MTN, Airtel invest US$70m to improve Congo QoS

By Issa Sikiti da Silva

Cellphone operators MTN and Airtel have invested about US$50 million (35 billion FCFA) and US$20 million (10 billion FCFA), respectively, in a huge operation to improve the quality of coverage and services in Congo Brazzaville.

This comes after the two operators were jointly fined US$4 million last year by ARPCE, the telecom regulator, for allegedly failing to provide excellent services to consumers.

The ongoing rehabilitation work, which includes upgrading their networks, is set to end in June 2015 after being programmed for  December 2014, Congo telecom regulator boss Yves Castanou said this week.

Reasons given for the delay include electricity and logistics challenges. Congo, like all the sub-Saharan Africa countries, faces huge power challenges that keep its cities and towns in the darkness for several hours, and sometimes for days and weeks.

Logistics problems include difficulties to transport material and equipment to cities and villages in a country that has few modern roads.

Castanou, who met recently with MTN and Airtel officials in the capital Brazzaville to discuss the issue, has decided to extend the deadline to June 2015 after listening to the operators’ case.

 “It's true that the operators are experiencing a couple of problems, but they are working. We postponed the deadline to June as we believe that all the work will be completed by then,” he said.

MTN has since apologised to its customers for the inconvenience caused by the delay. 

Nevertheless, the operator said a significant improvement has been noticed in the past seven months in several localities.

"We set ourselves the deadline of Q2 2015 to complete the remaining work in some districts of Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire and other areas,” MTN Congo Freddy Tchala said.

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