Virus impact over each market - telecom operators, government agencies and regulators' responses - revised forecasts for the next 5 years.
Mali has endured a number of challenges contributing to the poor state of its telecom infrastructure. The country’s topography includes large tracks of sparsely populated desert, with many settlements being hard to reach and so rendering it difficult and expensive to service with effective fixed or mobile networks. Security issues have also been a concern, leading to delays in building the national backbone network. Following a coup in 2012 large areas in the north of the country were taken over by Islamic militants. The coup of September 2020 has raised concerns that political mismanagement may result in more areas of the country being ungovernable.
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 most 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. Mobile networks account for about 99.8% of all telecom connections.
Orange Mali entered the market as the second mobile and fixed-line operator in 2003 and soon became the dominant provider. The duopoly with the national telco, Sotelma, continued until late 2017 when Alpha Telecom (after much delay) launched mobile services. A fourth mobile licence was secured by Mobilis, owned by Algérie Télécom, at the end of 2019.
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 international submarine cables in the region, while Orange Group has also been engaged in building a terrestrial network linking the capital cities of eight countries in the region, including Bamako.
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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