Development within Benin’s telecom market continues to be restricted by the poor condition of the country’s fixed-line infrastructure. The use of fixed-line voice and internet services is low, and consequently little revenue is derived from these sectors. Mobile networks account for almost all internet connections, and also carry most voice traffic. As such, it is this sector which is attracting most investment among the two remaining operators, following the closure of services from Glo Mobile and Libercom in 2018.
However, progress is being made in developing fibre infrastructure, partly by the ISP Isocel and partly by support from the World Bank and the government which is aiming to extend broadband more widely and so develop digital inclusion. Other schemes include the government’s Smart Gouv program by which all services can be accessible from a single point of entry.
Improved international internet connectivity has also contributed to a reduction in end-user pricing. This additional bandwidth has assisted MTN Benin and Moov to expand their networks and provided the necessary backhaul capacity to support the growing use of mobile data applications and services, including m-commerce and m-banking. Improved telecoms infrastructure has the potential to transform many areas of the country’s economy, bringing a greater proportion of the population into the orbit of internet commerce and connectivity.
The fixed-line monopoly operator be.Telecoms (rebranded from Bénin Télécoms in October 2015) has also expanded its fixed-wireless and DSL-based broadband services in recent years, extending its national fibre backbone and international fibre connections. Long-established plans to privatise the company have thus far come to nought, though through the government’s strategy to sell of the company’s assets the mobile services unit Libercom was spun off and disbanded, with its subscriber base being migrated to MTN’s network.
Although fixed-line internet services have been available in Benin since 1995, access is limited to a small proportion of the population. Fixed-line internet represents only a small fraction of all accesses, with most connections being made via mobile networks. To address these limitations, the government and regulator have been engaged in an ICT development program which aims to provide telecoms services to 80% of the country, mostly via mobile infrastructure.
BuddeComm notes that the outbreak of the Coronavirus in 2020 is having a significant impact on production and supply chains globally. During the coming year the telecoms sector to various degrees is likely to experience a downturn in mobile device production, while it may also be difficult for network operators to manage workflows when maintaining and upgrading existing infrastructure. Overall progress towards 5G may be postponed or slowed down in some countries.
On the consumer side, spending on telecoms services and devices is under pressure from the financial effect of large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes. However, the crucial nature of telecom services, both for general communication as well as a tool for home-working, will offset such pressures. In many markets the net effect should be a steady though reduced increased in subscriber growth.
Although it is challenging to predict and interpret the long-term impacts of the crisis as it develops, these have been acknowledged in the industry forecasts contained in this report.
The report also covers the responses of the telecom operators as well as government agencies and regulators as they react to the crisis to ensure that citizens can continue to make optimum use of telecom services. This can be reflected in subsidy schemes and the promotion of tele-health and tele-education, among other solutions.
MTN, Moov (Telecel), Libercom, BBCom (Bell Benin), Glo Mobile (Globacom), be.Telecoms (Bénin Télécoms, formerly OPT), Kanakoo (BeninNet), Isocel, EIT, FirstNet, Arts Bobo, Sobiex Informatique, Global Trading Agency, Afripa Telecom, Thuraya, Nitel, Suburban Telecom, CEB.
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