Indian giant Bharti Airtel has announced that it will invest an additional USD125 million in its cellular network operations in Gabon, including the deployment of 3G and 4G technologies. Airtel Gabon’s previous investment plan set a spending budget of up to USD100 million over the three-year period 2011/13, TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database says. The new investment target was revealed at the ‘New York Forum Africa’ event in Gabonese capital Libreville, where the CEO of Airtel International, Manoj Kohli, stated: ‘We are in Gabon for the long haul, and will support both commercial and social programmes. These include the deployment of a 3G and 4G network, when made available, to help businesses and the youth access world-class data services,’ and added: ‘We plan to develop training programmes on ICT business in collaboration with local training schools.’
GlobalComms says that in October 2011, following months of negotiations with the local regulator ARCEP, Airtel – the leading cellco in Gabon by subscribers and revenues – was allocated a 3G concession, with the aim of launching the country’s first W-CDMA/HSPA network and high speed mobile internet services. ARCEP, which helped broker an agreement with Gabon Telecom in December 2011 giving Airtel access to the SAT-3/WASC/SAFE high speed international cable – commented that Airtel’s upcoming 3G launch only made sense if connected to sufficient submarine bandwidth. The subsequent launch of a second undersea cable, Africa Coast to Europe (ACE), in December 2012, should further support the provision of high quality, affordable mobile internet. However, a commercial 3G launch announcement from Airtel Gabon is still awaited.
Earlier, on the eve of the New York Forum Africa, senior executives from Airtel Africa visited the Gabonese minister of telecommunications and chairman of ARCEP, with topics on the agenda including examining potential synergies with Gabon’s emergent strategic economic/social programme (including national ICT development targets for 2016). Manoj Kohli said at the meeting: ‘Airtel is committed to Gabon for the long term and is willing to work with the government to achieve the development objectives for information technology and communication.’