Wednesday 6 December 2023

4.5G Coverage is Good Enough for Comoros

The Union of the Comoros, an archipelago off Africa’s east coast with high levels of poverty, sought to improve communications, trade, and economic opportunities by expanding mobile communications and internet services. With support from the World Bank Group, the government liberalized the telecommunications sector, held an international tender, and awarded a second telecoms license. Through competition, Comoros now has better quality and cheaper telecoms services, as well as broader coverage. In a country with scarce government resources, the World Bank’s $32 million has made a substantial contribution by leveraging over $90 million in telecoms licensing fees and infrastructure investment.

Comoros has 2 mobile operatorsHuri by Comoros Telecom (Comores Telecom) and Telma Comoros (Telma Comores). Both operators have 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE networks. The following frequencies are used by the Comorian operators: 2G: 900 MHz, 3G: 900 MHz and 4G/LTE: 800 MHz (Band 20).

Until 2016 Comores Telecom (Comtel) was the sole provider of wireless, broadband and fixed line services on Comoros. Mobile services started in 2003 when Comtel launched a GSM-900 network under the brand name HURI.

2G started as late as 2002 and SIM cards were $100 at the beginning. 3G services started in 2013. Mobile penetration remained low in the Comoros. Many users were dissatisfied with Comtel's bad service and high prices while it had a monopoly. In 2018 they had to slash prices because of their new competitor.

From July 2018 they started to advertise with a "4.5G" network, so 4G/LTE seems to have be started on unknown frequencies (probably bands 20 and 3).

Telma Comoros, officially known as Telma Comores but will be referred to as just “Telma,” was awarded a license in 2015 to bring competition in the Comorian telecom market. They are an operator from Madagascar where they operate as Telma Malagasy. 

The launch of Telma Comores has expanded mobile services in Comoros, giving people high quality 4G LTE mobile broadband technology at lower prices. In response to this competition, Comores Télécoms has launched an even faster 4.5G network. By 2018, mobile broadband subscriptions rose to 58 per 100 inhabitants, and coverage is on track to provide all citizens with broadband mobile phone and inter- net services by 2030.

Telma doesn't block VoIP providers like Skype or WhatsApp calls. They also feature very cheap calls to neighboring French Mayotte. They might be the smarter alternative, once they have full coverage now. At least they brought the incumbent to cut prices.

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