Virus impact over each market - telecom operators, government agencies and regulators' responses - revised forecasts for the next 5 years.
During the last few years Libya has struggled to rebuild its economy and infrastructure following disruption caused by the civil war and the subsequent political unrest. Much of the telecom infrastructure was destroyed or stolen, including about a quarter of the country’s mobile tower sites. Reconstruction efforts continue to be stymied by political and military disturbances which affect much of the country, while with two opposing administrations, in Tripoli and Tobruk, there is no consensus as to how to rebuild infrastructure on a national scale despite attempts to reach a political solution. Nevertheless, progress is being made in rebuilding infrastructure, and this has resulted in a resurgence in the number of connected fixed-lines as large numbers of the population are again able to access services.
In early 2015 the state telco (along with many other businesses) decamped to Malta, and since then the two rival administrations have fought in the Maltese courts to assume control of the company. The economy, which largely collapsed in 2013 and 2014 with dramatic falls in GDP, showed remarkable growth in 2017 and 2018, though this was based on a very dire base, while growth in 2019 is expected to be a more moderate 4.3%. Although economic uncertainties for some years stymied the ability of telcos to invest in infrastructure, since mid-2018 the incumbent telco LPTIC has carried through with its $1.7 billion investment program, itself a sign of its confidence in the return of social and political stability.
Under the Gaddafi regime, virtually the entire telecom and internet sector was in government hands, with the unique situation wherein three government-owned mobile networks competed against each other. One of these networks, Libyana, was to have been privatised through an IPO in late 2014, though instead elements of the operator’s mobile network were split off to create a separate operator serving the eastern part of the country.
A new Telecommunications Law has been drafted and the government is in the process of establishing an independent regulatory authority. Since the downfall of the old regime, 25 ISPs have already been licensed to compete with the government-owned former monopoly, as well as 23 VSAT operators.
The destruction to telecom infrastructure aside, it remains superior to those in most other African countries. Considerable investment had been made by the former government in a next-generation national fibre optic backbone network. There was considerable expansion of DSL and WiMAX broadband services, and new international fibre connections and upgrades made to existing ones. Libya also had one of Africa’s first Fibre-to-the-Premises (FttP) deployments. The first terabit international fibre optic cable landed in the country in 2010, followed by a second in 2013. Investments into telecommunications infrastructure totalling $10 billion were earmarked for the 15 years to 2020, though given the civil strife in recent years it is difficult to say how much of this has been put into effect.
With one of the highest market penetration rates in Africa, the mobile voice market is supported by some of the lowest tariffs on the continent and one of the highest per capita GDP levels. Opportunities remain in the broadband sector where market penetration is still relatively low. So far, 4G services have only a limited reach and thus the development of mobile broadband has been slow. Fixed-line penetration has fallen significantly because of the war but is also expected to see a renaissance, including fibre, as the demand for very high-speed broadband increases.
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.
Al-Madar, Libyana, LibyaPhone, Libya Post and Telecommunication Information Technology (LPTIC), General Posts and Telecommunications Company (GPTC), Hatif Libya, Libya International Telecom Company (LITC), Libya Telecom & Technology (LTT), LAP Green Networks, Gateway, Thuraya, Phoenicia Group, Hermes Communications, Wiseband, Bentley Walker, Virtual Dimensions, Ericsson, Nokia, Alcatel-Lucent, Huawei Technologies, ZTE, Trans-Sahara.
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