Burkina Faso’s Minister of Development of Digital Economy and Posts, Jean Koulidiaty, has revealed that the government has decided to scrap plans to license a fourth mobile operator, due to a lack of interest. In an interview with local newspaper Sidwaya, the minister disclosed that Vietnamese telecoms group Viettel was the only applicant for the ten-year ‘global’ licence, which would allow the owner to provide fixed and mobile telephony and internet services. With the plans on hold, the government has decided it will instead focus on the deployment of a nationwide fibre-optic backbone across the country, stretching 5,445km with a presence in 45 towns and 82 ‘communes’.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Communications and Posts (ARCEP) resumed the process to license a new fixed and mobile telecoms operator in 2012, following an unsuccessful auction two years earlier. In April 2013 the watchdog announced that it had relaunched the tender process for the concession; interested parties were initially required to submit bids by 10 July 2013, but this was subsequently extended to 24 July 2013. Earlier this year, it was reported that Viettel was the only applicant for the concession. There are currently three players in the wireless market: national telecoms operator the Office National des Telecommunications (Onatel), in which Maroc Telecom holds a majority stake; Indian-owned Airtel Burkina Faso; and local operator Telecel Faso. At the end of 2013 the trio had a combined mobile subscriber base of 11.85 million, translating to a population penetration of around 67%.