Where there’s a WiLL there’s a way: Starcomms attracts international private equity

2 Feb 2005

Two international funding organisations, Actis and the AIG African Infrastructure Fund (AAIF), have invested a total of USD43.2 million in Starcomms, the Nigerian fixed wireless network operator. The fund managers are reported to have acquired a major stake in the company, and Actis has appointed former MTN chief executive Paul Edwards as Starcomms’ new non-executive chairman. Starcomms has been providing pre-paid voice and data services over its CDMA2000 1X WiLL network since 1999 and claimed around 145,000 subscribers at the end of 2004, up from a July figure of 100,000, with coverage in Lagos, Kano and Borno. Actis said that it hopes Starcomms’ customer base will swell to over a million by 2008, although the company faces some regulatory obstacles – the NCC has ruled that fixed wireless (or ‘limited mobility’) operators are not allowed to charge less for services than their cellular network counterparts, and a number of cellcos want the regulator to go a step further and ban limited mobility operations altogether, saying that this was one of the terms agreed when GSM licences were awarded in 2000.