MTN taps into Namibia’s telecom liberalization by eyeing mobile service expansion

Africa’s biggest mobile telecoms firm, MTN, announced that it is planning to launch a mobile service in Namibia by the end of August this year. This comes after over 20 years of operating in Namibia as internet service providers to financial institutions, wholesale customers and logistics institutions.

“We are working towards the end of August,” Hester Marais, an executive at MTN Namibia, told Reuters in an interview.

About a week ago, MTN also announced that it was working towards getting a second license in the potentially lucrative market of Ethiopia in order to roll out more services. Despite losing a telco license in Myanmar, Southeast Asia and having an ongoing battle with Turkey’s Turkcell MTN is not relenting on expanding its footprint across the globe most especially in Africa. Currently, MTN offers mobile services in several african countries which includes, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa.

While some African countries have ruled out the liberalisation of their telecom sector, Namibia have decided to liberalize theirs by giving companies the opportunity to invest in their telecommunication sector. Currently in Namibia, a country of about 2 million people the telecommunications industry is being dominated by the state-owned operator MTC and TN Mobile.

In trying to liberalize its telecommunication sector, however, they made a caveat for new ICT players to respond to government’s quest for increased access to ICT services by communities currently sidelined by the high cost of services or the absence of infrastructure near them. The Communication Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN) also ensured that Namibians are also shareholders in every telecommunication company. For instance, MTN Namibia is 30 percent owned by Namibian shareholders and the shareholding is held by Profile Technologies, a company owned by Namibian businessman Vaino Nghipondoka.

CRAN also created a more level playing field by lowering the barrier for new ICT players in the market by implementing the infrastructure sharing regulations and setting up number portability. The infrastructure sharing regulations provide for active and passive infrastructure sharing and opened the door for national roaming agreements between licensees.

Licensees are also obliged to share ICT infrastructure such as towers, feeders, antennas, ducts and fibre cables. This will help avoid duplication of investment in new infrastructure and licensees can focus on investing in access and services.

MTN have also tapped into this as it plans to use state-owned Telecom Namibia’s network infrastructure for its mobile service. It also plans to enter the local mobile money market.