News, views and commentary from the telecoms sector across emerging markets and developing countries worldwide

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Tanzania update: Lucky seven or lucky eight?

Tigo Tanzania - one of seven or one of eight cellcos on the market?
photo from the Daily Nation (Kenya)

A little while ago, I wrote a piece here about the mobile market in one East African country whose title included the phrase 'lucky seven'. The point of that was to ask whether what I took to be that country's seventh cellco - a CDMA network operator using the brand name Sasatel - would be able to make much of an impact.

A anonymous DevelopingTelecomsWatch reader has pointed out that in fact that country, Tanzania, was already home to seven licensed mobile operators prior to the maket debut of new-kid-in-town Sasatel. As the helpful reader pointed out, HiTS Telecom already appears to have a presence in the country, asserting that the company launched GSM services in the Dar es Salaam region last month and is building out its nationwide network over the next two years.

I must be getting old. How did I forget to mention the HiTS Telecom Tanzania operation? Not only have I exchanged correspondence with someone who works for that operation, but I also (briefly) met one of their people at a conference in Nairobi earlier this year. A definite senior moment, then, for DTW.

That said, the HiTS Telecom launch last month does seem to have gone ahead with relatively little fanfare and also seems to have been somewhat behind schedule - in June last year, the group's CEO spoke to CommsMEA and indicated that operations would begin in late 2008. Around the same time, according to the Citizen newspaper, Excellentcom Ltd (which trades as HiTS Tanzania), signed a USD 180 million contract with Chinese telecoms solutions vendor Huawei, whereby the latter would start "building Excellentcom's network to enable it to cover the whole country within 13 months." If the work was meant to start immediately, then HiTS Tanzania would have national coverage around now rather than in the two years from now mentioned by our anonymous reader.

HiTS Telecom clearly has a presence in Tanzania, then, and while perhaps I can't be forgiven for neglecting to mention that in an article profiling the country's mobile market, you can possibly see why I remain a bit unsure of the status of the operation. That said, I definitely should have used the term 'lucky eight' in the title of the article rather than 'lucky seven', though perhaps the former would only make sense for Chinese readers of DTW.

Again, input from readers who really know the Tanzanian scene would be gratefully received.

In other Tanzanian news, the country's oldest and largest fixed-line operator, TTCL, whose CDMA cellular service has a small and dwindling share of the mobile market, is set to be affected by the withdrawal of the Canadian company which signed a three-year deal to oversee the incumbent telcos operations in 2007, according to a TeleGeography article on Monday.

It seems that SaskTel International's three-year management contract covering the operation, maintenance and expansion of the incumbent’s network to improve its financial, commercial and technical performance was meant to run until July 2010. The TeleGeography article states that the Candian company's departure "raises fresh questions over why a series of privatisation plans for TTCL have derailed."

The article goes on to say that SaskTel has reportedly submitted a 45-day notice (ends 12 July) notifying its intention to pull out of the deal citing its inability to raise the funding necessary to transform the operator’s fortunes. It seems that SaskTel has failed to secure government guarantees for a USD 1.5 million loan for TTCL, needed for various projects.

Hopefully the above improves upon my (clearly imperfect) previous Tanzania round-up for any readers interested in the telecoms scene of that country.

Be lucky.

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