- Two of Angola's main cellphone operators have announced that they more than doubled their client base in 2004. While the operators' revenues are also booming, they are planning for another doubling of their customers in 2005. The government, meanwhile, invests in telecom infrastructure to increase coverage.
Angola's cellular telephone operator Movicel announced last week that it had doubled the number of its subscribers in 2004, reaching 200,000 customers in the eight provinces in which it operates. In 2005 the company plans to extend coverage to all provinces of the country and hopes to have 400,000 clients by year-end.
As a first step toward reaching its goal, Movicel plans to extend its service to Mbanza Congo, in Angola's Zaire province, in the first quarter of the year. In 2004, the company had improved service to its clients in Angola's capital, Luanda, and other provincial capitals, including Bengeula, Cabinda and Huila, by upgrading its analogue systems to digital ones.
The announcement by Movicel comes only one week after the Angolan cellphone service provider Unitel made similar statements. Unitel announced that it had doubled its revenues in 2004, netting US$ 240 million. The Angola-registered company also more than doubled its client base to 540,000 customers by year-end.
This development was giving Unitel a 65 percent share of the cellular telephone market in the country. In 2004 Unitel had invested significantly in its network, spending more than US$ 12 million to buy new equipment to expand its network throughout all Angola's provinces.
Unitel is 25 percent owned by Portugal Telecom. The remaining interest in the company is divided among two Angolan interests, Mercury and Geni, and the British company Vidatel.
Meanwhile, Angola Telecom has announced that it is to spend US$ 3.5 million to upgrade its existing network to a digital network in the first trimester of this year. The company was also to expand the telephone network to the areas surrounding Kuito, and the municipalities of Andulo and Kamacupa. In the near term Angola Telecom will also rollout Internet service in the same areas, the company announced.
According to the government-run Agência Nacional para o Investimento Privado (ANIP), these are only some of the large private and government investments currently carried out in Angola. Angola, due the recently ended civil war, was a late starter in the development of modern telecom infrastructures, but the current boom in the sector is now followed by massive investments.
Given the large expansion in cellphone subscribers, the Luanda government in cooperation with Movicel and Unitel earlier this month had to introduce new mobile telephone codes for their customers.
The change was part of a recommendation by the International Telecommunications Union to meet expected large growth in demand in mobile telephones in Angola and is the first part of a new national number plan system, according to ANIP.
As of 16 January, all of Angola's Unitel customers got a 923 prefix code before their personal mobile telephone number, while Movicel customers have a 912 prefix. Phase two of the national number plan will occur on 28 May, when new codes will be assigned for fixed telephone lines.
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