African round-up: Tigo Senegal extends 3G+ coverage, Togo now promising 4G auction this year, Sirleaf supports Cellcom Liberia takeover

9 Feb 2016

Mobile network operator (MNO) Tigo Senegal says that it has deployed 495 3G+ base stations covering 101 localities in Senegal since it launched the network in December 2013. The latest area to receive the service is the northern city of Richard Toll, which went live in December 2015. The rollout will continue this year, it says.

Meanwhile, Togo’s Minister of Posts & Digital Economy, Cina Lawson, says the government hopes to kick off the bidding process for 4G mobile licences in 2016, with the concessions including rights to offer 2G, 3G and 4G services. Agence Ecofin quotes a newspaper report as saying that the process of issuing 4G concessions to domestic MNOs would be dependent on ‘the enthusiasm of investors to trade in our market’ and demand for 4G in Togo. The minister launched a study into 4G licensing in November 2015. TeleGeography notes that in February 2015 Togo Cellulaire (Togocel) – the mobile arm of fixed line incumbent Togo Telecom – announced plans to launch the tiny African nation’s first 4G mobile network and roll out mobile banking before the year end. The launch never materialised, though, and critics argued that, with the cellco’s current 3G network being inadequate at best, efforts should be made to improve that before even considering 4G. Attempts to introduce a third player to the market in 2014 also came to nothing.

Finally, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the President of Liberia, has approved the acquisition of domestic MNO Cellcom Liberia by French telco Orange Group. The technical details for the purchase are expected to be finalised by the 9 February 2016 deadline. The buyout is being carried out via Orange Cote d’Ivoire, which has agreed to acquire Cellcom Telecommunications’ Liberian subsidiary, pending approval by the relevant authorities. In a statement last month, the French telco confirmed: ‘Orange will provide its marketing expertise and world-class technical capability to further strengthen the network operator, enhance services to consumers and contribute to the economic growth of Liberia. Cellcom’s founders and employees will remain involved in the business to ensure a smooth integration, support performance and continue long-standing relations with the Government of Liberia. This acquisition is part of the international development strategy of Orange, which aims to accelerate its growth by entering new emerging markets with high potential. This will enable Orange to strengthen its positions in Africa, which is a strategic priority for the Group.’