Vietnamese telecom operator Viettel has launched its first African mobile network in Mozambique and is seeking opportunities to invest in other African countries.
Viettel launched its Mozambique operation, which is called Movitel, almost a year after acquiring its licence back in January 2011. In the intervening time, Viettel claims to have built the “largest mobile coverage network” in Mozambique, doubling the coverage level required by the licence.
Movitel joins the market as Mozambique’s third mobile operator, competing with Vodacom Mozambique and mCel, the incumbent mobile subsidiary of the national telco, TDM.
Viettel said that it has built 12,600km of fibre optic cable and 1,800 base stations in Mozambique, representing 70% of the total fibre optic cable and 50% of base stations in the country. In mid-2011, Movitel said that it planned to invest $465 million in Mozambique over the next five years.
The network has helped triple the density of Mozambique’s telecom infrastructure, placing the country among the top three nations in Sub-Saharan Africa in terms of fibre optic cable systems.
At the launch ceremony, Viettel said that it was providing free internet for 4,200 schools as part of the group’s pledge to the government of Mozambique. At present, more than 500 schools have been connected as part of the project.
According to BuddeComm, a telecoms research firm based in Australia, Mozambique has become one of the “fastest and most consistently growing” economies in the world. It escaped the global economic crisis with “barely a dent” in its annual GDP growth, which is expected to stay above 7%, the research firm said.
With a mobile penetration rate of about 39%, the country also holds significant potential for mobile operators. “The launch of Movitel as the third mobile network in early 2012 is expected to deliver a boost to subscriber growth in the sector but also drive the average revenue per user (ARPU) lower again which had already stabilised following the introduction of mobile broadband services and higher tariffs,” BuddeComm said in a recent report.
Viettel currently has telecom investments in six countries across Asia, South America and Africa and provides services to more than 60 million subscribers. It claims to have the largest telecom networks in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. In 2011, Viettel’s turnover was estimated at $6 billion, with an average growth rate of around 20% a year, the telco said in a statement.