Rwanda’s steadily developing telecom market has attracted the attention of a range of organisations which have chosen the country as a test bed for internet connectivity projects. Most recently these have included the ITU and UNICEF, which are involved in a global scheme to provide internet services to schools.
The country was slow to liberalise the mobile sector, allowing MTN a monopoly until 2006 when the fixed-line incumbent, Rwandatel (since acquired by Liquid Telecom) became the second mobile operator. There was effective competition among three operators after Tigo launched services in 2009. However, the acquisition of Tigo by Airtel saw a significant consolidation in the market, and the cancellation of Rwandatel’s licence in 2011 resulted in the market becoming a duopoly.
The fixed broadband sector has suffered from limited fixed-line infrastructure and high prices. Nevertheless, operators are rolling out national backbone networks which also allow them to connect to the international submarine cables on Africa’s east coast. These cables gave the entire region greater internet bandwidth and ended the dependency on satellites. Liquid Telecom has since continued to expand its FttP services across Kigali and a number of other towns.
Interest from investors in the country’s ICT sector remains strong. A deal with Korea Telecom has developed a wholesale LTE operator, Korea Telecom Rwanda Networks, which provides retail services to a number of fixed-line operators as well as to the MNOs. The number of subscribers on LTE infrastructure has increased sharply, helped by national LTE coverage achieved in mid-2018.
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.
Rwandatel (Terracom, LapGreen); MTN Rwanda; Liquid Telecom; Tigo Rwanda (Millicom); Bharti Airtel; Artel Communications; Electrogaz
Just a quick note to say thank for your helpful reports. I`ve used them a couple of times over the years and I found your talk at CeBIT, very interesting indeed.
Matt Joyce, IT manager, Medtronic
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