Angola’s mobile & fixed-line duopolies finally facing competition

Although overly dominant players in Angola’s telecoms sector have been keeping mobile and internet prices high, new forecasts from Research and Markets indicate that this could be set to change as soon as this year with the introduction of new competition.

With peace restored in 2002 after decades of civil war, foreign investment in Angola has multiplied and the mobile market has soared despite a continued duopoly between Unitel and Angola Telecom's Movicel. The country is the second-largest producer of oil in sub-Saharan Africa, and the rise of oil prices has led to double-digit GDP growth in recent years. However, following a mild recession in 2009, the economy is forecast to grow more in line with the African average going forward, at around 6% p.a.

Competition was also introduced in the underdeveloped fixed-line market, but launch delays and consolidation among the newly licensed players have led to a duopoly in this sector as well between Angola Telecom and Mercury Telecom. The long awaited start of Mundo Startel's fixed-wireless operations in 2009 has created a third force in this market.

The mobile network operators have launched 3G services and are shaking up the broadband market where fixed-wireless operators and ISPs with CDMA and WiMAX-based networks have been competing with Angola Telecom's ADSL and cable modem services. However, prices are still beyond the reach of most Angolans due to the high cost of international bandwidth as a result of Angola Telecom's monopolisation of the SAT-3/WASC international fibre optic submarine cable. The landing of new international fibre systems in the country is expected to change this from 2011 onwards, coupled with a US$500 million national fibre backbone network rollout.

Angola Telecom is going through a restructuring process with the help of international consultants. A majority stake in its mobile unit, Movicel has been sold to private investors and a migration from CDMA to GSM/UMTS technology has been announced. The creation of Infrasat as an independent satellite business unit and the Angola Cable consortium for international fibre connections are additional steps towards greater liberalisation of the country's telecom market, improved efficiency of the national telco and its eventual privatisation. A third mobile operator licence has also been discussed.

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