By Issa Sikiti da Silva
Uprising-hit Burkina Faso has made available about 20 million new mobile numbers to help operators allocate them to their potential new users.
The operation came out as a result of the change the country made to landline telephone numbers in the aim of freeing space for mobile.
Analysts said Burkina Faso’s mobile market has experienced outstanding growth since the sector was ‘liberalised’ in 2000.
But despite its annual growth of about 34%, the country’s penetration rate, 68%, is still below the continent’s average.
Burkina Faso currently has three mobile phone operators, including Airtel Burkina and Onatel the market leader, which is majority-owned by Maroc Télécom.
Rising demands and rapid growth meant that mobile telephone numbers appear to be running out fast and furious, prompting ARCEP, the regulator, to take the bull by its horns and look for urgent solutions.
ARCEP chairman Maturin Bako said that 15 December 2014 was the crunch date to restructure the fixed line market, including changing its digits to free space for mobile.
More than 120 000 fixed-line prefix-digits are believed to have been changed since Monday. The ones starting by 25 have been changed to 50, while 40 becomes 24 and only the code 20 remains unchanged.
Bako said the changes were indispensable to enable the regulator to create new spaces for mobile operators who seem to be overwhelmed by rising demands.
West African technology analyst John Osei-Seidu told Biztechafrica that the fixed line market (current penetration rate 0.7%) has been falling thick and fast due to the bad state of its networks, with many subscribers embracing mobile, where operators are thought to be investing heavily to improve the quality of services.
The mobile market might experience further growth in 2015 as the 20 million numbers represent a huge resource operators could use to find new customers to increase their subscription base, he said.