Cameroon names third mobile operator By YUH TIMCHIA in Yaoundé | Tuesday, December 11  2012 at  10:44

South Africa's MTN is one of two existing mobile telephone operators in Cameroon. The other is France Telecom's Orange.  

Cameroon has awarded its third mobile operator’s licence to Vietnam’s Viettel, a move that breaks its restrictive mobile market structure as it heralds the arrival of third generation (3G) mobile technology into the country soon.

The new operator, expected to provide second generation (2G) and 3G services, will cover 81 per cent of the country when it begins operations, the minister of Posts and Telecommunications, Jean-Pierre Biyiti Bi Essam, said in a statement on Monday.

Industry experts have said Viettel, which will be investing 200 billion FCFA ($394 million) in Cameroon, could cause a major shakeup in the nation’s telecommunications landscape especially if it offers cheaper and better services compared to the operators already on the ground.

Others have said the country’s mobile market, one of the few in Africa that still had only two mobile operators in 2012, will rapidly catch up with others that are fast growing in the region.

A forecast by Pyramid Research, a firm which investigates communications, media and technology markets worldwide, says the new competitor and local reseller, Eto’o Telecom, could capture a mobile market share of 6.8 per cent by 2017 and after more than doubling penetration in 2014.

Currently, Cameroon has some 11 million subscribers, representing a population penetration level of around 50 per cent.

This will send the shares of local operators, South Africa’s MTN and France Telecom’s Orange Cameroon, plummeting to 48.7 per cent and 44.5 per cent respectively, it adds.

Three other operators- India’s Bharti Airtel, Maroc Telecom and Korea Telecom- were also in the running for the much-awaited licence.

Early this year the local regulator, Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ART), stepped in to quell rumours that a new company, founded by Cameroon international football star Samuel Eto'o, had clinched the licence for the country’s third mobile telephone operator.

Claims by the company, Eto'o Telecom, that it had sold out its initial 50,000 SIM cards late last year within days of a pre-launch sale helped propagate the rumours.

The company had only been authorized to re-sell telephone traffic for already existing mobile telephone companies, ART said.

Also, the re-entry into the market by fixed-line incumbent, Cameroon Telecommunications (CAMTEL) as the third player, had been dropped following controversy regarding its licence.