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Cote D’Ivoire
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The Côte d’Ivoire has a well developed by African standards. Côte d’Ivoire was one of the first African countries to liberalize its telecommunications sector by privatizing the state-owned company in late 1990s. Since then, operational fixed-lines have more than quadrupled since that time with two fixed-line providers operating over open-wire lines, microwave radio relay, and fiber-optics. Most segments of the telecommunications market continued to flourish during the crisis which started in 1999. The sector is dominated by mobile telephony, with France Telecom-owned Orange and South Africa’s MTN leading the market.

Licenses & Regulations

Telephone and telegraph services are government owned. The country’s national telecom regulator is Agence des Telecommnications de Côte d’Ivoire (ATCI), which was formed after the passing of the Telecommunications Act in 1995. It is answerable to the Ministry des Infrastructures Economiques and is in charge of the regulation and control of the sector, spectrum management, management of government telecom infrastructure used by operators, licensing and type approval.

Fixed Lines

Fixed-line incumbent Côte d’Ivoire Telecom (CI-Telecom) was majority-privatized in 1997 when France Telecom bought a controlling stake. A second national operator (SNO), Arobase was licensed before the crisis but only got off the ground in 2006 and was then acquired by MTN. Both companies are rolling out CDMA2000 1x fixed-wireless systems and fibre optic backbone networks and also control leading ISPs in the country.

Mobile

As mentioned earlier, the industry is dominated by mobile telephony with France Telecom and MTN ahead of the remaining four operators. The aggressive launches of a third and a fourth GSM network in 2006/07 by Moov (in which the UAE’s Etisalat holds a majority stake) and KoZ (operated by the Lebanese Comium Group) accelerated the already fast growth and have pushed mobile market penetration past the 50% mark, well above the African average. A fifth mobile network was launched by Libya’s LapGreen in late 2008 under the name Oricel, and UAE-based Warid Telecom is standing by to enter the market as the sixth player pending problems with frequency spectrum allocation. The country has 14.54 million subscribers in total, or a 43% penetration rate.

Third generation mobile broadband services have not yet been licensed but are expected in the near future as a means for the mobile operators to broaden their service portfolio and combat the rapidly decreasing average revenue per user in the voice market.

Mobile Operators

Average Revenue per User (ARPU)

Growth was very strong in the beginning but has slowed in recent years as penetration and competition have increased and tariffs have dropped. Declining ARPU levels, however, are weighing heavy on the sector, as is the new unified licensing regime introduced in 2006, designed to increase competition between fixed and mobile network operators. MTN and Zain have witnessed a drop in ARPU levels to US$13 and US$7 during the first quarter of 2009, whereas ARPU for Etisalat was estimated to be US$10 in 2008. Some of the CDMA operators, however, are enjoying brisk business, with players such as Starcomms, Multi-Links, Visafone and ZOOM mobile enjoying ARPU levels in excess of US$30 per month.

Internet

The Internet and broadband market has remained underdeveloped due to the high cost of international bandwidth, caused by a monopolization of access to the SAT-3/WASC international fibre optic submarine cable, the only one currently serving the country. Despite these obstacles, Côte d’Ivoire has become West Africa’s third largest Internet market after Nigeria and Ghana, with services superior to those in many other African countries, including ADSL with up to 8Mb/s. The arrival of a second international fibre optic submarine cable to the region in 2009, with three more to follow in 2010 and 2011, is expected to lead to significantly lower prices for international bandwidth.

The country has a relatively well developed infrastructure and some of the lowest prices in Africa for ADSL broadband services. Côte d’Ivoire had more than 300,000 internet subscribers at the end of 2006.

Key Figures

  • Number of main lines in use: 356,500 (2008)
  • Number of mobile subscribers: 14,540,000 (2010)
  • Number of internet users: 660,000 (2008)
  • Number of ISPs: 2 licensed providers, Africaonline and Aviso
  • Number of Internet hosts: 9,822 (2009)
  • Mobile penetration rate: 43% (2010)
  • Internet penetration rate: 3.2% (2009)

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