Sonitel union seeks end to duplicate fibre rollouts

3 Oct 2012

The union of Niger’s state-owned national PTO Societe Nigerienne des Telecommunications (Sonitel) and its mobile arm SahelCom has criticised the country’s private operators for rolling out fibre-optic infrastructure in areas where such networks have already been deployed by the incumbent. Afriquinfos reports that after parliament voted to keep Sonitel in government hands (abandoning a renewed attempt to find a buyer for the telco) in May 2012, Niger granted the company exclusivity on international calls and the rollout of fibre-optic infrastructure for a period of five years, although this was later withdrawn following protests from Orange and Airtel. The government subsequently awarded Sonitel a contract to deploy a 900km fibre-optic backbone from the capital Niamey to Dosso, which began in August 2012. According to the report, Orange began deploying its own fibre-optic network between the two cities at the same time, prompting Sonitel’s unions to ask the government to ban the duplication of fibre-optic networks in the country, arguing that the telco would lose a valuable source of revenue if this were to continue.

TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database states that the government began looking for a new buyer for Sonitel and SahelCom in August 2011, after a deal to sell a stake in the company to Libya’s LAP Green Network for XAF31 billion (USD61.1 million) was scrapped the previous June. The state said it had decided to cancel the deal as the Libyan government investment vehicle had not been able to meet the terms of the transaction. Dataport, a joint venture between China’s ZTE and the Libyan Arab African Investment Company, previously held a 51% stake in the operator, but the deal was cancelled by the government in February 2009, due to poor management and failure to meet the terms of the privatisation.