Sunday, November 2, 2008

More users for Burundi mobile firm ONAMOB

BUJUMBURA, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Burundi's state-owned mobile operator ONAMOB's subscriber base grew by 133 percent in the first half of 2008 to 140,000 after it improved its network service, a company official said on Friday.

The central African nation's second-biggest mobile phone now plans to more than treble these user numbers to 500,000 by 2010, ONAMOB General Manager Salvator Nizigiyimana told Reuters.

"We have installed high-performance equipment in areas uncovered by other operators, but we also have affordable tariffs. This explains why we got so many clients," he said in an interview.

Burundi's mobile sector grew 65 percent in 2007 due partly to improved security, after an ethnic war that killed 300,000 people ended.

U-com, a firm owned by Egyptian telecoms operator Orascom , is the biggest mobile operator with about 250,000 users, up from 159,000 in 2007.

Nizigiyimana said ONAMOB's earnings rose to around $7.2 million in 2007 against $6 million in 2006, and the firm projects earnings growing to $10 million by the end of 2008.

The company is now working on roaming and credit-transfer services which should be operational by December 2008, he said.

ONAMOB is looking for a strategic investor in order to be more competitive, Nizigiyimana said, adding that priority would be given to an international investor. He did not give further details.

The nation of 8 million people has four mobile operators, U-com, ONAMOB, Africell - which is a shareholding of VTL Holdings of Dubai; and Econet, a subsidiary of Econet Wireless from South Africa.

This year the government issued new licences to HITS Telecom, which is a joint venture between Ugandan and United Arab Emirates businessmen and Lacell SU from Nepal.

Investment in the sector rose to $71 million in 2007, from $43 million in 2006, according to the country's telecom regulator (ARCT).