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Merged Libertis and Moov change dynamics of Gabon’s mobile sector
Gabon remains one of the wealthiest nations in Africa, with the economy largely buttressed by oil revenue. GDP per capita is well above the African average, although a distorted income distribution and poor social indicators are evident. GDP growth of over 6% annually is anticipated for 2015.
The telecom market was liberalised in 1999 when the government awarded three mobile telephony licences and two Internet Service Provider (ISP) licences and established an independent regulatory authority. Following two unsuccessful attempts, Gabon Telecom was privatised in 2007 when Vivendi-controlled Maroc Telecom bought a 51% stake in the operator.
With competition between three service providers – Zain (formerly Celtel, now Bharti Airtel), Gabon Telecom’s Libertis, and Emirates Telecommunications Corporation’s (Etisalat’s) Moov (sold to Maroc Telecom in May 2014) – Gabon became one of the first countries in Africa to exceed 100% mobile market penetration in 2008. Recently the regulator adjusted its recording of mobile penetration, based on a standard adopted by the French telecom regulator, to account for multiple SIM card use among subscribers. Network operators have been able to maintain higher Average Revenue per User (ARPU) than their peers in the region.
The 2009 entry of a fourth network, USAN (operated by Bintel under the brand name Azur) into a saturated market triggered a price war that saw revenues and profits dive, forcing the operators to streamline their operations and to look for new income streams. Following more than a year of delays, a licence to offer 3G mobile broadband services was finally awarded in late 2011. Capacity on newly landed submarine cables was negotiated with Gabon Telecom to expedite the deployment of 3G services, which are not expected to be launched until the end of 2013.
In contrast with the mobile market, Gabon’s fixed-line and internet/broadband sectors have remained underdeveloped due to a lack of competition and the resulting high prices. The country has always had sufficient international bandwidth on the SAT-3/WASC/SAFE fibre-optic submarine cable which runs from Portugal via South Africa to the Far East, but this facility has been monopolised by Gabon Telecom. The recent arrival of a second international submarine fibre optic cable (ACE), combined with the anticipated launch of 3G mobile broadband services is expected to bring significant improvements to this sector in coming years.
Maroc Telecom merges Gabon Telecom and Moov Gabon;
Gabon Telecom to build nationwide fibre network, deliver VoD services;
Regulator promotes MVNO market to maintain competition;
Axione contracted to extend and maintain national telecoms infrastructure;
MNOs begin registering SIM cards to comply with new regulations;
Airtel Gabon opens submarine link between Libreville and Port-Gentil;
Airtel Money service made available to BGFI Bank customers;
3G mobile licence finally awarded;
Libertis launches LTE services, secures new mobile licences;
Airtel Gabon launches commercial W-CDMA/HSPA+ service;
Report updates includes regulator’s market data to Q4 2014, operator data to Q1 2015, recent market developments.
Estimated market penetration rates in Gabon’s telecoms sector – end-2015 (e)
Companies mentioned in this report:
Gabon Telecom (Maroc Telecom, Libertis); Bharti Airtel (Zain); Moov (Telecel Gabon); Bintel (USAN, Azur); Internet Gabon; Solsi; IBN Corporate.