The Cabinet of the Republic of Benin on 30 March 2015 authorised the state-backed operator Benin Telecoms to commence deployment of 4G LTE wireless technology, local newspaper Matin Libre reported. The same publication subsequently reported that a presidential ceremony was held on 6 April to officially mark the start of the rollout, at which the Minister of Communication & New Technologies, Jean Gbeto Dansou, heralded the government initiative as an important part of Benin’s vision for the digital future, while enabling it to catch up with several other western African states which have already entered the 4G LTE era. The minister also confirmed that the LTE development would be utilising the 1800MHz frequency band. The event also included the unveiling of Benin Telecoms’ new converged ‘one-stop shop’ customer service strategy under the ‘Point of Presence’ banner, giving customers access to all services in one store. In a separate TV broadcast announcement also reported by Matin Libre, the director general of Benin Telecoms, Djalil Assouma, announced that 4G LTE internet services will ‘soon be a reality’ in Benin.
Mr Assouma highlighted other important sector reforms and infrastructure upgrades to support the 4G rollout; most importantly he flagged up the new connection to a second submarine cable which will lead to the reduction in data/connection costs as well as transmission speeds of services. TeleGeography notes that Alcatel-Lucent last month connected Benin to the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) high speed international submarine cable, ending the previous reliance on a link to the SAT-3/WASC submarine system. Benin’s involvement in the ACE consortium (led by France’s Orange Group) is being managed via a local special purpose vehicle (SPV) named Benin ACE GIE, a joint venture which includes local mobile operators and internet service providers (ISPs).
Benin Telecoms currently offers wireless voice and data service via its Kanakoo division’s CDMA2000 1x and 1xEV-DO networks, whilst its struggling cellular division Libercom is the country’s smallest of five GSM mobile network operators, with less than 3% of the nation’s subscribers according to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database. The government-sanctioned 4G LTE deployment announcement could be seen as an attempt to bolster the prospects of state-owned Benin Telecoms/Libercom against its more successful private sector cellular rivals such as Moov and MTN – currently offering 3G mobile services – and improve the privatisation value of the local group which has long been linked with a prospective sale to Orange Group. On the other hand, the foreign-owned cellcos may also be given access to the refarmed 1800MHz LTE spectrum in Benin, although this has not been confirmed.