Burundi - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband
State-backed national backbone delivering greater broadband connectivity
This annual report provides a comprehensive overview of trends and developments in Burundi's telecommunications market.
Subjects covered include:
Market and industry overviews;
Government policies affecting the telecoms industry;
Market liberalisation and regulatory issues;
Telecoms operators privatisation, acquisitions, new licences;
Major players (fixed, mobile and broadband);
Internet and broadband development and growth;
Convergence (voice/data, fixed/wireless/mobile);
Mobile voice and data markets.
Burundi remains one of the most attractive African telecom markets for investors. The country has seen stable GDP growth for several years, while it enjoys a high population density and high in the mobile market, where low-penetration provides considerable potential. Nevertheless, investor reticence is still evident given the country's low economic output and the fact that outside the main urban areas fixed-line infrastructure remains poor. To overcome these difficulties, the government, supported by the Word Bank, has backed a joint venture with a number of prominent telcos to build a national fibre backbone network, offering onward connectivity to submarine cable infrastructure landings in Kenya and Tanzania. Since 2012 the country's access to international cables effectively ended its dependence on satellite connections, and has provided it with far more international bandwidth, and at lower prices for consumers.
Market limitations have delayed the launch of services among some players: in late 2012 two GSM licensees had their licenses withdrawn after having failed to launch. Two of the remaining mobile operators have launched 3G mobile services to capitalise on the growing demand for internet services. The number of mobile subscribers increased by about 40% in 2012, and given that mobile penetration, at around 30%, stands at only about half the regional average, Burundi is one of the most attractive growth markets in Africa despite the limited size of the population.
The long-established plans to privatise the national telco Onatel (which also operates one of the mobile networks), has been delayed several times, but the government in mid-2013 again made efforts to kick-start the process.
Estimated market penetration rates in Burundi's telecoms sector end 2013
Market | Penetration rate
Mobile | 29%
Fixed | 0.1%
Internet | 3.9%
(Source: BuddeComm based on various sources)
Continuing high growth rate in the low-penetration mobile market;
Internet use developing strongly as the national backbone network increases connectivity;
Further consolidation among mobile operators expected in the face of competition in a small market;
Privatisation of national telco planned rekindled;
Backbone network has some 1,000km of cabling completed;
Viettel Group awarded a mobile licence, adding to competition in the sector when services are launched.
Companies covered in this report:
Office National des Telecommunications (Onatel, Onamob);
U-Com (Orascom, Telecel Globe, Leo);
VTEL Holdings (Tempo, Africell Safaris);
Econet Wireless Burundi (Spacetel);
LaCell SU (Smart Mobile);
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