Thursday, June 4, 2015

Afrimax explore 4G LTE opportunities in Ghana

Reliable information reaching Adom News indicates Netherlands-based telecoms company, Afrimax Group is in country to explore the possibility of offering 4G LTE services in Ghana.

The name of the Ghana subsidiary, Afrimax Ghana BV, suggests they are registered in British Virgin Islands, but their address on google is the same as that of the mother company in the Netherlands; Naritaweg 165, 1043 BW Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Some 4G LTE operators in Ghana are already raising questions about "this early competition from a foreign player." Even some 4G operators elsewhere on the continent are asking about Afrimax's presence in Ghana. This writer has had at least one enquiry from Tanzania where Afrimax has a partnership with the Vodacom Group.

On November 18 last year, the Vodafone Group and the Afrimax Group jointly announced a partnership to expand in sub-Saharan Africa through 4G LTE services, comprising voice and data services in selected countries.

"The deal gives Vodafone access to as many as 12 new African territories," Vodafone said in a statement on its website. 

“The partnership with Vodafone solidifies our ongoing plans to be a leading provider of high-speed network services in sub-Saharan Africa,” Afrimax Chief Executive Officer Peter Langkilde also said in that statement.

In Uganda, for instance, the two agreed to use the Vodafone Uganda brand for the 4G LTE service for both voice and data. 

The statement also did say that the framework agreement will complement Vodacom Group’s operations in South Africa, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho and Mozambique. 

But both Vodafone and Afrimax did not say if the partnership was supposed to benefit Ghana also. It is therefore not clear if Afrimax's presence in Ghana has anything to do with the partnership agreement with Vodafone.

Adom News therefore sent separate requests to the Vodafone Group and the Afrimax Group to find out if Afrimax's presence in Ghana has anything to so with their partnership agreement.

In a response, Senior Media Relations Manager of the Vodafone Group, Adam Liversage said "Under our framework agreement, Vodafone and Afrimax are exploring Partner Market opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa. Vodafone is already present in Ghana, however, with Vodafone Ghana."

He then referred Adom News to two officials at Vodafone Ghana on issues specifically regarding Ghana. Adom News has since sent a request weeks ago to Vodafone Ghana on the matter but no response. The Afrimax group has also not provided any response.

Meanwhile, some industry watchers believe Afrimax is positioning itself to partner a local player and go for some of the 4G-compliant spectrum that would emerge as part of the digital dividend from the digital terrestrial migration (DTT). That spectrum is going for US$92million and only MTN has showed interest so far.

The conditions on that license is that any foreign entities who puts in a bid should have at least 40% local shareholder.

Adom News is reliably informed that the industry regulator, National Communications Authority (NCA) is aware of Afrimax's presence in the country but NCA has not awarded them any license yet. Besides, Vodafone Ghana has no BWA license yet.

NCA has so far awarded three BWA (Broadband Wireless Access) licenses to local 4GLTE operators. So far two have taken off: Surfline Communications and Blu Telecoms. But the third license holder, Goldkey Telecoms has not even announced take off plans even though deadline for take off is this month.

But Adom News is reliably informed that Goldkey is in no talks with Afrimax for partnership.

The law allows the first three local BWA license holders to sell up to 70% shares to foreign investors, unlike the other telecoms licenses, some of which have been wholly sold to foreign investors. 

Afrimax is a known 4G carrier in sub-Saharan Africa and has received $65 million of equity funding from investors including KGC Capital chairman Richard Kiphart and the IFC of the World Bank.

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