Defunct mobile operator Bell Benin Communication (BBCOM) has had its telecoms licence revoked for failure to meet its operating obligations regarding continuity of service, and non-payment of debts, Agence Ecofin reports. The decision came via a Council of Ministers meeting on 2 August chaired by Benin’s President Patrice Talon. Beninese telecoms watchdog, the Authority for Regulation of Electronic Communications & Post (ARCEP) had initiated a sanction procedure for BBCOM in March 2017, having found the company non-compliant with its contractual obligations, and the following month the regulator recommended the revocation of the GSM operating licence to the government. BBCOM has accumulated debts of at least XOF30.44 billion (USD54.70 million) including: XOF18.09 billion representing licence-related fees; XOF9 billion debts owed to state corporations and offices; XOF2.86 billion debts owed to private sector operators; and XOF492 million tax liabilities, plus an as-yet unquantified sum representing compensation for subscribers who unexpectedly lost network services.
BBCOM launched its GSM network in December 2003, although struggled from the outset, with the government assisting it financially in its early days to avoid bankruptcy, and the cellco remained a no-frills 2G-only service provider. TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database says that BBCOM reached a peak of close to a million registered mobile user accounts in 2011, but its active users had fallen to 157,000 by September 2015 – the most recently confirmed figure from ARCEP – and its network services were suspended later that year. An ARCEP coverage quality audit in February 2016 showed BBCOM had live network coverage in a handful of main cities but no signal in the majority of other locations, whilst more recent reports say the network has been completely defunct for several months.