Virus impact over each market - telecom operators, government agencies and regulators' responses - revised forecasts for the next 5 years.
During the last decade Chad’s economy has been dominated by oil exports, and as a result economic growth has been adversely affected by the falling prices for the commodity on international markets. Recent economic difficulties have been exacerbated by civil unrest and by an influx of refugees from neighbouring countries.
The country remains one of the least developed on the continent, while telecom infrastructure is particularly poor, with penetration rates in all sectors – fixed, mobile and internet – well below African averages. Nevertheless, despite difficult operating conditions, large scale poverty and low spending power, Chad’s telecom market offers some potential for investors to develop services given the low starting base.
The tax on mobile operators has been increased in stages in recent years, from 4% in 2014 to 7% in 2016. In January 2018 it was increased again, to 9%. Of this, the Treasury received 4%, the regulator 2.5%, the Information and Communication Technologies Development Agency (ADETIC) 1.5%, the National School of Information and Communication Technologies (ENASTIC) 0.6% and ANSCIE 0.4%. In addition to this tax an 18% excise duty was introduced in 2016 on telecom services, which resulted in lower usage among subscribers and consequently a negative impact on operator revenue. This tax was removed under the 2020 Finance Act.
The two main operators Tigo Chad and Airtel Chad have invested in infrastructure and have become the main providers of voice and data services. However, the difficult economic conditions of the country, compounded by taxes on telecom services which have adversely affected customer spend and operator revenue, encouraged these players to consider exiting the market. Tigo Chad’s parent company Millicom International entered into discussions with Orange Group in April 2017 and with Econet in the following October regarding a potential sale, while in May 2017 Bharti Aircom announced that Chad was one of its regional markets which it considered offloading. Tigo Chad was sold to Maroc Telecom in June 2019 (though the unit retains the Tigo brand for now), marking the latter’s entry into a market which it has shown an interest in since 2014.
The mobile sector has developed steadily under the auspices of these two operators. The national telco and fixed-line operator Sotel Tchad (ST) operates the country’s third mobile network, as Salam Mobile, though it is mainly focussed on voice services since it depends on GPRS and EDGE technologies (which can provide only basic mobile data services). The country’s first 3G/4G mobile licence was awarded in April 2014.
Chad finally gained access to international fibre bandwidth in 2012. Its national backbone infrastructure remains underdeveloped. The World Bank-funded Central African Backbone (CAB) project takes in Chad, while the country is also party to a Trans-Saharan Backbone project which will link a fibre cable to Nigeria and Algeria. Investment in the national backbone is continuing and though progress across all 12 sectors has been hampered by delays a major link was opened in September 2019.
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.
Sotel Tchad, TchadNet, Airtel Chad, Tigo Chad, Tchad Mobile (Orascom), Maroc Telecom, Sitcom, Salam Mobile
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