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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Bennin Cuts off MTN and Atlantique

COTONOU, Benin (Reuters) - Benin granted a mobile phones operating permit to neighbouring Nigeria's second biggest operator Globacom on Monday, a month after cutting off two of its four networks in a dispute over contracts and licence fees.

The West African country launched a tender for a new operator after suspending the networks of South African-listed MTN and Atlantique Telecom, controlled by Emirates Telecommunications Corp (Etisalat) last month.

Globacom, which describes itself as Africa's fastest growing telecom network, was selected from some 10 tenders submitted and signed a contract with the government on Monday granting the company a 10-year operating licence.

Benin's telecom regulator had ordered MTN and Atlantique Telecom to sign new contracts including a $50 million, 500 percent rise in the initial once-off operator fee to 30 billion CFA francs.

Government officials said Globacom had offered a higher sum to enter the market.
"The financial offer exceeded that which the government is proposing to existing operators," Victor Tokpanou, legal adviser to President Thomas Boni Yayi, told state television on Monday.
Globacom, which began operations in 2003, has over 12 million customers in Nigeria and says it aims "to build the largest and best telecommunications network in Africa."

With only 8 million people, Benin is a tiny market compared to neighbouring Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation with nearly 17 times Benin's population.

MTN, whose Benin network was previously operated by Spacetel Benin under the Areeba brand, had 514,000 subscribers in Benin in March. Atlantique Telecom's Moov network, previously part of the Telecel group, has around 450,000.

Tokpanou said there was still room for negotiations with the two suspended operators.

The Rest @ Reuters Africa

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