Millicom International Cellular, a Luxembourg based telecommunications group has been awarded a licence in Rwanda as the third national telecoms operator, a top government official has revealed.
Romain Murenzi, Minister in President’s Office in charge of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) revealed yesterday that the company was awarded the licence in December 2008 during the last cabinet meeting.
He further said, “The ministerial decree was based on the background paperwork provided by Rwanda Utility Regulatory Authority (RURA) approved by the ICT Ministry.”
Without divulging into details, Murenzi explained that the licence was awarded upon payment of US$60 million licence fee which was to be operational over 15 years.
He also disclosed that the company’s operations are expected soon after rolling out the necessary infrastructure, adding, “Millicom is a promising telecom firm based upon its technical proposal submitted during the international bidding which commenced prior to the issuance of the licence.” The firm beat competition from Telecel Globe, Zain and Larrycom-Expresso.
Millicom entered into a joint venture partnership with Marathon Corporation in a 87.5-12.5 percent equity arrangement.
Marathon Corporation is an established local company with numerous business interests in Rwanda. Millicom a brand already operating in 16 countries of Africa, Asia and America promised to offer affordable rates and other value for money services.
In central Africa, Millicom operates cable and broadband businesses in five countries. The firm’s operations in countries such as Tanzania and DR Congo have a combined population under licence estimated at 291 million.
The entry of another operator after Rwandatel and MTN-Rwandacell is believed to further positively impact on the levelling of the playing field within Rwandan telecoms where currently penetration rates are estimated at about 11 percent.
Government officials say that a competitive telecommunication industry would also bolster the country’s ICT drive which is seen as a key driver of the country’s future economic development especially in the rural areas. Rwanda targets six million mobile phone connections by 2012.
As a third telecoms operator, Millicom’s entry comes at a time when Rwandatel has also repositioned itself within the telecoms market by switching from CDMA to GSM technology after a hefty US$100 Million dramatic acquisition by LAP Green, a Libyan investment portfolio.