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Congo Kinshasa: Congo Kinshasa Communication Profile



Africell’s anticipated 3G launch may shake up mobile internet pricing

Following a 30-year dictatorship between 1967 and 1997, the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) went through several wars and considerable social upheaval. There remain violent conflicts in the eastern part of the country, exacerbated by considerable corruption within the government and police which make it difficult for the government to extend its control effectively in these regions. The economy is heavily dependent on revenue from the mining sector though much economic activity occurs informally and is not reflected in GDP data. The global economic crisis reduced GDP growth to around 3% in 2009, but it returned to 7% in 2010-12, increasing to 8.5% in 2013 and an anticipated 8.7% for 2014.It is expected to remain stable at that level for the next two to three years, largely supported by mining.

Largely due to the country’s troubled history, the national telecom system remains one of the least developed in the region. The national operator, SCPT theoretically has monopoly rights under 1970 legislation. However, recognising the need for telecommunications infrastructure, the government is only loosely regulating the sector.

Mobile network operators have taken over as the providers of basic telecom services. By 2001, some 16 private operators had been granted mobile telephony licences and the subscriber base was growing at triple digit rates annually. However, the proliferation of networks also caused frequency spectrum shortages, interference and compatibility problems. As a result, the mobile sector has since consolidated and now has five major players.

Development of the DRC’s internet and broadband market has been held back by the poorly developed national and international infrastructure. However, the country was finally connected to low-cost, high-quality international bandwidth through the WACS submarine fibre optic cable in 2013, and SCPT is rolling out a fibre optic national backbone network with support from China. An alternative terrestrial international fibre connection exists via neighbouring countries. Broadband access is provided by 3G mobile services and wireless networks using WiMAX and EV-DO technology. The country’s first commercial LTE networks are imminent.

Market highlights:

  • Connection to WACS international fibre optic cable finally completed;
  • National fibre backbone rollout continues;
  • Fifth mobile network thrives despite denial of interconnection;
  • 3.5G mobile broadband services introduced;
  • First LTE network set to launch later in 2014 following government consultations with wireless operators;
  • Airtel Congo and MTN Congo fined for mobile network quality and availability failures;
  • Africell takes Vodacom, Tigo and Airtel to court over their refusal to interconnect networks;
  • Yozma Timeturns pays initial licence fee instalment, proposes mobile services launch;
  • Vodacom reaches dispute settlement with its partner CWN, paving the way for continued investment in the country;
  • Airtel increases investment undertaking for DRC to $550 million, partners with BGFIBank Group to make its Airtel Money service available to bank customers.
  • Regulator criticised by ITU for setting mobile pricing.

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

Market Penetration rate
Mobile 44%
Fixed 0.1%
Internet 2.5%
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