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Telstar Is the New Kid on Angola's Comms Services Block

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Local contender Telstar has been awarded a license to offer fixed, mobile and cable services by Angola's telecom ministry, making it the country's fourth multiservice license holder.

The Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology (Ministério das Telecomunicações e Tecnologias de Informação) announced that the Angolan private company won the new "unified global licence" (Título Global Unificado, TGU) following decisions by the evaluation committee.

This concludes a year-long process that attracted interest from 18 local and nine overseas companies, the announcement said. At the end of 2017, Bloomberg reported that the new government was prepared to partially privatize the state-owned Angola Telecom and to issue a fourth telecom license. At the end of last year, Manuel Homem, the Angolan Secretary of State for Telecommunications, told the press that the fourth telecom operator would be announced in the first quarter of 2019. (See Angola to Get New Operator, Part Privatize Incumbent.)

The license will cost the one-year-old company US$120 million, 15% of which should be paid within 45 days, and the rest will be settled within the next seven years. Service offerings should start within one year. In a YouTube promotional video, Telstar pledged to be the first to roll out 5G in Angola as well as to provide high-speed Internet and premium-quality VoLTE (voice-over-LTE) services. It also promised to create 5,000 direct and 160,000 indirect jobs. The government also expects to company to be listed on the local stock market at some point.

The license will give Telstar access to all telecom and television markets, including fixed, mobile, cable and Internet.

In the mobile market, which supports almost 14 million users, Unitel commands more than 74% of the market, with Movicel serving the rest, according to data collected by research house Ovum. Movicel recently struck a partnership with Vodafone. (See Vodafone Expands Its Partnership Programme to Angola.)

Angola Telecom, meanwhile, is focused on the fixed and Internet access markets and does not offer mobile services.

The bidding process for the fourth license was not without controversy. MTN had shown serious interest until it decided to pull out in November, days before the original date to announce the winner. According to a report by the local business weekly Expansão, citing industry sources, MTN regarded the process as rigged and conceded that Telstar would be the only possible winner: The government insisted the process was transparent.

Telstar was established in January 2018 with a registered capital of Kz 200,000 ($630), less than a month before the government made the public announcement to start the bidding process. Public records showed the company was jointly owned by Manuel João Carneiro (90%) and António Cardoso Mateus (10%). According to online news outlet Portugal i News, which referred to the updated report by Expansão, Manuel João Carneiro is also the Chairman of Mundo Telecomunicações SARL, which is owned by Augusto da Silva Tomás and José Pedro de Morais, former cabinet ministers for transport and finance respectively, and other former senior government officials that served under the former president José Eduardo dos Santos.

Incidentally, Isabel dos Santos, dubbed "the richest woman in Africa" and daughter of the former president, was recently re-elected to the board of the country's leading mobile operator, Unitel.

— Wei Shi, Site Editor, Connecting Africa

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