Senegal-based national telecoms operator Sonatel, which is backed by the Senegalese government and France Télécom, has won the tender to operate the third mobile phone network in Guinea-Bissau, beating off rival bids from four other firms, including US firm Global Voice. In a press statement, Sonatel director Fernando Lacerda said his company’s proposal was adjudged to be better than bids from Global Voice, Teylium of Mauritius, Lintel Africa (based in the Cayman Islands) and local company 3 Tel. No financial details were disclosed.
Sonatel plans to launch the new network within five months under the banner Orange Bissau, putting it in direct competition with incumbent cellcos, government owned Guiné Telecom, and South Africa’s MTN Group, known locally as Spacetel Guinea-Bissau (Areeba). Orange Bissau has a three-year investment plan in which it plans to cover 90% of the country in five rollout phases. The first stage will take in the capital Bissau with a launch slated for May 2007. By 2010 the start-up plans to have expanded coverage to the 37 sectors that make up Guinea-Bissau, including all the country’s main road networks.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, the number of people with mobile phones was estimated at 129,000 in September 2006, of which Areeba had 79,000 and Guiné Telecom, 50,000. Lacerda estimates that the market has potential for 300,000 users.