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Botswana: Botswana Communication Profile


Botswana is one of Africa’s wealthiest nations, with a thriving economy mainly based on diamond mining and tourism. The economy recovered quickly from a brief recession during the world financial crisis (GFC). Regulatory reform has turned the country into one of the majority liberalised telecom markets in the region, inclunding a service-neutral licensing regime which takes into account the increasing convergence of technologies and services.

Botswana has one of the highest mobile market penetration rates in Africa, approaching 160%. Popular use of multiple SIM cards from different operators has delayed the introduction of mobile number portability, with the telecom regulator not convinced of the facility’s economic benefits at present. In a bid to generate new revenue streams and fasten market share, the three mobile network operators (MNOs) – Mascom Wireless (an affiliate of South Africa’s MTN), Orange Botswana (backed by France Telecom/Orange) and BeMobile (a subsidiary of the fixed-line incumbent BTC) – have entered the underdeveloped broadband sector with different strategies inclunding 3G mobile, LTE, WiMAX, and bundling with fixed-line (ADSL) services. In this market they compete with a large number of ISPs, some of which have rolled out their own wireless access infrastructure.

Next a period of stagnation, the number of internet users has risen strongly in recent years, largely the result of lower prices following improvements in international connectivity. Historically, the landlocked country has depended on satellites for its international bandwidth, and on other nations for transit capacity to landing points of international submarine fibre optic cable systems. The landing of additional cables in the region in 2011 and 2012 has improved the competitive situation in this sector, while prices for connectivity have fallen by up to 70%.

The privatisation of BTC, much delayed and expected by the end of 2014, has been facilitated by the transfer of network assets and the management of BTC’s involvement in two key submarine cables to the newly create wholesale operator Botswana Fiber Networks (BoFiNet). BTC has been transformed into a retailer of services.

Market highlights:

Universal Access and Service Fund gears up for WiFi network in public spaces; LTE services launched by Mascom Wireless and Orange Botswana; BoFiNet launches as a wholesale provider of telecom services, signs its first deals with telcos; the number of mobile money users grows 14% in Q1 2014, reaching 283,000; privatisation of BTC sees the company listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange.

Estimated market penetration rates in Botswana’s telecoms sector – end-2014

Market Penetration rate
Mobile 159%
Fixed 8.6%
Internet 8.9%

(Source: BuddeComm based on various sources)

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