Vodacom, MTN battle for African Fibre Market, as Demand for faster data spikes

Mobile network operators invest heavily in fibre infrastructure to meet growing demand for connectivity and data speeds. Joseph Ekeng writes.

Vodacom and MTN, two major mobile network operators, are engaged in a fierce battle to dominate the African fibre market. Both companies are making substantial investments and expanding their fibre businesses to meet the growing demand for connectivity and faster data speeds. However, they face tough competition not only from each other but also from existing players like Telkom, Liquid Telecom, and Vumatel.

MTN has recently unveiled an ambitious plan to connect ten countries with an inland fibre cable, costing a staggering $320 million. This project involves laying 20,000 kilometers of new fibre cabling and connecting over 100,000 kilometers of existing fibre infrastructure. The venture is divided into three phases and is expected to be completed by 2025. MTN’s subsidiary, GlobalConnect, will transform into a separate entity and aims to deploy an additional 135,000 kilometers of fibre by 2025, generating potential revenue of up to $1 billion.

Meanwhile, Vodacom is awaiting approval from the Competition Commission in South Africa for its transformative $693 million deal with Remgro. If approved, this deal will allow Vodacom to expand its fibre offering to several other countries, including Tanzania and the Congo. In addition, Vodacom has already expressed its intention to invest $337.5 million in cash and acquire fibre assets valued at over $210 million, securing a 30% stake in MAZIV—a holding company that incorporates Dark Fibre Africa’s extensive fibre assets. Dark Fibre Africa is currently the second-largest fibre network operator in South Africa.

Despite these efforts, Telkom, through its subsidiary Openserve, continues to dominate South Africa’s fibre industry. This presents an additional challenge for Vodacom and MTN as they strive to expand their fibre businesses across the continent.

Fibre networks have become increasingly important as mobile network operators seek to provide seamless connectivity and satisfy customers’ demand for high-speed data. With the emergence of 5G technology, fibre infrastructure serves as the foundation for this advanced connectivity, making it a crucial component of modern telecommunication systems.

As Vodacom and MTN compete for market dominance, they must address several challenges. These include infrastructure limitations, regulatory frameworks, and affordability concerns. Building and maintaining fibre networks can be costly, especially in rural areas where demand may be limited. Moreover, regulatory environments must encourage investment and healthy competition while ensuring affordable prices for consumers.

The battle for supremacy in the African fibre market has intensified due to significant investments by Vodacom and MTN. While this competition promises remarkable advancements in connectivity, the industry must overcome challenges related to infrastructure, regulations, and accessibility.


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