First 3G licences ready for auction in Niger

The first deployment of 3G services in Niger could soon be underway, with reports indicating that the West African country’s regulator is preparing to hold auctions for two new licences.

A statement broadcast by the government noted that “These licences can go to any operator who desires them. Operators already set up here and who have global licences also have a chance to acquire one."

Niger currently has four 2G (GSM) providers: main player Bharti Airtel (previous part of Zain), France Telecom-owned Orange, state firm SahelCom, and Moov, owned by Atlantique Telecom which is in turn a subsidiary of Etisalat.

While customers on Orange’s network have access to BlackBerry services, there are no “high speed data services associated with 3G” currently commercially available in Niger, according to reports.

Mobile phone traffic has greatly increased over the past few years in Niger, a trend which has arisen due to the country’s lack of fixed-line infrastructure. With a population of 16 million, Niger is drastically underserved by its estimated 20,000 fixed line connections. Meanwhile, mobile subscriber numbers have risen to 3.9 million, although market penetration is fairly low – around 25%.

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