Magazine article New African

Tanzania: Mobile Phone Revolution. (Telecoms)

Magazine article New African

Tanzania: Mobile Phone Revolution. (Telecoms)

Article excerpt

Over 160,000 Tanzanians are tapping into their mobile handsets across the country every day. Although this may seem paltry by global standards, it is highly significant for a country where just five years ago a mobile phone was something that dreams were made of, and where telecommunication in general was difficult at the best of times.

Across Africa generally, mobile communication is fast overtaking its land-based equivalent in terms of mass market-reach and generating revenues. Mobile customers do not need complicated in-house wiring. The phones themsevles can be as cheap as their terrestrial cousins. They are (needless to say) transportable, and perhaps most importantly in countries where cash flow is an issue for the majority of people, prepaid systems exist, so credit isn't a barrier.

Tanzania now has as many mobile phone lines as fixed lines. The market was pioneered by Mobitel, whose majority shareholder is Millicom International Cellular SA (MIC), a global telecoms investor that specialises in the development of emerging markets.

As leader in Tanzania, Mobitel has over 60% share of the marker. The company attributes its success to maximising consumer choice in the form of affordable handsets, extensive geographic coverage, pre-paid systems and flexible pricing structures.

These have combined to open up large areas of the country that previously had no form of telecoms, and have made phones accessible to people who previously could nor afford landline services, or indeed where the landline option was nor available.

Millicom itself has seen almost 20% growth in revenues from its African interests over the past 12 months. In addition to Tanzania, the company has cellular licenses in Senegal and Ghana. It has an estimated 58 million potential subscribers -- the take-up rate is increasing by 75% per annum. The company has recently expanded into Sierra Leone.

Technological developments in Africa are moving rapidly, and demand for mobile phones and additional services is also increasing across the continent. With mobile email and internet connections now available, even small isolated rural communities can be part of the information super highway, which has wider implications for health, education, training and economic development generally.

Millicom's vice president for Eastern Europe and Africa, Christophe Vicic, says if nations are to rake advantage of the benefits of mobile communication, forward thinking government policies in terms of encouraging foreign investment are critical. …

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