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Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Good prospects for WiMAX as Uganda's mobile market grows strongly?

According to a recent Cellular News item, a new report from Pyramid Research predicts that mobile penetration in Uganda is expected to increase from 39.0% in 2009 to 70.7 % by 2014, driven by successful market liberalisation and increased competition.

Assuming the 39.0% is Pyramid's forecast y.e. 2009 figure, this is rather more optimistic than the 31.03% predicted by Informa Telecoms & Media.

The Pyramid report's author, Sylwia Boguszewska, anticipates that Uganda will see the second highest percentage increase in terms of mobile subscriptions in African countries - with only Cameroon's market set to grow more strongly.

Boguszewska notes that as a result of the liberalization process, the Ugandan mobile market is now contested by five mobile operators, three of which are well-established: MTN Uganda, Uganda Telecom, and Zain Uganda.

As Boguszewska explains, these longer-standing players have been joined more recently by Warid Telecom Uganda (in Feb 2008) and by Orange Uganda in March this year. A sixth entrant is set to join the fray soon. I understand that this will be an operation associated with the Ugandan arm of Indian eBusiness solution provider Anupam Global Soft, which, according to a Cellular News story from last summer, is owned by India's Reliance Communications and holds mobile and landline licenses. That same article stresses how far it might be unwise for any prospective new entrants to test the patience of of the country's regulator, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) with a delayed launch, recounting how HiTS Telecom came under fire for failing to launch on time. The recent launch of the France Telecom-backed Orange-branded MNO was facilitated by this failure on the part of HiTS Telecom. As was noted in Global Mobile Daily in March, France Telecom acquired a 53% stake in the Ugandan HiTS Telecom operation in October last year.

Released a little ahead of Pyramid's report was a Global Mobile Daily Uganda market update. This indicated that Uganda Telecom dominated mobile growth in 3Q08, with net additions nearly seven times as high as in 3Q07. It also reported strong interest in its W-CDMA services.

The GMD update suggests that Uganda Telecom's performance was thanks to the Libyan investor Lap Green, which acquired a majority stake in Uganda Telecom in 2Q07, and subsequently put in place an expansion strategy worth USD 115 million.

MTN Uganda, however, continued to report the highest ARPU in the market at USD9, and Uganda Telecom the lowest at USD5 in 3Q08.

The GMD update continues with an review of Internet services in Uganda, "which continued to grow in popularity, with fixed-broadband subscriptions increasing by 15% year on year in 3Q08."

"With total subscriptions reaching 4,050, fixed broadband is still the main mode of Internet access", continues the article, with mobile broadband accounting for only 500 subscriptions in 3Q08. Nonetheless, Informa Telecoms & Media estimates that mobile broadband subscriptions increased 150% quarter on quarter. According to Informa, deployments of fixed WiMAX are planned by licenced operators Infocom and TMP this year, following on from the launch of mobile WiMAX by Warid Telecom in December 2008.

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