In the telecom sector, effective regulatory reform has turned the country’s telecom market into one of the most liberalised in the region. There is a service-neutral licensing regime which takes into account the increasing convergence of technologies and services.

Botswana has one of the highest mobile market penetration rates in Africa, approaching 170%. Popular use of multiple SIM cards from different operators has delayed the introduction of mobile number portability, with the telecom regulator not convinced of the facility’s economic benefits at present. In a bid to generate new revenue streams and secure market share, the three mobile network operators (MNOs) – Mascom Wireless (an affiliate of South Africa’s MTN), Orange Botswana (backed by Orange Group) and beMOBILE (a subsidiary of the fixed-line incumbent BTC) – have entered the underdeveloped broadband sector with different strategies including 3G mobile, LTE, WiMAX, and bundling with fixed-line (DSL) services. In this market they compete with a large number of ISPs, some of which have rolled out their own wireless access infrastructure.

After a period of stagnation, the number of internet users has risen strongly in recent years, largely the result of lower prices following improvements in international connectivity. Historically, the landlocked country has depended on satellites for its international bandwidth, and on other countries for transit capacity to landing points of international submarine fibre optic cable systems. The landing of additional cables in the region in 2011 and 2012 has improved the competitive situation in this sector, while prices for connectivity have fallen by up to 70%.

The much delayed privatisation of BTC has been facilitated by the transfer of network assets and the management of BTC’s involvement in two key submarine cables to the newly create wholesale operator Botswana Fiber Networks (BoFiNet). BTC has been transformed into a retailer of services. An IPO was expected to be completed by April 2016. There has been considerable interest in the 44% of the company made available, with 5% reserved for employees and 515 being retained by the state.

For more information see – Botswana - Telecoms, Mobile, Broadband and Digital Media - Statistics and Analyses