Madagascar: Gulfsat Secures Licence To Be Second Backbone Provider

Telecom providers in Madagascar have benefited from the increasing competition between the leading operators, including Orange Madagascar, Airtel and the incumbent telco Telma. A new baby in the industry - the country fourth mobile operator, Gulfsat Madagascar, operating under the Blueline banner, has its mobile network. In mid-2020 was licensed to build its fibre network, thus ending the monopoly long held by Telma.

Positive developments in the international connectivity have also materialised this after significant investments in the METISS cable connecting to South Africa and Mauritius. Landing stations for this cable were finished in June 2020. The country's connection to the Africa-1 line will provide additional links to the African mainland and other international cable systems.

A national fibre backbone has been implemented connecting the major cities, with Telma having invested some $250 million to expand the network to 11,000km between 2017 and 2019. Wireless access networks are being rolled out, with Telma having completed a network upgrade to LTE-A. With the government in mid-2020 committing itself to deploy free WiFi hotspots to ensure that poorest sections of society have access to internet services.

Penetration rates in all market sectors are still below African averages, so there remains considerable growth potential.

According to a report by BuddeComm, the Coronavirus outbreak in 2020 had a significant impact on production and supply chains globally. Because of the pandemic in the coming year, the telecoms sector to various degrees is likely to experience a downturn in mobile device production. It may also be difficult for network operators to manage workflows when maintaining and upgrading existing infrastructure. The overall progress towards 5G may be postponed or slowed down in some countries.

On the consumer side, spending on telecoms services and devices is under pressure from the economic effect of large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes. However, telecom services' essential nature will offset such pressures both for general communication and a home-working tool. In many markets, the net effect should be a steady though reduced increased in subscriber growth.

Although it is challenging to predict and interpret the long-term impacts of the crisis as it develops, these have been acknowledged in this report's industry forecasts.

The report also covers the telecom operators and government agencies and regulators' responses as they react to the crisis to ensure that citizens can continue to make optimum use of telecom services. This can be reflected in subsidy schemes and the promotion of telehealth and tele-education, among other solutions.


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