara. As a result of this growth, "we plan to have around 700, 000 subscribers by the end of 2006 and hopefully between 1 to 2 million customers in five years time." De Lara is confident that this can be achieved due to Movicel’s technology approach. "Today we are the advanced option offering quality services," he said. "We are definitely the most advanced option in Angola because we are a mobile ISP as well as a cellular voice provider. Presently, we are implementing 3G technology using CDMA 1x technology but we hope to implement the more advanced 1xEV-DO variant by the end of the year."

However, Movicel’s sophisticated technology has led to higher than average ARPU levels for Africa, at over USD50 a month. Nevertheless, de Lara believes that the indication so far is that the market still has room to grow. One area of the market that Movicel may want to see some growth in is the SMS market. "SMS is not that big. We get about 50,000 per day," said de Lara. Movicel charge 8c per text message, in addition to free and premium rate text messages.