The government of Burundi has revealed plans to modernise the network of ONAMOB, the mobile arm of state-owned incumbent operator Office National des Telecommunications (Onatel), via a USD30 million loan from Huawei International Limited. The Chinese vendor has put the money at the Burundian government’s disposal – repayable over ten years – which Philippe Nzobonariba, the secretary-general and spokesman of the government, says will be ‘a survival investment’ for the company. Firstly, the investment will enable ONAMOB to provide a better population coverage and give it better products and services with which to compete with dominant private mobile operators, while secondly, the monies will drive revenues to help rebuild the company’s long term future.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Onatel announced plans to enter the mobile market in its own right in 2005. In October that year it launched a GSM network in the capital Bujumbura through its mobile arm ONAMOB, under the brand name PANA. The launch was backed by China’s Huawei Technologies which carried out the installation and offered supplier credit of USD4.5 million to finance the project; the Chinese firm signed the deal in January 2005. The rollout involved the installation of a GSM network for Bujumbura, and a WiLL network in rural areas.