April 5, 2011 / 8:03 AM / in 7 years

Rwanda ends Libyan-owned mobile permit

KIGALI (Reuters) - Rwanda’s telecommunications sector regulator said on Tuesday it had revoked the mobile licence of Libyan-owned Rwandatel for failure to meet obligations.

Regis Gatarayiha, the acting Director General of Rwanda’s Utility and Regulatory Agency (RURA), said the termination had nothing to do with enforcing a U.N. resolution to impose sanctions on Libya, including freezing of its assets.

“The regulatory board has resolved to revoke Rwandatel’s mobile telecommunications license with immediatrurae effect due to its continued failure to meet license obligations,” Gatarayiha told Reuters.

“The mobile services, including GSM voice and 3G Data, will only remain available until Friday, April 8th, 2011. Thereafter the network will be effectively switched off and services discontinued,” he said.

Eighty percent of Rwandatel is owned by the Libyan consortium LAP Green while the rest is held by the Social Security Fund of Rwanda.

The Libyan African Investment Portfolio (LAP) set up LAP Green Network in 2007 to invest in African telecommunications. It has its headquarters in Uganda and owns telecoms companies or licences in eight African countries.

The regulator said that the company’s fixed telephony and Internet license would remain active and operational, since the two services were running under a separate licence.

“From Tuesday all existing Rwandatel mobile subscribers will be advised to switch to either MTN Rwanda or Tigo Rwanda. The two will make necessary distribution plans to be able to handle the demand for new SIM connections that might result from this development without hiking any prices,” RURA said in a letter copied to the heads of the two firms.

RURA’s statistics show that Rwandatel’s subscribers dropped by over 35 percent subscribers to 345,771 by end of January 2011, from 536,000 subscribers in September 2010.

The local unit of South African MTN Group is still Rwanda’s market leader with 2.5 million subscribers. Millicom’s Tigo Rwanda -- which has been in the market for just a year -- is the second largest operator with 692,950 users.

Rwanda had shelved plans of awarding a fourth mobile phone operator’s licence until subscriber growth and market share distribution stabilises.

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