KAMPALA, UGANDA – New competition is coming to Uganda’s mobile telephony market in the form of France Telecom and its Orange mobile brand.
This development follows the signing of a partnership agreement last week between France Telecom and Hits Telecom Uganda, a new mobile operator owned by a group of Middle East investors.
Hits secured a public service and infrastructure provider license last year. The license, along with Hits’ existing GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) network, will be transferred into a joint venture called Orange Uganda, according to Jimmy Kiberu, Hits Uganda’s chief corporate affairs officer.
France Telecom will own 53 per cent of the venture and provide roughly half the US$200 million investment planned over the next three years to roll out Hits’ existing network across the country.
The Orange brand will be marketed to customers beginning early next year, Kiberu said in a phone interview.
The France Telecom investment into Hits, whose operations users have been eagerly awaiting, will take investment into Uganda’s telecom sector to $1 billion.
The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) reported last month that some $850 million has so far been invested in the sector. The biggest chunk of investment in the industry has gone into GSM network building, which accounts for over 75 percent of the outlay.
The French group, which just launched operations across the border in Kenya, will face strong competition in a mobile market that consists of African giants MTN and Zain. Other competitors are Uganda Telecom, which is majority-owned by Libya’s Lap Green Networks, and Warid Telecom, an Abu Dhabi-based company that launched in Uganda in February.
According to a France Telecom news statement, the Uganda investment is the first concrete evidence of its revived African ambitions after the group’s abortive $41 billion bid for TeliaSonera, the Nordic operator.
France Telecom has operations in 16 African countries, predominantly in French-speaking West Africa. It made its first major foray into English-speaking Africa last year when it successfully negotiated a