Rwanda news update – Airtel gets ‘vacant’ telecom license

The third license to operate mobile telecom services, withdrawn from a Libyan owned company a few months ago over regulatory offenses, was finally awarded to Airtel Africa earlier this week, bringing the number of mobile operators back to three. Airtel of India had taken over the Zain network across Africa, making it one of the worlds leading mobile operators and their arrival in Rwanda closes a gap in their coverage of East Africa, as they expand their presence on the continent to vie with South Africas MTN for continental leadership. The company, on receiving their license, committed to invest at least 100 million US Dollars in a GSM / 3G network across Rwanda over the next year. It is not clear if they are considering taking over network assets from the former Libyan owned company, which is now under winding up proceedings, such as transmission towers and other installations or will roll out an entirely new network infrastructure. Rwanda is understood to encourage mast sharing amongst operators to prevent the proliferation of telecom towers which, though initially a sign of progress and development are now often perceived as an eyesore, especially when littered over several hills in close proximity.
The arrival of Airtel is good news for business and tourist visitors as it widens the choice of operators and keeps the cost of communications competitive. After the closure of the Libyan owned company about 600.000 subscribers had to move to MTN and Tigo and the new choice will undoubtedly lead to a major migration of phone users to Airtel in coming weeks as their marketing campaign is rolled out.

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