Mozambique’s Instituto Nacional das Comunicacoes (INCM) has selected Movitel, a unit of Vietnamese cellco Viettel, as its third mobile phone operator, the country’s head of telecoms regulation Isidore Pedro da Silva has confirmed. Movitel tabled a bid worth USD29 million for the licence, USD4 million less than the USD33 million bid offered by its rival UNI-Telecom (a joint venture between Angolan cellco Unitel – headed by Isabel dos Santos, daughter of the Angolan President – and Mozambique’s Energy Capital). Announcing the decision, Da Silva stressed that the tender process was weighted towards technical (70%) rather than financial considerations (30%). Portugal Telecom’s TMN unit brought up the rear, with a bid of USD25 million.
Although the ownership of the Vietnamese company has never been officially confirmed, local press reports suggest that the Movitel consortium is an alliance between SPI, the holding company belonging to Mozambique’s ruling Frelimo Party and Vietnamese military-run GSM network operator Viettel, which has previously announced plans to seek investment opportunities in other developing countries – including Mozambique – having recently taken over Haitian operator Teleco. Viettel also has operations in Laos and Cambodia.
Under the terms of the Mozambican licence tender, bidders were required to have at least two million clients in the countries where they already operate, and be able to provide evidence of revenue in excess of USD50 million a year. The new licensee has twelve months to commence its operations. As at June 2010 Mozambique was home to 5.57 million mobile phone customers, of which mCel boasted four million subscribers, or 71.9% of the market.