Mobile network operator (MNO) Viettel Burundi (Lumitel), a wholly owned subsidiary of Vietnamese military-owned telecom group Viettel, has announced that its 4G LTE network was available across the whole country by the end of February 2018. Lumitel launched the nation’s first 4G network on 24 February 2016, introducing a range of mobile internet services with speeds of up to 100Mbps initially covering the core central parts of Bujumbura, Gitega, Ngozi, Rumonge Makamba and Muyinga. 4G services continued to be marketed in big cities it said, but now it has extended coverage nationwide, with its parent following a strategy that has proved successful in Tanzania and Mozambique, bringing the network into unserved rural communities, with strong populations and market niches that have been poorly exploited by the competition – Econet Leo, Smart Mobile and ONAMOB. Specifically, to meet strong demand in rural areas and drive subscriber growth, Lumitel says it has deployed 3,300km of optical fibre and installed 112 4G antennas. The new equipment, it notes, augments its existing telecoms infrastructure which comprise 615 2G and 278 3G base stations.
In its most recent financial report on the Burundian MNO, Viettel confirmed that Lumitel recorded the strongest financial growth of any of its four African subsidiaries in H1 2017, with revenue growth of 38% to USD25.19 million, compared to USD18.26 million in the same six-month period a year earlier. Growth in Burundi, Viettel said, was the result of strategic investments in its mobile networks and services, which helped to fuel subscriber growth. In addition, Lumitel has signed contracts with the state that it hopes will afford high financial growth potential – in particular one relating to mobile tax payment, via its Mobile Money Lumicash service.