According to unverified French press reports, Maroc Telecom is interested in acquiring the unused mobile concession held by UAE-backed Warid Telecom in Cote d’Ivoire. In July 2006 Warid paid XOF30 billion (USD65.25 million) for a dual-band GSM-900/1800 concession, only to realise that it had been given insufficient wireless frequencies to launch operations commercially. Its complaints to market regulator L’Agence des Telecommunications de Cote d’Ivoire (ATCI) fell on deaf ears, and in 2Q10 local news reports began to circulate citing widespread debts and corporate corruption, with allegations that contractor Huawei had stopped work on Warid’s infrastructure rollout after constructing just 70 of a projected 448 cell sites, due to financial irregularities.
TeleGeography notes that news of Maroc Telecom’s expansion comes as something of a surprise, considering its owner – France’s Vivendi Group – put it up for sale in October 2012, with a projected asking price of USD6 billion. Potential suitors include UAE-based Emirates Telecommunications Corporation (Etisalat), KT Corp of South Korea, Qatar Telecom (Qtel) and France Telecom-Orange. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Maroc Telecom currently boasts subsidiaries in Burkina Faso (Onatel, inc Telmob), Mauritania (Mauritel), Gabon (Gabon Telecom [including Libertis] and Mali (SOTELMA).
Meanwhile, the landscape of the Ivorian mobile sector has changed noticeably since Warid first secured a mobile concession in the country, with a further three cellcos commencing commercial operations, namely: Comium (May 2007), Oricel (now GreenN, December 2008) and Aircom (January 2012). The last-named firm became the sixth main player in an already-crowded wireless market last year, improbably resurfacing twelve years after first obtaining a mobile licence. The company belatedly claimed that it had achieved ‘all administrative requirements’. As at end-September 2012 the Ivorian mobile market was dominated by the well-established likes of MTN (34.9%), Orange (33.3%) and Moov (20.7%).