Guinea’s smallest mobile operator Intercel has been ordered to cease all operations within a month, in a decision issued on 9 October 2018 by the Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications & Digital Economy. Intercel was told to stop all marketing and sales of SIM cards and credit top-ups with immediate effect. It must maintain communications services for existing users for 30 days, whereupon its network must be shut down. As reported by Guinea’s Regulatory Authority for Post & Telecommunications (L’Autorite de Regulation des Postes et Telecommunications, ARPT), the reasons for the enforced shutdown related to persistent service quality issues and other problems at Intercel which the cellco had failed to rectify over ‘several years’, including:
• persistent debt to the state, telephone operators and other service providers
• lack of investment needed to extend its 2G network to meet its [licensing] obligations
• drastic reduction in the extent of network coverage and degradation of quality of service
• negative financial results reported each year
• ‘fraudulent practices denounced by other operators’
• ‘recurring problems with the staff, [a] source of strong social tensions’.
Intercel, backed by Dubai-based Expresso Telecom (itself owned by Sudan’s Sudatel Telecom Group) since 2011, operated 2G-only services under a GSM 900MHz/1800MHz licence awarded in May 2006. Founded in 1993, Intercel (originally named Telecel) launched wireless AMPS services in Q1 1994 (according to the ITU) and a GSM-900 mobile network in January 2000 for business users before later expanding to the consumer sector. At end-June 2018 Intercel accounted for less than 0.5% of Guinea’s cellular market, which is led by Orange, with competition from MTN and Cellcom.