Viettel Burundi, backed by Vietnamese military-backed telecoms group Viettel and offering services under the brand name Lumitel, has launched the country’s first 4G LTE network. In a press release, the cellco confirmed that on 24 February it introduced a range of mobile internet services with speeds of up to 100Mbps covering the core central parts of the following provinces: Bujumbura, Gitega, Ngozi, Rumonge Makamba and Muyinga. Users wishing to take advantage of Lumintel’s LTE offer will need to buy a 4G-enabled Samsung, LG, iPhone or L9501 smartphone from Lumitel, which it says are available at an ‘affordable price’.
TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database writes that in January 2014 Viettel Global announced the establishment of a new cellular unit, Viettel Burundi, which was created after Viettel added another VND6.2 trillion (USD291.1 million) to finance capital for new projects. The following month the government reportedly charged Viettel BIF16 billion (USD10.47 million) for a Burundian network operating licence, well below the original asking price of closer to BIF60 billion, paving the way for the launch of the country’s sixth cellular service.
Legally registered as Viettel Burundi SA, the company is headquartered in Bujumbura. The newcomer’s rise has been meteoric: in an interview in June last year, Le Dang Dung, the company’s deputy managing director, disclosed that the cellco had signed up an impressive 600,000 subscribers in its first month of service. By August that figure had reached one million as the start-up tapped into the local population’s need for telecoms access – despite the presence of competition from Econet (leo), Africa Cellulaire (TEMPO), Onatel Mobile and Smart Mobile. Lumitel aims to become the largest telecom operator in Burundi, with 1,000 base stations supporting 95% population coverage. In addition, the newcomer seeks to deploy 5,000km of fibre-optic infrastructure, ahead of its planned entry into the country’s fixed line telecoms sector.