Virus impact over each market - telecom operators, government agencies and regulators' responses - revised forecasts for the next 5 years.
Mali has a challenging geography for the provision of telecommunication services, with large tracks of the country being sparsely populated desert. Many settlements are hard to reach, making them difficult and expensive to service with effective backhaul infrastructure. Security issues have also been a concern, leading to delays in the national backbone network being built by Huawei.
Compounding these difficulties is the fact that underinvestment in fixed-line networks has meant that telecom infrastructure is barely adequate to serve consumer needs in most towns and is largely absent in many areas of the country. In addition, a combination of poverty, high illiteracy and low PC use has led to a very low take-up of fixed-line internet services. In common with many other countries in the region, Mali has taken to mobile networks for voice and data services.
Orange Mali entered the market as the second mobile and fixed-line operator in 2003 and soon became the dominant provider. The duopoly with national telco, Sotelma, continued until late 2017 when Alpha Telecom (after much delay) launched mobile services. A fourth mobile licence is also being considered by the government in a bid to improve market competition. In June 2018 the Algerian operator Mobilis expressed an interest in entering the Malian mobile market by acquiring this licence.
Mobile penetration in Mali is relatively high and given the sparse nature of the fixed-line infrastructure there is considerable potential for mobile broadband services. Nevertheless, Mali’s landlocked location makes it dependent on neighbouring countries for international bandwidth, which has kept prices high. Improvements in this sector can be expected from the recent arrival of several new competitive international submarine fibre optic cables in the region, while the government in late 2017 set in motion plans for a local Internet Exchange Point.
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.
Société des Télécommunications du Mali (Sotelma, Maroc Telecom, Vivendi), Orange Mali (Ikatel, Orange Group), Monaco Telecom, Planor Afrique, Afribone, CEFIB, Datatech.
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