RURA cancels Rwandatel mobile licence

5 Apr 2011

The Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA) has revoked the wireless concession of Libyan-owned operator Rwandatel for failure to meet licence obligations, Reuters reports. Regis Gatarayiha, the acting director general of RURA said the termination had nothing to do with enforcing a United Nations (UN) resolution to impose sanctions on Libya, including freezing of its assets. Rwandatel is 80% owned by Libyan government investment vehicle LAP Green Networks, with the remainder held by the Social Security Fund of Rwanda. The company’s mobile services will only remain available until Friday 8 April 2011, after which its wireless network will be switched off and services disconnected. However, the operator’s fixed telephony and internet service provider (ISP) licence will remain operational as the two services are provided under a separate concession. RURA has advised existing Rwandatel subscribers (of which there were 306,706 at the end of 2010 according to the agency) to switch to one of the country’s other two mobile phone providers, MTN Rwanda and Millicom Rwanda (Tigo). ‘The two [MTN and Tigo] will make necessary distribution plans to be able to handle the demand for new SIM connections that might result from this development without hiking any prices,’ RURA said in a letter copied to the heads of the two firms.

As previously reported by CommsUpdate, RURA warned Rwandatel in February 2011 that it could lose its mobile licence or face a fine for failing to meet licence obligations. According to the agency, Rwandatel first failed to achieve its performance targets in 2009, including coverage and rollout obligations, as well as quality of service and planned investment. A second warning – issued in early March 2011 – gave the operator until the end of that month to fulfill its licence obligations. Rwandatel appealed against the first notice, calling it ‘unwarranted and unjust.’