France Telecom has acquired a 53% stake in Ugandan wireless wannabe HITS Telecom Uganda. According to the French company’s press release, the pair have formed a new company, Orange Uganda, which is expected to launch services under the Orange brand in the coming months. The transfer of HITS’ national public infrastructure provider (PIP) and Public Service Provider (PSP) licences to the new company has already been given approval by the regulator, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC). HITS Telecom Uganda’s other shareholders include International Investment House (IIH, an international investment firm based in an Abu Dhabi), Al-Awael Holdings, Ali Mohamed Abas Khouri and Veritas Communications Limited.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, HITS Telecom won PIP and PSP licences from the UCC in March 2007, giving it permission to operate across a range of technologies including CDMA, GSM, W-CDMA and WiMAX. HITS originally planned to launch a GSM-1800 based service in November 2007, when it performed a test call over its network, but by October 2008 had still to begin commercial operations. In August 2007 it awarded Alcatel Lucent a USD100 million contract for the supply of a full end-to-end GSM network as well as transmission solutions with microwave systems designed to optimise the transmission of voice and data traffic from base stations to the core network. Three months later it completed its first test call over the network and confirmed it would have 60% population coverage at launch. The company has pledged to invest USD200 million in the network construction in 2007/08.