Backbone infrastructure project could fix Chad’s subpar penetration rates

Despite being Africa’s latest exporter of oil, Chad has one of the least developed telecommunications markets in the world. Penetration rates in all market sectors – fixed, mobile and Internet – are well below African averages, according to Research & Markets.

The mobile sector is growing fast under competition between two foreign-owned networks – Bharti Airtel (formerly Zain), and Millicom (Tigo). The national telco and fixed-line operator, Sotel Tchad (ST) was participating in another mobile network in partnership with Orascom Telecom until it ceased operations in 2004 over legal disputes between the shareholders.

ST is rolling out a CDMA2000 fixed-wireless system that enables it to potentially re-enter the mobile sector. The technology also holds the potential to provide broadband services with an upgrade to the EV-DO standard. Plans exist for privatisation of the company, but a time schedule has not yet been announced.

The mobile networks currently provide the only broadband-like services in the country apart from direct satellite access. Third generation mobile services have not yet been introduced.

Chad still lacks a national backbone infrastructure and international fibre access to support efficient broadband services. All long-distance connections, national and international, are currently made via satellite. However, the World Bank-funded Central African Backbone (CAB) project is set to finally bring fibre to the country in 2011.

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