The annual East African telecommunications meeting, East Africa Com, has moved to Dar es Salaam instead of its regular venue in Nairobi, due to continued political uncertainty in Kenya.
The annual congress, taking place on 8 and 9 April, brings together more than 400 telecommunications professionals to discuss the evolution of the market in this region.
Acording to organisers, the event promises to be the scene of lively debates among the region's telecommunications leaders and international delegates active in the market. In the past year, a number of large international telecommunications groups have not only invested in the region, but also started new operations in some of its countries.
In Uganda, competition is intensifying as two new mobile licensees are launching services: Warid Telecom and HiTs Telecom, both backed by Middle Eastern investors – Warid Telecom by the Abu Dhabi Group, one of the largest groups in the Middle East, and HiTs Telecom is a Saudi-based company gaining momentum in several Africa markets.
They will compete with the three already-established operators MTN, Celtel and Uganda Telecom.
In host country Tanzania, the five mobile operators are going face-to-face with internet service providers to reach data users with 3G services. The market's leaders will present their strategies at the conference, with Dietlof Mare, CEO of Vodacom Tanzania giving a keynote presentation, and Bashir Arafeh representing Celtel in the same session as Head of East Africa at group level and MD of the Tanzanian operation.
In neighbouring Kenya, the region's leading market, France Telecom Group has acquired a majority stake in Telkom, thus consolidating its position on the continent with this first move into East Africa. A new team has been appointed at the helm of the incumbent to draw from the group's experience in convergent services and deliver both fixed-line services and new mobile ones.
The rest of the region will certainly look to these three countries to determine the future of their own markets. In the meantime, most operators are still very much focusing on improving basic coverage and quality of service on their networks. As voice is still by far the main service used by subscribers, and as ARPU levels are low, all operators are looking for ways to reduce their costs to maximise margins.