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Telecoms connect to the 21st century

Article - November 3, 2011
Angola’s telecommunications market has grown, been modernised and extended around the country in the past decade, all at a rapid pace
The stage for the development of the country’s phone system was set in 1996 and 1997, when the Government put out a white book that outlined a new strategy to liberalise the market.

At the time there were only about 50,000 fixed lines in the country, with more than 80 per cent of those in Luanda and almost all using analogue technology. The solution that arose from the white book started with the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, which sent appropriate legislation to the Government to create incentives and liberalise the market.

The next step was to start an independent regulator, called INACOM, to observe the market and make sure all the players followed the same set of transparent rules and procedures. The final step was to get companies to come and invest in the market. This proved to be easier for mobile phones than for fixed lines.

In 2001, there were around 30,000 mobile telephone users in Angola. In the following 10 years, that figure rose to over eight million, which is almost two-thirds of the country’s population of 13.3 million people.

Now the Government is focused on improving the fixed-line network, according to Aristides Frederico Safeca, Deputy Minister of Telecommunications.

“The major challenge for the sector is still fixed-line, more precisely in terms of support infrastructures, because of the unavailability of broadband internet access to users via the mobile network,” he explains. “That’s where the state is mostly investing right now through a basic telecom infrastructure programme, which will install about 5,600 miles of fibre optic cable along the main roads to connect all provincial capitals and main locations.”

The first phase of the programme is almost complete, with about 1,250 miles of cable installed. The installation of the remainder of the cables is expected to be finished by 2015, when it will become functional and vastly improve internet access and fixed-line communications around the country.

Once complete, businesses, individuals and, especially, schools will be able to take advantage of the system. The Government has a project called ‘Internet in Schools’ that provides learning institutions with the necessary infrastructure. The schools then provide the equipment and maintenance, which is all available for use by students. The programme initially covered 18 schools in Luanda, and the plan is now to extend it to the whole country.

The Government is also partnering with schools to encourage training for workers in the sector, which will need qualified employees to install and maintain the networks. Several schools have been set up as part of the programme and they are already producing graduates.

All of the efforts made by the Government and the private sector have already helped begin the move of the telecoms infrastructure into the 21st century. The country has multiple mobile and fixed-line providers competing with each other and the network has now reached about 80 per cent of Angola’s towns, a huge accomplishment in the African context.