Namibia was one of the last countries in Africa to introduce competition in the mobile communications sector when a second network finally launched in 2007. Despite this relative lack of market competition, the country has achieved a telecom penetration rate well above the regional average. However, the average revenue per user has more than halved since then. Both GSM operators MTC (managed by Portugal Telecom) and TN Mobile (formerly Cell One and Leo, now owned by Telecom Namibia) have entered the internet and broadband market with 3G mobile broadband services in a bid to create new revenue streams. MTC introduced fourth generation (4G) technology in May 2012 when it launched an LTE network in the capital, Windhoek. In addition, Telecom Namibia (TN) offers 3G mobile broadband services using EV-DO technology, and in 2013 contracted ZTE to roll out a network to provide converged fixed and mobile services, including LTE.
Fixed-line services are still a monopoly of TN, but as a member of the WTO the government plans to open the telecom sector to full competition. TN entered the lucrative mobile market as the third player with a CDMA network but was put on hold by the industry regulator, the Namibian Communications Commission, until a new communications law was enacted which, among other issues, addresses fixed-mobile convergence. Since then, however, the absence of effective regulation during the transition to a new regulatory authority, the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia, has led to further delays in market liberalisation.
Although Namibia's internet and broadband sector is reasonably competitive, with six ISPs active, its development was long held back by high prices for international bandwidth caused by the lack of a direct connection to international submarine fibre optic cables. This changed in 2011 when the WACS cable landed in the country. International cable services were launched in May 2012. In parallel, Namibia is working to diversify its transit access routes via neighbouring countries, but broadband price reductions on the retail level have remained moderate.
The country's boom in broadband services has been helped by developments with 3G and 4G mobile services, as well as by investments in national fibre backbone infrastructure. Several WiMAX and other wireless broadband services offer additional access options and are standing by to bring additional competition to the voice market as well, once internet telephony is deregulated.
Regulator planning to implement infrastructure sharing; MTN announces plans to sell a 30% interest in its local operation; Telecom Namibia shuts down CDMA network; Namibian government plans to break link between Telecom Namibia and MTC by dissolving the holding company NPTH; LTE fourth generation (4G) mobile services launched; WACS international submarine fibre optic cable secures two upgrades; 3G mobile broadband prices remain stable following 4G launch; MTC launched MTC Money payment service; Telecom Namibia launches fibre-based broadband services, offering 120Mb/s; Portugal Telecom's merger with Brazil's telco Oi will have implications for the former's partner in Namibia MTC, in delivering the operator benefits of scale as well as access to technologies. Leo rebranded as TN Mobile and the operator invests in LTE infrastructure; Government launches project to broadband-enable regional schools using white-space spectrum; Government transfers its exclusive capacity in the WACS cable to Telecom Namibia; Telecom Namibia launches LTE services; MultiChoice expands DStv mobile TV service beyond Windhoek. Windhoek Internet Exchange Point (WIXP) opens, ending depending on international connections for domestic access. Telecom Namibia sees a dive in profit for FY2013; Regulator enforcing a 1.5% tax on telcos' profits; Government prepares its Universal Access Service and Content Policy; White spaces trial providing internet access to rural north Namibia. Telecom Namibia launches a converged fixed-mobile service, branded tn1'.
Estimated market penetration rates in Namibia's telecoms sector end-2015 (e) Market | Penetration rate Mobile | 115% Fixed | 7.5% Internet | 17.1% (Source: BuddeComm based on various sources)
Companies mentioned in this report:
Telecom Namibia; Mobile Telecommunications Ltd (MTC); Cell One (Leo, Orascom); Powercom; MTN Business Namibia; MWEB Namibia; Africa Online Namibia; Internet Technologies Namibia; iWay.