According to DigitalCongo.Net, a total of four mobile operators in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have acquired 3G licences, paying USD15 million apiece for the long-awaited concessions. The companies in question are Airtel DRC, Oasis Telecom (Tigo), Vodacom Congo and Africell, which only announced the launch of its GSM network late last month, almost two years after receiving rights and spectrum to offer wireless services in the DRC. Conspicuous by its absence is Congo Chine Telecom (CCT), which was taken over by France Telecom-Orange (FT-Orange) in October 2011, and which is currently in the process of being rebranded in line with Orange’s other operations in the regions. At the time of the transaction it was reported that, on top of the monies paid for the cellco itself, FT-Orange paid USD71million to the Congolese government for improved licence terms, including a ten year extension to its existing 2G concession, access to an additional 2MHz of spectrum in the 1800MHz band and 10MHz in the 2100MHz spectrum band for 3G services. It remains unclear whether the latest batch of 3G licensees have also been issued with frequencies in the 2100MHz band.
The 3G permits were awarded by telecoms minister Tryphon Kin-Kiey Mulumba and acting secretary general of the telecoms ministry, Joachim Kapaya Mbakadi, who warned that the ministry will not hesitate to revoke the concessions if the companies fail to fulfil their payment obligations. According to TeleGeography’s GCD the DRC’s mobile market has witnessed numerous companies fall foul of the government’s notoriously awkward licencing regime over the years; as many as 16 companies have been granted 2G mobile licences in recent times, only to come unstuck due to myriad legal and financial issues.