Gabon’s fourth mobile licensee, USAN Gabon, signed an interconnection agreement with Zain Gabon covering voice and SMS services on 9 September. The Middle Eastern-backed company, operating under the Azur brand name, said it expects to agree interconnection with Gabon’s other three mobile operators within a week. Azur’s parent, Bahrain-based Bintel, won Gabon’s fourth cellular licence in February 2009, valid for 15 years including 2G/3G frequencies, before announcing plans to launch services by the end of the third quarter under an initial investment budget of USD50 million. It is targeting a 6% to 8% share of the Gabonese market within its first year of operations and a 30% share within ten. Bintel launched a GSM network in the Central African Republic in mid-2007 and another in mid-2008 in Somaliland (a republic which has yet to receive international recognition), and has allocated a total of USD250 million over the next two years to expand its networks and enter three more African markets. The group has signed contracts with telecoms equipment providers including China’s Huawei and ZTE. Bintel was registered in Jebel Ali in Dubai in 2007, but is headquartered in Manama, Bahrain. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, Gabon’s mobile market is led by Kuwaiti-backed Zain with 836,000 users or 56% of the market at end-June 2009, ahead of Moroccan-owned Libertis (36%) and Moov Gabon (8%), backed by UAE’s Etisalat via Atlantique Telecom. The three existing cellcos were issued with their GSM licences in 1999 free of charge.