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GSM assets not part of Liquid’s Rwandatel deal

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Pan-African wholesale carrier Liquid Telecom (LT) has bought all of Rwandatel’s fibre, copper and wireless (CDMA and WiMAX) assets but has not acquired the telco’s GSM infrastructure.

This is according to Liquid Telecom’s chief executive officer Nic Rudnick, who has revealed more details to ITWeb Africa about his firm’s purchase of the insolvent Rwandan telco’s businesses and assets for an undisclosed amount.

Yesterday, Liquid released a statement announcing the purchase.

Liquid Telecom is also the subsidiary of African telecommunications group Econet Wireless. LT further claims to have the largest fibre-optic network reach in Africa, with infrastructure extending 13,000 km from Cape Town to East Africa.

Meanwhile, Rwandatel has formerly been jointly owned by Libya’s LAP Green Networks and the former National Social Security Fund of Rwanda.

According to BuddeComm research, fixed-line incumbent Rwandatel joined MTN in 2006 to become Rwanda’s second mobile operator. Mobile operator Tigo then entered the market in 2009.

But Rwandatel's mobile license was cancelled in 2011 and its Libyan-owned assets frozen under a United Nations (UN) resolution that resulted in sanctions being imposed on Libya during and after its violent revolution.

Subsequently, India’s Bharti Airtel was licensed as Rwanda’s third mobile network, and a fourth operator may be licensed in future, says BuddeComm.

Apart from details being revealed to ITWeb Africa about the extent of assets -- both fixed and wireless -- which Liquid Telecom has bought from Rwandatel, the name of the wholesale carrier’s business in the country has also been disclosed.

“As elsewhere in the Liquid Telecom group, ‘LTRwanda’ will be a licensed operator selling voice and data services,” Rudnick has told ITWeb Africa.

Rudnick added that LTRwanda is not expected to need a license to operate in Rwanda either.

In a press statement yesterday, Liquid also said that it had not bought all of Rwandatel’s land.

When asked to elaborate on this statement, Rudnick told ITWeb Africa: “LT has purchased only land that is essential to the running and maintenance of the telecoms equipment, plant and infrastructure included in the transaction. Unutilised land has not been included in the assets transferred.”

Meanwhile, experts have told ITWeb Africa that Liquid’s Rwandatel deal is a strategic step towards the wholesale carrier expanding its eastern and southern African footprint, especially as Rwanda is surrounded by nations such as Uganda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“By acquiring assets of Rwanda’s main fixed-line operator, LT is positioning itself as an integrated regional telecoms player providing voice and data services and also wholesale carrier services to other service providers in the region,” Danson Njue of Informa Telecoms & Media has told ITWeb Africa.

“Liquid Telecom will be able to enter the country’s fixed-line business easily without having to build its network from scratch,” added Njue.

Prior to its Rwandatel deal, LT earlier this year acquired the East African assets of the South-African based Altech Group including a controlling stake in Kenya Data Networks (KDN).

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