DRC’s mobile market consolidation with sale of Tigo Congo to Orange
Following a 30-year dictatorship between 1967 and 1997, the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) has suffered from several wars and considerable social upheaval. There remain violent conflicts in the eastern part of the country, exacerbated by considerable corruption within the government as well as by ethnic tensions resulting from disputes among and within bordering countries which have spilled over in the DRC itself. These circumstances have made it difficult for the government to extend its control effectively in these regions.
The economy is heavily dependent on revenue from the mining sector though much economic activity occurs informally and is not reflected in GDP data. The global economic crisis reduced GDP growth to around 3% in 2009, but it has returned to above 8%. It is expected to remain stable at that level for the next two to three years, largely supported by mining, though the accuracy of monitored economic growth is questionable.
Largely due to the country’s troubled history, the national telecom system remains one of the least developed in the region. The national operator, SCPT, theoretically has monopoly rights under 1970 legislation. However, recognising the need for telecommunications infrastructure, the government is only loosely regulating the sector. SCPT has little capital to invest, and so much of the investment in infrastructure is from donor countries or from the efforts of foreign (particularly Chinese) companies and banks.
Mobile network operators are the principal providers of basic telecom services. By 2001, some 16 private operators had been granted mobile telephony licences and the subscriber base grew rapidly. The proliferation of networks, and the poor monitoring of also spectrum assets, caused frequent problems with spectrum shortages, interference and compatibility issues. As a result, the mobile sector has since consolidated. In the latest round of consolidation, Orange Congo completed its acquisition of Tigo Congo in April 2016, which greatly increased its market share. In late 2015 Yozma Timeturns eventually launched services, having been awarded a mobile licence in 2009.
Development of the DRC’s internet and broadband market has been held back by the poorly developed national and international infrastructure. However, the country was finally connected to low-cost, high-quality international bandwidth through the WACS submarine fibre optic cable in 2013, and SCPT is rolling out a fibre optic national backbone network with support from China. International bandwidth is still limited, and as a result internet pricing is high and backhaul capacity (for both fixed and mobile internet services) is low. An alternative terrestrial international fibre connection exists via neighbouring countries. Broadband access is provided by 3G mobile services and wireless networks using WiMAX and EV-DO technology. The country’s first commercial LTE networks are imminent. Mobile operators are keen to develop mobile data services, capitalising on the growth of smartphones usage, but in mid-2016 their attempts to dramatically increase mobile internet pricing was criticised by the regulator.
- Orange Group completes acquisition of Tigo DRC;
- Smile Communications planning LTE launch later in 2016;
- MoU signed between Telecom Congo and SCPT to establish a fibre link between Brazzaville and Kinshasa;
- Al Yah 3 and AMOS-6 satellites expected to deliver broadband services across the DRC in 2017;
- Government calls for unidentified SIM cards to be deactivated;
- Connection to WACS international fibre optic cable finally completed;
- Second stage of the ACE submarine cable build gets underway;
- Government proposes increase in tax for telcos to 3% of revenue;
- Bharti Airtel signs sell and lease-back deal with Helios Towers Africa for its 950 of telecoms towers;
- Regulator in June 2016 calls mobile internet price hikes illegal;
- First LTE network set to launch following government consultations with wireless operators;
- Vodacom launches an Instant Schools for Africa initiative;
- Africell takes Vodacom, Tigo and Airtel to court over their refusal to interconnect networks;
- Yozma Timeturns launches mobile services;
- CWN rekindles dispute with its Vodacom partner;
- Airtel increases investment undertaking for DRC to $550 million, partners with BGFIBank Group to make its Airtel Money service available to bank customers.
Market penetration rates in the DRC’s telecoms sector – 2015 (e)
|Penetration of telecoms services:|
|Mobile SIM (population)|
Companies mentioned in this report:
Vodacom Congo, Bharti Airtel (Zain, Celtel), Millicom (Tigo), Congo Chine Telecom (CCT, Orange Congo), Africell (Lintel), Société Congolais des Postes et des Télécommunications (SCPT, OCPT), Tatem Telecom, Gecamines, AfriTel (Starcel), Standard Telecom, Telecel International, Africanus.net, Interconnect (Vodanet), Microcom, Cielux Telecom, Global Broadband Solution (GBS), Afrinet, Congo Korea Telecom, Geolink, ICP Net, Orioncom, Paconet (Pan African Communication Network), RagaNet, Roffe Hi-Tech, Sattel, Société Internet Congolaise (SIC), Sogetel, Liquid Telecom, O3b Networks, Smile Telecom, Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Huawei Technologies, ZTE.