CAMTEL FACES LIMITED COMPETITION WITH THE ARRIVAL OF PASTEL

Telecoms

  A new operator - Pastel - has been launched in Cameroon in the areas of internet, data services and fixed line telephony. However there are limitations on the degree to which it can compete on fixed lines. The promoters of the new company denounced the advantages that the the incumbent Camtel still possesses.

Advertising from the new company dominates the main road's into Cameroon's main cities. Thus while users wait for one or more mobile competitors, they now have a fixed line competitor. Currently national telecoms infrastructure is in poor condition and coverage does not extend to outlying districts. Where there is coverage, it's often not possible to get a line. In Douala alone there are 8,000 customers waiting for a line.

This was distressing situation identified by Pastel's Président-Directeur Général who pointed out that in the four years of effective liberalisation its two mobile operators (MTN and Orange) had delivered 1.5 million mobile connections. By contrast, Camtel (and its predecessors) in its 30 year existence had only delivered 70,000 fixed lines. Sadly fixed line telephony was the poor orphan of the impact of liberalisation despite the poor service offered by Camtel.

However in December 2003 the regulator ART gave a licence to Pastel to provide among other things VSAT, internet, data services and virtual private networks. It specified that the latter needed to be removed from the public network. However Pastel points out that companies whose workers need to interconnect using a variety of devices will need to so using interconnections with other networks. It believes that this limits it to only a small part of the corporate sector. Nevertheless the company has ambitions to cover 60 cities and towns with its own primary network and all "communes" with a secondary network. PDG Job believes that Camtel should be privatised and that it should lose the historic advantages it has as an incumbent.

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