Tanzania allows Viettel to lay its own fibre optic cable

Saturday October 24 2015

By ERICK KABENDERA, The EastAfrican

With the entry of Vietnam’s state-owned telecoms operator Viettel into Tanzania, the government will now allow independent players to lay fibre optic cable, previously its preserve.

Prof Makame Mbarawa, Minister for Communication, Science and Technology, said the company would help increase the number of Tanzanians able to access 3G Internet services across the country.

“Viettel has commitments with the government to provide fibre connectivity to more than 850 public institutions,” Prof Mbarawa said.

Mobile phone players are now asking the government to introduce a standardised system of building towers after Viettel, operating Halotel, introduced cheap towers.

The EastAfrican learnt that Viettel introduced its own antennas after the country’s utility company Tanesco refused to allow Viettel use of its poles to reach clients in areas covered by Tanesco.

“Tanesco wanted to charge the company $3.75 for each pole so the deal collapsed — but had it gone through, it would have meant that 3G would have reached all manner of places,” sources said.

In Mozambique, where the company launched three years ago, the cost of mobile phone services has fallen by 50 per cent and Viettel is currently the leading operator.

Major mobile phone networks in Tanzania currently provide as much as 1GB of Internet use for US 50 cents in special 24-hour bundles. The special rates are offered by Vodacom Tanzania, Airtel Tanzania, Tigo, Zantel  as well as state-owned TTCL.

Viettel has maintained that it will invest $1 billion and will cover over 80 per cent of the population. In Mozambique, it operates as Movitel, a joint initiative and Mozambique’s direct investment company, SPI. By February, Movitel has laid 25,000 kilometres of fiber optical cables, reaching nearly 80 per cent of Mozambique’s population.

Halotel chief executive Nguyen Quang said that the company had created over 22,000 jobs. At the official launch of the company last week, Mr Quang said that they would reach 1,500 villages while 30,000 schools would get free Internet services.

According to Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority, there were 31.86 million mobile phone users in Tanzania by 2014, but this number has risen to 36 million this year.

The number of Internet users was 11.35 million people by 2013 but has surged significantly due to the advent of smartphones.

Meanwhile, sources at Bank of Tanzania told The EastAfrican that Halotel has been awarded a licence to operate mobile money transfer services known as V-money.

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