We are now just a few days to the end of the year. Without doubt, next year promises to be the most exciting in the history of Rwanda’s telecoms industry.
I am very sure that users of mobile phones in Rwanda, cannot wait for the onset of Bharti Airtel operations. By mid next year, I can confirm that we will be experiencing the weight of Bharti Airtel in Rwanda in so many ways.
For starters in Africa, it is widely accepted that the mobile phone industry is now taken as the major value driver of the larger ICT sector of any country. Rwanda, with its robust ICT framework is without a doubt , not going to be left out in the explosion of ICT industry in Africa.
That said, the escalation of mobile telephony in the new year in Africa as predicted by sector experts, will also play out dramatically in Rwanda. Experts are saying that Africa’s telecoms industry growth is reflected in the rising levels of international investments that is said to be on a surge.
In Rwanda that was clearly reflected this year, when Bharti Aitel announced that it is committing US$100 million to deepen the industry in Rwanda. That kind of announcement has very important implications for the mobile telephone sector in Rwanda.
Not only is it huge by any standards. But such an investment is also meant to foster and drive competition that will ultimately fast track the maturity of the sector. Before Bharti’s entry, we had Tigo Rwanda that was seen as the new kid of the block.
Tigo Rwanda made history of sorts this year. It managed to bag one million subscribers in less than 3 years of its operations. One can add that as the then new kid on the block, Tigo Rwanda also shattered the “easy” duopoly that existed for so long, between MTN and Rwandatel.
By the time Rwandatel was stripped of its GSM license, the sector through Tigo’s entry was already witnessing increasing levels of competition. With the passing of the year, we are now poised for new changes.
The new entrant is now Bharti Airtel. Tigo Rwanda, along with MTN will now be eyeing Bharti Airtel with a lot of suspicion as it enters the ring.
While both camps are very tight lipped, it has not escaped the minds of those watching the sector that both CEOs of MTN and Tigo Rwanda are now busy burning the mid night candle plotting how to handle Bharti’s entry. For sure, it is common knowledge that Bharti’s entry mechanism is almost certainly premised on price wars.
The prospects of the next phase of competition in Rwanda that brings with it mobile phone price wars promises to usher in the most exciting phase in the growth of the sector.
The question is-If Tigo Rwanda made history with its seemingly mild entry mechanism that saw it bag one million subscribers in less than 3 years of operations, what is Bharti Airtel plotting with its famed abrasive entry mechanism of slashing calling rates?
Are we likely to see Bharti Airtel bagging more than one million subscribers in just one year of its operations?
That question will be answered by mid next year. However, one can even add that in the next 24 months as Bharti Airtel enters and gains a foothold in Rwanda, subscribers are poised to be spoiled for choice in ways never witnessed before.
One can add that Bharti Airtel bears and carries all the characteristics of a game changer in Rwanda’s mobile phone industry, that has long been dominated by MTN and lately TIGO.
The author is an editor with The New Times