3G services expected by end-2013, HSPA mobile broadband on the horizon
This annual report provides a comprehensive overview of trends and developments in Gabon’s telecommunications market. Subjects covered include:
- One of the most penetrated mobile markets in Africa;
- Key statistics;
- Market and industry overviews;
- Government policies affecting the telecoms industry;
- Market liberalisation and regulatory issues;
- Telecoms operators – privatisation, acquisitions, new licences;
- Infrastructure development;
- Major players (fixed, mobile and broadband);
- Internet and broadband development and growth;
- Convergence (voice/data, fixed/wireless/mobile).
- Mobile voice and data markets;
- Average revenue per user.
Gabon remains one of the wealthiest nations in Africa, with the economy largely buttressed by oil revenue. GDP per capita is well above the African average, although a distorted income distribution and poor social indicators are evident. GDP growth of over 6% annually is anticipated through to 2015 at least.
The telecom market was liberalised in 1999 when the government awarded three mobile telephony licences and two Internet Service Provider (ISP) licences and established an independent regulatory authority. Following two unsuccessful attempts, Gabon Telecom was privatised in 2007 when Vivendi-controlled Maroc Telecom bought a 51% stake in the operator.
With competition between three service providers – Zain (formerly Celtel, now Bharti Airtel), Gabon Telecom’s Libertis, and Etisalat’s Moov – Gabon became one of the first countries in Africa to exceed 100% mobile market penetration in 2008. Recently the regulator adjusted its recording of mobile penetration, based on a standard adopted by the French telecom regulator, to account for multiple SIM card use among subscribers. Network operators have been able to maintain higher Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) than their peers in the region.
The 2009 entry of a fourth network, USAN (operated by Bintel under the brand name Azur) into a saturated market triggered a price war that saw revenues and profits dive, forcing the operators to streamline their operations and to look for new income streams. Following more than a year of delays, a licence to offer 3G mobile broadband services was finally awarded in late 2011. Capacity on newly landed submarine cables was negotiated with Gabon Telecom to expedite the deployment of 3G services, which are not expected to be launched until the end of 2013.
In contrast with the mobile market, Gabon’s fixed-line and internet/broadband sectors have remained underdeveloped due to a lack of competition and the resulting high prices. The country has always had sufficient international bandwidth on the SAT-3/WASC/SAFE fibre-optic submarine cable which runs from Portugal via South Africa to the Far East, but this facility has been monopolised by Gabon Telecom. The recent arrival of a second international submarine fibre optic cable (ACE), combined with the anticipated launch of 3G mobile broadband services is expected to bring significant improvements to this sector in coming years.
- One of the highest levels of mobile penetration and ARPU in Africa;
- 3G mobile licence finally awarded, services expected by end-2013;
- Second international fibre optic cable lands;
- Profiles of major players in all market sectors;
- Gabon Telecom launches mobile payments platform;
- Operator data to Q2 2013, market developments to October 2013.
Estimated market penetration rates in Gabon’s telecoms sector – end-2013
(Source: BuddeComm based on various sources)
Companies covered in this report:
- Gabon Telecom (Maroc Telecom, Libertis);
- Bharti Airtel (Zain);
- Moov (Telecel Gabon);
- Bintel (USAN, Azur);
- Internet Gabon;
- IBN Corporate.