London — Last week, YooMee launched the first TDD LTE in Cote d'Ivoire's capital Abidjan. YooMee Africa Group, is a Swiss based provider of mobile broadband Internet in sub-Saharan Africa. After becoming the market leader of broadband Internet in Cameroon (with over 20 000 customers), YooMee Africa continues its expansion by deploying an LTE network in Côte d'Ivoire where it expects to get up to 40 to 60 000 clients by 2017.
Balancing Act's analyst Sylvain Béletre looked at recent progress made in the country towards universal internet access and interviewed Yann Le Guen, Managing Director of YooMee Côte d'Ivoire SA.
A few telecoms service providers are already providing Broadband internet access in the country: Moov Côte d'Ivoire (Etisalat), Orange and MTN Côte d'Ivoire sell 3G access, while Orange also supplies ADSL and MTN sells Wimax. Like anywhere else, the government and the economy hugely benefit from the telecoms sector's growth through licences' bids and in a country where VAT represents 18%. There are nearly 600 cybercafes spread across the national territory.
Côte d'Ivoire has a population of about 23 million (2012 data). There are about 100,00 broadband internet customers and around 2 million internet users (in 2012) but broadband internet access is still limited for various reasons including costs or technical issues.
Local users and telecoms experts have reported three main challenges when it comes to deploying telecoms terrestrial networks: urban planning, regulation and archives, broken and stolen cables and the time and costs required to deploy copper or fibre networks across the country. Main Broadband internet access points in Ivory Coast are linked to undersee fiber cables (ACE, Glo-1, Main One, SAT3) but capacity can only be purchased from a few of them. Access prices to these cables are reported to be around 2 times higher than in Ghana depending on capacity for example (rumour to be confirmed).
« Reliable broadband access is a dream for most internet users in Ivory coast and there is a strong demand from the population's middle class and from local companies », stated Mr. Le Guen.
The Ministry of communication in Côte d'Ivoire recently confirmed that connected internet users in the country only represents 2% of the population.
The government of Côte d'Ivoire granted an LTE licence to YooMee.
As stated by Mr. Dov Bar-Gera, CEO of YooMee Africa Ltd., "I am very proud that the authorities of Côte d'Ivoire have issued to YooMee the necessary permissions and spectrum to build the first LTE network in the country. With this network, West Africa is leapfrogging into a new era of the Internet." This launch makes YooMee the first LTE operator in West Francophone Africa. Côte d'Ivoire is the fourth African country where 3rd. generation norm TD-LTE is being rolled out. The company has already invested EUR 5 million in deploying the network using Alcatel-Lucent equipment in Cote d'Ivoire.
LTE (Long Term Evolution) is the latest wireless broadband Internet technology used worldwide, by the leading operators in the United States, China, Japan, Europe and the Middle East, etc. The LTE allows Internet communication with data transmission speeds beyond 10 Mbit/s. YooMee relied on the proven expertise of Alcatel-Lucent, a global provider of LTE equipment.
LTE technology frees the mind of those who want to stay connected while traveling. Whether browsing the Internet, watching videos or listening to live-stream music, LTE provides a great connection speed regardless of where the user is located; at home, in the office, or outdoors.
YooMee services are based on the latest global technology TD-LTE, which ensures a new, faster Internet experience with more stability and better reliability for Ivorian users. With these advantages, its great success in Cameroon and an unrivaled quality of service, YooMee anticipates strong growth in the number of Internet users and subscribers for Broadband Internet access in Côte d'Ivoire.
YooMee Côte d'Ivoire, based in Abidjan, launched its LTE services to individuals and businesses first in Abidjan, and later on in other cities. In its roll out final stage and if all goes well, YooMee's LTE could also be accessible in rural areas of the country.
YooMee is to launch its services with a variety of usage plans for their subscribers with 3 product groups: a USB Key and Mobile WiFi, both dedicated for the mobile usage, and the desktop YooMee Box for the office or for home usage. Device prices vary from US$ 100 up to US$ 160.
Mr. Peter Ziegelwanger, Group CTO of YooMee Africa, added, "Our local team deployed the first base of the network in only 100 days. We are all very proud of such achievement. In the coming days, the quality of Internet in Abidjan will be comparable to the great capitals of the world."
Customers can easily add credit to their YooMee account, thanks to a multitude of partner outlets available to the public throughout the city, and soon across the country. Mr. Le Guen confirmed that they have signed up with around 100 distribution outlets and that the company plans to open its own showrooms. YooMee also set up distribution partnerships with a few B2B partners. YooMee employs three sales executives to prospect businesses in the capital city.
Several types of contracts, or packages, are available, depending on the needs of the customer. The attractive offers start at only US$ 30 for a volume of 8.5GB of data usage. Other offers are available to individuals or businesses, seeking larger volumes of up to 100GB of data usage.
Mr. Le Guen added that the company is looking at setting up partnerships with home-grown internet applications and online tools - such as e-ducation or VoD platforms - to futher market its solutions and make them relevant to local needs. The company is in talks with Educarriere and other portals.
Mr. Le Guen spent more than 10 years in the telecoms sector. He gained experience at Bouygues, Digicell and Telma in the Caribbean, Madagascar and Cambodia.
The YooMee Africa Group continues its expansion and plans to soon enter other countries in the region, such as potentially Ghana, Angola and Rwanda.
We shall soon witness how local competitors are going to react.