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Rwanda - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband - Statistics and Analyses

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Last updated: 22 Apr 2020 Update History

Report Pages: 110

Rwandan mobile subscribers affected by SIM card restrictions

The Rwandan telecom market continues to develop strongly, buttressed by sustained GDP growth which has seen the country develop one the fastest-growing economies in the world. Supported by significant foreign aid, this growth has been helped by prudent fiscal and monetary policies which have create a business-friendly environment conducive to investment.

Nevertheless, poverty remains widespread. There is little economic diversity, with most of the population engaged in agriculture and a good proportion of the remainder involved in mineral and agro-processing sectors. The financial services sector is also underdeveloped: with banks focussed on government borrowing there is little attention paid to the support of small businesses, and most of the population has little or no access to conventional banking services. In turn, this has made Rwanda one of the more successful markets on the continent for mobile banking and payment services.

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 has been effective competition among the three current operators, each of which provides wide geographic coverage. The launch of services from Tigo in 2009 sparked renewed subscriber growth, though competition has eroded mobile services revenue and ARPU since then. However, the acquisition of Tigo by Airtel, a deal to be closed over a two-year period, will see the Tigo brand removed and a significant consolidation in the market.

Rwanda’s internet and broadband sector has suffered from limited fixed-line infrastructure and high prices. Nevertheless, operators are rolling out national fibre-optic backbone networks which also allow them to connect to the international submarine fibre-optic cables on the African east coast. These cables have given the entire region fibre-based international bandwidth for the first time and ended its dependency on satellites. Liquid Telecom has 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 mobile network operators. 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.

Key developments:

  • Rwanda’s schools benefit from connection to One Web Satellite’s network;
  • SIM Card registration scheme launched;
  • MTN invests in network upgrades;
  • Government commits to smart city infrastructure investment;
  • Liquid Telecom expands FttP network;
  • MNOs implement One Network Area scheme removing roaming charges;
  • Smart Africa Alliance Initiative to raise $300 billion by 2020 for regional ICT infrastructure;
  • KTRN reaches national LTE coverage;
  • Report update includes the regulator’s market data to March 2019, telcos’ operating data to Q4 2018, Telecom Maturity Index tables, charts and analyses, assessment of the global impact of COVID-19 on the telecoms sector, recent market developments.

Companies mentioned in this report:

Rwandatel (Terracom, LapGreen); MTN Rwanda; Liquid Telecom; Tigo Rwanda (Millicom); Bharti Airtel; Artel Communications; Electrogaz.

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